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Thursday, September 27, 2012

From emotional hurt to emotional healing

Here's what I know:

The line from emotional hurt to emotional healing is rarely a straight line.

Outside of a Damascus Road miracle of the Holy Spirit (which can happen) - complete healing takes time and work.

It is filled with twists and turns and ups and downs - victories and defeats.

Two steps forward and one step back is how some of our days end up.

Paul writes to the Roman Christians about the Holy Spirit who helps our infirmities (Romans 8:26).

Some translations use the word weaknesses or cripplings in place of the word infirmities.

One meaning of the word help has a medical connotation, suggesting the way a nurse helps in the healing process.

So it is not simply "to take hold of the other side," which is the literal meaning of the verb, but that the Holy Spirit becomes our partner and helper, who works along with us in a mutual participation for our healing (and if you are like me you need all the help you can get).

We do, however, have our part as well.

And, while the line to emotional health is rarely straight, these principle will help straighten out the crooked path that we all take to healing.

The following thoughts are not "steps to healing" that you follow one after another, just some suggestions that we can all use - and when implemented over a period of time - can aid us in our search in overcoming our emotional hurt.

Face the problem head-on.  Don't run from it, deny it or ignore it.  It will not go away by itself.  Instead, embrace it to the extent that you make a commitment to yourself to overcome and to heal.  I often say that neurosis is simply the avoidance of pain.  The avoidance of our hurt can actually create more hurt than the hurt itself - with feelings of anxiety, worry and fear.

Ask yourself if you want to be healed.  Do I really want to be healed?  Or do I relish laying in the pool of misery and self-pity.

Accept responsibility for your part in the matter.  We can't dictate what happens to us - but we can determine our response.  Please listen to me:  I am responsible for my actions - and I will never receive healing until I stop blaming everyone else and take responsibility.

Forgive everyone involved in the problem (including yourself).  Jesus made it very plain that no healing can take place until forgiveness is given.  And, forgive yourself.  Can I tell you something?  You can forgive yourself.  You can let yourself walk in freedom, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, ask the Holy Spirit to show you what the real problem is and how you need to pray.  Many times we don't even know how to pray, but the Holy Spirit will pray in and through us and even make intercession for us as we come to Him. 

Just some thoughts for a Thursday.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Worshipping God with the right response

Wednesday!  Pure Worship!

It has become the highlight of my week!

Tonight, I am going to share briefly concerning, "Worshipping God with the right response."

Worshipping with the "right response" means that I worship as a disciple of Christ.

To be a disciple, I must, "take up my cross daily and follow...."  Luke 9:23

I must worship him not "just" on Sundays, but throughout the week. 

I must "count the cost."

Discipleship in worship is a practical call.

It is a call to be faithful to God, to be faithful in worshipping God, and to be obedient to God.

In short - as I am faithful as I am obedient - I am worshipping God.

We must take it from being a paradoxical principle (as I die, I live) to a practical part of our lives as we worship God.

Worship is a verb.

It is something I do. 

It is something I do - it is something I "act out" in obedience to Christ.

Are you faithful in your walk with Christ?

Really now, ask yourself that question.  Am I faithful?

You might say, "how can I judge if I am faithful?" 

Are you responsible?  Is your word your bond?  Do you choose to forgo distractions for the goal of walking with Jesus?

Psalms 31:23,24 tells us, "Love the Lord, all his saints!  The Lord preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full.  Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord."

As we are faithful God preserves us, He watches over us.  He strengthens us in heart.  He promotes us.

Believe it or not, I used to make pies.  Apple pies.  By itself, baking soda doesn't taste good.  But when you include it with the apples and sugar, it tastes great.

Worry over the prospect of trouble, bodily illness, and false accusations (as David experienced) might each taste like a spoonful of baking soda.

Yet, God knows how to make the ingredients of your life into a final result which will bring you to peace and joy.  All things do work together for God when it comes to God and us.

As I keep this principle before me, I am worshipping God.

So, God responds to my faithfulness.  But God also responds to my faithfulness in worshipping Him.

Psalms 50:23 tells us, "He who sacrifices thank offerings (worships) honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God."

In the notes of Jack Hayford's "Spirit filled" life Bible it states (concerning this verse), "Those who respond by restoring pure worship are saved from impending judgment."

When I read that there was an explosion of God's spirit in my heart.

That is a direct word from the Lord for our church.  God is saying to us, "As you worship me and make me first place in your life, pure worship," you not only glorify me, but you will not experience my judgement.

