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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wisdom and Knowledge

One of the things that we need to be aware of is that fact that we live in an information society.

We now have more information at our disposal than at any other time in the history of this planet.

It's called knowledge.

Knowledge and information compute to "power" in our world.

Yet the word of caution is this - not only are we blessed with knowledge but we must focus in on wisdom as well or THE ABILITY TO USE THAT KNOWLEDGE IN A CORRECT WAY.

People in our society know what they want to do, and even what they ought to do, but they don't know how to do it in such a way as to "make life work."

That's why we need the wisdom of God.

In fact, Paul designates Jesus as the "Wisdom of God," in 1 Corinthians 1:24. Six verses later the apostle tells us Christ is "made unto us" or "became for us" wisdom from God.

The Greek word used here for wisdom is sophia.

Christ is not just wisdom; He is the Wisdom of god.

That's why we need to connect with Christ.

When we connect with Christ, His wisdom is obtainable and we discover "how life works." He will show us how to make the details of the day function smoothly and properly.

To tap into the wisdom of Christ, we have the Holy Spirit, who "teaches us all things," as Jesus told us in John 14:26.

We need God to mentor us, to coach us, to speak to us.

Here's what I know....God is constantly speaking to us, the question is "Are we listening."

In his Sermons, Fredrick William Faber wrote, "There is hardly ever a complete silence in our soul. God is whispering to us well nigh incessantly."

The scholar concludes, "Whenever the sounds of the world die out in the soul, or sink low, then we hear these whisperings of God. He is always whispering to us, only we do not always hear because of the noise, hurry, and distraction which life causes as it rushes on."

I would suggest that with all of the information of the world (and in God's Kingdom) that we stop and dwell in the presence of God and let him speak to us on how to use that wisdom.

Why not stop some time today and listen? And then use what God is teaching you in a correct way.

"Father, speak to us Lord. Help us to use our knowledge in a godly way."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

faith is a refusal to panic

Faith is a refusal to panic.

Charles Swindoll gives us this story (which I have shared before):

"A funny thing happened in Darlington, Maryland, several years ago. Edith, a mother of Edith, was coming home from a neighbor's house one Saturday afternoon. As she walked into the house, she saw five of her youngest children huddled together, concentrating with intense interest on something. As she slipped near the, trying to discover the center of attention, she couldn't believe her eyes. Smack dab in the middle of the circle were several baby skunks. She creamed at the top of her voice.

"Children, run!"

Each kid grabbed a skunk and ran!

Panic can be more destructive than the cause of the fear itself.

Again, "Faith is a refusal to panic." The big news now is the swine flu. Government officials are saying, "Be cautious but don't panic."

That's wise. And on top of that we as Christians know that we walk in the assurance and protection of our Father.

Please remember today that God is in control and that as Christians we walk with the peace of Christ in us knowing that God is with us.

Remember, faith is a refusal to panic.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Integrity, Jack Bauer and Joseph

Say what you want to about Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) of the television show "24", at least he is a man of integrity. He follows through on what is right for the good of the country, without compromise.

We saw that in last night's episode. Jack always puts country first, whether is means him surviving or not. He will not compromise with anyone in this endeavor, even if it means disagreeing with those who are above him as his work superiors.

To refresh your memory, Jack Bauer is a federal agent who is working this season to protect our country from a biological attack.

I can remember the first season, where Jack was put in charge of guarding a presidential candidate from an assassination attempt.

He was given that responsibility because in the uncertain world of espionage he possesses that rare character trait of integrity.

In the show’s first episode, Jack’s integrity is already put to the test. Because he turned in other federal agents for bribery, some of his own comrades have turned against him. In particular, Jack’s immediate boss has come down hard on him and tried to persuade Jack not to be so honest in his job.

Jack has an explosive confrontation with his boss and will not budge on this point. Just after the confrontation, Jack bristles with intensity as he explains his actions to his closest partner.

“You can look the other way once, and it’s no big deal, except it makes it easier for you to compromise the next time. And pretty soon, that’s all you’re doing, compromising, because that’s how you think things are done. You know those guys I blew the whistle on? You think they were the bad guys? They weren’t the bad guys. They were just like you and me, except they compromised once.”

Great spiritual lesson. All it takes is one compromise and the enemy pounces on that in our lives and we find ourselves taking a downward path. There seems to be an almost black and white approach in the Word toward Good and Evil.

We must deal in a sense, violently, with those temptations that come our way.

If you have a problem with alcohol, stay away from bars.
If you have a problem with pornography, stay away from the Internet.
If you have a problem with gossip, gets some new friends. As someone once said, "if you don't want to get stung, then stay away from the bees."

Well, you get the point.

This summer we are going to look at the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Joseph was tempted by a Potiphar's wife. She was laying in bed one day and said, "Come lie with me." Now that's what I call a temptation. Nothing subtle about that.

Yet, Joseph, by his very character and walk with God, knew that one compromise would lead to another and yet to another still. The Bible states, "he fled". He got out of there. He ran. No compromise.

In that way, Joseph and Jack Bauer are a lot a like.

And it's more than ironic that both ended up saying their respective countries from the "bad guys."

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Thoughts from the weekend:

Saturday evening, Debbie and I were out at a restaurant and ran into Jon and Cheri Hollowell. We went over and sat down with them after our dinner. Great people. Faithful people to God's work. We had fun talking about our families and life in general.

