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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fixing our thoughts on God

I picked up a book the other day entitled, "The 4:8 Principle", by Tommy Newberry.

Wonderful book.  I encourage you to pick it up.

Let me summarize in a random way some of his thoughts.

He writes:

"Keep your thoughts fixed on God. When you keep your thoughts fixed on God, the things of God will naturally permeate your life and your goals will be in line with his will and his kingdom.

You can do away with those thoughts of worry and fear only when you replace them with positive thoughts of faith in God.

Your thought life is so important. How you think.

“The secret conversations you hold in the privacy of your own mind are shaping your destiny, little by little.”

With every thought that races thought your mind, you are continually reinventing yourself and your future. Research indicates that the average person thinks approximately 50,000 thoughts a day. That’s either good or bad news because every thought you think moves you either toward God and faith or away from God and worry. NO thoughts are neutral.

Whatever you think about, will eventually be revealed for everyone to see. What you persistently think about will eventually be brought out in the open by the words you speak and the things you do.

Paul writes in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world (which is to worry about everything), but be transformed (or overcome worry) by the renewing of you mind (or getting a handle on your thought life.”

Thinking, talking and worrying about what you don’t want can never bring you what you do want.

Proverbs 23:7, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

So important, listen to me, as hard as you might try, you cannot think one thing and experience something else.

We live in a society and culture in America that is bent on highlighting what is wrong with just about everything. In America, people make a living focusing on the negative. And that kind of culture unfortunately has made its way into the church.

You can’t think critically about your spouse, even if you believe it is warranted and reap true intimacy

You can’t think critically about the church, even if you believe it is warranted and reap true intimacy with God.

Some men and women are constantly harping about their spouses.

Some church goers walk out of Sunday morning services like Broadway critics, discussing what they did and did not like rather than considering what God was trying to say to them.

You cannot think negatively and live positively any more than you can plant apple seeds and expect to harvest oranges.

Each moment, each thought can be a new beginning. You can come to these altars today and start afresh in saying, “Father, I am going to have faith in you. I am going to give you my worries and my fears and from this day forward I am going to trust in you.”

That is a moment by moment decision and most certainly a daily decision in our lives. Am I going to trust in God or not?

Negative fearful thought do not come from God. If you are thinking fearful, worried, tiring thoughts it is not from God.

If a thought leads you to feel like a victim instead of a victor it is not from God. Paul writes, “Thanks be to God. He gives us the victory though our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Focus on the father and not your fears today

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

Had Thanksgiving dinner with my family in Springfield at a special buffet.  The food was terrific, but I still missed the Thanksgiving meal that Debbie makes.  Check out the picture of her and I to the right.  She is my best friend.

Seeing my 96 year old grandmother - wonderful.

Sitting next to her and talking with her - special.

Listening to her playing the hymns of the church - priceless.

Becky got back from South Africa yesterday - and gave us a great report of how God used their entire missions team in ministry.

I am thankful she came back safely.  I love her.

One highlight for her was eating a typical South African meal.  I wish I would have been there.

Missed Christie, Andrew and Georgia at Thanksgiving - but I know they had a great time.  I love them a lot.

Here is a picture of Georgia and me.  It is my favorite.

Drove around Springfield with my brother and dad and told stories of when I was in elementary school, junior high and high school.  Great memories.

"Mission village" (Missionary housing), where we lived for five years, has now been completely torn down.  It reemphasized to me that nothing lasts forever.

Thanksgiving day - food, football (the Cowboys lost - again), fun, fellowship and the Father - great stuff.

An absolutely powerful service yesterday (in both services).  Great time of worship.  God was present.  People seeking God around the altars.  As a pastor, that warms my heart. 

Looking forward to times of prayer and fasting next year.

Lots of guests in our services yesterday.

Great to be away for a couple of days - great to be home.

I love my mom and dad

I love my son.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanking God in advance

Philippians 4:6 states, "In all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking Him with a thankful heart." 

