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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Overcoming dread

There is a lot to dread out there.

Rising gas prices.

Falling home prices.

Unsteadiness in the middle east.

Crime.  Sickness.  Debt.  Loss of job.

The list goes on and on, doesn't it.

While it is natural to have a sense of uneasiness and anxiety about these things, the Enemy, the Devil, will pile on to what is bringing us down and cause dread in our lives.

He will come at us aggressively and violently. 

Because dread is aggressive, we must use the power available to us as Christian, aggressive Christianity against an aggressive devil.

The word tells us in 1 John 4:4, "Little children, you are of God (you belong to Him) and have (already) defeated and overcome them (the agents of the Antichrist), because he who lives in  you is greater (mightier) than he who is in the world."

I absolutely love that verse.

It is so true - but - we must put that verse into action.  We must draw on that verse.

We must not depend upon our feelings our our flesh, our carnal nature, and we must aggressively come against those evil thoughts and fill our mind with godly thoughts!'t run away from those anxious thoughts (dread), don't deny them or pretend they don't exist, but accept the reality of their presence and turn around and confront them in the name of Jesus and with your God-given anointing!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

God as a hound

Have you ever heard the expression, "God pursues us as a hound from heaven?"

The meaning of that is that in his love for us, Jesus acts like a hound-dog, intense and focused as he pursues the hunt.

I read today that the image comes from Francis Thompson, a 19th century British poet who wrote "The Hound of Heaven." Although Thompson was a follower of Christ, he struggled with poverty, poor health, and an addiction to opium (which in those days was sold as an "over-the-counter" medication).

In the depths of his despair, Thompson described his flight from God: "I fled him, down the nights and down the days. I hid from him, and under running laughter. I sped … from those strong feet that followed, followed after [me]."

But Thompson also knew the unrelenting love of Jesus, the hound of heaven.

In the poem Jesus pursues Thompson with "unhurrying chase, and unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, and majestic instancy [or urgency]." He hears the feet of Jesus beating after him as Jesus calls, "All things betray those who betray me."

I am thankful that God never gives us on me.  That through His Holy Spirit and His Son Jesus Christ, that God continually pursues me with His everlasting love!

Why - I don't know.  But I am very grateful.  How about you?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tips for effective "blended worship"

One of of the realities of our church is that we have "blended worship".  In other words, we try to be transgenerational in our time of praise.

Like anything else, we can sometimes go to either extreme, either extremely traditional or extremely contemporary, but on the whole we attempt to have a worship experience that appeals to everyone.

Of course, all of those terms used to describe worship (traditional, contemporary, blended) can be extremely subjective according to the perception, likes and dislikes of the person (or group) you are talking go.

Just today, I found an article by Philip Nation about leading worship.  I would suggest that every leader involved in a contemporary or blended service should give it some thought. Here's an abbreviate version (you can find the original at

Most of what is written, below, I agree with - some of it I do not.  For instance, point number 5 (below) is to only sing in 4/4 time.  I appreciate all kinds of different tempos as I worship God.

Anyway, use the article as a tool to propel yourself to effective worship at Stone Church.


1. Just sing the song. When you improvise vocally, you confuse everyone.

2. We don’t sing La-La-La. Some songwriters substitute words with Ooh’s, Aah’s, and La’s. It may sound cool on the radio, but it's uncomfortable during worship.

3. Open your eyes. If you keep your eyes closed during the entire music set ... it tells the worshipers that you don’t really care if they are participating or not.

4. Stop singing in the key of "Tomlin." When you lead worship songs in a key only fit for professional singers, most men will simply not sing.

5. We only know 4/4 time. Lead music that we can all sing easily so the focus is on the content of the words and not trying to keep the beat.

6. Plan the transitions. I’m not advocating a mini-sermon between songs, but at least have a plan.

7. Turn up the lights. When the lights are turned down in order to highlight the cool set, Gobo lighting effects, and newest ProPresenter backgrounds, it's difficult to experience the community aspect of worship.