Then, yesterday we had lunch with Edwin Mendez and his wife (who recently came back to Christ four months ago), along with a new convert, a new believer in the faith by the name of Tim. Tim owns a window business in Oak Forest and came to Christ a couple of months ago. It's so encouraging and inspiring to me to hang out with new believers. They get me reved up in my service and relationship with God.

Jeff and Debbie Schwab were also there. Debbie and I love and appreciate Jeff and Debbie a lot. They continue to serve the Lord, even as they struggle in the midst of this difficult economy.

Each Saturday, at our weekly prayer meeting, we are laying resumes on the altar of our church and praying for jobs. Already, God has brought in two or three. We rejoice with those who are receiving answers to their prayers!

The highlight of my weekend was watching 4 adults and one child being baptized last night! It begin to choke up at the thought of what God is doing in their lives. Their testimonies were so powerful and encouraging!

God is doing some great things in our church! It's like the old adage, "How to you eat an elephant - one bite at a time." How do you grow a healthy church? One person at a time.

The spontaneous response to a call for healing was also touching. Here's what I know: God is enough. Every believer in Christ can pray for the sick. We can pray for the sick every we go and every where we are.

I anticipate God touching our church family in the next few weeks, leaving us with stories and testimonies of His healing power (I am including the story I read Sunday of a little girl's healing in an Assembly of God church - read it below).

We rejoiced Sunday at the miracle of our first fruits offering on April 19th. It came to over $201,000. Truly, I say, and I mean this, PRAISE GOD!

It's in the top five of miracles that I have seen in my life. In the midst of a crummy economy and job layoffs, our church family came through.

We have such a giving church. I am so privileged to shepherd them and thank God daily for the joy I have in serving them.

We are gaining some big "Mo" or momentum!

Here's the story I read Sunday:

"Amy Knight—single mother of Kayla, Ryan, and Alex—attends Whitehouse (Texas) First Assembly and had heard stories of divine healing, but she had never personally experienced or seen one. When 11-year-old daughter Kayla began complaining about ongoing headaches that continued to grow in severity, Amy desperately needed those healing stories to become a personal reality.

The headaches grew in intensity. In May Amy took Kayla to the emergency room.

"They took an X-ray and noted an abnormality," Amy says. "They recommended I see a neurologist."

Neurologists' fees are high. Due to their income level, Kayla qualified for Medicaid, but it took weeks for Amy to find a doctor who would accept Medicaid payment. Two months later, Kayla finally saw a doctor in nearby Tyler who ordered a CAT scan and then an MRI.

By this time, Kayla was spending most of her time in bed unable to get up. Her headaches were nearly unbearable.

The doctor in Tyler noticed a large white blotch on the MRI—a tumor in Kayla's brain. He immediately sent the pair to see a specialist in Dallas. Another MRI confirmed the tumor had grown significantly.

"The doctor took me aside and told me that if it continued to grow at its current rate, within two weeks the tumor would cover her brain and Kayla would be brain dead," Amy recalls.

The other option was surgery, but there was a 95 percent chance Kayla would not survive.

"It was a difficult decision, but I chose to let Kayla at least have what was left of her life rather than take such a long chance on that operation," Amy says. "I told the doctor I was going to leave it in God's hands."

Amy told Kayla everything. "We're going to let the church pray for you tonight," she said. They would believe together that God would remove the tumor.

"During the service that night," senior pastor Michael Fleming says, "Kayla…sat on the front pew, and we gathered around her. We started to pray. We could feel the presence of God. We prayed that the tumor would be removed and the reports would be changed."

Two days later, Kayla was back in Dallas for another MRI. The doctors soon called for Amy.

"I was thinking it was bad news," she remembers. "The doctor put the MRI in front of me and I really didn't know what I was looking at. To me, I didn't see a thing, so I thought the tumor had spread across her brain."

In fact, the doctor was stunned and was struggling for an answer. The tumor had vanished without a trace. And Kayla's headaches? Gone as well. …

"The doctor had told me during our visits that he believed there was some 'higher Being,' but he didn't believe in God," Amy says. "But after he saw these results, he said that if he didn't believe in my God before, he would now. I told him, 'He's not my God. He's everybody's God.'" …

Since the initial report, Kayla has undergone two further exams, both giving her a clean bill of health.

"I wasn't letting God take care of things like I was supposed to. My faith wasn't where it was supposed to be," Amy says. "I now know I don't have to worry about anything. Whatever happens, happens for a reason. God is in control." …

And what about Kayla's thoughts?

"When you put something in God's hands, it's nice to know He's going to do something about it."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

To twit or not to twit

I have decided not to "twitter". I don't really know why, it's just that maybe I live in enough of a fishbowl as it is.

To me twitter assumes that the world hangs on knowing what I am doing at that very moment, which most of the time is not that impressive or earth shaking.

To me it also tends to break life down to a series of mundane events, which complied together equal a total sum of mundane events and thoughts that equal "mundanness" (if that is a word).

Surely life is more significant than "twitting" what I am eating or doing at the very moment.

Where are the philosophical thoughts for our day? Where are the deeper theological truths? Where are those discussing issues such as intolerance, racism and greed?

Instead all we get is, "I fed my dog just now" (I exaggerate to make a point).

If you twitter, fine, go for it. Have fun. Let everyone know what you are doing every five minutes.

But every once in a while, throw a deep thought in there - just in case there is more to life than what T.V. program you are watching.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Staying on message

It's so easy to get "off message" as a church family and in our own individual lives.

I found this story today.

