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Thursday, December 17, 2009

2010 and Stone Church part two

Well, this is part two of a two part blog on "2010 and the Stone Church".

What are our goals for 2010?

As a Pentecostal church, we would like to grow in the way the church did in the book of Acts.

It was explosive growth – from about 120 to possibly as many 100,000 in 25 years. Who wouldn’t want that?

Let's review: We saw yesterday four principles:

1. We must minister in the Holy Spirit's power.
2. We must maintain a warm fellowship.
3. We must multiply small groups.
4. We must continue to be faithful in giving.

Three more:

5. We must magnify our vision of God.

In Acts 4:24, the apostles had been taken prisoner and questioned before the Sanhedrin. Then they came back and prayed. Notice the prayer: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them.”

In the midst of a time of crisis, the apostles acknowledged that God was ruler over everything and ultimately in control.

We know the church is on the winning side. We’ve read the last chapter. We know how it’s going to end. If someone asks why we don’t get discouraged, we can answer: “We know who is going to win. We’re part of a mission that can’t fail.”

That’s why we must continually find ourselves on the offensive.

The Bible says in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it”

Are gates an offensive weapon or a defensive weapon? They’re defensive. You build gates to keep people from getting to you.

So that means Satan isn’t attacking us. We’re attacking him! We’re trying to snatch people out of his grasp. A lot of churches want to play it safe and avoid being tainted. But I believe in a big God who doesn’t want us to hide from the great evils of this world.

Let's not be afraid to rock the boat if Jesus Christ is the captain. We’re on the winning side. When we focus on God, circumstances will seem inconsequential to his greatness. He’s got all the resources we need.

6. We must maximize the power of prayer.

Our annual week of prayer will be January 11-15, 2010.

I am looking forward to this time of fasting and having conversations with God.

If you look through the book of Acts, you’ll see the phrase “they prayed” 48 times. We will have power like the church in Acts when we pray like the church in Acts. Think about it. There was a first-century apostle, James, whom they called “camel knees” because he prayed so much!

The early church was engaged in a spiritual battle. So are we. Spiritual warfare requires the use of spiritual weapons. That’s why we must maximize the power of prayer if we’re going to be like the church of Jerusalem. Jesus said that his house would be “a house of prayer.” Is our church a house of prayer?

7. We must all participate in ministry

People didn't sit on the sidelines in the early church. The church mobilized everyone for ministry. Acts 6 shows this. The church was growing so fast the apostles couldn’t keep up with all the ministry needs, so they mobilized others to meet those needs.

We need you in 2010! We need everyone involved in ministry! We are a team - "Together Experiencing A Ministry".

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2010 and Stone Church

2010 is going to bring to us all kinds of opportunities and challenges as a church family.

I am excited about what's going to take place in our church in 2010, and I sense that you are also.

God has some great things in store for us!

One of our goals is grow spiritually and numerically.

We don't focus on numbers for numbers sake - I always say, "we are not here to fill up empty pews with people, we are here to fill up empty lives with Jesus Christ," - but when people are being touched by God - they come.

So what is to be our model in the coming year? What is to be our focus?

The early church in the book of Acts gives us a great model for a growing church.

Dr. Luke writes in Acts 2:47, “The Lord added to their number daily.” That means at least 365 new people every year! Some have estimated that the early church in Jerusalem had 100,000 members – half the size of the city.

We can learn from the New Testament Church.

Here are four quick principles and goals that we have for the coming year:

1. We must minister in the Holy Spirit’s power.

We must rely on the Holy Spirit’s power to minister through us each day. No ministry paradigm, strategy, or dynamic staff can replace the power of God’s Spirit.

Jesus says in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

To have the kind of church they had in the New Testament, we need the kind of members they had in the New Testament: Spirit-controlled members.

That’s anyone who’s making Jesus Lord of his or her life. To make Jesus Lord is to let the Spirit take control of your life.

That's taking advantage of the tools that God has given us by His Holy Spirit: Using our prayer language, ministering in the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

A lot of people try to minister without the Holy Spirit, and it doesn’t work.

Not only does it NOT work, but we end up exhausted, never having enough energy to minister in the way that we want to.

But if we lean on the Holy Spirit, we’ll have all we need.

Jesus knew all that was before the apostles. He knew they couldn't’ do it without the Spirit, so he said, “Don’t leave Jerusalem without the Holy Spirit.” That’s where all ministry begins.

2. We must maintain a warm fellowship.

The New Testament church gives us a great example of warm fellowship.

In Acts 2:42-44, Dr. Luke writes, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common.”

Notice that when Luke wrote this account of the early church, he didn’t write, “See what great buildings they built.”

He said, “See how they love one another.”

That’s a crucial mark of a world-changing church. A church that makes a difference in its community is one that truly loves one another.

When God has a bunch of baby Christians and soon-to-be baby Christians, he looks for the warmest incubator he can find. God blesses a warm church with new believers because he doesn’t want them in the church of the Frigid-Air. He wants them in a warm environment where they can grow.

Ten times in the first five chapters of Acts, the Bible says the early church was unified.

Luke uses phrases like, “They were of one accord…one heart…one purpose…one spirit...all united in thought.” God can overlook a lack of facilities, a lack of programs, and a lack of leadership. But he won’t overlook disharmony in the church.

