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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

obsessing about Jesus

I am a very focused person. I admit it. It can be a great strength, but also sometimes, a great weakness.

However, there is one focus that I know God approves of. It's an obsession with Jesus Christ. Becoming consumed to the point that everything in my life is about Jesus - not about balancing my life or adding a little religion.

Wilbur Rees writes,

"I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep
but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don’t want enough of him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth.
I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please."

I was reading some stuff today from Frances Chan, and it really spoke to me.

He says:

"A lot of people come to church for the wrong reasons. They don't come because they want to know Jesus; they come because they want something from him. Did you come here for him? Maybe you didn't. Maybe you came because of something else. We're glad you're here.

But the question is, once you get here, what are you after? What makes you come back? Churches fill their rooms every week with promises of money or health. People go to church "if God will heal me." People go to church "if God will heal my child." People go to church "if God will get me a job in this economy."

Overseas, this heresy is being preached all over. In impoverished nations preachers are promising people that if they follow Jesus, he'll make them rich.

So, people are coming to church in droves, thinking, I'll take Jesus if he'll make me rich. I'll take Jesus if I get to keep all the things I have. I'll take Jesus if I get to maintain this lifestyle.

I'll take Jesus if I get to hold on to some of these sins, these immoral relationships. I'll take Jesus if I can still be popular, still have this, still have that.

The biblical gospel has never been about "I'll come to Jesus if … ." The biblical gospel has always been about "I'll follow Jesus even if … "—even if I lose my family. Even if my health deteriorates. Even if people are throwing rocks at me.

Even if I lose everything I own. I still want Jesus, because he's that great. That's the biblical gospel. We have found a treasure in Jesus Christ that is so wonderful that with great joy we say, "Take everything. I don't care.

It's just a big load of crap anyway."

We have found a treasure in a field so wonderful, that we can hardly believe it. We say, "Are you telling me I can have a relationship with the Creator of the universe? That he'll forgive me of everything I've ever done? That he'll welcome me into this eternal kingdom? Give it to me!

Give it to me, and take everything else! As Paul says: I've lost everything, but I don't really care. Because there's a surpassing greatness to knowing Jesus, and I am consumed with knowing him. While others are focused on what they can do by their own power, I'm looking for a greater power. I want to know the power of Jesus' resurrection."

I can't help but get a little teary eyed as I read that. So many times, in so many ways I fall short of a complete obsession with Christ. But I want to.

I want to be obsessed with Jesus. And somehow, someway, I think that God's okay with that. I think he's okay with the fact that in my wanting there is a certain amount of peace and even godly joy.....and someday I will be in heaven completely focused on Him.

Monday, March 30, 2009

thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Wow...the good weekends just keep on rolling.

Friday evening, Debbie and I went out on a date. It had been a while since we had some time off. It was great to be with her and just kind of do nothing, except enjoy a good meal and a movie (the movie was lousy but that's okay).

Saturday morning, I must say, was a deeply spiritual experience for me. It was encouraging to find out that 91 people joined us for our Prayer Walk out at the site where we will be relocating our church. As I walked, I sensed and yes, felt God's presence in a powerful way.

Two thoughts came to me (one of which Debbie brought out):

First of all, this "Moving forward by faith" as we relocate to 18rd street begin years before Debbie and I came to Stone church. And it will continue long after we are gone.

What God is doing in our church is not about us, it's not about me, it's about God and what God wants to do through a group of people, a body of believers who are willing to do as he commands and move forward by faith.

Secondly, as we were walking along, we noticed corn cobs on the ground (a farmer had farmed corn there this past summer). I picked one up and Debbie said something to the effect that, "the farmer sowed seeds of corn and reaped a harvest that is temporary, we are going to sew seeds of our finances and reap a harvest of changed lives, people coming to Christ, people being set free from addictions."

It really struck me then more than ever before that when we invest into the relocation process it is more than just building a building with brick and mortar - it truly is about changed lives.

And by the way.....I commented to some friends that with the wind and the cold we were all "nuts" to be out there. That God calls "nuts" to do his work. I was told that I am the "lead nut" or the "biggest nut". Probably true!

We were "nuts" to walk around in the cold conversing with a God we can't physically see! It's great to be "nutty"!

The stories (testimonies) Sunday morning were phenomenal. Each person in their own way shared of the faithfulness of God. Of how they moved by faith, giving to God by faith, and God honored that faith and did a great work.

And...of course the skit by Hank and Erik was hilarious and meaningful at the same time.

Last night we had a group called, "True Live Worship" come and sing and share at our Sunday evening service. We had a great time in the Lord. I appreciated their willingness to submit themselves to the moving of the Holy Spirit.

Oh, and by the way, I watched Michigan State win yesterday. They beat Louisville to go the Final Four.

My predictions didn't come completely true of having a Kansas, Connecticut, North Carolina and Pittsburgh Final Four.

But my prediction of a North Carolina - Connecticut final could come true.

I was pleased Michigan State won (being that my daughter goes there). Their guards dominated. Walton and Lucas broke the press each time, State played stifling defense, and made shots when it counted.

And I must say that I have never been a Goren Suton fan until the last two games. For four years I have watched him kind of stumble around, and finally, finally, he is playing some great basketball. Well done, Suton!

