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Thursday, February 25, 2010


I've been thinking a lot lately about scars.

Here's what I know. We all have scars.

Some of them are physical.

I have a scar on one of my fingers where I was reaching for a tennis ball underneath a chain link fence and part of the fence dug into one of my fingers. It bled. I got some stitches. It left a scar.

I have a scar underneath my chin. I was diving for a basketball during practice in college and my chin hit the floor first. It bled I got some stitches. It left a scar.

Scars are always are reminder of some past event. Something that happened that many times was traumatic and even life changing.

Yet, I would suggest to you that even more difficult to handle are the scars that we bear on the inside. Emotional scars. Scars from hurt. Scars from relational wounds.

These are scars that we all bear.

No one can go through life without being hurt. No one.

Everyone has been hurt, everyone has bled emotionally and relationally, and everyone has a scar.

Some people allow their hurts from the past to stay in their minds forever. Instead of letting the wound gradually heal, leaving a slight scar, resentment keep picking the scab and putting the DVD back in to watch it again. We keep a record of the wrong, and we keep underscoring it in the ledger of our minds.

And the wound never heals.

You see, the positive side of scars is that they show that while there was a wound, that wound has healed. They might not look like much, they might even be ugly, but scars dictate that what was once an open wound, is now in the past.

Here's what I know: we must define our scars and not let our scars define us.

Our scars can help others recognize us for who we are - that we have gone through life challenges and emerged victorious.

Even Jesus has scars.

In "The Odyssey", there is a scene that takes place near the end of the story. Odysseus returns home after many years of wandering. He is in disguise as an old man. At first nobody recognizes him, not even his wife and child. One night before bed, Odysseus' aged nurse bathes him.

At first, she thinks he is just a stranger; but while bathing him, she recognizes a scar on his leg. She remembers the scar from his infancy. She did not recognize him until she saw his scar.

Thomas had a similar experience. When he saw the scars, he new the resurrected One was the crucified One. He knew it was Jesus.

Our scars help us identify with others. They show that we are real.

But here's what I also know. Jesus loves us - and our scars.

I am thankful that God never turns his back on us - especially when he sees our scars.

Pastor Lee Strobel tells this story:

"Shortly after the Korean War, a Korean woman had an affair with an American soldier, and she got pregnant. He went back to the United States, and she never saw him again. She gave birth to a little girl, and this little girl looked different than the other Korean children. She had light-colored, curly hair. In that culture, children of mixed race were ostracized by the community.

In fact, many women would kill their children because they didn't want them to face such rejection.

But this woman didn't do that. She tried to raise her little girl as best she could. For seven years she tried to do that, until the rejection was too much. She did something that probably nobody in this room could imagine ever doing. She abandoned her little girl to the streets.

This little girl was ruthlessly taunted by people. They called her the ugliest word in the Korean language, tooki, alien devil. It didn't take long for this little girl to draw conclusions about herself based on the way people treated her.

For two years she lived in the streets, until finally she made her way to an orphanage. One day, word came that a couple from America was going to adopt a little boy. All the children in the orphanage got excited, because at least one little boy was going to have hope. He was going to have a family. So this little girl spent the day cleaning up the little boys—giving them baths and combing their hair—and wondering which one would be adopted by the American couple.

The next day the couple came, and this is what the girl recalled: "It was like Goliath had come back to life. I saw the man with his huge hands lift up each and every baby. I knew he loved every one of them as if they were his own. I saw tears running down his face, and I knew if they could, they would have taken the whole lot home with them.

"He saw me out of the corner of his eye. Now let me tell you. I was nine years old, but I didn't even weigh 30 pounds. I was a scrawny thing. I had worms in my body. I had lice in my hair. I had boils all over me. I was full of scars. I was not a pretty sight. But the man came over to me, and he began rattling away something in English, and I looked up at him. Then he took this huge hand and laid it on my face. What was he saying? He was saying, 'I want this child. This is the child for me.'"

Jesus says to you today, in the midst of your scars, "I want you. You are for me."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tunneling through

I had lunch today with Steve Liscano. Steve's a great guy. 83 years old. We had fun.

Steve's wife passed away around six weeks ago. I had the privilege of leading and speaking at Teresa's funeral. She was a great lady.

As we were driving back from Portillo's, we were talking about Teresa and the strong faith that she had.

He said that Teresa loved the saying, "many times God doesn't remove our mountain but he does give us the strength to tunnel through."

I got to thinking about that - and you know - that's true.

Oh, I know that we would like our mountain to be removed. That would be the easiest way to deal with our challenges.

But more often than not, God gets excited about partnering with us, he gets a kick out of working with us as we overcome the obstacles that we face in life.

I was reading today that about Ramchandra Das, 53, who lives in Bihar, India.

In order to access nearby fields for food and work, Das and his fellow villagers had to take a 4.3-mile trek around a mountain.

Fed up with the obstacle, Das did something about it. With just a hammer and chisel, he cut a 33-foot-long, 13-foot-wide tunnel through a narrow area of the mountain. It took Das fourteen years to complete the task.

And get this: Das isn't the first person to do such a thing. He was inspired by another villager who cut a 393 feet-long, 33 feet-wide, 26 feet-high passage through another mountain so that villagers could reach a local hospital.

That man was motivated to do so when his wife died because he was unable to get her to the hospital.

Tunneling through is not as easy as having our mountain removed. But it can be God's way.

However, and here's the good part - God always helps us. God gives us direction, strength and guidance. Our part - to work, persevere and never, ever, give up.

