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Thursday, April 28, 2011

going when you know that you don't know

I've always been the kind of person who never shys away from seizing a "God moment".  Oh, I have my weaknesses and faults, don't get me wrong, but when it comes time to step out for God - I am ready and willing.

In 1 Samuel 14, we find that Saul and his son Jonathan are faced with the threat of Philistine attack.

The Bible tells us in 1 Samuel 14:2 that Saul was staying on the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree.  It was a divine moment in his life - but he failed to "seize" it.

Jonathan, however, says to his young armor-bearer (verse 6), "Com let's go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows.  Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf.  Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few."

"Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf."

Wow.  Jonathan "seized" his divine moment by knowing that he didn't know.  "I don't know - but perhaps."

"I don't know what is going to happen - but I am going to go ahead and trust God."

Saul couldn't look past the fact that they only had two weapons.  Jonathan looked at is as they had half the weapons in all of Israel.

God's will does not always lead to safety and success. 

Someone once said, "when God closes the door, he always opens a window."  No, sometimes when God closes the door, the window is also shut, and we are called to go head first through the wall - knowing that "nothing (as Jonathan says in verse 6) can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few."

So - my word to you today is that rather than running away from danger and uncertainty in obeying God - He is calling us to embrace it and go - knowing that we do not know how it will end up.

And that's what I call - exciting - and fulfilling.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Thoughts from the past few days

Thoughts from the past few days:

Our children's church presentation last Friday evening (Good Friday service) was wonderful.

The kids did an excellent job of presenting a series of worship songs.

Communion was very meaningful for me as I shared of my grandmother and her passing.

Thanks to all of our church family for allowing me to "Eulogize" Grandma at the Good Friday service.

Thanks to all who participated in making Easter Sunday morning such a success!  I deeply appreciate all of your hard work and time.

Many came forward Sunday morning to start a relationship with Christ - or reboot a connection with God.  That thrills me!

God is good - all the time.

It was fun (and invigorating) to see a lot of guests in our services for Easter.

I like giving salvation altar calls when non-churched people are there.

Thanks to Pastor Amanda who did who usual fantastic job in making Easter Sunday what is was - thanks Amanda for all of your hard work!

My grandmother's funeral was a poignant time of celebration and remembrance.  She was a great lady and is now with my grandfather - rejoicing in heaven.

I will miss her.

American Eagle is not the way to fly - avoid it if possible.  They asked someone, anyone to take a later flight because the plane wasn't "balanced".  Now that's kind of scary.

Thanks to everyone for your prayers and sympathies to my family and me.  We love you all.

I really appreciated all of our deacons and elders praying with people around the altar this past Sunday.

When all is said and done, what matters most (outside of our relationship with God) is family.  I encourage you to celebrate your family this week - and don't take them for granted.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Meaning of Easter


What does Easter mean to you?

Bunny rabbits. Eggs. Ham. Buffets. Old movies like "The Robe" and "The Ten Commandments". New clothes. New shoes. A new dress. A new suit. Family dinners. Spring weather (or maybe not this year). Going to church.  Spring break.

What does Easter mean to you?

I read a cute story today of a Sunday School teacher who asked her class on the Sunday before Easter if they knew what happened on Easter and why it was so important. One little girl spoke up saying: "Easter is when the whole family gets together, and you eat turkey and sing about the pilgrims and all that." "No, that’s not it," said the teacher.

"I know what Easter is," a second student responded. "Easter is when you get a tree and decorate it and give gifts to everybody and sing lots of songs." "Nope, that’s not it either," replied the teacher.

Finally a third student spoke up, "Easter is when Jesus was killed, and put in a tomb and left for three days." "Ah, thank goodness somebody knows" the teacher thought to herself.

But then the student went on: "Then everybody gathers at the tomb and waits to see if Jesus comes out, and if he sees his shadow he has to go back inside and we have six more weeks of winter."

While we celebrate, let's not forget the ultimate meaning of Easter.  He is risen!
Jesus rose from the grave!
Because of this, I have eternal life!
He is risen!
Join me this Sunday in one of our two services (8:30 A.M. or 10:30 A.M.).
It's going to be wonderful time of worship and praise!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

You want proof? Changed lives.