8. Dress like it is worship that matters. Leaders need to contextualize, but only to the point that you blend in with those you are seeking to reach and lead.

9. Love Jesus more than music. All leaders face the temptation to love their work for God more than God Himself. No matter what else happens on the platform, it will be obvious where your passion rests.

Just some thoughts for a Tuesday.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I am thankful for my life group and their prayers.

I like the people in my life group.

Lonna Janel outdid herself with the meal last night.  A combination of corn on the cob, sausage, potato and shrimp kind of thing.  Excellent.

Great time of prayer in our life group - God was present in a powerful way.

I am grateful that the sermon yesterday ministered to many.

God is able to make the impossible - possible.

Mindy's restaurant has good ribs - not great but very good.

Blake Griffin jumping over a car, while being passed the basketball through the sunroof of that same car and slamming it home with a thunderous slam dunk, priceless.

The NBA all star game itself - boring.

In my men's life group, we talked about confidence.

I spontaneously game up with a triangle of principles that help we was men life with confidence.

- Depend upon the Holy Spirit
- Live a life of integrity
- Fill our lives with healthy self talk

We are depending upon God to help us sell our Palos Property.

I am grateful to the many who faithfully come and serve at our church!

Great to see new guests coming to our services!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Losers and God

This past Tuesday evening, I went out and played basketball with some of the teenagers and men of our church.  I had a blast.

As I was driving to the church, I realized that I have been playing basketball for around 44 years. 

It has always been a part of my life.

If there is one thing I know about basketball, is that the major goal is to win.

And win big.

I understand that.  We understand that as Americans. 

General George Patton famously remarked, ”Americans love a winner. America will not tolerate a loser.”

And former Green Bay Packer coach Vince Lombardi once said: “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.”

We all want to be on the winning team, don’t we?

This past Super Bowl, I didn't have a favorite team.  Being a Dallas Cowboy fan, I don't like either the Packers or especially the Steelers.  But the truth is, if I’m watching a sporting event where I don’t already have a favorite team, I’ll pick one of the teams to root for. I just do that automatically. I suppose most people are like that. We like competition, and we like to be on the winning side (I was rooting for the Packers).

But yet, here's what I am learning.  God loves losers.

Yes, he does.

When I say God prefers losers, I mean he prefers people who know their weakness, see their flaws, admit their mistakes, and cry out to him for help.

God specializes in taking losers and displaying his power through them.

Have you ever noticed that all, and I do mean all of the heroes in the Bible had serious flaws?

Why is that?

For one thing, that’s all God has to work with. All the perfect people are in heaven. The only ones on earth are the folks with serious weaknesses. The talent pool has always been pretty thin when it comes to moral perfection. So God works with sinners because that’s all he has to work with. In heaven we will all be perfected by God’s grace. But until then, he uses some pretty ornery people who fall short in many ways, and he does some amazing things through them.

Consider the roll call of God’s imperfect heroes:
Noah got drunk.

Abraham lied about his wife.

Sarah laughed at God.

Jacob was a deceiver.

Moses murdered an Egyptian.

Rahab was a harlot.

Gideon was fearful.

Jephthah made a foolish vow.

Samson had serious problems with lust and anger.

Eli failed as a father.

David was an adulterer and a murderer.

Solomon married foreign wives who turned his heart toward idolatry.

Elijah struggled with depression.

Jonah ran away from God.

Peter denied Christ.

Paul argued with Barnabas.

Barnabas compromised the gospel.

James and John wanted special seats in the kingdom.

All the apostles argued about who was the greatest.

God prefers people who know their weakness, see their flaws, admit their mistakes, and cry out to him for help.

God loves losers - and for that, in all of my own imperfections, I am grateful for today.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

you are needed

Can I share with you something? 

You are needed in the body of Christ.  You are needed at Stone Church.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:27, "All of you form the one body of Christ and each one is a separate and necessary part of it."  Necessary.  You are needed!

Paul  also writes in 1 Corinthians 12:14,15, "For the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body.  If the ear should say, 'because I'm not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body."

