Total Pageviews

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Being stuck

Being stuck is never fun.

I have been stuck in airports with intended and non-intended layovers, sometimes up to 6 or 7 hours.  It is never fun.

I have been stuck in traffic in Chicago, LA and Paris.  It is never fun.

One time I was stuck in an elevator.

We do everything we can to avoid such times of "being stuck".

Stuck in traffic, stuck at an airport, stuck waiting line for a table at the restaurant.


No where else to go.

Have you ever been "stuck" spiritually? 

Going nowhere, fast?

Burned out?

In a mode of failure?

Getting "F's" on your spiritual report card?

Here's what I know: 

The positive side of being "stuck" spiritually is that it forces us to (if we want to become unstuck) to slow down - to stop. 

It halts the momentum of our lives. 

We realize that we are stuck and end up searching for Jesus. 

We realize that our hunger for God and longings and yearnings for His spirit have been stifled. 

We realize that we (once again) need to let go and let the Holy Spirit come back in.

I read a story today of a pastor of a church in England who announced to his congregation one Sunday that he was resigning because he no longer believer in Christianity.

Stunned at first, the congregation gathered its composure, and the elders asked the pastor to meet with the congregation after the service.  Everyone knew what was going to happen.  His resignation would be accepted, financial arrangements would be made, and the search for a new pastor would begin.

But that is not what happened.  The elders stood before the pastor and said, "Sir, we understand you have come to the painful conclusion that Christianity is not true.  We believe it IS true.  IN fact, we're so convinced it is true, we want you to stay on as our pastor.  We want you to stand up each Sunday and preach your doubts to us.  It's okay.  We want to hear them, not so we can argue with you but so this can be a place where you can honestly seek the truth."

For three years, the pastor preached his doubts, and one morning he stood in the pulpit, looked out at the congregation with his eyes full of tears, and said, "I have found faith again.  Thank you for trusting the gospel; thank you for waiting for me to find my faith again!"

The pastor was stuck, burned out, lost, sinking in the quicksand of doubt, and his church recognized his stuckness!

An extraordinary congregation of ordinary people understood their pastor's need to wrestle with the truth.

Instead of talking about the truth, they trusted the truth.

My encouragement to you today, if you are "stuck" is to break out of your "stuckness" by reaching out to Jesus.  Trusting in Jesus.  And you will grow deeper in Him as never before.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

We need each other

Here's what I know:  There is no problem that is too big when you have help.

That is so true.

It's the principle of synergism:  Two working together can do far more than just one.

The Bible says, "One can put a thousand to flight, two can put ten thousand to flight."  Deuteronomy 32:30.

I am thankful for all of the ministry leaders and volunteers at our church.

Many spend long hours in ministry without a lot of recognition. 

We love and appreciate you!

But back to this thought:  No problem is too big when you have help.

We need each other!

When the people of Israel were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem (after returning from Babylon), Nehemiah appealed to the people for help.

Scripture quotes his plea to the people:

"You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire.  Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach."  And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king's words that he had spoken to me.  So they (the nobles, priests, and officials) said, "Let us rise up and build."  Then they set their hands to this good work."  Nehemiah 2:17-18

A lot in those few verses.

When should we ask for help?

John Maxwell tells us that we should ask for help:

When the problems we face are bigger than us. 

Nehemiah had some huge difficulties facing him.  He was geographically far from the problem, over 1000 miles away, when he heard of the problem.

The people of Jerusalem had no materials to rebuild the walls.

The people of Jerusalem didn't want to rebuild.

The surrounding enemies of the people were in great opposition to them rebuilding.

Also, we should ask for help when the problem becomes personal.  When Nehemiah heard about the state of Jerusalem, he mourned for many days.  It was personal to him.  He needed help not only physically but emotionally.

We need to ask for help when we have shared the problem with God

The first things Nehemiah did when he heard about Jerusalem's condition was to have a talk with God.

"Have a little talk with Jesus," the song says.

Finally, I want to say something that I trust will not be misunderstood. 

Many times, in the midst of a difficulty, we don't need a miracle, we simply need each other.

Many times we don't need a miracle of finances at the church, we simply need each church family member to tithe and give out of open and sincere hearts.

