Total Pageviews

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What does God want for Christmas?

What does God want for Christmas?

Me.  You.  Our devotion.  Our praise.  Purposeful conversation.

I've said for years that the "reason for the season is Jesus" and that's correct.  But in another sense, "the reason for the season is you and me."  Jesus, the son of God becoming a son of man so that we who are sons of men might become sons of God.

Immanuel - God with us.

Died for us and rose again that we might have a relationship with Him.

God, more than anything else this week, desires that we commit (or recommit) our lives to Christ.

And converse with Him.

I was reading today of a little boy who knelt at his bed and said his bedtime prayers.

He prayed, "Lord, please bless Mommy, and daddy, and brother and sister.  And Lord, please give us a good day tomorrow.  And please give me a bicycle for CHRISTMAAAAAAS!"

The boy's mother heard him yelling and wondered what was going on.  She walked into her son's bedroom and said quietly, "Son, you don't have to scream and yell, God can hear you."

The boy looked up with his big brown eyes and said, "but Mom, I know God can hear me, but Grandma can't hear very well, and she's down the hall!"

What God desires from us this Christmas is a quiet, meaningful conversation with Him.

I would encourage all of us to slow down for just a few moments each day until Christmas Day, and share with the Father of how much we love him.

And God will be blessed.  And God will smile.  And God will be pleased.

Merry Christmas to everyone.  Debbie and I love you all - very much!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Don't go by your emotions!

Don't go by your emotions!

Good advice.

Most of the time our emotions are based on circumstances that come our way.

If circumstances are good - we "feel" good.

If circumstances are bad - we "feel" bad.

While some of that is natural and normal, we must continually resist the temptation to be "ruled over" or controlled by our emotions.

Whose report am I going to believe?

I am going to believe the report of the Lord.

You have had the experience and so have I.

A police car pulls up behind you with its lights flaring and flashing.  What emotions do you feel?  You feel kind of sick inside - right?  A flash of fear and regret comes.

You probably begin to feel nervous.

Your heart starts pounding, ba-boom, ba-boom, ba-boom, ba-boom.

Even if you get a bit of relief when the police car pulls out to the side of you in pursuit of somebody else, it can take a few moments before you get your emotions back into check and in line with the facts.

Don't depend upon your emotions.

They can lie.  They can "not" tell the truth.

They can lead you down the wrong path. 

Instead, stick to the facts.

An element of "these things too shall pass" needs to come into play.

When it comes to our walk with Christ, we must learn to rely on the truth of God' s Word and His over 7,000 promises to us. 

I encourage you today to go back to the Bible.  Read the Bible in your time of emotional stress and need.

And it will calm your fears, and soothe your soul.

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Belly buttons and the church

We all have one.  A belly button that is.

Some have "outies".  Some have "inies."

(I know what you are thinking - where in the world is he going with this - and how does it apply to the church?)

Well, a church can have an outward focus or an inward focus. 

A church can move forward by faith and seek to save the lost - or it can be mired in the past and the sole end game of meeting its own felt needs.

As a church, are we an "iny" or are we an "outy"?

Jesus said in Mark 11:20-23, "Have faith in God.  I assure you that you can say to this mountain, 'May God lift you up and throw you into the sea,' and your command will be obeyed.  All that's required is that you really believe and do not doubt in your heart."

Some people along the way have stopped believing in a mountain -moving God because:

- A small group experience didn't meet their expectations, so they no longer believe God can lead them to the right group.

- The people they invited to church came but did not become Christ-followers, so they no longer believe that the Holy Spirit can use them to reach the lost.

- They tithed but still suffered a tragedy in their life, so they stopped believing that God would bless their obedience.

- Someone in the church hurt them, so they don't trust anyone, anymore, at anytime.

When people stop believe in a mountain-moving God they:

- establish more policies and committees that help the church steer clear of pain.

- get stuck in their favorite ways to "do" church so they can feel secure.

- criticize their leaders for taking chances.

- chose to be suspicious of their people (leaders) rather than trusting.

