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Thursday, December 20, 2012

End of the world and being ready

The end of the world is supposed to happen tomorrow, December 21, 2012.

It has been called the "Mayan apocalypse".  According to the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, December 21, 2012, is the end-date of a 5,125-year-long cycle.

It will usher in the catastrophic end of the world as the earth is swallowed by a black hole at the far end of the galaxy, or in a collision with another planet.

Others say that it will usher in a  new era of spiritual transformation. 

Many, many people around the world are taking this seriously, even in the United States.

I read an article today by James Emery White who writes, "In a blog post on USA. gov. the U.S. government announced that the "world will not end on December 21, 2012, or any day in 2012."

Why this emphatic declaration?  "Apparently NASA officials are getting messages from children as young as 11 who say that they are ill and/or contemplating suicide because of the coming doomsday."

How are we as Christians to respond?

Mr. White helps us with this.

First of all we are to get the facts.

The Mayans did not view time as linear, but cyclical - meaning that whatever was meant to be fore casted for December 21st was simply the end of one cycle and the beginning of another.

The "fact is" that the concept of "apocalypse" is not in the Mayan culture at all.

Secondly, know that the date itself has been disproved

Mr. White writes that, "an excavation of a Mayan timekeepers' work room in Guatemala recently revealed calendars that destroy any notion that the Mayans predicted the end of the world in 2012."

"Many speculate it is little more than profit.  It sells books, has created a booming tourism industry in Mexico, and is fostering a demand for survival kits, insurance policies and reserved seating in "doomsday-proof" bunkers."

Cultural historian Paul Boyer notes, "the more people feel marginalized or alienated from society, the more apocalyptic ideas will find fertile soil.

Thirdly, understand how we has Christian view time.

The Christian view of time is linear.  We had a beginning (Genesis 1) and we will have an end (Revelation 21).

Many Christians believe (as I do) that we are living in the "last days" and the the end is imminent.  A 2011 Pew Center poll found that 41% of Americans believe the rapture will occur before 2050.

Maranatha, even so, come Lord Jesus!

Finally, be prepared, no matter when the world ends.

We as Christians don't need to fear the end, or be anxious about an apocalypse, but rather we are to be spiritually ready and full of hope.

We are to "watch and be prepared", as Jesus teaches in Matthew 24 and 25.

We are to have hope.  Psalms 46:1-4 shares that "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging." 

So, yes, ultimately, this world as we know it will end.  The real question is whether or not it will be met with faith in the living God.

Do you have faith in God today?  Is your heart connected to Jesus Christ?  Are you a Christ-follower?

Why not come to one of our morning worship services this Sunday (8:30 A.M. or 10:30 A.M).  You will hear a clear presentation of how you can connect to God - and have hope for the future.

And....if we are not here.....for those who are Christians....I will see you in heaven!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Where was God?

Where was God during the brutal massacre of 20 Children and 6 adults last Friday?

Where are you God?

Craig Hoekenga is an industrialist on the East Coast, living in Connecticut just outside New York City.  Two of his grandchildren were at Sandy Hook elementary school when the shooting took place.

One of them was hidden in a closet by a teacher who was shot.

The two came out alive. 

Craig is a believer and a strong supporter of world missions for the Assemblies of God.

His son CC writes:

"So many people around the world are asking the question, "Where was God on the horrific morning of December 14, 2012?

Having lived this tragedy with Tracy and our boys, I can answer that question very easily without any reservation.

At 9:30 in the morning on December 14, 2012, God was at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Sandy Hook Connecticut. 

He could be seen in Mrs. Wexler (Matty's teacher) as she put all of the students in their cubbies, lined up chairs in front of them and then laid across those chairs so as to take any bullets should the gunman enter the room.

God could be seen in Mrs. Kristopik (CJ's music teacher) as she locked her students in a closet and prayed with them. 

God could be seen in Rick the custodian as he ran around the school shouting 'shooter" while he locked 75% of the classroom doors. 

God could be seen in principal Dawn Hochsprung as she attacked the gunman outside of Matty's door only to lose her own life but while most likely saving all of Matty's room as the police arrived shortly thereafter and the gunman took his own life.

God could be seen in all of the first responders who put their own lives at risk in order to save others.

I could go on and on but I think you understand."

Finally, C.C. writes, "Unfortunately evil was also present at Sandy Hook School that dreadful morning but I hope you are witnessing the people of Sandy Hook, the people of Newtown, the people of Connecticut, the people of the World rising up against this very evil and winning!!!! Thanks to all for the prayers and support and we hope you have a Merry Christmas!"

Good stuff for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Family and Christmas

If Christmas is about anything, it is about spending time with family.

We slow down, put aside the things of this world, and focus on Jesus, and celebrating His birth with those closest to us.

More than any other Christmas season, I have heard it articulated this year that the most meaningful thing at Christmas is being with those whom you love.

On the TV show, "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?", they took a poll of 8 to 12 year olds and asked them, "What do you most enjoy about the holidays?"

A)  Decorating the house.

B) Spending time with family and relatives.

C) Receiving presents.

What do you think most of the children said?

Answer:  B.  Spending time with family and relatives.

Gifts and toys come and go - but the Christmas memories of family stay with  you forever.

I encourage you to create "memories" next week.  Memories that no one will forget.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

My heart grieves over the adults and children brutally murdered in Newtown, Connecticut.

Let's all continue to pray for the families who have lost loved ones. 

Mental illness plays a role in this - but we also know there is a devil and his demons who are wrecking havoc on the world.  They hate us and are out to destroy us.

We can only stand strong in the strength and power of Jesus Christ.

May God continue to protect us all!

Angelic protection is real.  I encourage you to pray not only the "blood of Jesus" over your kids each day (as they go to school), I encourage you to pray that God will send his angels to watch over and protect them (I am mentioning angels this Sunday).

Thankful for all of those who prayed for me while I was in the hospital.

Thankful for great nurses and staff in the hospital (Silver Cross).

Being that I have not been in the hospital since 1989, I was reminded of not only the physical side of receiving being in the hospital, but the mental and emotional side as well.

Laying is bed, no matter how sick I am, for a person with the energy level I have - very, very difficult.

I am also grateful to Julia Vales, Joanna Campins and Lynn Whittal for bringing by some meals.  What a great ministry that is.  What a help to Debbie and I.  And great food at that!

I did not have malaria.  I did not have typhoid fever.  The results of the test were that I had a stomach parasite.  Given antibiotics.

I feel a lot, lot better today.

Would I go back to Indonesia knowing that I would leave there sick?  Probably not.  But did I thank God for the wonderful time of ministry I had there, while I was in the hospital?  Absolutely.

If Christmas is about anything - it is about missions.  "You shall call his name, Jesus, for he shall save the people from their sins," the scriptures say.

What a powerful presentation of the Christmas message we received yesterday.

I liked all of the tunes, especially the song about "fearing not."

There is a lot to fear out in the world today.  Yet with Jesus, we know that we can "fear not."

Thanks to Pastor Amanda, the choir, the actors, the "sound booth" guys.  Thanks for all of your time and hard work.

I am grateful to the Lord for the many who raised their hands for salvation.  More people in God's kingdom.  Praise God!

We are blessed not only with some great singers in the choir, but with people who desire to and enjoy ministry.

Great to be back with my wonderful church family.

Love you all,


Thursday, December 06, 2012


We talk about, and rightly so, the fiery darts of the enemy.
He attacks in all kinds of ways including a full attack directly at us.
He tries to deceive us.
But he also tries to distract us.
In Yellowstone National Park, there are large sign that say, “Don’t feed the bears!”
Tourist always disobey it.
They feed the bears, and every year the park rangers have to pick up dead bears.
The bears get used to being fed by the tourist and they lose their ability to fend for themselves in nature.
They wind up looking for a handout, and when the handout is no longer there, they die.
Satan offers us handouts – a party here, a relationship there, a thrill here, and he gets us so used to him that we forget God.  When he stops handing things out, when you lose the job, when life turns upside down on you, then you don’t know where to go.  Satan has a strategy of tricking people into relying on cheap substitutes.
I would suggest that you keep your focus on God.
Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sticking your thumb in the dike

"Sticking your thumb in the dike" refers to the story of Hans Brinker, a young boy who saved Holland from flooding due to his plugging a hole in a dike with his finger.

When you place a "thumb in the dike" you are acting to find a quick solution to a problem before it becomes much bigger.

However, the negative to this thought is that in almost all cases, the quick solution doesn't last.

