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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Being friendly

It's like anything in life.

When I give, I receive.

The New Testament is filled with scriptures that reiterate this face.

Nowhere is this more focused and true than in our relationships with one another in the body of Christ.

What I want from others - I must give.

Frequently, there are those who come to our church and feel like they don't connect.

They didn't feel like they fit - yet they come to one of our services, leave immediately and make no effort to connect with others.

When I am friendly, others will be friendly to us in return.

Now don't get me wrong, all of us have the responsibility to reach out to others.  If you have been coming to our church for any length of time - you belong.

We are a place to belong.

You are part of our family.

And as a part of our family, you and I have the right and the responsibility to reach out to others in love, acceptance and friendship.

It applies both way.

If I desire connection with others, I must make an effort to connect.

If I desire love from others, I must love.

If I desire others to be friendly with me - I must show my self friendly.

Someone once wrote:

This is My Church

It is composed of people just like me.

It will be friendly if I am.

It will do a great work if I work.

It will make generous gifts to many causes if I am generous.

It will bring others into its fellowship if I bring them.

Its seats will be filled if I fill them.

It will be a church of loyalty and love, of faith and service.

If I who make it what it is, am filled with these, therefore with God's help, I dedicate myself to the task of being all these things I want my Church to be."

Great stuff for a Thursday.

Love you all......

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

baseball and God

I have been a big time baseball fan my entire life.

When I was a kid, I would look forward to getting the sports section from the Sunday paper and pour over the batting averages from the major league players.

All of my favorite player's averages were memorized.

Favorite players?  Mickey Mantle.  Willie Mays. 

Favorite teams?  '68 Tigers.  '72 A's.  '78 Yankees. 

Here's what I know about baseball.

It is a game of trying to measure up to a standard of perfection and always falling short.

No one bats a thousand.  No one.  And no one ever will (for an entire season).

Baseball is like that.

Baseball is a game of measuring things up against impossible standards.  It is a game of numbers and stats.

Everything (and especially in today's game), everything is written down and added up.

There are RBI's and ERA's and feilding percentages and pitch counts.

It is all about precise measurements. 

You don't say about Paul Konerko, "he is hitting really well," you say, "he is hitting .327".

There is no way to "massage" or "fake anybody out" with a batting average.

And - to echo what I wrote above:  Nobody plays the game to perfection.  You can make millions of dollars getting three hits in every ten tries (try that at your job).

My boyhood hero, Mickey Mantle hit towering home runs as a switch hitter.  Yet he struck out 1,710 times in his career.  Great star - lots of strikeouts.

Yet there is another side to baseball that I also relish.

It is the fact that no matter how well or how bad you might be playing it "ain't over till it's over," as Yogi Berra once said.

In baseball, there is always a time for redemption.

Take Alejandro De Aza on Monday evening.

We as a church were at the game.  Great seats.  Wonderful time with our church family.  White Sox won 7 - 4.  The Twins lost, which Pastor Noah being a Twins fan, made the win just that more glorious.

Alejandro is the center fielder for the White Sox.  His stats for the game?  3 hits in four at bats (one of them a double), one stolen base and one error.

Adam Dunn might strike out three times in a game - but when he hits that one towering home run - all is forgiven and forgotten.

Life is like that - a mixture of hits and errors. 

Let me rephrase that - each day is like that.  Each day comes with some victories and some defeats.  Some wins and some losses.  Some hits, stolen bases and some errors.

Yet at the beginning of the next day - God gives us a brand new start.  The slate is clean.  It is a new "game."  He continues to love us.  He is your greatest fan.  He will never love you any more or less than he does right now.

Everybody falls short of perfection.  In fact, Jesus spent most of his life around people who made a lot of errors, people who had gone 0 for 4 in life.  People who often make errors.  People like me - people like you.

So take heart - and remember:  It ain't over till it's over.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Drinking tea and abiding in Christ

I do not often drink hot tea, but when I do, I drink a tea that is given to me by one of our missionaries in China.

It is a rose tea that has great flavor and taste.

(I would give you the name of the tea - but it is in Chinese).

Here's what I know about drinking tea:

Some people are dippers.

They dip their tea bag up and down in the mug.

Others drop the tea bag into the water (in the cup) and let it stay there. 

