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Thursday, October 28, 2010


God is really working in my life concerning criticism.

I don't like it - and I think I am in good company - I don't think any of us do.

And yet, even at this stage of ministry (after 30 years), I am still learning, still growing, especially in this area of handling criticism.

Comedian Steve Martin said, "Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do criticize him, you'll be a mile away and have his shoes."  Funny stuff.

I guess that I was kind of naive in thinking that after we relocated into our new church facility, that everyone would be happy, overjoyed, and thrilled.

I was wrong.

Now then, don't get me wrong, I am not throwing stones - it is just human nature to have an adjustment period, and I understand that.  All of us, including me, have a hard time with newness and with change.

I guess I was thinking, "after all of my hard work and time, surely everyone will recognize how hard I have worked and join in with me in the joy of what has been accomplished."

I was wrong.  How selfish of me to think that way.  No one owes me anything.  The church was built for God's glory and for His Kingdom.

One author writes, "no leader is exempt from criticism, and his humility will nowhere be seen more clearly than in the manner in which he accepts and reacts to it."

Wow, if that's true (and it is) than I have a lot of room for growth.

In his book Confessions of a Pastor, Craig Groeschel offers some advice on how to handle critics.

He writes, "It's a fact that "hurt people hurt people." They usually dislike themselves and criticize others in a misguided effort to validate themselves. If one of these injured souls lobs a criticism grenade in your direction, defuse it with understanding. Part of considering the source is seeking awareness of what that person may be going through.

One time I was praying during worship, a few moments before preaching. Eyes closed, focusing on God, I felt someone slip a note into my hand. I never saw who it was, but the note was marked "Personal." I thought to myself, Someone probably wrote a nice note to encourage me before I preach. A warm, loving feeling settled over me as I unfolded the paper.

A moment later, I lost that loving feeling.

Evidently, the note was from a woman who had tried to see me on Friday, my day off. She took offense at my absence and blasted me with hateful accusations. This happened literally seconds before I was to stand up to preach. In that moment, I had a choice. I could internalize the offense and become demoralized and discouraged. Or I could ask myself, I wonder what she's experiencing that caused her to lash out?

I chose compassion over depression. My heart hurt for her. I knew that such a disproportionate reaction must indicate deep pain, so I didn't take her note personally.

Consider the source. And consider the possibility that the jab may have come from an injured heart. Dismiss it and move on. If you don't, you may become the very thing you despise."

That's my prayer (me - George) this day - that I would be even more open to receiving criticism and wise enough to know how to respond.

"Father, help me in this area.  I desire to be the leader you want me to be.  I desire to be the godly man you want me to be.  Amen."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Gain through loss

One of the lessons I have been learning lately is a principle that Jesus constantly taught and modeled.  It's as we loss that we win.  It's as we humble ourselves that we are exalted.

That those who want to be strong must learn to be weak, those who want to be first must learn to be last, those who want to lead must learn to serve.

These are paradoxes.

What are some of the actions that show this paradox?


Deferring to others

Avoiding shortcuts

Telling the truth

Offering kindness

Seeking alliances

Volunteering to take the short straw

Choosing the long-term, sacrificing the short

Demonstrating respect to all, not just the obviously strong

Sharing credit and be public in your gratitude.

Risking the appearance of weakness takes strength.

One author writes, "One of the most powerful people I know always gets my coffee when I visit his office. He has a secretary; he could tell her to do it. He could point in the direction of the machine and say, "Help yourself to some coffee, if you like." Instead, he attends to it himself, and he remembers: "A ton of creamer and no sugar, right?"

Paul writes, "For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Now if I could just do this stuff.......

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Honestly praying

One of the things I know in my relationship with God is that I can pray honestly.  I can be real with God.  I don't need to use certain words or say it in a certain way, in fact, God expects me to dialogue and converse with him in a way that implies that we have a relationship.

David prayed honest prayers in the Psalms.

Sometimes we don't understand how David could have prayed such direct and almost argumentative prayers with God. 

Part of understanding the "why" of how David could pray that way is that in his culture, (and in the culture of Jewish people today) people obtain relational intimacy through working through unpleasant feelings, even by arguing if necessary.  Confronting each other is a sign of intimacy in the relationship.  That is how trust and intimacy grows.

I would offer that is the way God looks at prayer.  Sometimes we grow closer to God by bringing God all of the "unpleasant" things about our relationship:  our sadness, disappointments, laments, complaints, and even our anger. 

