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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Being responsible for and being responsible to

You can't be around me long without hearing me say, "we are not responsible for people, but we are responsible to people."

I am not responsible for you (before God) but I am responsible to you.

My responsibility is to pray for you.  Talk to you about the things of God.  Ask that God send people into your life who would draw you closer to Him.  Be a good example.  Speak the truth in love.

But I am not responsible for you - you have to make your own choices.

Do you have that person in  your life that you desperately want to either accept Christ or draw closer to Him?  I do.  As a pastor, I have literally hundreds of people that fall into that category.

Here's what I know:  Only the Holy Spirit can change people.

Francis Chan writes:

"I cannot make someone fall in love with Jesus.

It really came home for me, literally, with my own teenage daughter, who, 18 months ago, was not in love with Jesus. I spent nights crying, bawling, praying to the Lord. Here I am known for my ability to communicate, but there was nothing I could do for my own daughter that would make her fall in love with Jesus. Of course I could still guide and lead her, but I was powerless to convict her.

I prayed, "God, either your Spirit comes into her or your Spirit doesn't. It doesn't matter how great a dad I am. I cannot bring her to life."

One day she came into my room and said, "You were right, Dad. The Holy Spirit was not in me. But now he is." She talked about how near she was to God and how everything had changed. My wife and I were skeptical. We wanted to see evidence of change. But 18 months later, I can say she really is a new creation. I didn't do that. It was the Holy Spirit."

"Holy Spirit we pray for friends and family that we prayerfully desire to draw closer to you.  Do your work oh, God, as only you can.  Lord, you know that we can only do so much - that the person(s) we are praying for need to make their own choices.  Help us to be wise with our words - and patient in our hearts.  Move, Holy Spirit, move.  In your name we pray, Amen."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Overcoming Goliaths

David and Goliath.  You and I know the story.

Goliath's are a symbol of the trials and tribulations that we all face.

A young teenager (the runt in a family of 8 boys - David) slays a giant 9 feet tall (Goliath) with a well-worn leather sling and a smooth stone - and an UNBENDING CONFIDENCE IN GOD.

The story concludes with this verse:  "Thus David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and he struck the Philistine and killed him; but there was no sword in David's hand."  1 Samuel 17:50.

Let me give you a couple of quick thoughts about this:

- prevailing over giants (trials and tribulations) in our lives doesn't happen by using their techniques.  You don't fight an ugly, intimidating giant by becoming ugly and intimidating.

David didn't even carry a sword into battle!  His greatest piece of armor, the lethal weapon that made him unique and gave him victory, was his inner shield of faith.

Faith is what kept David free from fear - and unintimidated by the threats of the giant.  He kept his cool when everyone else was losing theirs.  Faith in God.

- Conquering giants isn't done without great skill and discipline

To be God's warrior, to fight His way, calls for much more self-control and Holy Spirit reliance than you and I think.  Using the sling and the stone of the Holy Spirit is far more difficult than swinging the club of the flesh.  It calls for a total reliance on God.

Are you facing a giant?  I encourage you to not try a bigger club or running in fear.  I encourage you to turn your Goliath over to God - the great giant killer.

After all, as the writer to the Hebrews states in Hebrews 13:5,6:  "Because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."  So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?"

Monday, February 27, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend (and setting your face like flint)

Thoughts from the weekend:

Well, our family survived the week.  Two surgeries (Debbie - Gall Bladder; Andrew - knee). 

Both surgeries went well.

Thanks to everyone for your prayers.

Prayer is important.

Prayer does work.

I am grateful for the way that God moves in prayer.

We never know what a day might bring.

So true.

Sometimes people ask me if I am "busy".  Here's my response.  "As long as there are people - there are needs - and as long as there are needs - I am busy."

Let me give you the Word that I gave during the altar time yesterday - and broaden it to include everyone reading this: 

During times of trial and stress, there comes a time (after we have prayed and sought God), when we must (Isaiah 50:7) "set our face like flint."

Actually the full verse states this:  "Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced.  Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame."