Again, my heart says go State, but I still think it will be North Carolina willing in the end 76-68 over Connecticut.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Keeping the dream alive

I am beginning to formulate in my mind a teaching series on the life of Joseph. Great guy. Interesting life.

Joseph was a dreamer. From childhood. He dreamed dreams. He lived life to the fullest.

Mark Batterson writes:

"I want to die the same way Wilson Bentley died.

Wilson grew up on a farm in Jericho, Vermont, and as a young boy he developed a fascination with snowflakes. Obsession might be a better word for it. Most people go indoors during snowstorms. Not Wilson. He would run outside when the flakes started falling, catch them on black velvet, look at them under a microscope, and take photographs of them before they melted. His first photomicrograph of a snowflake was taken on January 15, 1885.

Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.

The first known photographer of snowflakes, Wilson pursued his passion for more than fifty years. He amassed a collection of 5,381 photographs that was published in his magnum opus, titled Snow Crystals. And then he died a fitting death—a death that symbolized and epitomized his life. Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley contracted pneumonia while walking six miles through a severe snowstorm and died on December 23, 1931.

And that is how I figured out how I want to die. No, I don't want to die from pneumonia. But I do want to die doing what I love. I am determined to pursue God-ordained passions until the day I die. Life is too precious to settle for anything less."

If there is one thing we can learn from him it is this: Don't give up on your dreams.

Do you have a dream today? Don't give up on it.

Perhaps it's a dream of bringing your marriage back together.

Perhaps it's a dream of getting out of debt.

Perhaps it's a dream of starting a new business.

Don't give up on your dreams.

Here's what I know:

I shouldn't give up on my dream if it doesn't start out well.

Joseph's dream comes to him when he is about 17 years old. It wasn't really received well by his brothers and fathers, especially the part that they were going to bow down to him. It really got him in trouble.

John Maxwell writes, "the beginning of a dream often generates more enthusiasm than wisdom. We say things we shouldn't say and do things we shouldn't do......but...too often we give up on our dreams in the early stages when they are they most fragile."

I shouldn't give up on my dream if my family (friends) doesn't support it.

The family of Joseph didn't respond well. Dad responds in Genesis 37:10, "What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?"

It's very difficult to guard your dream when those around you aren't in sync.

I shouldn't give up on my dream even if my journey is full of surprises.

Joseph was thrown a lot of curve balls....

He was misunderstood by his family.
He was sold into slavery by his brothers.
He was living in a strange country far from home.
He was given favor in Potiphar's house.
He was wrongly accused by Potiphar's wife.

On and on it goes.

Yet he kept his dream alive.

I shouldn't give up on my dream even if it takes a long time to realize it.

This is a hard one. The amount of time from the beginning point of Joseph's dream to its fulfillment was 23 years!

The point is: never give up!

Keep your dream alive!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Eternal benefits for eternity

We are in a season of emphasis in our church family where we are highlighting giving and pledging and doing everything we can to relocate our church to another campus.

God is good. I am thankful for the pledges that are coming in - in advance.

Here's what I am learning.

The biggest misconception Christians have about giving is that when we give our money away to a church or ministry, or to help those who are poor and needy, it's gone.

We hope that we are going to benefit from it, but deep down inside we believe that we won't.

We think that we are (and to quote Randy Alcorn) that we are "divesting ourselves of money, disassociating from it. Once it leaves our hands, we imagine, it has not connection to us, no future implications relevant to our lives."

I would suggest that we couldn't be more off target.

We are not "divesting" ourselves of our money but "investing" into the kingdom and heaven itself.

Here's what Randy Alcorn shares, and it's a principle I don't think we realize:

"We are not to be motivated primarily by earthly power, possessions, and pleasures, yet we are offered all three in heaven if we invest now in God's kingdom."

This principle can be difficult to wrap our churchanized minds around because our fleshly nature has tainted the words pleasures, possessions and power on this planet.

But in eternity we will be able to manage these things rightly, as Jesus did, because we will be without sin.

God is a "rewarder" of them who diligently seek Him."

In heaven, we will have power (responsibility) to rule and to reign with Christ.
In heaven, we will have possessions in that Jesus himself said that he's "gone there to prepare a place for us."
In heaven, we will have pleasures, the pleasure of being in the presence of God.

I want to make sure that my investment here, now, will have eternal benefits for eternity.

How about you?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

One of the things that I am wanting to distance myself from is making immediate judgements concerning people I meet.

While first impressions can be right, many times, in fact, I would suggest most of the time, they can be inaccurate renditions of the true personality and character of a person.

We are all composites of different aspects of who we are, depending upon the situation, timing and crowd that we find ourselves in.

I would be hesitant for people to judge me based upon a "once in a lifetime meeting," and I don't like it when I judge others like that.

I was reading a story today of Dr. Katrina Firlik who was the first woman admitted into the neurosurgery residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Her recent book, "Another Day in the Frontal Lobe", provides a glimpse into the training of a brain surgeon. In one chapter she shares a story from the last year of her residency—a time when she was already becoming jaded to the tragedies of neurological devastation.

She writes, "I walked into yet another examining room…a brand-new consult from out of town: 18-years-old, cerebral palsy, spasticity. Okay, okay, I've seen this before, I just need to get a good history before my attending walks in. Efficiency is key. I looked at the patient for a second: very skinny, special wheelchair, arms contracted, head support in place, mouth hung open.