It is a temporary solution against the wave of challenges that you and I face.

That is the way I believe it is with commercialism in the United States. 

It seems to be almost fruitless to stand up against the wave of consumerism in our country.  Now there is talk of stores being open on Thanksgiving day.

Face it, friends.  Our culture worships things.

Professor James A. Roberts uses the following true story to illustrate the power of our "worldwide consumer culture".

He writes, "Surely a man the size of Walmart worker Jdimytai Damour could control the expected Black Friday shopping crowds.  At 6 feet 5 inches and 270 pounds, he was a force to reckon with.  In fact, he was chosen to work the front entrance to the Walmart store at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Strema, New York, precisely because of his hulking frame.

But alas, he was no match for the crowd of 2,000 Walmart shoppers eagerly awaiting the 5:00 A.M. store opening.  A few minutes before store opening, the throng could no longer be held back.

The sliding glass doors that separated the would-be shoppers from the holiday bargains ("door busters" takes on a whole new meaning) bowed form the bodies pressed against them.  Six to 10 workers attempted to no avail to push back, but they were fighting a losing battle.

In an instant, the glass doors shattered and the frenzied mob surged into the store in search of the heavily discounted "door busters" available in limited quantities for a short period of time.

Tragically, Damour was thrown to the floor and trampled to death (the official cause of death being asphyxiation related to his trampling) in the stampede that streamed over him in pursuit of bargains on big-screen TVs, electronics, clothing and a myriad of other consumer goodies.

One shopper, Kimberly Cribbs of Queens, said that the crowd acted like "savages".  And the shoppers' bad behavior didn't end with the trampling of Damour.

When the shoppers were informed that the store would need to be cleared because of the death of an employee, many continued to shop, yelling that they had been waiting in line since the day before. 

Many had to be escorted from the store."

Wild stuff.  Tragic.  Horrific.  Challenging.

Let me put the proverbial "thumb in the dike" by saying that as Christians, we need to keep all of this in perspective.

Thanksgiving Day is to be a day to give thanks.  To be thankful not for what we don't have but for what we do have.

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving service

This evening is our Thanksgiving service at 7:00 P.M.

We invite you to come.

Communion will be given.

One of the points of my devotion this evening is the following:

We can give thanks for ongoing hope in the midst of despair.

Even in the midst of, or especially in the midst of a hopeless situation, we can give thanks.

In the fall of 2000, former mega church pastor Ed Dobson was diagnosed with ALS (or Lou Gehrig's disease), a degenerative disease with no known cause or cure.

In 2012, Pastor Dobson shared his ongoing struggle to give thanks while living with an incurable condition.

He writes:

"There are many thanks for which I am not grateful.  I can no longer button the buttons on my shirt.  I can no longer put on a heavy jacket.  I can no longer raise my right hand above my head.  I can no longer write.  I can no longer eat with my right hand.  I eat with my left hand, now even that is becoming a challenge. 

And over time all of these challenges will get worse and worse.  So what in the world do I have to be grateful for?

So much.  Lord, thank you for waking me up this morning.  Lord, thank you that I can turn over in my bed.  Lord, thank you that I can still get out of bed.  Lord, thank you that I can walk to the bathroom.....Lord, thank you that I can still brush my teeth....Lord, thank you that I can still eat breakfast.  Lord, thank you that I can still dress myself.  Lord, thank you that I can still drive my car.  Lord, thank you that I can still walk.  Lord, thank you that I can still talk."

Finally, he writes, "And the list goes on and on.  I have learned in my journey with ALS to focus on what I can do, not on what I can't do.  I have learned to be greatful for the small things in my life and for the many things I can still do."

I am humbled by Pastor Dobson's words.  And grateful.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Great life group meeting last evening. 

Lots of "corny" humor.

It is fun to be around people who like to have fun.

While humor is in the eye of the beholder, laughter is universal.

Broke down and had two Portillo's hot dogs (with everything) and onion rings.


Dallas Cowboys pulled out a win in overtime. 

Not a good sign they had to do so against a terrible team like Cleveland.

Looking forward to my favorite day of the year - Thanksgiving Day.

The Father (God).  Faith.  Food.  Fun.  Family.  Football.  Fantastic!

Really, really enjoyed worship yesterday.

There seems to be a heighten anointing in our services.

I am grateful.

Many, many thanks to all who helped out with the Dunamis conference.

I can't tell you how many expressions of thanks and gratitude I received from the conference participants concerning our church family who helped out.

We have a good church - with good people.

God is in control - even when it seems like everything around us is out of control.

From the Dunamis conference:  The primary purpose of "speaking in tongues" is to empower us to witness.  To share our faith.

May the Holy Spirit help us to reboot that thought in our churches.

We need, we desperately need the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Word of God is necessary - we also need the presence of God.

Just a reminder of our Thanksgiving Eve service tomorrow evening. 

7:00 P.M.

I love you all......

Thursday, November 15, 2012

David and the Holy Spirit

King David in the Old Testament is one of my favorite Bible characters.

A mighty man of God - full of God's power and Spirit - yet extremely honest about his flaws and sins.

After his sin with Bathsheba, David comes in repentance to God and prayed for spiritual renewal.

He knows, he knows all too well that without a gracious reply from God, he would be without the sustaining presence of God's Spirit.

He prays in Psalms 51:1-12, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit."

More than anything else, we as Christians rely upon the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

We need the Holy Spirit.

You need the Holy Spirit.

I need the Holy Spirit.

Can I share this with you?

The biggest thing that will rob you and I from a direct connection to the Holy Spirit is the word - are you ready?  The word sin.


More than anything else sin will sever your relationship with God.

Do you feel an absence of the Holy Spirit in your life?

Just a suggestion:  Let God search your heart today - and ask for forgiveness for any known and unknown sin in your life.

If you do - I guarantee you that like David, you will have a renewed sense of the joy of  the Lord in your heart, a willing spirit to do his work and a steadfast spirit within your spirit.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Communion and our meeting tonight

Tonight's service is going to be powerful!

Months of preparation and prayer has gone into both evening services, tonight and tomorrow evening at 7:00 P.M.

My assignment this evening will be to lead our communion time (there are four segments to the concert of prayer - 15 minutes each).

Let me give you some thoughts concerning communion (that I will give this evening - here are my notes below).

Communion is an extraordinary event for a Christian.

Each time we gather together to remember and to celebrate Christ's death and resurrection, God moves in our heart and lives.

To take communion is not to participate in a ritualistic exercise - out of a sense of duty or habit - something we tag on to the end of a service before we head out to a local restaurant.

It is a meal with tremendous symbolism and power.

In this "meal" there is healing, in this meal there is freedom, in this meal, there is power, in this meal there is forgiveness of sins.  In this "meal" there is the presence of the Lord.

This is an extraordinary meal that we participate in this evening.

We're not bringing a sack lunch on our way to work.  Or stopping off at McDonald's for a quick hamburger.  We are not shoving something in a microwave to eat in front of the T.V.

There is power in what we are doing here this evening.  Spiritual power.

We have an extraordinary host

I'm not speaking of me as a pastor or any one here tonight.  I am not speaking of someone who takes your order at Taco Bell.  I'm not speaking of a restaurant maitre d' who is friendly, efficient and aloof.

I'm speaking of Jesus.  Jesus and you.  For while we take this communion collectively, we experience the presence of Jesus individually.

Jesus is calling you, tonight.  He knows you by name.  He knows you better than you know yourself.  He knows your situation.  He cares about you.

It's the presence of Jesus and his love for us that draws us to this table this evening.

It is his love that gives us a new identity and gives us a name.  There is a table in the foyer with the name tags of those who are participating in the conference.

Here at this table this evening, God has your name marked in his heart.  And he says, "you are my friend." 

"I am a friend of God." 

Jesus knows you by name.  He loves you.  And the Bible says that he is "ever interceding" for you.  In other words, Jesus is presenting your need, right now, before God the Father.

This is an extraordinary table that we have this evening.

It is not one of those fixed seats at a Burger King.  It is not a foldaway table on an American Airlines flight.  It is not a single-serving tray brought around by the nurses in a hospital.

It is a table that has been personally set for you.  Jesus said, "You did not choose me," but I have chosen you. 

Jesus says, "I call you to by table.  I make a place here for you."

The great thing is that this table expands and expands.  There is no limit to its size.  It cannot be confined.

It may not be fenced.  This table expands with the love of the host (Jesus) and grow with the grace of his invitation to us.