As the tea bag rests (abides) in the hot water, the color of the water begins to change.

Are you a "dipper" or are you an "abider"?

Christians are either dippers or abiders.

Dippers dip in on a Sunday morning (they are SMO's - Sunday Morning Only Christians), then dip back out.

They might even dip back in on a Wednesday evening but then they dip back out.

The rest of the time, their relationship with Christ is put to the side, becomes cold and lifeless.  Most people don't hate God - they just forget about God.

When you are a dipper you have to make things happen on your own.  You've got to move the bag up and down, dip a spoon in and out of the cup, wrap the string around the spoon, jerk and then pull.

It can require a lot of human effort.

But when you are an abider, the water changes all by itself.

And as you "abide" in the water of the Holy Spirit, the tea (your spiritual walk) becomes stronger and stronger. 

The depth of your abiding determines the rate of your progress in your walk with Jesus.

Jesus desires that you and I rest in His presence.  Jesus desires that you and I dwell in his anointing.

Jesus desires that you and I remain and experience the full strength of His power.

It is by abiding that I become strong.

Jesus said in John 15:4, "Abide in me, and I will abide in you."

Why not try being an abider today?  And let the dippers come and go.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, July 23, 2012

"Thoughts for the weekend"

Thoughts from the weekend:

Our prayers and thoughts go out to the families and friends who lost loved ones in the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting.

Let's all continue to pray for our country.

People need the Lord.

The answer to all of our countries problems is a turning back to God.

May God help us return to a relationship with Christ.

Horrific events like last week are one of the many reasons I pray prayers of protection over my family on a consistent basis.

We continue to have a solid summer at our church! 

Thanks for your faithfulness in attendance - and in giving.

You are loved and appreciated.

Congratulations to Heather Janel on her graduation from high school.  It was fun going to her graduation party!

I really appreciated our worship team yesterday.  A real sense of God's presence.

There is an old hymn of the church that states, "stand up, stand up for Jesus, you soldiers of the cross."

May we all be willing to "stand up" for Jesus this week.

People need more than "just" a life witness of our faith, they need a verbal witness as well.

Even Jesus had to tell people who he was.

Tell someone that you are a Christian this week - and invite them to church.

Do people around you (at work, in your neighborhood) know that you are a follower of Christ.

Within my lifetime, it will become more and more difficult to serve God in America.

If you get a chance, read Romans 1:18-32.  Each civilization through the history of mankind has followed the negative progression shown in the verses - to their downfall.

We in America are following the same pattern as well.

Be an "actor" this week - and not a "reactor".

In other words, be proactive in serving God.

I felt sorry for Adam Scott this past weekend.  It's one thing to lose - it's another thing to give a championship tournament away.

However, congrats to Ernie Els for winning.

Going to a White Sox game tonight with our church family.

Go White Sox!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Worship as a verb

Worship is a verb - not a noun.

It is something we do - not something we watch.

Ben Merold said this about worship:

"In most churches we have the preacher performing, with God as the prompter, and the people as the audience.  In truth, worship should be the people performing, with the preacher as the prompter, and God as the audience."

True, authentic worship can be changeable, cultural and movable according to the times and era we live in.

Let's talk about worship from a biblical perspective.

What is authentic worship?

It is worship of God alone.

God desires that we worship Him.  Not a style.  Not a preference.  Not certain songs.

God desires that we worship Him.

Eugene Peterson has written, "Worship does not satisfy our hunger for God - it whets our appetite.  Our need for God is not taken care of by engaging in worship - it deepens.  It overflows the hour and permeates the week."

True worship creates a desire for more of God's presence.

Anytime I allow myself to be focused more on the vehicle of worship rather than God himself - I am creating an idol.

Worship is something I do - not a preference I choose.

It is worship from the heart.

You and I both know that we can stand through an entire worship time without having been touched by God.

Worship is to be from my heart.  It is the process of connecting with God's Spirit. 

Even more than my outward expressions of worship is the attitude of my soul.  Am I wanting to connect with God or just enjoy a few good tunes?

It is worship that is dependent upon the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said that we are to worship God is "spirit and in truth."  John 4:24

As I worship, I am to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit.  Excellent in worship is admirable.  Experiencing God is even more so.

I must never pull back from a moving of God's Spirit for the sake of excellence.