It was clear I wasn't going to get the story from him, so I turned to the parents, my back toward the patient, and started to take down the history.

[When my mentor walked in], I cringed. … He sat down on the examining table, the only seat left in the cramped room. After introducing himself, he surveyed the compact scene—the patient, the parents—and then focused his gaze back on the patient. After what seemed like several, almost uncomfortably quiet seconds, he looked the patient in the eye and asked, "So, when did you graduate from high school?"

The young man's face lit up like I had no idea it could.

My mentor had noticed something I had missed. The patient was wearing a large high-school ring, so large that it looked a little silly on his bony finger. His body, far more than his mind, had borne the brunt of his cerebral palsy.

He was a proud, beaming high-school graduate, who used a specialized computer to help him communicate. For the remainder of the visit I sat in the corner, duncelike, humbled by the enormity of this ring now staring me in the face."

I would suggest that we make snap judgements everyday. Many are harmless, dealing with the routines of life.

But God is always speaking, especially in our everyday routines.

I believe that you would agree with me that when we pre-judge another person and assume we know their story, their past and their present, all the while choosing not to listen to their verbal and non-verbal communication, that it is a tremendous mistake.

It's so easy to view people as a statistic and not as a person for whom Christ died.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Thoughts from the weekend:

Michigan State is in the "sweet 16"! Good for them. I still don't see them getting past Kansas and their two speedy guards. My heart says, "go Spartans" but my head still thinks that Kansas, Pittsburg, North Carolina and Connecticut will be in the final four.

Busy, busy weekend...but good.

Saturday, we had a great time of prayer at our Saturday morning prayer time. Rick Malendar shared how his company received a 7 million dollar contract, which as you know, during these difficult economic times is a miracle!

We rejoice with you Rick.

I shared on the subject of purpose. What is our true purpose in life?

Here are some bullet points:

- our purpose in life has eternal meaning and not just temporary meaning
- we are to live for the line and not the dot
- life is not circular life is linear
- my greatest fear is not failure but at suceeding at something that doesn't matter
- the question is not: are you busy? But are you busy doing the right things?
- the building process is about people. People coming to know God. People receiving deliverance from their hurts, wounds and fear. People being healing.
- the stewardship campaign is not just about money but about building people. It's not just about raising dollars but raising disciples
- where your treasure is - that's where your heart is also.
- whatever I give to - that's what I draw close to.
- when I give to God - I draw close to God.
- we are to use our treasure in view of eternity.

Larry and Marie Anich gave a great testimony of how they were faithful in hearing the tug of the Holy Spirit and responding. Marie received some money, they gave it to the relocation program and God not only blessed them back with the same amount of money, but more in return!

Carrie Holgate shared (and then prayed for the future of our church) a word that God gave her concerning our relocation process and the future of our church. She read Haggai 2:1-9.

Listen to the words of the prophet:

1 On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai:

2 "Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them,

3 'Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?

4 But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,' declares the LORD. 'Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,' declares the LORD, 'and work. For I am with you,' declares the LORD Almighty.

5 'This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.'

6 "This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land.

7 I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the LORD Almighty.

8 'The silver is mine and the gold is mine,' declares the LORD Almighty.

9 'The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,' says the LORD Almighty. 'And in this place I will grant peace,' declares the LORD Almighty."

Carrie shared with us that while our history at Stone Church is rich and power packed, God's word to us is that "the glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house."

Wow....great words....I am going to hang on to that promise - how about you?

Had a great elders meeting on Saturday. Good group of guys....

Debbie and I had lunch with Kathy Konrath yesterday...we had a wonderful time.
Also...we had dinner with Mickey and Jessie Insalco on Saturday.

One thing I know: we have a group of wonderful, godly people in our church!

We love you!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

My March Madness predictions

"March Madness" is upon us. A great time of year, especially if you are a college basketball fan.

I love the passion, enthusiasm and sheer joy of the teams, players and coaches during the tournament. It seems to bring out the best of what sports are all about.

I've been so busy that I really haven't had time to analyze the field of 65 teams, but let me have a go of at least predicting the final four.

Last year's final four of the four top number one seeds participating is a rarity and I think the pattern of a "Cinderella team" in the final four will hold true this year.

Anyway, here's what I predict.

Final Four:

South Regional - North Carolina:

While they have been up and down all year, if Ty Lawson is playing at the point, they will be in the final four. I also see Tyler Hansbrough "willing" them to win.

East Regional - Pittsburgh:

Gritty team that is short on style but long on substance. Beastly.

West Regional - Connecticut:

Great team that if they can stay focused will be in the final four.

Midwest Regional - Kansas:

While this might be a surprise, and while it's hard to think of Kansas as a "Cinderella team", I think Coach Self and his staff will have them ready to play, even in a rebuilding year. This region is tough for me because my heart is with Michigan State - I would really like to see them go "all the way," but they have been so up and down all year that I don't think that it is possible.

Title game:

North Carolina versus Connecticut


North Carolina - 76-68.

Remember: You read it here first.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Calcualating risk

Are you afraid to risk?

What do you consider a "risk" to be?

It's interesting as to what worries some and is shrugged off by others.

They are not the same for every person.

This is especially true when it comes to risk.

One person's risk is another person's adventure.