Just a thought for a Tuesday

Monday, February 22, 2010

Keeping score

Last night at our life group, we watched a DVD where John Ortberg was teaching.

What he talked about really spoke to me.

The title was, "Three ways to keep score".

Anne Lammott has written, "some wonderful, dazzling successes are going to happen for some of the most awful, angry, undeserving people you know - people who are, in other words, not you."

One of the questions I am going to ask God in heaven is, "why them"?

Hey, I am just trying to keep it real.

Ortberg suggests that we are all scorekeepers.


Because in our world the score defines reality.

We keep score throughout life.

As kids, we play monopoly and keep score with money.

Football players keep score with touchdowns.

Even pastors keep score. A typical question that is asked when pastors get together is, "how is your church doing?" Which is code for, "how many people are in your church."

And by that "score" many decide whether that person is important enough to hang around.

I find increasingly that as we move out to 183rd street that many are keeping "score" by how big Parkview church is and how small we are.

Parkview runs thousands, therefore they must be a "better" church than we are.

Well, I would challenge that.

Let's ask ourselves, "what defines success? What defines whether one church is "better than another?" Is it because it is bigger? Smoother? Popular?"

These kinds of comparisons, or ways of keeping "score" can be detrimental to not only the kingdom but to us as individuals as well.

Comparing ourselves with ourselves (as Paul said) is always destructive.

Why did Cain murder Abel? Because he was keeping score and felt like God accepted Abel more than him.

Why did the brothers of Joseph throw him into a pit and then sell him as a slave? Because they were keeping score and felt like Jacob loved Joseph more than them.

Why did Saul try to murder David? Because he felt like David was getting more of the adulation of the people of Israel than he was. "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands," the Bible says.

And from that day on, Saul kept an evil eye on David. He kept score by number of kills and popularity with the most people.

And....John Ortberg went on to talk about the way we keep score last night. The big word - comparison.

It's interesting that we use what he calls, upward comparison, lateral comparison and downward comparison.

We compare ourselves upward with those who are better off financially than us. For some reason, we can never get enough, we want a little bit more, as "so and so" has.

We compare ourselves laterally with those who are at the same level. That can cause a tremendous amount of competition in our lives.

We compare ourselves downwardly with those who are worse off, materially, emotionally and morally. That makes us feel a whole lot better doesn't it? "Well, at least I am not as bad as __________"

Ortberg writes, "Each type carries dangers: the first incites envy, the second competition, and the third arrogance."

A lot of people throw themselves into work because that it an easy place to keep score.

How does God keep score?

Paul writes that our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made hismelf nothing, taking the very nature of a servant."

In God's eyes, the way of keeping score is by service, humility, giving ourselves away. Washing other people's feet.

Going to the top by going to the bottom.

Our calling as a church is to be what God has called us to be. Full of His Spirit; full of His power; full of his life.

After all, who are we trying to impress, others or God?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Growing mature

It's interesting growing what I call "more mature," which is a code word for "getting older."

You know you are getting older when:

"Everything hurts! and what doesn't hurt, doesn't work!

You feel like the night before, and you haven't been anywhere!

You sit in a rocking chair and you can't get it going!

Your knees buckle and your belt won't!

Dialing long distance wears you out!

Your fortune teller offers to read your face!

The little gray haired lady you help across the street is your wife!

You sink your teeth into a steak, and they stay there!

You wake up in the morning and your water bed has sprung a leak,

and you realize you don't have a water bed!

When you watch a pretty girl go by, your pace-maker makes the garage door go up!

When you know all the answers, and no one asks you the questions!

When you decide to procrastinate, but never get around to it!"

With the advent of facebook and looking up past friends and acquaintances from long ago, I am repeatedly asking myself (as I look at their pictures on facebook), "Do I look that old?"

And BTW, old age is always someone 15 - 20 years older than you.

I also notice that we have become open and even obsessed with old rockers like "The Who" at the Super Bowl, and others, whether it be television or the movies.

Maybe 60 is the new 40 and 50 is the new 30 and 40 is the new 20. Who knows?

George Burns once said, "Tennis is a game for young people. Until age 25, you can play singles. From there until age 35, you should play doubles. I won't tell you my age, but when I played, there were 28 people on the court -- just on my side of the net."

Attention...Bad joke coming:

"A couple had been married for 50 years. "Things have really changed," she said. "You used to sit very close to me."

"Well, I can remedy that," he said, moving next to her on the couch.

"And you used to hold me tight."

"How's that?" he asked as he gave her a hug.

"Do you remember you used to nudge my neck and nibble on my ear loves?"

He jumped to his feet and left the room. "Where are you going?"

"I'll be right back," he said. "I've got to get my teeth!"

A couple of night ago I played basketball here at Stone Church. You might not be aware of the fact that we have a time on Tuesday evenings from 7:00 P.M. to 8:30 P.M. or so where men from our community come and play basketball in our gym (main auditorium).

It's a lot of fun, but also a great time of ministry. Scott Borchers gave a wonderful devotion and prayed with the guys (during a break in the action). As far as I could tell, Scott, Mike and Jason and I were the only believers there.

I love it. They heard a word from God - and then their needs were prayed for.

However, and the "however" is huge, I did feel (the soreness) it the next day, and the day after that. It's hard for me to remember in my mind that "I am" 53 years old.

Thankfully, I did keep up with everyone, and when I couldn't I would just knock someone down (just kidding - but not by much).