Here comes the thief on the cross.  The woman taken in adultery.  The puny, the pompous, the guilty and the gutsy, the sensitive and the simple, the indecent and the intemperate, the foolish and the fickle, the hopeless and the hopeful.

It is an extraordinary table that pushes to the ends of the earth the gospel of peace.  Red and yellow, black and white, rich and poor, African, Japanese, French, Mexican, American we are all welcomed at this table.

These are extraordinary people we celebrate with this evening.

We are children of God - repeat after me "I am a child of God."

As we leave this table, we are no longer ordinary people.  The ordinary within us wants to abuse or accuse, to obliterate or isolate, to bite back or attack. 

Yet as Christians, we can do the extraordinary.  We can return love for hate.  Peace for anger.  Forgiveness for hut.  We are not ordinary people here tonight, for at this table something happens to us.  The ordinary is swallowed up into the extraordinary. 

We are extraordinary because we have been forgiven through God's amazing grace.

Praise God!

And Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:26, "for whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."

Let's proclaim that Jesus saves tonight as we participate.  Let's leave here this evening with God's Spirit in our hearts, ready to proclaim to the world that Jesus saves.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Paradoxical statements

Kent Keith has written a wonderful little book entitled, "Do it anyway."

It is a handbook for finding personal meaning and deep happiness in a crazy world. 

He starts out by saying that "the world is crazy".  I think we can all agree on that.

The world is crazy.

You and I can't control the events and people around us.  We can't control the economy or the crime rate of the weather. 

We can't control when terrorists may strike or wars that may break out.

We can't control whether we will have a job this time tomorrow.

We can work hard, and prepare, and seize opportunities, but there are a lot of things in our external world that we cannot control.

So how are you coping when it seems like the world is out of control?

Here's what I know:

Our (your) personal meaning and deep happiness don't depend on the way the world treats us.  They depend on how we respond to the way the world treats us.

And the way we respond is our choice.  Our decision.

In other words, we can only control the way we respond both with actions and in attitudes.

Let me give you Kent Keith's 10 paradoxical commandments with a comment on each:

1.  People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.  Love them anyway.

Jesus says basically the same thing.  That we are to love and pray for and bless those who want to do us harm.  How can I do that outside of the grace of God and the help of the Holy Spirit?

2.  If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motivesDo good anyway.

Many can't believe that anyone would do anything without expecting something in return.  And so they project their lack of compassion on others.

Can I tell you something?  There are people in the kingdom of God who do good works - with the sole intent of advancing the kingdom of God.

3.  If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.  Succeed anyway.

As you are successful, it will bring out the worst and the best from those around you.

4.  The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.  Do good anyway.

That humbles me.  That gives me perspective.  Our church is not about me.  Our church is not about whether "I am a success or not".  Our church exists to build up the kingdom of God and glorify Jesus.

30 years from now (or less) Stone Church family members will be hard pressed to remember my name.  And here's what I know.  That is the way it should be.  It is all about Jesus. 

5.  Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.  Be honest and frank anyway.

6.  The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.  Think big anyway.

It is hard to soar with the eagles when you are running with Turkeys.

By the very nature of what I do, I am obliged to pause and deal with "nay-sayers".  It drives me nuts, but I have purposed in my heart to dream big anyway.

7.  People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.  Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

8.  What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.  Build anyway.

That would include a godly family.  A godly marriage.  Health.  Success at your job.  A ministry.  We can't control what will happen to those elements of our lives - we can only continue to build.

9.  People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.  Help people anyway.

I never let a person's attitude toward me effect how or when or where I will minister to them.  It doesn't matter whether they like me or not - my calling is to minister to them.

10.  Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.  Give the world the best you have anyway.

Sometimes those whom you have helped the most will turn around and desert you or hurt you.  Give them the best you have anyway.

Good stuff for a Tuesday.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

Turned out to be a very eventful weekend!

I picked our guest speaker up, Greg Mundis, at the O'Hara airport.  He was suffering from a painful rash - over his entire body.

Took him to a clinic.  They told me to take him to the emergency room (all of this Saturday afternoon). 

I took him to Palos Community Hospital. 

They admitted him.

It turns out that two weeks ago he had a shingles shot - and 14 days to the day - he came down with a very, very painful case of shingles.

Greg will be released from the hospital today - I am taking he and his wife, Sandy, to the hospital this afternoon (she flew in yesterday to be with him).

We are praying that he will return this Wednesday as our lead speaker for the Dunamis2 conference.

Speaking of the conference, I invite and encourage all of our church family to come to the two special evening meetings, Wednesday, November 14th and Thursday, November 15th.

We are prayerfully anticipating a great move of God!

7:00 P.M.  Both evenings.

Come prepared to experience the presence of the Lord!

I am grateful for the Lord's help in speaking yesterday (on short notice).  A teaching entitled, "A theology of the Holy Spirit."

The outline will be on our website this week.

We had wonderful times worshipping God yesterday! 

A distinct and personal sense of God's presence!  We stayed until sometime after 12:30 worshipping God.

Sorry, gang, about the Bears last night.  My Cowboys finally won a game.

I love you all!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Complaining about complainers

If you would permit me, I would like to complain about complainers.

Oh, the irony of it all.

By the very nature of what I do, I deal with those who complain.

There is always a "crisis of the week" or someone who is complaining about something.

And, to be honest, I can find myself complaining about those who complain.

I don't know what is worse, those that complain behind my back, or those who complain to me in person!

Jeff Manion, in his wonderful book, "The Land Between" writes:

"The heart drifts toward complaint as if by gravitational pull - after all, complaint seems a reasonable response to a sequence of disappointing events.  Generally, you don't have to extend an invitation for complaint to show up.  It arrives as an uninvited guest.  You return home from yet another frustrating day to discover that complaint has moved into your guest room, unpacked its luggage, started a load of laundry, and is rooting through your fridge.  Even as you seek to dislodge complaint - as you move its bags to the curb and change the locks - it crawls back through the guest room window.  Complaint resist eviction."

He goes on to write, "before we know it, complaint feels right because it is familiar.  With every struggle, we become the Israelites murmuring in the desert.  We  miss the faith lessons.  God desires to prepare us and build things into us, but we are hunkered down in our pattern of response.  We need to wake up and notice what is happening!  How do we evict that spirit of complaint?"

Finally, he writes, "I have heard it said that "bad movement pushes out good movement" and "good movement pushes out bad movement."  We can discourage complaint's residency in our lives by inviting another guest to move in with us.  That new guest is trust.  When we choose to trust in the face of deep disappointment, complaint has less space to maneuver.  While attempting to unpack for an extended stay, it discovers that trust has taken all the drawers in the guest room and already occupies the empty seat at the table.  Trust evicts complaint.  Trust and complaint are incompatible roommates.  One inevitably pushes the other out."

Good stuff.

Let me ask you this question:  Are you a complainer?

You say, "who me"? 

Yes, I am talking to you.

Do you whine?  Complain about everything?

The weather.  The economy.  The government.  Your family.  Your neighbors.  Your church.  Your kids?

Where nothing ever meets your expectations and standards?

Do you go by the motto that, "if it weren't for the imperfections of others, you would have nothing to talk about?"

Come on now, you are better than that aren't you?

BTW, how egotistical it is of us to expect perfection around us.  Whoever said that you had the right to a perfect spouse?  Perfect children?  Perfect boss?  Perfect church?

What makes you any different from anyone else?  And - how perfect are you?

Here's what I know:  People who complain about everything - don't like themselves.

In his book, Confessions of a Pastor, Graig Groeschel offer some advice on how to handle people who complain.

He writes, "It's a fact that "hurting people who people."  They usually dislike themselves and criticize other sin a misguided effort to validate themselves.  If one of these injured souls lobs a criticism grenade in your direction, defuse it with understanding.  Part of considering the source is seeking awareness of what that person may be going through."

He goes on to give this illustration: 

"One time I was praying during worship, a few moments before preaching.  Eyes closed, focusing in God, I felt someone slip a note into my hand.  I never saw who it was, but the note was marked "personal."  I though to myself, someone probably wrote a nice note to encourage me before I preach.

A warm, loving feeling settled over me as I unfolded the paper. 

A moment later, I lost that loving feeling.

Evidently, the note was from a woman who had tried to see me on Friday, my day off.  She took offense at my absence and blasted me with hateful accusations.  This happened literally seconds before I was to stand up to preach.  In that moment, I had a choice.  I could internalize the offense and become demoralized and discouraged.  Or I could ask myself, "I wonder what she's experiencing that caused her to lash out?"

