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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Busyness and hearing God's voice

I would suggest that the greatest hindrance to hearing God's voice is busyness.

We are all busy.

It's almost amusing to me the way we "wear" busyness like a badge of honor.

How are you today?  "Busy," we respond with our chests puffed out.

"Busy, busy."

Okay, we are all busy.

And at the same time we are stressed out, burned out and wondering what the next step is for our lives.

Here's what I know:

We fill our lives with what we want to fill them with.

Facebook, emails, T.V., movies, books, "family time", sports, shopping, reading, it's all there - ready to be taken.

All of it "good" in and of itself.

Sometimes we need to be like the little boy, aged 5, by the name of Andrew, who was very much into computers.  He was overheard saying the Lord's prayer and did really well till near the end when he said, "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from email."

That might be true for all of us.

"Deliver us oh Lord, from email."  From facebook.  From T.V.

Nothing, absolutely nothing is wrong with facebook and T.V.  But the key word here is "balance".

How can we do this?

Well, I would suggest that one way is to come to our prayer and praise meetings on Wednesday evenings.  Spend time in God's presence.  Wait upon the Lord.  Let God speak to you.

You can be a "Martha" and be busy for God - but we all need those "Mary" times when we just simply dwell in the presence of God.

And let me tell you from experience - 5 minutes in the presence of God - does more for me than 5 days worrying and wondering about God's will and direction for my life.

I don't often slow down - but when I do - I like to be in the presence of God.

Just a thought for a Thursday.......

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Herod and Jesus

Herod and Jesus.

You couldn't get two more different people.

Herod was born into a politically well-connected family.  Jesus was born into a carpenter's family.

Herod was destined for a life of hardball and power brokering.  Jesus was destined to die on a cross for the sins of the world.

Herod had a preoccupation with power.  He was addicted to power.  He was addicted to controlling people and resources in order to secure his own destiny.

Using His power, he killed anyone who got in his way.  Over the years he killed his brother-in-law, his mother-in-law, two of his sons, and even his wife.

Jesus had a preoccupation with people.  He was addicted to helping people.  His own life was summed up in the verse found in Mark 10:45, "for the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Herod had a preoccupation with possessions.  He built 7 palaces, 7 theaters, one of which seated 9,500 people.  He even built stadiums for sporting events, one of which could seat 300,000 fans.

He even constructed a new temple for the Jews.

Jesus had a preoccupation with poverty.  He said during one of his sermons (Matthew 5:3), "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  He later gave the principle that it is as we die that we gain, it is as we give that we receive.  He tells his disciples to go out with power and authority, preaching the kingdom of God, taking nothing for the journey, no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic.  His desire was not to build buildings but transform lives for God.

Herod had a preoccupation with prestige.  He loved to make an impression on others.  He built entire cities with state of the art architecture and amenities and named them after his superiors.  Several of his 10 marriages were prestige oriented and politically motivated.

Jesus had a preoccupation with a lack of pride.  Paul writes in Philippians 2:8 that Jesus, 'being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death."  If there was one thing that irritated Jesus it was people who considered themselves better than others.

Herod had a preoccupation with paranoia.  He went to great lengths to make sure a secret ingredient never ended up in his soup.  When he became king, he commissioned tens of thousands of slaves to build over 10 emergency fortresses, all heavily armed and well provisioned.  He had an elaborate network of spies. 

Jesus had a preoccupation with vulnerability.  He was an open book.  He walked and talked with openness.  Nothing was hidden.  All was open.

Herod was named "King of the Jews" by the Romans (even though he was an Edomite).

Jesus was named the "King of God's kingdom" by none other than God himself.

To say that the two kings, Herod and Jesus, merely "crossed paths," is way too mild.  According to a fundamental law of physics, the force of impact depends upon speed and direction.  Jesus and Herod were both moving fast, but from totally opposite directions.  King Herod represented the popular perceptive on power in 2011:  get it, keep it and use it.

Jesus has a more simple, yet radical philosophy:  Use power to serve others.

No wonder they clashed.  Both had possessed immense power, but how they chose to use it revealed the hearts of two radically different men. 

One was a tyrant - the other a servant.

One was consumed with self-interest, the other focused on pleasing God and serving others. 

One manipulated, slandered, deceived and coerced; the other healed, touched, taught and loved.

Herod eventually came to ruin and in the final year of his life, his body was infected with disease; his pain was so bad that he often screamed throughout the night.