Here's what I know: There are huge disadvantages to growing older - but there are many advantages as well.

Here are some as I see it:

You become comfortable in your own skin

You understand your strengths and weaknesses

You begin to search for significance more than success

You are comfortable admitting your faults

You are comfortable in giving other people credit

Relationships become more important than tasks

Family becomes the basis of who you are and not work

That which was so "important" in a marriage - you realize is not that big of deal whatsoever.

All, in all, perhaps what we need to do is not compare, necessarily, the younger and older times of our lives - but look at them as distinct and different seasons - and walk and rejoice and explore and experience and enjoy and exult and have fun in each one of them.

If you are 17 - rejoice in being 17 and don't try to be 27.

If you are 27 - rejoice and enjoy being 27 and don't try to be 37.

If you are 37 - rejoice in being 37 and don't try to be 17.

And if you are 53 - rejoice and enjoy being 53 and don't try to be 23.

Embrace each season, each age as a growing time in your life.

Here's what I am learning: The "mature" years of life can be peaceful, happy, and productive. A man or woman of God doesn't need to escape them by dwelling on past glories; nor does he need to make them miserable by developing a bitter, complaining spirit. God gives the whole of life to live, and the psalmist suggests that even our later years can be fruitful and flourishing. But we must begin by being happy now!

The well-known Christian psychiatrist Paul Tournier gives insight on this subject in his book The Seasons of Life.

He writes, "True happiness is always linked with deep, inner harmony. It therefore always implies an acceptance of one's age; the acceptance of no longer being a child when one has reached the age of adulthood, and the giving up of the goals of active life when one is advance in years. This is the age of retirement, which for some men can be a meaningful experience, while for others it is a cruel trial. Why such differences? Partly, undoubtedly, this comes from differences in temperament. Yet more so from something else. Those who complain about their retirement are usually the same ones as those who used to complain about their work and longed to be set free from it!"

That being said, I still think (in my mind) that I can score 30 points on any given night. Like I said, "in my mind."

May we all grow old together - and gracefully.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Describing your life in 6 words

Can you write your autobiography in 6 words? A six word memoir? A short sentence that describes your life?

Once asked to write a full story in six words, legend has it that novelist Ernest Hemingway responded: "For Sale: baby shoes, never worn."

I was reading today that "Smith Magazine" invited writers "famous and obscure" to share their own life stories into exactly six words.

The tiny memoirs are sometimes sad, often funny — and always concise.

Here are some of them:

Activist Gloria Steinem - "Life is one big editorial meeting"

Author Frank McCourt - "The miserable childhood leads to royalties"

Actress Molly Ringwald - "Acting is not all I am"

Here are some others from lesser known people:

"Found on Craigslist: table, apartment, fiance."
Becki Lee

"Alzheimer's: meeting new people every day."
Phil Skversky

"Met wife at her bachelorette party."
Eddie Matz

"Family portrait: everyone smiles but me."
Ian Baaske

"I picked passion. Now I'm poor"
Kathleen E. Whitlock

"Normal person becomes psychotic on Twitter."
Robin Slick

"Yale at 16, downhill from there."
Anita Kawatra

"After cancer, I became a semicolon."
Anthony R. Cardno

"At least I never voted Republican."
Tony Kushner

"Full circle: morgue tech becomes obstetrician."
Andrea Skorenki

"So would you believe me anyway?"
James Frey's mine: "He did the best he could"
George Flattery

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Paying the price

Any great accomplishment in life comes at a price.

Frederick Nietzsche said, "Every talent must unfold itself in fighting."

In other words, accomplishment of any vision comes with a price -- and that price is struggle.

We experience nothing worthwhile without first passing through some kind of adversity -- the adversity of opposition, the adversity of lost sleep, the adversity of financial pressure, the adversity of loneliness, the adversity of delayed gratification.

To accomplish anything in life, a price must first be paid.

To be in good health, the price is paid through exercise and diet.
To be a good a musician, the price is paid through study and rehearsal.
To be successful in business, the price is paid through long hours and sacrifice.

To relocate our church campus, the price is paid through committing ourselves to our church and it's vision.

To paraphrase Nietzsche's words: relocation (of our church campus) comes only as a result of struggle.

Paul knew that he was in the midst of a fight. He knew that in order to become the man of God he wanted to be, he must daily enter the battlefield to contend with an enemy.

He writes in Ephesians 6:12, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."

It will do us good to remember that we are engaged in battle, day-in, day-out. It's not a struggle that can be seen with the human eye, but it can certainly be felt with the human spirit.

This struggle cannot be avoided; it must be confronted.

On the other side, however, victory awaits us, because we do not fight unarmed.

We carry with us the full armor of God: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit and the helmet of salvation.

But most of all, we carry with us the ability to face the challenge, together. Together (and with the help of the Holy Spirit) we can do great things for God.

Let's continue to stand together! Let's continue to move forward together!

General Colin Powell wrote one time: "On the speech circuit, I tell a story that goes to the heart of America's longing. ABC correspondent Sam Donaldson was interviewing a young African-American soldier in a tank platoon on the eve of the battle in Desert Storm.

Donaldson asked, "How do you think the battle will go? Are you afraid?"

"We'll do okay. We're well trained. And I'm not afraid," the GI answered, gesturing toward his buddies around him. "I'm not afraid because I'm with my family."

The other soldiers shouted, "Tell him again. He didn't hear you." The soldier repeated, "This is my family, and we'll take care of each other."