It is a focus on celebratory praise.

Psalms 66:1-4 tells us, "Shout with joy to God, all the earth!  Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious!  Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds!  So great is your power that you enemies cringe before you.  All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your same."

Have you ever literally shouted out praises to God? 

Vocal praise is glorious praise.

Rod Cooper has said, "I used to be the chaplain for the Astros and the Oilers when I was in Houston, Texas.  After I'd do a chapel, they'd give me tickets.  One time in the Astrodome, I watched Earl Campbell run over everybody, his own men included, to get to the goal line.

When he got to the goal line, he put the ball down.  The place went crazy.  People were giving high fives and jumping around.  The scoreboard went off.  The same thing happened when the Astros hit a home run.

It was a ringing shout, because their man cored a touchdown.

Worship is to be a time of anticipation and expectation.  We come together because all week God has been knocking home runs and scoring touchdowns in our lives. 

It is a time to celebrate what God has done for us.

It is a balance of seriousness with enthusiasm

God is a holy God.  There are to be times of celebration.  There are to be times of awe and reverence.

I guess what I am saying is this: 

Why don't we focus on God this Sunday morning?  Sounds levels, tune choices, temperatures and all that - let's look to God and experience his presence! 

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tattoos and life

Everywhere you look now (or so it seems) you see people with tattoos.

It's hard to watch an NBA basketball game without seeing players with tattoos all over the bodies.

There is a psychology to all of that, I am sure.

Some people don't wear tattoos on the outside - they carry them around on the inside.

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale used to tell the story of walking through the twisted little streets of Kowloon in Hong Kong.  As he did, he came to a tattoo studio.  The window displayed samples of the tattoos available. 

You could have an anchor or a flag or mermaid or whatever tattooed in your arm or leg.  But what shocked him were three words that could be tattooed on your skin:  "Born to lose."

He entered the shop and pointing to those words, he asked the Chinese tattoo artist, "Does anyone really have that terrible phrase, "Bron to lose," tattooed on their body?"

The tattoo artist answered, "Yes".

"But," Dr. Peale said, "I just can't believe that anyone in their right mind would do that."

The Chinese man simply tapped his forehead and said in broken English, "Before tattoo on body, tattoo on mind."

Some people have tattooed on their soul:








No good.




Lousy husband, wife, employee, mom, dad.

God wants you to know today, that as a child of His, you are never what you think you are or what other people say you are.

You are a child of God today!

God loves you and nothing can take away from His love for you.

People around you will try to label you and stereotype you and keep you living in the past.

Let the Holy Spirit do some spiritual and emotional surgery to take that tattoo off!

A word of caution. 

To take off a physical tattoo (I am told) can be very, very painful.  It can leave a scar that takes a long time to heal.

For some people, the wounds are so deep, the tattoos so pronounced that only a miracle working of the Holy Spirit will take it away.

Here's what I want you to know:  God can do that miracle!

It all begins by beginning today - beginning to pray - beginning to ask God to heal that wound - beginning to receive what God has for you.  Beginning to look at yourself as God sees you and not as the people around you see you.

And know this:  that as long as you are "in God" - God loves you - and so therefore you can love "you" - so what does it matter what other people think of you?

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Silence and conflict

One of the things I am working on in my life is being silent during times of conflict.

I am getting better - but I would guess that I have a ways to go.

If you are like me, you want to get "your word in", "your thoughts in", you want to make sure everybody sees the issue from "your point of view".

Here is what I am learning:

Sometimes silence is the best way to go.

Being silent and letting the Holy Spirit take control and do His work.

I really do believe that we vastly underestimate what the Holy Spirit can do during times of relational discord.

Michael Yaconelli wrote a story in his book, "Messy Spirituality" that describes this.

He writes:

"A group of us were at a spiritual retreat when an innocent late-night discussion escalated into a toxic disagreement that exploded into an extremely angry argument.

Provoked and frustrated, we all went to be upset.

The next morning, we requested help from one of our spiritual directors, Sue, who graciously agreed to mediate the situation.  Early in the afternoon, we gathered in a small room and started unraveling the argument of the night before.