Jesus ended up dying on a cross, but he rose again.  And now is seated at the right hand of the father.

Let me ask you today:  Are you a Herod?  Or are you trying to live like Jesus?

Do you think more of yourself than others?  Do you crave power and the adrenaline rush that comes from controlling your own resources and controlling the people around you?  Are you more afraid of what others may do to you instead of how you can serve them? 

Which king are you following?  I want to be like Jesus.

Challenging thoughts for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pacifiers and a relationship with God

I can still remember it like it was yesterday.

We were driving down the road near our home France and Christie, our oldest daughter (who was a child at the time) threw her pacifier out the car window - never to use it again.

I can't remember if she did it on purpose or if it was an accident - all I can remember is that it was gone.

Pacifiers come in all different kids of shapes and sizes and people call them by different pet names:  Binkys, bobber, clug, button, chwey, duda, ninny, noogie, mimi. fussifier, fussplug, num, nummy, pappy, pip, sassy, the silencer, soothie, sicky, tay-tay, the stopper, whammy, wubby, on and on it goes.

What does a pacifier do?  It gives a baby something to suck on, but it doesn't give him/her any nutrition.

Let's compare that to our relationship with Christ.

I would suggest that religion that is devoid of an intimate relationship with Jesus is like a baby that works hard at sucking on their pacifier, but from which no real nutrition flows.

I see it all the time and so do you.  Those who minister but their ministry flows from a sense of self-effort.  There is a lack of connection with God.  It is all "binky" and no "substance".

It is a false religion.

The essence of false religion is a Christian being involved in religious activity while being void of spiritual intimacy with God.

It is exemplified by a person having a ritual of religion without a relationship with Jesus.

That's the challenge to us today - thank the Lord that there are those who are working in our church - but let's not forget that ministry is to flow from a daily, intimate, connectedness to Christ - and not from self.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I am grateful to the Lord for the many that raised their hands yesterday to commit or recommit their lives to Jesus.

Thank you Holy Spirit for working in the lives of our church family!

We continue to try to "unleash heaven" upon our community.

Please put the October 15th, "door to door" outreach on your calendar.  9:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M.  We could use everyone's help.

Chris Delaurantis did a wonderful job in sharing of the need in the inner city of Chicago.

You will be hearing soon of a challenge to all of our life groups concerning helping out Chris' church in Chicago by helping serve meals.

I understand our Impact ministry and our Royal Ranger ministry had a great time this past weekend!  Thank you to all of our workers who worked so hard to make it happen!

You are loved and appreciated!

Let's all be in prayer that God's spirit will continue to move in our church - and in Orland Park and the surrounding communities.

Church photo directory week. 

Noah and Jenni will be having their second child this Thursday.  Let's be in prayer with them for another healthy delivery.  Please remember:  we will be giving them a card shower this Sunday.

We continue to walk by faith.

With God nothing is impossible.

There is nothing God can't do - if we will simply stay available.

I want to do all I can to reach people for Jesus.

My condolences to all of the Chicago Bears fans on yesterday's loss to the Packers. 

The Bears receivers need some "super glue" for their hands.

THE Dallas Cowboy game is tonight versus the Washington Redskins.  Will Tony Romo play or not?

I love you all........

Thursday, September 22, 2011

going and coming

It happens all the time doesn't it?

I know it does to me.

You leave your home and go to a place where you have never been.  Even when you have the directions, there can be difficult choices to make.  Should I turn here?  Should I go there?

Many times you find yourself going down the wrong path.  Making a wrong turn. 

Finally, you reach your destination.  It seems like it has taken forever. 

And then on the way back, you know the way.  And....isn't it always true that the way back always seems shorter than the way going?

It always seems like it takes a shorter amount of time going home than it does going to your destination.

It's the same way in our walk with God.

Many find themselves leaving their "home" of a walk with God - to go on a journey that takes many twists and turns - only to find themselves far away from Him.

It seems like the journey takes forever.

But once you and I decide to go back "home," God readily accepts us.  God embraces us.  God forgives us.  God loves on us.  God takes us back immediately.  In an instant.

The journey back to God is always shorter than the journey away from Him.

I am thankful for that this day, this Thursday.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

church growth principles

At this stage in my life I am beyond having any motivation of having church growth for any personal recognition or "advancement".  All I want to do is see people come to Christ and grow in God.