"On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks were frequent, a group of concerned citizens decided to build a rescue station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat manned by the few devoted crewmen who kept constant watch over the sea. Day and night these courageous men faced the dangers of the sea, risking their lives to save the lives of many who were shipwrecked.

After a while, the station became famous. Some of those who were saved, as well as others in the community, wanted to become part of this mission. They gave their time and money to improve the quality of the station. They bought new boats. They replaced the shabby emergency cots with modern hospital beds. They even tore down the crude station hut and built a new "multi-purpose" facility.

The station soon became a popular gathering place for its members. It wasn't noticeable at first, but over time, it looked less and less like a rescue station, and more like a social club. Few members were interested anymore in actually facing the dangers at sea, so they hired life-saving professionals to do it for them.

One day a large ship wrecked off the coast, and the hired crew rescued boatloads of cold, wet, frightened people. Some of them were sick. Some lost everything they owned. Some were uneducated. And all were indigent.

The influx of shipwreck victims upset many members of the club; so the issue was addressed at the next business meeting.

One leader said, "If we allow our facility to be overrun this way, it will become run-down. And we all know how expensive repairs can be."

Others nodded in agreement. But there was a handful of people who said, "Wait a minute. We are first and foremost a life-saving station. We can't close our doors to those who need us most."

The leadership said to them, "If you're not happy with the way we do things here, go start your own station down the coast."

And they did: With a small, crude hut and a single boat and a few committed workers. Then this group of dedicated workers risked their lives to save those who were wrecked at sea. They saved many lives, and soon, this second life-saving station became popular, too. They bought new equipment and built a new facility.

The members lost interest in facing the perils of rescue, but they loved to gather and talk about their sea adventures of days gone by. Soon, like the previous station, they stopped sending boats into the water.

This scenario was repeated again and again throughout the years. Today you'll find a number of exclusive clubs along the shore. Shipwrecks are still frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown."

John Macarthur calls this story "an illustration of the history of the church."

However, I would suggest that it could also illustrate our own individual lives.

There's a story in the New Testament that deals with the calling of Peter and Andrew by Jesus to become disciples and give them a vision for their lives and ministry.

Jesus said in Matthew 4:19, "Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."

Jesus is calling us all to a life with meaning. A life of significance.

A life of vision.

This story in Matthew 4 reminds us of what that vision is.

Our vision as a church remains, "a place to belong, a place to grow and a place to serve."

Let me amplify on this:

Our mission is to change lives.

While we are in the midst of a relocation project, our mission is ultimately not about buildings, or accumulating money, or earning accolades—it's about changing lives.

Jesus said in Matthew 4:19, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."

Jesus is saying, "Instead of doing something temporary with your life, I can show you how to live a life that will have impact for all eternity."

It's this simple: if we're not involved in work that promotes positive change in the lives of others, we're not doing ministry.

We need to ask ourselves: are we reaching people for Christ? Are we helping people grow in their Christian life? Are we empowering people to be better parents, better spouses, better employees, better friends, better sons and daughters, better neighbors, and on and on?

At our staff meeting this week, we asked ourselves, "are we setting people up in our church family for success?"

Our mission is to help change lives. Primarily, that involves leading people to a life-changing connection with Jesus Christ. That's what it means to be "fishers of men."

Our mission is to heal the hurting.

Verse 23 tells us that Jesus went throughout Galilee healing every disease and sickness. Then verse 24 tells us, "And people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them."

This week I am beginning a five-part series on healing.

God still heals today!

God desire to heal us body, soul and spirit.

We have been called to do the ministry of Christ—to heal the hurting. And while we pray for their healing, we're called to offer them comfort during their affliction.

If someone in this church is fighting cancer, or going through a divorce, or facing unemployment, we are to pray for God to heal the situation, and we are to offer them encouragement, comfort and emotional support every step of the way.

If someone close to you goes off the deep and commits a foolish sin that wrecks their life, you are to pray that God will restore them and help them pick up the pieces, and you are to offer them encouragement and support every step of the way.

There are people in this community who are hurting desperately. Maybe they brought it on themselves, maybe they didn't. Either way, our mission is to do what we can to help them find wholeness and experience the fullness of God in their lives. When we stop caring about those who hurt, we cease to be a life-saving station and we become nothing more than a social club.

Our mission is to teach the Word of God.

(v. 23) Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom .

Our mission is to teach the word of God—not just on Sunday morning from the pulpit, but in our Life Groups, Sunday Bible Fellowships, children's church, and youth meetings.

We don't want the story of the life-saving-station-turned-social-club to become our story, and it doesn't have to.

But we can't allow ourselves to lose sight of the ministry to which we have been called—as a church and as individuals.

It's about people—helping them change, healing their hurts, teaching them truth. We don't do this for our glory, but for their good. It's the essential part of our mission.

Won't you continue to join me in this....

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What kind of God would you be.....

I am a part of a lot of conversations that begin with the question, "what is God like"? Or, fill in the blank, "God is like __________".

But what about turning the tables and asking ourselves, "what kind of God would I be"? "If I were God, what would I be like?

First of all, let me say, "I'm glad I'm not God." The responsibility would be just too much. On call 24-7. Never a moment's rest. Dealing with people who constantly let me down. Loving the unlovable, even though they have betrayed me and turned their backs on me. Yes, God has a heavy burden.

I would probably make a crummy God. Sometimes I am too weary to listen to others, other times I succumb to the temptation that I think I am too busy.

Sometimes I play favorites (although I don't like it when I do), other times I can be extremely hard on not only others but myself.