Paul is saying that in your physical body, if your foot should say, "I can't do all the things a hand does.  It's so flexible, it's hooked onto that long arm, and it's used all the time.  I can't wiggle my toes like the hand can wiggle the fingers.  I really don't belong in this body."

That's ridiculous.  That doesn't make it any less a part of the body.

The foot is deceiving itself. 

If the ear says, "Because I can't see like an yes, I am not part of the body," the ear is deceiving itself.

Paul is teaching us that if we think of ourselves as a member of the body of Christ and say to ourselves, Because I can't stand up and preach or teach or leading a meeting, there is really nothing I can do," you are deceiving yourself.  You haven't changed reality; you are still a part of the body.  But you have shut your eyes to the truth.  You need to open them to see the part God has given you. 

There are no insignificant members of the body.

Why do we do this?  Why do we think that we have nothing to offer?

Well, part of the reason is this:  We often have the wrong idea about what the work of the church is. 


Don't get me wrong, it is very, very important as to what takes place Sunday morning.  People who lead the meetings, speak and lead in worship have certain gifts; they have to keep everything in order and carry out everything in a helpful way.

But some people in our church family look at them and say, "now that's the work of the church, and I can't do any of those things.  Therefore, I have no part to play in the church."

That isn't the work of the church (in it's entirety) at all.  The work of the church is to heal the brokenhearted in the world, to give deliverance to the captives, to open the eyes of the blind, to reach the good news to the poor and despairing of heart.

That's the work of the church - to encourage and strengthen and help and especially to deliver form the guilt and the loneliness and the misery of sin and to set people free form all bondage of foul tempers and evil habits and all the "stuff" of life.

You see, we don't come to church to fulfill the work of the church here.  We come here to get ready to fulfill the work of the church "out there" using the gifts that God has given us.

So then, with that in mind, there is definitely a part for you to play.  Without exception.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Nothing is impossible

I am beginning a 4 part series on faith this Sunday.

I am so excited about it - I wish it were Sunday today.

Just got through writing down some thoughts that I will share Sunday - but would like to share with you today.  An "excerpt" from my sermon so to speak.

Jeremiah tells us in Jeremiah 32:17:

Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”

Listen to this again, “Nothing is too difficult or hard for you.”

Do you realize that whatever thing or things you’re calling “impossibilities” could be superimposed over what God says is “nothing” to him?


It’s difficult to reconstruct in the English language the full color and impact of the Hebrews words used in this verse.
The best we can do is to say: “no, I absolutely nothing for you is extraordinary or surpassing.”

The text begins with the strongest negative known to the Hebrew language. “No, nothing, absolutely nothing for you, Lord is extraordinary.”

Jeremiah 32:27 tells us, “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”

Look at that last part of that verse a second time. “Is anything too difficult for me?”

God is again asking you to substitute your impossibilities for the word “anything.”

You fill in the blank.
“Is ______________ too difficult for me?”

The implied answer of course is: Absolutely not. Nothing is too difficult for me.”

“Yeah, but you don’t know my situation.”

I don’t have to know your situation. All I need to know, and all you need to know is God.

He is Lord and nothing is too difficult for him.

Your impossible situation may be a marriage that is almost altogether on the rocks.

Or a destroyed romance that’s left you disillusioned.

Or a terrible habit or addition that you can’t conquer.

Or something at your work or career, or at school.

You may be at rock bottom financially. It may be a relationship that is now so trained and pressured that you can’t handle it. If it seems impossible to you – here is the word of the Lord :

Take your hands off. Ask God in absolute faith to take over.

If you know of someone who is walking through an impossible situation, I encourage you to invite them to come this Sunday to our church.  8:30 A.M. or 10:30 A.M.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

God is moving at Stone Church!  I am so grateful for the presence of the Holy Spirit in our services. 

To see people come forward, indicating their desire for more of God - warms my heart. 

God always meets us at the level of our expectations.

After all these years, I am still learning to not ride the wave of people's up's and down's in the faith.  I am still learning that each person is individually responsible for their own walk with God - no matter how much I desire them to walk in maturity and faith.