I don't work to see empty seats filled with people - but empty lives filled with Jesus Christ.

More and more that is the complete and total motivation in ministry for me.

In going through a "miscellaneous" file this morning, I came across an article by Charles Arn entitled, "The Top five church growth principles."

Let me summarized his points - and let's all pray and work to see them implemented in our church.

Principle number one:

Disciple-making is THE priority.

Arn writes that, "the longer a congregation exists, the more concerned it tends to become with self-preservation - and the less concerned with its original purpose.  Time, money, staff and even the prayers become increasingly inward-focused.

The result, not surprisingly, is that the church stops growing.

That's why our goal, my dear friends, must continue to be making disciples.  Seeing people connect to Christ and grow in Christ.  This happens through programming, prayers, budget, staffing, and evaluating all the church's ministries on their contribution to increasing the number of Christian disciples.

A church can do many good things.  A church should do a few important things.  We should focus in on what we do well and leave behind what we don't.

However, that being said, our ultimate goal is to "go out and train everyone we meet, far and near, in this way of life...."  Matthew 28:19

Secondly, Social networks are the vehicle.

Arn writes that the "silver bullet" that any congregation can use to reach more people is non-Christians coming to Christ through relationships with Christians.

Friends reaching friends.

Listen to this sentence from Charles Arn:  "Christian friends and relatives bring over twice as many new believers into the kingdom as all the other reasons....combined!"

Thirdly, Felt needs are the connecting point.

Most unchurched people are not walking down the streets of the Southland thinking about their eternal destiny.  But they are thinking about their needs:  their jobs, friends, health, kids, finances, hobbies and so on.

In other words, the way to reach people is to show how a relationship with Christ is relevant to all aspects of their lives. 

People feel disconnected - they are looking for a place to belong.

People feel stress and pressure - they are looking for a sense of balance.

People feel that their relationships are superficial - they are looking for authenticity.

People feel drained from striving to meet their desires through work, material possessions or entertainment - they are looking for spiritual answers to their unfulfilled "hunger."

People feel overwhelmed by the pace of change in our culture - they are looking for help through transitions.

Fourthly, relationships are the glue.

Getting people in the front door is one thing - keeping them from quietly disappearing out the back door is another. 

What keeps people in our church?  Friendships.  Arn writes, "put simply, if people have friends at church, they stay.  If they don't they won't.

We all need to be "relational matchmakers" and may it a point to reach out from our own "circle of friends" to others who are new.

I encourage us all to speak with one person we "don't know" or haven't met each Sunday of the year.

Finally, transitions provide a window of opportunity.

If there is ever a time of "fertile ground" in the soil of a non-churched person it is when they are walking through life-transition events.

Marriage, divorce, relocation, retirement are a few.

But there are also uncontrollable events such as death of a spouse, medical crisis and job loss.

We all as followers of Christ - need to be sensitive to these needs.

Some great stuff for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Focusing on Christ


We are what we focus on.

If  my focus is on sports, than I speak and and breathe sports.

If my focus is on shopping (which it is not), than I speak and breathe shopping.

If my focus is on self, than I speak and breathe self.

God wants our focus to divert from sports, shopping and self and focus on the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Let me explain.

You and I work hard at living the Christian life, don't we?

We want to live for God.

So we come to church, we read our Bibles, we have conversations with God, we try to do better - but then we fail.

Our best efforts are not working. 

We make promises, we recommit ourselves to holiness, we fail, we make promises, we recommit ourselves to holiness - the process is never ending.

We are sincere.

We are honest.

We are doing our best.

The challenge is that many followers of Christ are often so focused on themselves (and their own walk with God - the process that I describe above) that they are missing out on what God is really looking for.

God's goal for us is simple.  He wants to conform us to the image of His Son.

We do that by keeping our focus on Jesus.  Not our past sins.  Not our flesh.  Not our "works".  Not on the cycle of commitment, failure and recommitment.  But on Jesus. 

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I am grateful for a great staff to work with!

Noah (and Jenni) and Amanda - great job over this past weekend!

143 young people were saved Saturday evening - truly we praise God and give him the glory!

Weren't Eric Timm's paintings exceptional?

Loved his teaching yesterday morning - we are to reach out to everyone around us - not just those who look like us, talk like us, dress like us or act like us.

Our youth leaders are following up on those who were saved this past Saturday.  Let's keep them in our prayers, that God will anoint their follow-up cards and calls.

