Total Pageviews

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Be still and know

We resume "Pure Worship" this evening!

It is the highlight of my week.

Communicating with God.  Worshipping God.  Letting God's presence seep into my Spirit.

Tonight, in the devotion, I will be sharing about one way of communication that in the busyness of our lives - we have a hard time implementing.

Being still before God.

If you have walked with God for any length of time you realize that there is no prepackaged routine for communicating with God.

There are all kinds of ways and methods - just as there are all kinds of ways that we communicate with our spouses.  With a verbal word.  With a hug.  With a gift. 

It is the same with God.

God is  not predictable.  God is sovereign.  God moves when and where He chooses.  He is Lord:  we are His servants.

As His servants we are to worship Him in different ways. 

We are to worship God actively, with active praise.  Singing, lifting our hands, shouting, kneeling.

But we are to also worship God with times of silent devotion. 

While the contrast between "active" and "passive" worship is there - the motives and objectives are synonymous.

In active praise, we ask for the presence of the Lord.  We enter into his presence. 

We sing joyous songs.  The Word confirms this:  "You (God) are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel."  Psalms 22:3

We sing in worship, and as the choruses come to an end, someone might pray or a message from the Holy Spirit might be given (I Corinthians 14:26).

But it can be at this moment that we can combine active praise with silent devotion.  Once in the presence of God, we may be wise to learn to be silent before God, in order to hear His voice and subsequently to obey.

A mature worshiper knows when to participate actively and when to participate devotionally.

There is where we can all learn to grow in our worship.  Worship does not end when the last song is sung - worship ends when we sense a release of the Holy Spirit to move on in the service.

Sometimes, the most powerful sense of God's presence can be manifested in complete silence.

David writes in Psalms 46:10, that we are to be still and know that He is God." 

Let me use this analogy. 

There are times that being with my earthly father brings a sense of comfort.  All of my adult life, his strength and integrity have created within me a sense of security.  I know that if I go to him with a question, problem, or prayer request, he will offer proper guidance and faithful prayer.

It's the same with God our Father.  Being in his presence, in the stillness of his presence is comforting, regardless of the storm that rages around us. 

God the Father has the ability to calm the stress and remind us of his unfailing love.

As I am still before God - I receive God's strength.

Here's the bottom line:  In order to hear God speak, I must be listen.  How can I hear God speak if I am doing all of the talking?

A huge part of this is done through mediation in our worship.

Now, before you immediately begin to draw negative conclusion concerning the word meditation, let me share with you that "Christian Meditation" is biblical.

It is totally unlike pagan practices which seek to focus on the inner place of our lives or contact a "spirit-guide" demonically, or escape consciousness transcendentally or hypnotically.

In Christian mediation, we focus on Christ, His Word, God's love; and we are fully conscious, alert and alive in the Spirit of God.

We are to mediate on the Word of God.  The German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer recommended spending a whole week on a single verse!

That's how deep God's word is.  David writes, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer."

The words of my mouth - but also the meditation of my heart. 

In meditation, we ask God for forgiveness of sins, both with our words and our actions.

The secret of hearing God clearly is to get to know Him better and better every day.  Ht more you understand Him, the better you know Him, the easier it is to hear His voice in a split second when He wants to talk with you. 

If you aren't hearing God speak to you, that is a good indication you don't have a relationship with Him.  That there is a sinful attitude or action in your life that is separating the communication lines between you and God. 

We also ask God for wisdom. Pastor James tells us in James 1:5, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God."

We ask in faith, believing that God will give us that wisdom.  Then James goes on to say in verse 5, "God gives that wisdom generously to all who ask, without finding fault."

Consecration can be a part of mediation as well.  Where I once again reaffirm my commitment to God.  I state my allegiance to God and His will for my life.  That once my time of mediation is over, I commit myself to doing God's work through me and in me.

So, how can I actively listen to God?

By being still before God.  Again, Psalms 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

Simon and Garfunkel used to sing, "Slow down, you move too fast, you've got to make the moment last." 

By inviting God to speak to you.  "Father, speak to me!"