Finally he writes, "I chose compassion over depression.  My heart hurt for her.  I knew that such a disproportionate reaction must indicate deep pain, so I didn't take her note personally.  Consider the source.  And consider the possibility that the jab may have come from an injured heart.  Dismiss it and move on.  If you don't you may become the very thing you despise."

Wow, between the two quotes, it really hits home.  It convicts me.

"Father, forgive me for complaining about complainers.  They will always be with us.  It is the nature of our carnal nature.  Help me to look to you Lord, and realize that beneath all of the complaining is a hurting person.  I rely upon you, oh God.  Amen."

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Worship as Contemplation

For those who are serious about worship, there is a definite link between contemplation and our connection with the Holy Spirit.

We talked last week about mediation which is defined as a daily, quiet time.

Contemplation, the focus on this evening's "Pure Worship," is a more specific form of mediation.

Contemplation is to our prayer life as intimacy is to a marriage.

Debbie and I can just look at each other and know what each other is thinking - with the "non-verbals" - subtle ways of communicating.

Have you ever thought that there are "non-verbal" ways of communicating with God?

Contemplation builds upon mediation.

The word meditate means to "reflect; to moan, to mutter; to ponder; to make a quiet sound such as sighing; to mediate or contemplate something as a worshipper repeats the words."

In the Bible, the word meditate or mediation meant something more than a mental exercise.  In Hebrew thought, to mediate upon the scriptures is to quietly repeat them in a soft, droning sound, while utterly abandoning outside distractions.

In Jewish tradition, there is a specialized type of prayer called "davening," which is when a worshipper recites scripture, praying intense prayers, wile bowing or rocking back and forth.  The intent is to get lost in communion with God.

There is a new movie about the life of Abraham Lincoln coming out this week.  Lincoln himself often spoke of how slowly his mind worked, how even as an adult he read laboriously and out loud.  His law partner and biographer William Herndon claimed that "Lincoln read less and thought more than any man in his sphere in America."

Here is a simple principle:  What the mind repeats, it retains."

Or, as I say, "repetition is the mother of all learning."

David writes in Psalms 1:1-3:  "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night." 

What is the result? 

"He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers."

Now follow me.  Our strength (emotional, spiritual and physical) comes from time spent in God's presence. 

In reflection.  In contemplation.  Without distractions.  Alone.  Silent. 

To quote, "solitude is the one place where we can gain freedom from the forces of society that will otherwise relentlessly mold us."

Henri Nouwen writes, "In solitude, I get rid of my scaffolding."

Scaffolding is all the stuff we use to keep ourselves propped up, to convince ourselves that we are important or okay.  In solitude we have no friends to talk with, no phone calls or meetings, no T.V, no music or books or newspapers to occupy and distract our minds. 

Our minds (to use a wonderful image from Henri Nouwen) are like a banana tree filled with monkeys constantly jumping up and down.  It is rarely still or quiet.  All these thoughts, like so many chimps, clamor for our attention.  "How can I get ahead?  I someone trying to hurt me?  How will I handle this problem.

You have heard me say repetitively, "apart from Christ we can do nothing."

This type of worship is disciplined and deliberate.  It isn't accomplished on the run, nor by offering prayers from a pulpit or at a hospital bedside.  I know I can't be busy and pray at the same time (in the sense we are talking about here).

I can be active and pray; I can work and pray; but I cannot be busy and pray.

I cannot be inwardly rushed, distracted, or dispersed.  In order to pray I have to be paying more attention to God than to what people are saying to me; to God than to my own ego. 

Usually, for that to happen, there must a be a deliberate withdrawal from the noise of the day, a disciplined detachment from my own self.

We must (as one author put it) ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives."

The CEO of Domino's Pizza was quoted as saying, "We don't sell pizza, we sell delivery."  30 minutes or less.  Fast food.  Drive-Thru lanes because going inside takes too long.

But here's what i know:  Hurry is not just a disordered schedule.  Hurry is a disordered heart. 

We desire microwave maturity in Christ.  "Okay, God," we say, " you have 5 minutes to connect with me."

For most Christians, the great danger is not that you will renounce your faith, but that you will settle for a mediocre version of it.  God has so much more for  you!

What's the end game?

Rest.  Peace.  Freedom from anxiety. Freedom from worry.

Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke (my non-legalistic way of serving God the Father) upon you and learn from me (follow my example), for I am gentle (I have strength under control) and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  Matthew 11:28-30

As I contemplate, I worship and as I worship it brings rest.  It brings an understanding that I do not have to "make things happen" - I simply need to be obedient to Christ and dependant upon His Holy Spirit.

The more I know Christ, the easier it is to obey Him.

So what is the challenge today?

Look at your schedule.  Every schedule must contain a balance of recreation and rest.  We live in a busy world.  We as Christian are susceptible to schedule abuse.

Look at your stress levels.  As Christians, we cannot give what we do not have.  We must be dependant upon God.  Most men and women of God let burdens turn into a need "to make things happen (or taking on in their own flesh the responsibility to do what God desires)."

Look at how you are sleeping.  Something very practical.

Look at your spiritual condition.  We must repent of any sin - especially any attempt to carry out His plan by our own effort.  So many times we can do the right thing in the wrong way.

Look at your spirit.  There are no great men and women; only humble men and women whom God chooses to use greatly.

I challenge you this week to slow down. 

Deliberately choose to drive in the slow lane on the freeway.

Declare a fast from honking.

Eat your food slowly.

At the grocery store, look for the check-out line that is the longest. 

Go though one day without wearing a watch. 

Finally, spend 5 minutes each - practicing the following elements of communion with God (all in one hour):

Praise, waiting, confession, reading the Word, petition, intercession, praying the Word, thanksgiving, singing, meditate, listening and ending with praise.

Can't wait for tonight's "Pure Worship".

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

This past Sunday morning, between services, I stood in our "coffee connection" area and listened to the buzz of relationship and friendship.

Check out our new 1 minute Stone Church video at:

I love the church.

I love our church.

I love the family of God.

It is our calling to be a place to belong, a place to grow and a place to serve.

As we love one another, it attracts people like a magnet.  When a church really offers love to each other and those who are welcomed into it, you have to lock the doors to keep people out!

I read an article today entitled, "Six secrets for becoming a loving church."  (I have picked out five of them to give to you).

Let me summarize it:

1.  We must be committed to building each other up.

Note of appreciation.  Hugs in the hallway.  Phone calls of encouragement. 

Life is tough - there are enough discouraging people in the world.  We need to be encouragers, not discouragers!

We all like to be around people who are positive.  People who are going to lift us up and not tear us down. 

2.  We need to recognize the value of every person.

Even the people we don't like - or who don't like us (I am learning that it is harder to love the person who doesn't like me than the person I don't like).

That person may be immature; they may be disagreeable, but Christ died for them.

When you get your nose bent out of joint because of someone in your area of ministry or in the church (and inevitably it will), just remember:  Christ died for that person.  That shows how valuable they are.

3.  We need to stay focused on what is really important.

The essence of my walk with Christ is not external but internal. 

Back in 1917, as the Bolsheviks grabbed the reins of power through a revolution in Russia, the priests in the Orthodox Church were in a heated debate over how long the tassels should be on their robes.  They ignored the Bolshevik revolution, and instead, split their church arguing over this trivial matter!

Churches almost never have division over major issues.  They divide over trivial, foolish little things.

Are you really going to "go to the mat" over ____________ (and you fill in the blank) when there are Christians that are dying for their faith?

4.  We must must not insist that everyone agree.

I really do believe that we can walk arm in arm without seeing eye to eye.

Paul writes, "As far as it depends on you, if it is possible, live at peace with all men."  Romans 12:18

God even admits that there are some people you will not get along with!  No one "gets along" with everyone.

So if you know of someone who is nitpicking about something in your life, that says something more about them than you.

Take them to God and see what He has to say.  We can be agreeable in the midst of disagreement.

5.  We must accept one another.

Paul writes in Romans 15:7, "Accept one another just as Christ has accepted you in order to bring praise to God."

How did God accept us?  Unconditionally.  Non-judgmentally.  No one's acceptance is based upon what they do or not do.

No church will ever be perfect, but it can be healthy.  Stone Church is not a perfect church, but we are striving to be healthy. 

May we grow in joy and peace and hope and power.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Big, big day tomorrow.

Encourage everyone to get out and vote.

God's will be done!