Great verse.  God helps me.  I trust in Him.  I put that trust into action by putting one foot forward at a time.

That might mean that if you are in a hospital bed, you sit up.  And then you walk to the washroom.  And then you walk down the hall.  And then you go home.  You "set your face" like flint, knowing that God is helping you.

That might mean that if things are going bad at work, you get into your car.  You drive to work.  You walk in having prayed and choosing to have a positive attitude.  You go throughout the day - having conversations with God.  You "set your face" like flint, a step at a time, knowing that God is helping you.

Sometimes, that is all we can do.  One step at a time.  One day at a time.  One week at a time.  One month at a time.

But what is the promise?  "You will not be put to shame".

God never lets the righteous forsaken.

I really enjoyed worship yesterday.  But what I really enjoyed even more was seeing the people of God with hands raised and voices lifted in praise.

We can worship or we can worry.

It also blessed me to see the way that God is changing individual lives.

Lives being changed is always an encouragement - an encouragement that lets us know that we are making a difference - or that God is making a difference through us.

Many, many thanks to everyone who makes a Sunday morning, "go".  You are needed.  You important.  You are loved.

I am grateful for those that I can count on around me.  Knowing that they are praying, working, ministering and supporting the vision that God has given us at Stone Church.

From the greeters to the ushers to the worship team members - thank you!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Trials and God's timing

I would guess that some of you are waiting for a miracle today (or an answer to prayer).

As you pray, know that sometimes God says:  "Yes," or "No," and then sometimes God says, "maybe - but at another time."

Those waiting times can be difficult. 

We don't wait well - do we?

We are into microwaving and God is into marinating.

God is not interested in us going through the microwave process - he is interested in us going through the crock pot process.  So that we grow in Him.

However, let me give you this word of encouragement today:

You are right on schedule.  Maybe not on your schedule, but on God's schedule.

God knows precisely what He is doing. 

Every trial (situation, crisis) has a beginning, a middle and an end.

You can't determine where you are - in your trial, but God knows exactly where you are.  He is moving you along at just the right pace.  He is up to something good in your life!

Someone once said that everything is in walking distance if you have enough time.

As far as God is concerned, we've got the time.  Take it.

And learn and grow at the same time.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Breaking records

Records are made to be broken.

There are very, very few records that can't be broken.

The Guinness book of records hands out some weird, crazy records as well.

Someone holds the record for the:

- largest collection of "do not disturb signs"

- Longest fingernails - both hands

- Most t-shirts worn at once

- Most Mentos in soda fountains

- Longest full body ice contact time

- Most people dressed as smurfs.

On and on it goes.

I want you to know that I set a personal record today:

As of this morning I broke a new personal record of days being alive.

I want you to know that I feel very good about that.

But you never know.

I planning of coming to church this evening, and then speaking twice on Sunday. 

But you never know.

Everything is in God's hands.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:34, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."

We can only live "one day at a time" - and celebrate our own personal records of days being alive on this planet.

So celebrate today!

Just a thought for a Wednesday

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


I've always been just a little bit uncomfortable with the statement that some make in response to the question, "if you could change anything in your past, that you have said or done, would you change anything."  And the person responds, "nope, nothing at all."

I guess I am of the opinion that there are many things in my life that I would change.

I do have regrets.  And thank God for forgiveness.  And thank God for forgiving people.

I am not who I was, and I am not yet whom I want to be.

My challenge and commitment is to live the rest of my life without creating any regrets.

I was reading today about Bonnie Ware, an Australian nurse, who has spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives.

As Bonnie walked with her patients through the final stages of their lives, she witnessed how many of her patients gained "phenomenal clarity of vision" as they approached death.

Ware claims, "When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again."

According to Ware, these are the top five regrets of the dying:

1.  I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Bonnie Ware added, "Health brings a freedom few realize, until they no longer have it."

2.  I wish I hadn't worked so hard. Ware observed, "This [regret] came from every male patient that I nursed."

3.  I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings. "Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others …. Many [patients] developed illnesses related to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."

