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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Speaking of age and new things

Speaking of age - there is never a time when we are too "old" to start something new.

Just this past week, I bought a Joe Bonamassa CD, trying to gain a new appreciation for Blues music.

I really like trying new things, going to new places, eating at new restaurants.

It is never too old to try something new.

On December 9, 1914, fire swept through the factories owned by Thomas Edison in West Orange, New Jersey. The damage totaled millions of dollars. Practically everything of Edison's was destroyed, including journals and records of works in progress.

Edison was not a young man at the time this happened. Many people sent condolences and notes of sympathy, expecting that this tragedy would prompt his retirement.

Edison's response? "I am 67, but I'm not too old to make a fresh start."

It's not too late for your fresh start, either. It doesn't matter how old you are. Neither does it matter how much you have lost in the fires of the past. Today is a new day, a fresh start is yours for the taking.

My own father started a new ministry while in his early 70's.

My grandmother received her master's degree in education when she was in her early 50's and taught third grade at Fair Grove Elementary school for years. wife has already instructed me that I can never, ever retire (I have too much energy).

But this blog isn't ultimately about age. It's about change. It's about never losing the capacity to start a new chapter in your life...regardless of how the last chapter may have ended.

The new year is coming - a great season in our lives to focus on the future.

The Bible tells us in Isaiah 43:18,19, "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?"

I would suggest that God is ready to do something new in your life, to give you a fresh start.

He has forgotten the former things and you can, too. The new creation will be springing up soon. Do you perceive it? Do you receive it?

Why not be praying in the next couple of week about the "new thing" that God wants to do in you and through you?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Getting older

I was told by a friend the other day that I am in denial about my age.

That might be true. 

I don't "feel" 54 (and Debbie would tell you that most of the time I don't act it either).

Here's a quick story:

Debbie and I were talking last night about the fact that some of our "seniors" at Stone Church are complaining that the sidewalks aren’t cleared off enough, that there is too much ice and snow.

Debbie suggested, “Maybe we should have someone out there helping people 55 and older get into the church from their cars.”

I said, “I am going to be 55 this next year.”

She quickly upped it to 70.

It's like the old cliche - we are only as old as we feel.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Miracles in the midst of ruts

As I grow older, I have more and more respect for those who walk through life with a positive and godly attitude.  Those who avoid grumbling, complaining and criticizing their way through life.

I am learning that while crisis events can make or break us (and cause us to be bitter or better), it is the "dailyness" of life that can tug our lives either upward or downward, both emotionally and spiritually.

Sometimes we walk through the "Groundhog Days" of life (after the movie where the main character, Bill Murray, wakes up at the same time every day, the day never changing), where we feel like we are doing the same thing over and over again.  We can fall into ruts that are difficult to get out of.

Think about people who find themselves in religious ruts.

They discover a number of things about themselves.

They will find that they are getting older but not getting any holier.

Time is their enemy, not their friend.

The time they trusted and looked to is betraying them, for they often said to themselves, "The passing of time will help me. I know some good old saints, so as I get older I'll get holier and better. Time will help me, purify me and revive me."

They said that the year before last, but they were not helped any last year. Time betrayed them. They were not any better last year than they had been the year before.

There's an ancient proverb that says "The miracle is not to fly in the air, or to walk on the water, but to walk on the earth."

As a Christian who believes in the supernatural, I have witnessed signs and wonders at different times in my life.  I have seen miraculous healings.  I have experienced God giving miraculous help in time of financial need.  I have watched as God has intervened in a supernatural way.

I believe in the miraculous. 

I believe that one of the greatest miracles is a changed life.  The way that God takes a broken and beat up person, and puts their life back together.

But I also believe that miracles are all around us.  The sun rising and setting is a creation miracle of God.  The very breath that you are taking right now is a miracle of God. 

The very fact that I am alive is a miracle of God. 

And perhaps, just perhaps, the greatest miracle is that God can give us the power to live.  The power to walk on this planet in victory day after day with a positive, godly attitude - in the midst of the "dailyness" of life, in the midst of our emotional and spiritual ruts and routine.

Just a thought for a Tuesday........

Monday, December 13, 2010

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

God has a "sense of humor".  I shared last week in my sermon on worry that whenever winter comes, I worry about it snowing on Saturday and Sunday.  And sure enough.....the weather forecast for this past Saturday and Sunday was for snow.  I worried all week (and prayed).

In spite of the crummy weather, we had a fairly good crowd yesterday.  For that I am grateful. 

We had several first time visitors, including two or three new families.  Go figure. 

It is exciting to see new people coming.

God moved yesterday.  Thank you, Lord.