I am thankful for the wonderful staff we have here at Stone Church (both the pastoral staff and our support staff).

Looking forward to the Dunamis meetings a week from this coming Wednesday!

Debbie and I are grateful for the continual outpouring of love, support and prayers that are coming our way as your pastors.

We love you!

God will make a way, when there seems to be no way.

Mine is to be faithful and trust in God - God's is to move as He sees fit.

We live in a world where Christians are being persecuted.

Let's all continue to pray for the persecuted Christians around the world.

God never qualifies our pain (our pain is our pain) - but at the same time - there are Christians who are suffering for their faith in ways that we will probably not experience in our lifetime.

Thankful for a wonderful worship team - leading us into the throne room of God.

Debbie and I were thrilled to meet several guests yesterday at our church.  Our prayer is that they continue to check us out and connect as the Holy Spirit leads.

Let me share with you - I love my life group.  Twice a month, I get to relax with a great group of people, study God's word, and pray (good food as well!).

I covet your prayers - for wisdom, guidance and strength.

Am sensing that God is ready to pour out his spirit upon us!

Thank you, thank you to all who came out last Saturday to paint in the foyer and wash windows.  Your help was greatly appreciated!

I love you all!

Thursday, November 01, 2012


There is a story involving Yogi Berra, the well-known catcher for the New York Yankees, and Hank Aaron, who at that time was the chief power hitter for the Milwaukee Braves.

The teams were playing in the World Series, and as usual Yogi was keeping up his ceaseless chatter, intended to pep up his teammates on the one hand, and distract the Milwaukee batters on the other. 

As Aaron came to the plate, Yogi tried to distract him by saying, "Hank, you're holding the bat wrong.  You're supposed to hold it so you can read the trademark."

Aaron didn't say anything, but when the next pitch came he it it into the left-field bleachers.  After rounding the bases and tagging up at home plate, Hank Aaron looked at Yogi Berra and said, "I didn't come up here to read."

Love that. 

Hank Aaron didn't allow Yogi Berra to distract him from his true purpose.

If there is one thing that can keep us from a complete and fulfilling walk with Christ - it is distractions.

Yet what is true individually, is true corporately as well.

As a church, we can become distracted.

Distracted by preferences.

Distracted by personal agendas.

Distracted by opinions.

Distracted by rumors, gossip, anger and unforgiveness.

What frees us from these distractions?

Time spent in the presence of the Lord.  As I reconnect with the Holy Spirit -  my true purpose as a Christian comes back into focus.  You show me a Christian whose conversation is filled with thoughts and attitudes toward people - and I will show you a Christian who needs to reconnect to the vine - the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Think of the conversations you've had the past couple of days.  Where they filled with thoughts about people or thoughts about God?

A choice to refocus on Christ.  Hebrews 12:2 tells us, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith."

I choose as to what I will focus on.

It's an old church cliche:  "I must keep my eyes on Jesus"

We used to sing, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in his wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim.  In the light of his glory and grace."

I can't tell you how many times I have heard people say, "I got my eyes off of the Lord and got them on people and people let me down."

I spoke with a woman this week (on the phone) who has given up on Christianity.  She used to go to our church (Stone Church) years ago and feels so wounded by the way she was treated by the people in our church, she no longer serves God.

For an hour, she railed and ranted about the church and Christians in general.

"All Christians are hypocrites," she cried out (and BTW at some point in time we all are hypocritical in attitudes and actions - because we are human beings.  If you think you are exempt from that - you are the hypocrite).

She is bitter and angry against God.  She is bitter and angry against the people, who as she said, "claimed to be Christians."

Here is my word to you today:  Keep your focus on Jesus and His purpose for your life and for our church.

Our church is here to bring people to Christ and to grow in the Lord - together.

Our church is here to love God and love people.  We can work in ministries, pray, memorize scriptures, be faithful in church attendance, but if we don't have "love" as Jesus said, "we are not walking in obedience to Him."

Opinions and preferences come and go - we will let each other down - I will let you down - but I am grateful that Jesus never lets us down.

And - that our purpose remains the same - to be a place where people can belong, grow and serve.

Will  you join me?  Will you join me in getting your focus off of others and our likes and dislikes and what we prefer and don't prefer - and get our focus back on the mission that God has called us all to?

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Be still and know

We resume "Pure Worship" this evening!

It is the highlight of my week.

Communicating with God.  Worshipping God.  Letting God's presence seep into my Spirit.

Tonight, in the devotion, I will be sharing about one way of communication that in the busyness of our lives - we have a hard time implementing.

Being still before God.

If you have walked with God for any length of time you realize that there is no prepackaged routine for communicating with God.

There are all kinds of ways and methods - just as there are all kinds of ways that we communicate with our spouses.  With a verbal word.  With a hug.  With a gift. 

It is the same with God.

God is  not predictable.  God is sovereign.  God moves when and where He chooses.  He is Lord:  we are His servants.

As His servants we are to worship Him in different ways. 

We are to worship God actively, with active praise.  Singing, lifting our hands, shouting, kneeling.

But we are to also worship God with times of silent devotion. 

While the contrast between "active" and "passive" worship is there - the motives and objectives are synonymous.

In active praise, we ask for the presence of the Lord.  We enter into his presence. 

We sing joyous songs.  The Word confirms this:  "You (God) are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel."  Psalms 22:3

We sing in worship, and as the choruses come to an end, someone might pray or a message from the Holy Spirit might be given (I Corinthians 14:26).

But it can be at this moment that we can combine active praise with silent devotion.  Once in the presence of God, we may be wise to learn to be silent before God, in order to hear His voice and subsequently to obey.

A mature worshiper knows when to participate actively and when to participate devotionally.

There is where we can all learn to grow in our worship.  Worship does not end when the last song is sung - worship ends when we sense a release of the Holy Spirit to move on in the service.

Sometimes, the most powerful sense of God's presence can be manifested in complete silence.

David writes in Psalms 46:10, that we are to be still and know that He is God." 

Let me use this analogy. 

There are times that being with my earthly father brings a sense of comfort.  All of my adult life, his strength and integrity have created within me a sense of security.  I know that if I go to him with a question, problem, or prayer request, he will offer proper guidance and faithful prayer.

It's the same with God our Father.  Being in his presence, in the stillness of his presence is comforting, regardless of the storm that rages around us. 

God the Father has the ability to calm the stress and remind us of his unfailing love.

As I am still before God - I receive God's strength.

Here's the bottom line:  In order to hear God speak, I must be listen.  How can I hear God speak if I am doing all of the talking?

A huge part of this is done through mediation in our worship.

Now, before you immediately begin to draw negative conclusion concerning the word meditation, let me share with you that "Christian Meditation" is biblical.

It is totally unlike pagan practices which seek to focus on the inner place of our lives or contact a "spirit-guide" demonically, or escape consciousness transcendentally or hypnotically.

In Christian mediation, we focus on Christ, His Word, God's love; and we are fully conscious, alert and alive in the Spirit of God.

We are to mediate on the Word of God.  The German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer recommended spending a whole week on a single verse!

That's how deep God's word is.  David writes, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer."

The words of my mouth - but also the meditation of my heart. 

In meditation, we ask God for forgiveness of sins, both with our words and our actions.

The secret of hearing God clearly is to get to know Him better and better every day.  Ht more you understand Him, the better you know Him, the easier it is to hear His voice in a split second when He wants to talk with you. 

If you aren't hearing God speak to you, that is a good indication you don't have a relationship with Him.  That there is a sinful attitude or action in your life that is separating the communication lines between you and God. 

We also ask God for wisdom. Pastor James tells us in James 1:5, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God."

We ask in faith, believing that God will give us that wisdom.  Then James goes on to say in verse 5, "God gives that wisdom generously to all who ask, without finding fault."

Consecration can be a part of mediation as well.  Where I once again reaffirm my commitment to God.  I state my allegiance to God and His will for my life.  That once my time of mediation is over, I commit myself to doing God's work through me and in me.

So, how can I actively listen to God?

By being still before God.  Again, Psalms 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

Simon and Garfunkel used to sing, "Slow down, you move too fast, you've got to make the moment last." 

By inviting God to speak to you.  "Father, speak to me!"

By expecting God to speak to you.  Have faith that God will speak to you.

By being obedient to what God has said to you.

Let me leave you with this story.

Mike Yaconelli once wrote:  "I travel a lot, and I came to San Francisco one night and missed my connection back home.  I was angry and upset, and I called my son on the phone.  I wanted him to encourage me.  I said, "Man, I'm stuck in the airport; it's been a horrible day.  I've been traveling too much."