Nathan David Muchowicz is a beautiful baby boy - it was my privilege to dedicate him yesterday.

Debbie and I had a great Valentine's Day dinner together last Friday.  I can't tell you how much I love her.

Really like the opening number of the Grammy's last night.  5 women with great voices, big voices.  A salute to Arthea Franklin.

I really appreciate people in our church like Don Janis - who "behind the scenes" is serving Christ by driving the van around our parking lot and picking people up.

The political "goings on" in Egypt is an historic event - probably more so than we realize. 

Chicago is a great city to live in.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Better late than never

Have you ever heard the expression, "better late than never"?

That holds true for a lot of things.

A tax refund from the government.
The birth of a child
Winning a football game in overtime
Getting a raise after the first of the year.

Two days ago I received my Hillcrest High School (Springfield, Missouri) 1974 yearbook. 

Here's the story.

In 1972, I left to go to Brussels, Belgium with my family (my parents are missionaries). 

My friends in Springfield, Missouri said that they would send me the yearbooks (for the next two years) from my high school there and have people sign them.

I received my 1973 yearbook the next year.

I received my 1974 yearbook this week.  My friend, Del Ray Guynes) who was "assigned" to send it to me, had put it in with some of his storage things and had forgotten about it.

Again, I received it 37 years later.  "Better late than never".

It was fun reading everything that people wrote to me.

So....just hold on and keep waiting for that which you are waiting for!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

In between times

One of the books on my desk that I have skimmed is a book entitled, "The Land Between: Finding God in Difficult Transitions," by Jeff Manion.  The book discusses how God meets us during wilderness-like in-between times.

I would encourage you to read the book, especially if you are in transition or in between jobs, a marriage, moving to a new house, just had a baby, or had someone pass away in your family.

Here are some miscellaneous thoughts from the book:

• In between times can be difficult, especially when they are prolonged. They bring confusion, discouragement, anger, anxiety, impatience, futility and lack of control.

• Pay attention to how you respond. It is easy to lock into a pattern of embittered complaining, ingratitude, criticism, and rumination on the negative. Impulsive reactions or overreactions can complicate the problem. God rarely responds when we whine or demand that he take action in our timing and on our terms.

• In-between times can grow us spiritually. Hope for the future often is anchored in reminders of God’s goodness and faithfulness in the past. Manion warns, however, that “the Land Between” also can be “the place where faith goes to die.”

• When we look back on transitions we may see that these were training periods when we were thrust into impossible situations to learn trust, patience and dependence on God. We also can learn the limits of our self-sufficiency and experience the need for the support, accountability and wisdom that comes from others.

• Expect that growth may be incremental. “Even if we move forward inch-by-inch, we are moving in the right direction and this incremental progress works to fend off spiritual drift.”

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Praying through

In any relationship that we have in life, there are times of great joy and times of great challenge.

Whether it be a marriage, or a friendship or a relationship at work, you and I will walk through times where we have been hurt, mystified or confused.

What do we do when we are hurting?

We "pray through".

David writes in Psalms 42:4, "These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me.  For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God.  With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival."

4 steps to praying through.

First of all, talk to God honestly about your hurts. 

Tell God how you feel.  Be completely hope and vulnerable with him.  He knows what we are thinking anyway.  "God, this is what is going on in my life!!!!!"

Secondly, express your feelings about your hurts to God.

God can handle our feelings, even those feelings that cause us to cry out our verbal pain in ways that are exactly "godly".

Thirdly, mediate for a new meaning from your old hurts. 

Those memories from the past may never go away, but how you and I interpret them and the way we are emotionally involved with them can change with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, praise God for the new meaning he gives you!

One further and I may have to walk through this process several times before the emotions behind a hurt begin to dissipate.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

It was our privilege to have Dr. Don Lichi with us from Emerge Ministries. 

The seminar on marriage was great!

I heard that the seminar on parenting was also just as beneficial.

Secrets of a great marriage?

- Pray together
- Lay together
- Play together

It's not that complicated, but very, very difficult.

Worship was wonderful again yesterday.