- shy away from making difficult decisions.

- actually begin to believe that the church is only about them and their ministry.

- fill their conversations with what has happened in the past.  "I remember when we (and you fill in the blank)," they say.

Here's what I would suggest for 2012.  In order for our church to be blessed and bear fruit we must stop being "inies" in the faith and become "outies".

We must focus on those who do not know Jesus while at the same time focusing our attention on the amazing power of the Holy Spirit!

Any church can be an "iny" (with a sole focus on themselves, their feelings, their needs, and their wants). 

May God help us to continue to look outward - to a lost and dying world.

Will you join me?  Will you join me as we attempt to reach the lost through Upward Basketball, City Church outreach, inviting people to our small groups, bringing someone to church, talking about Christ with someone on a weekly, if not a daily basis?

And God will bless us for it.  God will bless you for it.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

We had 710 in attendance yesterday for our two Sunday morning services.

God did a great work!

Many, many came to Christ.

The production was practically flawless. 

As we depend upon the Holy Spirit - God does great things!

A huge thank you to everyone who participated.  Thank you for your faithfulness, hard work and time!

Truly, we do "have a Savior"!

We prayerfully anticipate building off of yesterday and ride some spiritual momentum into an even greater future for our church.

God is faithful.  All the time.  God is good.  All the time.

Thank you Amanda!  You did a wonderful job!

To see young and old alike in the musical - priceless.

If I could say this, I was really pleased and proud of my wife Debbie - her song was beautiful and anointed by God!

Met a lot of new people yesterday - and family and friends of those who go to our church.

Picking up a little boy who was running around at the beginning of the first service in the chapel - priceless (it reminded me of me when I was growing up).

We are a family church - a church with an emphasis on family.

That's who we are.

That came through yesterday.

Met with Pastor Aldin and Jon Hollowell today concerning Upward Basketball.  We are a go!  We are going to have our first, official league!

Jon and Cheri - wonderful soldiers in the army of God.  They are picking up the "torch" of Upward Basketball - giving of their time and effort (and prayers).  Jon and Cheri - we love you!

Thanks for all that you do!

We are thankful for a committed, godly leadership team for Upward Basketball! 

I also want to thank our church staff for all their hard work this year.

Many thanks to Pastor Aldin who has and continues to "fill in the cracks" on what needs to be done at our church.  His stable leadership in many areas is a big help.

Thanks to Noah for his willingness to "pitch in" and doing anything that is needed.  We are grateful for all that God is doing with the teenagers of our church.

Thanks to Amanda - again, the musical was powerful, filled with the ministry presence of God! 

I want to also thank our office staff, for their many long hours of work and faithfulness (most of which is "behind the scenes").   Thanks to Debbie, Jan and Rosemary - Mike as well (our church custodian).

Our child care is doing well.  Thanks to Shirley and her staff.  Thanks, Lord for helping us out!

We need each other.

As we stand together, united, we will do a great work for God on the southwest side of Chicago.

God has great things in store for us in 2012!

I am excited about the future!

Merry Christmas, my dear friend - Debbie and I love you very much!

Oh, and by the way, the Dallas Cowboys won.  You thought I would forget to put that in this week, didn't you!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Conversing with God

A lot of times people don't pray because they think they don't know how to pray.

In reality, prayer is simply having a conversation with God, through His Son Jesus Christ, and with the Holy Spirit's help.

If someone is not a great "conversationalist", than the Holy Spirit can help them as they communicate with the Father.

However, at its core, prayer is not a science, nor are there "seven steps to successful praying," - prayer is an art.  It is birthed and participated in out of a relationship with God.

The more I know God, in one sense, the easier it is to talk with him. 

The big difference, I would think, between knowing God and knowing others, is that I believe it is a lot easier to "get to know" God than it is other people.

Others can have hidden agenda, baggage from their past whereby they don't want to converse - God has none of those things.

God is never in a bad mood.  He never has a bad hair day.

He's always the same.  Always ready to communicate with us in a positive way.

