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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Newcomers and assimilation

God is blessing us at our church with many, many first, second and third time guests.

Checking us out.

It is my burden and desire that we do everything we can to see that they connect.

Now before I go on (and risk the chance of you not reading this entire blog) let me say this. 

The burden of the assimilation of new folks lies with each one of us - individually.

Let me put it negatively to make this point:  Sunday after Sunday I see people in the foyer speaking with the same people - while newcomers walk right on by.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think it is great to see old friends, talk to them in the hallway and share of the week's experiences. 

And I know that we all want our church to grow - to see people to Christ.

Solution:  Let's all take personal responsibility of reaching out to someone we don't know - with a "Great to see you today!"  "I am so glad that you are here!" 

Now then, let me say this:

When a person first visits our church, everything speaks to the first-time guest. They notice every aspect of our church family.

We need to be aware that hospitality begins in the parking lot and continues through the week in follow up communication.

Most church scholars say that a first-time guest will make up his / her mind about coming back to the church in the first seven minutes, so the first impression is very important.

During that time, the first time guest needs to be: Greeted, Directed, Treated, and Seated.
It is important for the first-time guest to be met and welcomed with a handshake and a smile.

We can all do this (see above). A first-time guest is going to feel a bit uncomfortable in the new surroundings. Even though we are comfortable with each other – to the first-time guest, they have just walked into a room full of strangers.

It is important that we show them where things are.

Don't just "point the way" to a classroom, actually take them there.

The signs in the foyer have been put there to make it easier for a first-time guest to feel welcomed and so that they can easily find important facilities in the church building.

It’s also important to put a cup of coffee in the hands of a visitor. It’s amazing how a little cup of coffee or a donut in a napkin can provide security for a person that feels a bit out of place.

Finally, it is important to help the person find a comfortable place in the sanctuary prior to worship. And it goes without saying that we – as God’s people – never, I mean never, go to a person and ask them to move because they are sitting in our seat.

The goal for all of this work and preparation is very simple. We are trying to get that first time guest to come back a second time. Then we work hard to keep that second-time guest coming back on a regular basis. The goal is to get them to become fully-fledged members of the congregation.

We need to keep in mind the three R’s as we work people through this process, because it is actually quite easy to loose people in the gaps between each of these important points in our hospitality process.

Nelson Searcy in his book "Fusion" writes, "So when the first-time guests walk through our doors, the goal is to earn Return visits from them. When next we see these guests, we strive to get them to build meaningful Relationships with people in the congregation. Finally, when the guests are connected to people and are attending regularly, we work to provide these folks meaningful Responsibilities."

Hey, why not give it a try this Sunday!  You won't regret it.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

It was wonderful to CELEBRATE the sale of our Palos Property together!

God is good - all the time!

As Frank Wolf said yesterday, many thanks to our church family for working with us (two business meetings) and praying!

You are ALL loved and appreciated!

I enjoyed the worship at the end of both services. 

"Father, we desire to experience not only your presence but your glory."

We praise God for what He has done in our lives.

We worship God for who He is.

Second service yesterday - lots of new faces.

Our word for the year as a pastoral staff - assimilation.  We as a church family must minister and work at assimilating all of the wonderful folks that God is sending us.

It is exciting!

What a challenge to have!

Upward basketball on Saturday mornings continues to be an incredible time of connection to non-churched people - as well as ministry to our own church family.

Condolences to Rob McFarlin who's mom went to be with the Lord last week.

Congratulations to Gary and Joyce Arvin for turning 50!  We had the privilege of celebrating with them on Saturday evening (along with many family and friends). 

I encourage everyone to invite a friend to come to one of our church services.

Hey, while I am thinking about it - let me also invite you to come to our marriage conference with Dave and Millie Gable on Friday, February 10th and Saturday February 11th.

The cost is free - child care provided.

Guys, nothing would please your "bride" more than bringing her to at least one of the two sessions.

Just trying to help you.  :)

Friday:  7:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M.

Saturday:  9:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M.

Room 102 at the church.

Our theme statement for the year:  We desire to over hope and over believe each challenge set before us.

Can't wait to see you again Sunday!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Jerk abuse

All of us deal with jerks in our lives.

(A great book (from a spiritual standpoint) on this subject is:  "Don't let the jerks get the best of you," by Dr. Paul Meier.)

Now we all have moments of "jerkiness" but some folks are just plain jerks (to use Dr. Meier's terminology).

