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Monday, April 30, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

My condolences to all Chicago Bulls fans.  The loss of Derek Rose to injury is insurmountable.  It would be like trying to drive a car without any gas.

Derek Rose is what keeps the engine running.

MVP last year - a great player.  One of my favorites in recent memory.

Great services yesterday.  Worship was phenomenal. 

It is one of my favorite things to do; watching a group of people lifting up holy hands and voices in praises to God.  I love it.

Our church is filled with giving and loving people.

Concerning the contributions for the new church vehicle: 

$27,355.50 in donations.

$750.00 in I.O.U.'s.

$4,590.50 from insurance company.

Total:  $32,696.00 to go towards the purchase of our new church vehicle.

God is good!

Many, many thanks to all of our Stone Church attendees!  We are grateful for your giving!

A little bit more to go - let's believe God for the rest!

Excellent sermon yesterday from our guest speaker.  There is freedom in Jesus Christ!

Prayed with many people yesterday at the altar.  The needs are great - our God is greater!

Onward and Upward!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sunday miracles

I believe that God wants to do a miracle this Sunday.

Every great miracle in the Bible begins with an impossibility.

In the natural, it seems like an impossibility that we can receive $50,000 for a new mini-bus in one offering.  However, nothing is impossible with God.

I know that Debbie and I are going to give - and I would ask that you prayerfully consider giving as well.

The mini-bus will be used for ministry.  Ministry to children, teenagers - all the way up to our seniors.

Jeremiah writes in Jeremiah 32:17, "Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm.  Nothing is too hard for you."

Nothing is too hard for God.

Absolutely nothing.

Jeremiah also said in Jeremiah 32:27, "Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything to difficult for me?"

God is asking you to substitute your impossibilities for the word, "anything."

You fill in the blank.  "Is __________________ too difficult for me?"

The implied answer is, "absolutely not.  Nothing is too difficult for me."

You might say, "You don't know may situation."  I don't have to know your situation.  All I need to know - and all you need to know - is God and His promises.

May God do a miracle in our lives?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What's on the inside and titles

It really is what's on the inside that counts.

Some people hide behind their looks.  Expecting their looks to carry them through life.

Others hide behind their titles and positions.  "I'm the boss around here," some say.

If you have to say, "you are the boss around here," you are not the boss around here.

Others still hide behind their heritage.  Who their parents are.  Their last name.

Ron Artest is a player for the Los Angeles Lakers (and is famous for a fight he participated in while a members of the Indiana Pacers).

He recently changed his name to, "Metta World Peace."

Just this past week he nearly took an opposing player's head off with an elbow to the head.

He has been suspended for up to six playoff games.

Somehow calling  yourself, "World Peace" and decking an unsuspecting player with a flagrant elbow to the head are not consistent.

It is what is on the inside.

That's one of the reasons I tell people I am just a middle-aged, over weight white guy trying to get to heaven.  That's who I am.  The position of pastor is what I do. 

Some pastors insist on being called by their title.  By their position.  They hide behind their titles as if that is what is going to bring them respect.

Insisting on being called "pastor" is placing myself in a position of having to live up to something I really can't aspire to - complete perfection and holiness in the eyes of some people who have expectation levels beyond what is humanly possible.

It really is what is on the inside that counts.

Just some thoughts for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

hunger for God

Debbie and I were walking down a city street a few months ago when we saw a man carrying a cardboard sign which read, "I can't lie, I need money for beer."

And his bucket was full of money!

There are others who are genuinely hungry for food.  And need money to go and buy something to eat.

When was the last time you were really hungry?  I mean so hungry that you could think of nothing else?

Here's what I know:  If the physical man needs to eat numerous times a day for the body to function as it was designed, then how much more does the spiritual person need to eat regularly because the soul is starving to death?

As in the material realm, so we need to eat in the spiritual realm.

In fact, a loss of appetite is one of the great indicators to a doctor of your health.

Consistent loss of appetite is an indication of a much deeper problem.

How hungry are you for spiritual things? 

Is coming on a Sunday morning a "half to" or a "get to"?

Do you look forward to reading the Word every day?

When was the last time you paused to have a conversation with God?

Do those cheerful Christians get on your nerves?

Do you analyze a Sunday morning service - rather than participating in worshipping God?

Are you coming on a Sunday morning hungry for God?  His presence?

Would you pray with me, "Lord, we just want your presence.  We are so hungry."

Monday, April 23, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Several wonderful events yesterday:

Baptismal service:  Congratulations to Brendon and Wendy Bettenhausen!  It is wonderful to see you grow in God!