I went to Starbucks this morning - and the person giving me my coffee told me that when I paid for the person behind me last week (for their coffee - "pay it forward") that four people who followed me paid for the person behind them as well.

She also told me that she took great pleasure in one of their "grouchy customers" having their coffee paid for.  They asked, "who would do such a thing?" 

God is moving in our church.

I am grateful - and thankful to Him.

The Dallas Cowboys won with Tony Romo giving a gritty, gutsy performance.  He played with one rib broken.

How one week can change things.

Debbie and I are spending the fall and winter visiting all of our life groups. 

Had a great visit with our Oak Forest life group.  Wonderful group of people.  Excellent time of prayer and sharing.

Rick and Dina Mulander are godly people who know how to minister.

Thanks to Debbie Smith for opening up  your home.

If you aren't attending a life group yet, think about attending one.

I am excited about what God is doing in our church family!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

God's will and relationship

One of the things I know is that God's will for my life always comes out of relationship with Him.

A deep, personal, intimate spiritual relationship with the Holy Spirit.

The writer to the Proverbs tells us in Proverbs 3:5,6, to "trust in the Lord with all of our hearts and lean not on our own understanding - in all our ways acknowledge (or know him) and he will make our paths straight."

The Hebrew word for acknowledge (or know - in the Hebrews "yada") mean to know by observation, investigation, reflection or fist hand experience.  But the highest level of "yada" is direct intimate contact or "life-giving intimacy" as in marriage.

In other words, as we are intimate with God in our time spent with him it conceives or gives birth to the blessings and victories of God in our lives - and we know his will.

What's the key word here?  Relationship, relationship, relationship.

Are you seeking after God's will?  Spent time in relationship with God.  Be patient.  And His will WILL come for your life.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hanging out with God part 2

Let me give us some follow up thoughts to yesterday.

Hanging out with God means that I spend time with him.

Now then, spending time together in any relationship does not guarantee a close relationship.  But it is impossible to have a close relationship with someone without spending time together with them.

It is the same with God.

We need to spend time alone with God.  Every day.

All I am saying is that if the only time I read the Word and pray and sing praise choruses to God or get my spiritual food - is on a Sunday morning - than I am in trouble.

I need to spend time with God every day.

Let me qualify that, however.

A common misconception is that "spending time with God," (hanging out with him) means being entirely ALONE with Him.

Of course, as I have been saying here, and as Jesus modeled, we need to spend time alone with God, but that is only a fraction of our waking hours.

Here is my point:  Everything we do can be "spending time with God" if he is invited to be a part of it and we stay aware of his presence.

The classic book on learning how to develop a constant conversation with God (hanging out with Him) is "Practicing the Presence of God," by Brother Lawrence (who lived in a French monastery in the seventeenth century).

Brother Lawrence was able to turn even the most common place and menial tasks, like preparing meals and washing dishes, into acts of praise and communion with God.

The key to hanging out with God, he said, is not changing what you do, but changing your attitude toward what you do.

What you normally do for yourself, you begin doing for God, whether it is eating, bathing, working relaxing or taking out the trash.

Let's all "practice" the presence of God in our lives.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hanging out with God

One of the things that each generation likes to do is to "hang out".

Now each generation might call it something different, but you get the idea.

"Why don't you come over and hang out" we say to one another.  Nothing special.  Maybe watch some television, play some games, sit on the front or back porch.

The goal is not to specifically "do" anything but just be together.

Have you ever equated this to your relationship with God?

Have you ever thought of the fact that maybe, just maybe God wants to "hang out" with you?

I'm not trying to be flippant, nor am I trying to be irreverent, but isn't it true that sometimes we are to just "be" in the presence of God?

So many times we either confine our relationship with God to "doing ministry" or "praying for our needs."

Our connection with God is to be a true relationship.  And relationships need times of just "hanging out", perhaps not even talking to one another.

Putting on a praise tape and enjoying the presence of God.
Taking a walk and asking God to speak to you.
Reading the Word and then letting a specific verse dwell in your spirit.
Coming to our Wednesday evening prayer meeting and "sitting in God's presence".

No special reason.  No specific need.  Just "hanging out with God."

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

As you might know, the "complaint department" at our church is always open - and continually being used.

So....everyone once in a while, it's nice to receive the following (that was placed in the suggestion box):

"U guys are doing great!! I love this church!"