By expecting God to speak to you.  Have faith that God will speak to you.

By being obedient to what God has said to you.

Let me leave you with this story.

Mike Yaconelli once wrote:  "I travel a lot, and I came to San Francisco one night and missed my connection back home.  I was angry and upset, and I called my son on the phone.  I wanted him to encourage me.  I said, "Man, I'm stuck in the airport; it's been a horrible day.  I've been traveling too much."

My son said, "You know Dad, if you didn't travel so much, you wouldn't have things like this happen."  Well, I didn't appreciate that.  I was ticked off.  I said, Let me talk to your son (my two-year-old grandson).  Well, I forgot that when you're two you can't talk, and when you're 60 you can't hear.  This is not a good combination.

He's mumbling on the phone.  I'm hoping that this is going to make me feel better.  It's making me feel worse.  Finally, I've had it.  I hear the phone drop onto the floor.  Now, I hear the kids playing.  I'm stuck in the airport.  I have this miserable experience.

I'm furious and angry, when all of a sudden I hear crystal clear over the phone, "I love you, Grampa."

You know what?  All my anxiety, everything went out the window."

Great story.  Listen to me - there are people who are so busy they are at their wits' end.  If they'd only stop for a minute, they could hear the God of the universe whisper to them, "I love you."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy the storm

The Super storm Sandy has hit the shores of eastern America with full force.

You and I have sat back and watched the news - praying for those who are in harm's way.

Storms are never fun.

Especially storms in our own lives.

Here's what I know about storms.

They reveal the nature of my faith.  The strength of my commitment to Christ.  The level of my spiritual maturity.  The healthiness of my attitude.  The measure of my teachability.

Everyone has storms. 

In fact, for many of you reading this blog today - you are in the midst of a storm.  Perhaps the worst storm of your life.

Whether we are in or out of God's will - storms will come.

But let me give you words of hope today.  Jesus is with you and I in the midst of our storms.

Here's what I know:

Jesus prays for us in the midst of our storms.  He prays for us.  He intercedes for us.  What I know is that right now, Jesus is in heaven presenting your need to the Father.  We used to sing the song that had the line, "and he's every interceding."  That is so true.

Jesus comes to us in the midst of our storms.  He is not aloof.  He enters our storm with us. 

We want out of our storm immediately, I get that.  I am the same way.  We think we are in the worst part of the storm.  As soon as the storm comes, we think, if not say, "Okay, God, bail me out.  Here I am.  Find me.  Rescue me."

But this I know:  God is never too early, too late, he is always on time.  He growing us in the midst of our storms.  He is perfecting us.  He is molding us.  He is positioning us for something great.

Jesus will come to you and I at our darkest hour.  The time when we are the most needy.  While we are waiting to be delivered from our storm, Jesus is there.  He hears our cries.

So my word today is - "Fear not"!   365 times the Bible says, "Fear not!"  One for each day of the year. 

Give your fears to God.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Thankful for a wonderful weekend.

Pastor Aldin shared with me that they had a wonderful "trunk or treat" last evening - with several new families attending!

Our goal continues to be bringing people to Christ!

People need the Lord!

I really enjoyed communion yesterday.  There was a sincere seeking of the Lord - both in gratefulness for what Christ did on the cross for us - and for forgiveness of sins.

Grateful to Pastor Amanda and her worship team for their leading us into the presence of the Lord!

Debbie and I are also thankful for the outpouring of love and support that we have received during Pastor Appreciation month.

We love you too!

I know that we will all continue to move forward as we stay connected to the vine.

Being connected to the vine is all important!

We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

Great game between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants.  The Cowboys literally lost by one finger.  Dez Bryant's finger being out of bounds when he caught the football for what would have been a game winning touchdown. 

The Dallas Cowboys are just not a good football team this year. 

Beautiful fall weather - wonderful time to be in Chicago!

I leave you with the words of the Apostle Paul, "Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails."

I love you all.....

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Driving and God's will

Driving in Chicago is a trip (pun attended).

One thing I quickly learned after moving here:  The right-a-way for the driver is always the direction they are going.  Everyone else is to yield to him or her.