3. We must multiply small groups.

Acts 2:46,47 says, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

You see two gathering places for the church in this passage: “house to house” and “temple courts.” Both types of meeting places were used by the early church.

Why use small groups?

They are infinitely expandable. No matter what size of a building that we are building, at some point we are going to max it out. We will have to start more services to continue to grow (take that any way you desire - either as a prophecy or the natural progression of what will be when we move out to 183rd street).

In small groups, we can grow through homes.

Why life groups in homes?

They promote fellowship. Put a guy in a classroom on Sunday morning in a suit and tie for Bible Study, and he won’t say a word.

But you put him in a Bible study in a home on a sofa on a Friday night with a cup of coffee in his hand, and he’ll talk his head off. Why? That home environment is relaxing.

They are unlimited geographically. If we have people attending services that live far away, they can’t be all that involved in our church.

But they can be a part of a small group in their neighborhood. We can have small groups across a wide spectrum of geography.

4. We must continue to be faithful in our giving.

Again, we go to Acts 2, which tells us in verse 45, "Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need."

Let's don't miss the point of that verse. No one is asking anyone to sell their possession and goods. But let's all continue to be faithful with our tithes, our giving to missions and giving to the building fund.

As our national economy continues to struggle, we know that God can work miracles in the coming year! I encourage all of us to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us in this area. Thank you for your faithfulness!

We need you!

I could say a lot more - but for today - this is enough.

May God bless us as we endeavor to build His Kingdom!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A White Elephant Christmas

Every year at our deacon/elder/staff Christmas dinner we have a "white elephant" gift exchange.

It is always a lot of fun - this year's exceptionally so.

One disclaimer: I walked away with two, real, authentic, "raggedy Ann" dolls, which I will promptly give to my granddaughter when I see her.

I came across something today that is challenging, especially during this Christmas season.

The bottom line: We must continue to put Christ first this Christmas.

By now, if you are like me, you have reach that stage of "Holiday Exhaustion" that leaves you sitting in a dimly lit room with drool running down the side of your face," mumbling, "when is it ever going to end, when is it ever going to end."

I exaggerate (for those of you who need that disclaimer) to make a point.

No matter how hard I try to focus on Christ, it is easy to get distracted.

Let me give you this quote from Pastor John Huffman:

"One year we hosted the annual church staff Christmas luncheon at our home. We exchanged "white elephant" gifts, laughing until something stopped all of our fun.

The tenth or so person to pick a gift lifted from a gift bag a little baby Jesus in a manger. My wife, Anne, was stunned when she saw it. It looked just like the central figure in the nativity scene that was on our living room table.

She left the room to check our nativity set, and sure enough, the baby Jesus figurine was missing. Somehow it had fallen off the table and into the gift bag on top of the tissue paper in which the real gift was wrapped. We all had a good laugh and returned Jesus to the nativity scene.

The more I thought about it, though, this little incident was quite telling. So often Jesus is swept off center stage in all of our Christmas festivities, relegated to a kind of "white elephant" status. How sad, when he is so central!"

Just a thought for a Tuesday....

Monday, December 14, 2009

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I was very grateful and pleased at the response of our youth leaders yesterday, as we met and dialogued about next year.

Each one is "stepping up" to the plate to help us out.

Making sure that ministry continues to our youth group is a top priority of mine - I am in continual prayer for their spiritual, emotional and relational well-being.

I am also pleased to announce that Mike and Christine Trevino will be our "fill in" youth pastors until God leads us to another one.

Mike and Christine come to us with rich background of ministry experience, having served the last few years as the head of "Youth Alive" for the district.

They are just a great couple, full of love for God and for people. They have one son, Elijah, who is almost a year old.

I thought it was interesting the way that the Lord moved at the end of the second service yesterday.

We were worshipping God - and all of a sudden I felt led to lead us in a moment of quietness before God. God gave us a word - "Everything is going to be okay."

It was a "Be still and know that I am God" type moment.

In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus decides to visit the home of a woman named Martha. When he arrives, he finds Martha distracted by all the tasks that come with being the host.

Despite her harried efforts, it is the posture of her sister, Mary, that Jesus praises. With little concern for a successful social event, Mary chooses to sit at the feet of Jesus as he teaches those who have gathered for the meal.

As the story comes to a close, Jesus says it is Mary who "has chosen what is better."

Though at first glance this doesn't appear to be a story we should look at during the Advent and Christmas seasons, but writer Mayo Mathers thinks otherwise.

In an article for, an on-line resource for Christian women, she confesses that hosting parties, cooking up delicious buffets, and shopping for gifts brings out the "Martha" in her.

She had never given this much thought until she attended her church's annual Christmas pageant.

She writes of her breakthrough moment:

As I sat in the candlelit sanctuary absentmindedly listening to the peaceful strains of "Silent Night," I wrestled mentally with a list of things to be done. When the congregation stood to sing carols, my lips moved unconsciously to the words while my brain mulled over various menus for our annual Christmas Eve buffet.

As in every Christmas pageant, the usual parade of bathrobe-draped children marched down the center aisle. A pseudo-weary Mary and Joseph shook their heads in dismay as the innkeeper turned them away. Having watched so many similar renditions of the Christmas story, it had become commonplace to me.

Realizing this, I felt a stab of guilt and bowed my head. Father, I prayed, let me see the story through your eyes tonight.