Based upon God's relationship with Moses, David, Gideon and Elijah, he can handle our honesty.

Listen to the words of Habakkuk in Habakkuk 1:2,3:

"How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?  Or cry out to you, "Violence!" but you do not save?  Why do you make me look at injustice?  Why do you tolerate wrong?  Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds."

That honesty. 

May we all be honest with God today.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Had a great weekend with George and Becky (and three of George's friends from Evangel).

George took photos of his sister.  He does a great job - she could be a model.  Check out the photos on facebook.

Becky and I had a great time at the Michigan State - Northwestern game.  It was very eventful.

Michigan State came back and won.

Sat behind four guys who were drunk at 11:30 A.M.  Had to move - they left and then we moved back.

There was a woman behind us - four rows back that was screaming her cheers for Northwestern.  I mean screaming.  Did I say that she was screaming?

We got lost on the way to the game. 

Asked one guy for directions, he said he was from Chicago and didn't know the way to the stadium -with an Eastern European accent.

We got stuck in a traffic jam on the way back from the game.

Had hot dogs for breakfast (10:30 A.M.)

Good times!

We missed Andrew, Christie and Georgia being with us this weekend.

Fat Ricky's has great pizza.

We are going to miss Stephanie Hiller on the piano.

We are really looking forward to Amanda Boon coming on staff!

Leisa McNamara is the best Impact girl's ministry leader I have ever worked with.

It was fun to watch the 5 girls "crowned" last night. 

The Bears lost - again.

The Cowboys play tonight - I don't know if I can watch - they are playing so bad.

Busy week - meetings each night.....

Really looking forward to my time with new members tomorrow night.  There are 8 of them!

Accomplishing a vision is never easy.

Just about the time you think you have someone(s) "figured out" they become "unfigureoutable."

Hurting people hurt people.

I am thankful for God's love.

I am thankful that God loves me with an unconditional love.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

C.S. Lewis and our view of God

If there is one thing that is consistent about evangelical speakers is that they quote C.S. Lewis.  And rightly so. 

I am in the midst of a series entitled, "What do I do when I believe in God but......".  One of the subjects I won't be able to get to is:  "What do I do when I believe in God but he's not the God I think He is?"

We all have different perceptions of God.  Most of them based upon our tradition, our church background, our parents, our circumstances, even what part of the country or world we live in.

That is why I must continually keep my focus on what the Bible says about God.  It is the absolute, the last Word, the authoritative story of who God is and how he acts and reacts in our lives.

Okay, now on to C.S. Lewis, who wrote this (in his powerful book, "The Problem of Pain":

"What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, "What does it matter so long as they are contented?"

We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven—a senile benevolence who, as they say, "liked to see young people enjoying themselves," and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, "a good time was had by all."

That is so true.

God is not as much concerned about my happiness as he is concerned about my holiness.

He desires me to walk in holiness, for it is in walking holiness that I can truly connect with Him.

With God, it is not "Miller Time" or "living life with gusto".  It is walking in humility, peace, joy and love, which in and of itself will bring about a life of abundance.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How God feels about you

In relationships, perception is so important.

Let me explain.

The way I perceive how you feel about me has a profound effect on our relationship.

If I think you are angry at me or disgusted with me or indifferent toward me - whether you really are or not - our relationship will probably be tainted, possibly broken.

If I think that you are happy with me and want to get to know me better - whether you really are or not - our relationship will probably be strengthened, possibly becoming friends for life.

That's why it is a good thing to share with one another on a fairly consistent basis that we love and like each other (this is especially true in the marriage relationship).

We all need assurance from time to time (in every relationship that we have) that we are loved and even liked by that person, that boss, that fellow employee, that neighbor, that person in the church.

We all like to be liked.  We all love to be loved.  It's the way that God has wired us.

I can go one week on one compliment - someone saying that they love me or even like me.

It's what encourages us - strengthens us - allow us to go on.

Let's transfer this concept with how we feel about God.

Tragically, many believers have perceptions of how God feels toward them that are not accurate, and these perceptions create unnecessary distance.

Many people project on God the way their parents felt about them or the way they have felt about themselves. In light of these human tendencies, it is so important that we realize today:

God loves us.

God is for us.

Turn to the sidelines and you will see God cheering for you.  Look past the finish line and  you will see God applauding your steps.

