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Thursday, May 28, 2009

God being jealous

Interesting verse in Exodus 34:14.

Let me read it to you. "For you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous."

It's not often when we think of the names of God that the name, Jealous leaps out at us. The "Alpha and the Omega" yes, the "way, the truth and the life," yes, "the Lord who heals," yes, but Jealous?

In what sense is God jealous? And for what?

God is jealous that we guard a relationship with Him.

Incredible thought. You might ask, "what does the great, omnipotent God care about me being distracted by some passing affection"?

Surely God has more important things to do. Like possible war with North Korea. The economy. Swine flu.

Yet, he desires a relationship with us to the extent that he will do everything in his power to make sure that we stay connected with Him.

That overwhelms me!

All he ask of us is that we (as it says in Jeremiah 29:13) "seek Him, search for Him with all of our heart."

David prays in Psalms 27:4, "One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple."

C.S. Lewis writes, "When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. Insofar as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving toward the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased."

And then listen to the words of Mike Singletary (Chicago Bears Hall-of-Fame Middle Linebacker) when he writes: "The first thing in my life by far and the reason I do everything is my love for Jesus Christ. Number two is my family—being there for them and making sure I'm not missing time that I can't get back. Number three is my work, speaking to corporations about teamwork, leadership, and cultural diversity and trying to help people come together.

I don't care where I'm at or what I'm doing, the thing I want to do now in my life is make a difference and serve with a capital S. Serve in my home. Serve in my relationship with my wife. And serve my fellow man…. For me, it's a matter of "What am I doing to make a difference? What am I doing except making money." There are a lot of people out there who are hurting."

May we all love God with all that we are - and save Him being jealous....

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Loving the church

By now it is becoming humorous to me the way that some are looking for the perfect church. The perfect church is an illusion.

An illusion created in the minds of those who want something they can't have - a body of believers who catered to their every whim and fall in line with every thought, philosophy and preference that they have.

It's an illusion but it can also be a deception of the enemy. To get us to thinking that if it weren't for "this" or "that" the church would be perfect. Have we ever thought that the "this" or the "that" is here to help us grow? To mature us in the faith?

Becoming a part of a local body of believers is a feast, not a taste, a meal, not a nibble. It is a marathon, not a sprint.

In a local church, as one author puts it, "One sits and serves with the same people week after week, receiving and being received, disappointing and being disappointed, hurting and being hurt, caring and being cared for. Church people are in it for the long haul, not the short term. The ordinary is more crucial than the extraordinary. The glory of church is the routine, not the exceptional."

I love the church, especially, not in spite of all its faults and failures.

After all, we are the church - so what's not to love?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

There are followers and then there are admirers

I admire Jesus Christ. I really do. To do what he did within the span of 3 years is beyond incredible. It is miraculous in every sense of the word.

With a group of ragtag group of 12 guys, whittled down to 11, he changed the world. What's not to admire?

Yet I am more than an admirer of Jesus. I am a follower. A disciple. I believe that he not only was a great man and did wonderful things, I believe that he was and is the Son of God - deity - God himself.

I am giving my life to the paragraph I just wrote. My whole life. Since the time I was 16 and really became serious about God, Jesus Christ and serving Him, my life has been centered around my faith.

Oh, that's not to say I haven't had ups and downs. That's not to say I have been sinless or without fears and doubts. But at the end of the day, it has always been about God.

Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher and theologian (and one of my favorite writers) once wrote, "If you have any knowledge at all of human nature, you know that those who only admire the truth will, when danger appears, become traitors. The admirer is infatuated with the false security of greatness; but if there is any inconvenience or trouble, he pulls back. Admiring the truth, instead of following it, is just as dubious a fire as the fire of erotic love, which at the turn of the hand can be changed into exactly the opposite—to hate, jealousy, and revenge. Christ, however, never asked for admirers, worshipers, or adherents. He consistently spoke of "followers" and "disciples."

Amen, I say, my brother in Christ.

May we all be followers of Christ, with a "furious longing of God."

If you looked at your life in Christ, today, would you consider yourself an admirer or a disciple?

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Kris Allen won the American Idol contest last night.

Most everyone considered it an "upset". Yet it shows that American Idol is more than a "singing competition" as Simon Cowell like to call it.

People vote for the person whom they like.

It's called "likeability". Some believe that you either have it or your don't.

However, I read an article today that says that likeability is not a gift - it is a skill set that is worth developing.

Read the article and then decide. Is "likeability" a skill set or something you are born with?

Pam Holloway writes, "Strange as it might seem, likeability is not a gift – it’s a skill set. Is it worth developing? You decide. Here’s what we know about likeable people:

They are more successful in business and in life.
They get elected, promoted, and rewarded more often than those less likable.
They close more sales and make more money.
They get better service from all types of service providers, including Doctors and other health care providers – which means they probably live longer as well!
Still not sure? Take a look at these studies.

A Columbia University study by Melinda Tamkins shows that success in the workplace is guaranteed not by what or whom you know but by your popularity. In her study, Tamkins found that, "popular workers were seen as trustworthy, motivated, serious, decisive and hardworking and were recommended for fast-track promotion and generous pay increases. Their less-liked colleagues were perceived as arrogant, conniving and manipulative. Pay rises and promotions were ruled out regardless of their academic background or professional qualifications."