As we praise Him, He shows us the "salvation" of God which speaks of a deeper revelation.  A deeper understanding of God's Word. 

There is power in praise.

Daniel (Daniel 6) prays three times a day and gives thanks to God and as a result God delivers him from the lions den.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego praise God and as a result, God delivers them from a fiery furnace.

Jehoshaphat sends out the choir before the armies of Is real, praising God, and as a result their enemies are defeated.

The people praise, Jehoshaphat prays and as a result the spirit of the Lord fell upon the prophet Jahaziel in 2 Chronicles 20:15, "Thus says the Lord to you:  Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God's."

Finally, my obedience to Christ is worship.

As I am obedient, the Lord promises, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."  Hebrews 13:5  "Come to Me all you how labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest."  Matthew 11:28

As I am obedient, Isaiah 48:17,18 shares with us the result: 

"This is what the Lord says, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:  I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.  If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea."

That word "teaches" is an interesting word.  It means to instruct, train; prod, goad; to cause someone to learn.  The origin of the verb may be traced to the goading of cattle.  Bottom line?  I learn through a great variety of goading such as events or lessons in my life.

When we respond to these goadings, we experience peace like a river.

And prosperity and peace is the result.

There is no price tag for peace.  Lying down a night with a clear conscience, looking a a client in the eye at the end of a business transaction, smiling at your spouse upon returning from a lengthy trip, that is a blessing from God.  A response from God to our clear, purposeful obedience.

Sin breeds guilt.  Guilt drives away peace, creating a vacuum of despair, disaster and depression.

Are you at peace today? 

If not, pray a prayer of forgiveness and combine that with a new determination (with the help of the Holy Spirit) to be obedient to the word as evidence by a resolution to worship which can cleanse your spirit and release joy and peace.

It is a spiritual fact verified by scientific investigation, praise releases endorphins, proteins that bring positive and emotional responses.

So, be obedient, come to God with a broken and contrite heart, fear God, do good works, have faith and trust in the Lord.

Good stuff for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"who are you to judge me?"

"Who are you to judge me?"

I get that.

I get the fact that we are to love everyone as God loves everyone.

I get the fact that we must first look at ourselves before we look at others.

I get the fact that I must first take the sin out of my own life before I challenge someone about the sin in theirs.

I get the fact that if I am eager to tell others about their failure or my difference of opinion, I am judging.

I get that.  I have worked my entire Christian adult life in not being judgemental.

Everyone is just trying to do the best they can - especially me.

Yet, let's not forget the fact that there is a huge difference between being judgmental and having discernment.

God does not call us to condemn.  God does, however, call us to be discerning.

Discernment in the biblical sense is knowing the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, righteous and unrighteous.

Judging in the sense of condemnation is in the way that discernment is expressed.

David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons' in their book "UnChristian:  What a New Generation really Thinks about Christianity," give us this quote:

"Nearly nine out of ten young outsiders (87%) said that the term "judgmental" accurately describes present-day Christianity.....Just to put this in practical terms, when you introduce yourself to a twenty something neighbor, and you mention your faith, chances are he or she will think of you as judgmental."

Most of us try our hardest not to be judgemental and work hard at that.  Yet, that is the way most of the world looks at Christians.

When I elevate myself over you because of your sin - that is judging.

When I ostracize you from relationship with me because of your sin or difference of opinion - that is judging.

When I put your down as a person because you differ from me - that is judging.

When Jesus says in Luke 6:37, "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned," this is what he is talking about.

Judgment causes us to see someone else not as a person, but as a thing - less than human, less valuable.

And history shares with us that once that door is open, we see terrible things:  segregation, injustice, abuse - even genocide.

At the same time, under the "banner of love" we as Christians must not be intimidated into not standing up for truth and righteousness.

The very ones who cry out "intolerance" to the Christian community are "intolerant" of our viewpoints and biblical admonitions. 

It has become wrong - to tell someone that they are wrong.

It has become wrong to stand up for your beliefs under the guise of love and acceptance.

I will not devalue you as a person.  I will continue to love you.  I will continue to have relationship with you.  But please don't ask me to water down my beliefs, or try to manipulate me or put me down because my beliefs are different from yours.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

I received an overwhelming response to the teaching on the handling of betrayal yesterday.

Everyone has a wound.

Everyone has been hurt.

Everyone has been betrayed.

When God is moving and meeting needs - it is a wonderful feeling.

We are beginning to experience a breakthrough in our church!