Listen for him in the bleachers, shouting your name.

The scriptures even say that God has "your name written on his hand."  (Isaiah 49:16)

I take a lot of encouragement in that thought today.

How about you?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Unconditional love

We live in a culture of conditional love.

The attitude is, "as long as you do what I say, and never hurt or offend me," I will love you.

As long as, as long as, as long as.

Yet Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

"Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

Jean Vanier, founder of the L'Arche communities, told the following story about persevering in our practice of unconditional love:

"I know a man who lives in Paris. His wife has Alzheimer's. He was an important businessman—his life filled with busyness. But he said that when his wife fell sick, "I just couldn't put her into an institution, so I kept her. I fed her. I bathed her." I went to Paris to visit them, and this businessman who had been very busy all his life said, "I have changed. I have become more human."

I got a letter from him recently. He said that in the middle of the night his wife woke him up. She came out of the fog for a moment, and she said, "Darling, I just want to say thank you for all you've doing for me." Then she fell back into the fog. He told me, "I wept and I wept."

Sometimes Christ calls us to love people who cannot love us in return.

They live in the fog of mental illness, disabilities, poverty, or spiritual blindness. As we serve them, we may only receive fleeting glimpses of gratitude.

But just as Jesus has loved us in the midst of our spiritual confusion, so we continue to love others as they walk through a deep fog.

May we all love one another - unconditionally.  Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, October 18, 2010

thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Worship Sunday morning - anointed, inspired, life changing.

Dedicating Jason Schultz as "unto the Lord"....a privilege, priceless

Eating lunch at Baracco's with Shultz family.....great food, great fellowship, great fun.

I like chicken when it is cooked with Italian seasonings.

Italian food is fattening - but I love it.

My men's life group on Saturday's - wonderful group of guys.....solid discussion.  It's fun for me to be around men who desire to grow in God.

If you want to see a mindless, shoot em up, flick - see RED.

If you desire to see a thoughtful, life changing movie that causes you to pause and think - don't see RED.

My Dallas Cowboys - penalties, mistakes, interceptions.  How long can Wade last in Dallas?

Jerry Jones is now a patient man?

God is good - all the time.

I don't know why some people do or say the things they do or say - my purpose is to continue to love them.

Some people are just not "figureoutable."  (I just made that word up).

We are excited about Amanda Boon coming - her first service will be October 31st.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

mercy and judgment

One of the phenomenons of life is that when we make a mistake, we crave mercy.  When someone else makes a mistake, we slobber after judgment.

James 2:13 states, "Mercy triumphs over judgment".

Mercy always triumphs over, wins over, is always right before judgment.

I always say that if I am going to err, I want to err on the side of grace.

Let me put it plainly:  if I hurt you, I feel bad and want forgiveness (mercy).  Human nature says, if you hurt me, I want not only forgiveness asked for, but judgment and punishment in return.

I understand that.  But it being human nature doesn't make it right.

I was reading this week that (and I quote),"Brooks Conrad, second baseman for the Atlanta Braves, had the final out of the ninth inning bounce right between his legs and out into center field, allowing the San Francisco Giants to score what turned out to be the winning run of the playoff game last night between these two teams.

It was his third error of the game, and I noticed, as the manager brought in a new pitcher, that the rest of the infield gathered at the mound, but not Conrad. He was standing out at second, alone in his misery. It wasn’t that his teammates shunned him – it doesn’t take an invitation to come to the mound – but what seemed clear was that he couldn’t face them knowing he had let them down.

Someone needed to go out there and give the poor guy some grace and mercy, and maybe they did, but I only saw the few seconds the TV camera caught of him, and that picture spoke volumes. Five players and a manager standing around the pitcher’s mound, and Brooks Conrad alone at second.

Do you know anyone who is alone at second? A co-worker whose mistake cost the company a deal, a musician bumped off the worship team, a single mom who can’t go into church for fear of being judged, a kid who can’t learn the way everyone else can, a neighbor who is gay? Take it on yourself to go and extend grace and mercy to that person. It’s what we all need and what God has offered to each and every one of us: grace (what we don’t deserve) and mercy (exemption from what we do).

Actually, the guy at second is the one who stands to find this out sooner than most."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Response to betrayal

You and I will eventually be betrayed in life.

It's inevitable.

The question is not "when" but "what am I going to do when I am betrayed?"