U2 sings a song entitled, "Stuck in a moment". While I can't determine what is "risk" for you, I do know that God continually calls us not to be "stuck in a moment," unwilling to move out of our own box and dance upon the dance floor of life - with joy.

God calls us to a life of risk.

One author writes:

"As human beings, we pride ourselves on being the only species that understands the concept of risk. Yet we have a confounding habit of worrying about mere possibilities while ignoring probabilities—of building barricades against perceived dangers while leaving ourselves exposed to real ones.

For example, we agonize over the avian flu, which [as of December 2006] had killed precisely no one in the U.S., but have to be cajoled into getting vaccinated for the common flu, which contributes to the deaths of 36,000 Americans each year. White-knuckle flyers routinely choose the car when traveling long distances, heedless of the fact that, at most, a few hundred people die in U.S. commercial airline crashes in a year, compared with 44,000 killed in motor-vehicle wrecks.

We wring our hands over the mad cow pathogen that might be (but almost certainly isn't) in our hamburger, yet worry far less about the cholesterol that contributes to the heart disease that kills 700,000 of us annually. Shoppers still look askance at a bag of spinach for fear of E. coli bacteria while filling their carts with fat-sodden French fries and salt-crusted nachos.

We put filters on faucets, install air ionizers in our homes, and lather ourselves with antibacterial soap. At the same time, 20 percent of all adults still smoke; nearly 20 percent of drivers and more than 30 percent of backseat passengers don't use seatbelts; and two-thirds of us are overweight or obese.

In short, shadowed by peril as we are, you would think we'd get pretty good at distinguishing the risks likeliest to do us in from the ones that are statistical long shots. But you would be wrong."

Let's continually look to God and how he defines "risk". Let's be willing to do all we can to operate in the realm of risk that matters the most - building the kingdom of God.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Being people of God's Word

There is an article going around on the Internet that gives us some important words that we all need to hear.

It's an editorial by Michael Spencer, written in the Christian Science monitor, entitled, "The Coming Evangelical Collapse."

You can read it at:

Michael Spencer writes, "we are on the verge, within 10 years, of a major collapse of Evangelical Christianity."

He then gives seven reasons why (Listed below).

Let me draw your attention to reason number two:

"We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. Ironically, the billions of dollars we've spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it."

He further writes:

Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology, or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures."

As we relocate our church to 183rd street, we are all going to need to be in prayer and dialogue with one another concerning our identity.

One thing I do know. I am anticipating us being a church that is centered around the Word of God, and the Word proclaimed and explained, not just simply given a passing nod on a Sunday morning.

I'm not going write about what others are doing - let me simply make this point. I have complete confidence in what God's Word, the Bible, in what the Scriptures can do!

I feel a deep desire in my heart to keep on teaching the Word, verse by verse.

I would like for us to be known as a "Bible Teaching Church".

It seems like our culture is thirsty for something deeper, something challenging.

While we still want to be "culturally relevant while maintaining consistency of doctrine," while we still want to communicate the Bible in ways that our 21st century society will understand, let us continue to be "people of God's Word"!

This is a challenge that Spencer really pinpoints to us as Pentecostals.

He writes, "The ascendancy of Charismatic-Pentecostal-influenced worship around the world can be a major positive for the evangelical movement if reformation can reach those churches and if it is joined with the calling, training, and mentoring of leaders. If American churches come under more of the influence of the movement of the Holy Spirit in Africa and Asia, this will be a good thing."

Gang, let's pick up his challenge. Let's not only be people of God's Word, let's continue to be people of His Spirit!

Here are the seven reasons:

1. Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.

The evangelical investment in moral, social, and political issues has depleted our resources and exposed our weaknesses. Being against gay marriage and being rhetorically pro-life will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of Evangelicals can't articulate the Gospel with any coherence. We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith.

2. We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. Ironically, the billions of dollars we've spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology, or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures.

3. There are three kinds of evangelical churches today: consumer-driven megachurches, dying churches, and new churches whose future is fragile. Denominations will shrink, even vanish, while fewer and fewer evangelical churches will survive and thrive.

4. Despite some very successful developments in the past 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can withstand the rising tide of secularism. Evangelicalism has used its educational system primarily to staff its own needs and talk to itself.

5. The confrontation between cultural secularism and the faith at the core of evangelical efforts to "do good" is rapidly approaching. We will soon see that the good Evangelicals want to do will be viewed as bad by so many, and much of that work will not be done. Look for ministries to take on a less and less distinctively Christian face in order to survive.

6. Even in areas where Evangelicals imagine themselves strong (like the Bible Belt), we will find a great inability to pass on to our children a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith.

7. The money will dry up.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Thoughts from the weekend.

Thoughts from the weekend:

I had a great weekend. Busy. It's been three weeks since my last day off, but God is doing some great things.

This past Friday evening and Saturday, I was asked to teach a group of pastors on the subject of First and Second Corinthians. I then spent a considerable amount of time teaching on the subject of conflict in the church.

I explained to the students that I have made church conflict a life long study, probably because sometimes I am good at it and sometimes I am not. I have a lot to learn. I've learned a lot but I still have a lot to learn.

It was fun to dialogue with a group of men and women who were there with purpose. They wanted and want to grow and to learn and to do their best to fulfill God's calling on their life.