One young lady from Mexico accepted Christ.

Making my day:  Having lunch with new attendees.  Including our staff and a couple of deacons and elders we had around 30 people!

It is exciting to be around people who are excited about God - and about our church.

Excitement is contagious!

The "visitors" luncheon had people from 8 to 80.

Great generational mix.

Perfection is hard to reach except in things like baseball.

Congratulations to Philip Humber who pitched a perfect game on Saturday.

In hearing Philip Humber talk - it sounds like he is a Christian.

If the White Sox pitching can continue to thrive and if Rios, Dunn and Beckham begin to hit and if......(a lot of if's)....then the White Sox might be competitive with the Detroit Tigers this year.

None of us is perfect (especially me).

No one is perfect except for Jesus.

My men's life group is filled with men who are genuine, real and honest.  I appreciate that.

One of the best groups of men I have every discipled.

Throughout the "ups" and "downs" of life - Jesus is the one constant.

I just keep telling myself, that with God in control, "everything is fine.  Everything is fine."

Finished reading, "Calico Joe" by John Grisham and started reading, "The Presidents Club" by Nancy Gibbs.

"Calico Joe" is a wonderful, short novel with the theme of redemption and forgiveness, set in the world of baseball.

Don't forget this Friday - 7:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M.  Visiting pastor - Ed Funderburk.  Come and learn how to effectively minister!

Love you all.......

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Learning from ants

One of the reasons why many people like the book of Proverbs is that a person can read through one or two Proverbs and hang on to it for the rest of the day - if not the week.

The book of Proverbs is filled with practical thoughts - thoughts that challenge us and encourage us.

Proverbs 6:6-8 challenges us to, "go to the ant, you sluggard, consider its ways and be wise!  It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provision in summer and gathers its food at harvest."

Learning spiritual principles from ants?  Yep.

Let's do that.

For years scientists were baffled by the mystery of floating fire ants.  When placed in water, an individual fire ant will flounder, struggle and then eventually sink.

But when the fire ants band together they form life rafts that help them survive the flash floods of the Brazilian rain forests.

As a unified raft, they can even travel for months before reaching dry land.

How do they do that?

I was reading today of an article in the Los Angeles Times which summarized a new research study that shared the following:

"After collecting a bunch of ants, scientists dropped them into containers of water.  The ants quickly spread out and formed themselves into rafts.  Each individual ant used its claws and the adhesive pads on their legs to grip onto each other.  One researcher said, "At first is just looks like a tangle of bodies and limbs everywhere, but the longer you look at the picture, the more you're able to distinguish between different body parts and see the connection."  Then the insects use air pockets that form around their bodies to keep themselves afloat."

The article concludes with this, "The research sheds light on how deeply social insects act together:  almost as if they are part of a super organism.  One scientist said, "The individuals acting together create this awareness of the environment that no individual ant has."

What is the "super organism" that we are a part of?  The body of Christ.

It is so important that we stay connected - connected beyond a Sunday morning "meet and greet".  It is so important that we participate in small groups, life groups, where together we can make it through life. 

Alone, we sink (the enemy can target us and pick us off); but clinging and growing together in Christ - we can ride out any storm.

I need you, you need me, we all need the church, and the church needs us.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Soaring with eagles

Someone once said, "it is hard to soar with the eagles when you fly with turkeys". 

Turkeys will always come into our lives with second guessing and criticism. 

This week has been one of those weeks where I have had to be totally dependant on God's strength and His power in my life.

There are just some situations that I don't have answers for - there are situations that are complex and need the direction of the Holy Spirit.  Everyone has an opinion.  There are a lot of "voices" out there that say, "do this" or "do that".  Or, "why didn't you do this," and "why didn't you do that".

I need to rely upon the "wind of the Holy Spirit," in my life.

My thought is that we must continually strive for greater things, better things, holy things, with a continual desire to soar with the eagles.

On a couple of occasions in my life, I have had the opportunity and privilege of watching an eagle soar in the sky.

A good word for it is that they "glide" through the air.

Here's what I know about eagles.  They don't work that hard to hang in the air - but simply depend on wind gusts and updraft.

When an eagle catches the wind, he can soar for a long time, just pausing every now and then to flap his wings a bit.  An eagle doesn't fly, furiously beating the air with his wings.  If he did, many of them would grow fatigued and give out because their wings are too heavy to do that for any length of time.

They rest on the power of the wind.

Many times we find ourselves exhausted from furiously fighting our way through life, trying to do the best we can. 

God's will for us is to catch His wind.  He wants us to link into His will so that we don't have to struggle unnecessarily where He has provided wisdom and direction.