Let's face it - betrayal hurts.  From a mate who's spouse commits adultery, to a co-worker who says or does something to get the promotion over you, betrayal hurts.

We think it will never happen to us.  We think that because we are "good people" that others will see that and hesitate, pause and not follow through on an act or word of betrayal.

Not so.

Here's what I know:  when I am betrayed, I am not going to stop being open and vulnerable.

I am not going to stop being real.  I am not going to stop trusting.

One author writes, "I remember times of betrayal that cut deep into my heart, pain beyond a flesh wound. These are the deepest cuts that never seem to heal, a soul wound like Frodo stabbed by the ring-wraith's sword, an ache that will not heal. I remember times of fear wondering how the money would stretch, how the family would be fed and would we keep the house for another month.

If we live, we will all suffer pain. If we truly live and love as Jesus calls us to, we will suffer deep pain, because our hearts will be open. As Jesus shows, in fact, we are promised trials, rejection, hurts and the like. Jesus never promised a life free of anguish, but he understands--he had enough moments to cry out to the Lord, even to the point of sweating blood. That’s anguish."

I'm thankful Jesus understand my hurt in the midst of betrayal.

I'm thankful that Jesus will never betray me.

I'm thankful that through the Holy Spirit I can receive help and healing.

How about you today?

Yet Christ continued on with his mission and died for us - the ultimate act of vulnerability.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

The Dallas Cowboys are a very bad football team.

Michigan State is a very good football team.  Go green, go white!

Mimi's cafe has good food.

We welcome Amanda Boon to our pastoral leadership team!

Amanda and Stephanie leading worship yesterday - priceless.  Anointed.

God's presence was in both Sunday morning services in a powerful way.

Frank Wolf is a great guy.

Christians can sometimes do creepy, weird and crazy things.

Christians can sometimes be loving, kind and gracious.

Something always hurts worst when it comes from a friend.

Ironically enough, ministry always takes place in a deeper way from a place of woundedness.

God is doing great things in our church.

The Dallas Cowboys need a new football coach.

There is no discipline on the Cowboys football team.

I am now "hooked" on a Starbucks coffee (one) every morning.  Tall, bold pick of the day, two creams, one sugar.

I am praying for a spiritual revival in our church.

It was fun meeting Amanda's parents - great people.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The person who always tries to "fix" your prayer request

I must admit, that it is a continual source of irritation to me when I share my heart or give a prayer request, and someone is there who wants to immediately "fix" my problem.

Most of the time, when we share our "burdens", we want prayer and someone to love on us.  We want to walk through the emotional experience of relieving some of the anxiety and stress.

On his blog, "Stuff Christians Like", Jonathan Acuff writes this:

"The guy who tries to fix when your problems when you make a prayer request.

You might have experienced this individual. You might not be familiar with his moves and maneuvers.

But please allow me to give you a few warning signs so that you know what to do the next time he rears his head:

4 signs you’re about to be “prayer fixed.”

1. The phrase “why don’t you just?”

This is the signature phrase of prayer fixers the world over. Having problems at your job? “Why don’t you get a new job?” Don’t like your landlord? “Why don’t you just move?” Boyfriend being a jerk? “Why don’t you just dump him?” Keep an open hear for this handy phrase.

2. The solution is always stupid obvious.

The prayer fixer doesn’t really have any deep insight, but instead usually just blurts out a solution the average orangutan would have figured out. If you’re house burned down, the prayer fixer will tell you that you should really be more careful around fire. If a squirrel got inside your attic and had what one can only assume is a well attended “squirrel dance off,” they’ll tell you, “You should keep squirrels out of your house.

3. It always happens more than once.

Everyone gets one free “prayer fix.” Even your best friends are going to pipe up when they hear you constantly complaining about a boyfriend who is a jerk. That doesn’t mean they’re a prayer fixer, it might just mean they love you. Listen for a repeat offender, someone who can’t help constantly trying to fix your problems in the middle of your prayer request.

4. If cornered, they will claim they have the “gift of discernment.”

Be forewarned, prayer fixers are slippery like river otters. If you confront them, even in Christian love, they will often tell you that they’re not judging your problems or trying to fix them. They’ve been blessed with the gift of discernment. Don’t believe them. Tell them you’ve been blessed with the gift of “water balloons” and then hit them with one.

Am I advocating a water balloon fight in the middle of a prayer circle? I suppose I am, I suppose I am."