Wonderful worship around the altar, especially in the second service.

I encourage every Stone Church attendee - when you see a guest walk through our doors - shake their hand, share with them how welcome they are - find out a little bit about them!

Catching up on the news of the week (before or after a church service) is good - reaching out to those who are new and/or are hurting - priceless.

While I am thinking about it - don't miss Robert Madu this weekend!  Next Sunday morning, both morning services.

Also, Robert's dad, Robert Madu Senior (who is from Nigeria) will be speaking on Friday evening here at our church - Nigerian food!  Catered!  Free to you!

You won't want to miss this wonderful time of fellowship, food and the hearing of God's Word!

Dallas Cowboys won.  Good news.  Bad news.  It was an ugly game.  I am got to see the highlights.

Had a great men's life group Saturday morning.  Quality men. 

It is one of the true joy's of my life - to disciple men.

Remember:  Forgiveness doesn't make the other person right - forgiveness sets you free.

Don't focus on the past; live in the present and refocus on the future.

You know you have forgiven someone when you can think about that person or hear their name without doing emotional cartwheels in your spirit.

Can't wait until Wednesday evening for "Pure Worship"!

Love you all......

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Refocusing on the future

There is nothing more that will drag you down more than a focus on the past.

Past hurts.

Past wounds.

Past betrayals.

There always comes a point and time in our lives when we need to move on.  Anything is destructive to us and those around us.

Some people never do move on.  They are trapped in the bondage of what has happened to them whether it be something someone did or said.

They plunge into self medications or shutting out the world; never to be hurt again.

Almost always the hurt has come from someone close to them.

This Sunday, I am going to give the steps in releasing someone who has hurt you.

But for today (and a preview of my teaching), I want to focus on this.

The only way to completely forgive someone is to refocus on the future and move on.

I stop focusing on the person who has hurt me.

Instead I refocus on God's purpose for my life which is greater than any problem or any pain that I am experiencing. 

If I focus on the person who has hurt me - they control me.

And to take it one step further, if I don't release the person who has betrayed or offended me, I will begin to resemble them.  It is a law of life that we become like whatever we focus on whether good or bad.

"I'll never be like my mom," some say.  Or, "I would never do that to my kids."  Oh yeah?

If you continue to focus on the person who has hurt you in the past, if you don't release it and move on,  you will begin to resemble them and the hate in your heart will eat you up.

Job 11:13-17 tells us this:  "Put your heart right (release and forgive the person who has hurt you), Job.  Reach out to God (Ask the Holy Spirit for His help).  Put away evil and wrong from your home.  Then face the world again, firm and courage's.  Then all your troubles will fade from your memory, like floods that are past and remembered no more.  Your life will be brighter than sunshine at noon, and life's darkest hours will sine like the dawn."

Then the memories will fade.

Great stuff for a Thursday.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The command to worship

Below are some thoughts that I will give this evening at our "Pure Worship" time together.

I am really, really looking forward to spending time in God's presence - with other believers - as we lift up the name of Jesus and dwell in His presence.

Here's what I know:

There is a link between "worship" and the word "discipline".

That is a thought that might be unique to you.

When we think of worship, we think of free will expressions of praise and adoration to God.

When we think of the word discipline, we think of "have to's" and "got to's" and the word "duty" comes to mind.

Yet the two words cannot be separated.

Here's why:  To truly worship God, I must practice discipline.

I am fallible.  You are fallible.  We sin.

God is not fallible.  God does not sin.

Therefore the connecting point between my spirit connecting with God's spirit is forgiveness.

I must seek forgiveness in order to worship God. 

That takes discipline. 

As you and I mature in Christ, overt sin begins to fall away, but daily, weekly, each time we come to worship we must take regular inventory of our inner spirit and ask God for forgiveness for anything that would hinder us from connecting with Him.

Examples of sin for we Christian types would be, unforgiveness, complaining, gossiping, omitting the tithe, prayerlessness and an unwholesome thought life.

Jeremiah 7:8-16 tells us that the following will hinder the hand of God:  Lying words, stealing, murder, adultery, swearing falsely, idol worship, walking after other Gods.

Jesus said that we must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.  Truth meaning reality.  Truth meaning sincerely.  Truth meaning being real before God. 

To put it plainly, I must spiritually nuke anything that is coming between me and God.

We saw last Sunday that Jesus washed the feet of the disciples.  Peter objected.  Jesus said, "Unless I wash your feet, you can't really continue to be a part of what I am doing."