What Paul is saying is that we should thank God while we are asking, not just after the answer comes.  We should thank God not just after the answer comes but while we are asking.

Here's a sample prayer that shows this:  "Thank you, Lord, that you've already provided for so many of my needs.  I thank you for what you have provided in the past and what you are going to provide in the future.  Here is what I need right now."

It's a Biblical principle: 

I am to thank God before He brings the answer.
I am to thank God before He brings the solution.
I am to thank God before He brings the miracle I so desperately need.

"Thank you God that the answer is coming!"

"Thank you God that the solution is already there"!

"Thank you God that for the miracle that is already present!"

Here's what I know:

Thanksgiving is not just looking back on the blessings you have received in the past.  Thanksgiving is looking forward to the blessings you can receive as you come before God with faith and thank Him in advance.

We as Spirit-filled believers are to give thanks to God on a continual basis.  It should be like breathing, and how long could you survive if you breathed only once in a while? 

In 2 Chronicles 20, we find King Jehoshaphat facing serious trouble.

The Bible tells us in chapter 20:2, "A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the sea."  And then in chapter 20:12, "O our God (this is Jehoshaphat praying), will you not judge them?  For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you."  And finally in chapter 20:21, "After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:  "Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endure forever." 

As they went out to face this huge army, they gave thanks to God.  And the enemy of Israel was completely destroyed.

Let's give thanks today!

In fact, for the next two days, I would encourage you to pause and thank God for his blessings.  For the next two days, I encourage you to pause and say, "Lord, I thank  you."  Then name something that you thank him for.  And receive!

Have a great, happy, safe and blessed Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thoughts from the weekend

We had a great men's life group last Saturday.  Great group of guys.  I think that sometimes, I am learning more from them than them from me.

My wife and I are best friends.

Saw the movie, "Unstoppable."  90 minutes of non-stop action.  It's incredible what some people can do under duress. 

Vulnerability creates vulnerability.  I shared my story yesterday (through all the tears) of how God healed me 20 years ago.  After the two services, however, I was exhausted.  So much emotion.

I am thankful that it has been 20 years since I was sick.  20 years being infection free from "Valley Fever".

I love our church. 

I love the people in our church.

I am grateful for the fact that we have a church family that cares about other people.

Our church family is beginning to feel like our new facility is our church home.  It has taken time.

I underestimated how hard the transition would be on some.

I will do better next time about leading our church through the transition (when we build our sanctuary).

I enjoy dialoguing with people about their "suggestions," given in the suggestion box.  Dialogue is good and healthy.

The Dallas Cowboys won again yesterday - but - too little - too late.

Great life group last night.  Had two new people; Tom and Gina.  Wonderful folks.  I love my life group.

Looking forward to Thanksgiving this year.  Food, Fun, Football, Fellowship, and of course, thanking the Father for the many blessings he has bestowed upon us.

Perused the blog site of the mission's trip that Becky is on in South Africa.  God is really using them - and it looks like they are having a lot of fun at the same time.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Turning our weakness into a strength

If there is one benefit of growing older is that you become aware of your weaknesses and are at peace with them.  In fact, you learn (and I am still learning) that God take take our weaknesses and turn them into strengths.

Let's me give you an illustration of that. 

One of my weaknesses is that I am very aware of what people are thinking, saying or projecting when I am with them.  That's a weakness in that sometimes I am either A) Wrong about what they are thinking or B) So sensitive to what they are thinking or saying that I am bothered more by it than they are.

God, however, over the years has used that as a strength in that I can be aware of when people are hurting and are in need of prayer.

We don't like to admit our weakness do we.

One author writes, "It's the most dreaded question of the job interview, and when the time comes, you can't seem to push the words out of your mouth. "Tell me," the interviewer asks, "what's your greatest weakness?" How do you answer that question? If you don't come up with something, you sound arrogant, but if you come clean with your weakness, they might not hire you.

He goes on to write, ", the job search website, describes a variety of strategies for answering that question. One approach is to disguise your weakness as strength. For example, you might say, "I'm such a perfectionist I sometimes expect too much of myself or others."