The young girl portraying Mary began to sing a lullaby to the child in her arms. Her voice was so pure, so full of love and awe, that I stared at her, transfixed, my distracted musings forgotten.

Suddenly, it was as if the congregation had disappeared as if I had been transported back in time to the actual stable in Bethlehem.

As I listened to her song, wonder and immense gratitude settled upon me. Into my heart God whispered, If ever there was a time to worship me, it's now! This season is about me only, but each year you crowd me out with the inconsequential!

Mathers closes her article with these words: "Beautiful, delicious dinners are nice. 'Just right' gifts are delightful. But I'm learning that only one thing really matters: while I tend to be more like Martha, at Christmas, 'tis the season to be 'Mary!'"

What a great Word in the midst of all of the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season.

I love our church. I love the people in our church. And...I am thankful for the way that god is beginning to move in our services.

Debbie did a great job last night in putting up our Christmas decorations in our house. They look magnificent. George comes home tomorrow evening, Becky on Christmas Eve. Andrew, Christie and Georgia are spending Christmas this year with Andrew's parents.

The Dallas Cowboys..what can I say. They lost again in December. I am beginning to believe that they can't win when "crunch time" comes.

I think that teams take on the personality of their coach, and it is showing as there seems to be a lack of a will to win when the game is "on the line."

And now, the New Orleans Saints are next. They are undefeated, and Dallas will be playing them in New Orleans.

Not good.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Waiting at Christmas

This Sunday, my message is entitled, "Waiting for Christ at Christmas." It's going to be fun looking at the subject of waiting.

I would submit to you that no one, I mean no one, like to wait. And waiting is difficult for us, particularly at this time of the year. You go to the supermarket and the lines are longer than normal, and you have to wait. You go to the mall and the stores are filled and you have to wait.

Then there is Christmas morning (or Christmas Eve depending upon your tradition) where the kids are waiting for their gifts. Yet it is not just kids that are impatient, how many adults sneak over in the days before Christmas, pick up their gift and shake it a little bit?

I am not a patient person. I guess I have come to terms with that and am comfortable enough with myself to say that.

I don't like to wait.

Have you ever felt that a driver was really slow in pulling out of a parking space for which you were waiting? It turns out your imagination may not be playing tricks on you. A recent study of 400 drivers in a shopping mall found that drivers took longer to pull out of a space if someone was waiting than if nobody was waiting there to claim the space.

On average, if nobody was waiting for the space, drivers took 32.2 seconds to pull out of a spot after opening a car door. If someone was waiting, drivers took about 39 seconds. And woe to the person who honks to hurry a driver: drivers took 43 seconds to pull out of a space when the waiting driver honked!

I like the true story (told by Paul Harvey) of a woman in Hershey, Pennsylvania who had been patiently waiting for a parking space to open up (she was driving a Mercedes). The shopping mall was crowded.

The woman in the Mercedes zigzagged between rows - then up ahead she saw a man with a load of packages heading for his car.

She drove up, parked behind him and waited while he opened his trunk and loaded it with packages.

Finally, he got into his car and backed out of the parking space.

But before the woman in the Mercedes could drive into the parking space, a young man in a shiny new Corvette zipped past and around her and he pulled into the empty space, got out and started walking away.

"Hey!" shouted the woman in the Mercedes, "I've been waiting for that parking place!"

The young man replied, "Sorry, lady; that's how it is when you're young and quick."

At that instant she put her Mercedes in gear, floor-boarded it, crashed into and crushed the right rear fender and corner panel of the flashy new Corvette.

Now the young guy is dumping up and down shouting, "You can't do that!"

The lady in the Mercedes said, "That's how it is when you are old and rich!"

Here is what I know: "Waiting is not just the thing we have to do until we get what we hope for. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what we hope for."

God is doing something in us while we wait!

As a church family, we are waiting on our building to be finished.

We are now waiting on a new youth pastor.

But just as important as seeing the end result of moving out to 183rd street and bringing on a new pastoral staff member is what God wants to do in us while we wait.

Let's use this time to grow!

Let's use this time to draw closer to God!

And let me tell you - as we grow - it will be worth the wait.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Growing in the midst of impossible situations

There's a story told about Sir Edmund Hillary, who was the first person (along with Tenzing Norgay) to reach the top of Mount Everest.

It happened on his third try. On Hillary's previous attempt he not only failed to reach the summit, but his team also lost one of its members.

After their failed attempt, Hillary spoke to an audience about the experience. Behind him on the platform was a huge photograph of Everest. Hillary turned toward the photograph and said, "Mount Everest, you have defeated us. But I will return. And I will defeat you. Because you cannot get any bigger ... and I can."

That's a great story. As the old cliche goes, "whatever doesn't kill you helps you to grow."

What impossible mountain are you facing today?

I have several.

All I can do is to trust in God (and have faith) and know that He is in control.

And when I do that - I grow.

When it comes to facing mountains, do you know how we 'get bigger'?

It starts with faith. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17:20)

Edmund Hillary became "bigger than Everest" through better planning, more detailed research, greater teamwork, and tenacious perseverance. And it started with faith -- the faith that this mountain could be conquered.

No doubt you're facing a mountain or two today: a mountain of debt, a mountain of fear, a mountain of uncertainty. Mountains don't move without determined effort, thoughtful planning, or courageous perseverance.

