Total Pageviews

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Celebrity deaths

I have nothing against Michael Jackson. Great musician, great performer, good music (if you like that style).

On the other hand, words such as "weird" "different" "out of touch with reality" and "creepy looking" come to mind, especially in the later years of his life.

Here's what concerns me.

We as a country have become obsessed with celebrity deaths. One hypothesis is that is started when Elvis died, yet I believe it was a part of our culture long before that. Names such as Marilyn Monroe and James Dean come to mind, long before Elvis was on the scene.

Why do we have such an obsession with celebrity deaths? There is a country that is struggling with it's freedom (Iran), possible nuclear war with North Korea, terrorism in Iraq, babies being aborted in our country, and yet the news is dominated by a 50 year old man who made a lot of money, lost most of it, and has problems with his sexual preferences.

It is what some call a "black hole subject". A black hole topic is one that is essentially undiscussable, as one author puts it, "Drop the subject into the middle of a room and it sucks everybody into a useless place from which no light can escape."

Most of us can't help falling into conversational black holes. But we can help getting sucked into celebrity obsession.

It's an unhealty waste of time. And time, as one person put it, "is a measure of life." It can become like a drug - we want to know more. We want to be "shocked" more.

We all only have so much time. We can't "save" it, we can only "lose it," and choose how to spend it.

Wouldn't it be great if we became that obsessed with the death and resurrection of Jesus?

Okay, I'll give you this - if you want to follow the deaths of celebrities - go ahead - just don't put it one page one or the headline to the evening news.

Monday, June 29, 2009

thoughts from the week

I'm back!

Great week of vacation. Spent three days with Christie, Andy, George, Debbie and of course, little Georgia. She is a true delight. It's fun to watch her brighten up everyone's day when she comes in the room.

I also enjoyed just "hanging out" with everyone. Nothing better than standing in Lake Michigan, throwing the football around - especially when it is over 90 degrees out.

I do have a confession to make. I wasn't going to check my email while I was away, but I did. A lot.

And, I guess I am in with a lot of people who do the same thing.

According to a 2009 survey by Qwest Communications, 47 percent of Americans say they can last an hour at most before feeling "antsy" about checking email, instant messaging, or other social networking sites.

Of those surveyed, 46 percent said they could only make it one day. The remaining 7 percent said they could probably go a week without checking in.

How often do you check your email? I would be interested in finding out. Or maybe you are too busy checking your email (twitter, text) to respond to this blog. That's how caught up we are with all of this stuff.

Is it a good thing or a bad thing? I think it's mostly good - in fact, one of the only negatives that I can think about is that it takes away time for reflection and mediation on important things.

A few weeks ago, I asked my Wednesday evening class, "how many here are from a Catholic background?" Most raised their hands.

I've been reading a book entitled, "Catholicism for Dummies" (perfect for me) by John Trigillio and Kenneth Brighenti.

I am learning quite a bit.

Maybe it is overstating it, but it seems to me that Catholicism is a denomination of guilt, while our denomination is one of grace.

There seems to be a heavy emphasis on sin and working toward receiving forgiveness for that sin. Here's what I know:

God forgives me unconditionally.
God forgives me immediately
God forgives me continually.

Now then, let me make a strong statement. It's one I need to think through so maybe you can help me with it.

It's a negative statement.

Before I make it, let me say how much I love the Church. I love my church. I am thrilled to have the privilege of being a Pentecostal pastor. I believe that there are many, many Catholics who love God as well. I believe there are priests who are serving God mightily and in a godly way.

But even those in the Catholic church would say that their church is filled with corruption and immorality at times.

Here's the statement: While the Catholic church may be corrupt, we Protestant types can be hypocritical.

Catholics spend their time looking for sins to repent. We Protestants think we don't have any sins to repent of at all. That's where the hypocrisy comes in.

Catholics confess to a priest - we Protestant types aren't going to confess to anybody, even God.

Maybe there is a balance in there somewhere.

As a pastor, there is one thing I did "like" from the book on Catholicism.

The author writes, "Sunday attendance at a parish isn't just expected; it's a moral obligation. Not going to Sunday Mass without a worthy excuse, such as illness or bad weather, is considered a grave sin."