Another strategy is to minimize your weakness by explaining how you've already overcome it: "I can be a very task-oriented person, but I've learned that working with people is the most effective way to accomplish a goal."

A third strategy is to share a real weakness, but make sure it is completely irrelevant to the position. If you're applying for an accounting position, for example, you don't want to admit that you're not a detail person.

Maybe you heard about the manager being interviewed for a new position. "My department has turned a profit every quarter for the past five years," the candidate says. "I've never had a personnel problem, and I've always gotten superior performance reviews."

"Very impressive," the interviewer replied. "And what's your greatest weakness?"

"I tend to exaggerate."

Revealing our weaknesses is one of the last things in the world we want to do, whether we're looking for a job, pursuing a relationship, or just talking to friends. We don't like to admit our weaknesses to ourselves, let alone to other people.

That's why we stack our resumes with degrees earned, awards received, and professional accomplishments. There's no heading for "Weaknesses and Liabilities" on most resumes.

If you're placing an ad in the personals section of a newspaper, you're probably not going to lead with, "Neurotic, out-of shape slacker looking for a relationship that will last longer than my previous three marriages."

So who are we kidding? We know we have weaknesses, and so does everyone else.

After all, we're only jars of clay. We're not designer vases made of fine china to be admired from a distance. We're not stainless steel pots that never scratch, rust, or dent. We're ordinary, fragile, imperfect vessels that happen to be carrying within us a treasure called the life of Christ.

As long as we have that life within us, we are unbreakable, even in the face of hardship, heartache, and need. Every clay pot comes with weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and imperfections. But we don't have to deny or disguise those weaknesses or dismiss them as insignificant. On the contrary, we can own our weaknesses and allow God to turn them into strengths.

Finally, let's imagine that a pastoral search committee received a cover letter from a candidate that read like this:

I should like to apply for the pastoral vacancy you advertised. I have many qualifications that I think you would appreciate. I'm a good organizer, and I have been a leader most places I've gone. I have been able to preach with power, though people say I am not terribly eloquent. I've done some writing, but some people have found my letters hard to understand, and I'm the first to admit my handwriting is barely legible.

I'm over 50 years old. I have never preached in one place for more than three years at a time, and most of the churches I've served have been small. In some places, my ministry has led to riots and disturbances, and I've been jailed on several occasions—unjustly, of course. My health is not good, but I get quite a bit done and have a good work ethic. I generally work well with people, but I have been known to knock heads with colleagues and have found that there are some people I simply can't work with. I'm pretty good with names, but have been known to forget who I've baptized. I don't have a permanent address, but I will do my best to keep in touch."

You might say, "well, there's one candidate that we don't need to contact or pursue any further."

In saying that, you would be turning down none other than Paul the Apostle - the greatest Christian who has ever lived.

So....let God turn your weaknesses into strengths today.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

true happiness

Are you happy?  I mean really happy?

And what would bring you happiness?

On Sunday morning, November 28th I am going to talk about this.

What would truly, absolutely make you happy?

Come that day and I will tell you what will.

Here's what I know - I know what will not ultimately make us happy.  More things.

John Ortberg writes:

"When you buy your kid a Happy Meal, you're not just buying fries, McNuggets, and a toy; you're buying happiness. Their advertisements have convinced my children they have a little McDonald-shaped vacuum in their souls: "Our hearts are restless till they find their rest in a Happy Meal."

The problem with the Happy Meal is that the happy wears off, and they need a new fix. No child discovers lasting happiness in just one: "Remember that Happy Meal? What great joy I found there!"

Happy Meals bring happiness only to McDonalds. You ever wonder why Ronald McDonald wears that grin? Twenty billion Happy Meals, that's why."

Ortberg finishes this idea by saying, "When you get older, you don't get any smarter; your happy meals just get more expensive."

What's the last Happy Meal you bought for yourself? A car? Some clothes? A house? A spouse? How long did it last? No matter how hard we try, or how much we spend, as long as we live with a happy meal mentality, happiness will elude us.