The Gallup organization has conducted a personality factor poll prior to every presidential election since 1960. Only one of three factors - issues, party affiliation, and likeability, has been a consistent prognosticator of the final election result. Of course, the factor is likeability.

Doctors give more time to patients they like and less to those they don't. According to a 1984 University of California study, there were significant differences in treatment, depending on the characteristics of the patient: The combination of likeable and competent was significant. Patients perceived as likeable and competent would be encouraged significantly more often to telephone and to return more frequently for follow-up than would the patients who were either unlikable and competent or likeable and incompetent. The staff would educate the likeable patients significantly more often than they would the unlikable patients."

In a survey of twenty-five hospital doctors initiated by Roy Meadow, a pediatrician at St. James’s University Hospital in Leeds, England, researchers studied what happens when both likeable and unlikable parents bring in children. Considering what you’ve already learned about likeability, it’s not surprising that children with likeable parents received better health care and were more likely to receive follow-up appointments.

What makes you likeable?

We find a plethora of opinions as to the specific elements that contribute to likeability. Tim Sanders in his book, The Likeability Factor notes these 4:

Friendliness: your ability to communicate liking and openness to others

Relevance: your capacity to connect with others' interests, wants, and needs

Empathy: your ability to recognize, acknowledge, and experience other people's feelings

Realness: the integrity that stands behind your likeability and guarantees its authenticity

Webster's defines likeable as ….having qualities that bring about a favorable regard: pleasant, agreeable.

Synonyms include: agreeable, amiable, appealing, attractive, charming, engaging, enjoyable, friendly, genial, good-natured, nice, pleasing, sympathetic, winning,

7 Components of Likeability

In our own research and experience, we see these seven elements:

Positive mental attitude

Likeable people exude a positive mental attitude. That does not mean they are silly or giddy. They don’t ignore hardships or failures, but consciously reframe those difficulties and negative emotions to healthier positive ones. Positive means that you can find a better direction out of a problem, rather than wallowing in the problem or negative emotion.

Non judgmental

The truly likable are non-judgmental. They recognize that everyone is trying to get by the best they know how, and they treat everyone with respect and understanding.


Passing critical judgment is a sign of inflexibility, a highly unlikable trait. The opposite of that is what we call “openness.” The truly likeable are open to new people, other ideas, and different ways of doing things. They demonstrate openness in their behavior, the tone of their voice and in their language.


Likeable people are, “comfortable in their own skin.” They don’t feel the need to talk over, correct, constantly make jokes or laugh nervously. They don’t brag, talk incessantly or hide behind details or humor.


One of the most likeable characteristics is vulnerability. People who can say, “I don’t know,” who are able to admit mistakes or show a sensitivity, are seen as more likeable.

Able to get outside the Self

Those whose primary focus is themselves rate low on the likeability scale. Conversely, those who are secure in themselves and able to turn their focus outward rate much higher. It’s part empathy – our ability to recognize, acknowledge and experience other people’s feelings, which is a key attribute of likeability. This is more than the ability to be empathetic. It is the exercise of this ability. It is about becoming relevant. We become relevant in the lives of others when we learn about their interests, wants and needs.

Like me

We like people who like us. We also like people who are like us. As humans we are constantly seeking points of similarity. We look for and are attracted to people who are like us in terms of values, interests and experiences. Studies suggest we are also attracted to people who physically look like us.

We like people who are like us

Ever notice how we tend to naturally gravitate to people who are like us – those who share our experiences, interests and values. Studies suggest we also gravitate to people who look like us. It seems we are constantly seeking points of similarity. Dr. Karen Stephenson describes it as “an ancient skill encoded in us by our forebears.”

“In the small talk of cocktail parties, humans are at random walk, desperately seeking points of similarity through visibility: height, girth, dress, gender, race, accent, hair and eye color, etc. Reading the audience and working a room are ancient skills encoded in us by our forebears who sat cheek by jowl around the campfire; an earlier and more primordial form of cocktail party. I confess to having attended countless cocktail parties and continue to be amazed how, after just a few drinks, I end up with people who are like me in some way – same experiences, same clothes same interests, etc. It's not the alcohol talking, but the ancient drive of seeking similarity: 'You look like me, you think like me, you dress like me ... you're one of us.' When people connect at this basic level, they are engaging in an embryonic form of trust with each other. What began as a room full of disconnected people may end up as a network of people connected in invisible lines of trust.

More Exposure: Familiarity Breeds Likeability

Recent studies have shown that more exposure is sufficient to increase the likeability of a person (or an object). In short, we are more attracted to and tend to like people who are familiar to us. So, in a selling situation, if the prospect likes you a little when you meet the first time, he may like you even more the second time and so on. With that in mind, your objective is to continue to increase the numbers of exposure to your prospects.

How Likable Are You?

How well would you say you demonstrate those likeability characteristics in your meetings with prospects? The key word here is “demonstrate.” You can “feel” as though you are being open, relevant or empathetic, but that doesn't’t necessarily mean that’s how you are being perceived by the prospects.