God is ready to do a "new thing" in our church.

One indicator of God moving:  our church family worshipping without much prompting.

To quote Dr. Lichi:  A good marriage comes from, "a persistent effort to create for each other the conditions whereby each might better fulfill God's intended purpose for their life - to become a better person than they could have ever been alone.

I heard great reports about our Upward Basketball camp.

A non-churched family came and brought one of their kids.  They are bringing her back for one of our Wednesday evening ministries.

Lots of visitors yesterday.

Okay, I don't mean to brag here (yes I do) but last Thursday I said that Green Bay was going to beat Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl, 31-24.  What was the score?  31-25.  And who won?  Green Bay.  Maybe I am in the wrong field of work.

Clay Matthews had a great game as did Aaron Rodgers.

I wonder if all of the pressure of his outside activities last year - finally caught up with Ben Roethlishberger. 

Congratulations to Pastor Noah and Phil Feith!

Debbie and I had the Jamrosz and Morgan families over (amongst others) to watch the Super Bowl.  I loved being around their kids.  They are all beautiful and sooooo sweet.  For whatever reason, little Eliana and I became best friends.  Being around them made me miss my granddaughter even more!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

snow and the super bowl - pride and prayer

Can I ask you to do something for me? 

If you are praying for snow - please stop.  I think we have had enough!  lol.

One of the great benefits to having that much snow is that it gave me another occasion to interact with my neighbors.  We were all out shoveling our driveways.  I was amazed at the great attitude that everyone had.

Debbie and I stayed in all day (like most people) and had a wonderful time doing a whole lot of nothing.  I love that woman!

Super Bowl Sunday is coming!

The biggest event of the year.

One of the very cool things is that probably the best player in the game is a Christian.

His name? 

Troy Polamalu, a four-time Pro Bowl strong safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers, has worked hard to maintain his Christian character since joining the NFL in 2003.

Before winning his second Super Bowl championship with the Steelers in 2009, Polamalu agreed to an interview for the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN).

He talked about pride and prayer and being a professional football player.

"Pride is tough," Polamalu said to the interviewer. "You go to high school, and it's pride, courage. It's all these types of words that we use to motivate us. I don't think there's anywhere in the Scriptures … where pride was ever a positive characteristic of anybody. That kind of egotism is a really tough struggle—especially in this business. … It's a big struggle of mine."

Polamalu went on to say that it's not the obvious things that are the hardest to deal with in his life.

"It's … the big things that are the easiest to turn away from. It's … the accumulation of small things [that are hard]. … People know adultery's bad and murder's bad. I'm not going to go out and sleep with the first girl I see. But when your eyes start wandering, [and you become] a little more jealous and envious, and these passions start rising up inside of you—that's when it really becomes dangerous. Because the Devil doesn't work that way. His strategy is always to be very subtle and continue to build on top of that evil seed that he planted."

Polamalu said prayer keeps him rooted. "As your prayer life becomes more and more fine tuned, and your conscience becomes more and more fine tuned, you're able to start plucking away at these things. [You're] like, 'Wow…this is not good.'"

While I will be cheering for the Green Bay Packers (it choosing the lesser of two "evils" being a Dallas Cowboy fan), I will for sure be cheering on Troy Polamalu to have a great game!

Let me reiterate my prediction on the outcome of the game:

Green Bay 31 - Pittsburg 24.

Reminder:  parenting seminar, Friday, February 4, 2011, 7:00 - 9:00 P.M. Main chapel

Reminder:  marriage seminar, Saturday, February 5, 2011, 9:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M.  Main chapel

Dr. Don Lichi will also be speaking Sunday morning in both morning services.

I am looking forward to a great day!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


Not much to write about today except....SNOW!

Just as an FYI - our church office will be closed, tomorrow, Wednesday, February 2nd.

All Wednesday evening church activities are cancelled as well tomorrow evening.

There is an old saying that in weather like this, it is good to "burn a cord of wood and drink a pot of coffee."

And....why not spend some time with the Lord while you are at it?

Stay warm, my friends....