"Father, this day, help us, help me, Lord to depend on You.  We can't do it on our own.  Help us to "glide" through life Lord, with the wind of your Holy Spirit."

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Running from our problems

As a church leader, I deal with problems every single day.

Problems, problems, problems!

Here's what I know:  You never solve a problem by running from it.

Instead of running from our problems, we need to embrace them.

Accept the reality of the problems in our lives.

We are not to be overtly negative (pessimistic) or crazy positive (head in the clouds), but realistic with the knowledge that God is there to help us.

Jesus said it this way in Luke 9:23-25, "Then He told them what they could expect for themselves.  "Anyone who intends to come with Me has to let Me lead.  You're not in the driver's seat.  I am.  Don't run from suffering.  Embrace it.  Follow Me and I'll show you how.  Self-help is no help at all.  Self-sacrifice is the way - My way to finding yourself, your true self.  What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you."

We are not to run from our suffering, but to embrace it.  To fully experience it with God's help.

Denial of a problem can lead to an avoidance of pain which can lead to all kinds of neurosis. 

Anxiety.  Fear.  Depression just to name a few.

Some people fall into escapism:  Watching too much T.V.  Drinking too much.  Taking drugs.  Obsessing over a hobby.  Anything to kill the pain.

Yet, when we embrace the reality of our problems, we trust it to God and then He will do some amazing things. 

And with the knowledge that God is in control, we can rest know that "everything is fine."

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Great time around the altar yesterday.  Praying for the needs of our church family.

I love the fact that we are becoming a church that accepts anybody and everybody - without hesitation.

Come one and all - our desire is to minister to you!

You are welcome here!

This coming Sunday we will be baptizing people in water (beginning of second service).

People are coming to Christ!

It was interesting to hear yesterday that there are now more Christians in China than any other country in the world.

Missions is to be global. 

There are still "unreached" people groups in the world. 

Groups of people who have never had the opportunity to hear of Jesus.

Missions is important to God and therefore should be important to us.

People have needs - we are here to minister to those people as best we can.

Our church is not perfect, but we are doing the best we can.

God can always, always fill in the blanks.

Thankful for everyone involved in ministry in our church.  You are loved and appreciated!

While I am not perfect, and our church is not perfect - I am thankful that God IS perfect and never let's us down!

Love you all.......

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Idols and working out

You know, let me make a strong statement.

If an idol is anything that comes (or can come) between us and God - then all of us have at least one idol in our lives.

Come on now, admit it - it is true.

An idol can be:

Other people.  We can worship actors, politicians or athletes.

Our possessions.  Things we buy or want to buy.

Our families.  Where our entire lives are given for our children.

Our distractions:  Things like television, the Internet, an ipad or an iPhone.

Our hobbies:  golf, sports, knitting, games - and here's a big one:  facebook.

Others fall on their knees at the idol of control.  They have to control everything in their lives.  The people around them.  Their family.  Their job.  And yes, even the church (whenever there is disunity in the church it is almost always about control).

It can be a ministry in the church.  Some people go to the First Church of the (and fill in the blank with a ministry).  Worshipping God becomes secondary to them (I watch these people come late into worship Sunday after Sunday - I ask you - what is more important - our service to God or the God we serve?). 

It can even be our bodies.

This past week, my barber told me his son works out at the local Lifetime fitness club, every evening from 7:30 P.M. to 11:00 P.M.

I don't disagree with working out (I do almost every day - treadmill), but if I am spending hours upon hours working out (or doing any of the above) without taking care of my spiritual life - it is an idol in my life.

BTW - I can always tell what is an idol in any person's life by what they talk about.  Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:8, "Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."

Some people think nothing of spending three hours watching their favorite shows - but yet balk at the idea of spending ten minutes reading the Word of God.

They think nothing of sweating until their muscles burn, yet they recoil form spending time in prayer.

They find time to work out, rain or shine, but if it rains on Sunday, that pouring rain is a really great excuse to skip church.

Some people think nothing of working out for hours on a stair stepper or a treadmill; yet they back down at the thought of building their "spiritual muscles" through the disciplines of prayer and reading the Word.

My challenge to you today is not to stop things like working out or watching T.V.  But do keep on practicing your spiritual disciplines.

It's our spirits and our souls that will live forever.

Don't you think we should take care of our inner person as well?

Just a challenging thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Being second guessed

Have you ever had second thoughts about something?

Wished you would have done something differently or in another way?

Debbie and I joke that when we were considering getting married, her dad said that she could marry me or he would by her a new car (true story).