Maybe that's going a little too far (the grave sin part) but a little bit of that wouldn't hurt.....just a thought.....

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Speaking when no one is listening

I was told this week that the past couple of weeks I have preached with a lot of passion. As Mark Batterson writes in one of his blogs, "sometimes that translates into me speaking louder or speaking longer or speaking faster."

And, as he states, " is one of the harsh realities of life: not everybody is going to be as passionate about the things you're passionate about."

One of the reasons why I like our one combined service (with more people it is harder to see specific negative expressions of listening to my sermon) is that I am less apt to see the following:

Someone yawning thinking I don't see them. It has always amazed me that someone sitting 25 feet away from me can yawn and think that I don't see it. I'm not talking about a polite yawn with the hand over the mouth - I'm talking about the full Monty - mouths wide open - drool coming down the side of their mouths, head leaned back. (Yes that happens at Stone Church)

It's a real "communicating booster" for me.

And then there is the "blank stare". That might even unnerve me more than the yawn or the shake of the head (that says, "how can he be saying this stuff?").

Those who give this "blank look" seem to be somewhere, but obviously not in the building, and they give me pause to ask - "why are you here"?

And lastly (but not finally) there is the dear friend who nods off. And again...I'm not speaking of a polite bowing of the head with eyes closed. I'm talking about head on the chest, mouth open, snoring type of sleeping.

Sometimes, like Mark Battereson, I want to "shake them by their religious collar or silly slap them in the name of Jesus."

Most of the time I get in those moods because I know and realize (from being the resident shepherd) that the people who are "spaced out" are exactly the same people who specifically need the topic that I am speaking on.


But, to be fair, I am thankful for those who are listening. Those who are paying attention.

And one thing for sure....I know that Debbie is more reason to love her as much as I do.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


When I was in high school, I was in the musical, "Fiddler On The Roof." I played the part of the Russian soldier who married one of Tevye's daughters. And believe it or not, I did the Russian bottle dance (where you squat and rise up and squat again to music)!

One of the things I love is the wonderful give-and-take that Tevye, the Jewish milkman, has with God.

They have a true relationship. Tevye is always pausing in midscene to discuss something with the Lord out loud.

As Ann Splangler writes, "Back and forth he goes, arguing with God, arguing with himself, pleading, cajoling, even waving his fist, bantering with God as though he's an old friend who can be buttonholed for advice or a favor anytime."

It's called, "practicing the presence of God," and I talked about last Sunday. Having a continuing dialogue with God.

Daily. While you work. While you play. While you drive in the car.

At one point in the play, someone questions the rabbi of the Russian village in which Tevye lives, asking him, "Is there a blessing for the sewing machine?"

The rabbi replies, "There is a blessing for everything!"

I think that we as 21st century followers of Christ need to take advantage of "blessing prayers," as we walk with God.

Moses prayed blessing prayers.

Jesus prayed blessing prayers.

From Jesus time until today, it is the practice of many Jews to pray specific, short prayers throughout the day, from the moment they awake until they fall asleep.

Each tiny prayer is called a berakhah or brakha, which means "blessing."

In English, the word "blessing" often has the sense of bestowing favor on someone.

But the Bible often speaks of people "blessing the Lord," as when David said, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me..." Psalms 103:1

You see, "Blessing" can also mean "to praise"

A berakhah is actually a prayer of thanksgiving.

So, I encourage each one of us today, to stop, continually, throughout your waking hours and give God a "berakhah" or a blessing, a praise for what He has given you today.

Praise him for life.
Praise him for breath.
Praise him for health.
Praise him for food.
Praise him for family.
Praise him for work.
Praise him for a home.
Praise him for a church.
Praise him for His presence.

"Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord"

Do this, and it might even change your day, and your life (or at least make you easier to be around).

"Father, we praise you today, we bless you, O Lord because of your grace and favor that you bestow upon us. We bless you, O Lord, because you never give up on us. You are always there, always loving, always forgiving, always extending your hand to us. Amen."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

EAting together

There's one thing I know about Christians - we love to eat. It's rare that we meet without eating. Even our Sunday morning celebration times tend to be wrapped around coffee and donuts.