And these things all begin with faith. It is faith that gives you the ability to attempt something bigger than yourself. Not faith in ourselves, but faith in the God for whom nothing is impossible.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Looking at Christmas from God's persepctive

I have often wondered what God thought the day that Jesus was born. How did he feel, what emotions did he experience in sending his only son to walk this earth in a fleshly body.

What kind of "concerns" did God have?

It's an interesting question.

I came across this story today (and I quote):

"In a short devotional for Christmas, writer Paul Williams reflects on why he still remembers one particular Christmas pageant from 1981. It all starts with a strep-stricken son. He writes:

The dull eyes tipped me off before he could open his mouth. Jonathan had strep throat. It seemed the children in our family picked up strep two or three times a year, and someone always had it during the holidays.

Jonathan had been excited about the nursery school Christmas play for a couple of weeks. He would be Joseph. Mary would be played by a Jewish girl from down the block. Yes, her parents had given permission for her to be in the Christmas pageant.

With neck glands swollen and his voice a nasally whine, Jonathan begged to go to the festivities. Against our better judgment, we acquiesced.

Bundling our son in his warmest coat, we drove the five short miles to the Central Islip Church of Christ. By the time all the parents had squeezed into the small auditorium, Jonathan was as white as the pillowcase he was wearing as a head covering. He looked fragile and diminutive.

Cathy and I sat on the front row. Jonathan came down the aisle hand in hand with Mary, and the two sat down on the second step below the manger, recently retrieved from its usual home in the boiler room.

Jonathan was looking paler still, all the light out of his big blue eyes. He looked at us and managed a weak smile.

As soon as the play was over we hauled Jonathan off to the doctor's office. Since our family doctor was a friend, we sneaked in and out in no time. Filled with penicillin, our son was feeling better the next morning. I do not remember much about the rest of that Christmas season, though I am sure it was utterly delightful, as all Christmas celebrations are.

I have often pondered why that is my only remembrance of that Christmas, in December of 1981. Of all the memories of all our family Christmas experiences, what makes that one event stand out?

I know the reason.

Christmas is truly about frail vulnerability, freely chosen. With heart in throat God watched his infant Son cry and squirm in the cold manger, where there was no penicillin.

I know how I felt watching my son with his head resting in those small hands, wanting to be brave, but weak and unsteady. I can only imagine what my heavenly Father thought, seeing his infant Son in the hands of a frightened young girl."

Have you ever thought about what God thought about Christmas?

Monday, December 07, 2009

Thoughts from the weekend

Well, a busy weekend...

Friday, Debbie and I went to visit Cecil Swanson (and Jeanette was there as well) at Christ hospital. We had a great visit and prayed together.

Cecil is having a heart catherisation today with a possible stint.

We then went to the Royal Ranger banquet and had a great time - I'm grateful for all of our leaders and their hard work and faithfulness!

Saturday was busy as well with the Saturday morning prayer time - it was great to hear Rick's testimony that after being laid off - God gave him a new job, created just for him - in 22 days (in this down economy that is a miracle).

Saturday evening, Debbie and I snuck away and saw "The Blind Side", a movie about a family in Memphis taking in a homeless high school young man, who is now in the pros playing football.

It is a wonderful movie (even though I am not a big Sandra Bullock fan) with a storyline of redemption, compassion and reaching out to those in need.

I love being surprised in movies that I go into with low expectations.

The movie showed that there is good in the world, there are people who desire to reach out and that it is a good thing to help those who are disavantaged.

Sunday powerful move of God's spirit.

It's been eight years since I have felt God's presence as I did while praying for people after my sermon. Truly powerful.

And we continued to worship well into the second service as well.

I am grateful for God's moving. May he continue to move in our services?

Last night at life group - we had a wonderful time of prayer for needs, as well as eating Tom Janel's chili (thanks Tom, delicious stuff). We also brought canned good to give to our church food pantry and gave monies to give to needy families in our church.

Debbie and I love going to our life group - it's not only a lot of fun - but it is encouraging and helpful to us as well in our own lives.

Busy, busy, time!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

how to handle change

Coping with change

Change is difficult. Especially when it involves someone we love.

We are all going to miss Pastor Erik and Bethany as they leave to fulfill God's new calling upon their lives.

I know that in the new few weeks, you will want to join me in expressing your love to and for them.

Let's talk about how to handle change.

There are now over 2000 classified fears in the medical encyclopedia.

Many of them are well known but some you’ve probably never heard of. For instance: butterphobia – the fear of peanut butter sticking to the top of your mouth. That is a legitimate fear for some people. Or, Photophobia – the fear that you don’t ever look good in pictures.

Some fears we’re very familiar with and some are more obscure.

For instance, we all know about agoraphobia – which is the fear of open places. But, some of you don’t know about angoraphobia – which is the fear of soft, fuzzy sweaters. We all know about zoophobia, which is the fear of animals. But have you heard about Furbyphobia – the fear of weird talkative toys that are impossible to turn off? And how about the fear that you are going to spend too much on Christmas – that’s called ho-ho-ho-phobia.

Just kidding.

But all of us have this fear – and it’s a big one – the fear of change.

There are some changes that we love.

But when we lose a loved one, or get fired from a job, or experience some changes in other areas of our lives, we cry foul. There are so many changes that come into our lives that we don’t like.