It is the Chicago way.  (BTW, I learned quickly that if a car is turning left on a left turn signal - two cars (and sometimes even three) are permissible to turn left after the light has turned red).

Now let me rewind and say this:  If you are driving and headed for the highway, you will eventually have to drive on a service road, up onto the on-ramp, and then onto the highway.

You will have to merge into the traffic.  In order to merge, you will have to slow down and look behind you to pay attention to the rest of the cars on the highway.

They will be driving fast and you are responsible to merge with the traffic.  They are not merging with you.

You merge onto the highway because it is the most direct route to lead you to where you want to go.

Many of us want to get on the on-ramp and have the highway traffic - stop - to let us on, but that is not the way it works.

Am I right? 

God's will is that way.

God has a direction, a perfect will for your life.

God is going somewhere and He is the main highway.  He wants us to merge with Him and His program for our lives.

God is not trying to stop His program to merge with us.  That would be backwards. 

We are to submit ourselves to Him and His will for our lives.

That is one of the most important principles to understand if you are trying to find God's will. 

Be willing to submit yourself, in advance, to the direction of God for your life.

Some people say, if not think, "Lord, I'll go where you want me to go, as long as it is where I want to go."

Some people say, if not think, "Lord, I'll say what you want me to say, as long as it is what I want to say."

No!  Be willing to submit to God's will in advance.

Paul writes in Romans 12:2, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world (which is to demand the right-a-way).  But be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Submitting your mind and will to God - no matter where he leads you).  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing (pleasing to God) and perfect will).

My prayer today is this:  "Father, work your perfect will in my life.  I will go where you want me to go and say what you want me to say.  My life is in your hands.  I love you, Lord.  Amen."

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Spiritual birthmarks

Francis Schaeffer, the great Christian apologist, said that love is the final apologetic.  It is the defense for which there is no defense.

Our love for God is always validated by our love for others.

We used to sing, "they will know we are Christians by our love."

Jesus said it this way, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another."

It's not by our words, its not by any profession of faith, its not by how many times we come to church, its not whether we are involved in a ministry or not, its not how long I have been attending Stone Church.

It is by how much I love others.  How I treat others.

That is our spiritual birthmark so to speak.  Our godly logo. 

I encourage you today, when you tempted to reach out to someone in anger - to reach out to them in love.

When you are tempted to reach out to someone with hate - reach out to them with love.

Love is patient, kind, long suffering.  Faith and hope are great, but the greatest is love.

Let people see God's logo of love in your life.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

Happy birthday to my daughter Christie! 30 years old!

Christie, you are a wonderful wife, mother and daughter! Your mom and I love you very much!

Looked in on the membership class this past Saturday.

It always thrills me when I see people join the church.  It is a sign that they are making a commitment to our church family.

God continues to send us great people!

Part of what I do is to pray for people when they have needs.  At the end of each service, I had the opportunity to do that. 

God will make a way - when there seems to be no way.

Several raised their hands for salvation yesterday.  I am grateful that there are now new believers in the kingdom of God.

Isn't it fun to watch people being baptized in water yesterday?

Good stuff.

People being baptized in water, people joining the church, people accepting Christ - God is doing a good work in us!

I am grateful for everyone who participates in ministry in our church.

We have such a great team of people - I am thankful for their commitment to God, their faithfulness in ministry, and the spirit in which they minister.

Everyone is needed at our church.  You are loved!  You are important to us!

Challenges abound - but they are simply opportunities for us to see God move in a miraculous way!

Had a very, every good life group last night.

Talked about the difference between inferiority and over confidence - and trying to reach a balance between the two.

Jeremiah had to overcome inferiority and God used him in a great way!

God uses us in our weaknesses not in spite of our weaknesses.

I love God, I love you!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

God knows what He is doing

I am thankful that God knows what He is doing - especially when I do not.

William Carey (the great missionary to India) had to overcome many obstacles to take the gospel to that country.

He finally found himself aboard the Oxford, bound for Asia.  Before the ship lifted anchor, its captain received an anonymous letter against Carey and deposited him back on land. 

