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Thursday, September 30, 2010

People before projects

Our district superintendent made a comment (which I have heard him make before) during his sermon that (and he was looking at me) now you can "get back to pastoring" (the first phase of our building program being through).

What he meant by that is that during a building program, there is a tremendous amount of responsibility that a lead pastor deals with concerning the process.  Meetings, conferences, dealings with contractors, government officials and lawyers.

I did my best to keep practical ministry to the forefront. 

However, one of the benefits of having a lull in our building process is that I can go back to focusing in entirely on people. 

After all, "People" is what this whole thing is about.

You and me.  Our needs.  Our hurts.  Our wounds.  We really need each other.

People don't care how much you know (or do) until they know how much  you care.

This Saturday, I am starting a life group for men ages 18-40.  I am really looking forward to the process of discipling around 7-8 men.  If you are reading this and would like to come - come.....we have three more slots left open.  9:00 A.M. - 10:00 A.M.  First and Third Saturdays.  Conference room at the church.

It's sheer, hands on ministry.

Henri Nouwen writes, "A few years ago I met an old professor at the University of Notre Dame.  Looking back on his long life of teaching, he said with a funny twinkle in his eyes:  "I have always been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I slowly discovered that my interruptions were my work." 

"This is the great conversion in life:  to recognize and believe that the many unexpected events are not just disturbing interruptions of our projects, but the way in which God models our hearts and prepares us for his return."

Great stuff.

May I be "interrupted" many times today.

With much love.....George

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Praying Psalms 70

David is my favorite character in the Bible.  A man of peace, a man of war.  The "apple" of God's eye. 

A man's man who was not afraid to express his feelings to God (and to us).

Many, many times in my life I have gone to the Psalms and prayed one of them - especially in the time of need.

Let's paraphrase Psalms 70 as a prayer today:

"Help, Lord, I need you right now!  Things are going on that need your direction and guidance in my life.

There are those who seek to bring shame and confusion in my life, I don't know why, but they are either intentionally or unintentionally bringing disorder.  Please deal with them as you see fit.  May everyone who desires to bring me down be turned back in disgrace.

May those who say to me, "Aha, aha, look at what you have done in the past, be turned back in shame.

But....may all who seek you during these times, rejoice and be glad in you!  May those who love a deep and abiding connection with you always sing out, "Let God be exalted"!

Yet...Lord...that is hard to do.  I am weak, full of failures and faults.   So come quickly, Lord.  You are my help and you are my deliverer.  Please, please do not delay."


Tuesday, September 28, 2010


You’ve heard of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Emotions Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous. But have you ever heard of OLDER BROTHERS ANONYMOUS?

The older brother in the parable of the prodigal was mean spirited, critical, complaining and negative. 

Have you ever been to a "confession service" where people have confessed their sins?  I have.  They might say, "I'm dealing with (name your substance) and need prayer."  Or, "I'm having a problem with lust, or gambling."  Or, "I am dealing with depression."

But not one time have I ever heard someone stand up and say, "I am dealing with a negative, complaining spirit and need prayer."

That especially bears fruit (in the negative sense) with this whole thing of saying or writing something under the guise of being "anonymous". 

Nothing is more destructive, mean, or sinful as writing or saying something negative or critical under the category of being "anonymous". 

The Bible tells us that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of peace, of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

"Anonymous" words, "anonymous" comments create fear in the body of Christ and are meant (either intentionally or unintentionally) to intimidate, cause dissension and anxiety.

Beside all of that - they are cowardly. 

Disclaimer:  I am not talking about giving anonymously, or giving praise anonymously, or doing something nice for someone anonymously - in fact the Bible praises such actions and attitudes.

But you know what I mean.

Here is my counsel to the body of Christ:

Don’t write or say anything that you won’t sign your name to.

If you receive a negative, anonymous note, ignore it! If they’re not willing to sign their name, it’s not worth reading. Don’t take heed to it.

Like the pastor who received an anonymous note with nothing but the word “FOOL!” written on it. The next morning he got in church and said, “I’ve gotten many notes without signatures before, but this is the first time I got one where someone forgot to write the note and just signed his name!”