We resent change: We don't like it; but we don't do anything about it. We just get upset. We seek for someone to blame. I mean, "How can Erik and Bethany leave us, surely something must be wrong." "Surely someone is to blame."

Well, if we are to blame anyone, it would be "God" for leading Erik and Bethany into another form of ministry.

We resist change: we fight it and oppose it.

We run from change: We go in the opposite direction.

What are the positive results of change?

1. It causes us to grow.
2. It takes us places we would never go.
3. Change gets us out of a rut
4. Change gives us a new sense of God's direction

Experts tell us that the most successful people (churches) are the ones who learn how to cope with change.

Change can cause frustration in our lives. Stress. Pressure

Change can cause fear in our lives. We wonder where we are going and that's scary.

Change can cause fatigue in our lives.

How do you deal with the fear of change?

Disclaimer: Most of the rest of my blog is a lengthy quote.

"There are at least three changes taking place in America that are causing a great deal of anxiety and tension today. Let's try to identify them and then look at what God has to say about some antidotes to help us cope with change.

1. Everything is moving faster.

The pace of life is speeding up. Progress, in general, always causes things to go faster.

If there is one one that defines our modern, technocratic age, it is acceleration.

We’ve become a quick-reflexed, channel-flipping, fast-forwarding people.

It's like the story of a man who was out in his front yard mowing his grass when he saw his neighbor come out of the house and head straight to the mailbox. He opened it, then slammed it shut, and stormed back into the house. A little later he came back out of the house and again went to the mailbox, opened it, and slammed it shut again.

A couple minutes later, he came out again, marched to the mailbox, opened it, and slammed it harder than ever. The neighbor was puzzled, so he went over to the man and said, “Is there something wrong?” To which he replied, “There certainly is. My stupid computer keeps saying, “You’ve got mail!”

Things are changing, aren’t they?

I read this week that King George of England wrote in his diary on July 4, 1776, “Nothing much happened today,” because it took weeks for him to discover that the colonies were in rebellion and there was a full fledged American revolution going on.

Today, King George would hear it instantly on CNN and be flooded by emails and "twits".

And everybody else would be aware of it, too.

Things are moving faster.

Everything is moving faster.

2. Every decision is getting complicated.

Even simple decisions are very complicated in our lives. There are a couple reasons for this.

One is that technology has connected everything. The world has gotten smaller. Things that happen on the other side of the world affect my life today.
But more than that, the real reason life has become complicated, is that we are being inundated with multiple choices.

Do you know that there are twelve different varieties of Edge shaving cream? There’s Normal Skin, Fragrance Free, Tough Beard, Regular, Skin Conditioning, Sensitive Skin, Menthol, Medicated, Extra Moisturizing, Extra Protection, Extra Refreshing, and Extra Soothing.

And, do you know what? No matter which one I buy, I still cut myself, get razor burn and miss whiskers when I shave!

There’s a third thing we’re seeing that’s causing great stress.

Not only is everything moving faster, and every decision getting more complicated, but also every value is being challenged.

3. Every value is being challenged.

We see this everywhere. Right is being called wrong. Wrong is being called right. There are people today that don’t even believe there is such a thing as right and wrong. Every value we have had in America is being challenged by some group in some way today. Political correctness has created all kinds of crazy ideas. We now live in a society where everything is plausible and nothing is certain.

Did you hear about the new web site where you can bid on which model you would like to be the mother of your children?

For an opening bid of $50,000 you can arrange things so that your child will hopefully look like a beautiful model when he or she grows up. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d want the personality and character traits of some of Hollywood’s finest to be evident in my children.

How are we supposed to live in this kind of environment? When things are getting faster and life is getting more frantic, when things are getting more complicated, and when all the values that have held families and society together are now thrown out the window, how in the world are we supposed to live?

Alvin Toffler, who wrote the best-selling book Future Shock says that when people go through rapid times of change they need what he calls, “islands of stability”. Those are things that do not change in your life.

God made human beings to be very adaptable and flexible. But, when everything is flying off the wall, coming unglued, and the hurricanes of change are blowing through our lives, we need to have something that does not change. As we face the 21st century and the new millennium, we’ve got to be able to say, “I know a lot of things are going to change around me, but I know these things for sure. I can count on this and this and this.”

Is there anything like that in the world? Are there any islands of stability? My guess is there are probably some things in your life that you thought were unchangeable two or three years ago but have already changed. And they weren’t reliable. Is there anything that never, ever changes?

The Bible says that there are three things that won’t change.


In Malachi 3:6, God says, “I, the Lord, do not change.” There’s a theological term for that called the immutability of God. That means He’s always been the same, He is the same right now, and He will always be the same. Why does God never change? Is it that He can’t? Is it that He doesn’t want to? Is it that He’s stuck in His ways? Why does God never change?

It’s because He’s perfect. And because God is perfect, He can’t get any better – and He can’t get any worse. If you’re perfect there is no reason to change, because you are perfect. So God says, “I never change.”

In Jeremiah 31:3, He says this “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” You were created as an object of God’s love. You were made to be loved by God. You want to know why you’re here on this earth? You were created to be loved by God. His love is continuous. It is everlasting. It is consistent. The Bible says that God is always unchanging in His love toward us.