Several people "raised their hands" signifying that they were recommitting their lives to Christ.

Motivating volunteers is a continual challenge.  I am thankful for those in our church who are faithful, Sunday after Sunday.

I can't wait to see my kids (and grandchild) at Christmas.

Debbie and I watched the last half hour of "It's A Wonderful Life."  The emotional ending always seems to sneak up on me - no matter how many times I have seen it.  I have seen it so many times, I can almost quote each line before they say it.

"Da Bears."  Well, what can I was over at halftime.

I am looking forward to our time of prayer and fasting next month.  I am anticipating and praying for a wonderful move of God!

Somehow, someway, I need to do a better job at casting vision in our church in seeing our focus shift not only from ministries that meet the needs of our church family, but also the needs of the unchurched.

I am looking forward to this Sunday. 

Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of working for you.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The process of forgiveness

Here what I know - when I forgive; I forgive in a point of time (called a crisis) - but the total act of forgiveness is a process.

First of all there is the crisis.

The first step is to see my unforgiveness as sin.

I have to stop explaining it, defending it, holding on to it, cherishing it, or reviewing it. I have got to say, ‘I don’t want this for my life. I choose to forgive. My deep desire for God’s forgiveness outweighs any desire to hold on to unforgiveness.”

Then there is the process.

That means on Sunday, when I see that person at church who said or did that hurtful thing to me, my injury is going to come back to my mind.

I’ve got to promise mself that I won’t bring it up to them, I won’t bring it up to other people, and, by far the hardest, and I won’t bring it up to myself.

I won’t review it; I won’t get myself worked up about it.

I won’t let it roll around in my mind.

In the crisis, I decide I will forgive them; in the process, I live out my choice not to demand payment for the pain that they caused me.

Here’s what I want to say: when you fail in the process, you have to return to the crisis.

It is tough to let go of our feelings of pain and hurt.

In fact, in all probability, we are going to fail at completely letting go at first. The memories are too strong, too powerful to completely let go and they will suddenly come out of nowhere. And we find ourselves back at square one.

Satan will plant a thought inside your mind, and you will stand in the shower for 45 minutes staring straight ahead, caught in the negative mental loop.

We failed in the process. So what do we do? We go back to the crisis. We get before the Lord and pray, “God, forgive me. I want to be a forgiving person, and here I am holding on to this again, Lord. Help me again. I commit afresh to let it go.”

Crisis/process. Crisis/process. Crisis/process. Over time, with God’s help, you’ll let go of the offense, and God’s mercy will wash over you and give you release. There will come a time when you can think of the person or the pain and it will no longer trigger the old response.

I encourage you today - let it go. 

And remember:  Forgiveness doesn't make the other person right, forgiveness sets you free

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The power of community

As I was driving yesterday, I heard on the radio (and it was a secular station) that in recent studies, people come to church faithfully, not because of doctrine or duty, but because of community.

They come because they feel like they have found a place where they feel welcomed.  Treasured.  Special.  Where they feel like family.

I agree with the results of that study.  In our culture today, most folks I come across are just trying to do the best they can and want to be around people who are like minded.  They want to be around people who are accepting and loving and kind.

In his book "Soul Cravings", Erwin McManus talks about his friend Mick, who has struggled with alcoholism throughout his life. He's been a part of their church for a number of years, and Mick has gone through countless ups and downs, seasons of loss and seasons of victory.

There were many times when McManus thought they had lost Mick for good, but he keeps coming back.

McManus asked him what kept him in their community over the years, in spite of all the great highs and tremendous lows.

Mick said, "Oh, that's easy. There was always a place for me here. No one ever asked me to leave. No matter what I did, no one ever asked me to leave."

McManus then writes:

"There may be no greater proof of God than the power of community.

We are not healthy when we are alone.

We find ourselves as we connect to others.

Without community we don't know who we are."

May we, at Stone Church, continue to be the community he has called us to be.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

It is never too late

Let me share with you this:  when it comes to someone we know, whether it be a loved one or a friend, it is never to late to pray that they will come to Christ, no matter what their situation is, or how hardened their heart is.

One of the people that I really looked up to growing up was Mickey Mantle (as did millions of other little kids).

He played center field for years, replacing the great Joe DiMaggio.

His statistics are staggering—536 home runs, 1,509 RBIs, .298 career batting average, seven world championships, and three MVP awards—and they are all the more impressive when we consider how the Hall of Famer courageously battled chronic, painful injuries during his 18 years with the New York Yankees. In addition, he won the Triple Crown in 1956—a .353 batting average, 52 HRs, and 130 RBIs. In 1961, he hammered 54 homers, just six shy of Babe Ruth's record.