Peter said, "Then, Lord, not just my feet, but my entire body."

Jesus said, "You don't need your entire body washed, just your feet."

In other words, as I connect with Christ - I am washed cleaned.

Yet daily, I am to come before the Lord and have my sins washed away, my feet cleaned.

Are you coming into worship with dirty feet?

Each worship event do you need to ask God for forgiveness of your sins - in order that you might be pure before Him?

To take it further, this is a continual spiritual exercise.  Daily, I must worship God.  Daily I must live in His presence.  Daily I must ask for this cleansing.

Psalms 113:3 tells us, "From the rising of the sun to its going down, the Lord's name is to be praised."

That takes discipline - discipline to follow through on the command of God to worship.

David says in Psalms 29:1,2:  "Give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones, Give unto the Lord glory and strength.  Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." 

What are some of the ways that you and I can give God glory?

Though praise, music, sharing our faith, taking care of each others needs.

But what does it mean to worship the Lord in the "beauty of his holiness"?

There is beauty in holiness.  There is beauty in purity.

It is like the difference between (and all analogies fall short) someone who has a pure unblemished face, and someone who is marked by disease (such as leprosy).

However, that analogy falls short because God is concerned about beauty on the inside.  As we worship Him (in spirit and in truth) He infuses His inner beauty in our lives.

Finally (and there is much more), we are to build an altar as we worship God.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites would build a physical altar to worship God.

In the same way, we are to take "altar building" steps in our worship (Here is where the discipline comes in).

First, in biblical times, an appropriate spot would be chosen and the brush and debris would be cleared away.  Likewise, as we prepare for effective worship, we first have to clear away any hindrances to worship (see above). 

Secondly, the prophets would lay the stones in a logical sequence or order.  We do that today by realizing that the focus of our worship is Jesus Christ - His life, death, and resurrection.  The worship process refers to daily discipleship by being worshippers throughout the week and not just on Sunday.

Thirdly, in the Old Testament, worshipers would find an animal that was perfect in every way.  The Old Testament code of worship was very, very specific, and the sacrifice would be prepared according to regulation.  In the same way, we must worship God as God instructs us to worship.

We must worship God alone.  We must worship God with all of our hearts.  We must depend upon the Holy Spirit as we worship.

We must be free in worship (I will explain this tonight). 

Finally, a sacrifice is offered. 

So, today, I encourage you to build an altar where you are, right now and worship God!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Would you be missed?

Except for the avid history buff or church historian, most people would be hard pressed to name presidents in the 20th or 19th century - or pastors of the Stone Church of the 30's and 40's.

We would like to think that once we leave any given situation that what we have done will make such an impression that people will remember our name for decades if not centuries to come.

Human nature tells us otherwise.

Even the greatest among us dies, leaving behind a legacy that is remembered, at best, for a short while.

I was reading a story today (a true story) of a dad who was left behind at a gas station near Memphis.  This dad (from Texas) who did not want to give his name (good call) had been driving all night and intended to crawl into the back of the car and sleep. 

Apparently, his family assumed he was in the car so they took off down the road.

The poor guy kept calling everyone's cell phones, but nobody bothered to answer.

He finally used a computer from a local motel to contact a family member via Facebook.

The family van was 100 miles down the road at that point.

The article concluded by stating, "The dad feels confident the entire incident was simply a huge mistake."  (Are you sure about that, dad?)

If you left your situation, today, would you be missed?

Interesting question.

Would I be missed?

Maybe, I would hope, for a little while, but then the next pastor comes and church life goes on.

That's why we must focus on two things:

Making sure that everything we do has eternal ramifications by doing everything for the glory of Jesus Christ.  My desire is to point people to Jesus.

Make sure that what we are leaving is an investment in people.  People who can then invest in others, who invest in others, who invest in others - whether the "others" remember your name or not.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

BTW, because of all of the above, "get over yourself" - everyone else has.  :)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

It's always encouraging to sit down to my computer on a Monday and get emails from people - sharing of how God is working in their lives.

It is all about Jesus.

It is all about Jesus.

Praise God for the way the Holy Spirit is moving in our church!

I am thankful for the spirit of praise and worship yesterday.  There was definitely an anointing from God.

Everyone is welcome at Stone Church.

No matter how rich or poor you are, we welcome you.

No matter how together or "not together" you are, we welcome you.

No matter what color you are, we welcome you.

No matter what your past is, we welcome you.

We are simply "have not's" telling other "have not's" where to find the bread of life.