Finally, if you have found yourself making negative, anonymous comments, ask God for forgiveness - because ultimately, you are only hurting yourself.  Do you really think God doesn't notice that stuff?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Stephanie Hiller is a great worship leader.

I am proud of our church family.

I love our church family.

My granddaughter, Georgia, is a wonderful, beautiful, personality filled little girl.

My granddaughter can smile and frown on cue.

I like it that my son-in-law and daughter (Andrew and Christie) are serving God.

It was good to see Andrew's parents, Fred and Sue, who came in for the dedication.

Rick Odden is still crazy, as in crazy fun.

The Dallas Cowboys won a game.

Jon Hollowell is a hard worker in the church.

It was very meaningful for my dad to pray the dedication prayer.

I love my mom and dad.

Sandra Jamerson is a great singer.

Debbie Smith works very hard and does a great job.

P.F. Changs has great Sea Bass (with spinach).

I love my family, Debbie, Christie, Andrew, Georgia, Becky and George.

I took at 3 hour nap Sunday afternoon.

No matter how hard you try, you can't please everyone.

We've built the building, now we need to build the church.

I'm thankful that Holly Schwider has stepped in and helped us out with the choir.

It was a privilege to have the Orland Park mayor with us, as well as our state representative.

We have a lot of work to do.

Thanks again to everyone!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dedication Sunday

This Sunday we will be dedicating our new church facility. I am really looking forward to it.

Our church family has worked very hard. I am sooooooo proud of them. If you are reading this and attend Stone, thank you very much for your prayers, hard work and giving.

We could not have done it without you.

It has been a total team effort.

My heartfelt thanks to everyone.

I sense and believe that God is going to do great things in our new church campus.

I love this verse that was shared, from Haggai 2:9, "The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,' says the LORD Almighty. 'And in this place I will grant peace,' declares the LORD Almighty."

Here is my prayer:  "May it be so Lord. May we receive your glory in such a way that we will truly be a lighthouse in the midst of the darkness that we sense and feel in the Southland of Chicago. May we be a place of peace. May we be a place of rest.

We love you, Lord, and desire your presence most of all.  Amen."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


One of the acronyms for prayer is ACTS.





It's a great sequence and it is found in Daniel 9.

Daniel, of course, is a book of prophecy. In the previous chapters, Daniel is receiving prophetic words (in the sense of foretelling) about the future of Israel and the world. BTW, he is around 90 years old at this time.

Daniel 8:27 shares with us that Daniel is exhausted and becomes sick for several days. He's appalled by what he sees. It's beyond his understanding.

So what does he do? He prays.

He has a long conversation with God.

It's from his prayer that we can glean a pattern of prayer for our own lives, especially in times of desperation.

Even before praying, Daniel jumps into the word of God. He reads God's Word. That's just a great principle to remember - that as we pray, it's good to have a Bible nearby. It's great to read God's Word as I converse with God.

Daniel then goes on to pray with urgency and passion. God desires that we pray with passion.

He prays, "O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands." (verse 4)

In other words, Daniel focuses in on who God is. He "adores God". (A) Adoration.

It's amazing how things always look better when we realize the power and compassion of God over our lives.

David writes in Psalm 29:2, "Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name. Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness."

First of all, let's all slow down and praise God for who He is.

Adoration helps me get my focus off of my problems and on to the power. Off of my circumstances and on to the creator.

Then Daniel confesses his sins, and he confesses specifically. 17 times in the next few verses he admits his sins (and the sins of Israel) by using the pronoun we, or us.

Again, we go to David who writes, "If I cherish sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened." Psalms 66:18.

As I worship God, I begin to realize how far I have fallen short of God's perfection. I realize that I need to repent. I have sinned against God and have done what he hates. The majority of Daniel's prayer is spent in confession.

(C) Confession.

Then we go on to (T) Thanksgiving.

In verse 15, Daniel prays, "Now, O lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day."

We express thanksgiving for what God has done and is doing in our lives.