On a scale of 1-10, where 10 is Extremely High, how would you rate your demonstration of:

Positive Mental Attitude
Able to get outside of self
Like me

In Conclusion. Likeability is not magic. It’s not luck. It’s not a gift inherited by only a few anointed people. It is merely a skill set."

Interesting stuff. Something for us all to work on.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Having the night off

I had the night off last night. No meetings, no church service, no nothing. Just me being at home.

At first I was little anxious about it, then a little twitchy, and then kind of flat our nervous. What was I going to do with my time?

To do nothing - now there is a new concept.

I ended up watching 24 (I had taped it), American Idol (Adam is the better singer, but I hope Chris wins) and then taking a walk with Debbie (it was a beautiful evening).

Now don't be too "spiritual" on me - I needed to "veg out" a little I believe we all do.

I am learning that if I do take the evening off that the world goes on without me, that God continues to work, that life goes on.

Rest is important in all of our lives.

Someone once said, "the bow that is always bent will soon break."

I am really trying to watch that.

I have a book in my library by Tim Hansel (I have had the book since 1979) entitled, "When I Relax I Feel Guilty." The only thing is (true story)I have never taken the time to read it. Now, I just don't read it so I can tell the story.

Yet, it is important that we take time to relax.

Rest and relaxation doesn't seem to come as easily or naturally to Americans as it does to those in other nations.

According to the 2006 World Almanac and Book of Facts:

• a worker in Italy averages 42 vacation days per year.

• a worker in France: 37 days

• a worker in Germany: 35 days

• a worker in Brazil: 34 days

• a worker in the United Kingdom: 28 days

• a worker in Japan: 25 days

• a worker in America: just 13 days

The typical U.S. employee averaged 1,804 work hours in 2006. By comparison, the typical employee in Norway averaged 1,407 hours and the typical French employee, 1,564 hours.

Is that a good thing or a "no so good thing"?

In his book Stress Fractures, Charles Swindoll writes:

"I vividly remember some time back being caught in the undertow of too many commitments in too few days. It wasn't long before I was snapping at my wife and our children, choking down my food at mealtimes, and feeling irritated at those unexpected interruptions through the day. Before long, things around our home started reflecting the pattern of my hurry-up style. It was becoming unbearable.

I distinctly recall after supper one evening the words of our younger daughter, Colleen. She wanted to tell me about something important that had happened to her at school that day. She hurriedly began, "Daddy-I-wanna-tell-you-somethin'-and-I'll-tell-you-really-fast."

Suddenly realizing her frustration, I answered, "Honey, you can tell me ... and you don't have to tell me really fast. Say it slowly."

I'll never forget her answer: "Then listen slowly."

That speaks to me.

Dave Treat at the life group seminar last Saturday mentioned that there is a new rage taking America by storm. It's called "Slow food". You've heard of "fast food" the new thing is people coming together preparing a meal and spending time together.

I am in a season of my life where I am required to stay busy (I like to tell myself it is for the Kingdom's sake)....and God is not opposed to that.

But let's all have that night every so often that we do nothing and take a walk with someone dear and close to us.

Now on to the next thing.....

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

True worship

I fall give into the tempation and I would suspect you do to.

It's subtle.

It's deadly.

It's the tempation to view God as the one who solves our problems—the one who wins our battles. If you come to Jesus, your life will be full of victories, God will help you, defend you, promote you.

You say, "what's wrong with that?" Well, nothing, as long as we realize that God doesn't exist for me, I exist for God.

There's a blog I have recently come across called

It's a journey into the church subculture, and it's pretty funny.

The guy behind it, Jon, writes posts about what he observes in the church—things that Christians like.

Here are a few examples:

#116: Using "Let me pray about it" as a synonym for "no."
#235: Confessing things around campfires.
#9: Comparing the movie Braveheart to Christianity (I did that last Sunday)
#240: Kirk Cameron.
#176: Giving open flames to children on Christmas Eve.
#59: Watching Jon & Kate Plus 8.
#11: Thomas Kinkade paintings
#216: Precious Moments
#46: Super Happy Shiny Christian radio
#437: Living "better"

About this last one—"Living 'better'"—Jon writes:

"My bookshelf is littered with self help books about focus and attitude and purpose and drive. I think a lot about changing my thoughts and trying to fix the way I look at the world and how I can improve myself. …

I want [God] to slightly improve me or enhance my existing life. … Sometimes I act like the Bible is a self-help book. I treat it like a self-help book for a better marriage, a better attitude at work, and an easier life."

Jon captures how many Christians think about God. God is the "Almighty Improver" —the one who helps make life better.

He's the "I'm only here to help you" God.

When we worship that kind of God we come in late to worship. We watch other people. We judge the style of worship. We mimic those on the platform in our minds. We just "want to sit down." In short, we don't take the worship time seriously. It's just another time to hear some good tunes (if we like the style) and kind of get some warm fuzzy before the teaching.

I am to worship God for who he is and not just for what he can give me.

He's awesome.
He's powerful.
He's real.