He never has one of those days where he wants to hunker down and be by himself.

He never needs just "me time."

God desires to communicate with you.  God desires to communicate with me.


While there are no "seven steps to successful praying" (and by the way, what is successful praying - getting what I want or what God wants - just a thought), let me give you some tips that might help you in your conversations with God.

Scriptures teaches us that I pray "to the Father" (John 16:23) and in the name of Jesus Christ (John 14:12-15).

The Holy Spirit helps me (if I allow Him to) as I pray (Romans 8:26).

I must converse with the Father knowing that I do have rights and privileges in coming to Him.

I must always pray in sync with God's Word.  God will never grant any request that is contrary to His Word (John 15:7)

I must pray in faith, believing that God not only hears, but will answer (James 1:6).

I must thank God in advance (through praise) for the answer (Philippians 4:6).

At any rate, if comforts me (and I trust you) to know that I can talk with the Father anytime, anywhere.  And he is always there. 

God doesn't have voice mail.  He doesn't put me on hold.  He answers my "tweets" immediately.

Without hesitation.

So, have multiple conversations with God today.

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I can't or I won't?

This past Sunday I shared one of my life verses from Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

I love that verse.

It is a "can do" verse.

I like to hang around "can do" people.  Those who don't make excuses.

The polar opposite of "I can" is "I can't".

When asked to minister, to volunteer, many times Christians will respond in the following:

"I will go home and pray about it."  Translation?  That means it is a flat out "no."

"I will go home and speak with my spouse about it."  Again, not much of a chance there.  You might see snow in the Sahara desert first.

Others say, "I just can't.  I'm too busy."  Well, I understand that and even empathize with that.  Some of us need to learn to say no.  We can't do everything.

But then there are those who say, "I can't," but what they really mean is, "I won't".

"I don't want to do that."

Some Christians say:

"I just can't get along with my spouse."

"My spouse and I can't communicate."

"I can't discipline the kids like I should."

"I just can't give up the affair I'm having."

"I can't stop overeating."

"I can't find the time to pray." 

"I can't quit gossiping."

"I can't help out at the church."

What they really mean is this:

"I just won't get along with my spouse."

"My spouse and I won't communicate."

"I won't discipline the kids like I should."

"I just won't give up the affair I"m having."

"I won't stop overeating."

"I won't find the time to pray."

"I won't quit gossiping."

"I won't help out at the church."

Those who are non-Christians have every right and reason to use the word, "can't".

Why?  Because they really "can't".  They aren't connected to Christ.  They aren't relying on the Holy Spirit.

They are victims, trapped and bound like wounded animals in a trap set by Satan and our culture.

Here's what I know:  it is very hard to do anything without Christ.

It is hard to change anything without Christ.

It is hard to commit to anything without Christ.

But with Christ?  I can do all things.

Is there a "won't" in your life that you've been calling a "can't"?  Give that over to the Lord today.

And memorize Philippians 4:13.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I am grateful to the Lord for the way that He continues to watch over His church.

Stone Church is God's church.

God will always, always take care of His church.

God continues to send us great people.

I am thankful for all of our new visitors and guests.

Don't forget Upward Basketball (if you have a child - boy or girl - in grades K-6).  We have 26 kids signed up!  Praise God!  Could always take some more!

Great to hear God's word spoken yesterday (by memory) by Caleb Czaja and Kaitlyn Hong (Hebrews 1 and 6 respectively).  Young people speaking forth God's Word - priceless!  Good work young people!

Thanks to all of our TBQ and JBQ leadership - we appreciate all that you do.

Christmas is the season to give all of our stress to God.

Christmas is about Jesus.

Christmas is a time of joy and peace. 

Our church is filled with good people who love God and each other.

God is doing something very, very good in our church.

I encourage everyone to invite a non-churched friend this Sunday for our annual Christmas musical.  I will be giving an appeal to everyone to connect with Christ.

Can't wait to see my kids again at Christmas.

Tim Tebow - what can I say?  God's man for the hour.

Never "bet" against a man of God.