In response, Carey wrote to his friend Andrew Fuller:  "All I can say in this affair is that, however mysterious the leadings of Providence are, I have no doubt but they are superintended by the infinitely wise God."

That is a "God centered" way of looking at life and ministry.

Many times we encounter situations that we just can't quite figure out.  All we can do is lean upon the fact that God is leading up and guiding us.

And you can keep on praising God for that - and in the midst of that.

You and I both know that God's ways are not our ways - and God's thoughts are not our thoughts. 

Faith says that I am okay with that.  Faith says God is too deep to figure out.  Faith says His wisdom is deep. 

Knowledge is what you know; wisdom is what you do with what you know.

It is only through God that I can be fully knowledgeable and wise. 

I am thankful that I can go to God at anytime.

Here's the deal:  God does not need my advice - I need His!

God does not need my assistance - I need His!

So what can I do this day, Thursday, October 18th?

I can relax in His presence knowing that He is in control of all things and that He deserves my praise at all times.

I encourage you right now, to lift up your hands and begin to praise God that He is aware of your situation and working behind the scenes so that all things are working together for good!

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Building the body

Here is what I know:

Americans go crazy about exercise. 

I myself exercise 6 days a week.


I like to jokingly say, "it is a whole lot cheaper than therapy."

Exercise helps us lose weight, maintain our weight, keeps us fit and strengthens the heart.

It also helps us deal with stress.

It is interesting to me that these same thoughts can be applied to worship.

Worship keeps us fit.  It strengthens our heart.

The more we worship, the stronger our heart is for God.

Worship renews our mind.  It increases our stamina.  As we are "fit" spiritually, we can go distances that would tire or injure an unfit person.

Worship is the exercise of the spirit.  The more time we spend in His presence, the more audible His voice; the quicker we will understand His will.

Let me use this analogy:  Worship is like the weight room where spiritual athletes work out in preparation for the race (read Hebrews 12:1).

We know that this race is a race that is not a hundred yard dash and with a burst of speed we might even make heaven.  It is a marathon.  It is a lifelong "running with the Master".

People serious about keeping fit go regularly to the gym.  Once a week is not enough.

The benefit of exercise is to be found only in weekly repetition.  In other words, "use it or lose it."


So it is with spiritual exercise.

As athletes train the entire body, not just the arms, legs or stomach muscles - so it is with spiritual exercise.

We are to use our entire bodies in worship to the Lord. 

We are to lift Holy Hands.

When do we lift hands?  To have someone let us speak.  To receive the ball (in sports).  (To show gratitude).  In the same way, as we worship, we raise our hands in order to ask of the Lord, or receive from his spirit or express our thanks.

You can read of this in Psalms 63:3-5.  Psalms 134:1,2.  Psalms 141:1,2.  The last couple of verses are interesting in that David raises his hands to the Lord at night.  I would suggest that is one way to sleep peacefully - is to have a time of worship before you retire, raising your hands to God in worship and praise.  It places your focus on Him.

Raising our hands is a sign of dependence on God in 1 Timothy 2:8 and Psalms 134:2.  It shows the world that we are surrendering ourselves to God.

We stand in worship.  Standing is a sign of showing honor and respect.  If the President of the United States would come in this evening, no matter what our politics are, we would stand as a sign of respect.

David stood in worship in the house of the Lord (Psalms 122:1,2).

We stand as we worship.  We sometimes stand as we read the Word.  We stand when a teaching point is given that touches our hearts. 

While we do not want to be like the hypocrites and stand as we pray to be seen by others, worship should engage every part of our being.

One of the reasons we stand is that it helps us focus on God.  We act our way into a feeling.  We don't feel our way into an action.  Standing helps us bypass the way we are feeling and focus on the presence of God and His Holy Spirit.

There have been many times when I have not felt like worshipping, but as I engage my body, that engages my spirit - and in turn - I begin to "feel" like worshipping.

We kneel in worship.

What does a man do when he asks a woman to marry him?  He kneels and asks, "will you marry me."