Let me quote to you from a a devotion I read today about Mickey - and how he came to Christ toward the end of his life:

"These numbers pale when compared to what happened in the harsh summer of '95 when his heart took over in that desperate final inning. Faced with an aggressive cancer, he displayed incredible courage, humility, even humor as he battled for his life. And when he chose to drag his frail body in front of a mass of microphones and address the public, there was not a trace of self-pity in his words—only heartfelt pleas to avoid the mistakes he had made. "Don't be like me," he humbly declared, "I'm no role model!" But despite his flaws, Mantle remained a hero to his multitude of fans, and due to his honesty gained many new ones.

At age 19 he left the lead mines of Oklahoma for the bright lights of New York City. Unfortunately, those lights cast an eerie shadow over his life. After Mickey's first season, his father, Mutt Mantle, died of Hodgkin's disease at 40. His grandfather and two of his uncles also succumbed to the same disease before their 40th birthdays. As a result, a growing fear of dying young haunted the budding superstar. He would talk long into the night with his close teammates, confiding to them this nagging fear.

Convinced an early funeral was his inevitable fate, though often joking about it, he played hard and partied even harder. For him there was no tomorrow. Tragically, this attitude led to a 40-year bout with alcohol that caused his body to grow old before its time and clouded his mind. Many criticized his self-destructive lifestyle, saying it sabotaged the greatest combination of power and speed the game had ever seen. In the autumn of his life, Mantle came to agree with those critics, admitting that his drug of choice, alcohol, kept him from reaching his full potential—as a player and as a person. He had learned the hard lesson that a man reaps what he sows.

Finally in 1994, at the urging of his family and friends, Mickey sought help for his addiction. After checking himself into the Betty Ford Center, he was able to win his long battle with the bottle. But he knew something was still missing in his life. He just wasn't sure what it was.

In June of '95, doctors discovered that cancer had destroyed Mantle's liver. He was fortunate to receive a transplant, and for a while it seemed as if the greatest switch hitter of all time would live to fight another day. Then doctors found that cancer remained in his body, and he began chemotherapy. Mickey knew he was facing death. During the All-Star break in Dallas, he picked up the phone and called his old friend and teammate, former Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson—a committed Christian. Mickey asked him to pray for him over the telephone. A few weeks later when doctors had discovered that the cancer had aggressively spread, Mickey's family asked Bobby if he would come visit him. His death was imminent. To honor Mickey's long-standing request—one he had made at the funeral of Roger Maris nine years earlier—Bobby was asked to speak at the funeral.

After entering the hospital room, Richardson went over to Mantle's bed and took his hand. Locking his eyes on him, Bobby said, "Mickey, I love you, and I want you to spend eternity in heaven with me." Mantle smiled and said, "Bobby, I've been wanting to tell you that I have trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior." Faced with the crushing weight of his sin against a holy God and its dire consequence—eternal separation from God—Mickey had asked for and received the forgiveness he so desperately needed. For Richardson, news of his conversion felt like cool rain after a summer drought, and brought tears to his eyes. For years, he had talked to Mickey about the Lord Jesus, but to no avail. Now, in the final inning of his life, the Mick had won his greatest victory—more glorious than any of his tape-measure home runs.

When asked later how he knew he would spend eternity with God in heaven, Mickey, after some reflection, quoted John 3:16 from the Bible: "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."

At Mickey's funeral, Bobby Richardson told 2,000 mourners and a national TV audience that there are only two groups of people: those who say "yes" to Christ and those who say "no." He added that, since none of us knows when he will face his own final inning, saying "maybe" is really saying "no." The Bible confirms this when it says, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him" (John 3:36)."

There is still hope for that person that you love that doesn't know Christ.  I encourage you to keep on praying for them, keeping on asking the Holy Spirit to move in their life, and keep on watching for the right moment to share your faith in Jesus. 


Monday, December 06, 2010

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

Went out to dinner on Friday night with Debbie - how I love that lady!

Had a great men's life group on Saturday.  We talked about feelings of inadequacy in life.  I was deeply impressed and ministered to by how open everyone was.

Taking off our "masks" it difficult, but wonderfully rewarding.

Watched Nikki Boon (Amanda's sister) win 123,000 dollars in college scholarships at the Dr. Pepper halftime challenge (Auburn and South Carolina game).  She did great and now is nationally known.

I teased Amanda yesterday in both services that while Nikki might have one 123,000 dollars in college scholarships - Amanda has us (Stone Church family).

Was interviewed by the Southtown Star (newspaper).  The article with my picture will come out sometime toward the end of the month.