In C. S. Lewis's book, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" Mr. and Mrs. Beaver take the children to meet Aslan. If you're familiar with the story, you know that Aslan is a great lion, the king of Narnia. He represents Jesus in Lewis's story.

The children are surprised when they learn that Aslan is a lion.

Lucy says:

"Oh, I'd thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."

"That you will, dearie, and make no mistake," said Mrs. Beaver, "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without the knees knocking, they're either braver than most, or else just silly."

"Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy.

"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver. "Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."

Our God is good, but he is not safe. Let's worship accordingly.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Thoughts from the weekend

Friday evening (my day off) I went with my kids and Debbie to see Star Trek. Good movie. Not great, but good. I liked it because it brings us back to the original series, and creates a sense of "how" the characters came together and "why".

I won't spoil it for you, but it's nice to see Captain Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty back together again. In Spock's case, it is almost spooky as to how much the younger Spock and the older Spock look alike.

The special effects are spectacular! One action scene after another. And then at the end, the younger Captain Kirk walks on the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise with the same swagger as William Shatner used to bring.

Saturday morning, we had a tremendous time at our life groups meeting. Over 80 people came for the breakfast! Life groups are becoming and will be the centerpiece of "who we are as a church." Weekends services remain important, other ministries that we have will remain as part of of ministry arsenal, but life groups will be our main identity.

Here's a summary of what we learned:

- We must think life groups first - other ministries second
- Summer is to be a time to invite non-churched friends and family (and people who aren't attending a life group to come for a picnic or barbecue
- We are going to use the summer to plan for the fall
- Our life groups should not be over 12 people
- We need to multiply our life groups almost immediately for the fall
- People aren't looking for a friendly church - they are longing for friends
- It's hard to become friends in rows - we must meet in circles
- Groups are to be open; groups that are closed will die
- We must strive for effectiveness and not efficiency

Great stuff. I was thrilled as Sun-Hui Dudey (and Bob) shared with me that they are going to be hosts of a life group this fall with John and Pat Janks as the leaders!

We also announced Dave and Hermila Dewes as our Life Group ministries leaders.

The next Life Group leaders meeting will be Friday, August 21,22, 2009.

Dave Treat (our speaker) shared a story of how someone in their church lost their home. Instead of forming a committee, forming an official ministry, their life group built this family a new home! No bureaucracy, no red tape. Just people ministering to people.

Sunday morning - wow. A great sense of God's spirit. I saw several with addictions come down to the altar to be prayed for. I trust that we will be hearing great stories of what God is doing! It was wonderful to hear of how Dina Maldaner was healed, and the doctor verified the healing!

God is the healer of our bodies, our minds and our spirits!

May you walk in His healing power today!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Being open to God's surprises

Faith, presumption, God's surprises. How do the three words (phrases) connect?

I continually desire to have faith in God without being presumptuous that he HAS to do my bidding or fulfill my desires.

If that were true, we would live in a world full of monsters, who continually received what they wanted whether it was good for them or anyone else.

Have you ever seen a spoiled child who receives everything they want? They are not a lot of fun to be around.

However, God is always full of surprises as to what he gives to us as we ask in faith. We just can't put God IN A BOX.

C. Peter Wagner writes in his book, "How to have a healing ministry without making your church sick,":

"In 1985 I had the privilege of meeting a remarkable young missionary couple named James and Jaime Thomas. Soon after they were married some years ago they went to Argentina under Maranatha Ministries. Neither James nor Jaime had learned any Spanish while growing up in Kentucky. James had enrolled in a Spanish course in High school, but he was doing so poorly that he dropped it so as not to lower his grade point average.

When they arrived in Cordoba, Argentina, they began planting a church near the university campus by using interpreters. God blessed the ministry, and a small church was soon underway. At one point James invited a Puerto Rican Pentecostal evangelist, Ben Soto, to speak in a Sunday evening service. About 150 people were present. Soto, a dynamic speaker, was preaching fervently in Spanish when all of a sudden he stopped. The silence startled the congregation. They thought something had happened to the preacher.

But Soto was all right. In a few moments he said, in English, 'James and Jaime, God has just told me that he is going to give you the gift of Spanish." He invited them to come up front, laid on his hands and blessed what God was doing. Then he said, 'James, you take over," and he sat down. James was stunned and confused. He hadn't felt anything special during Ben Soto's prayer. So he instinctively called for his interpreter. But Soto insisted that he do it on his own in Spanish.

James reluctantly picked up the list of announcements he had written out in English, and began slowly, 'En...esta...semana...varnos...a..." and proceeded to break into fluent Spanish, spoken with an Argentine accent. From that moment he has spoken Spanish like a native and written it with correct grammar, spelling and even accent marks. Not only that, but when God more recently called them to Guatemala, James found himself speaking immediately with a Guatemalan accent. He demonstrated to me (I am fluent in Spanish) how he could also speak the dialects of Honduras, Venezuela and Mexico. That would be equivalent to me switching my English accent at will from California to Kentucky to New England to Australia to Ireland.

