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Monday, January 31, 2011

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

I'm not given to speaking in a lot of hyperbole, but I really do believe that yesterday could be a "tipping point," for our church. 

The worship was incredible.

God's anointing was there, especially in the second service after I spoke.

Freedom in the spirit as we worship God is a wonderful experience.

I couldn't get away from 2  Samuel 6, and shifted my sermon almost entirely to that passage - and God honored that Holy Spirit led move.

We are so grateful and thankful that Pastor Amanda is with us, leading us not only in song, but in true, spirit-led, anointed worship.

There are songs that we sing that we pray that God will anoint - there are other songs that carry the anointing with them, like the song entitled, "Revelation".

Great to have Drew Centeno with us to work in our children's ministry department.

Debbie and I went and saw the movie, "The Rabbit Hole," with Nicole Kidman.  It's been a while since I have watched such a thoughtful, poignant movie that deals with a difficult subject.  Grief.

Everyone grieves differently.

There is not a "right" or "wrong" way to grieve.

One scene perfectly captures the film's essence. During a mundane household task, Becca asks her mother, whose 30-year-old son died of heroin addiction, if the pain of losing a child ever goes away.

"No," her mother tells her with aching honesty. "It changes. The weight of it. At some point, it becomes bearable, and you forget about it for a while. But it's what you've got instead of your son, so you carry it around."

God is moving in our church - let's all just "hang on" for the ride!

Watched a little bit of the Pro Bowl - BORING.

Looking forward to the seminars (parenting and marriage) this weekend!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Motivating others

I am a self confessed, self-motivator.

I don't need a lot of "bells and whistles" to do what I do in ministry. 

I get up in the morning and go throughout my day knowing that I am walking in God's will, that God will give me the strength to do what I need to do and that at the end of the day, all that counts is that I have done the best that I can.

Because of that, ironically enough, I sometimes find it hard to motivate others.  I have learned that simply being an example is not enough, that people will let me work and work hard, to the point of exhaustion and not become involved.

So, how can we motivate others?

Here's what I know:

1.  We all respond to someone concentrating on our strengths and not our weaknesses.  Everyone has both positive and negative points about them.  It all depends upon what we are looking for.  I try to think the best of everyone and focus on what they can do, their strengths and not on what they can't do or their weaknesses.  If someone believes that I can do anything, I am always amazed at how I will rise to the challenge.

2. We all respond to a celebration of our achievements, however small.  It moves us on to do greater things.  I can go for weeks on one good compliment.  When someone verbalizes or gives me some sort of appreciation, it is like jumping in a cool pool on a hot day.  Or drinking a cup of hot chocolate by the fire on a cold day.  Well, you get the idea.  No one likes to be around someone(s) who only focus in on what they are doing wrong and never on what they are doing right (And I am around people like that every day).

3.  We all respond to sincere praise.  You and I both know what a phony compliment sounds like - you can spot it a mile away.  Sincere praise is almost always specific - it carries substance with it.

4.  We all respond to constructive criticism when it is done in private, and bathed in friendship and love.  No one likes to be reprimanded in public.  We all need those moments where we are allowed to "save face". 

5.  We all respond to someone(s) who make us feel important by:  Listening to what we say.  Asking about our lives, our family, our hobbies, our goals.  I'm around a lot of people who are hearing what I say, but aren't they really listening.

Just some thoughts for a Thursday.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Being like Jesus

When people think of you - do they think, "Jesus"?

When people talk about you - do they talk, "Jesus"?

When people remember you - do they remember, "Jesus"?

In his sermon titled "Think Hard, Stay Humble," Francis Chan told the following story about a man named Vaughn who radiated the love of Christ to everyone around him:

"A few years ago, a missionary came to our church and told a beautiful story about sharing the gospel with a remote tribe in Papua New Guinea. At the end of the story this missionary said, "I should really give the credit to Vaughn, my former youth pastor who loved me and inspired me to live for Christ and share the gospel with others." The next week another guy came to our church and he challenged us to start sponsoring kids living in poverty. The second speaker also concluded by saying, "I'm involved in this ministry because of my youth pastor, a guy named Vaughn." I found out those guys were from the same youth group!

Then the next week another speaker named Dan told us about his ministry at a rescue mission in the inner city of L.A. After Dan's talk, I casually mentioned, "It was so weird: the last two weeks both of our speakers mentioned how much impact their youth pastor, Vaughn, had on them."