They abuse us with their jerkiness.  I have a few people like that in my life - and so do you.

They always seem to do or say the wrong thing. 

What do you do?

If you are like me - the hardest thing to do is to react to jerky behavior in a godly way (and I have a self-imposed double pressure in this - being a pastor and all).

Dr. Meier suggest that three steps in dealing with jerky behavior and the anger that you feel - admit that the person's jerky behavior makes you angry by analyzing why are you angry, verbalizing the anger as lovingly as possible and neutralizing the anger through forgiveness.

Analyze your anger - in other words, is my anger legitimate?  If I get pulled over by the police for speeding, I am exercising a "false right" in becoming angry.  In other words, my anger is not legitimate.

If I expect perfection from others and that perfection is not met, I am exercising a "false right" in becoming angry - for as we know - no one is perfect.

Perfectionist (or the judgemental Christian) have an especially hard time with this.  Some of the angriest people I know are perfectionists.  They expect flawless behavior from their spouses, their children, their co-workers, their bosses, their pastors.

And when their expectations are not met, and someone doesn't deliver in the way they thought that person should - they get angry.

Unmet expectations always lead us to anger - and to jerkiness.

As a brother in Christ, one of the first questions I ask myself is this, "Do I act like that?  Do I say things like that?"  I try to use it as a tool to look at myself and avoid jerky behavior in the future.

Analyze your anger.

But we can also verbalize our anger (in the face of jerkiness) in a godly way.

One way is to use "I" statements.

"I was upset when I didn't hear from you.  I got worried."

"I don't think what you said was fair, and I didn't appreciate it."

"I get very irritated when the kitchen is left messy."

I have failed at this in the past and have reacted to jerky behavior with jerkiness. 

Here's the principle:  We never win with jerks by becoming jerks.

And then forgive.  Neutralize the anger by turning it over to God.

More than anything else, we as Christians struggle with forgiveness in the face of jerkiness.

Forgiveness is always given.  Whether that person deserves it or not.

But here is what Dr. Meier says, "beware of jerks who can do you harm."

As a pastor, that is hard, for I am called to minister to everyone.  I mean everyone.  Whether I like someone or not, whether they treat me like a jerk or not, when they are in need, God's calling for my life is to minister to them the best I can.

However, that doesn't mean that we will be best friends. 

Now a word of caution:

Too often, I see people who go to the other extreme of not talking to jerks at all, or avoiding them, or giving them the "silent treatment".  That is not what I am talking about.

I am talking about not placing yourself in a position where you continually experience someone else's jerkiness.  For example, you might be in a foursome with a jerk (playing golf).  Ultimately, the solution is not to play golf in the foursome (if speaking honestly with the jerk does not work).

Why be masochistic about it?

(By the way, if you are married to a jerk - get godly counseling).

Anyway, may we all be blessed with an absence of jerks in our lives - and even more importantly - may we not treat others in a jerky way.

Just a thought for a Thursday.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pointing people to Jesus

The days of an inner desire on my part to have a "nationally known" ministry are long gone.

All I want to do is to point people to Jesus.

As John the Baptizer said in John 3:30, "He must increase, I must decrease."

At the end of the day, it matters not who gets the glory - only the Kingdom of God matters.

It's all about Jesus.

Accolades are nice, don't get me wrong - and I do appreciate it when people express their thanks to me for ministry.

But it is all about Jesus.

One of the strengths of growing older is that you become comfortable with that.

I leave you with a thought from Francis Chan:

He tells the story about a man named Vaughn who radiated the love of Christ to everyone around him:

A few years ago, a missionary came to our church and told a beautiful story about sharing the gospel with a remote tribe in Papua New Guinea. At the end of the story this missionary said, "I should really give the credit to Vaughn, my former youth pastor who loved me and inspired me to live for Christ and share the gospel with others."

The next week another guy came to our church and he challenged us to start sponsoring kids living in poverty. The second speaker also concluded by saying, "I'm involved in this ministry because of my youth pastor, a guy named Vaughn." I found out those guys were from the same youth group!

Then the next week another speaker named Dan told us about his ministry at a rescue mission in the inner city of L.A. After Dan's talk, I casually mentioned, "It was so weird: the last two weeks both of our speakers mentioned how much impact their youth pastor, Vaughn, had on them."