Meanwhile, before Ben Soto came, Jaime had learned even less Spanish than her husband. She told me that she was so terrified when facing someone with whom she could not communicate that she would not even answer a knock at the door of her house. But after Soto's prayer, some women began to ask her questions in Spanish and she found herself answering them comfortably and fluently. For some reason, God did not give her a native accent, but she speaks well, although with an American accent.

I am in correspondence with Stella Bosworth, who has been a missionary to Africa for over 30 years. Her mother, Ethel Raath, a South African, knew a few words of pigeon Zulu, but that was all. In 1935 she and her husband were assigned to do government work in Transkei, a Zulu area, and when they arrived some Zulu Christians asked them to begin services for them. Mrs. Raath felt that God was calling her to minister and pray in Zulu, so she decided to ask Him for the language. She gathered the Zulu Christians, knelt down, placed the Zulu Bible on her head, and they prayed for her to speak Zulu. From the time she got up from her knees she could speak, read and write Zulu fluently. She became her husband's chief interpreter. Like James Thomas, God gave her a perfect Zulu accent so that they call her 'the white Zulu."

I am also in correspondence with Norman Bonner, a retired Wesleyan missionary to Haiti, and later among the Zulus as well. While in Haiti as a new missionary he had been studying French, intentionally postponing the study of Creole. But, finding himself in a situation one day when he felt he needed to preach in Creole, he specifically asked God for the language. From that time on he could preach fluently in Creole and interpret for visiting evangelists. One evangelist said, 'I would give ten thousand dollars for your knowledge of Creole."

Jon and Cher Cadd, who fly with Mission Aviation Fellowship in Zimbabwe, tell of how a Zimbabwean interpreter received the Vidoma language. In his book Bruchko, Bruce Olson describes how, in Colombia, Motilone Indian evangelists were given the Yuko language, a dialect quite different from their native tongue. Whether those involved in these two cases continued to speak the new language I do not know.

Stories like this highlight God's power, but they must not lead us to presumption. God sometimes works this way, but I suppose that both now and in the future some 99.9percent of new missionaries will still have to learn languages like my wife and I learned Spanish,the old-fashioned way. Nevertheless, let's be open to God's surprises and accept them with gratitude."

I would say "amen" to that. Let's not be presumptuous, but let's DO be open to God's surprises and accept them with thanksgiving.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Being bold for our faith

Sometimes I think we can get a little bit gun shy about sharing our faith - after all, "what would "so and so" think of me if he knew I was a follower of Christ?"

I understand that. I want to be liked just as much as you do.

Yet I am finding out that many times non-churched people will respect and like me even MORE when they find out that I am a follower of Christ and I live the faith and I AND share my faith with them.

Let me give you an example of that from a confessed atheist.

Penn Jillette is one half of Penn and Teller, a duo that has been headlining Vegas shows for years with comedy and the art of illusion.

Penn has never been shy about his disbelief in God, often writing about his conviction in articles and best-selling books.

Yet in an on-line video blog that can be found on YouTube, Penn shares a story about the time a gracious Christian businessman gave him a Bible as a gift.

Penn goes on to use the story as an opportunity to point out that Christians who don't evangelize must really hate people. Here's the direct quote from his video blog:

"I've always said, you know, that I don't respect people who do not proselytize. I don't respect that at all. If you believe that there's a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that, uh, well, it's not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think that people shouldn't proselytize, [saying] "Just leave me alone and keep your religion to yourself"—uh, how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize them? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean, if I believed beyond the shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming to hit you, and you didn't believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there's a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that."

Wow, I couldn't have said it better. Non-churched people ARE our responsibility. So what's more important - whether they like us or not, or where they are going to spend eternity?

One disclaimer: Armed with the above statements, we don't go and try to "beat someone over the head" with the gospel. Notice that he said the Christian businessman was "gracious". It's important that we are relationally sound but yet bold at the same time.

The Holy Spirit will help you with that.

In this season of a remake of "Star Trek" (which I want to see this weekend) - be bold and go where no man has gone before - into the world of the non-believer and share your faith (or at least invite them to church).

Just a thought.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

God and Satan

This Sunday we are going to look at the story of Jesus healing a demon possessed man in Mark 5:1-20. It's all a part of our series on healing.

Here's what I know about the demonic - we don't need to be afraid of demons and the devil himself. Oh, we need to be cautious and put on our spiritual armor as Paul tells us to do in Ephesians 6. We need to take him seriously.

We need to study his methods.

Paul writes that we must study the ways of the enemy, "in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes." (2 Corinthians 2:11)

We can actually learn a lot about some of Satan's strategies in spiritual warfare by studying the military strategies of some of the warriors of old.

In his book Head Game, author Tim Downs writes:

"Psy-ops stands for Psychological Operations, a form of warfare as old as the art of war itself. An early example of this can be found in the battle strategies of Alexander the Great. On one occasion when his army was in full retreat from a larger army, he gave orders to his armorers to construct oversized breastplates and helmets that would fit men 7 or 8 feet tall.

As his army would retreat, he would leave these items for the pursuing army to discover. When the enemy would find the oversized gear, they would be demoralized by the thought of fighting such giant soldiers, and they would abandon their pursuit.