Dan looked surprised and then he told me, "I know Vaughn. He's a pastor in San Diego now, and he takes people into the dumps in Tijuana where kids are picking through the garbage. I was just with Vaughn in Tijuana. We would walk in the city, and these kids would run up to him, and he would show such deep love and affection for them. He'd hug them and have gifts and food for them. He'd figure out how to get them showers. Francis, it was eerie: the whole time I was walking with Vaughn, I kept thinking, If Jesus was on earth, I think this is what it would feel like to walk with him. He just loved everyone he ran into, and he would tell them about God. People were just drawn to his love and affection." And then Dan said this, "The day I spent with Vaughn was the closest thing I've ever experienced to walking with Jesus."

Francis Chan concluded:  "Hearing this made me think, Would anyone in their right mind say that about me? Would anyone say that about you? … As I thought about all this, I prayed, "Lord, that's what I want. I don't want to be the best speaker in the world. That doesn't matter. I don't want to be the most intelligent person on the planet. That's not what I want to be known for. I want to be known for someone saying, "Wow, he's a lot like Jesus."

May we all be like Jesus today.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Does God have emotions like people do?

Does God have emotions like people do?

Interesting question.  We are emotional people as God's creatures.  God is emotional.

The Old Testament describes the fact that God takes joy and delight in His people.  He sings with joy over His children.  He is full of love.

The New Testament describes God has compassionate and kind. 

God gets angry - we get angry.

God grieves - we grieve.

God gets jealous - we get jealous.

But here's what I would suggest:  we can't project the intent and result of our human emotions upon God.

Our emotions can be either positive or negative.  God's emotions are always positive.

When people get angry, their anger can become mean spirited and destructive.  God's anger is always righteous.

When people feel rejected or fearful when their love is not returned, God will pour out more love in return.

Our emotions go up and down, God's emotions are the same "yesterday, today and forever." 

God never has a "bad hair day".  God is never moody.  I never have to think, "he loves me," "he loves me not." 

God's emotions are pure.  Our emotions can be tainted by personal agendas and sin.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Like the Apostle Paul, I stood up there on Sunday and spoke about repentance with "much fear and trembling."  It is not a lot of fun to remind us all that we sin and we are in need to repent. 

I preach on repentance with a great deal of humility.

Repentance always comes before the anointing.

I am thankful that our church family responded to the call for repentance - and took it seriously.

No matter how we spin it - sin is still sin - and needs to be taught about.

God is in the midst of doing something "new" and "powerful" in our church.  Right now, it is behind the scenes.  God is preparing our hearts.

God is going throughout the Southland of Chicago, looking for a church upon whom he can trust with His anointing, His power and His might.

My desire is that we be that church.

More of God - less of us.

"Father, set our hearts on fire"!

My condolences to all Chicago Bears fans. 

It's in my job description to always show love and compassion - but I have to say this - Jay Culter committed the unforgivable sin - he quit on his team. 

As Mike Ditka said, "they would have had to carry me off to leave the game."

Great life group leaders meeting yesterday.  I am thankful for a committed, Christ-honoring group of leaders/hosts.

Several of our life groups need to multiply.

For a Dallas Cowboy fan, nothing could be worse than a Packer - Steeler Super Bowl.  It becomes the lesser of two "evils" for me.

However, I am going with the Packers.  Green Bay 31 - Pittsburgh 24.

My uncle Walt died.  May he "Rest In Peace."  He was a good guy.

I am looking forward to Sunday morning......and it is only Monday!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Walking in God's authority

God gives us His power through the Holy Spirit.  I am thankful for that.

But God also gives us His authority to use that power.

I am a believer in Jesus Christ.

Jesus dwells or lives in me (for which I am grateful).

Jesus has all authority.

Therefore, as a believer in Jesus Christ, I can walk in that spiritual authority.

Know this:  This is the very thing that the enemy wants from your life - your spiritual authority.  If he can get you to yield your God-given authority, he will take it and not only rob you of that authority, but use it against you. 

Your spiritual authority can be lost or stolen. 

Look at Judas Iscariot.

Jesus ascends to heaven, the disciples pray. 

What does Judas do?  Judas permanently loses his spiritual authority by his sin, his transgression (read about it in Acts 1:16,17 - and Peter's commentary on this in Acts 1:20,21).