I am not complaining.

Here's what I know. Since the time when Jesus walked on this earth - eating together has been huge in our walk with Christ.

Jesus often told parables about banquets and would weave stories about guests who refuse a dinner invitation, who didn't dress appropriately for a banquet, or who chose the wrong seat at the table.

Using the meal itself (as Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg write in their book, "Sitting at the Feet of Rabbit Jesus)to teach a lesson, Jesus would tells these parables at the dinner table.

In fact, the last words of Jesus to his disciples, the night before he died, were as he was eating with his guys.

In Middle Eastern cultures being hospitable is a way of life. It's big.

It is highly valued.

Jesus, in giving instructions to his gang said (Mark 6:8,11), "Take nothing for the journey except a staff - no bread, no bag, no money in your belts...and if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them."

Some followers of Christ have taken this passage literally and have gone with little or no money to places that don't have the same high regard for the kind of hospitality that existed during the days of Jesus.

But Jesus wasn't talking about counting on God to provide daily miracles to feed them.

He was counting of the cultural act of not turning anyone away who was in need of food and drink, especially someone as highly esteemed as a rabbi. Those who were not that culturally adept, were to be left behind.

During mealtimes, people wouldn't sit at tables with chairs; they would sit on mats on the floor with platters or bowls of food placed in the middle.

They would reline on couches at more formal meals and food was placed on small three legged tables with a removable platter for a top.

No silverware. Eating from a common bowl or tearing off a piece of bread from a common loaf.

Cooking done outside.

Nothing fancy about this.

For the people in the times of Jesus, dinner times were much more than having a place to eat, wolfing down the food and running off to an activity. It was a place of mutual trust and vulnerability.

You were in relationship with those around you.

And...that's why people were so offended with Jesus! He would accept invitations from "gluttons" and "drunkards."

I mean, how could any self-respecting rabbi "party" with such low-class people!

But what they didn't realize is that Jesus was living out his own stories (parables) by playing the role of the forgiving father, for instance, welcoming home the prodigal. That's why he welcomed the "outcasts" of society and ate with tax collectors and sinners.

When we went to visit Chicago City Church the other day (inner city Chicago) one of the men told us that he came to Christ as the beginning because of the meal that the Church provides every Tuesday to around 200 people. He said he felt (in the positive sense) tricked as he later accepted to Christ. I explained to him that in church leadership terms, we call that a "hook" and not a trick to bring people to God. All based around a meal.

Joachim Jeremias (a theologian) writes that, "The inclusion of sinners in the community of salvation, achieved in table-fellowship, is the most meaningful expression of the message of the redeeming love of God."

Every time that Jesus ate with sinners, he was expressing the kingdom of God.

That's why our life groups are so important. They give us a setting by which we can express the love of God to each other around a common meal.

And...Is it any wonder (as we have been studying in Revelation) that the New Testament pictures heaven as a wedding feast - the celebration of the union of the Lamb of God with his people! (I see heaven as one eternal life group!)

So - go out and have a meal with someone today - and rejoice together at God's goodness to us......

Monday, June 15, 2009

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I played golf over the weekend (9 holes at Greystone) and two things happened.

The first one was that when I went to pay for my golf round, the person taking the money asked me if I wanted the senior discount.

I asked him, "what age do you have to be to get the senior discount?"

He said, "60"

I was not blessed by that. I know that I am 52 and all that, but 60?

I take it that I look "mature" for my age.

I've always said, "I just want to get old enough that maybe, just maybe, people will listen to me."

Well, I'm beginning to be that age, and yet, anybody out there listening?

And then, when I played, I had 4 holes where I ended up with a 6....and I had a 43 (for 9 holes - not that I need to clarify that) at the end of the round.

That means for the other 5 holes I had a 19....or almost par.

What a game. Kind of like life: full of ups and downs. Victories and defeats.

Saturday morning, we had a great life group meeting with Dave Dewes (our life group ministry leader) and our pastors. If early indications are correct, we are jumping from 10 life groups to 16!

I am so thankful that the Lord is sending us godly men who are wanting to serve God as leaders in the church....and who are willing to serve.