At the same time, to be fair, I am many times compassionate, long suffering and able to minister even when I don't feel like ministering. I can be extremely loyal to friends who have fallen or given in to temptation. I can be loving when no one else cares to reach out.

It is just the inconsistency of my life (that I believe we all experience) that can be so maddening.

What kind of God would you be?

I read today an article about a top selling video game applications that Apple has for the iPhones. It is called, "Pocket God."

Here's the game description found on iTunes:

"What kind of god would you be? Benevolent or vengeful? Play Pocket God and discover the answer within yourself. On a remote island, you are the all-powerful god that rules over the primitive islanders. You can bring new life, and then take it away just as quickly."

Seeing that game options include throwing islanders into volcanoes, using islanders as shark bait, bowling for islanders with a large rock, or creating earthquakes to destroy the islanders' villages, designers seem to think players will only want to play the role of a vengeful god—which must mean they think that's the only kind of god players can ever imagine being real.

Would you be that kind of God? Vengeful? Violent? Mean? Sadistic?

Or would you be loving, kind compassionate and full of grace?


Monday, April 20, 2009

Thoughts from the weekend:

At our Saturday morning prayer time (and I am grateful for the 20-25 people who come each week)there was a definite sense of God's presence. At one point, Bob Konrath (who was leading us at the end of our prayer time)had us stop where we were (we walk around the main auditorium praying for Sundays services and our church)and begin to pray and shout out God's goodness and favor upon us.

It was powerful.

After studying for Sunday, I then took the late afternoon and evening off. It felt good to just sit and watch a little T.V. and read and do nothing.

Sunday: Great day.

Sunday morning was a day of rejoicing at what God has helped us to accomplish in our "Moving Forward By Faith" campaign and taking up our "first fruits offering."

As I have been said several times lately, I am really pleased and proud of the commitments and giving that our church family has given so far. In the midst of an down economy and a relentless sense of bad news in our country, Stone Church is responding.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thanks for letting the Lord lead you.

It's one more step in our journey to fulfilling God's will and vision for our body of believers!

At our life group last night, we watched a video teaching on the parable of the prodigal son.

Powerful stuff. It brought out that there are actually two parables there. The parable of the prodigal son who goes off and squanders everything that he has and comes back humbly to God and repents - and the parable of the elder brother who stays with the father and works out of duty, not realizing that he has sins to repent of as well.

"Elder brothers" lack compassion, they are full of pride and unrepentant for their own sins - after all, what about all that they are doing in the family business to keep it going!

As a pastor, I deal with Elder Brothers (its called the EB syndrome) all the time. Those of us who have grown up in the church, our temptations don't lie necessarily with sex, drugs or "rock and roll" (as I like to say tongue in cheek) but with jealousy, bitterness, anger, pride, competitiveness, control and having our own way.

As a shepherd I deal with the "EB" syndrome of those who have lost the ability to celebrate in their faith, instead of enjoying the blessings of God, they are always criticizing, pondering, questioning, never satisfied with what is, never coming to a service to sit in God's presence, but to make sure everything is done "right."

Here's what I know: coming and participating in the life of a church is NOT A PROBLEM TO BE SOLVED BUT A GIFT TO BE ENJOYED.

Man, let's enjoy the presence of the Lord when we come together. Let's enjoy one another's company and rejoice that God has forgiven us for our sins and that we have eternal life!

"But Lord," many say, "I've been working so hard here in the church, and you are just going to let so and so in and we are to rejoice at that?"

God says, "well, yeah."

Here's what I am learning (and after two years I am still trying to ponder what this statement truly means):


Do you and I celebrate those in our Body here at Stone Church or do we simply tolerate them?

The elder brother tolerates those who are around him/her in the church, especially if they don't happen to agree with their approach.

One thing I know: we are becoming a friendly church. Almost every Sunday, I have someone coming up to me and thanking me for God leading them to come to such an open welcoming body of believers.

But remember, people go where they are celebrated and not just tolerated.

Which one are you today?

Are you the younger brother, recognizing that you sin and rejoicing that God has forgiven you and wanting to dwell in God's presence?

Or are you suffering from "EB". Full of pride, bitterness, anger, pointing fingers and others, having difficulty enjoying the services, so "churched" that it has been a long time sense you have simply dwelled in God's presence with no agenda, just dwelling in his presence and conversing with him.

Challenging stuff I know for a Monday.....


Thursday, April 16, 2009

The "S" word

This Sunday we are going to be taking up a "first fruits" offering at our church. A first fruits offering symbolizes God’s harvest of souls, it illustrates giving to God from a grateful heart, and it sets a pattern of giving back to Him the first (and the best) of what He has given us.

We encourage you to bring a week's, month's or year's worth of your pledge to our "Moving Forward by Faith," campaign.

As I said last Sunday, I have been really proud of our church family, almost like a dad watching his son or daughter win an award.

It shows the quality of the folks who call Stone church home.

In the midst of a deep economic recession, our church family members have pledged almost 2 million dollars to help us relocate our church out to 183rd street.

My heart is warmed and encouraged by the response!

Well done!

Let me mention the "S" word as we go into Sunday and receive the offering (I believe it will be one of the largest in the history of our church).

The "S" word can be challenging but also rewarding.

The "S" word can be painful but also joyous.

The "S" word can cause us to pause and reflect but also to push on to greater things for God.

What is the "S" word?


We don't hear a lot about sacrifice in the 21st century, especially in our country.