This is the primary way that the enemy knocks people out of their spiritual authority. 

With sin. 

And here's the deal - the enemy will always go after the "head" and not the "tail" as he purposes to destroy.

That's why if the enemy goes after a marriage, he will go after the husband, who should be walking in his spiritual authority as the spiritual leader of his home.

If the enemy wants to go after a family, he will go after mom and dad.

If the enemy wants to go after a church, his primary target is the leadership of that church.

As one author put it, "when Satan knocks the keeper of a house out of his position, all those under his care are vulnerable."

When we sin, we yield our place in the spirit.  We might even still be filled with God's power, but we lose the ability to use that power in an effective way. 

But here's the good news.  Your spiritual authority can be restored.

Your spiritual authority can be renewed.  You can rise us like Caleb in the Old Testament and say, "Give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke.  It belongs to me - not you you."

Don't be intimated by the enemy any longer.

Walk in humility

Confess sin.


Receive forgiveness.

And receive not only spiritual power but spiritual authority - that authority that is needed in prayer, in leadership, in living the Christian life!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Being Spirit filled

I've always had an uneasy relationship with the Assemblies of God doctrine of tongues as the initial physical evidence of the Holy Spirit.

Don't get me wrong, I believe in it - and I teach it.

It is the main distinctive of our Assemblies of God denomination.

I think one of my main concerns with the doctrine and practice is this:

Being baptized in the Holy Spirit with the initial physical evidence of the Holy Spirit is not the END of a deeper and fuller relationship with God but the BEGINNING.

It is not meant to be a badge that we wear to show that we are somehow a "better" Christian than anyone else.

It is not meant to be a sign that we are "first class" Christians and everyone else is a "second class" Christian.  Not at all.

It is an empowerment for life and service. 

However, here's where my uneasiness comes in.  There must always be a connection between what we believe and what we practice.

While we practice the gifts - how are they affecting our lives?

Are they making a difference in how we behave and how we treat one another?  Some of the meanest and nastiest Christians I know are "Spirit filled" Christians.

Here's the challenge.  Let's continue to emphasis the baptism of the Holy Spirit - with tongues as the entryway to that baptism.  But at the same time, let's not stop there.  Let's let that baptism infiltrate our entire lives that we are not only exhibiting the gifts of the spirit but the fruit of the spirit as well - Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My value in Christ

Debbie and I were channeling surfing other day on the television (or I should say I was) and we stopped and dwelled for about 10 minutes on the 1964 film "Goldfinger."  One of the great, early, James Bond movies.  My opinion?  Sean Connery was the best.

For that movie, James Bond drove a 1964 Aston Martin.  Beautiful car.

I read the other day that the car recently sold for $4.6 million.

It is the same car as they used in the movie.

Why did the car sell for 4.6 million? This Aston Martin was driven by James Bond.

The car has some pretty cool features: guns that poke through the tail lights, a license plate that rotates, and best of all, a passenger seat capable of ejecting its occupant.

None of these features actually work, however.

But this is a car from the James Bond movies, and more specifically, it was driven by Sean Connery as James Bond. Although it is a cool car, the value is not in the car itself. The value is in who drove the car.

As believers, our value in us is God, who takes residence in us.

We are reminded in 2 Corinthians 4:7, "We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves."

Know that as a child of God, you are worth something.  God created you as a person of value. 

No matter what everyone is saying around you - you are important to God.

Why not repeat after me, "In Jesus Christ, I am somebody"!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I deeply appreciated the moving of the Holy Spirit in yesterday's services.  A powerful, powerful sense of God's presence.

We need the anointing!

I am excited about the way our worship is headed.  Truly we are learning to become worshippers! 

There is such a huge difference between "singing songs" and "worshipping God." 

Our choir did a fantastic job in the first service of helping to "lead in worship."

There is a difference between being a worshipper and leading in worshipper.

A good worship leader worships God. 

A great worship leader worships God AND leads in worship.

Deep down inside, I believe people are hungry for a deeper walk with God.

I am thankful for everyone's prayers last week as I was sick.

Last week was our week of prayer and fasting - with a special emphasis on praying for the sick.  Great man of faith that I am - I got sick.  In bed for several days.  Slept a lot.  Chills, fever, upper respiratory. 

Yet, I was able to recover enough yesterday to speak. 

We continue to fast and pray.