Stone church is a family and we are going to take care of each other through the process. We are going to stand - together.

Peter tells us not to be surprised at the fiery trials we face; they're part of the process of growing in Christ. Every talent must unfold itself in fighting; growth comes through struggle. Our moving our church campus comes with a continual sense of commitment and perseverance.

There are challenges to overcome.

Here's what I know: the obstacles will not disappear on their own.

Our calling it to confront it, through the power of Christ within us, until we can claim victory.

Our calling is to "put a knife between our teeth, a bandanna around our heads, and Rambo it for God."

Our calling is to stand strong, knowing that we are walking in God's will and through faith - our goal will be accomplished.

We will accomplish our goal - as we stand - together.

Will you join me today in continuing the process of relocating our church?

We shall overcome - and when we do - it's going to be fun rejoicing - together.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Sometimes our plans don't go "according to plan". I had a great Friday evening all planned out with Debbie for Valentine's Day, and I ended up sick - and in bed for basically all day Friday and Saturday.

Not a lot of fun - but then I did get a lot of sleep.

Sunday morning was a good, solid morning. I thought that the emphasis on marriage was much needed in our church family.

I am aware of several marriages that are struggling at different levels - my marriage is that the Holy Spirit will encourage, support and challenge at the same time.

There are no easy solutions. The point where you are today in your marriage, begin at a point and time but then went on as a process. In other words, the conflict that you are in took time and IT WILL TAKE TIME TO BRING RESOLUTION TO THE CONFLICT.

I understand the expectation levels of couples who come and see Debbie and I. We all want easy answers, easy solutions. As if a 45 minute session will wrap everything up and we can put the problem in a box and tie a bow around it and ship it on it's way.

Good marriages take a lot of consistent work, and prayer.

Let me give you the formula for a good marriage (I'm hesitant to boil it down to one simple formula but if pressed here it is):

Fulfilling physical intimacy (Eros) plus a strong friendship (phileo) plus a dependency on the Holy spirit (agape) equals a great marriage.

In different seasons of our lives and in different circumstances one of the three (or two or even all three) can be out of whack.

No marriage is perfect. No marriage (generally speaking) is running on all cylinders in all three areas.

We are imperfect people trying to do something that is basically impossible: have the perfect marriage.

Yet, with God's help, we can be happily married, and yes, content and fulfilled with our spouse (as Debbie and I are - and I am grateful for that).

We still have issues and struggles (and will until the day we are with Jesus) but I know that Debbie will agree with me as I state that we stand as an example of what can be with a lot of hard work, prayer and compromise.

Contrast that will an interview that I read today that was given by a rock star whose entire them is self gratification - spiritually, emotionally and physically. I really did feel sorry for him as I read his stream of consciousness thoughts. Truly, he in walking in deception, not just spiritual deception but life deception itself.

There is nothing like giving yourself away to someone else. Nothing. There is nothing like having a soul mate for life. Nothing.

On another issue, I read a pastor's comment about his church recently that gave me pause. He said, "at our church we have the coolest people on the planet."

Now, don't get me wrong, I think I understand what he is saying. The people who attend are great, fun to be around.

But on another level, that statement causes me to stand back and ask, "are the people at our church - "cool"? Did Jesus come only to seek and to save the "cool" people of our planet?

I think not. I think that Jesus came to seek and save those who are lost, the "uncool" the disconnected with society, the "un-stars" so to speak, those who nobody really wants to hang around.

I can remember moving quite a bit when I was growing up and longing to be with the "cool" crowd after moving.....and feeling like I never quite made the grade.

I'm thankful that I have a savior, a best friend, who comes for those of us who aren't quite there in making the grade in the eyes of the world in being "cool".

Here's what I know (in speaking of our church): If we go after people nobody wants, God will send us people everybody wants.

I don't know if at Stone Church we have the coolest people on the planet, but I do know that we do have a group of people who are trying to do the best they can, and with the help of the Holy Spirit live for Him.

I love our church. I love the people in our church. I love the way they love others. I love the way the love God.

Just some thoughts for a Monday.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Depending on the Holy Spirit

I am in a season in my life where I am totally dependant upon the Holy Spirit. There is much going on.

From leading our church family in a building relocation program, to bringing on a new youth pastor, to leading and preaching, I can't do all of it without God.

I need the Holy Spirit.

Pastor and author Tony Evans says: "One day I was in an airport rushing to catch a plane. I was sweating and puffing when I looked to my right and saw a man walking half as fast as I was, but going faster.

He was walking on a moving sidewalk.

When we walk in the Spirit, he comes underneath us and bears us along. We're still walking, but we walk dependent on him."

Yet, somehow, someway, I think that's where God really wants me to be.

A.W. Tozer has written: "In many Christian circles the Holy Spirit is either neglected, forgotten, or misunderstood. The One given to unite the body of Christ is the center of controversy. This is a nettle which ought to be firmly grasped. So often Christian work is so rigidly programmed that it seems we need no longer depend on Him--yet Jesus said, "Without Me you can do nothing."

Maybe this analogy would help us.

Take a glove.

By itself, the glove cannot do anything by itself, but when my hand is in it, it can do many things.

It is not the glove, but my hand in the glove that acts.

We are gloves. It is the Holy Spirit in us who is the hand, who does the job.

We have to make room for the hand so that every finger is filled.

My prayer today for myself and our entire church family is this:

"Father, fill us with you Holy Spirit. Lead us today. Give us the strength that we need to fulfill the vision and mission that you have given us. We love you God - Amen."