4.  I wish I'd stayed in touch with my friends. "There are many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."

5.  I wish I'd let myself be happier. "Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits."

What are the lessons we can learn on this Tuesday?

Be yourself.

Keep balance in your life.

Let go of resentments.

Reconnect with friends and family.

Enjoy today.

Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not yet here, today is all we have.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I can't tell you what a privilege and joy it is for me to lead our men's life group.

Great group of men - who desire to grow in God.

God has called us to make disciples.

More is caught than taught.

It is wonderful to see people coming to Christ in our church.

It is as wonderful to see people growing in Christ in our church.

Worship was excellent Sunday morning - musically yes, but the presence of God was there in a powerful way!

We are beginning to become a worshipping church - that excites me as a pastor!

Real worship is worship from the heart - as well as the head.

Thanks to a faithful, godly, committed worship team - and to Pastor Amanda's leadership.

Loved seeing the Bettenhausen family standing before us (second service) - stating that they have are committing themselves to a stronger relationship with God.

Thrilled at those who accepted Christ yesterday as their personal savior.

God is moving!

To become a disciple of Christ we must:  Hang out with God.  Share our faith with others.

Great stuff.

Love the "buzz" in the foyer during our coffee connection time.  It's called "body life" or the body of Christ having relationship with one another. 

Had an interesting time at our church last night with other Assembly of God pastors in the area. 

All pastors wrestled with the ups and downs and the victories and defeats of life.

I encourage all of us to invite someone to "come and see" about Jesus - to invite someone to come to a Sunday morning service.

Remember, you become who you hang around, so hang around some positive people this week.

Anybody can be negative.  Not everyone can realistically positive.

You are loved.  You are appreciated.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

walking in faith

It seems like I have speaking with several people about God's will and faith lately.

So, I thought I might share with you a few thoughts along this line - from the life of Abraham.

Abraham was a man who walked by faith.

Faith is not something we learn from a book - it is something we learn from life.

Living life.  Walking through the circumstances and choices of life.

And that can be "exciting" because life is full of stress and twisting turns.  (Although some days I could use a little less excitement).

Abraham is 75 years old - and God comes and tells him to leave Ur, his homeland.  And Abraham responded in the following ways.

He responded with his ears.

God comes to him in Genesis 12:1 and says, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you."

The voice of God speaks - and Abraham listens. 

Notice that God did not qualify his words to Abe, he doesn't tell him why he is to leave his homeland (his membership at the Country Club, his season tickets to the White Sox, his friends and family).  God doesn't explain his will, but he does give promises to His will.

In verses 2 and 3 he states, "I will, I will, I will."  "Won't show you where you are going or why, but I will take care of you."

More important than the end result of knowing God's will is the process of resting in His presence and knowing that He will take care of us.

God says, "you leave, and I will bless".  Nothing more, nothing less.

Abe has an ear for God's voice.

I have people asking me all the time, "why"?  "What".  God is never as concerned about the "Why" and the "What" but about the "who".....who will be with you during this time.  God will.

What do we do?  We get the pros and the cons and the positives on one side and the negatives on the other and we get advice and counsel (and all of that is great and good), but sometimes God just asks us to do something(s) that don't make sense.

We have to have spiritual ears to hear God.

The world says, "show me and I will believe".  God says, "Believe and I will show you."

The world says, "I've got to see it to believe it."

God says, "No, no, in the Christian world you've got to believe it and then see it."

Abe also responded with his eyes.

Hebrews 11:9 states, "By faith he made his home in the promised land....for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God."

In other words, he had eyes of faith. 

Others were measuring the immediate and the temporary, Abe was measuring the long term and the eternal.

He "saw" something that no one else could see.

I have found myself in that position, many, many times.

I see a sanctuary being built for 2300 people.  I see us buying property next door to us.  I see our Upward Basketball ministry reaching out to over 450 kids on a Saturday.

I see....and when I share this I get sympathetic nods and "knowing" smiles.  People thinking inside, "you poor boy."  "You've lost your mind."

I've seen that "look" all of my adult ministry.