My son said, "You know Dad, if you didn't travel so much, you wouldn't have things like this happen."  Well, I didn't appreciate that.  I was ticked off.  I said, Let me talk to your son (my two-year-old grandson).  Well, I forgot that when you're two you can't talk, and when you're 60 you can't hear.  This is not a good combination.

He's mumbling on the phone.  I'm hoping that this is going to make me feel better.  It's making me feel worse.  Finally, I've had it.  I hear the phone drop onto the floor.  Now, I hear the kids playing.  I'm stuck in the airport.  I have this miserable experience.

I'm furious and angry, when all of a sudden I hear crystal clear over the phone, "I love you, Grampa."

You know what?  All my anxiety, everything went out the window."

Great story.  Listen to me - there are people who are so busy they are at their wits' end.  If they'd only stop for a minute, they could hear the God of the universe whisper to them, "I love you."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy the storm

The Super storm Sandy has hit the shores of eastern America with full force.

You and I have sat back and watched the news - praying for those who are in harm's way.

Storms are never fun.

Especially storms in our own lives.

Here's what I know about storms.

They reveal the nature of my faith.  The strength of my commitment to Christ.  The level of my spiritual maturity.  The healthiness of my attitude.  The measure of my teachability.

Everyone has storms. 

In fact, for many of you reading this blog today - you are in the midst of a storm.  Perhaps the worst storm of your life.

Whether we are in or out of God's will - storms will come.

But let me give you words of hope today.  Jesus is with you and I in the midst of our storms.

Here's what I know:

Jesus prays for us in the midst of our storms.  He prays for us.  He intercedes for us.  What I know is that right now, Jesus is in heaven presenting your need to the Father.  We used to sing the song that had the line, "and he's every interceding."  That is so true.

Jesus comes to us in the midst of our storms.  He is not aloof.  He enters our storm with us. 

We want out of our storm immediately, I get that.  I am the same way.  We think we are in the worst part of the storm.  As soon as the storm comes, we think, if not say, "Okay, God, bail me out.  Here I am.  Find me.  Rescue me."

But this I know:  God is never too early, too late, he is always on time.  He growing us in the midst of our storms.  He is perfecting us.  He is molding us.  He is positioning us for something great.

Jesus will come to you and I at our darkest hour.  The time when we are the most needy.  While we are waiting to be delivered from our storm, Jesus is there.  He hears our cries.

So my word today is - "Fear not"!   365 times the Bible says, "Fear not!"  One for each day of the year. 

Give your fears to God.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Thankful for a wonderful weekend.

Pastor Aldin shared with me that they had a wonderful "trunk or treat" last evening - with several new families attending!

Our goal continues to be bringing people to Christ!

People need the Lord!

I really enjoyed communion yesterday.  There was a sincere seeking of the Lord - both in gratefulness for what Christ did on the cross for us - and for forgiveness of sins.

Grateful to Pastor Amanda and her worship team for their leading us into the presence of the Lord!

Debbie and I are also thankful for the outpouring of love and support that we have received during Pastor Appreciation month.

We love you too!

I know that we will all continue to move forward as we stay connected to the vine.

Being connected to the vine is all important!

We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

Great game between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants.  The Cowboys literally lost by one finger.  Dez Bryant's finger being out of bounds when he caught the football for what would have been a game winning touchdown. 

The Dallas Cowboys are just not a good football team this year. 

Beautiful fall weather - wonderful time to be in Chicago!

I leave you with the words of the Apostle Paul, "Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails."

I love you all.....

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Driving and God's will

Driving in Chicago is a trip (pun attended).

One thing I quickly learned after moving here:  The right-a-way for the driver is always the direction they are going.  Everyone else is to yield to him or her.

It is the Chicago way.  (BTW, I learned quickly that if a car is turning left on a left turn signal - two cars (and sometimes even three) are permissible to turn left after the light has turned red).

Now let me rewind and say this:  If you are driving and headed for the highway, you will eventually have to drive on a service road, up onto the on-ramp, and then onto the highway.

You will have to merge into the traffic.  In order to merge, you will have to slow down and look behind you to pay attention to the rest of the cars on the highway.

They will be driving fast and you are responsible to merge with the traffic.  They are not merging with you.

You merge onto the highway because it is the most direct route to lead you to where you want to go.

Many of us want to get on the on-ramp and have the highway traffic - stop - to let us on, but that is not the way it works.

Am I right? 

God's will is that way.

God has a direction, a perfect will for your life.

God is going somewhere and He is the main highway.  He wants us to merge with Him and His program for our lives.

God is not trying to stop His program to merge with us.  That would be backwards. 

We are to submit ourselves to Him and His will for our lives.

That is one of the most important principles to understand if you are trying to find God's will. 

Be willing to submit yourself, in advance, to the direction of God for your life.

Some people say, if not think, "Lord, I'll go where you want me to go, as long as it is where I want to go."

Some people say, if not think, "Lord, I'll say what you want me to say, as long as it is what I want to say."

No!  Be willing to submit to God's will in advance.

Paul writes in Romans 12:2, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world (which is to demand the right-a-way).  But be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Submitting your mind and will to God - no matter where he leads you).  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing (pleasing to God) and perfect will).

My prayer today is this:  "Father, work your perfect will in my life.  I will go where you want me to go and say what you want me to say.  My life is in your hands.  I love you, Lord.  Amen."

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Spiritual birthmarks

Francis Schaeffer, the great Christian apologist, said that love is the final apologetic.  It is the defense for which there is no defense.

Our love for God is always validated by our love for others.

We used to sing, "they will know we are Christians by our love."

Jesus said it this way, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another."

It's not by our words, its not by any profession of faith, its not by how many times we come to church, its not whether we are involved in a ministry or not, its not how long I have been attending Stone Church.

It is by how much I love others.  How I treat others.

That is our spiritual birthmark so to speak.  Our godly logo. 

I encourage you today, when you tempted to reach out to someone in anger - to reach out to them in love.

When you are tempted to reach out to someone with hate - reach out to them with love.

Love is patient, kind, long suffering.  Faith and hope are great, but the greatest is love.

Let people see God's logo of love in your life.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

Happy birthday to my daughter Christie! 30 years old!

Christie, you are a wonderful wife, mother and daughter! Your mom and I love you very much!

Looked in on the membership class this past Saturday.

It always thrills me when I see people join the church.  It is a sign that they are making a commitment to our church family.

God continues to send us great people!

Part of what I do is to pray for people when they have needs.  At the end of each service, I had the opportunity to do that. 

God will make a way - when there seems to be no way.

Several raised their hands for salvation yesterday.  I am grateful that there are now new believers in the kingdom of God.

Isn't it fun to watch people being baptized in water yesterday?

Good stuff.

People being baptized in water, people joining the church, people accepting Christ - God is doing a good work in us!

I am grateful for everyone who participates in ministry in our church.

We have such a great team of people - I am thankful for their commitment to God, their faithfulness in ministry, and the spirit in which they minister.

Everyone is needed at our church.  You are loved!  You are important to us!

Challenges abound - but they are simply opportunities for us to see God move in a miraculous way!

Had a very, every good life group last night.

Talked about the difference between inferiority and over confidence - and trying to reach a balance between the two.

Jeremiah had to overcome inferiority and God used him in a great way!

God uses us in our weaknesses not in spite of our weaknesses.

I love God, I love you!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

God knows what He is doing

I am thankful that God knows what He is doing - especially when I do not.

William Carey (the great missionary to India) had to overcome many obstacles to take the gospel to that country.

He finally found himself aboard the Oxford, bound for Asia.  Before the ship lifted anchor, its captain received an anonymous letter against Carey and deposited him back on land. 

In response, Carey wrote to his friend Andrew Fuller:  "All I can say in this affair is that, however mysterious the leadings of Providence are, I have no doubt but they are superintended by the infinitely wise God."

That is a "God centered" way of looking at life and ministry.

Many times we encounter situations that we just can't quite figure out.  All we can do is lean upon the fact that God is leading up and guiding us.

And you can keep on praising God for that - and in the midst of that.

You and I both know that God's ways are not our ways - and God's thoughts are not our thoughts. 

Faith says that I am okay with that.  Faith says God is too deep to figure out.  Faith says His wisdom is deep. 

Knowledge is what you know; wisdom is what you do with what you know.

It is only through God that I can be fully knowledgeable and wise. 

I am thankful that I can go to God at anytime.