"Da Bears".  Chicago versus Green Bay next Sunday at 2:00 P.M.  It will be an historic meeting.

My Super Bowl pick?  It's been a wild and crazy year.

I would like to see the Chicago Bears (I'm going to be a "homer" here) versus the New York Jets.  That would be a great game with a lot of colorful personalities.

Every time I am sick - I am reminded of how thankful I am for health.

Great life group last night.  John Hiller does a fantastic job in leading us.

Francis Chan is "cool".  Steve McQueen cool.

I sense God is going to do something great in our church this year - I don't know what - but I am "on the lookout." 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It really does matter what you believe

We live in a day an age where experience is at the front burner of our relationship and connection with God.  And rightly so, I might add.

God is more than a philosophy or theology.  God is more than a concept to debate.  God is a person, a deity that we relate to on a daily basis.

Some people have to see in order to believe.  I understand that.  I choose to believe and than to see. 

However, let me say this - it really does matter what you believe.  Our beliefs are the foundation of our experience with God. 

I read this today:

"During a recent trip to Portland, Oregon, noted atheist Christopher Hitchens laid down some seriously good theology. Most people recognize Hitchens as the author of the bestselling book God Is Not Great: Why Religion Poisons Everything. Since the book's publication in 2007, Hitchens has toured the country debating a series of religious leaders, including some well-known evangelical thinkers.

In Portland he was interviewed by Unitarian minister Marilyn Sewell. The entire transcript of the interview has been posted online. The following exchange took place near the start of the interview:

Sewell: "The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I'm a liberal Christian, and I don't take the stories from the Scripture literally. I don't believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make any distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?"

Hitchens: "I would say that if you don't believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you're really not in any meaningful sense a Christian."

Sewell wanted no part of that discussion so her next words are, "Let me go someplace else."

This little snippet demonstrates an important point about religious "God-talk."

You can call yourself anything you like, but if you don't believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross for our sins and then rose from the dead, you are not "in any meaningful sense" a Christian.

Talk about nailing it.

In one of the delicious ironies of our time, an outspoken atheist grasps the central tenet of Christianity better than many Christians do. What you believe about Jesus Christ really does make a difference."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I had fun watching our Teen Bible Quizzer's quiz.  They did just great.  I loved their dedication to the word of God.  Also, thank you coaches for your help!

We have a great group of kids in our youth group.

Robert Madu - powerful messages both Saturday evening and Sunday morning.  I loved the seasons, days and years thought. 

"We will have a great year," Robert shared with us, "when we live each day with the knowledge that we are in a specific season directed by God."

And...of course....Robert combines his usual godly insights with humor.  Tremendous stuff!

Worship Sunday morning:  I felt (both spiritually and emotionally) God's presence in both services, but especially during the second service. 

We are just on the verge of a great move of God. 

God wants to do a "new thing" in our midst.

George, my son, left for Evangel University today.  Last semester of college.  That is hard to believe.  It seems like yesterday that we were dropping him off.  Going to miss him around the house.

I am looking forward to our times of fasting and prayer this week.

Please be open to what God has for your life!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

What good is God?

Over the holidays, I picked up a book by Philip Yancey entitled, "What Good is God?"

In his book, Yancey illustrates what it is like to build upon the rock by hearing and keeping the words of Jesus.

Yancey wrote about the 2004 Ukraine election in which the reformer Victor Yushchenko challenged the entrenched party and nearly died for it. On election-day the exit polls showed Yushchenko with a comfortable lead, but through outright fraud, the government had reversed those results.

He writes:

That evening the state-run television reported, "Ladies and gentlemen, we announce that the challenger Victor Yushchenko has been decisively defeated."

However, government authorities had not taken into account one feature of Ukrainian television, the translation it provides for the hearing-impaired. On the small screen insert in the lower right-hand corner of the television screen a brave woman raised by deaf-mute parents gave a different message in sign language.

"I am addressing all the deaf citizens of Ukraine. Don't believe what they say. They are lying, and I am ashamed to translate these lies. Yushchnko is our President!" No one in the studio understood her radical sign-language message.

Inspired by that courageous translator, deaf people led what became known as the Orange Revolution.

Yancey continues:

They text-messaged their friends on mobile phones about the fraudulent elections, and soon other journalists took courage … and likewise refused to broadcast the party line.