Satan likes to play head games with us, too, often leaving us demoralized by fear or doubt. We assume Satan is bigger or greater than he really is. And the quickest way to thwart our Enemy's psy-ops is to gaze upon the greatness of our God.

I asked the question in my Bible study a couple of Wednesday night's ago: "Who is the opposite of God?" Almost everyone cried out, "Satan."

No! God has no opposite!

God is all-powerful - Satan is not.
God is all-knowing - Satan is not
God is everywhere at one time - Satan is not

God is great! Satan is not.

Perhaps all it takes is a quick look at Job 38:4–7:

"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?"

Monday, May 11, 2009

thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Family. That was the word for the weekend. Family.

There is nothing like spending time with family.

Friday was Becky's graduation day and Debbie and I got to spend the day with Christie, Becky and George (Andrew and Georgia stayed behind in Grand Rapids).

We had a blast. Two graduated. One to go.

I appreciated the formal, yet fun atmosphere that was created at the graduation ceremony itself at Michigan State - after all it is a celebration!

I thought that it's great that they carry certain traditions from generation to generation...such as getting your picture taken with "Sparty", singing the School Song and chanting the School cheer.

A lot of traditions like that in life are meaningful and healthy. We have the joy and responsibility to channel and pass on traditions in our families, our churches and in our society.

Traditions such as celebrating Christmas in a certain way or Thanksgiving (according to how your family does things).

Traditions such as calling your mom on mother's day or your father on father's day.....well you get the point.

On the other hand, some traditions are wild and crazy.

I found this:

"Wisconsin winters are brutally cold. But that doesn't stop hundreds of daring souls from jumping into the icy waters of Lake Michigan on New Year's Day.

Yes, it's the annual Polar Bear Swim in Sheboygan, where every January 1, at precisely 1 p.m., some 450 fearless folks dive right in for a frigid dip.

One description of the yearly splashdown says that "most are costumed, all are crazy."

In our family, we don't really have any wild and crazy traditions like that. Do you?

Yesterday's service was phenomenal. I sensed God's spirit in a powerful way.

I spoke on the subject of inner healing.....healing from wounds and hurts from the past....many came forward. I am thrilled at what the Holy Spirit is doing.

More and more I am sensing that our purpose as a church is to "fill in the gap" with a sane, strong, biblical pentecostal message.

More and more I am sensing that we are to have vibrant worship, biblical messages and Holy Spirit led times where we gather together as a church family and seek God's presence.

Can we meet the culture of our day and accomplish that? I believe so.

Watched the White Sox game yesterday. I am doing by best to be a fan - I will be a fan, but they are making it hard.

They played lousy. 2 hits, bad pitching errors in the field. Ozzie (the manager) has a lot of work to do! Come on Ozzie, get the kids playing some baseball!

Thursday, May 07, 2009


My daughter Becky graduates from Michigan State University tomorrow. I am extremely proud of her (as I am all of my children).

She texted me yesterday saying that she had taken her last exam. I can just imagine the feeling she has of being done with school and tests and exams and professors and meeting deadlines for papers and preparing for quizzes.

Now, on to something else in life. I am excited for her.

Here are some of my memories of her the past 22 years:

Being in musicals at church, always smiling that smile

Running track in high school and then throwing up after her event (I admired her tenacity)

Being 8th grade class President

Being involved in school politics

Being nominated for homecoming queen (she was the prettiest one out there)

Going on an AIM Trip to the Philippines

Going to Europe by herself

Participating in Fine Arts with a short sermon, human videos and drama solos

Getting her driver’s license

Leaving her at the dorm that first day of her sophomore year at MSU. I cried all the way home.

Well done, Becky!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The European Union and the Antichrist

We're in the process of going though Revelation on Wednesday nights, verse by verse. Tonight we look at verse 13.

The Antichrist.
The false prophet.
The rise of the European Union.
The mark of the beast.
The number of the beast - 666.

Wild stuff.

One of my favorite authors on this subject is Pastor Mark Hitchcock. Mark gives a sane, rational, biblical approach to prophecy and I would encourage you to pick some of his stuff up and read it (if you are interested in the subject).

Today I read one of his blogs (which I have included below).

It speaks of the European Union and what is happening. Having lived quite a bit in Europe, it continually blows me away that there is one common currency (the Euro). To have several very nationalistic countries agree to that - incredible.

Read his blog. What really strikes me are two things:

The trend toward having 10 countries in the executive leadership council.
The trend toward having one elected, more permanent leader.

Mark writes, "Very late, on Saturday, June 23, 2007, the EU Summit in Brussels came to an end. One of the key objectives during the summit was to hammer out a new treaty to replace the failed EU Constitution that was rejected by Dutch and French voters. After some very bitter haggling, primarily instigated by Poland, EU leaders finally agreed on guidelines for drafting a new EU treaty. The primary purpose of the new treaty, according to EU officials, is to strengthen the EU’s foreign policy role. They want a politically strong Europe. The treaty is expected to be ratified by June 2009.