Here's the deal:  God does not need my advice - I need His!

God does not need my assistance - I need His!

So what can I do this day, Thursday, October 18th?

I can relax in His presence knowing that He is in control of all things and that He deserves my praise at all times.

I encourage you right now, to lift up your hands and begin to praise God that He is aware of your situation and working behind the scenes so that all things are working together for good!

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Building the body

Here is what I know:

Americans go crazy about exercise. 

I myself exercise 6 days a week.


I like to jokingly say, "it is a whole lot cheaper than therapy."

Exercise helps us lose weight, maintain our weight, keeps us fit and strengthens the heart.

It also helps us deal with stress.

It is interesting to me that these same thoughts can be applied to worship.

Worship keeps us fit.  It strengthens our heart.

The more we worship, the stronger our heart is for God.

Worship renews our mind.  It increases our stamina.  As we are "fit" spiritually, we can go distances that would tire or injure an unfit person.

Worship is the exercise of the spirit.  The more time we spend in His presence, the more audible His voice; the quicker we will understand His will.

Let me use this analogy:  Worship is like the weight room where spiritual athletes work out in preparation for the race (read Hebrews 12:1).

We know that this race is a race that is not a hundred yard dash and with a burst of speed we might even make heaven.  It is a marathon.  It is a lifelong "running with the Master".

People serious about keeping fit go regularly to the gym.  Once a week is not enough.

The benefit of exercise is to be found only in weekly repetition.  In other words, "use it or lose it."


So it is with spiritual exercise.

As athletes train the entire body, not just the arms, legs or stomach muscles - so it is with spiritual exercise.

We are to use our entire bodies in worship to the Lord. 

We are to lift Holy Hands.

When do we lift hands?  To have someone let us speak.  To receive the ball (in sports).  (To show gratitude).  In the same way, as we worship, we raise our hands in order to ask of the Lord, or receive from his spirit or express our thanks.

You can read of this in Psalms 63:3-5.  Psalms 134:1,2.  Psalms 141:1,2.  The last couple of verses are interesting in that David raises his hands to the Lord at night.  I would suggest that is one way to sleep peacefully - is to have a time of worship before you retire, raising your hands to God in worship and praise.  It places your focus on Him.

Raising our hands is a sign of dependence on God in 1 Timothy 2:8 and Psalms 134:2.  It shows the world that we are surrendering ourselves to God.

We stand in worship.  Standing is a sign of showing honor and respect.  If the President of the United States would come in this evening, no matter what our politics are, we would stand as a sign of respect.

David stood in worship in the house of the Lord (Psalms 122:1,2).

We stand as we worship.  We sometimes stand as we read the Word.  We stand when a teaching point is given that touches our hearts. 

While we do not want to be like the hypocrites and stand as we pray to be seen by others, worship should engage every part of our being.

One of the reasons we stand is that it helps us focus on God.  We act our way into a feeling.  We don't feel our way into an action.  Standing helps us bypass the way we are feeling and focus on the presence of God and His Holy Spirit.

There have been many times when I have not felt like worshipping, but as I engage my body, that engages my spirit - and in turn - I begin to "feel" like worshipping.

We kneel in worship.

What does a man do when he asks a woman to marry him?  He kneels and asks, "will you marry me."

It is a gesture of love.

We kneel when we are in love.  Psalms 95:6,7 tells us that when we kneel it shows our love and admiration for God.  But it also shows that God is in control.  In Ephesians 3:14, Paul kneels as a sign of humility and respect.  He acknowledges that God is in control.

Kneeling slows us down so that we may carefully measure our words to the Lord.  Confession can be a part of kneeling.  Bowing down in repentance to God.

We shout in in worship.

As people do when someone scores a touchdown or hits a home run.  Shouting is biblical.

Psalms 47:1,2 tells us that shouting is a voluntary response to an action, event or awareness of the presence of God.  The awesomeness of God.

Psalms 35:27,28 states that we shout in the realization that God delights in our well-being and He vindicates us.

Psalms 107:2 states, "let the redeemed of the Lord say so"!

We are to sing in the Spirit in worship.

Singing in the spirit is a very sacred, special activity.  It is something we participate in after we have entered into the throne room of God.  When our natural language is not enough.  The Holy Spirit begins to sing through us, in a language that is given by Him.

Paul practiced it in his prayer and praise.  (1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19).

Speaking in tongues and signing in the spirit build you and I up as we minister to the Lord.  To use scriptural terminology, it "edifies us."

They are spiritual gifts for encouragement and strengthening. 

Whenever I am confused, I pray or sing in tongues.  Whenever fear grips my spirit, I pray or sing in tongues.  Whenever I am in His presence, in a time of corporate worship - and the worship is flowing, I love to pray or sing in the Spirit.

It is a gift for you. 

And did you know that God enjoys our songs as we sing to Him?   As we sing to Him with a childlike abandonment?

More than any other method of worship, singing in the spirit (for me) is a way to experience the Shekinah glory, the ultimate presence of the Lord.

I encourage you, come to our time of "Pure Worship" tonight.  And let's worship together and enjoy the presence of the Lord.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The truth

First of all, let me say that everyone lies.

It is a fact of life - that daily - we are challenged as to whether we are going to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

As Christians, it is almost always true that we do not intentionally, with premeditation, lie, it is that many times we simply do not tell the truth.

It is called being disingenuous.

"The check is in the mail".

"I am praying for you."

"Leave your resume and we will keep it on file."

"This hurts me more that it hurts you."

"Your table will be ready in five minutes."

"Open wide, it won't hurt a bit."

"Let's have lunch sometimes."

"It is not the money, it is the principle of the thing."

"I am only concerned about how it will hurt other people."

And, I can't resist, it being the political season, saying that politicians are the masters at this.  They may not lie, but they are adept at not telling the truth.

There is the story of a man who didn't want the kids form the neighborhood eating his watermelons.  So he put up a sign in his yard.  It simply said, "One of these watermelons is poisonous."

Now, none were poisonous, but he said, "One of these watermelons is poisonous."

Obviously, the kids, not knowing which one was bad, would not steal his watermelons and eat them.

Now, none were poisonous.  The man liked in an attempt to protect his crop from the thieves.

He came out the next day and, much to his chagrin, he saw the word ONE crossed off and the word TWO in its place.

Now he'd lost this whole crop because he had no idea which watermelon the kids had messed with.

What is the moral to the story?  Lies have a way of coming back around.

Perhaps what we need to do is to not just focus on not lying - but on better ways to tell the truth.

Just a though for a Tuesday.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Went and saw Demarcus Shields (who attends our youth group) play football at Oak Forest High school last Friday evening (they played Tinley Park).

Oak Forest won big!  42-0.

It was fun for Debbie and I to attend a high school football game.  Lots of spirit.

Attended an Illinois Family Institute rally for religious freedom, held at our church this past Saturday.  8 people from our church attended - as well as our entire pastoral staff.

Conservative pastors, politicians and people from around our area attended.  Dan Proft was one of the speakers.

I encourage everyone to pray for our country - and for the elections!

Mine is to remain faithful to planting the spiritual seed in the soil of the southland of Chicago.  God's is to reap the harvest!

I appreciated the spirit of worship yesterday.  We come with needs each Sunday morning - and God is faithful to meet those needs!

The three things that we deal with the most in our country are money, sex and power.  Yet those can be the very three things that we avoid talking about in the church.

May we be bold enough to give biblical viewpoints on all three!

Let's all life with an eternal viewpoint of life - and not just a temporary one.

Are you living for the dot - or are you living for the line?

The Dallas Cowboys are not a very good football team this year.

Noah came to work this morning with a smile on his face.  His Green Bay Packers destroyed the Houston Texans!

Thanks to everyone who gave to the "Moving to Completion by faith", offerings - and made a pledge.  It is very, very appreciated!

We are in this together - Together we can accomplish what God calls us to accomplish!

People need the Lord.

People don't care how much you know until they know how much we care. 

As a church, we care - let's all continue to reach out to those around us in love, compassion and service.

Very good staff meeting this morning - thankful for a wonderful, hard-working staff of pastors and support staff.

Love you all........

Thursday, October 11, 2012

little things

Today is October 11, 2012.

Or - 10/11/12.

Pretty cool, huh.


Little things.

Little things matter.

Walt Disney once said, "always remember that this whole thing was started by a mouse."

Dennis Rainey once said, "People who say that small things don't bother them have never slept in a room with a mosquito."