To be candid with you, a lack of sacrifice is probably one of the greatest contributing factors in our country being where it is today economically.

We (as a country) have become complacent, greedy, always wanting more. Never satisfied.

I wonder sometimes if we really do believe that with Jesus, that is enough.

Yet, time and time again, I come across believers (some of which I mentioned in my teaching last Sunday) who ultimately do believe that Jesus is enough, that when all is said and done, all we have is God and His kingdom work in our lives.

I would suppose that going into the offering this Sunday that some will struggle with the typical excuses.

"We are too far in debt to give."
"We don't have the money right now - it just isn't a good time."
"We have kids in college, bills to pay, vacations to go on."

I understand all of that.

Yet, during these times of great challenge, God still calls us to press in and press on to greater things for him.

When we sow (as the Bible teaches us to do) we also reap.

That "sowing" process can sometimes be difficult. Painful. But if we don't hesitate, we will reap a great harvest, a harvest that will fill our hearts and emotions with true joy.

I encourage you to take the time to read the story says it all....

It's from an article based on a sermon by an Assemblies of God missionary by the name of Del Tarr who served 14 years in West Africa. His story points out the price some people pay to sow the seed of the gospel in hard soil.

After reading the story, ask yourself, "Am I willing to sacrifice so that others might come to know God?"

For you see, ultimately, when we give to things like the "Moving Forward by Faith," campaign, we are not giving to see brick and mortar go up, but to see people connect with Christ.

Del Tarr writes:

"I was always perplexed by Psalm 126 until I went to the Sahel, that vast stretch of savanna more than four thousand miles wide just under the Sahara Desert. In the Sahel, all the moisture comes in a four month period: May, June, July, and August. After that, not a drop of rain falls for eight months. The ground cracks from dryness, and so do your hands and feet. The winds of the Sahara pick up the dust and throw it thousands of feet into the air. It then comes slowly drifting across West Africa as a fine grit. It gets inside your mouth. It gets inside your watch and stops it. The year's food, of course, must all be grown in those four months. People grow sorghum or milo in small fields.

October and November...these are beautiful months. The granaries are full -- the harvest has come. People sing and dance. They eat two meals a day. The sorghum is ground between two stones to make flour and then a mush with the consistency of yesterday's Cream of Wheat. The sticky mush is eaten hot; they roll it into little balls between their fingers, drop it into a bit of sauce and then pop it into their mouths. The meal lies heavy on their stomachs so they can sleep.

December comes, and the granaries start to recede. Many families omit the morning meal.

Certainly by January not one family in fifty is still eating two meals a day.

By February, the evening meal diminishes.

The meal shrinks even more during March and children succumb to sickness. You don't stay well on half a meal a day.

April is the month that haunts my memory. In it you hear the babies crying in the twilight. Most of the days are passed with only an evening cup of gruel.

Then, inevitably, it happens. A six-or seven-year-old boy comes running to his father one day with sudden excitement. "Daddy! Daddy! We've got grain!" he shouts. "Son, you know we haven't had grain for weeks." "Yes, we have!" the boy insists. "Out in the hut where we keep the goats -- there's a leather sack hanging up on the wall -- I reached up and put my hand down in there -- Daddy, there's grain in there! Give it to Mommy so she can make flour, and tonight our tummies can sleep!"

The father stands motionless. "Son, we can't do that," he softly explains. "That's next year's seed grain. It's the only thing between us and starvation. We're waiting for the rains, and then we must use it." The rains finally arrive in May, and when they do the young boy watches as his father takes the sack from the wall and does the most unreasonable thing imaginable. Instead of feeding his desperately weakened family, he goes to the field and with tears streaming down his face, he takes the precious seed and throws it away. He scatters it in the dirt! Why? Because he believes in the harvest (Italics added).

The seed is his; he owns it. He can do anything with it he wants. The act of sowing it hurts so much that he cries. But as the African pastors say when they preach on Psalm 126, "Brother and sisters, this is God's law of the harvest. Don't expect to rejoice later on unless you have been willing to sow in tears." And I want to ask you: How much would it cost you to sow in tears? I don't mean just giving God something from your abundance, but finding a way to say, "I believe in the harvest, and therefore I will give what makes no sense. The world would call me unreasonable to do this -- but I must sow regardless, in order that I may someday celebrate with songs of joy."

May we give this Sunday knowing that in our sacrifice is great joy!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

First impressions

Speaking of music and its power (as I talked about yesterday)I can across an incredible music video by Susan Boyle.

Susan lives in England and is 47 years old. She presented herself on the English version of American Idol.

Once again, it shows that we can't "judge a book by its cover". First Impressions aren't always correct.

1 Samuel 16:7 states, "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

In this "you tube" video, it shows Susan introduced, and as she is standing there ready to sing, you can actually see the audience sneer in derision and disdain.

Judging. Looking at the outward appearance. Making a critical call without even giving the person a chance.

Watch the video at the address below and then after you pick yourself up from the floor in amazement - let's all remember the old cliche: "It's not what's on the outside that counts but what's on the inside."

One more thing: "Anonymous" asked the other day about, "what does it mean to connect with Christ."

It means "beginning a relationship with Jesus by realizing that we are in need of God, that only God can forgive me for my sins, and asking Him to come into my life by saying a prayer of repentance." Simple but powerful.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The power of music

Isn't it true that a song can bring back some powerful memories? Every time I hear the song, "Still" by Lionel Richie, I think of when Debbie and I were first dating.