Dan looked surprised and then he told me, "I know Vaughn. He's a pastor in San Diego now, and he takes people into the dumps in Tijuana where kids are picking through the garbage. I was just with Vaughn in Tijuana. We would walk in the city, and these kids would run up to him, and he would show such deep love and affection for them. He'd hug them and have gifts and food for them. He'd figure out how to get them showers.

Francis, it was eerie: the whole time I was walking with Vaughn, I kept thinking, If Jesus was on earth, I think this is what it would feel like to walk with him. He just loved everyone he ran into, and he would tell them about God. People were just drawn to his love and affection." And then Dan said this, "The day I spent with Vaughn was the closest thing I've ever experienced to walking with Jesus."

Francis Chan states:

"Hearing this made me think, Would anyone in their right mind say that about me? Would anyone say that about you? … As I thought about all this, I prayed, "Lord, that's what I want. I don't want to be the best speaker in the world. That doesn't matter. I don't want to be the most intelligent person on the planet. That's not what I want to be known for. I want to be known for someone saying, "Wow, he's a lot like Jesus."

I echo that........

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The perfect timing of God

God's timing is always right perfect.

That is an absolute - a statement of fact.

Now, that obviously means that His timing is not always my timing (nor are His ways many times my ways - Isaiah 55:8), but at the end of the day - God always, and I mean always, knows best.

Let me say, before I go on, that the Palos Property Sale is now complete.  We have officially closed on the sale of our former church campus!

Praise God!  We sincerely and gratefully give God glory.

It is obviously a relief to all of us - especially those of us who have put a great amount of time and effort into the process.

Many, many thanks to Frank Wolf for his help.  His time, energy and faithfulness was incredible!

Anyway, I can now stop sleeping like a baby (getting up every two hours and crying).  :)

The sale of the property on 127th street is an even greater miracle when we consider these two facts:

1.  We received our final occupancy permit from the village of Orland Park this month.  That means that we will have to start paying the principle on our loan - and our mortgage goes up.

2.  We sold our previous church campus during the same month.  That means that our overall mortgage payment will go down.

Same month.

Same time frame.

God's timing is always perfect.

God is never too early, He is never too late, He is always on time.

So, what are you waiting for today?  A healing?  A job?  A financial reversal? 

I encourage you to realize that you can hold on to God during this time.  But even more importantly, God is holding on to you.

Rejoicing with you......

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Great spirit of worship yesterday.

Full house in the second service.

Wonderful, wonderful time of fellowship in our newcomers luncheon.  Several new families came.

Thanks to Joanna Campins for "putting it all together".

It's fantastic to be around folks who are excited about our church!

Our condolences to Susan Fleischhauer on the loss of her dad.  We had the funeral last Saturday.  I am grateful that he accepted Christ into his life 22 days before he died on Christmas Eve.

It is never too late to connect with Jesus Christ.

New England - New York Super Bowl - Ugh.

We are supposed to close today on the Palos Property Sale at 1:30 P.M.  I encourage everyone to pray that there will not be any last minute "hitches".

All we can do is to trust in God.

I remain grateful for the many who are ministering in our church (ministry is simply an act of service given in the name of Jesus).  You are a continual encouragement to me.

We are going to miss our "snowbirds" who go to Florida this week.  Be safe!

I am sooooo excited about the upcoming sermon series on the Gospel of Jesus, "The Jesus Way."  33 weeks in the book.

My desire is that we see, understand and draw closer to Jesus this year.

Let's all continue to pray 60 seconds a day for our church and community (5 days a week).

Pray that God will continue to see people saved.

Pray that our finances will continue to come in.

Pray that people will grow in Christ.

People need the Lord!

My goal is not to change people - my goal is to love people.

Love you all!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Stuff and other stuff

We all have stuff (which by the way is a uniquely American word).

We see it, want it, buy it, display it, insure it and compare it with other people's stuff.

As John Ortberg writes, "We talk about whether or not they have too much stuff; we envy or pass judgement on other people's collections of stuff.  We collect our own little pile.  We imagine that if that pile got big enough, we would feel successful or secure."

When you buy a house - what do you do?  You put your stuff in it.

You keep getting more stuff - and then you need a bigger house.

George Carlin once said that a "house is a pile of stuff with a cover on it."

Hard to believe that some people have lived without one - like Jesus.

I was reading today that there are now more than 30,000 self-storage facilities in our country offering over a billion square feet for people to store their stuff.