Thanks again to those who participated in the City Church inner ministry this past Tuesday - and to those who came and helped us out with the door to door outreach this past Saturday.

I am hearing stories of those who went door to door - of how God opened up "doors" (pun intended) for sharing their faith. 

It is exciting!

My desire is to be open and real with everyone.

In that spirit, I want you to know that the spiritual condition of our church is like "weight" that I carry with me - all day - every day.

Sometimes it wakes me up at night - and I pray.

Please pray for me as I pray for you.  I need and covet your prayers.

It is nice to experience an explosion of God's spirit as we felt yesterday!

Debbie and I had our first New Lenox life group last evening.

Wonderful people.  It was fun sitting around the dinner table, sharing our lives and praying for one another.

I am leading three life groups this fall - and I love it!

People experiencing the life of Christ - together.

Love you all....

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Science and Christianity; miracles

Tim Keller has written an excellent book entitled, "The Reason for God".

Chapter 6 is entitled, "Science has disproved Christianity".

Let me summarize some of it, specifically the first part that deals with the subject of miracles.

Those who follow evolutionary science believe that God is unnecessary and obsolete.

Some go so far as to believe that you can't be an intelligent scientific thinker and still hold religious beliefs.

It is one or the other.

Is that correct? 

One reason some follow this line of thinking is there belief that miracles are impossible.  They can't be reconciled to a modern, rational view of the world. 

So, if miracles are impossible, and the Bible is full of miracles, and you can't believe in God if  you don't believe in the Bible - therefore God doesn't exist.

But that statement, in and of itself, is a leap of faith.

As Tim Keller writes, "It is one thing to say that science is only equipped to test for natural causes and cannot speak to any others.  It is quite another to insist that science proves that no other causes could possibly exist."

In other words, science is wrong to assume that the only cause for miracles can be natural causes. 

"No supernatural cause for any natural phenomenon is possible," they say.  That's circular thinking in and of itself.  It says that science, by its nature, can't discern or test for supernatural causes, and therefore, those causes can't exist.

Who's on first?  What's on second?  You get the idea.

They go on to reason that there can't be a God, because miracles don't exist.  However, if there is a Creator God, there is nothing at all illogical about the possibility of miracles.

Let me ask you this:

If God created something out of nothing, and he did, don't you think he can deal with your financial situation?  Your poor health?

Don't you think that God can do a miracle and change the person who has run away from Him?

I'm going to believe God today for a miracle - how about you?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Are you willing?

Just as a reminder - each Wednesday I am going to blog concerning some thoughts that I will be presenting in greater detail in our "Pure Worship" services.

Tonight - God calls us to worship - are we willing to accept that call - and how should we be ready to worship?

We looked at Moses last week.  A man who risked everything in order to pursue the call of God.

Before I forget it, know this.  God is calling you to worship.  Everyone of us.

Moses notices a burning thorn bush.  And turns to see what it was.  He moves closer and risks entering into the power of the presence of God.

It is a voluntary step.  God calls.  Moses responds.

That first step toward God is so important.  It brings not only his presence, but blessing on our lives.

It opens the door to a meaningful conversation with God. 

If I could use a metaphor:  A door opens; and amazingly enough, in spite of our sinfulness and weakness, we control both the speed and the trajectory of the opening of the door.

Our attitude moves or stymies the hand of God in our lives.

The questions becomes as you enter into worship:  what is your attitude?

You and I have four basic choices.

We can stiffen our necks, thinking to ourselves that everything is fine without God.  "We don't need Him right at this moment."  "I'm tired."  "I don't have any real needs right at this moment."

We can choose to ignore the voice of God and go our own way.

Or we can even attempt to placate the call of God to worship, saying in effect, "Let me see what you want, and if it is win/win for me, I will pray about it and consider it."

Obviously the best choice is to willfully obey God.

To respond to his calling to worship.

How can I respond:

I can be sensitive to the presence of God.

When God calls me to worship - I can be ready to respond.

Luke 1:26-28 tells us, "In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.  The virgin's name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored!  The Lord is with you."

Mary is a young teenager.  Going through life when all of a sudden, bam, an angel appears.

Why come to Mary?  Why not any other teenager in Nazareth.  Because Mary was sensitive to the things of God.  Mary had a closeness to God that placed in her a position of being ready and willing to respond to the calling of God. 

Don't get me wrong, verse 29 tells us that she was afraid.  She was troubled at what the angel said.  But Mary was sensitive to the presence of God that she was willing to risk - and to obey. 