Some people need to see in order to believe.

They need proof.

That's so true, especially when it comes to a belief in God.  A belief in Jesus Christ.

Well, the proof is in the "pudding" as the cliche goes.

The proof is found, I would suggest, in the lives that are changed by a relationship with Jesus.

In his book, "Has Christianity Failed You", Ravi Zacharias points to one of the greatest proofs for the truth of Christ and the reality of his resurrection - what I have just written -the lives of people who have been changed by a relationship with Christ.

Zacharias writes, "During the course of nearly 40 years, I have traveled to virtually every continent and seen or heard some of the most amazing testimonies of God's intervention in the most extreme circumstances. I have seen hardened criminals touched by the message of Jesus Christ and their hearts turned toward good in a way that no amount or rehabilitation could have accomplished.

I have seen ardent followers of radical belief systems turned from being violent, brutal terrorists to becoming mild, tenderhearted followers of Jesus Christ. I have seen nations where the gospel, banned and silenced by governments, has nevertheless conquered the ethos and mind-set of an entire culture."

Then in his own words Zacharias lists examples of Christ's power to transform lives:

In the middle of the twentieth century, after destroying all of the Christian seminary libraries in the country, Chairman Mao declared that … Christianity had been permanently removed from China, never to make a return. On Easter Sunday in 2009, [however]  the leading English language newspaper in Hong Kong published a picture of Tiananmen Square on page 1, with Jesus replacing Chairman Mao's picture on the gigantic banner, and the words "Christ is Risen" below it.

I have also been in the Middle East and marveled at the commitment of young people who have risked their lives to attend a Bible study …. I have talked to CEOs of large companies in Islamic nations who testify to seeing Jesus in visions and dreams and wonder what it all means.

The British author A. N. Wilson, who only a few years ago was known for his scathing attacks on Christianity … celebrated Easter [in 2009] at a church with a group of other church members, proclaiming that that the story of the Jesus of the Gospels is the only story that makes sense out of life and its challenges. [Wilson said], "My own return to faith has surprised none more than myself …. My belief has come about in large measure because of the lives and examples of people I have known—not the famous, not saints, but friends and relations who have lived, and faced death, in light of the resurrection story, or in the quiet acceptance that they have a future after they die."

Matthew Parris [a British atheist who visited Malawi in 2008] wrote an article titled "As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God." [Parris wrote], "I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa …. I used to avoid this truth … but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it."

Wonderful stories of changed lives.

You and I as followers of Christ can testify to the same thing this Easter Season - Jesus has changed my life.  I'm no longer as I was before.  I am a new person.  Thinking new thoughts.  Acting in a new way.

I encourage you today, that if you are wanting someone close to you, a friend, a family member, someone at work, to know Christ - share your story - and let the "proof" of your changed life be the tipping point for someone who is seeking.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

meditation and life

I don't know about you - but I need times in my life where I have to slow down and pause and think and focus on God.

It's called meditation.

I was reading today of Walter Zimmerman who has what can be described as a high-pressure job. He predicts the direction of movement on the world energies market for institutions such as airlines and oil companies.

He's well paid -- as in earning about $500,000 per month -- but his clients expect him to be right. A few bad calls could destroy him professionally and financially.

It's not a job for the faint of heart, and Zimmerman has watched most of his peers burn out long ago. But Zimmerman has a secret weapon that enables him to remain calm and keeps his mind sharp and focused.

It's called meditation.

He says that forty minutes of meditation in the morning and at night helps give him the clarity he needs to make quick, insightful (and accurate) analysis of the market.

There's a reason why the Bible tells us again and again to meditate. It's good for you.

One recent study found evidence that the daily practice of meditation thickened the parts of the brain's cerebral cortex responsible for decision making, attention and memory.

The study was based on a type of meditation in which one focuses on a single image or sound, or simply focuses on one's breathing. The result of this simple type of meditation is better health and mental acuity.

Can you imagine, then, what would be the result of a more spiritual type of meditation -- focusing your thoughts on any aspect of God: his word, his promises, his presence, his power, his law, his love - What would be the result?