My Cowboys - I can't even write anything.  My lands.

Many, many thanks to our church family for the Christmas love offering yesterday to our church staff!

It's a privilege to serve you as pastors and staff.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Popping off

I have purposed in my heart that in 2012 I am going to really work on "popping off".

I am supposed to be a "man of God," but I still wrestle with saying things that I shouldn't in the heat of the moment.

My prayer is that I would continue to grow in this area.

I read something last week that really, really has helped me - and give me a target to shoot for.

Aaron Rodgers is a great quarterback, this we all know.

One Super Bowl.  Consecutive wins (I don't know how many exactly - 12 this year).  Maybe another Super Bowl coming up.

Probably will be in the Hall of Fame some day.

Yet what really strikes me about Aaron Rodgers is his ability to live and act in a dignified way. 

When he first came into the NFL he sat on the bench behind Brett Favre.  For several years.  He had the arm.  He has the talent.  He studied.  He worked hard.

But even more than this - he kept his  mouth shut when a very hungry Green Bay fan base wanted him to play - and in doing so take a shot at Favre, who was doing absolutely nothing in the way of mentoring Rodgers.

That's a rare form of courage and toughness.

During this season of his life he sought out Steve Young, who had endured a similar, difficult apprenticeship behind the great Joe Montana.

Steve Young coached Rodgers with this statement by telling him this, "never, ever allow yourself the cheap thrill of saying something just to make yourself feel better for a moment because something is unfair or not right.  That always backfires on you.  It never works out in the long run.  And I'll tell you what:  I've given that advice to other people and they have not heeded it, because it's hard....just do your job.  Play football.  And the benefits are great when you just hang tough.  Don't play the victim.  Don't complain."

Good stuff. 

May we all be blessed with that kind of patience, courage and understanding.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Sunday listening

Listening is a lost art in our culture today. 

Our culture dictates hour hour shows, actually 23 minute shows with 7 minutes of commericals.

Face book.


Everything is quick and fast.

If a point can't be made in a matter of minutes, if not seconds, "forget about it."  (said with a New York accent).

We are losing the ability to listen.

Now, to a certain extent, I am not pointing a finger at anyone - because even as a speaker, my mind can begin to wander (especially in the second service).

So, let me give you some "do's" of listening on Sunday mornings.

Do assume that the subject will be something you want to listen to.  Avoid the habit of thinking, "I've heard that before," or "this doesn't apply to me."  Any message will have a fresh insight or a helpful illustration that could apply to your life.  Listening closely will confirm that.

Do give the speaker the benefit of the doubt.  Teachings and sermons are imperfect.  All speakers have faults and idiosyncrasies.  If you focus on them, you will miss some profitable points being made.  Listen for substance and avoid the trap of only listening to someone who fits the style that you like.

Do listen to the entire teaching before forming an opinion.  Some subjects are charged with intense emotions.  Effective listeners keep an open mind and restrain from arguing or agreeing (internally) until they fully understand the intent of the sermon itself.

Do take notes.  It is a known fact that writing down the points of an outline and a few thoughts during the sermon keeps the mind from drifting off course.

Do come in (as much as possible) to the service on Sundays well rested and off a good night's sleep the night before.  Give God your best - not the leftovers of your week of busyness.

As a listener, I always have the attitude that there is at least one "take away" that I can go home with.

No matter who the speaker is - I am always open to that one point (and sometimes that one point has been life-changing).

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

I love the church

I believe that at this stage in my pilgrimage on this planet, I can begin to say things like, "I have given my life for the church."

My ultimate allegiance has been to Jesus Christ, but my whole ministry life has been in service to His body - the church.

Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, "I will build My church."  And it is his church.

It is not "my church" or "your church" but it is "His church".

Some people see the church as a gas station. For some people today, the church is a place where you fill up your spiritual gas tank when you're running low. Get a good sermon, and it will keep you going for the week.

For others, the church is like a movie theater. For many people, the church is a place that offers entertainment. Go for an hour of escape, hopefully in comfortable seats. Leave your problems at the door and come out smiling and feeling better than when you went in.