Am I so sensitive to the presence of God that I am willing to risk in worship?

She goes on to give us one of the most beautiful songs of worship in the Bible (verses 46-55).  I encourage you to read Mary's worship song.

Mary is a model for us today:  As I remain sensitive to the Lord - and follow up that sensitivity with obedience - I will be ready to worship.

But we must not only be sensitive to God's call to worship, we must be serious about it as well.

Seriousness does not mean something that is boring or dry.  Never a smile.  Some people look like they swallowed lemon juice as they worship.

It means that I take to heart this call to worship.

Abraham is an example of that.for us.

The Old Testament patriarch was serious about the call of God.

He would not be trapped in his possessions, locale, or friendship.

God speaks 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."

He doesn't tell him why - or tell him where he will go.  He simply says go.  And Abraham is obedient.

He leaves his country club membership (Abraham was wealthy), his season tickets to the Bears, even his on-going reservation table at Morton's to go where literally only God knew.

His faith was tested.  But Abraham took the call of God seriously.

And Genesis 13:1-4 states, "And Abraham.....came to Bethel.....where he had first built an altar.  There Abram called on the name of the Lord."  He worshipped God.

An altar is symbolic.  At an Old Testament altar, people reflected about God, dialogued with God, and received strength to continue the task.  It is an altar of worship.

At this altar of worship, Abraham could be honest and transparent, opening himself up to receiving from God. 

I need those times of worship.  It helps me remember what God desires and then to obey.

From that he received the blessings of God.

Finally, in receiving the call of God to worship - we must be submissive.


Those who are teachable will grow in spiritual maturity.

They learn from their mistakes and gain insight into the challenges of life.

Being teachable requires an attitude of humility.  It means that I take God more seriously than I take myself.

To be submissive to God's calling to worship - I will not be prideful or stubborn.  I will recognize that God can speak to others.  I will learn from those older than me.  I will learn from those younger than me, both in age and in the Lord. 

It means that I will be submissive to those who are leading in worship, knowing that they are hearing from God. 

There's a great story in Matthew 18 where the disciples come up to Jesus and say, "who is the greatest in the kingdom of God?"  Who is the best worshipper?

Jesus takes a little child and had him stand among there - kind of like using this child as a prop for what he was going to say.

He tells us in verse 3 and 4 to become like little children.  To humble ourselves like a little child as we come in worship.

To have a child like spirit in worship.  To be totally dependant upon the Father.  Knowing that the Father knows best. 

In a healthy parent child relationship, when the parent calls, the child responds.

A little child is expected to obey with whining or complaining.

Some people are like little kids when they hear the calling of God.  "I don't want to worship."  "I don't feel like worshipping."  "Why do I have to worship?"

Being childlike in worship is not being childish.  But it is being totally submissive to the will and purpose of God as I lift my voice up to him.

I must be open, humble and ready to receive.  "Teach me oh God" is my prayer as I worship.  Speak to me - and I will do your bidding.

Are you sensitive to the leading of God?  Are you serious about worship?  Are you submissive to God?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Focusing on the good

It is more than ironic to me that today, September 11, 2012, is exactly like THAT day, September 11, 2001.

It is gorgeous out.

Beautiful.  Sunny.

I can sense that fall is just around the corner.

I don't mean to sound goofy, but every time I see a plan in the sky on a day like today, I remember September 11, 2001.  Every time.

I was in my office at First Assembly of God in Battle Creek, Michigan.  Went to the nursery (where we had a T.V. with cable) and watched is all unfold.

It was a day that changed our lives.

All kinds of questions came out of that one day.

Why does God allow evil?

Where is God when evil happens?

Many, in a real search for the truth, leave the faith.  The unanswered questions are too much.

I can understand that.

Life has a way of throwing us things that shake the foundation of everything we believe in.

The ratio for those who will question God and his existence in their lifetime is 100%.

I read a quote today from Ravi Zacharias, the Canadian-American philosopher, apologist and evangelist:  "To walk away from one's faith because of unanswered questions about evil is to walk into a storm of unanswered questions about good."

My take on that quote is this:  Perhaps the more relevant and even practical question is not, "Why is there evil in the world?" Or, "Why does God allow evil?"

But, "Why is there good?"  "Why does God allow good in the world."

You and I both know that we don't deserve it.  At our core, we are selfish, sinful and seared with the things of the world. 

Perhaps, just perhaps, we shouldn't focus so much on the evil of this world, but on the good.