The time an average American spends per day in religious and spiritual activities is 9 minutes (Average includes those who spend no time at all).  Nine minutes.

No wonder we are so stressed.

John Ortberg writes, "Stillness is always a prerequisite for receptivity. Telephones and television sets cannot receive messages when they are too filled with static and noise. Stillness first, then listening. The order cannot be reversed. "Be still, and know that I am God," quotes the psalmist.

One of the most powerful expressions of this is found in Psalm 131:

"O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me."

He goes on to write, "An unweaned child is a noisy child. The unweaned child has learned that eventually noise leads to the satisfaction of its desires. Even if it doesn't, the noise itself appears to bring some relief. Or at least it makes others as miserable as the unweaned one.

The weaned child, however, has learned that the presence of the mother is about more than the immediate gratification of desire. The weaned child has become capable of stillness. The weaned child can have a whole new form of communication with the mother. The weaned child has entered into a whole new relationship with its mother. Now the mother is more than simply one who exists to satisfy need, to take away hunger. The mother can become a person, not just a need-meeter.

There is a catch, of course. Weaning is not a popular process. At least, not for the [one being weaned]. Children rarely volunteer for it because it is both costly and painful. Weaning means learning to live in stillness with unfulfilled desires. It is the mark of maturity.

The psalmist says this is a picture of my soul. I have learned to still my heart. There has been a spiritual weaning process so that I am no longer at the mercy of my desires and reflexes and demands. God is becoming more than just the Meeter of My Needs. I am entering into a new era listening. I have stilled my soul.

The Psalmist writes, in Psalms 119:97-99, "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Had tickets to the White Sox game this past Friday (bleachers).  Didn't go.  Still trying to get over the flu stuff.  It was cold and rainy so I "played it smart".  They lost anyway.

Great life groups this weekend. 

I am thankful for men in our church who love God.

My men's life group is always a joy for me - I really like disciplining men in the faith.

At our core, I really believe that we all want to grow in the faith.

Lonna Janel had a feast prepared at our life group last night.  Delicious food!

We are seeing God's hand move in the lives of all of us in our life group.

Sunday morning:  Wonderful services!

Many committed or recommitted their lives to Christ.

Anointed worship.

Lots of new guests.

God is good!

Easter is coming!

I would encourage all of us to invite that non-churched friend to come this Sunday.  A message of "hope" will be given and an opportunity for people to accept Christ.

Bring friends, bring family, bring someone from work!

It's a great week to serve Christ; let's all focus in on Him!

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Let me make a strong statement:

I've never yet met a person who isn't selfish in some way.  Totally selfless.

I know that I can be selfish.  To give myself a little credit, I am getting a lot better about selfishness, but still have a long ways to go.

We all hide it pretty well, some of us, but it's pretty hard to hide when it is in your own family, or at church, or even with your co-workers.

You put a group of selfish people together and stuff happens. 

It's the root cause of all relational conflict.  We want our own way.  No matter what it costs, we want our own way.

"If I don't get my own way - than I am out of here."

Alan Redpath has written, "the secret of every discord in Christian homes and communities and churches is that we seek our own way and our own glory."

Pastor James writes In James 4:1, "What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?

Taking care of "number one" is instinctive within us because of our carnal sinful nature.

Look in the Bible and you will see the selfishness, what I am talking about.

What about Jacob and Esau?

What about the brothers of Joseph?

What about the family of Jesus?

What about the disciples who fought to see who would be the greatest in the kingdom?


There's the story about Emily Sue who was going into labor, and her husband, Bubba, Called 911.  The operator told Bubba she would send someone out right away.  "Where do you live?" asked the operator.

Bubba replied, "Eucalyptus Drive."

The operator asked, "Can  you spell that for me?"

There was a pause, and then Bubba said, "How about I take her over to Oak street, and you pick her up there."


May we all have the spirit of Christ of whom it was said in Mark 10:45, "he did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The cross and regrets

We all have regrets.  I do.  And I know you do too (if you don't - does the word "psychopath" mean anything to you?).

Have you ever seen "The Shawshank Redemption?"  It’s a great movie.  Morgan Freeman plays a prisoner named Red.  And there’s a scene where Red is meeting with the parole board.  He’s been in jail for 40 years.  And the board asks him, "Do you feel that you’ve been rehabilitated?"  And Freeman says, "Rehabilitated? Now let me see." 