Many times we don't need a miracle of praying in volunteers into the church, we simply need each church family member to step up and minister.

God has already provided all that we need!  We just need to work together. 

We really do need each other! 

We cannot run this spiritual race on our own.

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Growing in Christ

As I enter into the early fall of my adult ministry life, I have purposed in my heart to try to encourage people to walk in authenticity in their Christian lives, their walk with Christ and with one another in His Church.

Henri Nouwen, once wrote (in the book, "the Genesse Diary"), "He who thinks that he is finished is finished.  How true.  Those who think that they have arrived, have lost their way.  Those who think they have reached their goal, have missed it.  Those who think they are saints, are demons."

I would suggest that true spirituality is for those who don't have life figured out, who don't know the Bible as they could and who don't have their spiritual lives all together (as some people think they do) but are just trying to follow Jesus the best they can.

Please catch on to this today:  Everyone is doing the best they can.

We can't stand (or sit) at any point in our lives from a higher spiritual position or plane and look down on our fellow Christ followers.

So, please catch on to this today:  There is no room for pretending in the spiritual life.

Yet we do.  I see it every Sunday.  Every week in God's Kingdom.

It's an unwritten rule.  Pretend.  Act like God is in control when  you don't believe he is.  Give the impression everything is okay in  your life when it is not.  Pretend you believe when you doubt; hide your imperfections; maintain the image of a perfect marriage with healthy and well-adjusted children when your family is like any other normal dysfunctional family. 

And WHATEVER you do, don't admit that you sin.

People who pretend (as Michael Yaconelli writes) have pretend relationships.

Come on now, my dear friends, the truth is, we are all a mess. None of us is who we appear to be.  We all have secrets.  We all have issues.  We all struggle from time to time.

So, let's be real with one another.  And accept one another.  And love one another.

I leave you with Romans 3:10, "There is no one righteous, not even one".

My righteousness is only found in Jesus Christ.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I understand that our youth group had a fantastic weekend retreat.

They always have a lot of fun - but this time I was told God really, really moved.  The Holy Spirit touched the hearts of many.  Worship was powerful.

Kids recommitted their lives to Christ.

I am very grateful.

We talked this morning in our pastoral staff meeting about carrying that spiritual momentum into the spring and summer.

Praise God for a group of wonderful, on-fire teenagers!

Here's what I know:  only the Holy Spirit can truly change someone(s).

Thanks to Pastor Noah and Jenni - you are do a great job!

Thanks to all of our youth leaders who went as well!

On the home front - we had very good services yesterday. 

God is looking for worshippers.  God is seeking worshippers.

God is seeking those who will worship him in spirit (we are not human beings have a spiritual experience - we are spiritual beings having a human experience) and in truth (in reality, as we are, not being something we are not).

My "March Madness" bracket is not doing well.  Missouri losing put a big hole in my forecast.

Michigan State is still alive!  Go green!  Go white!

Peyton Manning going to Denver.  Interesting.  I guess it is "so long" Tim Tebow.

I love my kids, and my grand kids.

I love my wife.

I love our church.

I love God.

(That all just kind of came out)

Our men's life group was fantastic this past Saturday.  The guys are verbal and vulnerable - two qualities you don't normally see in us as men.  Kudos to them for being so.

It excites me to see the spiritual growth that is taking place in the lives of many in our church.

God is moving in our church!

I am thankful for those who are accepting Christ and growing in God!

My role is to be faithful and obedient to God - God's "job" is to change people by His Holy Spirit.

I am one
And I am only one
I cannot do everything
But I can do something
What I can do - I ought to do
And what I ought to do - by the grace of God in me
I will do.

Will you join me in God's Kingdom Work?

Thursday, March 15, 2012


I love to watch butterflies.


They are beautiful. Almost majestic. 

A few years ago, on an ordinary winter day in 1961, an MIT meteorologist named Edward Lorenz ran some routine experiments and found some unusual results.  

Lorenz discovered that seemingly tiny and insignificant changes in his data could produce huge differences in the final result. 

At first, Lorenz and other scientists in the field of chaos theory called this "the sensitive dependence on initial data." Fortunately, later on Lorenz used a simpler term—"the butterfly effect." 