In fact, Sunday afternoon, Debbie and I had lunch with the Mendez, Dewes and Watsons. All three couples are on "fire" for God. I call them the "A" team of our church (remember that show?)....Rambos for God. Winning people to Christ. Going for God. I love it.

Sunday morning....powerful sense of God's presence. It's wonderful to have the family together and worship and fellowship and seek God. People standing, people kneeling, people on their face before God - it's all about God - it's all about Jesus.

Our worship team is beginning to jell. We have a ways to go - but we are definitely on the right track.

And then, last night, I watched as much of "Lonesome Dove" as I could.

Back in the 80's, I read the book, long before it became a television series. The book won the Pulizer Prize. As a matter of fact, I read it while we were missionaries in France. Nothing Larry McMurtry has written before or since touches what he did with that work.

In my opinion, "Lonesome Dove" is the best western that has ever been produced.

The acting, story line, and of course scenery, make it a powerful tale of the old west.

I don't know of anything that can top "Captain Call" and "Augustus McCrea" together, speaking as Gus lies dying. Quite the scene. Two men, one who struggles with expressing his feelings, the other who wears his feelings on his sleeve.

I must admit, it chokes me up every time I see it....

I don't know of anybody who could have pulled it off better than Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Great Expectations

I'm a firm believer that God always meets us at the level of our expectations.

Think about that for a moment.

We expect a little - God meets us with little.

We expect a lot - God meets us with a lot.

I read where one woman wrote:

"Our pastor's sermons amaze me. Each week he preaches with fervor and faith--never doubting God is ready now to open a heart or change a life. One Sunday I caught a glimpse of what inspires him. A plaque, fastened to the side of the pulpit, reads: "Expect a miracle."

Are you coming this Sunday, expecting a miracle from God?

Are you coming expecting God to connect with you, speak to you and meet your need?

A young girl sat at the breakfast table on Sunday morning before going to church. With the innocence that only a young child can have, she looked up at her daddy—the preacher—and asked, "Daddy, when you get up to preach, can I go to sleep?"

How many adults likewise come to the worship service with the expectation that they can "drop out" of the real world for an hour? What do you expect God to do as you come in to worship Him?

I am excited about coming this Sunday and seeing what God is going to do as we worship him.

I am excited about people coming to Christ.

I am excited about our new converts class.

I am excited about 17 new people joining our church in membership this Sunday.

I want to come this Sunday. Some Sundays (and they are few and far between) I'd just as soon stay home with a cup of coffee and the Chicago Tribune.

But for this Sunday - I am looking forward to meeting with God - and - meeting with you.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

truth telling

Truth. Pilate asked Jesus, "What is truth"?

Jesus said in another context, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life."

Only Jesus holds the complete truth. Only Jesus is the complete truth.

To be candid with you, in dealing with architects, lawyers, bankers, construction companies, real estate corporations (as we are walking through the relocation process), my head sometimes begins to spin.

Truth many times can become a "perceived reality." In other words, "what I perceive is truth to me, becomes the truth."

Situations can become so confused that the truth can be like finding a "needle in a haystack." The phrase I keep hearing from some we are dealing with is, "just tell people what they want to here."

Wow. I'm not very good at that. I like to tell the truth. I like people who tell the truth.

FOX had a show called, "Moment of Truth," a TV show that wrestles with whether or not anyone is ever willing to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Contestants are hooked up to a state-of-the-art lie detector test in order to determine whether or not they are spinning lies while asked a series of questions.

If contestants tell the truth, they'll win $500,000. To add a little drama, the show mixes spouses, significant others, family members, friends, and co-workers into the audience.

Here are a few of the questions that have been asked in recent episodes:

Have you ever lied to get a job?

Do you like your mother-in-law?

Have you ever stolen anything from work?

Would you cheat on your spouse if you knew you could get away with it?

As one person on the show noted: "This is the first game show where you already know all the answers!"

But despite their foreknowledge, contestants find the game difficult. This is the genius of the show—FOX executives know that humans are depraved and lack integrity.

We all have secrets we don't want to tell anyone.

