Total Pageviews

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

We love you!

From our hearts to yours, may you have a blessed Thanksgiving, a time of giving thanks to God, catching up with family and eating great food.

Debbie and I want you to know that we love and appreciate you a lot!

Thought I would leave you with this:

You Know You Overdid Thanksgiving When....

Paramedics bring in the Jaws of Life to pry you out of the EZ-Boy.

The "Gravy Boat" your wife set out was a real 12’ boat!

You receive a Sumo Wrestler application in your e-mail.

Friday you set off 3 earthquake seismographs on your morning jog.

Pricking your finger for cholesterol screening only yielded gravy.

A guest quotes a Biblical passage from "The Feeding of the 5000."

That rash on your stomach turns out to be steering wheel burn.

Representatives from the Butterball Hall of Fame called twice.

You consider gluttony your patriotic duty.

Your arms are too short to reach the keyboard & delete this.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Eating and guilt

It didn't bless me today to read that the average Thanksgiving meal tallies up to about 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat. To quote: "That's a whopping 1,000 to 1,400 more calories - and more than 3 1/2 times the amount of fat - than what most people need in a day."

But is that doing to stop me from eating? Noooooooooooooooooo......waaayyyyyy.....

Top ten unhealthiest Holiday foods:

1. Mashed potatoes and gravy
2. Cornbread stuffing
3. Candied sweet potatoes
4. White dinner roll with butter
5. Turkey with skin
6. Pigs in a Blanket
7. Mini quiches
8. Spinach dip with crackers
9. Eggnog
10. Pie with ice cream

As a pastor, I absolve you of all guilt from enjoying the holiday feast on Thursday. Have fun with your family. Celebrate what God has done for you throughout this year. Give thanks to God! He is good - all the time!

And eat to your heart's content.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Being thankful for what you do have

I constantly try to remind myself in life of what I do have and not what I don't have. I am blessed in many ways.

I challenge you to do the same - this week - don't look at what you don't have, mediate on and be thankful for what you do have.

Sometimes a story says it best:

Nancy Ortberg writes, "I worked as a registered nurse for about ten years before my life took a different direction. One of my earliest patients was a young girl of about 14 who had been in a dirt bike accident. I met this young girl down in the physical therapy department. She was in a whirlpool bath. I had read her chart before I went down to work with her and had learned that as a result of the accident, her leg had been amputated below the knee.

I couldn't imagine what it must be like to be a 14-year-old girl with part of your leg missing. I introduced myself, and we made some small talk. Through the course of our time together, I learned that she was a follower of Christ, although she really didn't say much about that.

I was not prepared for her spirit, however, especially when she lifted her freshly amputated leg up above the bubbling water for me to see and said, "Look at how much I have left!"

She excitedly told me that since the doctors were able to amputate below the knee, it was much easier to fit a prosthesis. She wondered how long it would take to heal so that she could get started with that. I heard most of what she was saying, but I wasn't really paying much attention. My mind was fixed back on the "look how much I have left!" Her gratitude seemed really genuine. It wasn't denial or a Pollyanna mentality. She knew she was missing a good part of her leg, and she wouldn't have chosen that. But she was so very thankful for this bit of good news. Her spirit made my spirit soar that day. And I had two good legs.

Hebrews 12:28 says, "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God." Our gratitude, our thankfulness, is a way in which we worship God. We can sing, and that is worship. We can say thank you, and that is worship. And that day in the hospital, the gratitude of a 14-year-old girl moved me."

Wow....great stuff....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

a statement of faith

Stone Church was established in 1906 at the corner of 37th and Indiana in Chicago, Illinois. Throughout the years, our church has seen God do great things: lives have been changed and many have been called into full-time ministry service.

While we have been a visionary church in the past, it is time to “dare to dream again”!

In realizing the need to relocate from our current facility on 127th and Ridgeland, our church family voted in May, 2004 to move to 183rd street in Orland Park, Illinois. The potential in Orland Park is enormous with a population explosion taking place as new families are moving in on a monthly basis. Stone Church is committed to focusing staff and financial resources to create ministries that will reach these families. Our vision is to not only reach Orland Park with the gospel message but the entire Southland of Chicago for Jesus Christ!