In other words, every day, we should look for the good, for that for which we should be thankful, for that which comes our way that brings us joy.

I am not saying that we shouldn't work toward making evil situations good.  I am not saying that we should stick our head in the sand concerning bad things happening (especially to good people).

I am saying that there is so much good out there.  And we should be grateful.  And we should be thankful.

And we should thank God, not for what we don't have, but for what we do have.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Went and prayed with Jeanette Swanson and her family on Friday morning before her surgery.  A family that believes in God.

Friday evening, said the closing prayer at the Illinois Family Institute gathering, where author and conservative political activist David Barton spoke.

Christians are being persecuted in America.

Within my lifetime, we will see this persecution increase.

Met a lot of good people (at the banquet) who believe in God and our country.

Thomas Jefferson said that there is to be a difference between church and state in order to guarantee religious freedom - not that the government might hinder religious freedom.

Why is it that Christians are especially targeted these days?

We are living in the end times.

As Christians, and as Americans, we have a responsibility to be involved, especially in dealing with the moral and social issues of our day.

Let's not hide our "head in the sand."

Had a great, first, men's life group.  Quality men.  It is something I look forward to.  Discipling and coaching men in the faith.

Visited the Swanson family on Saturday.  They continue to believe in God.

Can't wait for Pure Worship this Wednesday!

God is moving.

Join us for our door-to-door outreach this Saturday.  9:30 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

We desire to continue to reach out to those around us.

My teaching yesterday concerned some of the "hard sayings" of Jesus.

We must deny ourselves and pick up our cross and follow Jesus.

Not a popular teaching - but it is at the core of Christianity.

May you grow in Christ this week!

Love you all........

Thursday, September 06, 2012

impossible situations

It is an inevitable part of life.

Impossible situations.

Something or someone that is beyond our on personal control.

It can be depressing.  It can fill you with anxiety.  I can be maddening.  Literally and figuratively.

Something or someone we care about even more than life itself - and there is nothing we can do to change the situation (in the natural).

A terminal illness.

A loss of a job with no job in sight.

A family member who is no living for God.

We can feel boxed in.  Overwhelmed. 

Life becomes a blur.  Focus is lost.  A desire to press on is gone.

We can't believe this is happening.

Well, we as believers do know this - Nothing is impossible with God.


I know that, and you know that, but it is hard to hang on that promise even though we know and have seen God work in impossible situations in the past.

What can you and I do?

Well, we pray.  We seek God.  We read the Word of God.  We receive support from those around us.  We quote scripture.  We pray about the situation with fervency or we ask others to pray with us or for us or for the situation.  We believe.  We pray.

But here is one thought I want to leave you with today, something very practical.

When I am faced with an impossible situation and feel overwhelmed by something I can't control, here's what I want you to know.

Keep on keeping on.  That's it?  Yep, that's it.  Just keep on keeping on.

Put one foot in front of the other and keep on walking.

Many times that is all we can do.

Baby steps.  Keep on taking those baby steps.

A baby takes a step, falls down.  Gets right back up and tries again.  Baby steps.

For you it might be something as small as getting out of bed in the morning.  Or going to the gym.  Or coming to a worship service.  Or doing that assignment at work that you have been putting off.  Or reading one verse in the morning.  Or having a one minute conversation with God.

All I can say today is this:  when you feel overwhelmed - just keep on keeping on.

And eventually God will make the impossible possible.

And eventually you will receive peace.

And eventually you will receive joy.

I need to believe that today - how about you?

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The call to worship

We are beginning a new series of Wednesday evening services - starting tonight at 7:00 P.M.

The theme is "Pure Worship", meaning that it is our desire is to focus on God and to worship Him in Spirit and in truth.  Truth defined as worshipping in integrity.  Not being something that we are not.  Realizing that we need to come into God's presence whole - spiritually.

Each Wednesday, I thought I might blog on some of the thoughts that I will present during the evening service.

Tonight:  The call to worship.

Have you ever thought of worship as a calling? 

For some worship is the music (and they reduce it to certain styles of music).  To others is is an emotional experience (and if that emotion hasn't been reached - it hasn't been worship).  To others still it is an attitude of reference.  One dictionary defines it as "the reverent honor given to deity."

However you define it - we are all called to worship.

Worship is our purpose.  You and I were created to worship God.  Jesus said in John 4:23, "The Father seeks worshippers."  That is how much joy it bring to Him.