Faith says I see what others cannot or choose not to see.

Then notice Abe's feet.

Hebrews 11:8 says, "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going."

He went by faith and not by his feelings.

Someone once wrote, "Faith is not believing in spite of the evidence, faith is obeying in spite of the circumstances."  I would add, faith is obeying in spite of the circumstances on the outside and the feelings on the inside.

I encourage all of us to not walk by our feelings but to walk by faith.

I trust I have encouraged you today.....just some thoughts for a Thursday.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Holy Spirit guidance

One of my strengths is that I can make decisions quickly.

However, it can be a weakness if I decide on something without consulting the Holy Spirit.

Time and time again, I have consciously slowed myself down and spent some time in conversation with God about a direction or a choice or a decision.

Jesus teaches us that the Holy Spirit, "The Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth." (John 16:13)

We need the Holy Spirit - specifically when it comes to this area of guidance.

I may sense a specific direction, godly people I trust may share their opinions about a decision I am making, but what does the Holy Spirit day?  What am I sensing God saying to me?

Let's use the analogy that the Holy Spirit is like the steering wheel of our lives.

When I drive somewhere, there are two ways that I can reach my destination.

One way is to look at a map and figure it out myself as I drive. 

Another way is to have someone drive me who already knows where they are going.

The Holy Spirit is that person. 

I guess what I am suggesting is that before you make any, and I mean any decision, ask the Holy Spirit what you should do.

And he will never, ever, steer you wrong.

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Life together

One thing I know as a Christian:  Our spiritual and relational life together was meant to go beyond Sunday morning attendance.

We are called upon to experience our life in Christ together, outside the four walls of the church. 

What is the way to facilitate this?  Life groups.

Meeting together in homes. 

If you are new(er) to our church, I encourage you to check out a life group!

And let me say this:  If you can't find a life group that you feel comfortable with - please share this with David Dewes, Rick Malender or myself.  What we will do is this:  we will start another one!

We can never have "too many" life groups!

Along that line, I am often asked, "what makes a healthy life group"?

Let me with you some thoughts from Rick Warren on this subject.

He writes (all of this based on Acts 2:42-47):

Healthy life groups study the Bible.  Acts 2:42 says, "They devoted themselves to the apostle's teaching..." 

Now what he means by this is this:  In the New Testament, they lived in a spoken culture, studying lessons that came verbally from the apostles.

That's why it is a suggestion of mine that each life group consider studying the sermon from the previous Sunday.  To get the sermon into your spirit and life.  To talk it over.  I believe in our church culture we teach too much.  We need to continually find formats where we can talk and discuss what we have learned and apply it to our daily lives.

Healthy life groups share life together.  "They were devoted to fellowship" in Acts 2:42.

God calls us to be committed to one another, and it is through life groups that we learn the skills of relationship.  It is hard to get to know you if all I see is the back of your head each Sunday.  Life groups are laboratories of love, where we learn to obey the command of Jesus to love others as I love myself.

Healthy life groups remember Jesus together.  This is done through communion.  If you haven't yet celebrated communion together as a life group - I encourage you to do so.

Healthy life groups pray together.  It is in the smallness and closeness of life groups that we can reveal an pray for our hurts, reveal our feelings, confess our failures, disclose our doubts, admit our fears, and acknowledge our weakness, and ask for help.

Healthy life groups are generous.  "They gave to everyone as they had need."  Acts 2:45.  Life groups allow us to help each other (as Rick Warren writes) with practical needs.  Can I loan you a car?  Can I provide you with some meals when you are sick?

Every so often, someone approaches me about a food pantry or a counseling center.  Great ministries, but the New Testament approach is for small groups, life groups to "take care of their own."

One thing I am pleased with - is that several of our life groups are going down to City Church (as a group) to minister.

Healthy life groups worship together.  "They were praising God" together.  Acts 2:47.

Healthy life groups witness together - "and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."  Acts 2:47.

I encourage every life group to focus on inviting non-churched people.

I am often asked, "why don't we see more people saved in our services"?  That is not the right question - the right question is "why don't we see more people saved in our life groups?" 