Another view is that the church is like a drug store. For other people, church is the place where you can fill the prescription that will deal with your pain. For many the church is therapeutic.

For others still, the church is like a big box retailer. Other people see the church as the place that offers the best products in a clean and safe environment for you and your family. The church offers great service at a low price—all in one stop. For many people, the church is a producer of programs for children and young people.

The church is more than all of that.  It is a place of love, forgiveness and acceptance.  A place where I can grow in God and grow with others around me.

I love the church. 

I know that in over 30 years of serving different churches as both a pastor and a missionary, that it is worth it all.

Let me tell you why.

Let me tell you why I believe in the church.

In such a superficial world of tweets, short sound bites on face book and other ways of communicating, the church is one of the only places where issues such as death, judgment, relationship, purpose, lasting priorities, meaning in life, identity, heaven and hell are discussed.

The church gives you and I meaning and purpose.  I find my identity through a relationship with Jesus and His church.

The church stands upon the one absolute that we can all stand on - God's Word.  God's word is timeless.  Cultures may come and cultures may go - but God's Word endures.

The church is the only place where people (or should be the only place) care.  I mean really care.  Not for what you bring - but for who you are.  We are not concerned about where you have been, only where you are and where you are going.  Status and money mean nothing in God's church.  Only a heart that seeks after God.

The church gives.  And gives.  And gives. 

The church needs you.  And you need the church.

I love Jesus.  And I love the church.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

We had another great group of men at my men's life group last Saturday.

I really enjoyed hanging out with guys who are "going after God".

Growing in God in an individual thing before the Lord but also a "we" thing.

We really do need each other.

Accountability is a must - especially for men.

Really pleased with the response to the teaching yesterday - in both services. 

First service response - a wonderful time together around the altar looking forward and praying for the future of our church family.

Second service response - praying for the needs of those who desire to "keep on walking" in life.

God calls me to persevere.  His calling is to give me the power to do so.

Busy, busy time of year.

Amanda did a great job in leading in worship yesterday.  We are grateful for a worship leader that loves God!

Thanks to all of the many, many volunteers who make a Sunday service happen.  You are loved and appreciated.

My teams lost this past weekend:  Dallas Cowboys and Michigan State.  Oh, well.

God is leading us - let's all continue to seek his face!

Great to have lunch yesterday with two new families to our church.  Quality families who love God.

Let's focus in on Jesus this season.

You are loved and appreciated!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

"I am not a grasshopper!"

The Bible is a book of pictures.

Scripture gives us a picture of God, a picture of the devil and a a photo (God's photo) of you and me.

We will accept one of these three possible evaluations of our lives.

What you think about you.

What Satan thinks about you.

What God thinks about you.

Whose "photo" of you are you going to believe?

In Numbers 13, we see the nation of Israel sending 12 spies into the "promise land" to check it out.

A reconnaissance patrol so to speak.

10 "spies" came backing saying, "In our opinion, we are like grasshoppers.  Even the giants think we are like grasshoppers."

2 spies (Joshua and Caleb) came back saying, "we can go in and take the land."

I've heard a lot of people talk as if they belonged to the First Church of the Grasshopper!

"I am nothing," they say.  "I am unworthy."  "I can't do anything."

Let me ask you this - Did God create you?  Yes.

Does God create trash?  No.

God doesn't create cheap merchandise.

We are his creation.

We have worth.

We have value.

God desires that you succeed in life.  God desires that you live in faith and power.

I encourage you to quit saying, "I am stupid, I am dumb."  I encourage you to stop all of the negative self talk that flows through  your mind every day.

Instead, have the mind of Christ. 

Think to yourself and even say aloud, "I have the mind of Christ.  In Jesus Christ, I am somebody.  I can do all thinks through Christ who strengthens me."

My dear friend, you are no Grasshopper!  So quit talking like one!  Quit living like one!

Be God-conscious, not giant-conscious.

Just a thought for a Thursday.