In the 1960's, this industry did not exist.

We now spend $12 billion a year just to pay someone to store our extra stuff!

Some people need a "stuff exorcist."  ;)

Someone to help them get rid of their "stuff".

Yet, let me take you in a different, yet related direction.

Did you know that God owns a lot of stuff?

David writes in Psalms 31:19, "How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which  you bestow in the sight of men or those who take refuge in you."

God has a storage facility full of goodness. 

God's got goodness in storage that belongs to those who have a relationship with Him - who are connected to Him,.  He has stuff that He wants to share, is ready to share, and desire to share with those who love Him and are obedient to His commands.

The question becomes:  what kind of stuff do you crave?

Earthly, temporary stuff?  Or heavenly, eternal stuff?

Just a thought for a Thursday

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A dog and its vomit

A dog and its vomit.


Doesn't sound good to me.

I have an app on my phone that gives a Psalms or a Proverb every day.  I don't look at it every day, but every so often I do when I need to be uplifted in my spirit.

This morning, I clicked on the app and the Proverb was from Proverb 26:11, "As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly."

So much for being uplifted.  :)

Why do dogs return to their vomit?

They have a low threshold to vomiting.  Dogs fail to recognize the difference between real food and their own vomit.  In the same way, we can fail to recognize sin in our lives and keep going back to it again and again, not realizing how distasteful it is.

They are used to it.  In the same way, we can become so habitualized to our sin that we lose sight of the tastes and the smells of what we are doing.

I guess what I am saying is this (I'm going to the point quickly so that I don't continue to gross myself out):

If  you have gone back to some sinful habit or action from the past - stop!  Do a turn around today!

Recognize it for what it is - a stench in the nostrils of God!

I would encourage each of us to pause for just a moment as you are reading this and ask God, "in what area of my life have I returned to that which has been forgiven and put aside?"  "What old habit (that has been laid aside) have I picked back up?"

Gossip?  Slander?  Worry?  Anxiousness?  Fear?  Alcohol?  Drugs?

Don't be a dog today - go back to being a brother or sister in the Lord - filled with God's Spirit.  Eat of the pure, tasteful Word of God. 

And you will be filled, satisfied and strengthened.

Just a challenging thought for today.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Wonderful, wonderful Saturday at Upward Basketball!

I met several new families.

Great spirit.

Excellent devotion from David Dewes at halftime.

God is doing a great work!

Thanks to everyone who is participating - this is the beginning of great things to come!

My condolences to Pastor Noah.  I am wearing black today in honor of him as he grieves over his Green Bay Packers losing yesterday.

An NFL team can't win playoff games dropping passes.

I appreciated Rick Malender's life group announcement yesterday.

Come on Sunday mornings, attend a life group, serve in a ministry!

We are a place to belong, grow and serve.

It makes my Sunday to see new guests come and visit us.

I can sense it - feel it - and believe it - this is going to be a tipping point year for us.

We need "all hands on deck" this year. 

I encourage everyone to join a ministry.

Thanks to all who signed up to pray for 60 seconds a day (5 days a week).  We had over 70 signed up.  Looking for over 200.  Please pray about signing up.  Praying for our church and community - 60 seconds a day.

Thankful for the best staff that I have ever worked with....Noah, Amanda and Aldin.....

May God give you grace, peace and contentment this week. 

"Seek first God's kingdom, his presence, his peace, and then all these things will be added to you."  Matthew 6:33

Love you all........

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cheetah's and God's presence

Before I get into my blog today - let me share with you that we are cancelling our service tonight (Thursday, January 12, 2012) because of a winter storm warning for this evening.

We will, however, be meeting tomorrow evening, Friday, January 13, 2012, at 7:00 P.M. - to conclude our week of prayer.

I invite you to come tomorrow evening and worship with us.

Now then, let me share with you this that - spending time in God's presence need not be a quick "meet and greet" but a prolonged conversation where relationship is strengthened.

I was reading about the African cheetah today - apparently the cheetah (one of the fastest animals on the face of the earth), must run down its prey to eat.  It can move at speeds of up to seventy miles an hour.

Very cool.

However, the issue is that the cheetah has a disproportionately small heart, which causes it to tire quickly.

If it doesn't catch its prey quickly, the cheetah must end the chase.

Many desire to "chase after God", to "run into his presence", but because their heart is not spiritually strong they tire easily and give up.  Their spiritual hearts are so small they don't have any staying power and leave quickly.