Just a wonderful, positive challenge to all of us.

Anyway, just some thoughts for a Tuesday.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Dave and Millie Gable, what great people!

Dave is an excellent communicator.

One thought from the marriage seminar - it really matters how you speak with your spouse.

Men and women think and talk differently.

Men and women have different goals in our talking:

For men the goals are independence, new information, resolution and announced conclusions.  For women, the goals are interdependence, intimacy resonance and talking through conclusions.

As a result, women's words are often not conveying new information, and are awarded little value by men who then don't feel like listening - this frustrates women, who want to further the relationship and get help or understanding in doing it (from Dave Gables notes).

In other words, we men like to share information and seek bottom line conclusions to problems.  Women seek to strengthen relationships and talk through each solution to each problem.

Bottom line (after all I am a man writing this):  Men are different from women.

Great teaching yesterday from Dave:  that we make the greatest impact with people, not through our words but through our interactions with one another.

You never know when your words or actions might change someones life.

Most impactful ministry takes place through one on one relationships.

Several folks have signed up for our membership class.  Onward and Upward!

Upward basketball continues to be a highlight of our church.  God is doing some great things!

I encourage you - when you are surrounded by a sea of negativity, be a lighthouse of positive words, actions and thoughts.

You are who you hang around.  If you hang around negative people - you will be negative.  If you hang around positive people - you will be positive.

Thankful for those who work so hard in ministry each week at our church!

God is good - all the time.

We love you all!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Watching versus playing

In our church, just because a person comes and attends on a Sunday morning, does not a member make.

Membership is a step beyond attendance. 

It is a commitment to a local body of believers, a commitment that God takes just as seriously as the marriage vows someone takes on the day of their wedding.

(BTW, our next membership class begins on March 5th - contact Pastor Aldin or Debbie Smith for details - in our church office).

To become a member is like the difference between someone playing in the Super Bowl, and someone watching on television at home.

Last Sunday evening, millions upon millions of spectators watched the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots.

Plans were made for that night, in some cases, weeks in advance.

For approximately three hours of great intensity, you and I watched as 106 men on the field (53 team members on each side) went into battle for a chance to be world champions.

We watched, and booed, and cheered, and critiqued and praised as the game was played.

When the game was over, we as fans went back to business as usual - only our clothes did not get dirty, our bodies had no bruises or bumps.

There is a big difference between being in the stands and being on the field.

Let me put it this way - Jesus has a lot of fans, right?  People who want to show up and see what is going on.  Folks who want to critique, analyze, or cheer.  Folks who, when all is said and done, much more is said than done.

They don't exert much energy.

In church life, there are those who are quick to analyze how the folks on the field are doing.

They analyze privately by getting on the phone or talking to friends, not understanding that there is a huge difference between sitting in the stands of the living room and being on the field.

It is easy for a person to ask why a play is not made when they are not the ones running the ball (I have people ask me all the time, "why aren't we seeing more people saved at Stone Church" - when the reality of it is that the person asking the question hasn't led someone to Christ in years).

It is easy for a person to blame a player for not executing when they are not on the field staring opposition in the face.  The view from the field is a lot different from the view in the stands.

I encourage all of us to be participants!  Don't just be a spectator!

Consider joining the church!  Consider be a part of the team!  Consider being a part of the greatest enterprise this world has ever seen (or will seen) the growth of God's Kingdom!

Just a thought for a Thursday

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Mission statements and Stone Church

In modern day church life, mission statements are huge.

It is important to narrow down the mission of the church (or any organization) to one or two repeatable sentences.

At Stone Church, we are a place to belong, a place to grow and a place to serve.  We exist to love God and love people.  We encourage people to come on Sunday mornings, attend a life group and serve in a ministry.

However, I read something today that could also serve as our "mission statement".

It comes from New York City, the harbor there, where there is a lady who stands tall.  She hold a torch in her hand, giving light. 

Inscribed on the pedestal upon which this lady stands are these famous words:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses
yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of
your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless,
Tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Sounds like Stone Church to me. 