A grateful heart is always an open heart to God's working and will in our lives. By adoring God, confessing to God and thanking God, it's harder to be selfish.

What is it that you can thank God for today?

Finally, Daniel presents his requests to God (S) Supplication.

He prays with urgency.

When we pray, we don't have to hold back.

Hebrews 4:16 tells us, "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence."

James 4:2 puts it clearly, "You do not have because you do not ask."

Let's ask today - and ask boldly.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

First Church of the Emergency Room

Things are beginning to slow down to a more normal, hectic pace that I live as a lead pastor.

Of course we have the dedication Sunday, but we have been working for weeks on that.

These are exciting times. I can't tell you how pleased I am about our new challenge and opportunity here. Everything is new and fresh - wonderful stuff!

Our first two Sundays were interesting.

First Sunday - Barb Zastrow, a dear older lady from our church, fell and broke her ankle. The fire truck and ambulance came.

Second Sunday - Hannah Waters, who is pregnant, didn't eat breakfast that morning and passed out while I was speaking. The fire truck and ambulance came.

Both are doing well, which is the most important thing - but....never a dull moment!

If we are not careful, we are going to become the "First Church of the Emergency Room."

Now that I think about it - it really is a metaphor for who we are - a spiritual and emotional hospital for those who are hurting.

We desire that everyone come, "as is". No need to change before you come. You are welcome as you are!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

It was my privilege to perform the wedding ceremony for Beatriz Perdea and Tony Perez. They are a great young couple with a love for God. No rehearsal, we all "just" showed up, and it went great.

It's always special two watch two people who want Christ at the center of their lives unite as a married couple.

At Paul and Franca's farewell reception, our Nigerian brothers and sisters led us all in a spiritual dance. You talk about fun.....I can't tell you how much I love and appreciate them. You and old alike "danced" before the Lord, African style.

Stephanie Hiller is going to do a great job for us as our interim worship leader.

It was a great visual to see all of our life group leaders and hosts stand before our church family.

Two weeks in a row we have had a fire truck and ambulance come. As if we needed more excitement.

God's presence was real and powerful in our services.

Great time in our life group - we all opened up and talked about fear. I'm not the only one that has fears in their life.

The Dallas Cowboys stink. And to lose to the Bears. Oh my. They have dug a hole that I don't think they can get out of.

We have a great church with good people.

One of the Chicago Cubs players was stuck in the chest with a piece of wood from a broken bat as he was standing on third. He still scored. That's what I call commitment.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Living together

We live in a society that basks in and glorifies non-commitment.

No one (now that's an exageration I know) wants to say, "I am in this for the long haul).

One example are those who "live together."

We've all heard the argument that living together before marriage gives couples a chance to test the relationship and their compatibilities. Theoretically, it should cut down on the divorce rate a bit, shouldn't it?

Turns out it doesn't.

University of Denver researchers found that couples who live together before they are engaged have a higher chance of getting divorced than those who wait until they are married to live together. In addition, couples who lived together before engagement and then married, reported a lower satisfaction in their marriages.

Maybe the old-fashioned way really is the best way.

Just a thought for a Thursday

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Christianity as an adventure

A few short years ago I went sky diving and drove a race car at the Michigan International Speedway.

My next project is to go White Water Rafting - the one where you have to sign a waver in case something happens.

I love adventure. I love to attempt things I have never done before.

Here's what I know: the greatest adventure of all is a walk with Christ.

Having a relationship with Jesus is not arriving at a destination - it is a process of adventure - each day bringing new challenges, new victories and new lessons.

Listen to this story:

"It has been called the greatest rescue mission of World War II.

Late in that war, American bombers were sent on dangerous missions over southern Europe to cripple the Nazis' oil supplies. Hundreds of crews in flying tin cans soared through storms of anti-aircraft shells. Many American pilots were forced to bail from their shot-up planes. The injured airmen drifted by parachute into occupied Yugoslavia, expecting to be captured or killed.

Instead, on the ground remarkable rescue teams were already in place. Serbian peasants tracked the path of the floating flight crews. Their sole mission was to grab the flyboys and bring them to safety—before the Nazis arrived.