Great stuff....I love it....Are you a "prayer fixer"? 

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Why should I pray about something more than once?

Why should I pray for something more than once?

I mean, after all, if God knows what I am thinking before I think it, if God knows my needs even before I ask, and if God is more than willing to meet my needs, why do I need to pray persistently?

In Daniel 10, we find that Daniel is troubled concerning a vision that he received.  So he begins to pray.  And he struggles in prayer for 21 days. 

Have you ever prayed for 21 days about something?

I have.  I've been praying about several things for months, if not for years.

But why?

Why is that needed and sometimes even necessary.

Jesus gives a parable in Luke 18 which states that because of the persistence of a widow - a judge heard her case and gives her justice.

Is God like a mean judge that I have to badger in order to see my need met?

Is God deaf?

Do I think I have to keep bothering Him until He throws up his hands in disgust and says, "If I don't grant their request, I'm going to go bonkers?"

When you get a chance, read Daniel 10:10-12.

Verse 12 states, "Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, Your words were heard, and I have come in response to them."

In other words, every time you and I pray, not only does God gladly hear our prayers, but he sends his angels out to answer our prayers.

However, the scriptures tell us that Daniel kept praying because a demonic force rises up (the prince and Persia), spiritual warfare breaks out and the answer is delayed.

It's almost like the curtain of a play or musical is drawn back and we see the spiritual reality of what happens when we pray.

Here's what I know:

When we pray - we turn loose the very powers of heave
When we pray - we have the power to battle the very forces of darkness
When we pray - angels are willing to fight - to answer our prayers.

Hebrews 1:14 tells us, "Angels are ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation."

My prayers, your prayers, carry weight.  Every time you and I pray about something, we unleash more and more power from the throne of God.

That's why our prayers must be forceful.  Active.  Persistent.

I encourage you today to not give up in your prayers for that _______________ (and  you fill in the blank).

Unleash heaven today!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Guidance and prayer

Christine O'Donnell is the republican candidate for the office of senator of the state of Delaware.  Today on the radio (820 A.M. Chicago), they were poking fun at the fact that she mentioned that "God had told her something...had given her guidance..." or something like that.

I understand the fact that two non-Christians cannot wrap their minds around the fact that as followers of Christ, we believe that we can communicate with God and God communicates.

As it has been stated, "when we talk with God, we call it prayer, when God speaks to us, we call it schizophrenia."

On the radio station, they were joking that God probably has a voice like Ernest Borgnine or Morgan Freeman.  And does God begin speaking to us with a Brooklyn, "Jo"?

Yet, as believers, we know that God does communicate with us.  Either through the Bible, or through other teachers of His Word, or fellow believers or from God himself.  It probably won't be in an audible voice, but there are impressions, leadings of the Lord that he gives us.

I understand the humor behind what they are saying, but in the end, when all is said and done, we all shouldn't talk about things we don't know anything about.

Here's a prayer that I found today, concerning guidance, anxiety and fear from Thomas Merton.

I encourage you to pray this prayer I have:

"My Lord God,

I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Not do I really know myself,

And the fact that I think I am following your will

does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.

And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.

I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road,

Though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore, I will trust you always,

Though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me,

And you will never leave me alone.


And again, I say, "Amen."

Monday, October 04, 2010

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

Had a great, first meeting with my men's life group.  Wide diversity.  Great group of guys who want to draw closer to the Lord. 

We will be studying men in the Bible.  Their lives and how the example of their lives can help us draw closer to the Lord.

Michigan State won.  MSU versus Michigan next Saturday!

Chris August can really, really sing. 

Jill Phillips and her husband Andy can really, really sing.

I appreciated the humble attitude and willing spirit of these Christian artists.

I loved the song by Chris August entitled 70 times 70. 

Forgiveness is a choice.

We will never cease to be hurt and we will never cease to be challenged to forgive.

Worship isn't necessarily a song that we sing but an attitude of heart that we bring.

Life group Sunday evening was great.

We had a great time discussing was causes us to be lonely.

What causes you to be lonely?

Leadership can be a lonely experience.

The consistency of always being "godly" can be a lonely experience.

The Chicago Bears looked really bad last night.

In listening to Chris August, being out in the world (he toured with Ashlee Simpson for a year) is not what it is cracked up to be.

I can't wait to speak again this Sunday.

I am praying that God will send us a move of his Holy Spirit.

"Father, send your fire"!