And the board tries to explain to Red what ’rehabilitated’ means.

But Red says "I know what you think it means.  But to me, it’s just a word you politicians use so that you can sign your papers.   And stamp your forms.  What you really want to know is, "Am I sorry for what I did?" Yes! Not a day goes by when I don’t feel regret. For the families I hurt. For the people I let down. I wish I could go back.  And talk to that foolish boy I used to be.  Talk some sense into him. Tell him how things really are.  But I can’t. And all that’s left is this broken down old man.   And I have to live with what I done for the rest of my life."

He was haunted with regret by a mistake he made 40 years ago.  Let me ask you: Is there something in your past that you wish you could take back?  Have you ever said to yourself, "How could I have been so STUPID back then?!!!!  What was I thinking?!!!  Why did I do that???  If only I knew then what I know now?"

If you’ve ever felt that way, then welcome to the human race. Everyone has regrets. Because no one’s perfect. We all make mistakes. Say stupid things.

Make bad choices. And hurt ourselves. And hurt other people.

Regret (the crushing sense that "I blew it") is as universal of an emotion as love or fear.

So a recent study asked Americans about their biggest regrets.

The most common regrets involved (in the following order) romantic relationships (including marriages), career choices, education, money, and parenting.

Not surprisingly, more women cited relational regrets and more men cited career-related regrets. The researchers also found that many people have intense regrets around "lost opportunities."

It's a timely study, especially in light of Good Friday and Easter coming up.

The cross is the safest place on earth for identifying and releasing our regrets.

In Jeremiah 31:34, he says, "I will remember your sins no more!" He’s not up there thinking of ways to make your life miserable just because you did something bad back in 1986. If you have truly repented, then He forgave and forgot that lousy sin way back in 1986! And all you have to do is to BELIEVE it!

Because it says so right here in the word of God! "I will remember your sins no more!"

So, this Easter season, ask for forgiveness and then forgive yourself. For some of you, this is the hardest part of all. You’ve been beating yourselves silly for years over things that God doesn’t even remember.

But Isaiah 43:18 tells us "Forget the former things. Do not dwell on the past."

Back in 1929, Georgia Tech played the University of California in the Rose Bowl. Just before halftime, a man named Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for California. Somehow, he became confused and he ran 65 yards in the wrong direction. A teammate tackled him at his own two yard line. When California attempted to punt, Georgia Tech blocked the punt and scored a safety.

The team headed off the field and went into the dressing room. As they sat on the benches, Riegels put a blanket on his shoulders, sat down in a corner, put his face in his hands and cried like a baby.

Right before the second half started, Coach price said, "Men, the same team that played the first half will start the second."

The players all got up and headed back to the field. Except for Riegels. The coach called for Roy. But he didn’t budge. So the coach said, "Did you hear me? The same team starts the second half."

Riegels looked up. And with tears in his eyes, he said, "Coach, I can’t go back out there. I hurt the team. I’m so embarrassed. I can’t go back out there and face the crowd."

Coach Price simply put his hand on Roy’s shoulder. And said, "Roy, the game is only half over. Get up and go on back."

Roy Riegels went back. And everybody who saw it said he played the greatest game of his life in the second half.

Like Roy Riegels, some of you have been running in the wrong direction. You’ve made mistakes. You have regrets. And maybe you’re thinking, "I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to try anymore. But God is here. And he’s got an arm around you. And he’s telling you right now, "Go on back! Get on back out there! The game’s only half over! What’s in the past is in the past. Get out there and move on with your life!"

I want to encourage you: "Don’t spend the rest of your life regretting your past. I invite you to come back to Jesus Christ. Admit your sin. Accept his forgiveness and be free from guilt. Free from sin. And free to move on with your life.

That's the message of the cross.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Movies and life

There are many famous movie directors:  Clint Eastwood, James Cameron, Coen brothers, Ron Howard, George Lucas.

They all have one thing in common - if they don't like what they see (while filming), they can yell, "cut" and do the scene all over again.