It is a gesture of love.

We kneel when we are in love.  Psalms 95:6,7 tells us that when we kneel it shows our love and admiration for God.  But it also shows that God is in control.  In Ephesians 3:14, Paul kneels as a sign of humility and respect.  He acknowledges that God is in control.

Kneeling slows us down so that we may carefully measure our words to the Lord.  Confession can be a part of kneeling.  Bowing down in repentance to God.

We shout in in worship.

As people do when someone scores a touchdown or hits a home run.  Shouting is biblical.

Psalms 47:1,2 tells us that shouting is a voluntary response to an action, event or awareness of the presence of God.  The awesomeness of God.

Psalms 35:27,28 states that we shout in the realization that God delights in our well-being and He vindicates us.

Psalms 107:2 states, "let the redeemed of the Lord say so"!

We are to sing in the Spirit in worship.

Singing in the spirit is a very sacred, special activity.  It is something we participate in after we have entered into the throne room of God.  When our natural language is not enough.  The Holy Spirit begins to sing through us, in a language that is given by Him.

Paul practiced it in his prayer and praise.  (1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19).

Speaking in tongues and signing in the spirit build you and I up as we minister to the Lord.  To use scriptural terminology, it "edifies us."

They are spiritual gifts for encouragement and strengthening. 

Whenever I am confused, I pray or sing in tongues.  Whenever fear grips my spirit, I pray or sing in tongues.  Whenever I am in His presence, in a time of corporate worship - and the worship is flowing, I love to pray or sing in the Spirit.

It is a gift for you. 

And did you know that God enjoys our songs as we sing to Him?   As we sing to Him with a childlike abandonment?

More than any other method of worship, singing in the spirit (for me) is a way to experience the Shekinah glory, the ultimate presence of the Lord.

I encourage you, come to our time of "Pure Worship" tonight.  And let's worship together and enjoy the presence of the Lord.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The truth

First of all, let me say that everyone lies.

It is a fact of life - that daily - we are challenged as to whether we are going to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

As Christians, it is almost always true that we do not intentionally, with premeditation, lie, it is that many times we simply do not tell the truth.

It is called being disingenuous.

"The check is in the mail".

"I am praying for you."

"Leave your resume and we will keep it on file."

"This hurts me more that it hurts you."

"Your table will be ready in five minutes."

"Open wide, it won't hurt a bit."

"Let's have lunch sometimes."

"It is not the money, it is the principle of the thing."

"I am only concerned about how it will hurt other people."

And, I can't resist, it being the political season, saying that politicians are the masters at this.  They may not lie, but they are adept at not telling the truth.

There is the story of a man who didn't want the kids form the neighborhood eating his watermelons.  So he put up a sign in his yard.  It simply said, "One of these watermelons is poisonous."

Now, none were poisonous, but he said, "One of these watermelons is poisonous."

Obviously, the kids, not knowing which one was bad, would not steal his watermelons and eat them.

Now, none were poisonous.  The man liked in an attempt to protect his crop from the thieves.

He came out the next day and, much to his chagrin, he saw the word ONE crossed off and the word TWO in its place.

Now he'd lost this whole crop because he had no idea which watermelon the kids had messed with.

What is the moral to the story?  Lies have a way of coming back around.

Perhaps what we need to do is to not just focus on not lying - but on better ways to tell the truth.

Just a though for a Tuesday.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Went and saw Demarcus Shields (who attends our youth group) play football at Oak Forest High school last Friday evening (they played Tinley Park).

Oak Forest won big!  42-0.

It was fun for Debbie and I to attend a high school football game.  Lots of spirit.

Attended an Illinois Family Institute rally for religious freedom, held at our church this past Saturday.  8 people from our church attended - as well as our entire pastoral staff.

Conservative pastors, politicians and people from around our area attended.  Dan Proft was one of the speakers.

I encourage everyone to pray for our country - and for the elections!

Mine is to remain faithful to planting the spiritual seed in the soil of the southland of Chicago.  God's is to reap the harvest!