Risking their own lives, the peasants fed and sheltered the downed solders. These rescued men were in friendly hands but on enemy soil. They still needed to escape.

The story of what became known as Operation Haylard builds toward a daring mission, a secret landing strip, and a clandestine evacuation plan. Amazingly, those Serbian peasants rescued every single American airman—over 500 in all.

Here's the fascinating subplot to the rescue. To travel to the evacuation site, the airmen had to spend weeks following the Serbian freedom fighters, who alone knew the path to the evacuation site. Despite the profound language barriers, the direction, the pace, and the destination were in the hands of their rescuers. The men had been saved from their enemy, but the journey had just begun. They still had to walk to freedom."

The story of Operation Halyard sheds light on an important spiritual reality: to be rescued from something sets us on the path toward something.

For the airmen it was a journey of survival. For us it's a journey of faith. The One who saved us is now calling us to walk. It's nonnegotiable. Though snatched from spiritual death, we soon discover that the Christian life isn't an arrival; it's an adventure. Christ rescues us then he points us to the path of following him.

The apostle Paul describes this active view of the Christian life in his letter to the Ephesians, urging them to "walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called" (4:1).

I want my walk to be worth of my calling - how about you?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

On a dime

This morning I was driving to work...leaving my home. As I was driving down my street, the neighbor's dog ran out in front of my car.

I did NOT hit the dog. Apparently he had run out of the house and bolted in front of me and across the street.

I was thankful I didn't hit him (or her).

As I finished my drive to the church, it reinforced to me how life can "turn on a dime."

Our lives are so fragile. We are here today and gone tomorrow. Truly, we are all "dust in the wind."

I desire to live my life in such a way that whatever comes, I will stand strong in Him.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

Great, wonderful, fantastic...what adjectives can I use to describe our first service yesterday?

Tons of visitors.....a strong sense of God's presence......

The excitement level is high.

I am so appreciative of everyone who has "pitched in" and helped. From the oldest to the youngest.

It is a great time to be a part of Stone Church.

Our vision is huge, our God is powerful and we stand strong in Him.

May we continually seek his face.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Just breathe

Just breathe, George, just breathe. Calm down. Breathe. It's all going to be okay. And it will.

Jesus said one time to a woman (in Mark 5:34), "Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over."

Rob Bell writes about this verse:

"The word Jesus would have used for peace is the Hebrew word shalom.

Shalom is an important word in the Bible, and it is not completely accurate to translate it simply as peace.

Shalom is the presence of the goodness of God. It's the presence of wholeness, completeness.

So when Jesus tells the woman to go in peace, he is placing the blessing of God on all of her. Not just her physical body. He is blessing her with God's presence in her entire being. And this is because for Jesus, salvation is holistic in nature. For Jesus, being saved or reconciled to God involves far more than just the saving of your physical body or your soul -- it involves all of you.

God's desire is for us to live in harmony with him -- body, soul, spirit, mind, emotions -- every inch of our being."

Just breathe - in the peace of God. Thank you Lord.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

finishing strong part 2

Let's piggyback on what I mentioned yesterday, it's not how you start that counts, it is how you finish.

A lot of people start strong - very few finish strong. The Apostle Paul was a finisher. Peter was a finisher. Joshua was a finisher.

God's desire for us in this relocation process is that we finish strong.

When Ralph Houk was manager of the New York Yankees, baseball schedules were even more exacting than they are now, with double-headers almost every week. Occasionally a player would get sick of the grind and approach Houk, asking for permission to sit out a game.

“I know how you feel,” the manager would say genially. “Sure, take the day off, But do me a favor. You’re in the starting lineup. Just play one inning. Then skip the rest of the game.”

The player would honor Houk’s request—and almost invariably get caught up in the spirit of the game and play it out to the end.

Sometimes we’re going to get tired of the grind...feel like giving up.....feel like giving in....but we must stay the path until the end.

God blesses faithfulness!

Compromise leads to chaos....distractions often lead to destruction...but faithfulness leads to fulfillment.

Let's all continue to be faithful!