Over the next few weeks as many as a million people wearing orange flooded the capital city of Kiev to demand new elections. The government finally buckled under the pressure, consenting to new elections, and this time Yushchenko emerged as the undisputed winner.

Yancey makes the following point:

Our society is hardly unique … like the sign language translator in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, along comes a person named Jesus who says in effect, "Don't believe the big screen—they're lying. It's the poor who are blessed, not the rich. Mourners are blessed too, as well as those who hunger and thirst, and the persecuted. Those who go through life thinking they're on top will end up on the bottom. And those who go through life feeling they're at the very bottom will end up on top. After all, what does it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose his soul?"

Great stuff.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Leading of the Spirit in two dimensions

Here's what I know:

The Spirit is always leading us in two dimension simultaneously (or should be).

He is always leading us into a deeper walk with Him.

The desire of the Holy Spirit is to make us more spiritual, more godly, more like Jesus.  I really believe that as we mature in our faith, God is more concerned about the fruit of the spirit than he is the gifts of the Spirit in our lives.

The deeper things of God are not about spooky spirituality or being smarter or holier than the next person.  But to create change in our lives.

We all can grow deeper in God.  In fact, the moment we stop growing it the moment we start plateauing and the moment we start plateauing is the moment we start going backwards in our faith.

But there is a second dimension as well. 

At the same time that we are maturing in our faith as the Spirit leads us deeper into Him, the Holy Spirit leads us out into the world because God loves the world. 

That wonderful, classic verse found in John 3:16 is so true, "for God so loved the world that he sent His only Son....."

Jesus tells us to go into the world as well, but he also instructs us to not go into the world until the Spirit comes upon us.  Acts 1:4 tells us to wait until the Spirit "comes upon us," and then we will be empowered.

One of my favorite songs from the past is, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus."

The words go something like this:  "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace."

In one sense that is completely true.  As we turn toward Jesus, the garbage of this world has less of an attraction for us.  But there is another side to this.

As we turn toward Jesus, and grow deeper in His Spirit, the world becomes MORE prominent to us - and the reality that we have a responsibility to reach the world with the good news.

A true moving of the Holy Spirit is not just what happens around the "altars" on a Sunday morning or Wednesday evening, but what happens in a pagan world as we share our faith in Jesus Christ.

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

2011 and our church goals

The past few days, the Holy Spirit has been leading me to give us as a church family four specific goals for 2011. Four goals that will challenge us and propel us into the future.

Goal number one: My desire is that we draw closer to God. More than anything else, I am envisioning extended times of anointed worship with signs and wonders following. Our time of fasting and prayer should help facilitate this.

Goal number two: My desire is that we see nonchurched people come to Christ. We each have someone(s) in our lives who do not know Christ. We encourage you to bring a friend/family member to a church event(s) this coming year.

Goal number three: My desire is that we have a 100% participation in ministry. We are saved to serve – not to sit. We are called to put into practice that which we are learning. We ask that you prayerfully consider joining a ministry in the church.

Goal number four: My desire is that we see our life groups multiplying. If your life group has been together 18 months or more, please consider starting another group.

Will you join me? I am extremely excited for what 2011 holds for us!

Monday, January 03, 2011

Thoughts from my vacation

Thoughts from my vacation:

It's great to spend time with family.

One of my favorite moments during the holiday season:  Watching my granddaughter, Georgia eating her first ice cream cone.  No instruction needed.  It was gone in minutes.  I loved it!  Chocolate of course.

Celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary.  Dinner out - fantastic.  Being with Debbie for 30 years - priceless.

Favorite movie that we saw - True Grit.  Loved the action and the acting.  The young lady who played the 14 year old girl in the movie (Maddie) showed many different layers of emotion and personality.

Another favorite moment:  watching my family opening their Christmas gifts.

Went and saw the musical, "Million Dollar Quartet."  Fun stuff.  Great music.  It's interesting as to the spiritual, Christian, church roots that Elvis, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis had.  At that one setting, along with Carl Perkins, they basically sat around singing church hymns.

Another favorite moment:  Eating Christmas dinner.  Debbie did her exceptional fantastic job again.

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

I am proud of all three of my children (and Andrew also). 

When all is said and done, outside of my relationship with Christ, family is the most important thing in my life.

And....the big announcement....are you ready?  Christie, my oldest daughter is pregnant again!  They are expecting child number two - our second grandchild.  Just call me "grandpa"....or "papa".....