When we go after people nobody wants, God will send up people everyone wants.

We are a spiritual hospital.

We welcome everyone!

You can come with all your mess.

You can come with all your problems.

You can come with all your burdens.

You can come with all your needs.

You can come because Jesus is the "light of the world", to show you the way.

I am told that at the bottom of Lady Liberty's feet is a chain that has been broken.

She is inviting the broken and bruised people who have been held hostage in one situation or another.

At Stone Church, and in God's Kingdom, we are holding the same promise of freedom (spiritual and emotional) to those who are looking to escape their bondages.

Again, we welcome everyone, knowing that God is faithful to show us the way.

Just some thoughts for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The importance of momentum

Here's what I know (and something I alluded to yesterday):

In any sphere of life - momentum is huge.

We are beginning to experience that momentum in our church.  New people are coming.  People are growing in God.  Some are seeing life change by accepting Christ as their personal savior.  Many were baptized in the Holy Spirit on the Sunday evening that Allan Griffin was with us.

It is extremely exciting!

Momentum.  I love it.

We just saw in the Super Bowl this past Sunday how the New York Giants had the momentum, lost it towards the end of the first half, gained it back, lost it again, and finally, in the last four minutes won the game with a surge of momentum, with Eli Manning taking them down to score the winning touchdown.

I was reading today of the analogy of a train.  A train travelling 55 miles per hour on a railroad track can crash through a 5-foot thick steel-reinforced concrete wall without stopping.

But you take that same train, and start it from a stationary position, and it won't be able to go through an inch-thick block in front of the driving wheel.

What is the difference?


John Maxwell writes, "It is never the size of your problem that is the problem. It's a lack of momentum. Without momentum, even a tiny obstacle can prevent you from moving forward. With momentum, you'll navigate through problems and barely even notice them."

He goes on to state, "As a leader, your responsibility is to understand momentum, to get it moving for your organization, and to sustain it over time. Momentum can be tricky to comprehend, though, often appearing elusive and intangible."

What can build up momentum - and what can take it away?

Well, let me quote Maxwell again - He writes (I'll add some personal comments along the way) (when I put something in quotation marks - I am quoting John Maxwell):

Momentum breaker - double-mindedness
Momentum maker - focus

"By creating and following a clear and focused vision statement, a leader develops momentum. A leader drains away momentum by shooting at nothing or attempting everything."

What is our focus (at Stone Church)?  To love God and love people.  We do that by realizing that our church is a place to belong, a place to grow and a place to serve.  We encourage people to come on Sunday mornings, attend a life group and serve in a ministry.

If we go after people nobody wants, God will send up people everybody wants. 

Our ultimate vision is to glorify God by connecting everyone we can to Christ.  People ask me all the time, "how big should our church get"?  I always respond by saying that "we should continue to grow as long as there is one more person to bring to Christ."

Now, you would think that as a church grows, as a church gains momentum, everyone would rejoice!  Not so!

Maxwell continues along this point by writing, "Movement causes friction. When you paint a target for your team, you'll likely encounter resistance. As a leader, you can't restrict yourself by living inside of someone else's comfort zone. Great accomplishments require leaders to fix their gaze beyond what's easily attainable."

That is so true.  If I stayed within the comfort zone (as a leader) of someone in our church or someone(s), we would never gain any kind of spiritual or numerical momentum.

In fact, our statement of the year is from Samuel Rutherford, "We hope to over hope and over believe each challenge set before us."

Okay, Maxwell goes on to state:

Momentum breaker - the past
Momentum maker - the future

John Maxwell writes "An organization picks up steam when its leaders point to a better tomorrow. Momentum breaks down when leaders preoccupy themselves with the past. Or, as I've heard quoted, "Losers yearn for the past and get stuck in it. Winners learn from the past and let go of it."

I also would like to add a quote from Jack Hayford here, "the past is a dead issue and we can't gain any momentum moving toward tomorrow if we are dragging the past behind us."