As the discussion went on, the tension in the room escalated as ugly words shot back and froth.  Anger again filled the room.  Meanwhile, our spiritual director remained silent, making no attempt to mediate whatsoever.  What was the matter with her?  Why wasn't she intervening?  Our discomfort increased until our director's silence became so loud we stopped arguing.

One by one, we looked up to see Sue quietly sobbing, her eyes reddened, her face distorted with anguish at our pain.

Without saying a word, our spiritual director broke through the anger in the room, silenced our shouting, connected with the deep cause of our bickering, and put us on the road to reconciliation.  Even though Sue did not understand the complicated, dysfunctional relationships among the members of our group, God used her silence and her tears to begin a process of healing."

Maybe, we (me) need to talk less and let the Holy Spirit move - more.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

It is good to be "back in the swing of things."

It is good to get away - it is also good to get home.

What an incredible day yesterday. 

Several were baptized in water.

Baptismal testimonies are always encouraging and exciting.

Many raised their hands for salvation in the second service.

Great to see the guests that are visiting us - in July.

God is doing a great work!

True ministry comes from a place of woundedness and hurt.

We are comforted to be a comfort.

God never wastes a hurt.

Let me write that again:  God  never, ever wastes a hurt.

All of our failures are redeemable.

Most of the time, God will use our weaknesses to do His work.

We are all just trying to do the best we can.

I need you.  You need me.

I need the church.  The church needs me.

My mother-in-law, June Sites in in town.

I am on my best "behavior."  :)

She is a godly woman.

Congratulations to Dan and Jill Perretta on the marriage of their daughter, Samantha to Ryan!

It was a beautiful wedding.

What a powerful testimony from Art Minsky of healing.  God heals!

He did not need surgery!

We serve a God who is all-powerful!

Love you all.....

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Protecting your spiritual passion

Like a fire in the fireplace, your spiritual passion is to be protected. 

When you light a fire in the depth of the coldness of winter, the fire must continually be stoked, logs must be put on, embers must be stirred.

Let me give you two suggestions on how you can do that:

First of all, don't take the spiritual fire, the spiritual blaze in your life for granted. 

The tendency of fire is go to out. 

All revival come to an end.

All seasons of renewal plateau and begin to then digress.

We can never take God's spiritual fire in our lives for granted.

What happened yesterday or last month or last year or 15 years ago in the Spirit will not keep the fire going today.  I must stoke the spiritual fire in my life on a daily, consistent basis.

It is the "hot poker principle."  You keep a fire poker near the fire it stays hot.  But if you pull it away and set it aside it will grow cold.  It has to stay close to the fire. 

That's why regular church attendance and participation in worship are so important.  I see people (I call them the "walking dead") who walk the halls of our church - coming in after worship is over (for whatever reason) and leaving before altar times are started.

My heart grieves (with the love of a pastor) for them.

How can I remain spiritually on fire for God if I am not stoking my fire each week by drawing near the Holy Spirit in worship and praise?

Secondly, watch out for fire fighters.  A firefighter is anyone who tries to put out your fire whether intentionally or non-intentionally.

Fire fighters will drag you down.

They can find a problem in every solution.

They focus on what's wrong rather than on what is right.

They possess a questioning spirit.  Asking questions is good.  Asking questions that you know the answer to or with an inner motivation to hurt is wrong.

Never, ever, let fire fighters drag you down and keep you from your spiritual potential. 

And what is mind boggling is that fire fighters will inwardly be jealous of your walk with God and try to tear you down if not bring you down to their level.

Be strong and courageous - for the Lord your God is with you!

Let the Holy Spirit light your fire today!

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Restoring your passion through worshp

Have you lost your spiritual passion?

Have you lost your drive to live the life that God wants you to live?

That's easy to do.

One of the ways to restore your spiritual passion is through worship.  Worshipping God until His glory falls.

Here's what I know:  Worship from the heart invites the abundance of "kabod," the weight, the substance, the blessing and presence of God's glory that renews a "right spirit" within me.

You and I were created to rejoice and live and dwell in God's glory.

The glory of God comes not only through recognizing the awesomeness of God and standing in reverence and fear of Him (and He is an awesome God).

But the glory of God comes also, as we rejoice in Him.

As we celebrate His presence. 

Paul writes in Ephesians 3:16, ".....that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man."

In other words, as we worship, as we celebrate God, we experience God's glory and our passion for Him is renewed.