Will you join me in praying that prayer today?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

From the inside out

Wouldn't you agree with me that we live in a culture that idolizes physical appearance?

Instead of the inside out, we judge people from the outside in.

Plastic surgery is becoming a norm. Billions are spent in American each year on cosmetics.

In order to look better, it is not surprising that many people are willing to sacrifice a great deal in order to look better.

They are willing to give of their time, money - and endure a tremendous amount of physical pain.

I mean, don't get me wrong. We have a responsibility to take care of our bodies. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit as Paul writes in Corinthians.

But what is truly important in life is my character, my personality, my ability to get along with people, my ability to have a relationship with God.

I found a story today of a woman named Solange Magano.

Solange was crowned Miss Argentina in 1994, and carried that exposure into a successful modeling career. She maintained both her career and physique for more than a decade, but by 2009 both were showing signs of age.

According to Roberto Piazza, a longtime friend, she became obsessed with regaining a youthful body.

In November of 2009, Solange travelled to Buenos Aires to undergo a gluteoplasty—on operation that uses implants to reduce cellulite and produce a firmer bottom.

Solange suffered a pulmonary embolism during the routine procedure and was rushed to a nearby hospital, but doctors were unable to save her life. She was 38-years-old, and she left behind a husband and twin 8-year-old boys.

"Solange was a girl who had everything," Roberto Piazza lamented. "She lived the life of a goddess; she was the envy of everybody. Now she is dead because she wanted a slightly firmer behind. She died because of her obsession with beauty."

Mr. Piazza's words sum up more than the tragedy of one woman's obsession with her body. They serve as a fitting epitaph for a culture that idolizes men and women like Solange Magnano, consumes them, and ultimately destroys them.

I would suggest that we be more concerned with what's taking place from the "inside out" than from the "outside in".....and maybe we will live longer.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Dream Big - commit big!

Dream big – commit big!

Here’s what I know and am learning: We always rise to the level of commitment that we are challenged to.

That’s the intent of my thoughts today:

I challenge you, in the next 6 months, to commit yourself totally to our Stone Church relocation process.

We need you. We need all of us participating.

You might think this today that I am speaking to those who are the least committed in our church family, or even the semi-committed in our congregation.

Yet, people do what people see. If our church body sees us as leaders totally committed to Kingdom work, I am convinced others will follow.

And so….I am asking for commitment. Commitment from each one of us – but most assuredly from ministry leaders, deacons, elders and pastors.

There is an old story that I have told for years that goes like this:

A chicken and a pig were walking past a church building one day when they noticed the Sunday morning sermon posted on the outside bulletin board, “Helping the Poor.” They walked away when the chicken suddenly came across with a suggestion. “Brother Pig, why don’t we give all the poor people a nice breakfast of ham and eggs?” The pig thought a moment and replied, “That’s all right for you to say because for you it is only a contribution, but for me, it’s a total commitment!”

Can I be candid with you?

It’s amazing that many community organizations require more from participants than local churches do. If you have ever been a little league parent (and any other activity that your kids can be involved in) you know that when your child signs up to play, you are required to make a major, major commitment in terms of providing refreshments, transportation, trophies, and victory parties in addition to attendance.

I know this because I coached little league for years.

There was nothing voluntary about it! It was required if you wanted to participate.
You might say, “Man, George, I’m already committed already, how can you ask for more?”

So…that leads us to the question, you and I are committed – but are we committed to the right things? I would suggest to you that the reason why we have so many weak Christians today is that they are half-committed to two dozen causes rather than being totally committed to one or two that have eternal significance.

For many people the barrier to spiritual growth is not a lack of commitment, but over commitment to things that have only temporal value.

Please don’t get me wrong. All of the things that we are involved in might not be wrong, but I am suggesting that we just don’t forget about God. And His Kingdom. And His work.

Jesus pointed this out in the parable of the Sower in Luke 8:14, “The seed that fell among thorns stand for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.”

My prayer is this: “Father, help us to make right commitments.” “Help us to give ourselves away to a cause bigger than ourselves.”

We dream big, but let’s “commit” big as well.

Let’s commit ourselves to:

- Praying daily for the relocation process
- Working diligently to make sure that it happens (specifically in August)
- Giving faithfully to the vision that God has implanted within our hearts
- Persevering in the midst of challenges
- Relying upon the Holy Spirit as we move ahead

We can do this!

You see, the “end game”, the “goal” is not just to physically relocate our church, but to recast our vision so that we can reach even more people for Jesus Christ!

I see our campus on 183rd street as a Pentecostal lighthouse to the entire highway 80 corridor – from the Indiana border to Joliet and beyond!

That’s our vision! It’s a dream that is bigger than we are!

And let me tell you, God will bless us. But even more importantly, perhaps, is that God will bless the generation that comes behind us.

We stand on the commitment of those who have gone before us. Can we not but do the same?

I think of my kids, your kids, and then their kids. I desire that we leave a legacy that will not only last a will but have eternal results. We are building more than “just” a building; we are building God’s Kingdom.

At 183rd street:

I see people connecting to Christ.
I see people being baptized in the Holy Spirit.
I see people being healed.
I see people growing in God.
I see people becoming leaders in the Kingdom.
I see people leading others to Christ.

Finally, you might say, “I’m not in a position to commit myself to the vision, to the dream.”

Well, begin with the commitment that you have. And then be willing to grow into it.
It’s like choosing to become a parent. Very few couples feel competent to parent before they have their first child. But somehow, someway, after the decision is made and the baby is born, the couple grows into their parenting role.