We are never as bad as people say we are - and we are never as good as people say we are. 

In church life - someone is always getting "blessed".

In church life - someone is always upset about something.

I am thankful for our church staff - Aldin, Noah and Amanda.  They are fun to work with.

Life group last night - what can I say?  We had a great time of sharing about fear and worry (which I talked about yesterday morning).  We also ate a breakfast casserole...good job, Debbie!

The Dallas Cowboys won yesterday with a last minute field goal - playing good football.  Alas, too little too late.

The Chicago Bears continue to win.  As they do so, watch for me to jump on the bandwagon.

Ron Santo died - condolences.

Closer to my heart - Don Meredith died yesterday - former quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.  Great quarterback.  Condolences.

I leave you with the quote I ended with yesterday: 

"Every evening, I turn my worries over to God.  He's going to be up all night anyway."  Mary Crowley

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The worship service and spiritual language

One of the things I do is to answer questions that are emailed me - questions pertaining to the Bible, theology and practical Christian living.

I thought I might share one with you today.

I was asked:

"In regards to orderly worship, in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul explains that there should be at most 3 people speaking in tongues at one time, taking turns, and that there must be an interpreter. Obviously, the Pentecostal Church does not necessarily follow this guideline. At Stone there are many times when numerous people are praying out load in tongues. How do we justify this as we are aware of Paul's teachings?"

Here is my response:

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul is speaking of tongues as prophecy. When he writes or teaches about tongues as prophecy (prophecy is the sense of forth telling and not fore telling) he encourages the body of Christ to have at the most three, one at a time, and interpreted each time.

That would be distinguished from tongues as praise. When we, as a congregation, are in the act of corporate praise, than praising God with our spiritual language(s), as a church family is very appropriate and interpretation is not needed.

A disclaimer: Sometimes the lines and distinctions between the two over lap. For instance, tongues as prophecy can include praise. And out of a time of praise (using the gift of tongues as worship) the use of tongues as prophecy can spring forth.

That's why I love worshipping in the Holy Spirit. While there are guidelines, we never know how God is going to move.

May we all enter in to worship this Sunday - and walk in the freedom that He desires for us!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Being a gatekeeper of my mind

Here's what I know (again some thoughts from, "The 4:8 Principle"):  I am the gatekeeper of my mind.

Proverbs 4:23 tells us, "Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life."

Tommy Newberry writes, "those who experience more joy don't necessarily have more to be joyful about; they just think differently."

How can I think differently?

- I must feed myself with positive mental nutrition.

I must watch what I watch.

I must do all things in moderation such as watching T.V. perusing the Internet and reading non-Christian books, etc.  Let's all realize that everything we watch, read or listen to either brings us closer to God or nudges us further away.

- I must start my day with joy

Mayberry encourages us to focus on joy the first 15 minutes after we wake up.  He calls it the, "early morning joy ritual".

What you and I do first thing in the morning sets the emotional tone for the entire rest of the day.

Zig Ziglar once joked with his audience that he wakes up in the morning and reads from his Bible and then the local paper so that he knows what both sides are up to. 

Again, Mayberry encourages us to develop a list of one to three quick things we can do in 15 minutes that are consistent with a joy-filled life. 

That is one of the things that I (George) am going to work on.  I have a tendency to check my emails first thing, and many times those emails present challenges.  I am going to work on checking them after I have had my breakfast and time of prayer.

Let me give you one more quote under this point:  "Your potential for joy is limited only by your preparation for joy."  Great stuff.

- I must seal the day with joy.

I agree with Tommy Newberry when he writes, "the absolute worst time to be negative, to be discouraged, to argue, or to deal with junk is right before bedtime!"

He encourages us to "surrender our subconscious to God."  That's why is prayer can so important as we go to sleep.  Perhaps the old children's prayer for bedtime isn't too far off - "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep."

Dedication your sleep to God. 

Finally, here is a prayer for discernment:

"Father God, Help me to live intentionally, particularly when ti comes to what I read, watch, and listen to on a consistent basis.  Guide me to allow into my soul only those words, sounds, and images that support who you want me to become.  Reveal to me the role I must play in guarding the door of my heart.  Keep me from becoming careless about the inputs of each day and the effect my environment has on my potential.  Because I soak up my surroundings, show me if I have any current exposures that are not pleasing to you, and lead me to make changes so I can experience your presence in a deeper and fuller way.

Inspire me, hour by hour, to fill my mind with everything good.  Remind me that everything counts, and that what I sow, I sooner or later will certainly reap.  In Jesus name, Amen."