What if you had to answer these kinds of questions while your spouse, family members, friends, bosses, and co-workers watched and listened?

What if you had to answer these kinds of questions in front of the church?

For some, it would be terrifying.

But nonetheless, honesty matters—it matters for the sake of the community of our families and friends, the community of faith, and the community at large.

Honesty matters for each of us personally. It's a matter of life or death. After all, every moment is a "Moment of Truth" before God—and he knows everything.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

God is enough


Even the word sounds depressing.

We've all been disappointed.

In some form or fashion, we all walk through life when things come our way that take the wind out of our sails, even to the extent of knocking us down emotionally and mentally.

I know that you have gone through times of disappointment.

It's during those times that the question always comes, "is God enough"?

Little kids experience disappointment.

In A Christmas Story, young Ralphie wants a Red Ryder BB gun, but his parents' only response is, "You'll shoot your eye out!" All the adults in Ralphie's life seem united in keeping him from this dream.

At school, Ralphie's teacher asks the class to write a theme paper titled, "What I want for Christmas." Ralphie's face beams with joy as he sets about to write the greatest theme paper ever submitted in an elementary school. When he turns his paper in, we hear his thoughts: "I was handing Miss Shields a masterpiece. Maybe Miss Shields in her ecstasy would excuse me from theme writing for the rest of my natural life."

Ralphie is convinced he has submitted his magnum opus. He imagines the teacher reviewing one bad theme paper after another in dramatic disgust, until she finally comes across Ralphie's paper. The teacher is swept away by Ralphie's submission.

"Poetry! Sheer poetry!" she exclaims, writing A++++++ across the blackboard, as Ralphie is hoisted into the air by his classmates.

Later, his teacher lays his graded theme paper on his desk. The grade on his paper is a C+ . Ralphie is devastated. Worse yet are the words written underneath in red pen, "You'll shoot your eye out."

I can relate to Ralphie.

Now on to we "grown-ups." We "grown-ups" experience disappointment as well.

It comes. The question is always not, "will I be disappointed" but "how am I going to handle the disappointment that comes?"

We can be disappointed with other people, disappointed because goals haven't been met, and even disappointed with God because he doesn't do what we think he's going to do.

Sheila Walsh (of the 700 Club T.V. fame) writes this:

"I got one of the most interesting letters at the 700 Club from a young woman in her mid-twenties who had cancer and MS. She said, "Sometimes I watch your program and I'm helped, and sometimes I want to take my shoe off and throw it through the screen."

I was so fascinated by her honesty, I called her. We became friends. One day she said, "One of the things I hate about what you do is you always present people whose marriages get better in 10 minutes, people who get healed, people who have the nice, packaged answers."

She said, "What about people like me who are dying and still love God? What about people who take very few steps, but every step leaves a big impression in the snow because it costs every ounce of strength they have left?"

Sheila Walsh continues, "She changed my perspective.

Christianity is not this nice "everything's going to work out okay" attitude. When you think of Christ at the tomb of Lazarus, he wept because it wasn't supposed to be like this. He had spoken this beautiful world into existence and it was so broken, so messed up.

I think one of the greatest gifts we can give is just a dose of reality that life down here is disappointing, that God doesn't always give us answers, but he does always give us himself."

And maybe, just maybe, the mere presence of God is enough.

"Father, may your presence in our lives be enough this day."

Monday, June 08, 2009

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

We went to the White Sox's game Friday evening. They played horribly. No offense. Lousy defense. No spark. I would suggest to you that the team is in trouble. Trades need to be made if they are going to win this year.

We had a great time with our deacons and wives last Saturday evening. We had dinner together at Buca De Beppo's in Orland Park and sat in the "Pope" room. The "Pope" room is a room that is filled with pictures of past popes.

There is a circular table with a "Lazy Susan" in the middle so that the food can be passed around family style.

I sat in the "Pope's Chair", which is a chair with a high back and a little bit higher than all the others (I couldn't get anyone to kiss my ring).

It was a blast. What a great group of guys to minister with (our deacons). I consider all of them my friends and am grateful that they are here to help lead and guide our church.

It was exciting Sunday morning to worship in one service as a church family. Many were gone (on vacation, ballet recitals and a Royal Ranger campout), but the energy level was high!