I appreciated the spirit of worship yesterday.  We come with needs each Sunday morning - and God is faithful to meet those needs!

The three things that we deal with the most in our country are money, sex and power.  Yet those can be the very three things that we avoid talking about in the church.

May we be bold enough to give biblical viewpoints on all three!

Let's all life with an eternal viewpoint of life - and not just a temporary one.

Are you living for the dot - or are you living for the line?

The Dallas Cowboys are not a very good football team this year.

Noah came to work this morning with a smile on his face.  His Green Bay Packers destroyed the Houston Texans!

Thanks to everyone who gave to the "Moving to Completion by faith", offerings - and made a pledge.  It is very, very appreciated!

We are in this together - Together we can accomplish what God calls us to accomplish!

People need the Lord.

People don't care how much you know until they know how much we care. 

As a church, we care - let's all continue to reach out to those around us in love, compassion and service.

Very good staff meeting this morning - thankful for a wonderful, hard-working staff of pastors and support staff.

Love you all........

Thursday, October 11, 2012

little things

Today is October 11, 2012.

Or - 10/11/12.

Pretty cool, huh.


Little things.

Little things matter.

Walt Disney once said, "always remember that this whole thing was started by a mouse."

Dennis Rainey once said, "People who say that small things don't bother them have never slept in a room with a mosquito."

Here's what I know:  it's the little things in our walk with Christ that will either add to our growth in Him or take us away.

The continuation of spiritual growth in my life are always the result of the little things that I do that many think make no difference at all.

Reading the Word daily.  Have constant conversations with God throughout the day.  Being open to sharing my faith with someone when the occasion arises.

Little things.

Bruce Barton has said, "sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences comes from little things, I am tempted to think there are no little things."

My growth in Christ is always incremental, a step at a time.  No one becomes "mature" over night.  It is in the little things that I grow.  No one was ever called to God to a high position who did not lay the foundation of that call in courageous faithfulness to the small details of a walk with Christ. 

Channing Pollock has written, "No matter how small and unimportant what we are doing may seem, if we do it well, it may soon become the step that will lead us to better things."

Conversely, a pilgrimage away from God begins with the little things as well.  Dwelling on something that shouldn't be watched.  Listening to something that shouldn't be listening to.

We think, "just this once," "it won't hurt anybody," but it is in the little things where a person begins a downward descent from God.  Missing one service.  Not giving one week.  Not praying throughout the day.

The beginnings of unfaithfulness are always the little things that we think will make no difference.

Do you long to be mature in Christ?  Do you long to grow in your walk with Him?  Pay attention to the little things.

Success is often reached through the little stuff.

When Pat Riley coached the Los Angeles Lakers form 1982 to 1990, the team won four NBA championships.  In taking over the New York Knicks in 1991, Riley inherited a team with a losing record.

But the Knicks seemed able to play above their abilities and even gave the eventual champions, the Chicago Bulls, their hardest competition in the play-offs.

How did Riley do it?  He says his talent lies in attention to detail.  For example, every NBA team studies videotapes and compiles statistics to evaluate player's game performances.  But Riley's use of these tools is more comprehensive than that of his rivals.

"We measure areas of performance that are often ignored:  jumping in pursuit of every rebound even if you don't get it, swatting at every pass, diving for loose balls, letting someone smash into you in order to draw a foul."

After each game, these "effort" statistics are punched into a computer.  "Effort," Riley explains, "is what ultimately separates journeyman players from impact players.  Knowing how well a player executes all these little things is the key to unlocking career-best performances."

So, I encourage you to pay attention to the little things today.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Why do we sing in church?

Pure Worship this evening! 

Have you ever thought about why we sing in church?

85 times in scripture we are exhorted to sing praise to the Lord.  Not once, or twice but 85 times!

Chinese Christian leader Brother Zhong tells this story:

"I was attending a training course for my house church network's council members and youth leaders.  The Public Security Bureau (PSB) raided us the first day.  All the leaders were arrested.

The prison authorities shaved our heads and interrogated us.  We were warned that the hardened inmates would beat us.  So with much trepidation, another brother and I entered our cell.