By the way, the class was taught at Lincoln Christian College in Lincoln, Illinois. No disrespect to those who live in Lincoln, but as I was driving in I thought to myself, "I am so glad I don't live here."

I love living in Chicago. Having pastored in small towns before, I am sooooo happy to be back in a large city. I know, I know, some of you like living in a small town and that's okay, more power to you. But for me, wow, I love it here.

Yesterday was phenomenal. Our guest speaker was Gil Jones, the pastor of Pathways Community Church in inner city Denver and a representative of RSI, our consulting firm. He was the former pastor of Flatirons Community Church, a body of believers that grew to over 5000 under his leadership.

His presentation was exceptional.

We learned that during these difficult financial times - we must "embrace uncertainties". We must put our arms around (to use my words) the financial struggles that our country is going through (and perhaps we are going through individually)and let God's peace and joy reign supreme in our lives.

We must "cling to God" is how Gil put it.

God is in control. Lately, I've been saying it over and over again - God is in control.

Had a great lunch with the Vales and Hollowell and dialogued concerning their small group. I am grateful and excited that their small group is going so well. They are excellent leaders and the potential of our life groups is incredible! It is a group with a lot of kids.

If you have smaller kids and are looking for a life group to attend, please feel free to contact them.

At our own life group last night, we had an excellent discussion. We discussed: Which would you rather be known as:

A man or woman of faith, joy, peace or integrity.

Choose one. While they are all kind of combined together, which one would you choose to be known as? ________ Fill in the blank with your name, is a person of ______choose one of the four options.

What I know is that the enemy (the devil) will attack us in the area that we consider our strength and not necessarily our weakness. Here's what I also know, others will attach you in your area of strength as well or that area in which you would never think of going.

For instance, if integrity is a "big deal" to you, the enemy and others, will attack you in that area. The same with faith, joy and peace.

Amazing stuff. Great dialogue. I appreciate the closeness that we are beginning to feel as a group.

Just some thoughts on a Monday....

Thursday, March 12, 2009


One of the steps in avoiding making stupid mistakes (and falling into sin) is to mediate on and ponder the consequences before hand.

I often wonder if King David would have committed adultery if he knew that that as a result of his actions the following would occur:

- His baby died
- His beautiful daughter, Tamar, was raped by her half-brother Amnon.
- Amnon was murdered by Tamar's full-brother Absalom.
- Absalom came to so hate his father David for his moral turpitude that he led a rebellion under the tutelage of Bathsheba's resentful grandfather, Ahithophel.
- David's reign lost God's favor. His throne never regained its former stability.

I would suggest that David would never have given more than a fleeting glance to Bathsheba if he could have seen the shattering results.

And....I believe that few, if any, would ever stray from God's Word if they could see what would follow.

I want to go back to the movie "Fireproof" that we saw last Sunday evening. Excellent flick...great message.

"Fireproof" is the story of Caleb and Kathryn Holt, a couple that is considering divorce after seven years of marriage.

In one last attempt to salvage their marriage, Caleb's father asks Caleb to try a 40-day experiment he calls The Love Dare. Caleb agrees.

In this scene Caleb (Kirk Cameron), a firefighter, is sitting at a kitchen table in the firehouse with the his co-worker, Michael (Ken Bevel). Caleb has just told Michael about The Love Dare.

"Forty days?" Michael asks. "Does Kathryn know?"

Shaking his head no, Caleb replies, "I'm not going to tell her. If she wants to go ahead and file [for divorce] it's up to her."

"Divorce is a hard thing," Michael says.

"Well, if it brings peace…" replies Caleb.

"Caleb, you want the right kind of peace."

"What do you mean by that?" asks Caleb.

Michael, pointing to Caleb's wedding band, asks, "Do you know what that ring on your finger means?"

"It means I'm married," Caleb answers smugly.

"Well, it also means you made a lifelong covenant," says Michael. "You putting on that ring while saying your vows—that's the sad part about it. When most people promise for better or for worse, they really mean 'for better.'"

"Kathryn and I were in love when we first got married," Caleb explains. "But today we're two very different people. It's just not working out anymore."

Michael grabs the salt and pepper shakers that are sitting on the table. He holds them up and says, "Caleb, salt and pepper are completely different. Their make up is different. Their taste is different. Their color. But you always see them together. And when you—. Hold on just a second."

Michael grabs a tube of glue and glues the salt and pepper shakers together.

Surprised, Caleb says, "What did you do that for?"

"Caleb," Michael says, "when two people get married, it's for better or for worse. For richer for poorer. In sickness and in health."

Frustrated, Caleb says, "I know that! But marriages aren't fireproof. Sometimes you get burned."

"Being fireproof doesn't mean that a fire will never come," Michael says, "but that when it comes you'll be able to withstand it."

Caleb picks up the salt and pepper shakers and tries his best to pull them apart. "You didn't have to glue them together," he says.

"Don't do it, Caleb," says Michael. "If you pull them apart now, you'll break either one or both of them."

If you are considering divorce in your marriage - don't! Think of the consequences. It will break either one of you or both of you or your entire family.

If you are considering adultery - don't! It will ruin your walk with God and your marriage.

If you are considering slander - don't! It will ruin your reputation and the reputation of the person you are slandering at the same time.

If you are considering walking away from God - don't! It will ruin your connection with God and take you out from under the covering of his protection.

DO think through the consequences...and avoid life-changing mistakes.