I believe all of us are the same - we can go a long time on one compliment.

What can I say about the Dallas Cowboys last night? 

One word - Romo.

A good quarterback who will never be "great".

Tough loss.

It was moving for me to see all of the firefighters and police officers in the first service in uniform.  It was our privilege to have them all in attendance, especially Chief McCarthy of Orland Park (who as the secret service agent who took a bullet to save President Reagen's life).  They are all American heroes.  Thanks to all of them for coming.

We were also privileged to have State Representative Renee Kosel with us.  Her words concerning the fact that our nation continues to be "Under God" were both powerful and stirring.

We will "never forget" September 11, 2011.

May God continue to provide comfort to the families that lost loved ones that day.

Thanks to everyone who made yesterday so meaningful - the sound booth guys, worship team, Royal Ranger boys, etc.  You did a wonderful job!

Had a great men's life group this past Saturday.  Excellent group of men who want to grow in God.  It is my privilege to disciple them.

It made my day to see Frank Wolf in the same uniform he wore when he was in his early 20's.

Thanks to all those who minister in our coffee connection ministry.  We love and appreciate you!

Have a blessed week!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2012

One thing for sure.  I remember exactly where I was on September 11, 2001.

I will never, ever forget.

This Sunday, September 11, 2012, in our 8:30 A.M. and 10:30 A.M. services, we will be remembering.  And praying.  And thinking of those who died that day. 

In our 8:30 A.M. service, the Orland Park mayor, Dan McLaughlin will be with us, as well as Chief Tim McCarthy (Chief Tim McCarthy took a bullet for President Ronald Reagan - when he served on President Reagan's detail as a secret service agent).  Fire Chief Ted Golden will be there as well.

In our 10:30 A.M. service, Illinois State Representative Renee Kosel will be with us, as she was last September 12, 2010, when we dedicated our building.

Both services are going to be powerful - we encourage you to come - and bring some unsaved, non-churched friends.

I will be giving an "altar call" for salvation in both services.

God bless you - and may God bless America.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Pay it forward

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:4, "Love is kind."

Kindness is shown in our actions and words that we give to those who cross our paths each day of our lives.

Yet kindness is also something that we can seek out to do to everyone we meet.

It can be "pro-active".

The past couple of days I have participated in our "pay it forward" effort to connect people to our church and to Christ.

The idea is that you (or me) pay for someones coffee, someones meal, anything that will encourage them.  And...then hand them a card with our church's name and address on it.

Yesterday and today, I have driven through the drive-thru at Starbucks, and paid for the person behind me. 

The first day, the woman taking my money at the drive-thru window was excited and pleased that we at our church were doing this.  She gave me a big "thumbs up".

Today, as I left the drive-thru, I purposefully left slowly - to be able to watch the reaction of the car behind me upon finding out that their order was paid for.  The two women were astonished.  Their mouths flew open in delight.

Here are some tips to help you in this ministry.

Pray about the person that God is leading you to "pay it forward" for.
Pray after the person receives the gift of "pay it forward."  Pray that they will connect to our church - and to God.

Love is kind.

And you know what?  I felt really good is doing this.  It made me feel good knowing that I was showing kindness and love to people I didn't even know.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Went out and had breakfast with the love of my life yesterday at Lume's (my favorite place for breakfast).  It was relaxing to sit at the counter with a great meal and the paper and good conversation.

BTW - the "love of my life" is Debbie.

In fact, a big breakfast is probably my favorite meal of the day - it's just that I don't partake in one much.

Am thankful for a great staff that really came through Sunday in preparing and working at the picnic.

Great work Noah, Aldin and Amanda!

Also...many, many thanks to our volunteers at our church who were so faithful in helping out as well.  Thanks for your time and work!

It was a great day!

Beautiful weather.

Can't go wrong with Fried Chicken.

I really like playing 16 inch softball with everyone.

At our core - we are all competitive.

Thanks for coming to church last Sunday on a holiday weekend.  We ended up having a great crowd (for labor day) and excellent worship.

Here's a quote that I said I would put on my blog (from my teaching).  Someone in the audience asked that I repeat the quote - and I said I would repeat it in my blog.

Thomas a Kempis said, "Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be."

That is a challenging, almost overwhelming statement that is hard to do outside of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

May this week, as we remember 911, help us all to put "everything into perspective."

Love you all - George