In 1972, Lorenz presented a scientific paper entitled "Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set off a Tornado in Texas?"  

According to Lorenz's theory, the butterfly's wing-flapping doesn't actually cause a tornado, but it can start a chain reaction leading to giant changes in world-wide weather patterns. In others words, even tiny, insignificant movements or actions can produce huge changes that affect millions of people. 

The Bible often describes a similar "butterfly effect" for the spiritual life. 

As we go through the gospel of John, we see this in the life of Jesus. Through his life, we see the spiritual butterfly in effect - which occurs in our lives as well - as we do small things—making a meal, visiting the sick, befriending the lonely, opening our home to a guest, praying with a friend—for "insignificant" people, which makes a huge difference in God's eyes.  

And remember this - according to Jesus, there's also a reverse butterfly effect: consistently failing to display small acts of kindness (i.e. living an unkind lifestyle) has a profound loss of opportunity in the spiritual realm. 

The choice I encourage all of us to make today? To choice to do good. You never know what the effect will be, today, tomorrow, and even months and years from now. 

Andy Andrews has written:

"Every single thing you do matters.
You have been created as one of a kind.
You have been created in order to make a difference. You have within you the power to change the world."

I encourage all of us today to "seize the opportunity" that is before us.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


One of the words that gets me into a "preaching Rambo" mood is the word entitlement. 

The word "entitlement" has become a part of our cultural language in 2012. Some people are suggesting that we are becoming a society of entitlement, where we everything we need or want is owed to us. 

When we don't get what we want we feel we have been treated unfairly. 

Now, to be fair, it is a natural human trait.  

No one likes the word, "no". 

However, that does not make it right. 

I see entitlement in people who: 

Feel the world owes them something.

Feel the government owes them something.

Feel everyone around them owes them something. 

They expect special treatment. 

One thing I am learning: The Chicagoland really struggles with this. 

Obviously, as a church leader, I see the word entitlement on a daily basis. 

I see kids who are and have grown up in the church feel that they can say or do anything - they feel they are entitled to special treatment. 

I see parents who have children who have grown up in the church feel that their child can say or do anything they want - they feel their children are entitled to special treatment. 

I see long time Christians feel like they can say or do anything - they feel like the church "owes" them special treatment. 

Can I share something with you? 

This world owes us nothing.  


When I begin to think that the world owes me something - I always get into trouble.  

When I expect people to act a certain way because of something I have done - I always get into trouble. 

This especially applies in my relationship with God. 

We can begin to think that God "owes" us. 

That's why Jesus shares that we are "blessed" when we are poor in spirit. 

Tim Keller offers the following definition for what Jesus meant by being "poor in spirit": 

He writes, "It means seeing that you are deeply in debt before God, and you have no ability to even begin to redeem yourself. God's free generosity to you, at infinite cost to him, was the only thing that saved you." 

But many people today resist Jesus' teaching about our spiritual poverty.

Keller writes: 

"On the contrary, you believe that God owes you some things—he ought to answer your prayers and to bless you for the many good things you've done. Even though the Bible doesn't use the term, by inference we can say that you are "middle-class in spirit." You feel that you've earned a certain standing with God through your hard work. You also may believe that the success and the resources you have are primarily due to your own industry and energy." 

I would suggest that we remain faithful for what we do have in God - and continually walk with an attitude of thanksgiving for his grace and mercy. 

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Our words and what they reveal

Our words are huge.