We were greeted by the sight of 16 other inmates, lined up in two rows and thumping their fists.  My heart beat rapidly as I sent prayers up to God.

The leader of the gang asked, "Why are you here?"

"Because we are Christians," I replied.

"You don't beat people up?"

"NO," I assured him.

"Do you sing?"

"Yes,"  I answered.

The leader ordered me to sing a song.  I wept as I sang.  The Holy Spirit moved in our midst, and b y the time I finished singing, every prisoner was also in tears.  To my shock, the gang leader than asked to hear the gospel.

After that, my cellmates hungered to hear the gospel every day.  One Sunday, we held a worship service.  The prison guard demanded to know who was behind it.  He threatened to punish everyone if no one spoke up.  I stood up and confessed.

I was forced to remove my clothes and stand at an inclined angle to the wall.  The gang leader couldn't bear it anymore.  He asked to be punished with me.  All the others volunteered to do the same.  The infuriated guard stormed out.  I was moved by my clelmates' act.  One of them, who had been there for three years, became a believer that day.
That is the power of a song.

Psalms 100 (1,2) opens with these wonderful verses:  "Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!  Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing."

From these two verses we learn several things:

Please notice that this is a command from God to every follower of His.  "You lands" means you and I.  Everyone in included - not just the smaller portion of our church family who are musically inclined.

The implication is not a performance of stunning perfection but one of gusto - enthusiasm - even fun!

God desire that everyone get into the act.  I decided a long time ago that my primary goal in worship was to sing - and to sing loud, with all of my heart, soul and mind!

The issue is not aesthetics or style.  The issue is participation.  Joyful involvement.

The issue is not, "what did I get out of a worship service," "but how did I participate?"  With what attitude?  With what preparation? 

Praise is a method of service - we are to serve (worship) the Lord with gladness!

Joy is contagious!  It spreads like wildfire.  As we sing and worship, discouragement is lifted, the burdened become lighthearted, the bound are set free.

That is the power of praise and worship in song!

The joy of the Lord is our strength.  Stress is vanquished.  Anxiety has no place in an atmosphere where God's people unify in worshipful song.  That is why singing is important in the process of praise.

Singing clearly directs our attention (mind, will and emotion -soul) toward the Father.  It is a spiritual release.

It bursts barriers - real and imagined.  Singing levels the playing field.  Whether we are young or old, rich or poor, new Christian or veterans in the faith, we can all lift our voices in song.

Judson Cornwall writes, "Singing can give us endurance spiritually, emotionally and physically." 

Praise is a verbal act.  It is thanking God for what he has done in our lives.  We praise Him for His loving kindness in Psalms 63:3,4 - "My lips shall praise you," the Psalmist writes.

Praise glorifies God in Psalms 50:23.  As I praise God (Psalms 103:1,2), I receive forgiveness for my sins, I can be healed from my disease, my life is redeemed from the pit, God crowns me with loving kindness.

I sing praises with understanding.  Psalms 47:7 sates, "For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise."

As I sing a song of praise for what God is doing, I am giving testimony to God's love for us and our love for Him.  Others, listening to us praise God, hear testimony of our salvation and our joyful relationship with Him.

Here's what I know:  I tend to praise God in song by the way I have lived and praised Him throughout the week. 

I just can't automatically walk into a worship service and turn on, like a switch, the anointing and presence of God in my life.

Praise in song is to be current.  Relevant.  That's why in Psalms 149, God encourages us to sing a "new song."

The Psalmist writes in Psalms 149:1-4, "Praise the Lord.  Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints.  Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King.  Let them praise His name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp.  For the Lord takes delight in his people, he crowns the humble with salvation."

What do we learn here?  Musical instruments are a part of praise.

David writes in Psalms 33:3, "Sing to him a new song, play skillfully, and shout for joy." 

Many times, we who lead worship struggle with, "how perfect should our praise be"? 

There is just a balance.  Unskilled or limited abilities in church music ought never to be put down.

But neither should an "anything goes" attitude be tolerated. 

I write to worship leaders now.