Worship is to be our pattern.  We are to worship God daily.  Worship is more than a Sunday morning "experience" - it is to be a part of our daily routine.

Worship is a privilege.  To think I get to worship my creator.

Worship is proof of what I value.  It shows what I am putting at the center of my life.  The NFL starts tonight (Cowboys and Giants) and some will be worshipping at the throne of professional football.

You and I have been called by God.  We have been "called out of" so that we might be "called into".  So many only define their walk with Christ by what they have been "called out of".  "I am a Christian," they say, "because I no longer do this or do that."

Yet our Christian walk is MUCH MORE than that.  We have been "called out of" so that we might be "called into", called into a life of worship and obedience.

A great example of this is found in Exodus 3.

Here we find Moses in the desert.  For forty years he had toiled as a shepherd in the employment of his father in law.  He is a has been.  A loser.  A convicted murderer.  A former prince.  Educated.  10 "Phd's". 

80 years old.

"Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God."  verse 1.

It is interesting to me that the word for desert in the Hebrew is "midbaar" which comes from the root word "dahbaar" meaning "to speak."  In other words, the positive side of being in the desert is that is where God speaks.

Moses is tending sheep.  Doing his daily thing.  It is normally in the dailyness of life that God speaks to you.  Moses is faithful.  Puts one foot in front of the other.  For 14,600 days he had worked.

All of a sudden, "bam" God moves.  God speaks.

God speaks in our desert times (loss of job, sickness, relational difficulties) because it is during those times that he has our attention.  And we must respond.

Until those times come, we must be faithful to the task that God has given us.  Placing one foot in front of the other.  I've been there and done that and so have you.  Just keep moving.  Just keep waiting. 

"There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush.  Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up."  verse 2

God is trying to get the attention of Moses.  And the principle here is, when God gets your attention (and he uses all kinds of ways to do that) PAY ATTENTION.

"So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight - why the bush does not burn up."  verse 3.

Moses saw the burning bush (a thorny shrub) (the burning bush being a theophany of God, a visible presence of God himself) he paid attention.  He turned aside.  He was willing to experience God's presence.

"When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses!  Moses!  And Moses said, "Here I am."  verse 4

Notice the progression. 

Moses turned aside and God sees him come over to look - and speaks.

I give God my attention - God speaks.  I draw near to God and He draws near to me.

"Do not come any closer, " God said, "Take off your sandals for the place where you are standing is holy ground."  verse 5

Why the "taking off the sandals thing"?

It was a show of respect and reverence, like taking off a cap as the national anthem is played.

But it was also God telling Moses, "I want you to separate yourself from your past and your present."  You are no longer what you once where - you are a child of mine - called to worship me.

God is holy and we must worship him with respect, laying aside the things of this world.  It is important that we examine our attitude when we worship God.  He is holy.

I would suggest that it is inappropriate to enter into His presence with a cavalier attitude and simply expect His attention and favor.

I leave you with this (and I will say more tonight):

Why not come into a worship service this Sunday (or this evening), with an attitude of "taking off your shoes" (figuratively speaking) while in the divine presence of God?

Do you desire a "burning bush" experience? 

Maybe, just maybe, God is wanting to speak to you today.  Are you listening?

Just some thoughts for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Busy, busy weekend.

Drove down to Springfield, Missouri on Friday with Debbie, Christie and Becky.

Had a great time in the car saying the capitals of all of the states (from memory) and the books of the Bible (Christie and I used to do that when we she was a child).

Try saying the major and minor prophets from memory and in order.  Great challenge.

Went to a wedding in Springfield for Debbie's niece Charity.  Saw lots of family including my mom and dad and George.

The wedding was absolutely beautiful.  Red was the color.  A wonderful, sincere, godly tone to the ceremony.

God is good!

Had lunch with Dr. and Mrs. Spence of Evangel University at the reception.

Good people.  He's been a great president for EU.

Ready for the NFL to start on Wednesday evening - Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants!

I am looking at the Cowboys having an 8-8 record.

There is so much parity in the NFL - hard to pick out a winner.

Many, many thanks to everyone who helped out with our church picnic. 

It was a wonderful success!

Great food, excellent time of fellowship as many played "bags" and volleyball.

We are a family, a church family, the family of God.  Through the good times and the challenging times we stand together.

What keeps us together is our blood ties - the blood of Jesus Christ.  We come from all walks of life - but we all have one thing in common:  our relationship with Jesus.

I am privileged to be the pastor of Stone Church.

Love you all.....