They are a big deal.
We say things like, “I was just kidding”, or “I didn’t mean that”, but our words reveal our hearts.
Jesus said it this way in Luke 6:45, “out of the heart the mouth speaks.”
No matter how hard we try, our words reveal what we are thinking inside.  Our attitudes, both good and bad.  
As I am writing, I am thinking about a couple of people in my life who have lost the governors on their tongues.
They say, “Whatever is on their mind,” or “whatever is on their heart.”
(Just as a side note – it is interesting to me that when you “say what is on your mind,” to the person who “says what is on their mind,” they are easily offended.
In his book The Secret Life of Pronouns, social psychologist James Pennebaker has spent years researching the significance of our words.
With a team of grad students, he developed a sophisticated computer program that analyzes what our words say about us.
Based on his research, Pennebaker claims that the words we generate over a lifetime are like "fingerprints."
Even small words, or what he calls "stealth words"—like pronouns (such as I, you, we, they) and prepositions (to, for, over)—"broadcast the kind of people we are."
Based on his research, we don't randomly choose our words; instead, words reveal the condition of our hearts. Or as Pennebaker says, words act like "powerful tools to excavate people's thoughts, feelings, motivations, and connections with others."
One of the major, major ways that we can control our words is walking in the Spirit.  With the Holy Spirit in us, we have a boundary, a fence, a control on the words that we choose to say.
That is so important.
I have noticed that the closer I am walking to the Lord, the more apt I am to watch what I say.
Psalms 34:13 tells us to “keep our tongues from speaking evil”.
In other words, when it doubt, stay silent.
Good stuff for a Tuesday. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I trust you are enjoying this wonderful weather with me. 

Beautiful days for March in Chicago.

Michigan State - number one seed in the west.  Go Green!  Go White!

My wish?  Kentucky - Michigan State in the final game on April 2nd.

It's what makes the March college basketball tournament so great - you never know who is going to win.

Had a wonderful dinner with my wife, Debbie last Friday evening - the love of my life.

Upward Basketball - I wish I had more superlatives to hand out - it was great, fantastic, wonderful, excellent.  I could go on.

The "celebration" service on Saturday morning - 5 kids accepted Christ.

That thrills me.

Prizes were handed out (to each child):  everyone went away happy.

People need the Lord.

Ministries such as Upward Basketball are "tools" to lead people to Christ.

And yet, at the same time - it is a lot of fun!

Can you have fun leading people to Christ - Absolutely!

Thanks to Jon and Cheri Hollowell for their leadership in Upward.  Thanks to their team as well!

We continue to see people come to Christ on Sunday mornings. 

For that - I am grateful. 

I am also grateful for the team that works together on Sunday mornings to make everything happen.

If you are reading this; and a participant with that team - thank you so much for your time and hard work!

We are not perfect as a church - but we are doing the best we can.  And that is all that God asks for!

Easter is fast approaching.  I would encourage everyone to come on Sunday morning April 8th with someone who does not normally come to church.

76% of all people come to Christ because of a friend.


That means you.  And...that means me.  Just a thought.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Teaching children to make right choices

I've been thinking a lot about parenting the past few days.

Here's what I know:  I was not a perfect parent.  Nor am I an authority on parenting.

Yet, I do know this.

The most important thing that you can teach your child (outside, of course, about a relationship with Christ) is how to make wise decisions.

As my kids grew older (in their teenage years) they heard me say that over and over again, "I hope (and sometimes I said pray) that you will continue to make wise choices."

Now that they are all grown, adults, and living on their own, I rely upon that ability in them - the ability to make wise choices.

Choices are so important.  Zig Ziglar has written, "you are free to choose, but the choices you make today will determine what you will have, be, and do in the tomorrow of your life." 

Paul writes in Ephesians 5:15, "Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise."

How do we learn to make wise choices?

By making choices!  By making good choices and learning from the negative and bad choices that we have made in the past.

I would encourage you, if you have a younger child, to begin that process immediately.  To teach your child to make choices incrementally, starting with small things, medium things, and then by the time they are teenagers and  young adults, bigger "things".

If a parent makes all the decisions for their child and never lets that child make any decision on its own, that poor child is doomed to immaturity - and a lot of hurt and woundedness in life.

It's like learning how to walk.  We take a step.  We stumble.  We fall.  We get right back up and try again.  We learn.

We learn to make wise decisions by making unwise decisions.

And when your child makes wrong decisions, let them experience the consequences of those decisions.  I would encourage you not to cover it up, or let it slide or make excuses for them.

Think mid and long term.  Not just short term.

"Teach your children well," Crosby, Still, Nash and Young used to sing.

And pray, and pray, and pray, and pray - as my father prayed for him and my father's father prayed for my father.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Going to God first - not last

Here’s a thought for a Wednesday:

God is God and we are not.

Kind of profound, don't you think?  :)
Have you ever tried to counsel God?  Of course you have. 