Ortberg paraphrased a familiar quote by St. Augustine: "Our hearts are restless till they find rest in thee." Or as David said it, "My soul finds rest in God alone..." (Psalm 62:1)

Take a moment today to think about your next Happy Meal. Instead of pursuing one more thing, one more possession, one more acquisition - instead of striving for bigger numbers or better money or more praise directed your way  - spend a few minutes alone with the God who loves you, and let his presence in your life satisfy you (that's a hint as to what I will share a week from Sunday).

Isaiah 55:2 tells us, "Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Asking for prayer

One of my daughters, Becky, is traveling to South Africa this Friday on a missions trip with her church.  I would ask that you join me in prayer for her and her team - that they will have a profitable time of ministry, and safe travel.

I just read that they will be renovating a church/school (painting, roofing, cleanup), providing "meals on wheels' and holding services in some of the churches there.

Great stuff.

You know, I really do believe in prayer.  Especially as I pray for my kids.  And....I encourage you to pray for your kids on a daily basis.

One of the things I do is to "plead the blood" over my children.

Now I know that might sound a little bit gruesome to those who don't understand that I am speaking of the fact that because of what Jesus Christ has done on the cross - and his blood that was split - because of His sacrifice - I can come to God and ask God, through His Son Jesus - to protect my children.

(I just read that sentence - lots there).

Let me give you a biblical example of this:  Job was a righteous man (The Bible describes him as blameless and upright).  He feared God and shunned evil.

He has seven sons and three daughters.

The Bible says in Job 1:4:  "His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.  When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified.  Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them thinking, "perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts."  This was Job's regular custom."

He sacrificed a burnt offering.  In New Testament concepts, he "plead the blood" in prayer over his children.

I encourage you to do the same.

"Father, I pray for Becky today.  I plead your blood over her.  Watch over and protect her.  Let this be a life changing experience for her on this missions trip.  Please use her and her team in a powerful way.  May others come to know you in a deeper way.  In your name I pray.  Amen."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thoughts from the week and weekend

Thoughts from the week and weekend:

I spent two days in Grand Rapids with my daughter and granddaughter.  It was a real treat for me.

My granddaughter now calls me "pa pa".  A step up from what she used to call me, which was "nan".  Of course, she can all me anything she wants to call me.

Heart warmer:  when you leave the room and your granddaughter calls for "pa pa".

Christie, my daughter, is a wonderful mother.  A loving mother. 

The result of taking a few days off:  Sleeping and eating a lot = 4 pounds gained.

Debbie and I went to see "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," at Drury Lane.  I love my wife.

It was thrilling to hear yesterday of what God is doing in Cuba and Haiti.  God uses the worst of circumstances to bring about His will of bringing all men and women into a relationship with Him.

Found out that Juarez, Mexico is the most dangerous place on the planet.

Dick Nicholson, who spoke, yesterday, did a great job of sharing what we all need - which is a desire to see "everyone" come to Christ around the world.

The Dallas Cowboys finally won a game (if you follow my blog - you knew I was going to say that).  I finally had a Monday when I wasn't completely depressed.

Jason Garrett could be a good football coach.

Amanda Boon is doing a very, very good job.

We are fasting and praying today about the sale of our Palos Property.

Today is my daughter, Becky's birthday.  I love her very, every much and am very, very proud of her.

Spent part of the morning planning for next year.  I am really excited about what God is going to do!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Next Christians

I am reading a very interesting book entitled, "The Next Christians", by Gabe Lyons.  It's a great read - I encourage everyone to pick it up.

I thought I might blog about it for a few days.....

His thesis is that we are living in a post Christian society and culture.

That the once dominant faith of Christianity in America is on its last legs. 

Signs of this are:

Declining church attendance
Waning political influence
Abysmal public perception of Christians

However, Gabe Lyons is optimistic about the future of Christianity in America.

The next generation of Christians, Lyons argues, embodies six revolutionary characteristics.