The joke is that Debbie says, "some days, some days, I wish I had got that car."  :)

(When we first got married, I was an idiot - now I just have moments of idiocy).

Second guessing.

I call it, "watching a football game from your easy chair."

Second guessing the umpires.  Coaches.  Players.  Politicians. 

And yes, even pastors.

It is a national sport in America.

We all "second guess" - especially if something goes wrong.

If there is one thing I am learning through this sermon series in the gospel of John is that Jesus was constantly, daily, being second guessed.

By the Pharisees.  Sadducee's.  Sinners.  The "righteous".  His own family.

Jesus was constantly clarifying what He did or said.

I can relate to that.

As a church leader, I am constantly being "second guessed". 

It comes with the territory. 

Here's what I know if you are being second guessed:

- know who you are.  As I grow older, I am becoming very comfortable with my strengths, and my weaknesses.  I know who I am.  I know what I can and can't do.

- know what you want to do.  In other words, know your God-given goals.  As they are truly from God, stand strong in that.  Expect, "second guessing".  Know that you are doing what God has asked you to do.  Everybody will have an opinion (especially in the south land of Chicago).

- know that it takes time.  All good things, important things, helpful things take time.  Being willing to be patient while there are those around you who "second guess".

- know that  you have done the best you can.  In the end, as you and I receive a God-given goal, and we are faithful, doing our best, God will take care of the rest.

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Never underestimate God

God does not want you and I to sin.

God's desire is that we walk in His will.

Yet, sometimes we do sin.  Sometimes we do fail.  Sometimes we do make mistakes.

No one is immune to this.

Sometimes we do not walk in His will.  We choose God's plan B, or C, or D for our lives.

Here's what I know:  God can always bring about plan A results from my plan B choices.

When things look bad, when it seems like all is lost (and please know that God always has the upper hand), God can take your most monstrous failures and turn them into triumphs such as you and I never could imagine.

So what does that mean for you today?

It means that today, you and I should seek God's mercy.

We should give Him our lemons and let Him make lemonade.

We should give Him the things in our lives that aren't very good, the things we are not proud of, and says, "Lord, here they are.  I wish my life were different, but it is not.  I wish I could change it, but I can not."

And then let God do His thing.  Let God go to work.

Hand your mess over to God. 

And God will always, always, bring about something good.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Fantastic Sunday yesterday!

He is risen.

687 people came to hear the message that Jesus died and was resurrected!

Many, many accepted Christ as their personal Savior.

Thanks to Pastor Amanda and our choir, dancer, sound booth folks, did a wonderful job!

Lots of hard work and time - but it is all worth it to observe people coming to Christ.

Grateful to all who participated in ministry yesterday.

God is moving!

The "cardboard testimonies" were powerful.  Thanks to all those who were so real, honest and vulnerable about what God has done in their lives.

Great sense of God's anointing and presence.

Thanks to a great pastoral staff:  Amanda, Aldin, Noah - we love and appreciate you!

God is sending us lots of visitors - encourage all of us to reach out and introduce ourselves to those who are new.

I am excited about the present and future of our church!

Water baptism coming up on April 22nd.  If you would like to be baptized, please contact the church office.

Visitor's luncheon on April 22nd as well.  Jimmy John's sandwiches after the second service.

I received a lot of positive feedback about our "Good Friday" service.

80 - 85% of the people there were "new" or "newer" to our church.

May we all continue to invite our friends and family to come to church!

Thankful that my son, George, returned home safe and sound from Uganda.  He was there taking photos for World Vision.

Love you all!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Easter power

The theme for this coming Easter Sunday is, "the power of the resurrection."

He is risen!

And because He is risen, you and I have eternal life - and the power needed to live and overcome in this life.

I was reading, today, something that Tim Keller wrote.

He tells the following story about the power of Christ's resurrection:

"A minister was in Italy, and there he saw the grave of a man who had died centuries before who was an unbeliever and completely against Christianity, but a little afraid of it too. So the man had a huge stone slab put over his grave so he would not have to be raised from the dead in case there is a resurrection from the dead. He had insignias put all over the slab saying, "I do not want to be raised from the dead. I don't believe in it."

Evidently, when he was buried, an acorn must have fallen into the grave. So a hundred years later the acorn had grown up through the grave and split that slab. It was now a tall towering oak tree.

The minister looked at it and asked, "If an acorn, which has power of biological life in it, can split a slab of that magnitude, what can the acorn of God's resurrection power do in a person's life?"