One of the most fascinating features of the new treaty is the creation of a new permanent, full-time presidency of the European Council. Currently, the EU presidency lasts only six months and rotates among the bloc’s 27 member states. According to Financial Times (June 15), the new office of EU president "would have few formal powers, but would give the EU strategic leadership and represent the bloc on the world stage on issues such as climate change, bilateral relations and development in conjunction with the new foreign minister." ABC News reported on June 25, 2007: "The EU’s executive arm the European Commission would be trimmed from 27 to 17 seats. The post of EU president with a maximum term of five years will be created to replace the system of rotating national leaders into the job." Many, including the new French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, are already pushing for Tony Blair as the first full-time EU President. Of course, he’s denying any interest in the post.

The Bible predicts that in the end times, the reunited Roman Empire will be ruled by a "Group of Ten" leaders, or a governing oligarchy, much like the present European Council or European Commission. Interestingly, the European Commission has just been trimmed from 27 to 17 seats. This could easily be further whittled to 10 seats, and the stage would be set for the Group of Ten predicted in Daniel 2 and 7, and Revelation 17. Also, the new full-time EU presidency, with its term of up to five years, could easily set the stage for the rise on one man to take over the EU and use this platform to forge key alliances and dominate the world—just as the Bible predicts.

In another related story, on June 21, European Union leaders gave Cyprus and Malta the okay to join the euro currency zone in January. Final approval will come from EU finance ministers on July 10. The addition of Cyprus and Malta will bring the number of countries using the currency to 15. Cyprus and Malta will bring just over 1 million people to the 318 million who currently use the euro.

As events in the Middle East continue to dominate world news, the EU is quietly moving toward the form and structure that could easily pave the way for the man of sin to rise to power over the reunited Roman Empire just as the Bible predicts. His first move will be a great foreign policy victory when he brings Israel to the table to sign a peace treaty (Daniel 9:27). This kind of greater foreign policy role is precisely what the EU envisions will result from its new treaty.

While no one knows for sure if the Antichrist is alive today, we can say that the scene is being set for his appearance. Make sure you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior before it’s too late."

I readily agree with the last statement.

In reality, I am not looking for the antichrist, I am looking for Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Gomer Pyle used to shout out, "Surprise, surprise."

Boy did I get one last Friday night.

About 8:30 P.M. I received a call from my dad saying that, "Mom is in the emergency room and she's lost a fourth of her blood and may not make it."

My mind began to race.

Dad continued, "She needs an operation, and may not survive." "They are taking her in for surgery."

I said, "Dad, do you I need to come down there (Springfield, Missouri) right now?" He said, "No, let's wait and see what happens."

I hung up the phone a little bit shocked. George (My son) and just driven in from Springfield and he said, "I saw her this morning and she was fine."

We were all stunned.

Then about ten minutes later, my mom calls and Debbie answers the phone. My mother speaks with Debbie as if nothing is wrong.

I thought to myself, "this is the fastest healing that I have ever seen."

It turns out that when my dad called, he was speaking of my grandmother or HIS MOM (who by the way is now recovering nicely - due to prayer).

Dad was a little shaken and led me to believe that it was my mom.

I got on the phone with my mother and after I had recovered a little bit I asked her, "Mom, I'm in a series on healing. Could you come up and share how God touched you and healed you in 10 minutes?" We both laughed. I said, "I was just here writing down some nice things I could say at the funeral." Again, we laughed (I guess that shows what a weird sense of humor we have).

Surprise, surprise.....

You just don't know do you?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Saturday evening we had dinner with Larry and Melissa Watson. They are relatively new to our church and great people. It was wonderful to be with a godly couple who ask, "how can we help at Stone Church?"

Food, fellowship, fun, and then the question that all pastors love to hear! Great stuff.

Then yesterday afternoon, we went to the Patio with Kevin, Carrie, Beatriz, Tony, and Jason and Jessica Schultz. You talk about a fun group. It was interesting to hear everyone's favorite movie....I'm a Braveheart, Gladiator kind of guy. Beatriz and Tony have recently come to the Lord - it is fun to watch them grow in God.

Last night's life group was everything a life group is supposed to be. One of the members of our group is struggling. We all gathered around and loved on the person and prayed with them. You could sense the level of vulnerability rise. You could feel the closeness of our groups coming through.

We were all crying and praying...good stuff....

Yesterday service continued the theme of healing. It was great to see people around the altar seeking God and coming forward to ask God for healing. There is nothing like being in an atmosphere where the level of faith of a congregation begins to rise and people are believing in Him!

I was reading some stuff from Brett Eastman this morning and thought I would share some of it with you. I completely concur with some of his thoughts:

Laughter is the fuel of life: So true. We love to laugh and carry on around our office - and it is the same in my home. Rule number 57 in ministry is: Don't take yourself so seriously - no one else does! I think that applies to us all.

Pain is universal. It's just not visible. In our church are those with cancer, parent health problems, marital issues, teenager chaos, emotional brokenness, job transitions, children leaving home, surgeries, heart scares, financial fears - the list goes on and on. Once again, last night, I shared with our life group (when the concern was expressed about being open about a need) that "If you knew what I knew about everyone in our church and their needs - you wouldn't hesitate to share what is going on in your life."

Every family is struggling. If anything, I become irritated at those who pretend that everything is "okay" and that nothing is going on in their lives.