It is very, very difficult to gain any kind of momentum with the "ball and chain" of the past linked to us.

It is cliche but so true - Hindsight is always, always 20-20.  The past always, always looks better than it was.

Maxwell states, "many people have powerful dreams. However, most don't realize that the viability of their ideal tomorrow is based on what they do today. The difference between a dream and wishful thinking is what you're doing now. Practice today what you want to be tomorrow. If you do it well enough, someday you may arrive at your dream."

Momentum breaker - individualism
Momentum maker - teamwork

John Maxwell writes, "If you want to kill momentum, then insist on doing things by yourself. Momentum grows through team victories in which numerous people can claim to have played a role. The level of celebration on a team depends upon the level of participation."

Our goal at Stone Church is to have 100% participation from our church family in the ministries of our church.  We need you!  We need everyone participating!

One person can't build a church!  10 people can't save an entire community.  Everyone is needed.  The entire body must work together. 

It's called the principle of synergism.  Two working together can do far more than just one.  One can put a thousand to flight (as the Bible says), but two can put 10,000 to flight.

Momentum breaker - critical attitude
Momentum maker - constructive attitude

Tennis great Chris Evert said it best, "The thing that separates good players from great ones is mental attitude. It might only make a difference of two or three points over an entire match, but how you play those key points often makes the difference between winning and losing."

I have seen more churches derailed by negativity than anything else.  One negative leader, one negative elder, one negative deacon, can switch the momentum of a church on a dime.

Isn't it true that no matter how positive you are about anything - that if someone comes along and states something critical or with a complaining spirit that you begin to wonder.  I am told it takes 10 positive statements to overcome 1 negative statement that is made.

Someone posted on face book today:  "I am allergic to negative people."  I wish we all that allergy in God's kingdom.

I guess I could say it this way:  I am really negative about negative people.

BTW, momentum can go either way - both in a positive and a negative direction.

Momentum breaker - tradition
Momentum maker - creativity

Maxwell writes, "Don't tear down the fence until you understand why it was built. At the same time, relentlessly question the logic, "that's how we have always done it." What worked in the past may be outdated and could hold you back in the future."

When I first came to Stone Church, I can't tell you how many times someone told me, "we've already done that," or "we've done that and it didn't work."  Okay, but what about this time?  What about 2012?

Momentum breaker – apathy
Momentum maker - passion

Again, Maxwell, "Passion energizes your talent and rubs off on those around you. If you have courage, then you will influence people based on your passionate convictions. If you lack courage, then you will only influence people to the extent of your comfort zone."

One person with passion will always outwork or outperform 99 people with only a passing interest.

Momentum breaker - dishonesty
Momentum maker - character

"Character is the sum total of our everyday choices. It cannot be built overnight. A trustworthy leader has a much easier time generating momentum than a leader with a reputation of being manipulative and deceitful."

Very, very good.

Momentum breaker - conformity
Momentum maker - change

As John F. Kennedy said, "Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth." Sticking with the status quo won't create an ounce of momentum. Although it's difficult and may demand sacrifice, change is required to build momentum.

Here's what I know:  Change does not automatically produce growth, but we can't grow as a church without change.

Momentum breaker - ingratitude
Momentum maker - gratitude

"As a Chinese proverb states, "Those who drink the water must remember those who dug the well." No one can claim to be self-made. Whatever accomplishments we attain in life have connections to the goodwill and support of those around us. When we express thankfulness for the benefits bestowed upon us by friends and colleagues, then those people are more apt to aid us again in the future."

Momentum breaker - indecision
Momentum maker - action

Finally, Maxwell writes, "I am never overly impressed with idea people. Anyone who takes a long shower can come up with a good idea. I'm impressed with a person who has the tenacity and discipline to make ideas happen."

He finishes by saying, "I've seen many leaders break the momentum on their team by succumbing to the paralysis of analysis. Leaders have to act with incomplete information. You can never know all of the variables. Momentum and risk go hand in hand. As a leader, if you always play it safe, then you'll never inspire excitement in those you lead."