Wouldn't it be great in life to be able to be a director of everything that happens to you?

Your boss comes in and says, "I need you to do this by tomorrow at 3:00 P.M."  And you yell, "cut", "let's do this again."  Your boss comes in and says, "I need you to do this - and do it whenever you get around to it."

Or, you come home and your spouse says, "you need to do this ________ (and you fill in the blank)," and you yell, "cut", "let's do this again."  You come home and your spouse says, "why don't you just sit down and relax and get to that _______ (and you fill in the blank) whenever you feel like it."

Or, your doctor comes into the room and says, "you have cancer", and you yell, "cut", "let's do this again."  Your doctor comes in the room and says, "everything's fine," you can go home today.

When Sylvester Stallone was making one of his Rocky movies, right after one of his fighting scenes, he said, "You know, boxing is a great sport as long as you can yell, "cut!"

However, life is not that way.  We aren't the directors of life.  There are no "do-overs".  There are no mulligans.  We all have scenes we would like to change.

Here's what I know:  When something happens, it happens and most of the time there is simply not much we can do about it.

But here's what I also know: God can help me no matter what comes my way.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  And while every bone in my body may be screaming out, "cut", I can walk through anything knowing that in the movie of my life, God is in control and God can bring "all things together for good." the end of the day, I might not have a movie worthy of an Oscar, but as I depend upon Christ, He can put the scenes of my movie together to make something beautiful.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I have the most beautiful granddaughter in the world.  She is a true joy and delight.  It makes my day when she says, "Pa Pa".  You can check out a video of her on Debbie's facebook page.

My daughter, Christie is a wonderful, caring, loving mother.

My son-in-law, Andrew is just a great father and husband - thank you, Andrew.

I am feeling better.  Not 100% but better. 

I am grateful for everyone's patience with me yesterday.  I made it through the message - but was really weak.  Thanks to a wonderful church family.

Great to see children being baptized in water.  Praise God!

We are to walk by faith and not our feelings.

Feelings can change - God never does.

Definition of success:  Doing what most people don't feel like doing.

Good feelings will not lead you to great faith.  If anything they will mislead you.

The key to feeling better is not found in focusing on your feelings. 

The last thing God told Noah when he shut the door on the ark was to be sure to keep the woodpeckers above the water line.

In every church (and business) there are a few woodpeckers that want to get below the water line and sink the whole ship.

We overcome our feelings by keeping our eyes on Christ. 

Focus on God's power rather than your problems.

"Trust in God at all times; pour out your heats to him, for God is our refuge."  Psalms 62:8

Corrie Ten Boom:  "If you look at the world, you'll be distressed.  If you look within, you'll be depressed,  But if you look at Christ, you'll be at rest."

When you face a problem - remember:

God sees everything you are going through.
Regardless of the cause of your problem God can use it in your life.
God can change the situation.
God wants to change your first.

Faith says that if I "go after Moby Dick in a rowboat, I better take along some tarter sauce."

I felt sorry for Rory Mcilory, who disappeared at the Master's in Augusta yesterday.  I really did.  There is nothing worse than failure in front of millions of people (watching on T.V.).  I trust he will be back.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Thoughts from the week

Thoughts from the week (since a week ago Wednesday):

I have been sick.  Sick. Sick. Sick.  About the sickest I have been in many, many years.

Just kind of laid in bed.  Didn't even watch much T.V. 

Back to work trying to get better.

Here's what I realized (once again) when I was sick. 

You don't realize what you have until it is taken away. 

In my case, my health.  You don't realize how important health is until it is taken away.

We don't realize how important family is, until one of them is taken away.

We don't realize how important our jobs are, until it is taken away.

We don't realize how important anything important is - until it is taken away.

What is the one thing that cannot be taken away?

Our relationship with God.  It's eternal.  It's forever.

God, as the scriptures say, will never, ever "leave us or forsake us."

He's always there, always loving us, always looking out for us, always seeking way for us to draw closer Him.

He's not up and then down.  He's constant.

I'm glad that God never lets a bad "hair day" get him down.

We can go to Him at any time.

That's something that can never be taken from us - and let's never take that for granted.

Just some thoughts for a Thursday.