So here's the deal:  I must worship until God's glory falls.

God doesn't need my worship, but I need to worship because of what happens in me when I realize and recognize Him for who He is.

Why not pause today, lift up your hands and worship Him until the glory falls?

Why not listen to a praise C.D. in your car and worship?

Why not turn off the T.V. tonight and plays some worship tunes on your IPhone?

Worship your way into a renewal of passion in your spirit.

Just a thought for Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The good and the bad

I must admit that on a personal level, Debbie and I just experienced the best vacation that we have ever had (that is without our kids).

As I said yesterday, it was the "vacation from heaven." 

For the first time in 32 years of ministry, I was able to empty my mind and think about a whole lot of nothing.

A "much to do about nothing" as Seinfeld would imply.

As I came into my office, there was a letter on my desk.  It was a masterful work of a seasoned Christian who speaks in the "Christian passive aggressive voice" - the "I am angry voice" - but tries to cover it up with questions that they they thought they already had the answers to.

After all these years, I can easily read between the lines - and yet I believe I responded in a gracious way.

While I know better to be "too far down" when things like that come, or for that matter, "too far up" when things are going good, it still kind of made me pause. 

Coming back, I am pumped up and ready to fly with the eagles - and bam - someone takes a shot.

That was yesterday.

Today I received an anonymous card in the mail.

The card has a bright yellow flower on it and states, "A cheerful thought, like a lovely flower, can brighten any day."

And here is what the person wrote:  "This is just a note to encourage you!  You are doing a great work.  God bless your home and may He strengthen and encourage you.  Thanks for your prayers and leadership.  Thanks for making the word of God very clear to us!"

Wow.  I must admit that it made me feel like I had just jumped into a cold pool of water on a hot day.  That I had just walked in the kitchen with bread baking.  That I was under the covers, warm, on a freezing day.  You get the picture.

It made me feel good.

Here's the point for today:  Life is like two rails on a railroad track.  You walk down that track with one foot on each rail.

At times, we have something good happened, and yet there is always something bad that happens as well.

No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be addressed.  And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.

There is the bad.  There is the good.  We must learn to accept and even embrace both in our lives - knowing that God is working "all things together for good."

So in the happy moments, Praise God.  In the difficult moments, Seek God.  In the quiet moments, Worship God.  In the painful moments, Trust God, in every moment, Thanks God.

One more note:  I encourage you to write an email/text/note of encouragement to someone today.  Everyone is just trying to do the best they can.  I encourage you to do it today.  Who knows what ray of sunshine you will bring in someones dark day?  And you will be ministered to in return.

Scriptures on encouragement:

"Anxiety in a man's heart weights it down, but an encouraging word makes it glad."  Proverbs 12:25

"Therefore encourage (admonish, exhort) one another and edify (strengthen and build up) one another, just as you are doing."  1 Thessalonians 5:11

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I was extremely please to hear how well the past two Sundays have gone.

Wonderful reports of both weekends have come in.

I am grateful to David Smith for his biblical reminder of our responsibility to be involved in the governmental affairs of our country.

And, having heard his 11 year old son play the piano a few weeks ago, I knew that you as a church family would appreciate his talents.

And, for two summer Sundays - a very good attendance.

Let me just say, "thank you for your continual faithfulness to our church!"

I am grateful to serve such a group of loving and giving people.

Spent our staff meeting going over some of the events of the next few months.  There is an excitement in my spirit!

God is up to great things!

Thanks to Pastor Aldin for his sermon on July 1st.

Thanks to Stephanie Swartz for leading in worship yesterday morning!  We love and appreciate you and Eric!

Let's all continue to pray for our youth group in the next few weeks.  They have a busy schedule:  Youth Campy, ministry week at City Church (downtown Chicago), activities, etc.

I remain grateful as well for the many kids who were touched this summer at children's camp.

I am thankful for one of the best pastoral staffs that I have ever worked with.

I am thankful for our support staff as well:  Jan, Debbie and Rosemary.  They are doing a wonderful job!

Had the "vacation from heaven" while I was gone.  Debbie and I had just an incredible time together.  I can only say that even though our wedding anniversary is on January 2nd, it was like a "32nd honeymoon!"

Both Debbie and I missed everyone.

I look forward to teaching this Sunday!

See you there!