Our 15 year goals include relocating the church facility, reaching 2000 in attendance, giving $1,000,000 a year to missions and planting four churches in the area.

These needs compel us to complete a relocation project that will cost $5,900.000.

Our current property has been sold, we need to move, THE TIME IS NOW!

Our purpose is to “Love God” and “Love People.”

Our plan is that we as a church community continue to be a “Place to Belong,” a “Place to Grow,” and a “Place to Serve”.

Our process is that we encourage people to celebrate with us on Sunday mornings, connect with us in small groups and contribute with us in ministry.

We need you! You are important to us!

The time has come for us to step out in faith. God has given us the vision to be His church and reach the Chicago South Suburban area for His kingdom.

Will you pray? Will you commit boldly? Will you give generously and sacrificially? Will you share our vision of moving forward for God?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

When you are tempted to quit

There comes a point in every great project, every great vision, where the realization of "this is going to be a lot of hard work," comes into play. Whether it is painting a house, building a porch or relocating a church, feelings of "what have I got myself into," will always crop up.

It's at those times that we must remember three things:

A. The fulfillment of a huge vision is a marathon not a sprint.
B. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
C. We do this for Jesus.

These three facts are the keys to overcoming feelings of giving up and "wanting to quit."

I think of Moses. Moses faced some difficult and shocking circumstances that would test his leadership.

Things had gotten so bad while he left his people to be along with God that the nation of Israel's relationship with God was in jeopardy.

Would he quit or stay at it?

Moses stayed at it. He begs God not to give up on the Israelites. And God didn't. Arguably, He wouldn't have anyway, but that' sup to the theologians to debate.

What we do know is that Moses didn't quit, even though quitting would have been understandable.

Instead, Moses cried out to God and reminded Him of His promises. And God, in return, gave Moses the strength to carry on.

Are you tempted to quit that which you have begun?

On December 9, 2007, Matthew Murray shot and killed Tiffany Johnson, 26, and Philip Crouse, 24, at a Youth With a Mission (YWAM) training center in the Denver suburb of Arvada. He later killed two at New Life Church in Colorado Springs…

Despite the deaths, YWAM is on track with its missions training program. Training for missions will begin once again in January, and not one of the 120 who signed up has dropped out of the program.

Director of the Arvada YWAM Peter Warren spoke with Christianity Today about the shooting:

Matthew was in the building for half an hour talking with students, and then he asked to spend the night. Tiffany was called to the front because she handles hospitality. Normally, we would not have someone spend the night without knowing them or arranging ahead of time. After that, Matthew said, "Then this is what I've got for you," pulled out a gun and began shooting.

After firing a few shots, he had his foot in the door, and at some point his foot slipped and he fell back. The door slammed shut on him and automatically locked, so he could not get back in again. Right then, other staff and students were driving up and saw Matthew banging on the door, trying to get back in. When Matthew saw them, he ran away.

After [a] student performed CPR on Tiffany, she regained consciousness and asked [another trainee named] Holly, "Is it bad?" Holly said, "Yes, it's bad." Tiffany looked at Holly and her boyfriend, Dan, who was also shot, and said, "We do this for Jesus, right guys? We do this for Jesus."

Remember, this whole relocation project is about Jesus. Ministering for Jesus. We do is for Jesus.

If you are tempted to quit something you have started, why not pray this prayer:

"Father, I'm tired and ready to throw in the towel. This world just doesn't seem to get it. Following You, doing what Your Word says, is sometimes hard. Sometimes I feel like no one's listening to me. Sometimes my circumstances just knock me down. But I know that You can pick me back up. When I'm feeling sorry for myself, help me to remember that You really do care about me in all the big things and little things in my life. Thank You that You care enough to finish in me what You've started. Amen."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Joy, joy, joy

I've been there before and I would suspect you have to. Those times when it seems like you have lost the ability to worship God with sheer joyfulness and thankfulness for what He has done.

God intends for you and I to walk with joy, His joy in our lives.