Just some thoughts for a Thursday morning....

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

More than we can ask or imagine

I mentioned Ephesians 3:20-21 yesterday in my blog. Great couple of verses.

God can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

With my sanctified imagination, I can envision and see God doing some great things through Stone Church.

And yet, God promises to do even more than all we can ask or even imagine!

Powerful, powerful stuff.

God desires to do even more than we can imagine.

Here's what I "imagine" taking place in 15 years in our church.

Relocating to 18rd street and seeing 2000 people come for weekend services.
Plant 4 churches in the Southland area
Give 1 million dollars a year to missions.

Lofty, spiritual goals. Yet, yet, God wants to do even more than that!

Wow, God, do your thing!

I desire, Lord that you do even more than all we can ask or imagine!

Let me give you Paul's words again in Ephesians 3:20-21:

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."

John Stott points out there are seven great stages in this statement by the Apostle Paul.

1. God is able to do because he is not idle or inactive or dead.

2. God can do what we ask because he hears us when we pray.

3. He can do what we think because he knows what we think before we think it.

4. He can do all we ask or think because he knows it all and can do it all.

5. He can do more than we ask or think because his plans are bigger than our plans.

6. He can do much more than we ask or think because there is no holding back with God.

7. He can do exceedingly abundantly beyond what we can imagine because he is the God of the superlative.

Again, (and I don't want to sound flippant) but - "Go God"!

Here is an article from the Southtown Star entitled "Stone Church goes forward with plans to move to Orland Park."

Exciting stuff!


"Stone Church in Palos Heights will likely move to Orland Park now that the village plan commission has approved its plans for a 15-acre site along 183rd Street.

The village board will have the final say on the proposal and must agree to annex the property into the village.

The site, where Orland Parkway ends at 183rd Street, would be developed in two phases, starting this summer, church representatives said.

In Phase I, a 28,000-square-foot building would house a 406-seat chapel, classrooms for Sunday school, offices and a gymnasium. Two detention ponds will be installed on the site. Church officials said a preliminary budget of $6 million has been set for Phase I.

The second phase would include a 1,000-seat chapel and possibly a school, with the small chapel becoming an multipurpose room.

The church has sold its six acres at 127th Street and Ridgeland Avenue to Gemini Corp., which has built a Walgreens store on part of it and plans a bank as well.

The relocation is driven to get closer to most of the church membership, which has been moving south, David Sosin, an attorney for the church, told the plan commission."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Loving the challenge

Relocating a church family is a challenge to say the least. It takes a lot of faith, courage and persistence.

The economy is down.
Change is hard.
Some won't take the journey with us.

Rough stuff.

Yet, I love the challenge.

While meeting with high-some high level executives in Washington D.C. the week after the presidential election, John Maxwell overheard one of the men say, "I sure wouldn't want to be the next president of the United States with all the economic problems facing this country."

Maxwell's response: "I would love to be Barack Obama right now...You show me a person who's a great leader, and I will show you a person who loves a great challenge. That is the DNA of leadership. Leaders are not looking for the easy way out or quick exits; they love to be 'over their heads.'"

When I played basketball in high school and college, when the game was on the line, I always, always wanted the ball.

Win or lose, I loved the challenge.

Yet, whether I love the challenge or not, the key is always, always a dependence on the Holy Spirit. I can have all the good intentions in the world, but if God is not present, guiding, leading and empowering, it will fail.

Ephesians 3:20 is becoming one of my life verses during this time: "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us."

His power at work within us. This is why leaders love a challenge. It's why winners want the ball when the game is on the line.

Let's all join together to see this challenge through. And after the project is completed, we will rejoice together at God's goodness to us.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Great weekend.

Friday and Saturday evenings, we had around 24 people (each night) in our home for what are called "lead gift" gatherings. These fellowship times are times when some of the leaders of our church gather together to receive a challenge to commitment financially to the Stone Church relocation process.

The principle is found from I Chronicles 29 and Nehemiah 7, where the sequence of giving was: The leader first, then the leaders of the people, then the people themselves.

It's a wonderful, scriptural principle. People do what people see. After seeing what the leaders were giving and how committed they were to rebuilding of the temple, the Bible tells us in 1 Chronicles 29:9, "The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord. David the King also rejoiced greatly."

I was thrilled at the excitement level I saw from our leaders.

While all of us have challenges in our lives (kids in college; parents to take care of; debts to pay off; medical bills to pay), we all are called upon to give sacrificially before the Lord.

Together we can do it! Together we can sacrifice to give to the God's purpose and plan for our church!

Many thanks to Dieter and Susan Fleischhauer and Eduardo and Jo Anna Campins for all of their hard work and time in providing the food, etc....! Great job!

Saturday morning was fun for me. I attended the Pinewood Derby and had a chance to interact with some of our church family members. I love to do that. I love to spend time with our church family. It's great to see the kids and their desire to see their derby cars do well. Many thanks to Joe Schwider and others for a job well done.

Sunday was just great. I felt a spirit of unity and excitement about our relocation process that encouraged me greatly. The worship was powerful - God moved - in spite of the time change - losing an hour!

We had six people visit us for the first time - six people who were just lead to the Lord!

12 people are in our new membership class! God is doing a great work.

Yesterday morning, in both services, at the end, I spontaneously and genuinely share how much I love our church family. Out of all of the churches that we have pastored, our church is just the best!