God moved! Again. Father, keep it coming! We love to connect with you and experience your presence!

I love this quote from A.W. Tozer: "God dwells in a state of perpetual enthusiasm. He is delighted with all that is good and lovingly concerned about all that is wrong. He pursues His labors always in a fullness of holy zeal. No wonder the Spirit came at Pentecost as a sound of a rushing mighty wind and sat in tongues of fire on every forehead. ... Whatever else happened at Pentecost, one thing that cannot be missed by the most casual observer was the sudden upsurging of moral enthusiasm. Those first disciples burned with a steady, inward fire. They were enthusiastic to the point of complete abandon."

Our life group Sunday evening was powerful as we gathered together for prayer, praying for one another and praying for our church.

It was neat to sense a spirit of excitement - that overflows into my heart and spirit as well!

Father, we desire more of your presence in our lives!

I trust you are catching the excitement that we are feeling in our church!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Doing a little jig

There's a cute story going around that goes like this:

"Mel Gibson reportedly lost his patience a few Sundays back with fellow churchgoers at Holy Family Chapel Church in what a source described as a “crazed rant.”

Angry with the congregation for gossiping about his personal life, Mel Gibson reportedly “paced back and forth, furiously telling the congregation that he would not stand by and be judged and scrutinized.”

At the Holy Family Chapel, this act was considered strangely unusual, but at a Pentecost church - completely normal."

There is a real temptation in our Christian world of non-denominational megachurches (most of whom are doing a wonderful job of ministry in the kingdom) to think that as a Pentecostal church we must somehow diminish or avoid or at least not "talk a lot about" the "things of the Spirit."

I understand the subtle tug to do so. About the 50th time someone says, "I love your church, but the goofy things that go on (like raising the hands, singing really loud, and even praying in the Spirit by using a prayer language) really freak me out," you begin to get a little gun shy.

Yet recently, in my own spirit, I am beginning to realize that perhaps, just perhaps, in a world that has a definite bent toward the supernatural (T.V. shows such as "Medium", movies that portray the supernatural, books concerning the good and bad of what lies beyond our 5 senses)an expressive relationship with God is the way to go.

Lately in our worship services, we are seeing "God move." What does that mean, "seeing God move." Does God suddenly appear as in a Star Wars movie as the "force" and chairs start to move and lamps begin to tremble?

Not at all.

It means that there is a connection between our spirit with the spirit of God that expresses itself in worship that many times is shown by singing, clapping, praying, and dancing.

Yes, I said it. The "d" word.

Last Sunday, totally without any forethought, we were singing "God is Great" and all of a sudden I caught myself "dancing" (It was more like a jumping up and down).

It lasted all of 5 seconds.

I, by my very nature, (and being a middle aged guy) am not prone to spasms of moving my body around in weird movements.

Even when I was in High School at my prom, my only experience with "dancing" was slow dancing with some girl to the tune of a Barry Manilow song.

And, "bam" - here I was, jumping up and down.

I was probably the most surprised person in the building. I would like to think that everyone was deep in prayer and not watching me - but who knows?

I would suggest that when something like that is done, truly in the Spirit, with no forethought, but spontaneously prompted by God, then - go for it. Be free to worship God.

Be free to experience God on a deeper level than coming to a one hour, "this is how God can meet your need" type setting. God is here to meet my needs. But it is more than that. I am here to humble myself before an Almighty God.

And maybe do a little jig at the same time.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Slowing down to hear God

Sometimes God moves in our lives at the very moment that we least expect it. I think it happens more often that we are aware of. It's just that we aren't paying attention - and the moment slips on by.

I wonder how many "God events" come my way and they either pass on by or they happen and I don't recognize it?

David Moore in his book, "The Last Men's Book You Will Ever Need," writes: "My goal, as a Stanford University student, was to start a Bible study in the Sigma Chi fraternity house. For over a year I could get nothing going. Then came my "God-given opportunity disguised as a hassle."