I know that there are many in our church family who are just waiting to be asked. Well…I am asking you today!

What God desires from us is a willing heart! Join me today, and let’s see God do great things!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

Well....quite the game last night.

I was pulling for New Orleans. Not really against Indianapolis winning - but I, along with many, many others thought it would be great for the city to experience some success after all of the tragedy that they have gone through.

The Colts weren't giving Drew Brees anything long, so he completed 32 of 39 passes, almost all of them short routes and throws. 228 yards.

Give it to the Saints - they took what the Colts gave them.

And then, the coaching. Sean Payton. What a call to open up the second half. An onside kick. Brilliant (if it succeeds).

What I liked about the game is that each team played hard, without minimal penalties and few errors - although of course Mannings interception at the end was huge.

Debbie and I watched the game at Gary and Joyce Arvin's home. They have a TV screen in their basement as big as Milwaukee - great place for a game. Our life group was there as well as a couple of other couples.

Sunday morning, I talked about Jesus being the only way to God. Towards the end of the first service, I realized that I needed to make it a practical teaching (as well as doctrinal) and believe that the Holy Spirit led me to emphasis the fact that we have the responsibility to connect people to Christ.

And so - I took questions from our church family. Great questions and hopefully I gave good answers. I was thrilled as the students in our youth group participated at the end of the second service during the Q and A time.

Debbie went to a wedding in Springfield over the weekend - it is good to have her home. I am always kind of lost without her.

Anyway, there was a question that I actually brought up in my teaching and then was brought up in the Q and A time. I shared with everyone that I would blog about it today and so here it is:

The question is:

“What about those who live in an isolated place and who haven’t had a chance to hear about Jesus? What’s going to happen to them?”

This is one of the most commonly asked questions about Christianity — and, frankly, we don’t have the complete answer. God hasn’t explicitly told us all we’d like to know about this.

But we do know a few things.

Let me give a quote from Lee Strobel that helps us with this (check out his book, "The Case For Faith."

Lee Strobel writes:

"First, we know from the Bible that everybody has a moral standard written on their hearts by God and that everybody is guilty of violating that standard. That’s why our conscience bothers us when we do something wrong.

Second, we know that everybody has enough information from observing the world to know that God exists, but people have suppressed that and rejected God anyway — for which we rightfully deserve eternal separation from Him.

But we also know from the Bible that those who sincerely seek God will find Him. In fact, the Bible says that the Holy Spirit is seeking us first, making it possible for us to seek God.

And this suggests to me that people around the world who respond to the understanding that they have and who earnestly seek after the one true God will find an opportunity, in some way, to receive the eternal life that God has graciously provided through Jesus Christ.

I’ve seen this happen in seemingly impossible circumstances.

I remember meeting a man who had been raised by gurus in an area of India where there were no Christians. As a teenager, he concluded there were too many contradictions in Hinduism for it to be true. So he called out to God for answers — and in a remarkable series of events, God brought people into his life who shared Christ’s message with Him. And today he’s a follower of Jesus.

There’s something else that’s reassuring, too, which is that God is scrupulously fair.

Genesis 18:25 asks, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” It’s comforting for me to know that each person will be judged uniquely and justly, according to what they knew and what they did. After being judged by a loving and righteous God, not one person will be able to walk away claiming that he or she had been treated unfairly.

We know that apart from the payment that Jesus made on the cross, nobody has a chance of getting off Death Row. But exactly how much detailed knowledge a person has to know about Jesus or precisely where the lines are drawn, only God knows.

The Bible says in First Corinthians 4:5 that only God can expose the motives of a person’s heart."

And then Lee Strobel concludes his thoughts by saying:

"Nobody will be excluded from heaven solely because he or she has lacked some information.

The reason people will be denied admittance is because they have told God their entire life that they can live just fine without Him.

On Judgment Day, God will say, “Based on your own decision to live separately from Me, you will now spend eternity apart from Me.” God won’t violate our will — and that’s only fair."

Great quote. Do you agree? Disagree? I mentioned...the greater question is not whether people who do not have the opportunity to hear the gospel will go to heaven or hell - but what are we doing to connect them to Christ?

That is a challenge to me - and I hope to you.

Let's continue to do all we can to minister and share with those who don't know Christ.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

"The me that still can be in Jesus"

One of the things that we as Christians deal with in our lives is condemnation. Condemnation over past sins that have been confessed and forgiven.

We all, at times, struggle with this. If only I had been this, or done that or hadn't said this.....on and on it goes.

The enemy doesn't fight fair. He encourages us to sin, tempts us to sin, entices us to sin - and then when we do sin - he stands back and says something like, "you call yourself a Christian? How could you have done that?"

And....then we confess, God forgives, and the enemy STILL doesn't let go. He will continually bring to our minds that which we have done or said in the past.


One of the characteristics of those who are living under condemnation is that they become selfish. They think about one thing, the regrets from the past. They constantly feel sorry for themselves and can't get their minds off their own pain and suffering. of my mentors, Dr. Richard Dobbins has written this (and it is a powerful quote that you will want to come back too several times):

"Usually, such people are the last ones in the world to think of themselves as idolaters, but they are worshipping an idol. How many times do you suppose such people have said to themselves: "oh, if only it hadn't happened that way. How different my life might have been. But my whole life is ruined now."