Songs from the revival like, "I went to the enemies camp," bring back emotions and feelings that I had as I connected with God in a powerful way.

Many times we connect with songs that were very meaningful to us during seasons of great spiritual growth in our lives.

Some long for the hymns of the church, not because they are in a book, or were written centuries ago, but because they bring back good memories, or at least memories of comfort or challenge during difficult seasons in their lives.

It's the same with choruses.

That is the power of music.

Worship tunes are very important to us - and to the spiritual growth of our lives.

In a New York Times article entitled "In One Ear and Out the Other," Natalie Angier examines the limited power of human memory. She points out that while we can't quite seem to remember the birthday of a loved one, we can't quite forget every word of the Gilligan's Island theme song.

"The weather started getting rough, the tiny shipped was tossed, if not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow would be lost, the Minnow would be lost."

Oh come on now, admit it, you know the words.

Why is that? It seems that if you add a little music to something, it's more likely to be remembered. That's how the brain is wired to work.

Angier writes:

"Though scientists used to believe that short- and long-term memories were stored in different parts of the brain, they have discovered that what really distinguishes the lasting from the transient is how strongly the memory is engraved in the brain…. The deeper the memory, the more readily and robustly an ensemble of like-minded neurons will fire.

This process, of memory formation by neuronal entrainment, helps explain why some of life's offerings weasel in easily and then refuse to be spiked. Music, for example. "The brain has a strong propensity to organize information and perception in patterns, and music plays into that inclination," said Michael Thaut, a professor of music and neuroscience at Colorado State University.

A simple melody with a simple rhythm and repetition can be a tremendous mnemonic device. "It would be a virtually impossible task for young children to memorize a sequence of 26 separate letters if you just gave it to them as a string of information," Dr. Thaut said. But when the alphabet is set to the tune of the ABC song with its four melodic phrases, preschoolers can learn it with ease."

In other words, the hymns or choruses we sing—which combine Scriptural truths with moving melodies—teach us things that won't easily be forgotten.

That should probably give us pause; pause to revisit what is being projected on the screens that line the front of our worship auditoriums; pause to remember that God has given us a powerful tool in music and its potent relationship to human memory.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Busy, busy time but good.

I was really looking forward to our Good Friday service last Friday evening. For some reason, the principle and concept of the power of the cross really hit home to me, once again, this past week.

I am extremely thankful for what Jesus did on the cross for me - and for you. The pain and suffering he went through. Horrible stuff - yet it brings us eternal life.

I guess I never want to become so "churchanized" that I lose sight of what Christ did for me.

Such love, as the song goes, "such wondrous love."

Let's all remind ourselves that it is a concept that can't be truly comprehended in our minds, with our intellect, but it must be spiritually understood. Almost to the extend that a "light" has to go off in our spirit and we truly connect with what God has done.

That brings me to the idea that there is the "Word learned" and then there is the "Word applied".

I can memorize a lot of scripture, (which I really think is great) but it must be inputted into the spiritual and mental computer of my mind as well.

At the service Friday evening, 3 people raised their hands signifying that they wanted to connect with Christ!

Saturday and Sunday evenings, Debbie and I had the privilege of attending a Nigerian 50th birthday party (Saturday evening) and then a 25 wedding anniversary (Sunday evening).

When Debbie and I arrived at 4:00 P.M., nobody was there (the invitation said 2:00 P.M. was the starting time). Our Nigerians friends explained to us that there is Chicago time and there is African time.

In African time, nobody arrives on time. Whenever it starts, (as it was explained to me), is "God's appointed time."

So, Sunday evening, in knowing that the party started at 3:00 P.M., Debbie and I showed up at 5:00 P.M. and we were right in sync with God's appointed time.

Both of us had a great time. Our Nigerians brothers and sisters in Christ are so hospitable, so kind, so gracious and their love for God is extremely evident.

They also have a lot of respect for the position of pastor. I appreciate that.

The food was delicious. I love to try different kinds of foods. There was fried bananas, chicken, rice, with all kinds of spices and condiments.

The highlight for Debbie and I was watching as men and women would slowly dance their way up to the brother (whose birthday we were celebrating) or to the couple (who were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary) and put one dollar bills on their forehead in a show of love and generosity.

Cool stuff. I told everyone that I would be willing to do that if it would help raise money for our building program. Stand there while everyone throws one dollar bills at me for the relocation project.

Easter Sunday morning - powerful. I wish I had another word that describes what took place. Both services were full. God's Spirit was evident.

6 people "accepted" Christ into their lives by coming forward for prayer.

It was fun speaking to a group of people who were really engaged in the teaching. Makes my time as a speaker a lot easier.

Bought a book today entitled, "The Unlikely Disciple - A sinner's semester at America's holiest university." by Kevin Roose.

Kevin Roose is a senior at Brown University, but took off one semester to study at Liberty University. Ironically enough, he was the last person to interview Dr. Jerry Falwell.

I like to engage myself in this type of book from time to time, just to stay in sync with how non followers of Christ view what we do and how we do it.

Let you know what I think of the book in a few days......

Watched a little of the Masters Golf Tournament yesterday, and I was thrilled to watch Tiger Wood hit his drive in the pine needles and the trees.

And then as he tried to drive out, He it a tree. Man, that made me feel good. I have spent a golf lifetime in the trees.

The only thing is, Tiger ended up with bogey......that's why he is Tiger

Trust you had a great Easter yesterday....

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Handling the failure of others

I've often wondered how God looks at us when we fail. When we sin. When we really blow it.