Wonderful people who want to do something for God. If you are reading this, and a part of our church family, please know that you are loved and appreciated!

And then, last night, many of us gathered together and watched the movie, "Fireproof". I must admit, it's a good film. Obviously, the message is powerful, the salvation road is explained clearly, but I was pleasantly surprise that the acting was credible also and wasn't a distraction.

I must admit that I teared up a couple of times. It reminded me that outside of my relationship with God, I need to invest a great deal of time in the relationship I have with Debbie. I must learn how to meet her needs in the ways she wants her needs met, I must learn what she likes and dislikes.

May we all be blessed with healthy, growing marriages with our spouses.

I love you Debbie!

Terrill Owens was released from the Dallas Cowboys football team. I am so pumped! As we learned when Alton Garrison was here, chemistry always trumps talent when it comes to having a winning team.

The Cowboys have released Owens, Jones and Johnson, all three relational changes to the fabric of a team.

Now, on to playing Cowboys football. I am excited once again about what "can be"!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Coming down the home stretch

We are coming down the home stretch of our "Moving Forward By Faith" campaign! It's exciting!

I encourage everyone to pick up a packet this Sunday morning (if you haven't already done so) and read about our challenge and opportunity in relocating our church family to 183rd street in Orland Park.

In that packet is a devotional. We would ask that beginning next Monday, you would read the devotional 5 times a week for the next three weeks.

My prayer is that you will allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you as to your level of commitment to our building program. You can make a difference!

It's amazing what we can all do as we give faithfully and sacrificially:

Here's what is going into the bulletin on Sunday as an insert. It's "hot off the press" and you will be the first to read it!

I write:

"Our vision of “Moving Forward by Faith” will be successful as our church family makes gifts over and above our current level of giving.

In 2 Samuel 24:24, King David declared,“I will not offer to God that which costs me nothing.”

Good stewardship begins with smart lifestyle decisions. The challenge is to find ways to let your giving influence your living.

Here’s the question: “What lifestyle changes are we willing to make to give more?”

As we move into our stewardship campaign, “Moving Forward by Faith” the question has been asked, “How can I make a Holy Spirit led pledge to help pay off our new church campus?”

Here’s a true example of one middle class family (given to us by our stewardship campaign consultant) that made some simple steps to fulfill a pledge of $30,000 over three years to their church.

They made their pledge sacrificially and with much prayer.

Our hope is that examples such as these will help you on your pilgrimage
of making a Holy Spirit led decision as to what you are going to pledge.

A family of four's commitment strategies:

Increase giving by $25.00 a week: $3,900.

Reduce eating out by $50.00 a week:

Randy (7th grader) takes lunch to school:

Phil (husband) takes lunch to work: $2,600.

Teresa (wife) reduces household food budget by $25.00 week: $3,900.

Teresa foregoes pedicures: $2,700.

Melissa (HS Senior) reduces entertainment expense: $600.

Phil reduces his golf playing to only once a week: $2,400.

Family reduces Christmas expense by $500: $1,500.

Cancel one vacation: $2,500.

Vicki (10th grader) gives 1/4 baby sitting fees: $400.

Miscellaneous reductions (subscriptions, fees, etc.): $250.

Trusting God for another $1000: $1,000.

Grand Total of Three-year commitment:

“Father, help us to seek you, as to what we are going to pledge to our “Moving Forward By Faith Campaign”. We need your direction and guidance. Help us to be open to giving sacrificially and with much joy! Amen.”

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Striving to under-react

A few weeks ago I mentioned in a teaching that building programs don't create problems they reveal problems.

That which we keep under wraps (with the help of the Holy Spirit) has a tendency to come out, whether it be issues such as anger and control.

Paul writes in Philippians 2:14,15, "Do everything without grumbling or arguing. Then you will be the pure and innocent children of God."

That's hard. We want our own way. We want to make sure that "things are done right." We can become inflexible when it comes to the work of God.

In short, we can become silly and ineffective, like a child demanding its own way.

Let me give you a goofy illustration of this that I read today.

It's the story of Latreasa Goodman who called 911 three times on February 28th of this year.

The emergency? McDonald's was out of Chicken McNuggets. She had paid for them, but McDonald's wanted to switch them for a McDouble, and Ms. Goodman appealed to 911, saying, "This is an emergency. If I would have known they didn't have McNuggets, I wouldn't have given my money, and now she wants to give me a McDouble, but I don't want one." She was cited for misusing the 911 system.

Last February, Jean Fortune, another Florida resident, called 911 because the local Burger King was taking too long to fill his order. What's more they didn't have lemonade. He wanted the police to come to the scene and settle the matter.

I guess you might say these were over-reactions. It's frustrating when a fast-food place doesn't get your order right, but it's not really an emergency, is it?

The truth is, many of the things that stress us aren't really worth it. We have a tendency to take little events and blow them up into big things -- especially in relationships.

In the movie Ruthless People, Danny DeVito wants to kill his wife because "I hate the way she licks stamps." We all have a tendency to blow little things out of proportion.

In Colossians, Paul gives some very simple and straightforward advice. "Put up with each other." (Colossians 3:13 CEV) The King James Version uses the word 'forbear,' but the CEV captures the real meaning of the Greek.