Risks are always needed - but the rewards (as the risks are taken) are always, always that much sweeter.

Just some thoughts for a Tuesday.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I am really look forward to the marriage seminar this weekend.  We have 20 couples signed up - 40 people.  Dave and Millie Gable have been married over 50 years and combine Biblical principles of marriage with humor to help us all grow in our marriages.

There is still time for you to sign up!  Just contact Debbie Smith at the church office (  Child care provided.  It's free!

Friday evening:  7:00 - 9:00 P.M.
Saturday morning:  9:00 - 12:00 P.M.

Upward Basketball - great to meet new friends and families coming.  I remain extremely grateful for those in leadership - for their time and help!

I sense God moving in our church.  Momentum is such a big part of everything we participate in - in life.  Whether it be a sports event or a war effort in Afghanistan or the growth of any company or church - momentum is huge.  We are beginning to experience that momentum!

I love not being able to walk "five feet" in the foyer without meeting someone new.  Now that's priceless!

Thanks to Stephanie and Eric Hiller for leading us in worship yesterday.  Great job!  Amanda was on vacation and they stepped in and led us into the presence of the Lord!

We rejoice with RFKC at the response they received yesterday.

Thanks to John Schwider, Bob and Carolyn Ferrari and team.

Okay, the Super Bowl.  While I wasn't FOR either team, I did kind of want the Giants to win. 

It was just a good solid football game.

If you are Tom Brady, you are thinking that you can't win a Super Bowl when your receivers are dropping passes - especially near the end of the game.

I thought that the Giants dominated on both sides of the lines - both offensively and defensively.

Two great coaches with two mediocre teams.

May God bless you this week with a special sense of His presence!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Gospel and simplicity

At its core, the Gospel of Christ is a Gospel of simplicity.

Jesus was born, he died, he rose, and he is coming back again.

To "make" heaven, all I need to know is that Jesus was the Son of God, He forgives me for my sins, and I am to live a holy life.

I love it.  I love it that God has made is so simple (I was tempted to use the word easy - but that wouldn't be correct - it can be "hard" to accept even such a simple message).

Jesus when he taught, he taught with stories.  Parables the Bible calls them.  Stories that the people of His day could relate to.

That is my role in teaching.  "Breaking down" the Word of God so that everyone can understand and apply it to their lives.

Now, don't get me wrong.  There is a time and place for deeper theology.

Every so often, someone asks me to go "deeper into the things of God."

I smile at that.

Let me give you an example of what I could say.  I have been reading Professor Craig Keener's commentary of John (for my John series).  His an example of what he wrote concerning John 1:3:

"Scholars who view John's purpose as antignostic could find plenty of antignosticism in 1:3; in contrast to Gnostic beliefs, Christ alone is the mediator of creation in John.  In Gnosticism, emanations from the primal Aeon formed the evil immaterial world; the creator was generally the Demiurge, a power far removed from the original deity.  Were Mandaic literature not so late, one could even read the verse from an anti-Mandaic angle, noting latter rabbinic polemic against the idea of mediation in creation, which appear in Philo.... (page 375, The Gospel of John, a Commentary).

What does John 1:3 state?  "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made."

What does that mean?  Jesus created all things.  Nothing was made without Him.  As the creator of the world, he can take care of my needs and your needs.

Cut.  Print.  That's a wrap.

Now do you catch my point? 

Sometimes the "deeper" things of life are found in simplicity itself.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Stories that need no explanation

There are some stories that I read that need no explanation or amplification.

I read one today:

Nicole Servel, aged 61, was on the Costa Concordia luxury liner that ran aground last week.

Her children gave her the trip as a gift for her 60th birthday. Nicole survived the disaster, but her husband gave his life to save hers.

As the ship started to sink and everyone had to jump overboard, Nicole panicked because she can't swim.

So her husband Francis gave her his life jacket and then they both jumped.

According to Nicole, Francis' last words were, "Don't worry! I'll be all right." But the water was only eight degrees and she never saw him again. Nicole said, "I owe my life to my husband."

That story touches me.  No need to say more.