That is such good news. Because while God is consistent, I an incredibly inconsistent. The Bible teaches that God loves me just as much on my good days as He does on my bad days. He loves me when I feel it and He loves me when I don’t feel it. He loves me when I think I’m close to Him and doing the right thing and He loves me when I’m not close to Him and I’m not doing the right thing. His love is not based on my performance. His love is based on His character.

It is consistent. It is continual. It is everlasting.

No matter what happens to you in the year 2000, or even tomorrow, there is one thing you can be sure of: God is not going to stop loving you. No matter what you go through, nothing is going to separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 119:159 proclaims, “Your love never changes.” You can count on God no matter what happens in the new millennium, or even tomorrow, because God is never going to stop loving you.

The point is this: We always get into trouble when we doubt God’s love. Always. I never need to doubt His love for me. There are a lot of things I could worry about but I don’t have to worry about that one. No matter how I feel, no matter what I’ve done, or what I’ve thought, God’s love is based on His character.

Romans 8:38 is a marvelous verse. Listen to it in the Message translation: “Nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, thinkable or unthinkable -- absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love.”

That means you can go to bed tonight, confident of the fact that tomorrow morning when you get up God is not going to have changed His mind about you. You will never be loved by God any more than you are at this very moment. You will never be loved by God any less than you are at this very moment. God’s love never changes. That is something I can anchor my life to.


In Isaiah 40:8 God says, “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of our God shall stand forever.” It’s timeless, enduring, and eternal. It never withers; it’s always fresh. It doesn’t get stale. God’s Word is never out of date.

We believe God’s Word is eternal – it will guide us today and it will lead us into the new millennium.

Psalm 119:152 says, “Long ago I learned from Your statues that You established them to last forever.”

God’s Word will last forever because it is eternal. Jesus said it like this: “Heaven and earth will pass away but My word will never pass away.”

Did you catch the cover of a recent U.S. News and World Report? Alongside a dramatic painting of Adam and Eve, the title of the cover story asks, “Is the Bible True?” Based upon some new archaeological evidence, the article answers the question with a confident, “Yes!” Brothers and sisters, we have nothing to fear from scientific inquiry into the Bible. We should welcome it. Why? Because the Word of God is true and will never change.

When the American astronaut Alan Shepherd was getting ready to go up into space for the very first time, a reporter asked him “What are you depending on in this flight?” His answer is classic: “I’m depending upon the fact that God’s laws will not change.” Great answer.

These laws do not change because God’s Word does not change. What would happen if gravity worked every other day? Would that put a crimp in your lifestyle?

In the same way, God has established some moral and spiritual laws for the universe. God gives these parameters for our good. When we ignore these spiritual laws, we don’t break them – they break us. We get hurt. Every time I ignore God’s laws, I hurt myself. They’re there for my benefit. When I go against what God says, it causes stress. It causes worry. It causes guilt. It causes anger. It causes conflict in relationships.

God says to you and He says to me, “I want you to listen to My word.” Do you know what the most basic fundamental temptation is? It’s the temptation that Adam and Eve had and it’s the same one you have every single day of your life: the temptation to doubt God’s word. We hear it like this: “Did God really say, don’t do that?”

If Satan can get you to question God’s Word, you’re going to fall for anything.
Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:24: “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice, is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Jesus is saying if you want to have a stable home, you’ve got to build it on an unchanging foundation. You’ve got to build on a rock.

The same is true for your life. If you want to build your life in a way that is solid and significant and handles the stress and the changes of the 21st century, you’d better build it on the truth of God’s Word, because it is bedrock. It is not going to change. Popular opinion is going to change, psychology books are going to change, what the talk radio hosts talk about is going to change. Everything else changes. But God’s Word does not. So if you want stability, build your life on God’s unchanging truth.

Here’s a secret stabilizer from personal experience: if you want to lower the stress and raise the confidence in your life, memorize scripture. That is probably the most significant habit that I can encourage you to develop in the 21st century. As you read the Bible and you find a verse that really speaks to you, take out a pen, write it down on a three by five card and memorize it.

Some of you say, “I can’t memorize.” Actually, we memorize what we’re interested in. I know guys who say they can’t memorize but they remember every baseball statistic for the last ten years.


That’s the third thing I can understand and know confidently. God’s purpose for my life will never change. 1 Samuel 15:29 teaches that: “God is not a man. He doesn’t change His mind.”

I’m really glad for that verse. Long before you were born, God planned you. And that plan has never changed. He created you for a purpose. You were made for a reason. If you are alive today, God has a purpose for your life.

Have you noticed that your plans often get changed? Why? There are at least two reasons: One, you can’t see the future. You don’t have foresight. You don’t have the perspective. None of us can know what’s going to happen tomorrow, much less ten years from now.

The other reason your plans often get changed is you don’t always have the means to pull them off. You may have a great plan, but you don’t have the time or you don’t have the money, or you don’t have the energy or intelligence or the opportunity or the power to pull it all off.