He writes: 

"When Christians incorporate these characteristics throughout the fabric of their lives, a fresh yet orthodox way of being Christian springs forth.  The death of yesterday becomes the birth of a great tomorrow.  The end of an era becomes a beautiful new beginning.  In this way, the end of Christian America becomes good news for Christians."

Characteristic number one:

We are to be provoked but not offended.

We don't run away from situations where people are hurting, but we actually run to them in an effort to show and exhibit God's love.

We are to seek out brokenness and offer hope.

The question becomes, "how are we as Christians to react when we are placed in an environment that celebrates sin, overlooks injustice, or tolerates immorality?"

Michale Metzger has said, "When confronted with the corruption of our world - Christians ought to be provoked to engage, not offended and withdrawn."

How refreshing.

That's in contrast to Christians who "tend to remove themselves from potentially harmful situations - citing their disgust of immorality or their pursuit of holiness as the reason", as Gabe Lyons writes.

These Christians condemn, withdraw and boycott.  Lyons writes, "they play the paradoxical role of antagonist instead of other sacrificial pursuer."

He further writes, "when a community is provoked, they assume a proactive posture; when a community is offended, they assume a reactive posture."

And...the reactive posture was not the pattern of Jesus.

What about Zacchaeus (the Bernie Madoff of his day)?  Jesus was drawn to him and even invited himself over to Zacchaeus's house for dinner.

What about the woman at the well?  Jesus proactively stopped and engaged her in conversation.

The Roman Centurion?  The Syrian-Phoenician woman?  The man with Leprosy?  The woman caught in adultery? 

Jesus didn't care how the "religious" people of his day thought about these people, he showed up anyway.

Think about it in this way - the sinners of Jesus day loved Jesus.  They literally followed him everywhere.  They genuinely loved him.

This ticked the Pharisees off.  They couldn't or didn't want to understand how Jesus could associate with such immoral people. 

So do we need a new mindset in the faith today?  Instead of withdrawing, do we need to do just the opposite and seek out ways to reach, interact and minister with those who are lost and dying in our culture and society?

Do we need a new mindset of reaching out to the lost without condemnation, but prayerfully asking the Holy Spirit to provide conviction?

Do we need a new mindset of not fearing exposure to culture's ideas, products, and marketing campaigns, but learning instead to discern good from bad, truth from falsehood?

John writes, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."  John 3:17

What does this practically mean?

It means giving grace instead of judgement.

It means having courage (the courage to reach out) over resting in our own comfort.

It means being faithful to God's call rather than being obsessed with our own reputation.

More to come.....

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Being there

I go to Cardinal Fitness 6 days a week. 

I go there to stay healthy.

But one of the primary reasons why I go to Cardinal Fitness is that it places me in a position of connecting with nonchurched people.

As a pastor, my role is the training of followers of Christ for ministry (Ephesians 4);  yet I never want to become so buried in to that task that I'm not regularly spending time with those who don't know Christ.

I need that kind of connection not only for my spiritual health but emotional sanity as well.

One guy that I meet on a daily basis (at Cardinal Fitness) is a guy whose name is - well, let's just call him Bill (not his real name). 

"Bill" is a good guy, but he does not have a relationship with Jesus.  His language is foul.  He drinks a lot.  He has the typical problems in his life and family that we all face.

"Bill" and I talk regularly.  He knows I am a pastor.  Yet one of the reasons why I think Bill feels free to speak with me is that he knows I am not going to judge him or come down on him in a heavy handed way.

You see, I want to position myself to not only be "Bill's friend," but to be there when he will need a true, spiritual friend the most.  In other words, I want to be there when he needs God.

The names Jerry Falwell and Larry Flynt may provoke strong reactions from some people in our culture. But the following story, shared by Falwell's son Jonathan, describes a moving conversation between the Baptist pastor and the publisher of Hustler magazine.

Years ago, Jonathan traveled with his dad to Florida where the senior Falwell was debating Larry Flynt.