I see it every Sunday.  Altar calls are given, an appeal to spend time in the presence of the Lord, and some can't wait to get out into the foyer to have fellowship with one another.

But what about God?

How big is your heart? 

I want my heart to be so big and so strong (spiritually) that I lose track of time and wait upon the Lord - and there my strength is renewed.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Holy Spirit surprises

I never ceased to be amazed at the way that the Holy Spirit moves - Holy Spirit "surprises."

Last night was a case in point.

While we have an overall "game plan" as to how we expect and desire God to move (as a pastoral staff), we always, always leave room for God to do his "thing".

We began as normal last night, a few worship choruses, the excellent DVD from Francis Chan (Encountering the Holy Spirit), and David and Hank shared some thoughts about God's love.

We then began to worship again, and bam (!) God moved - but in a quiet and gentle way. 

Some began to weep, others knelt around the altar.  We stayed until around 9:00 P.M.  It seemed like no one wanted to leave.  Choruses were sung a capella.  Old choruses.

I was reminded of the chorus we sang decades ago, "there's a sweet, sweet spirit in this place - and I know that it is the spirit of the Lord."

Sometimes God moves in our worship times with almost a warrior like ferociousness.  Other times he moves like a lamb.

Last night was one of those times.

Lesson?  Let's always be open to the way that we experience God as we come together in corporate worship.

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The church and the home

There is one generational struggle that I see happening in the church today.

It's the struggle between how much we should do at home and how much we should do at the church.

Can there be a cooperation between the two - or a constant struggle as to how much time we spend with each?

Probably the best word here is balance.

When Debbie and I were raising our kids, we took our kids to church constantly.  Every night the church doors were open (to exaggerate just a little bit), we were there.

I grew up the same way - sleeping on the pew of the church on many a Sunday night (and I was 16 - just kidding)

I think I turned out okay (which is debatable I know) and I know my kids are turning out okay.

All I am calling for is balance. 

Some parents have gone to the other extreme, not coming to church but once a week, if at all, under the guise of "family time."

I love "family time," don't get me wrong, but we can't use it as an excuse to not participate in the life of the church.  Besides, what better place to have "family time", but with other Christians?

Now then, that being said, I know that there are those who might be involved in a church or with religious activities to the point that their home life is hurting - and to them I say, if you are too involved,  you are heading for trouble.

But to be candid with you, I don't see that a lot.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Powerful, powerful services with Allan Griffin yesterday.

Many, many were baptized in the Holy Spirit last night.

Praise God!

Saw one young lady throw her cigarettes on the altar - as a commitment to quit the addiction.

There is nothing like experiencing God's presence.

Some were "slain the in the spirit".

Wonderful to see young people worshipping and experiencing God.

Our worship team yesterday - one word - exceptional.

I love Jesus!

It's fun to have fun in church.

Church doesn't have to be boring.

Great attendance, good offerings yesterday - I am grateful.

Good to get away the past few days for vacation - great to be back home and seeing God move.

Debbie and I celebrated 31 years of marriage while we were gone.  She is the love of my life and outside of Jesus, my best friend.

I know my previous statement is corny, but it is true.  :)

I sincerely believe this is going to be the great year for our church.

I am genuinely more excited about this year as a lead pastor than I have been about any other year in a long time.

As we close on the sale of the Palos Property, the relief I feel is not so much the financial reward for us (and I am relieved about that) but the fact that for the next couple of years I get to focus full time on sheer ministry to people.

I loved Allan's humorous teachings.

I laughed.  And laughed.  And laughed.

Allan lives what he teaches.  While we were at a restaurant, he asked our server what he could pray with her about.

It remains a beautiful day in Illinois.

For those who are pessimist - yeah "winter" is coming, I'll grant you that, but we don't have to "look forward to it."

I understand there was a great Upward Basketball practice last Saturday.  Look forward to the games beginning this Saturday, January 14, 2012.

2012.  I am just now getting used to writing, "2000 something," rather than "19 something".

I am thankful for those around me who are catching the vision of where we are head as a church - and who love, support and pray for Debbie and me.

Tonight's game?  LSU - Alabama?  It's a toss up.  I have no prediction.

I encourage you to come to at least two or three of our five session this week for our week of prayer.  Our theme?  "Encountering God."

Loving Jesus.......