Contrast that with God. God never has to change His plans. Never. Why? Because God is all knowing – He’s omniscient. And God is all-powerful – He’s omnipotent. So God never has to change His plans. He already knows everything that’s going to happen and He already has the power to do anything He wants to do. So He doesn’t ever have to change His plans. His plan for you has never changed – and it never will.
Since God says, “I made you for a purpose and that plan doesn’t change,” that brings up three very important questions:

1. Can I miss God’s purpose for my life? Absolutely. Of course you can miss it. Millions and millions of people miss God’s purpose for their life all the time. You can miss it by neglect. You can miss God’s purpose for your life by arrogance – by doing your plan and not God’s (we learned about that last week). You can miss it by disobedience, by rebellion, and by laziness. You can live your entire life and never fulfill the reason you were actually put on this earth. That’s a tragedy, but God never forces His purpose on us. It’s a choice where you say, “Jesus Christ, I want You to be my Lord. I want to follow Your plan and purpose for my life.”

2. Can I get back on track after wasting years of my life? Absolutely. Psalm 33:11: “His plans endure forever. His purposes last eternally.” That means that no matter what has happened in your life to date, God’s purpose for your life has not changed because He’s unchanging. His purposes never change. Some of you may say, “But you don’t know about that moral blowout I had three years ago or ten years ago. You don’t know about that sin, that stupid decision I made where I took the wrong turn in life and wasted ten or twenty years or more. You don’t know.” I say this: Regardless of what has happened in your life up to this point – God has not given up on you. And He never will. No matter what’s happened.

Let the truth of Proverbs 19:21 penetrate your life: “You can make many plans but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.”

That brings up the third question:

3. What about all those dumb things I’ve done? What about all those stupid decisions and bad choices? Those things that I regret and wish had never happened and I’d like to go back and do over?

Romans 8:28: "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and who have been called according to His purpose.” We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him. It doesn’t say in some things. It doesn’t say in the good things. It says in all things.

It does not say that all things are good. No, not all things are good. There is a lot of evil and heartache in the world. I’ve experienced some of it and so have you. It says in all things God works for good. He can take evil and tragedies and turn them around and bring good out of them. He loves to turn crucifixions into resurrections.

The Bible says, in all things God works for the good. For everyone? No, this is not a promise for everybody in the whole world. It is a promise for those who love Him, those who are called according to His purpose. Only when you say, “Jesus Christ, I want to be Yours. I want to take all the pieces of my life and let You give me Your peace for my pieces. I want to give You all this.”

Think about the biggest disappointment or hurt you’ve ever had. Or think about the thing you regret most in your life. Think about the dumbest thing you’ve ever done, your most unwise choice. Think about the most hurtful thing somebody else has done to you.

God saw it all before it ever happened. And He has found a way to weave it into His plan and purpose for your good, for your growth, and for His glory. What a God! He is good – all the time. No matter what you’ve gone through, whether it was your fault or somebody else’s. God can use it for good if you give Him the pieces.
What are you afraid of? When you think about the future, what’s your stomach in a knot about? When you think about the changes that are coming in your life, what is it that causes your back muscles and neck to tense up, or your face to feel flushed, or your mouth to go dry, because you wonder, “I don’t know if I can handle this or not.”

Regardless of what it is that’s got you stressed out this morning, why don’t you do what David did in Psalm 56:11: “I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?” Why should I be afraid? I trust in God. Then he says this, “God is our refuge and strength, a tested help [He’s proven reliable] in times of trouble. And so we need not fear even if the world blows up [or Y2K causes some problems] and the mountains crumble into the sea.” The truth is I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know what the next millennium holds and either do you.

But I do know three things. And I know if I build my life on these three unchangeable facts, on these three islands of stability, I can handle enormous stress and change in my life.

I know this:

• God will never stop loving me, even when I feel unlovable.
• God’s Word is always true. It may not make sense. It may seem unreasonable and unpopular, but it is always the truth.
• God’s purposes are greater than my problems.

Any time I start doubting these things – these three grand truths – I get myself in trouble. When I start doubting God’s love, I start disobeying Him. When I start doubting God’s Word, I tend to do my own thing. When I begin doubting that God has a purpose, I start saying “Why are all these problems happening to me? Why me? What’s going on?” And I start doubting that God really is in control.

So if you want to face the future confidently and cope victoriously with change, all you need to do is respond. You see, it’s not automatic. God offers us stability, but we must respond in order to activate His power in our lives.

3 Responses:
• Accept God’s love
• Believe God’s Word
• Commit to God’s purpose

Can you pray with me, "Dear God, I realize there are many things in my life that are beyond my control. You know that sometimes I have a difficult time adjusting to all the difficult changes around me. I need Your stability in my life, Jesus. I want to start focusing on the things that will never change. Thank You that You will never stop loving me. Thank You so much. Today I accept Your love through Jesus Christ. Thank You for Your unchanging word. Help me to learn it and live by it. Thank You for making me for a purpose. In this next year, I want to get to know You better and Your plan for my life. I ask You to forgive me for the years that I’ve wasted, but I want to get back on track today. I open up my life to You, dear Lord. Come in and take control."

Good stuff

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Speaking (and singing) to demons

A while back, a friend and brother asked me, "should we be singing, 'Satan the blood of Jesus is against you' (A song from the Brooklyn Tabernacle choir). Should we be addressing Satan in song?

Great question.

A broader rephrasing of the question would be: Why do people speak directly to demons today and command them to leave, rather than just praying and asking God to drive the demons away. Isn't it safer just to pray to God about this?

Let's use this parallel.

In a way, this is similar to asking why Christians should share the gospel with another person rather than simply praying and asking God to reveal the Gospel to that person directly.