Have you ever tried to give God advice?  For some of us, it is a weekly occurrence.
Depending upon our personality, we are all disposed to telling God what we are going to do – and then pray to get his “blessing”.
Someone once wrote:  “Do you want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans!”
Many times there is nothing wrong with our plans, except that they are not God’s plans.  God will have something bigger and better in mind.
This week I ran across a wonderful definition of faith.
I don’t know who said it, but it fits into what I am writing here, and applies to all of us who face desperate circumstances:
“Faith is confidence in God’s faithfulness to me in an uncertain world, on an uncharted course, through an unknown future.”
My thought and prayer for each one of us is that we will go to God first – and not last, when we are making a decision (no matter how big or how small).
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Serving with GLADNESS

I like what David writes in Psalms 100:2 - We are to serve the Lord with "gladness".

We are to worship/serve him with joy.

Here's what I know:  worship is service and service is worship.

Worshipping God is more than lifting my hand and my voice, it is helping others in the dailyness of life.

In doing God's work, we serve Him.  We serve the Lord.

We are not ultimately serving the church or a ministry leader or a pastor or a board.

We are serving God.  It is He that we worship and for Him that we work, not man!

So, I don't serve out of guilt or with my head hung low or with an attitude of "have to". 

I "get to" serve God.

David's thoughts include, "with gladness".

The Hebrew term for this phrase was used when talking about pleasant things that give happiness.

Some people serve God out of guilt or to ease their conscience.  Other serve because they feel forced to serve or obligated.

Let's serve God with gladness - knowing that nothing puts a smile on the face of God quicker - than someone who is serving with joy.

Just a thought for a Tuesday

Monday, March 05, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

You may have heard me say this about my granddaughters:  They are the prettiest girls in the world, they are the smartest girls in the world and they are always right.

I know you feel the same way about your grandchildren.

It was great having them here over the weekend.

Small children take a lot of "work".  God bless you young mothers - with strength and patience.

Christie is doing a GREAT job as a mother.

When it comes down to it - after our relationship with God - all we really have is family.

To hear Georgia yell out, "Grandpa" - priceless.

I was told that there are 17 people in our membership class.  Praise God!

God is moving!

Wonderful spirit of worship yesterday.

May God help us all to go back to "the heart of worship".

My desire is to leave God "satisfied" with my worship as I leave a Sunday morning service.

God is hungry for my worship. 

Worship is all about God - not me.

Worship becomes more about me when all I can think about are my preferences.

Preferences change according to the times and seasons we live in. 

Preferences are about me - what I want, what I desire, my likes and dislikes. 

Praise is about God. 

Praise is not based on performance but participation.

God never changes.

God desire your worship!

I encourage all of us this week to pause throughout the day and say one sentence prayers of praise to God.  In fact, why not right now.  Deep breath.  Pause, "Father, you are in control.  I praise you for who  you are."

Great to have Stephanie and Eric with us as full time volunteers with the worship team.

Am really looking forward to spring.

Just a reminder - let's all continue to pray 60 seconds a day for our church and our community.

Love you all........

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Positive side of trials

I share this quite frequently with those who are walking through times of trial.

The positive side of a trial is that you and I understand and can empathize with those who walk through the same adversities that we have.

If you have gone through a divorce - you can more readily identify and minister to those who have walked through a divorce.

If you have lost a loved one to death - you can more readily identify and minister to those who have lost a loved one.

If you have gone through a life threatening illness and come out healthy - you can more readily identify and minister to those who have been ill with a terrible disease.

Someone once said, "before God makes preeminent use of a man - he always puts him through the fire."

And then A.W. Tozer agrees:  It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply. 

There is a scripture (that I hope will encourage you today) found in 1 Samuel 30:6.

King David and his men had reached Ziklag.  The Amalekites had just attacked Ziklag and burned it to the ground, taking captive the women and all who were in it, both young and old. 

David and his men wept, the Bible says, in fact they wept so much they had no strength left to weep.

David's two wives had been captured.

And 1 Samuel 30:6 says this:  David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters.  But David found strength in the Lord His God."

While there is a "positive" to our trials, please know that God's hand is in your heartache today.

And....look around you for someone to reach out to who is walking through the same thing.  We are blessed to be a blessing.

Just a thought for a Thursday.