It feels cruel for God to allow pain in my life for someone else's comfort until I am comforted by someone else's pain. God does have a purpose for our discomforts. It's hard to hang on to that thought when we are walking through the "fire" but there is comfort in knowing that what I am walking through and the help I receive from God and others is a comfort to those around me. And their situation is a comfort to me.

In a recent issue of Today's Christian, Carol Heath shared her moving testimony:

"I hated everything about my life.

After twenty-three years in a loveless marriage with little respect, my divorce was now final. I had to leave my dream house in Anderson, South Carolina, and move to a dilapidated rental house on a dead-end street. Even worse, I matched that awful house. Staring at the dingy floor, I felt ugly, used up, and broken. So many years of my life gone. Wasted.

Dropping to my knees, I traced a huge split in the linoleum as I prayed, "God, help me. If you get me out of this, I'm yours. Whatever you want. I just need three things—a job, a new life, and to be loved."

With no college degree and little employment history, my options were limited. Then word of a job opportunity came through my previous mission work. I'd be managing My Sister's Place, a shelter [in northern Georgia] for homeless women and their children. The position would provide a place for me to live and a salary. I didn't think I had much left to offer, but at least I'd be needed and loved. It sounded too good to be true. …

My Sister's Place took in addicts, alcoholics, mentally ill, single and divorced women with children, and some who never learned to manage money. …

I didn't demand perfection, but somehow after I arrived, housekeeping dropped off. Chores were forgotten and duties half done. After a month I awoke to discover dirty dishes in the sink, ants crawling over the countertop, beds unmade, and cups covering the coffee table. God, you tricked me—put me in charge of bunch of women who act like spoiled teenagers.

"None of you appreciate me!" I slapped the dirty counter. "Can't you see how hard I'm trying?" My hands shook as I slung the Tupperware cups into the sink. "When are you going to grow up? I don't like being here, in case you didn't notice. If any of you don't want to help out, you know where the door is."

They scattered like rats. All except Gail. I stomped back to the bedrooms and ordered the rest of them to get busy making beds. That night for supper, I fixed turkey again from our collection. Some church had donated twelve.

After supper we went through our usual routine—Family Time, Devotional, and Prayer Circle. I offered no prayers. I didn't even hold hands.

After we finished, I peeled off down the street in my van, screaming out to God. "This is too hard. I can't do it." I found a used fast-food napkin under the seat to wipe my eyes. "I still hate my life," I sobbed. "I'm lonely no matter how many women you stick me with." God seemed far away and silent.

I drove until almost midnight and then U-turned my car back toward home. Stepping out into the dewy air, I stood in the damp, overgrown grass in the front yard and listened to laughter. I realized the ruckus was coming from behind the house. My tennis shoes squished as I trudged toward the voices. Peeking around the corner, I spotted the women. In the darkness their lighted cigarettes dotted the back porch like tiny red beacons. I inhaled, recalling the days when I'd smoked. Way back when.
"That Ms. Carol, something's riled her today."

"Yeah, I ain't getting in her way."

Then Gail piped up. "Y'all give her a break. She's one of us." She paused to take a drag from her cigarette. "She's got nowhere to go. We're her family now. We should treat her that way."

I didn't speak to any of them that night. I knew it was impossible—I could never be like them.

Early the next morning, I heard a faint knock on my bedroom door. Gail tiptoed in with a cup of coffee. "Here, Ms. Carol. Just the way you like it." She grinned and stuck her stubby hair behind her ears. "Sorry about yesterday. We're gonna do better."

"How come you smile all the time?" I grabbed the mug and moved over to give her room on my bed. Gail spent half her day in addiction classes, then went straight to Krystal's to flip burgers.

"I have so much," she said.

"Honey, look around. You don't have that much." I patted her skinny, tattooed arm.
"I have you," she said in her throaty voice. "I'm glad you're here. We need you. Bad." Smile lines formed at the edges of her 47-year-old blue eyes. Lines just like mine. Gail hugged me with all her might. In her arms, something angry inside me began to melt.

My sweet Lord, [I thought]. I understand way too much about abusive relationships. You've been preparing me for this job for years. I know how they feel. I've been there…I am them. …

[Later that day], I drove to the co-op to pick up free food. As I shopped I prayed, "God, show me how to really love these women."

Filling up my bag with fruits and vegetables, I noticed something I'd never seen. Long-stem pink roses. They reminded me of my yard in South Carolina. The man behind the table said, "Take some. Every day, if you want. They'll just get thrown out."
Free roses! What woman doesn't love roses?

That night, we celebrated with store-bought hamburger meat—a rare treat. I took my time and made homemade spaghetti, and found a vase under the sink for the pink roses. Smiling, I arranged donated candles all over the table. This looks special. Something I'd love myself.

"Attention ladies," I said, tapping my tea glass with my fork. "We have a new tradition—our family's tradition. Every night we'll have fresh roses and candles on our table."

In the soft glow of candlelight, my precious family and I reached out and held hands as we said our blessing. Gail, my new sister and best friend, sat on my right side and squeezed my hand tightly. I squeezed back—hard.

More to come tomorrow.....