Jonathan recalls:

"Mr. Flynt asked my dad if we could give him a ride back to Lynchburg in my dad's private jet. Dad said yes so we traveled to the airport and boarded a beautiful black and gold Gulfstream III. As we flew to Virginia, I sat across from dad and Mr. Flynt as they had a long conversation about sports, food, politics and other ordinary topics. I was amazed and bewildered because they kept talking like old friends.

After we dropped off Mr. Flynt in Lynchburg, I asked dad, "How come you could sit on that airplane and carry on a conversation with Larry Flynt as if you guys were lifelong buddies? Dad, he's the exact opposite of everything you believe in; he does all of the things you preach against; and yet you were treating him like a member of your own church. Why?"

Dad's response changed my whole outlook on ministry. "Jonathan," he said, "there's going to be a day when Larry is hurting and lonely, and he'll be looking for help and guidance. He is going to pick up the phone and call someone who can help him. I want to earn the right to be that phone call!"

Think of that person whom you come in contact with on a daily basis who does not know Christ.  I would encourage you to continue to be that person's friend.  Who knows?  You might be the one to lead them to Christ. 

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


Where are you focusing your attention?

One of the most powerful, helpful scriptures in the New Testament is found in Hebrews 12:2, "Let us fix our yes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith."

We are to fix, we are to focus on Christ.

I've been thinking about what it means to look to Jesus.

Here's what I know:  to look to Jesus means that we look away from everyone, and everything else, and fix our attention and the inward gaze of our lives on Him alone!

Almost every story of "backsliding" that I have ever heard (people turning away from God) finds its roots in the statement, "I got my eyes off of the Lord, and I got them on people...and people let me down."

Now, you have heard me say many times that we really do need each other.  It's not just "Jesus and me," it is "Jesus and we".

However, people will let you down.  That's a fact.

Every church that I have ever pastored, I have found people who just flat our disappointed me.

People will let us know.

And what makes it even harder is when people close to us let us down.

And....just as hard, is when I let other people down.  That bothers me just as much if not more.

As a pastor, I am called to be holy, but I am also called to be human.

People desire to look up to someone who is an example of holiness.  But they also desire to be close to someone that they can relate to.

The idea is to walk the "tightrope" or balance of striving for holiness but at the same time recognizing that no one is perfect.

So, I will let you down, you will let me down, but there is one person who will never, ever, let us down.  That is Jesus.

The pioneer and perfecter of our faith, the originator, the consummator, the trail blazer, the author, the finisher of our faith.

I would suggest today that we need to look away from everyone and everything else and look to Him!

Some of us are trying to find happiness and meaning in life in relationships, or in our job, or even in our ministry here at the church.

Some of us in our church family are experiencing a lot of hassles, pressures and disappointments in life.  You know a lot about hurt feelings, guilt and broken relationships.

Some of you have been accumulating a long list of gripes.  Things haven't been going right and people around you have let you down.

Will you look away from everyone else, and everything else and right now look to Jesus?

"Father, others have let us down.  We have let others down.  Help us, Lord, to keep our focus on you.  Amen."

Monday, November 01, 2010

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

It's nice to have a complete pastoral team together.

I really enjoyed our worship time together.

"Revelation" is a great worship chorus.

Both my teams lost - and lost bad this weekend:  Michigan State and the Dallas Cowboys.

I can take the Cowboys losing, but not in the manner they are - they have quit on the season.

My wife is a good cook.

Amanda is going to make a great addition to our pastoral team.

I am getting into the habit of eating a donut between services - don't know if that is bad or good.

Heard good news about our ladies missions trip to Guatemala.  Look forward to them sharing.

Enjoyed taking a walk with Debbie on both Saturday and Sunday evenings.

Invited someone from Cardinal Fitness to come to church - they said they would come and didn't.  But I'm going to keep on asking.

Quote from the show, "Blue Bloods."  "Life is not fair - but you can be fair."  It was from a grandfather to his granddaughter.  Great statement.  Even though life might not treat us in a fair way, we can always respond in a way that is fair.

May we all be "fair" this week.......