Keller comments:

"The minute you decide to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord, the power of the Holy Spirit comes into your life. It's the power of the resurrection—the same thing that raised Jesus from the dead …. Think of the things you see as immovable slabs in your life—your bitterness, your insecurity, your fears, your self-doubts. Those things can be split and rolled off. The more you know him, the more you grow into the power of the resurrection."

My thought?  If God can raise Jesus Christ from the dead, don't you think He can raise up a dead relationship?  A sick body?  An unhealthy checking account? 

Power, power, power, there is power in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

We used to sing the song, "if that same spirit, that raised Christ from the dead, dwells in you, dwells in you." 

The spirit and power of the resurrection lives in us!

Accept it today.  Live in it today.  Let it change you today.

He is risen!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Inviting someone to church this Sunday

Easter is this Sunday.

It is a perfect Sunday to invite someone you know to come to one of our services (8:30 A.M. and 10:30 A.M.)

I have been inviting people all week.

My prayer is that some will come.

Here's what I know:  There is power in an invitation.

I read today that after surveying 10,000 people, the Institute for American Church Growth concluded that 79 % began attending church after receiving such an invitation. 

Only 6% were attracted by the pastor (that doesn't really bless me), 5% by the Sunday School (Bible Classes) and 0.5% by an evangelistic crusade.

I encourage you to invite someone to church this Sunday.  Easter.

Why?  Well, the non-churched matter to God.  Lost people matter to the heart of God, and therefore they should matter to us! 

People who have given up on God because of the things they see Christians doing, people who see no need for God, people who are so bad that they make you look like a saint, everyone matters to God!

2,000 years ago, Jesus told a parable about some lost things, he told a story of a lost sheep, a lost coin, and the lost son.

He share his parable in Luke 15:3-8:

"Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ’Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance."

Can I tell you something?  Non-Christians are more open to being invited than you think they are.  It shows you care.  It shows you really believe in what you are basing your life on.

A recent poll by researcher George Barna showed, for example, that about 25% of the adults in the United States would come if someone would just invite them.

Think about it:  One in four of your friends would be willing to join you this Easter Sunday!

All you have to do is ask!

Praying with  you about this........

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

An all powerful God

One of the daily habits I am trying to form is to continually remind myself of how great God's power is. 

Sometimes we can get so focused on our problems, trials, circumstances and situations, that it is easy to forget that God is omnipotent.  He is all powerful.

Tim Keller (the author and pastor in New York City) once wrote that in 1970, a Sunday school teacher changed his life with a simple illustration.

The teacher said, "Let's assume the distance between the earth and the sun (92 million miles) was reduced to the thickness of this sheet of paper. If that is the case, then the distance between the earth and the nearest star would be a stack of papers 70 feet high. And the diameter of the galaxy would be a stack of papers 310 miles high."

Then Keller's teacher added, "The galaxy is just a speck of dust in the universe, yet Jesus holds the universe together by the word of his power."

Finally, the teacher asked her students, "Now, is this the kind of person you ask into your life to be your assistant?"

As we sing in our worship services, "How Great is our God, sing with me, How great is our God."

I encourage you today to focus on his power - and not your problems.

Let me leave you with this comparison:  If God created and formed the universe - don't you think it can take care of the situation you are in right now?

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I love to hear people's stories.

I was very pleased and thankful for the response of our church family gathering in groups of 4 or 5 yesterday and sharing their "story" for 90 seconds and then praying for someone in their lives to accept Christ.

Each one of us has a story.

To share our faith - we must simply share our story.

What was my life like before Christ?
How did I come to know Christ?
How has my life changed since I have come to Christ?

People won't remember principles - but they will remember a story.

A whole town (Sychar) was changed because of one woman's story.

Step out in faith and share your story - and God's power and anointing will be there (God will honor that step of faith).

When we go after people nobody wants, God will send us people everybody wants.

Whatever you can't talk about - you are in bondage to.

God is calling you to share your story - today.

Great seeing everybody in our church again after being gone on a missions trip.

Tonight's championship game?  Kentucky 75 - Kansas 62.

You read it here first.

Going to be a long year for the Cubs and White Sox.

Easter is this Sunday! 

If you can't get excited about Easter - well - we will pray for you!  :)

God is doing some great things in our church.  We must continue to seek His face.

Wonderful response to our door to door outreach this past Saturday.  I would say (a guess) at least 45 people came out to hang door hangers (inviting people to come Easter Sunday) to our church.

Wonderful time of ministry in Belgium last week.

Am thankful for these missions trips - they rejuvenate my spirit as I have the privilege of ministering.

My men's life group - I can say it is the highlight of my week.  We are all growing in God together.

Love you all!