I was rushing to the campus post office to mail some packages before the morning classes let out. A man on the free-speech platform was pointing out specific sins in the lives of people he'd never met, while claiming to be free from sin himself! God told me to go over and question him. "Sorry," I told God, "I'm not available to interact with this yahoo." But after minutes of arguing with God, I caved in and engaged him.

Several hundred students gathered. As we finished, the Sigma Chi fraternity house president approached me about debating this "evangelist" that evening. After the debate several students asked if I'd lead a Bible study in their house. I often talked with these young men until 1 or 2 a.m. I'll never forget the godly convictions forged in that study in Ecclesiastes.

I don't even remember what was in the packages I'd been set on posting, or who they were to. Slowing down to hear God, I learned, can lead to ministry overlooked when we rush through life."

"Father, slow us down long enough to recognize and follow through on the circumstances that come our way that are led by You. Amen"

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Chicago City Church

Every once in a while I connect with a ministry that really touches my heart.

A few weeks ago, Chris Delaurantis came and visited me here at Stone Church. Chris and his wife Monica are pastors of "Chicago City Church" on 55th and the Dan Ryan (off the Garfield Exit).

What's interesting to me is that they are not a church that does "outreach", they are an outreach which has services every Tuesday evening.

They feed the poor, provide shelter for the homeless and give hope to the down and outers.

I heard of powerful stories of conversion amongst those who live in downtown Chicago. Drug Addicts, thieves, prostitutes, it is truly the "bottom of the barrel."

Yet, and miraculously so, God is doing a great work!

One of the main workers by the name of Lawrence told me his story. Raised in a middle class family, holding a good job, Lawrence went off the deep end (to use his words) and fell into a spiral of drugs and crime.

He finally fell himself living in a garbage can. God changed his life!

What drew him to God? The "feeding program" that Chicago City church has.

Chicago City Church has 2 1/2 acres debt free!

After taking the tour and speaking with some of their staff, we as a church have committed to the following:

Our youth group is going down for the day to do some "servanthood" type stuff and see what is going on (June 30). Next year, they will be spending a week there in ministry.

We are going to take a group of men down on a fairly regular basis to do repairs on the church facility.

We support them as a church on a monthly basis.

What excites me is that we are taking ministry advantage of the fact that we live right next door to a "mission field." We don't have to go to inner city Detroit or overseas. We have it all right here - different nationalities, different languages, different cultures.

I encourage you to be in prayer for and with Kris and Monica and the Chicago City Church!

Also...check out:

Monday, June 01, 2009

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

As I mentioned in my sermon yesterday, George and I went to "Starved Rock" Illinois State Park and had a great time hiking. It's an interesting place, seemingly out in the middle of the Illinois plain, on the southern edge of the Illinois River (which runs from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi).

It was a perfect day. We walked along the rivers edge and then cut back and saw a couple of waterfalls.

When the kids were young, it was me who said, "keep up," "come on," "walk faster". Now the roles have been reversed. Now it is George and the kids who are saying, "keep up, Dad", "come on," although they say it with grace and love.

I love spending time with my kids!

Saturday afternoon we had a great men's barbecue here at the church. Played some catch. Others played some "bags". I really enjoyed the time of sharing and relaxing with the group of guys we have here at our church. Good group. Delicious hamburgers and hot dogs.

I was "jazzed" that a lot of our newer guys came, including some who has just accepted Christ. Speaking of which, we are seeing several people come to Christ in our church recently. This Sunday, June 7th, we will be starting a "new converts" class. Please be in prayer with me that all hindrances would be removed for our new friends to come to this class.

In the first service on Sunday morning, I felt checked by the Holy Spirit, stopped my sermon (almost in mid-sentence) and had us come to the altar and worship God. It's the first time I have done that here at Stone Church.

It was a "God-thing". We need times like that when we simply dwell in the presence of God - and - about twenty minutes in to the worship, the Spirit "came" and there was a sense of God "in the house." I can take you to the point in our worship where there was a real release of God's Spirit.

Second service, I did teach, again a wonderful time in conversation with God.

Let's not forget that we, in our relationship with God, are in a spiritual relationship, something that is beyond our physical senses of taste, touch, feel, smell and hearing.

May God continue to "pour out His Spirit" upon us as we humble ourselves before Him.