These people are worshipping the idol of "the me that might have been." Because the "me that might have been" can never be, they refuse to accept "the me that is."

And since they won't accept "the that is," they can't discover"the me that still can be" in Jesus.

When you won't forgive yourself for some mistake in your past, you're really making an idol out of "the me that might have been."

If you will smash that idol you've created and forgive yourself, God will help you discover "the me that still can be in Jesus." Only as you let go for the past can you reach the future that can be yours."

Listen to this story:

"Noble Doss dropped the ball. One ball. One pass. One mistake. In 1941, he let one fall. And it's haunted him ever since. "I cost us a national championship," he says.

The University of Texas football team was ranked number one in the nation. Hoping for an undefeated season and a berth in the Rose Bowl, they played conference rival Baylor University. With a 7-0 lead in the third quarter, the Longhorn quarterback launched a deep pass to a wide-open Doss.

"The only thing I had between me and the goal," he recalls, "was twenty yards of grass."

The throw was on target. Longhorn fans rose to their feet. The sure-handed Doss spotted the ball and reached out, but it slipped through.

Baylor rallied and tied the score with seconds to play. Texas lost their top ranking and, consequently, their chance at the Rose Bowl.

"I think about that play every day," Doss admits.

Not that he lacks other memories. Happily married for more than six decades. A father. Grandfather. He served in the navy during World War II. He appeared on the cover of Life magazine with his Texas teammates.

He intercepted seventeen passes during his collegiate career, a university record. He won two NFL titles with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Texas High School Hall of Fame and the Longhorn Hall of Honor include his name.

Most fans remember the plays Doss made and the passes he caught. Doss remembers the one he missed. Once, upon meeting a new Longhorn head coach, Doss told him about the bobbled ball. It had been fifty years since the game, but he wept as he spoke."

I guess the thought of the day is this: sometimes we are harder on ourselves than God is - so LET IT GO - and relax in God's love.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Walking in faith and giving God glory

One of the things we studied last Sunday is that there is a redemptive quality to our pain and suffering.

God can bring good out of evil. God uses difficult times to bring growth in our lives. Now then, please understand that God is not the author of evil or suffering, but he can use it to bring about good.

During this whole relocation we have (and continue to face) enormous challenges. It is as one would say, "an impossible situation."

Debbie and I have commented to one another recently that after we have moved out to 183rd street that we are going to say to one another, "it was God".

While we continue to work hard, and I am EXTREMELY GRATEFUL for those who stand side by side with me in the project, ultimately, I know and you know that it will be because of God and his leadership in our lives that we will succeed.

That takes faith. It takes faith to continue working. As I said last Sunday, Faith is facing the reality of a situation (the facts) and not getting discouraged.

Faith is not pretending that everything is great and saying, "everything is wonderful." Everything is not great. There are bad things in the world. There are mountains to be conquered. Faith is facing the facts and not getting discouraged.

Here's what I know: We can't control everything in life. But I do know this - God is in control. And that takes faith.

Hebrews 11 is the classic chapter on faith. Verse 6 says, "Without faith it is impossible to please God.” If I’m not ministering in faith, I’m not pleasing God.

The Bible is even more specific than that. It says, "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” If I’m not walking in faith, I’m walking in sin. That’s strong stuff!

What does it mean to walk in faith?


Faith is visualizing the future in advance. It is seeing the future in the present. Every great achievement began when somebody saw it in advance. We didn’t put a man on the moon until one day JFK stood up and said, "Let’s put a man on the moon.” When he said that, the technology had not even been invented.

By faith I see our building completed and people driving into the parking lot at 183rd street and walking into our building, connecting to Christ and growing in God.

Faith is believing when I don’t see it. Some things have to be believed before they can be seen. The world says, "Seeing is believing.” God says, “Believing is seeing.” You have to see it in advance.


Has God ever told you to witness to somebody when you didn’t have the time? Has God ever told you to leave a comfortable church ministry and go to an unknown quantity? That’s walking in faith. It’s obeying when you don’t understand it.

Throughout this entire building process we walk by faith. There have (and continue to be) many occasions when I have stopped and said, "I don't understand what is going on"! But we continue to press on by faith.

Abraham is a classic example of obeying when he didn’t understand. He was about 75 years old, and God asked him to give up all his security – right at an age when Abraham should have been getting Social Security!

God said, "I want you to leave. Pick up everything and get ready for the greatest adventure of your life."

The scary part of it is God gave Abraham no details. Abraham says, “Where are we going?” God says, "You’ve never heard of it." “How long is it going to take?” "You’ll find out." “How will I know when I get there?” "I’ll let you know!"

Sometimes God will tell you to do something in your walk, and you’ll think, “There’s no way this is going to work!” Yet, God says, "Do it"!

And guess what? It works!


The Bible tells us in Hebrews 11:4 “In faith Abel was commended as a righteous man and God spoke well of his offering.”

Isn’t that interesting? Giving and faith go together. God uses money to test our faithfulness. God watches the giving of a Christian. The Bible says if you have not been faithful with unrighteous mammon, who will entrust you with true spiritual riches?

There is a direct relationship between how we use our money and how much of God's power we experience in my life. It influences how much God can bless my life. We cannot out give God.


How do you develop persistence? How do you develop the kind of persistence that keeps you in a position when God has put you there, when every bone in your body says, “let's quit this project!” Where do you get that kind of persistence?

Hebrews 11:27 tells us “It was by faith that Moses left Egypt and was not afraid of the king’s anger. He held onto his purpose like a man who could see the invisible.”