Sometimes our perception of how our Father reacts is determined by our view of God Himself. How we view God will bring about the way we handle, not only the times we fail, but the times others fail as well.

We see someone close to us fail, we can have natural feelings of disappointment, anger, fear, and sometimes even disgust.

"How could this happen"?
"I would have never thought that they would have done that."
"Didn't they think through what they were doing."

Blaise Pascal once said, "The heart has its reasons that reason doesn't understand."

Sometimes I don't know why I do certain things without trying to figure out why and how other people react and act in life.

It can be a challenge as to what to do with a friend who has failed because we are trying to sort through our own feelings.

Here's what I know (and am learning)- that when someone else fails I am to do the following (Not in any order):

1. Allow myself to grieve. It can be heart rendering to see someone we love and know blow it. God has created us with the ability to grieve during these times. To walk through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. However, we grieve in knowing that even out of the tragedy itself, God will bring about something good.

2. Do a check of my own spiritual pulse. When someone else fails I must avoid the immediate fleshly reaction of "I'm glad I didn't do that." "How could they have." No matter how "spiritual" we may be, we all have thoughts that come into our minds like that (However brief they may be). We can't allow ourselves to dwell on those thoughts. Only one person was sinless. Jesus.

I must check my own relationships, my own spiritual parameters that keep me from giving into temptation, my own accountability's.

3. Pray for the person who has failed. Pray that they might be completely restored. Pray that God will give you wisdom as to how to relate and speak with the person who has failed.

4. Understand that I must allow my friend to walk through the consequences of what they have done. It is injurious to the complete recovery of the "fallen person" if we attempt or participate in the cutting short of the restoration process. Or of walking through the consequences.

5. Realize that I was not the cause of that person's failures. It can be a real temptation to begin to point fingers at ourselves when someone else fails.

I always share with parents of adult children: "We are responsible to our children, but we are not responsible for them." They are responsible for the decisions they make. To assume responsibility for someone else who has failed is to do something that not even God attempts to do.

6. Be willing to show love, acceptance and forgiveness. In showing love, that doesn't mean that you and I condone the behavior of our friend or loved one, but we signal to them a sense of unconditional love when we reach out to them when no one else does.

Say something like this: "I don't agree with what you have done, but I want you to know that I will always be there for you."

7. Look at how God views failure. Look at how what God thinks of a person who has blown it.

5 words:


God has compassion on those who have failed. God doesn't look at us and give a big laugh and point fingers and say, "I told you so."


God's love is so strong for those who have deserted Him that He will wait for their return. His heart grieves over the sinner who wanders off, but he waits with silent anticipation for the return of the guilty one.


When a sinner sincerely turns to the Father, God is always there prepared to have compassion, to forgive, to love and to accept that person as a son or daughter. That doesn't mean that he condones what that person has done. It does mean that he is willing and able and ready to forgive and reconcile.


When people do admit their failure and work toward restoration, rejoice! God Himself is happy beyond comprehension. Not for the failure, but for the return.

The enemy of our souls will always try to tell us that "God will always be mad at us, we will always have to be second best." In reality heaven bursts with applause when someone returns to God.


God always forgives and reconciles those who admit their failure and come to him. It is his custom.

John writes, "If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9)

I'm thankful for friends and family who have stood by me when I have blown it. I want to be there for others as well.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Words for this week - Easter

Let me throw some words at you:

Senseless killing

Now then, let's throw all of those words into a stew of an illustration that portrays what Easter is all about.

It's the story of Fred Winters, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Maryville, Illinois.

You remember his story, I would guess. He was shot and killed during a Sunday service on March 8, 2009, by a troubled young man.

A week after the tragic event, his wife, Cindy Winters, was interviewed by Julie Chen of CBS's Early Show.

When asked about her husband's alleged killer, Terry Sedlacek, Cindy Winters spoke only a message of forgiveness—a message quite fitting for the Easter season:

"I do not have any hatred, or even hard feelings towards him. We have been praying for him. One of the first things that my daughter said to me after this happened was, "You know, I hope that he comes to learn to love Jesus through all of this."

We are not angry at all, and we really firmly believe that he can find hope and forgiveness and peace through this, by coming to know Jesus. And we hope that that happens for him."

I would suggest to you on this Wednesday afternoon that is the power of Easter. May we all experince that power this week - and forgive.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Windows to the soul

The French have a saying, "les yeux sont le miroir à l'âme", meaning, "the eyes are the mirror of the soul."

You can tell a lot by looking at a person's eyes. Anger, remorse, sadness, regret, bitterness, joy, peace, happiness, excitement, can all be read through the eyes.

At the final four college championship game last night between North Carolina and Michigan State (I was for Michigan State), the game was really over before it was even played.


As they were introducing the players, the Michigan State team was hyper, had already worked up a sweat, and looked, not scared, but overwhelmed. Awed. It's the, "I can't believe I am here look."

Pan over to the introductions for North Carolina. Incredible. Totally opposite. There were looks of quiet and determined confidence. It's the, "we are going to do this thing," look.

And true to this form, State came out rattled, throwing the ball away, looking at times like a YMCA men's over 40 team.

State needed to be at the top of their game to win. Obviously, they were not. I don't attribute that to Coach Izzo - he is a great coach and motivator.

However, I would say this. In the pregame talk (Coach Izzo allowed the cameras from CBS to be there to record live his comments)Izzo talked not about what his team was going to do but how they were going to react to what North Carolina was going to do.