Or why should we speak words of encouragement to a Christian who is discouraged rather than just praying and asking God Himself to encourage that person directly?

Why should we speak a word of rebuke or gentle admonition to a Christian, whom we see involved in some kind of sin, rather than just praying and asking God to take care of the sin in that person's life?

The answer to all of these question is that in the kind of world God has created, He has given us an active role in carrying out His plans, especially His plans of advancing the Kingdom and building up the Church.

In all of these cases, our direct involvement and activity is important in addition to our prayers.

And so it seems to be in our dealing with demonic forces as well.

Take for instance one of your kids. They get into an argument at their school on the playground.

A wise father doesn't step in right away and settle all of their disputes. He let's them try to settle the disputes themselves.

In the same way God encourages us to enter directly into conflict with demonic forces, in the name of Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The New Testament pattern seems to be that God routinely expects us, as followers of Christ, to speak directly to the unclean spirits.

Jesus did this, as did his 70 disciples.

The 70 said, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name?" (Luke 10:17)

Paul did this in speaking to the demon in the soothsaying girl at Philippi, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her." And the spirit left.

True, Satan is not to be the centerpiece of our worship, nor of our prayers. I completely concur.

But there are times when we are in the midst of a spiritual battle, and spiritual weapons must be used - to bring victory in His name.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I went with my son, George, and my son-in-law, Andrew to see the movie 2012.

The special effects were phenomenal. At times, you literally sat on the edge of your seat as people were trying to survive disaster after disaster - that was bringing on the end of the world.

(A disclaimer here: the rest of the movie was fairly horrendous. The acting was poor, the plot basically non-existent, outside of trying to survive. They tried to combine character development with a disaster flic theme. Tough to do.)

The movie is based on the premise that the end of the world will come on December 21, 2012 - which comes from the Mayan calendar predictions of years ago.

I sense a little uneasiness in our culture with this. Whether or not it is true or not (which I don't believe it is - many things have to happen according to biblical prophecy for it to happen that quickly) it is causing some to think about the end, about life and about death.

So much so that (and I quote):

"The studio (that made the movie 2012) also launched a viral marketing website operated by the fictional Institute for Human Continuity, where film goers could register for a lottery number to be part of a small population that would be rescued from the global destruction.

The fictitious website lists the Nibiru collision, a galactic alignment, and increased solar activity among its possible doomsday scenarios. David Morrison of NASA has received over 1000 inquiries from people who thought the website was genuine and has condemned it, saying "I've even had cases of teenagers writing to me saying they are contemplating suicide because they don't want to see the world end. I think when you lie on the Internet and scare children in order to make a buck, that is ethically wrong."

People have always been particularly entranced by end-of-the-world scenarios - especially we Americans!

Perhaps that is because our own national history is so relatively short - or, perhaps it is because our roots are less deeply planted, making uprooting less intimidating - witness the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Coming, a Protestant religious society commonly known as the Shakers; the Ebenezer Society, a group of seven (7) villages known as the "Amana Colonies" - consisting of radical German pietists who settled in the state of Iowa - also known as the "Community of True Inspiration;" and, the Millerites - followers of the American Baptist preacher, William Miller (1782 - 1849), credited with beginning the Advent Movement in North America, who publicly shared his belief that Jesus, the Christ, would return in 1843 - all of whom lived their entire lives preparing for the end!

Those individuals that jumped on the apocalyptic bandwagon were those who had the least to lose in the event of a widespread materialistic meltdown!

Recent immigrants, already uprooted, sometimes decided to send their hopes heavenward instead of seeking roots earthward! The poorest, the disenfranchised, those individuals pushed to the edges and margins of life because of their race, their education, their disabilities; or, just plain poverty have always been rich soil for the germination of apocalyptic angst - the feeling of anxiety, especially that accompanied by unhappiness!

From the ancient Mayans to the late Michel de Nostradame (1503 - 1566), better known as Nostradamus, to "Y2K" and now "2012," there has never been any shortage of end-of-the-world scenarios!

The predictions of a "nuclear winter" have been replaced by "global warming;" and, there is still a debate over whether the devastating climate changes will bring drought or floods to vast regions of the earth - however, the general agreement among all of these scenarios is "it’s gonna be bad!"

The grimness of our environmental condition is relentlessly apocalyptic! Technological breakthroughs - unaccompanied by spiritual breakthroughs - can be apologetic - however, their is no such thing as a happy ending apocalyptically speaking!

Apocalypticism is all about attitudes - and, it’s a bad attitude! That was the message from the "Sermon on the Mount," that Jesus, the Christ, preached - don’t dwell on the unknowable - don’t dwell on the uncontrollable - don’t dwell on the unfathomable!

As a follower of Jesus Christ, these kinds of predictions don't disconcert me at all.

I believe in life after death. Eternal life. Whenever I die, I live with God - forever.

I believe in the Bible. I believe that before the end of the world comes that Jesus Christ will come back for his church in what is called the "rapture."

As Christians, we will be caught up to be with the Lord - and then the end will come. 7 years of tribulation. Armageddon. The Second Coming.

Jesus himself said in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour knows no man, neither angels of Heaven nor the Son, but my Father.”

No one knows when the "end of the world" will come.

December 21, 2012 will definitely be an interesting day...and so will December 22, 2012 when the sun will rise and sat - just as it has being doing for over six billion years - give or take a few centuries.