Notice the key to persistence is that last phrase – he could see the invisible. Only as we see the invisible can we accomplish the impossible. The key to persistence is to keep our eyes on God. Keep our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Corrie Ten Boom says, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.” It all depends on where you’ve got your eyes.


A good illustration for this is Joshua. By faith, the walls of Jericho fell after the people had marched around them for seven days. Jericho was the most fortified city in the world at that time. God said, “There’s no way a bunch of slaves are going to take this thing, but here’s what I want you to do: March around the city seven times a day for seven days and then I’ll cause a miracle.”

What were they doing seven times a day for seven days? Thanking God in advance. Praising God in advance.

Faith doesn’t mean you believe God can do something. He can do it whether you believe it or not. Faith doesn’t mean believing He will do something. That’s hope. You hope He will. Faith is believing He’s doing it! That He’s already doing it. That the answer is already on the way.

Jesus said in Mark 11:24, “When you pray believe that you have received it and then you’ll be given what you’ve asked for.”

Will you join me in this prayer? "Father, we thank you for helping us relocate our church to 183rd street. We give you glory, knowing that ultimately, we will succeed because of you. Continue to help us oh God. Give us strength we pray. Amen."

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

A head nod, a smile and a hello

This morning I went to Palos Hospital to pray with Warren and Peggy Skogland. Peggy is having surgery today.

As you walk in (by the outpatient side) the hospital has greeters that smile, ask how you are doing and generally brighten up your day.

As I was walking down the hallway, and passed by several people walking in the opposite direction, it got me to thinking. How do I respond when people walk by me?

Do I:

A. Do nothing. Just keep my eyes forward and keep walking.
B. Look at the person but don't nod my head or smile or say anything.
C. Look at the person but nod my head but don't smile or say anything.
D. Look at the person, nod my head and smile but don't say anything.
E. Look at the person, nod my head, smile and say, "hello".

How do you normally respond?

And what do you think about someone who acknowledges you as you walk by them?

Does it make you feel good - or creep you out?

Does your response depend upon the age or gender of the person you are walking by?

Does it depend on the mood that you are in?

Does it depend on the culture you are in?

Does it depend on the season of the year? I would say, "Merry Christmas" during the Holidays and got a mixed response.

I don't think any of us has a problem nodding, smiling and saying hello inside the church building. Or at school. Or at our work.

There is an old joke that goes like this:

"Jim Dunn was serving as the pastor of the First Baptist Church, and his wife, Gladys, was very friendly and welcoming to people.

One particular Sunday when the sermon seemed to go on forever, many in the congregation fell asleep.

After the service, to be sociable, she walked up to a very sleepy looking gentleman.

In an attempt to revive him from his stupor, she extended her hand in greeting, and said, "Hello, I’m Gladys Dunn."

To which the gentleman replied, "You’re not the only one!"

I can hear you groaning right now (if you get the joke).

Greetings are important.

I am told that our day is jump started by the first person we meet. If we have a negative experience we tend to have a negative day, if someone greets us with a smile and a warm word, we tend to have a great day.

But what about the person you walk by at the mall, or in the hallway of a hospital?

I would like to think that a nod, a smile and even a hello is okay.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Thoughts from the weekend - prayer

Thoughts from the weekend

One of the highlights of my week is coming to our Saturday morning prayer time from 8:00 to 9:00 A.M.

Oh, don't get me wrong. There are some Saturday's where it is tough to go - I can begin to buy into that age old lie from the enemy that "prayer is not necessary," you can "pray at home", or where is the biggest one, "you do a lot at the church, let others pray".

I would once again suggest to you that there is nothing as important and powerful as prayer.

With everything that is going on in our church - we must continually pray that God's will and direction will be done in our lives.

In the summer of 1876, grasshoppers nearly destroyed the crops in Minnesota. So in the spring of 1877, farmers were worried. They believed that the dreadful plague would once again visit them and again destroy the rich wheat crop, bringing ruin to thousands of people.

The situation was so serious that Governor John S. Pillsbury proclaimed April 26 as a day of prayer and fasting He urged every man, woman and child to ask God to prevent the terrible scourge. On that April day all schools, shops, stores and offices were closed. There was a reverent, quite hush over all the state.

The next day dawned bright and clear. Temperature soared to what they ordinary were in midsummer, which was very unusual for April. Minnesotans were devastated as they discovered billions of grasshopper larvae wiggling to life.

For 3 days the unusual heat persisted, and the larvae hatched. It appeared that it wouldn’t be long before they started feeding and destroying the wheat crop.

On the fourth day, however the temperature suddenly dropped, and that night frost, covered the entire state. Result - it killed every one of those creeping, crawling pests as surely as if poison or fire had been used, It went down in the history of Minnesota as the day God answered the prayers of the people."

That is an awesome story! But understand, it was NOT the first and certainly was NOT the last time that Almighty God answered the prayers of his people.

We have much to pray about as a church family:

That God will send us a youth pastor and his wife with a burden for God and our kids

That our building will be completed "on time" (June 20th)

That God will continue to bless our finances as we build

That God will continue to "pour out his Spirit" on us in a powerful way

That many people will connect with Christ and grow in Him.

I was thrilled Saturday as several of our youth leaders and students came to prayer. What a powerful testimony of how much they desire God to move and lead!

Why not come every so often and join us? I know that Saturday is a day off for almost everyone who works - and I am really sensitive to that. But just consider coming everyone once in a while - and let's all see what God can do.