There seemed to be a reactionary tone to the game from State viewpoint instead of "this is what we are going to do, now let's go out and do it."

State tried to run the ball (which they are good at) and then, if nothing was there, set up and run organized plays. However, nothing was there.

And North Carolina's shooting - phenomenal.

Let me whine some more. Basically you had some good college basketball players (State) playing against four or even five "pros to be."

Not fair! Waaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!

(I wish you could see my eyes right now).

Watch people's eyes today and see (no pun intended) what you can see. You'll be amazed at the consistent connection between someones emotions and their eyes.

Debbie and I went to one of David Vales volleyball game last night at Sandburg High School (he is the coach). Great game. Close game. Lots of spirit.

I can tell that David is a great coach.

I always like to go to a high school game every so often. It brings back fond memories as well as reminds me of what sports is all about - competition, teamwork, fun, and winning or losing.

Monday, April 06, 2009

thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Incredible, just incredible. Yesterday was an exciting, faith filled, miracle day in the life of our church.

From the moment I walked into our Sunday morning service, I felt a spirit of genuine excitement and anticipation. It was wonderful.

Powerful. Historic.

I am pleased to announce that we took in almost 781,000 in pledges on Sunday or a total overall figure of $1,838,458.76!

The total amount is a testimony to what God can do through a church family that is united and seeking after Him. It shows the quality of people that we have in our church.

Today is a day of rejoicing.

It was good to be in one service, united, worshipping God.

And then the dinner afterward at the Double Tree. I had a warm fuzzy feeling in me as I saw our church family in relationship with one another, "breaking bread" together and sharing with one another in love.

After walking through the Daniel Fast last week (and eating fruits and vegetables) I was downing pieces of prime rib like hotcakes!

Great food, great fellowship, great times.

What a mighty God we serve! We continue to cling to Nehemiah 2:20, "The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start building...."

I am grateful for everyone who worked in the stewardship campaign to make it such a success. Thanks to all of our leaders and those who gave of their time and help!

After a nap Sunday afternoon (I woke up thinking it was morning - that's how hard I slept), we went to life group - and again, it was a great time of sharing and praying for one another.

We talked about which roadway sign describes each one of us: "no u-turn, yield, stop, winding road."

Mine was "no u-turn". At this moment in my life I am focused on seeing us complete the vision of moving out to 183rd street. Others suggested that they were at the "winding road" stage or even the "crosswalk" stage.

It's an interesting thought.

Which road sign would best describe your life right now?

I would be interested to hear from you....

Is it a:

Stop sign
No U turns
Steep road ahead
Winding road
Detour ahead
Sharp turn

Have a blessed week.....

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Is God into spending money on a building?

Sunday will be our "final four" championship here at Stone Church. What a great day it is going to be!

To follow up on some of my thoughts of yesterday, another question that can come up during a building campaign is this: "Maybe, George, God does care about buildings (as I blogged about yesterday), but he certainly wouldn't want us to spend very much money on a building.

Oh really? Who says?

The truth is that some of our objections aren't really biblical objections at all. They can spring from our culture or feelings of materialism and stinginess.

"God certainly wouldn't want us to spend much money on a building." Who says?

We at Stone Church are committed to not building anything that is gaudy or glitzy. We really want to devote our resources to building lives.

That's what we are into.

Yet, if you take a close look at 1 Chronicles 29, at the construction the Temple, you will find that in cost, with just the gold, totally apart from the silver, precious stones and cedar logs (that were so numerous in the Temple that they didn't bother to number them) just the gold, alone, in today's dollars would cost $3,360,000,000.00.

You read that right. Three billion, 360 million dollars!

And when you take into account the wages that would have to be paid to the workers, (especially if they were unionized - these were expert workers, they were stone masons and jewelers and master carpenters)- if we were building the Temple today (with the cost of the building permits on a place like that) all of that included would mean in today's dollars it would be around 10-15 billion dollars.

So our 5.9 million dollar project is really not that big when it comes to projects that God has ordered in the past.

Let's continue to believe God for a great work by faith!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

God doesn't care about buildings?

Tonight's going to be a great night at our church. We are coming before the Lord as a church family to pray. To converse with God. To have a conversation with Him.

We need his guidance as we relocate.

We need his strength.

We need his direction.

As it says in Psalms 127:1, "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain."

So true.

I am really grateful for the momentum that we are sensing here.

God is doing a great work.

Some people might say, "God is not into building buildings. God doesn't care anything about buildings."

Oh really?

Did you know that there are 72 chapters of the bible that are devoted to the building of the Tabernacle or the Temple?

I would suggest that you can't read the second half of the book of Exodus without being struck by the fact that God cares deeply about the construction of the Tabernacle.

There are hundreds of detailed commands regarding how God wanted the Tabernacle to be built.

Or take a read in the Word of the Temple. If you read 1 and 2 Chronicles, 19 chapters are devoted in whole or in part to the construction of the temple.

God cares about buildings so much that he sends prophets like Haggai and Zechariah to rebuke this people when the procrastinate and don't get on with the task of building a place where he will be worshipped, or where people can meet with him.

Now, of course, God is concerned about buildings because of what they represent. Ministry. Ministry to people.

The true thrust of what we are doing is building people's lives, introducing people to Jesus, restoring people who had made wrecks of their lives, who have been abused or someone else has made wrecks of their lives. People who are just reeling from broken relationships.

As we relocate, we know that our new campus will give us the ability to house the ministries that will help this take place.