Pastor and author Mark Buchanan shares the conversion story of an alcoholic named Wanda. In a 2008 article for Leadership journal, Mark was able to tell the rest of her story:

"Wanda did well for about eight months—got into Alpha and a 12-step group, got her kids back. Then she didn't do well, in and out—mostly out—of rehab. Then she vanished.

Then one day she called again, sober, after a year in rehab in Vancouver. She was getting out the next week.

Could she come home?

Her first Sunday back, I initially didn't recognize her. She looked healthy. Dressed and in her right mind.

I was preaching on the ten lepers Jesus healed, and the one, a Samaritan, who returned to give thanks. I said that anyone who has been cleansed by Jesus, who wants to be made whole by him, worships at his feet in deep thankfulness, in utmost desperation.

They have nowhere else they want to go. And then, to close, I reminded people we have a tradition at our church: anyone can come up to the front and pray with one of our prayer ministers.

Wanda came forward. But she didn't go to a prayer minister. She walked onto the platform, between the guitarist and the drummer, and stretched her hands heavenward. She worshiped like One Leper returning.

A woman who didn't know her, and who isn't on the prayer team, walked up, put her arm around her, and worshiped, too.

Then—you could hear it—all of us worshiped with deeper thankfulness, out of greater desperation. Out of the storeroom had come new treasures as well as old, and the Kingdom hovered very close."

Why don't you pause with me right now and just raise your hands and express your thankfulness to the Lord for the good things in your life?

Health. Family. House. Car. Food. Relationship with Christ. Family of God. People who love and care for you.

May God's joy rest upon you this day.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Be still before God

Yesterday in my teaching, I mentioned that the question is not "is God speaking," but "are we listening"?

It's hard to listen when we are the ones doing all the talking.

It's hard to listen when we allow distractions all around us.

In Directions, James Hamilton writes:

"Before refrigerators, people used ice houses to preserve their food. Ice houses had thick walls, no windows, and a tightly fitted door. In winter, when streams and lakes were frozen, large blocks of ice were cut, hauled to the ice houses, and covered with sawdust. Often the ice would last well into the summer.

One man lost a valuable watch while working in an ice house. He searched diligently for it, carefully raking through the sawdust, but didn't find it. His fellow workers also looked, but their efforts, too, proved futile. A small boy who heard about the fruitless search slipped into the ice house during the noon hour and soon emerged with the watch.

Amazed, the men asked him how he found it.

"I closed the door," the boy replied, "lay down in the sawdust, and kept very still. Soon I heard the watch ticking."

So many truths, so many impressions from the Holy Spirit come to us in the quietness of our souls. Not moving around. Still. Quiet. Letting God speak.

I encourage you to practice that this day. It does take practice. It's not something we learn to do automatically.

"Be still," the Psalmist says, "and know that I am God." Psalms 46:10

Often the question is not whether God is speaking, but whether we are being still enough, and quiet enough, to hear.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"I'll pray about it."

The "death rattle" in God's kingdom is when someone says in response to an invitation to minister, "I'll pray about it."

After 28 years, I know that "I'll pray about it," is code for, "when pigs fly" or as the French say, "Quand les poules auront des dents" - "When chickens have teeth" - "I'll participate in that ministry."

There are some things you don't need to pray about.

Sharing your faith with your neighbor. That is God's will for your life.

Walking through your spiritual disciplines on a daily basis. That is God's will for your life.

Putting God first. That is God's will for your life.

As we walk through the process of dreaming together and completing our vision of relocating out to 127th street, I am praying for a group of people that will get in line and say, "How can I help?" "What can I do?" "Is there anything else I can participate in?" "Why didn't you ask me before?"

I am praying for a group of people who are willing to do as God commands. Who are willing to "kick it up a notch" for God, and "put a knife between their teeth and a bandanna around their head," and "Rambo" it for God.

Some might be waiting to be asked to participate. I encourage you, yes, I pray that you will be open to seeking out opportunities to serve God.

Mark Batterson writes, "Several years ago I was a part of a small group with a friend who was working with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Georgetown University. As we shared prayer requests at the end of one of our meetings, my friend said their ministry needed a computer, and I said I'd pray for him. I started praying that God would provide a computer, and then I felt as if God interrupted me. It's hard to describe the tone I heard from God. It was stern but not unkind. It was as if the Holy Spirit whispered these words in my spirit: Why are you asking Me? You're the one with the extra computer!