Here's what I know:  it's the little things in our walk with Christ that will either add to our growth in Him or take us away.

The continuation of spiritual growth in my life are always the result of the little things that I do that many think make no difference at all.

Reading the Word daily.  Have constant conversations with God throughout the day.  Being open to sharing my faith with someone when the occasion arises.

Little things.

Bruce Barton has said, "sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences comes from little things, I am tempted to think there are no little things."

My growth in Christ is always incremental, a step at a time.  No one becomes "mature" over night.  It is in the little things that I grow.  No one was ever called to God to a high position who did not lay the foundation of that call in courageous faithfulness to the small details of a walk with Christ. 

Channing Pollock has written, "No matter how small and unimportant what we are doing may seem, if we do it well, it may soon become the step that will lead us to better things."

Conversely, a pilgrimage away from God begins with the little things as well.  Dwelling on something that shouldn't be watched.  Listening to something that shouldn't be listening to.

We think, "just this once," "it won't hurt anybody," but it is in the little things where a person begins a downward descent from God.  Missing one service.  Not giving one week.  Not praying throughout the day.

The beginnings of unfaithfulness are always the little things that we think will make no difference.

Do you long to be mature in Christ?  Do you long to grow in your walk with Him?  Pay attention to the little things.

Success is often reached through the little stuff.

When Pat Riley coached the Los Angeles Lakers form 1982 to 1990, the team won four NBA championships.  In taking over the New York Knicks in 1991, Riley inherited a team with a losing record.

But the Knicks seemed able to play above their abilities and even gave the eventual champions, the Chicago Bulls, their hardest competition in the play-offs.

How did Riley do it?  He says his talent lies in attention to detail.  For example, every NBA team studies videotapes and compiles statistics to evaluate player's game performances.  But Riley's use of these tools is more comprehensive than that of his rivals.

"We measure areas of performance that are often ignored:  jumping in pursuit of every rebound even if you don't get it, swatting at every pass, diving for loose balls, letting someone smash into you in order to draw a foul."

After each game, these "effort" statistics are punched into a computer.  "Effort," Riley explains, "is what ultimately separates journeyman players from impact players.  Knowing how well a player executes all these little things is the key to unlocking career-best performances."

So, I encourage you to pay attention to the little things today.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Why do we sing in church?

Pure Worship this evening! 

Have you ever thought about why we sing in church?

85 times in scripture we are exhorted to sing praise to the Lord.  Not once, or twice but 85 times!

Chinese Christian leader Brother Zhong tells this story:

"I was attending a training course for my house church network's council members and youth leaders.  The Public Security Bureau (PSB) raided us the first day.  All the leaders were arrested.

The prison authorities shaved our heads and interrogated us.  We were warned that the hardened inmates would beat us.  So with much trepidation, another brother and I entered our cell.

We were greeted by the sight of 16 other inmates, lined up in two rows and thumping their fists.  My heart beat rapidly as I sent prayers up to God.

The leader of the gang asked, "Why are you here?"

"Because we are Christians," I replied.

"You don't beat people up?"

"NO," I assured him.

"Do you sing?"

"Yes,"  I answered.

The leader ordered me to sing a song.  I wept as I sang.  The Holy Spirit moved in our midst, and b y the time I finished singing, every prisoner was also in tears.  To my shock, the gang leader than asked to hear the gospel.

After that, my cellmates hungered to hear the gospel every day.  One Sunday, we held a worship service.  The prison guard demanded to know who was behind it.  He threatened to punish everyone if no one spoke up.  I stood up and confessed.

I was forced to remove my clothes and stand at an inclined angle to the wall.  The gang leader couldn't bear it anymore.  He asked to be punished with me.  All the others volunteered to do the same.  The infuriated guard stormed out.  I was moved by my clelmates' act.  One of them, who had been there for three years, became a believer that day.
That is the power of a song.

Psalms 100 (1,2) opens with these wonderful verses:  "Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!  Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing."

From these two verses we learn several things:

Please notice that this is a command from God to every follower of His.  "You lands" means you and I.  Everyone in included - not just the smaller portion of our church family who are musically inclined.

The implication is not a performance of stunning perfection but one of gusto - enthusiasm - even fun!

God desire that everyone get into the act.  I decided a long time ago that my primary goal in worship was to sing - and to sing loud, with all of my heart, soul and mind!

The issue is not aesthetics or style.  The issue is participation.  Joyful involvement.

The issue is not, "what did I get out of a worship service," "but how did I participate?"  With what attitude?  With what preparation? 

Praise is a method of service - we are to serve (worship) the Lord with gladness!

Joy is contagious!  It spreads like wildfire.  As we sing and worship, discouragement is lifted, the burdened become lighthearted, the bound are set free.

That is the power of praise and worship in song!

The joy of the Lord is our strength.  Stress is vanquished.  Anxiety has no place in an atmosphere where God's people unify in worshipful song.  That is why singing is important in the process of praise.

Singing clearly directs our attention (mind, will and emotion -soul) toward the Father.  It is a spiritual release.

It bursts barriers - real and imagined.  Singing levels the playing field.  Whether we are young or old, rich or poor, new Christian or veterans in the faith, we can all lift our voices in song.

Judson Cornwall writes, "Singing can give us endurance spiritually, emotionally and physically." 

Praise is a verbal act.  It is thanking God for what he has done in our lives.  We praise Him for His loving kindness in Psalms 63:3,4 - "My lips shall praise you," the Psalmist writes.

Praise glorifies God in Psalms 50:23.  As I praise God (Psalms 103:1,2), I receive forgiveness for my sins, I can be healed from my disease, my life is redeemed from the pit, God crowns me with loving kindness.

I sing praises with understanding.  Psalms 47:7 sates, "For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise."

As I sing a song of praise for what God is doing, I am giving testimony to God's love for us and our love for Him.  Others, listening to us praise God, hear testimony of our salvation and our joyful relationship with Him.

Here's what I know:  I tend to praise God in song by the way I have lived and praised Him throughout the week. 

I just can't automatically walk into a worship service and turn on, like a switch, the anointing and presence of God in my life.

Praise in song is to be current.  Relevant.  That's why in Psalms 149, God encourages us to sing a "new song."

The Psalmist writes in Psalms 149:1-4, "Praise the Lord.  Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints.  Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King.  Let them praise His name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp.  For the Lord takes delight in his people, he crowns the humble with salvation."

What do we learn here?  Musical instruments are a part of praise.

David writes in Psalms 33:3, "Sing to him a new song, play skillfully, and shout for joy." 

Many times, we who lead worship struggle with, "how perfect should our praise be"? 

There is just a balance.  Unskilled or limited abilities in church music ought never to be put down.

But neither should an "anything goes" attitude be tolerated. 

I write to worship leaders now.

Showing up late.  Showing up tired.  Showing up unprepared. 

Psalms 33:1 states, "sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him."

It is the living God that we are worshipping - and our singing, our praise, with "all of our hearts," brings God "delight" as we see in verse 4. 

My heart and attitude must be right if I am going to participate in worship.

2 Chronicles 5:13 tells us, "The trumpeters and sings joined in unions, as with one voice; to give praise and thanks to the Lord."  That presupposes skill and practice.  And then the scripture goes on to state, "then the temple of the Lord was filled with a cloud and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God."

There seems to be a direct connection between songs in praise that are given to the best of a person's ability, with the right attitude and preparation - and experiencing the powerful presence of God and his Shekinah glory.

David knew the power of music.  He would play for Saul and Saul's depressive spirit would be uplifted.  Praise in song is medicinal.  It soothes our troubled soul.

Music, anointed of the Lord, can lift the spirit, distract incoming evil thoughts, break evil bonds, and focus our attention on God.

When you are down, listen to worship music.  Do not rest on the arm of the flesh.

Make an altar where you are:  in your car, next to your bed.  While working in the office.

We know that story of how praise and worship delivered Paul and Silas in prison in Acts 16.  As they sang and praised God around midnight, and earthquake took place and their prison doors were opened.  The jailer was converted, his whole household saved.  Praise will cause very chain of bondage to drop away.

Songs in praise open prison doors!

Finally, for we Pentecostal types, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:15, "I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding."

I will sing with "spiritual songs".  Spiritual songs are impromptu, spontaneous lyrics given by the Holy Spirit in English (or a person's language indigenous to them) and in "tongues".

Singing in my prayer language with other believers in a spontaneous way - lifting up our voices in song using our heavenly languages - is a slice of heaven itself.

Come join us this evening as we sing and praise God!