An important part of living the Christian life is learning to put up with annoying situations and the annoying habits of some people, responding instead with a spirit of love and patience. When events irritate you, strive to under-react.

Now, if I could just practice's hard isn't it!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Looking at the supernatural instead of the natural

It didn't make me feel very good to get up this morning and read in the USA today of the way the financial markets are going down and the projections.

In the natural, it can be discouraging.

That's why I'm not looking at things from a "natural" point of view, but from what God can do in the "supernatural" as we head into the final laps of our stewardship campaign and attempting to (with God's help) ask for 3 million dollars in pledges and offerings over 3 years.

I have to. It would drive me "bonkers" otherwise.

I believe it will happen. I know it will happen as long as we continue to look to God and his provision.

Some words from Philip Yancey struck me as a help this afternoon, words I want to share with you today. Good words. Challenging words. Words that we can apply to our process here as we relocate.

Let me give you a disclaimer: We really can't, in one sense, compare our relocation process with the turmoil African countries (that Yancey mentions) which are going through horrendous times of turmoil and suffering.

Yet it's the principle that he mentions that does apply - it's as we give of our treasure, ESPECIALLY during difficult financial times that God blesses. God blesses not only those who receive, but those who give as well.

Philip Yancey's words were given during one of the most volatile periods of the current economic crisis—a week in which global stock markets declined by $7 trillion—Philip Yancey received a call from an editor at Time magazine.

The editor's question was simple: "How should a person pray during a crisis like this?" Here is a summary of what Yancey shared in response:

"The first stage is simple, an instinctive cry: "Help!" For someone who faces a job cut or health crisis or watches retirement savings wither away, prayer offers a way to voice fear and anxiety. I have learned to resist the tendency to edit my prayers so that they sound sophisticated and mature. I believe God wants us to come exactly as we are, no matter how childlike we may feel.

A God aware of every sparrow that falls surely knows the impact of scary financial times on frail human beings. …

If I pray with the intent to listen as well as talk, I can enter into a second stage, that of meditation and reflection. Okay, my life savings has virtually disappeared. What can I learn from this seeming catastrophe? …

A time of crisis presents a good opportunity to identify the foundation on which I construct my life. If I place my ultimate trust in financial security or in the government's ability to solve my problems, I will surely watch the basement flood and the walls crumble.

A friend from Chicago, Bill Leslie, used to say that the Bible asks three main questions about money:

(1) How did you get it? (Legally and justly or exploitatively?);
(2) What are you doing with it? (Indulging in luxuries or helping the needy?); and
(3) What is it doing to you?

Some of Jesus' most trenchant parables and sayings go straight to the heart of that last question.

The same week that global wealth shrank by $7 trillion, Zimbabwe's inflation rate hit a record 231 million percent. In other words, if you had saved $1 million Zimbabwean dollars by Monday, on Tuesday it was worth $158.

This sobering fact leads me to the third and most difficult stage of prayer in crisis: I need God's help in taking my eyes off my own problems in order to look with compassion on the truly desperate.

What a testimony it would be if, in 2009, Christians resolved to increase their giving to build houses for the poor, combat AIDS in Africa, and announce kingdom values to a decadent, celebrity-driven culture. Such a response defies all logic and common sense — unless, of course, we take seriously the moral of Jesus' simple tale about building houses on a sure foundation."

Let me add this to our church family: What a testimony it would be if, in 2009, we as a body of believers resolved to increase our giving to relocate our church?

Such a response does defy all logic and common sense unless, and to quote Philip Yancey, " we take seriously the moral of Jesus' simple tale about building houses on a sure foundation."

Monday, March 02, 2009

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Christie, Becky and I went to a Chicago Blackhawks game on Friday evening. We had a great time.

It was my first professional game. Not being a big hockey fan (but wanting to see more games) several things happened that I wasn't aware of when we went.

The first was when the national anthem was sung. As the person sang, the whole crowd cheered, and cheered loudly. I had never heard that kind of cheering before as the anthem was sung.

Apparently, it started when some Canadians booed during the playing of our national anthem back in the early 1990's. The cheering is not only to celebrate our American tune, but to make sure that any booing that does take place will not be heard.

Secondly, after Jonathan Toews (the Blackhawks great player) scored his third goal (or apparent third goal - it was nullified) hard hats (they handed them out before the game, they were plastic hard hats) and other caps begin to fly out on the ice.

I found out that it is tradition that when a player scores a "hat trick" or three goals in one game that people are free to throw their hats out on the ice. This game included the hard hats that they handed out to the first few thousand fans that entered the United Center before the game.

Great stuff.

Well, Toews went on to score another goal to officially make it three goals for the evening, so out the hats came again!

I really enjoyed being with my girls. They are great.

And...of course..with my granddaughter Georgia. She is such a sweetheart. And as I said the other day, Christie is such a good mother.

I enjoyed playing with Georgia all weekend, and even got to show her off during the second service on yesterday.

I appreciated our church family's willingness to let me do so.

Yesterday, we had great services. I am praying and hoping that the "snowball" effect of building up to our commitment Sundays will continue. By faith, we are going to see the entire 3 million raised in cash and pledges!

I appreciated Frank and Sandy Wolf's prayer of faith Sunday morning.

George is also at our house with 3 friends from Evangel. So we have a full house!

Let me tell you, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, there is nothing like spending time with family.