So I quit praying midsentence and decided to do something about it. I told my friend I had a computer that I wanted to give him. And I became the answer to my own prayer. Why ask God to do something for us when it is within our power to do something about it ourselves?"

Perhaps the answer to the challenge of relocating lies not with everyone else around us but with we ourselves.

There are some things you don't need to pray about.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What if?

I was thinking this week, what if we turned our "what if's" into "what is"?

We need to learn to ask "What if?" in every area of life: our spiritual growth, our work, our family, our marriage, our ministry, our sphere of influence.

We all want a deeper relationship with Christ, promotions at work, family relationships that are strong and connected. We all want to be an influence for God.

"What if"?

However, in order to turn your "what if" into "what is", you must first turn your "what is" into "what if".

In other words, instead of simply accepting things the way they are, consider the possibilities of the "what ifs" in your most challenging situations. Take some time to ask, "What are the possibilities here? What is the best that could happen? How could things change, and what could I do to initiate the process?"

Dream. Set goals. Think of ways that God can use you in ways you never thought possible.

Don't settle for what is.

I know that I am not.

Ephesians 3:20 is a powerful verse: "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine....dream....(and I can dream some pretty big things for God's kingdom)....according to his power that is at work within us."

Let's don't sell God short on what he can accomplish through us if we are willing to once again ask, "what if"?

Explore the world of what if, and see what new dreams God can inspire.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Where are the committed ones?

Where are the committed ones?

The Bible states in 2 Chronicles 16:9: "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him."

Where are the committed ones?

Where are the ones that are committed to advancing the kingdom without concern for their own personal agendas?

Where are the ones who are willing to sacrifice to "do whatever it takes," without a thought as to the when, where, why and how?

In his book "Don't Waste Your Life", John Piper recounts a story his father often told in his days as a fiery Baptist evangelist. It is the story of a man who came to saving faith in Jesus Christ near the end of his earthly existence.

Piper writes:

"The church had prayed for this man for decades. He was hard and resistant. But this time, for some reason, he showed up when my father was preaching. At the end of the service, during a hymn, to everyone's amazement he came and took my father's hand. They sat down together on the front pew of the church as the people were dismissed. God opened his heart to the Gospel of Christ, and he was saved from his sins and given eternal life. But that did not stop him from sobbing and saying, as the tears ran down his wrinkled face, "I've wasted it! I've wasted it!"

My prayer for all of us is that we again recognize we are to do more with our lives than "waste" them in front of a television set.

God calls us to reach our community for Him!

Don't waste it by living for yourself when you can use it instead for the glory of God.

Monday, November 10, 2008

How far do we go with the "rules"?

How far do we go with the "rules"?

Last week (as I shared in the service yesterday morning) I was out all week with some kind of viral thing (non-contagious). It put me down. Fever, headache, sore throat. Mean, nasty, nasty stuff.

One of the highlights of my week was watching Gomer Pyle (yes it got that bad).

Well, the story line is that Gomer and his platoon have been given MP duty in the town near the marine base.

Gomer is so kind hearted that the can't arrest anyone. He tries to talk them out of their problems. At one point he sews on a button for a marine who was missing a button from his shirt and was considered "out of uniform". He lets one marine "promise" to not get into a fight again and lets him go. The marine promptly begins to fight again.

Gomer is so bad at being an MP that Sergeant Carter decides to put him on guard duty at one of the gates to the marine base and tells him, "at non time, Pyle, are you allowed to let anyone come through those gates without proper identification."

Well, the story line is that Gomer is standing guard duty, and in the meantime Sergeant Carter is out on a date with Bunny, his girlfriend. They are about ready to order something to eat, and Carter realizes that he has forgotten his wallet. Bunny won't pay, in fact, can't pay, she doesn't have any cash, so in order to eat, they go back to the base, and guess what.

Yep. Gomer won't let them through the gates because Sergeant Carter doesn't have the proper identification.

Was Gomer right? Was he wrong? Is there ever a time when the rules are no longer enforceable?

Are there situations where following the rules would be more harmful than helpful?