Showing up late.  Showing up tired.  Showing up unprepared. 

Psalms 33:1 states, "sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him."

It is the living God that we are worshipping - and our singing, our praise, with "all of our hearts," brings God "delight" as we see in verse 4. 

My heart and attitude must be right if I am going to participate in worship.

2 Chronicles 5:13 tells us, "The trumpeters and sings joined in unions, as with one voice; to give praise and thanks to the Lord."  That presupposes skill and practice.  And then the scripture goes on to state, "then the temple of the Lord was filled with a cloud and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God."

There seems to be a direct connection between songs in praise that are given to the best of a person's ability, with the right attitude and preparation - and experiencing the powerful presence of God and his Shekinah glory.

David knew the power of music.  He would play for Saul and Saul's depressive spirit would be uplifted.  Praise in song is medicinal.  It soothes our troubled soul.

Music, anointed of the Lord, can lift the spirit, distract incoming evil thoughts, break evil bonds, and focus our attention on God.

When you are down, listen to worship music.  Do not rest on the arm of the flesh.

Make an altar where you are:  in your car, next to your bed.  While working in the office.

We know that story of how praise and worship delivered Paul and Silas in prison in Acts 16.  As they sang and praised God around midnight, and earthquake took place and their prison doors were opened.  The jailer was converted, his whole household saved.  Praise will cause very chain of bondage to drop away.

Songs in praise open prison doors!

Finally, for we Pentecostal types, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:15, "I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding."

I will sing with "spiritual songs".  Spiritual songs are impromptu, spontaneous lyrics given by the Holy Spirit in English (or a person's language indigenous to them) and in "tongues".

Singing in my prayer language with other believers in a spontaneous way - lifting up our voices in song using our heavenly languages - is a slice of heaven itself.

Come join us this evening as we sing and praise God!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Converse All-Stars and God

When I was growing up, I had a pair of white, canvas, Converse all-star high top tennis shoes.

I wore them everywhere. 

They were not only, "all star" shoes, they were "all purpose" shoes as well.

I played basketball in them.  My senior year in high school, I played on the basketball team with them on (we won the European championship).

I ran around the neighborhood in them. 

Whatever I did, it was in those Converse sneakers (that's what we used to call them).

However, step into a Foot Locker or a Dick's Sporting good store and you will find a much different setting concerning tennis shoes.

Nowadays, people can buy designer (Michael Jordan, etc.) tennis shoes and you have a different kind of tennis shoe for every sport.

And - you can't just run and walk in the same shoe; you have to have a separate and different kind of shoe for each activity.

It is a amazing to me that there can be a difference between a running shoe and a walking shoe!

My understanding is that each shoe is specialized and crafted to fulfill the purpose for which it is being worn.

Here is the spiritual analogy:  In God's kingdom, He is "wearing you."

God has crafted and made every single follower of Christ to wear based on where He wants to go or where He wants you to take Him and carry out His purposes.

You are unique.  You have a role to play in God's family.

God never wastes anything.  He would not give you abilities, interests, talents, gifts, personality, and life experiences unless he intended to use them for his glory.

So...I encourage you to find out your purpose - and fulfill that purpose for God's glory.

God needs you - and you need God.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Beautiful weather.


Leaves changing.

It's fall. 

A wonderful season of the year.

God's creation is incredible!

Had lunch on Saturday with Debbie's brother and sister-in-law (Cindy).  They are missionaries to China.  Cindy has suffered with cancer the past few years but God has really touched her! 

Good worship  yesterday.

God was meeting needs while we worshipped (we prayed for one another in worship).

In worship, there is healing.  God's meets our needs as we lift our voices in praise and worship to Him!

Last night at our life group we discussed the difference between faith and presumption (from Genesis 12 and the life of Abraham).

How can I know that it is God speaking to me?  How do I know when it is "me" speaking to me?

Here's what I know:  A challenge to walk by faith is almost always made by time spent in prayer, the counsel of godly people, and the hearing of God's voice through his Word.  Presumption would be to try to walk by our feelings.  Making decisions based on the "emotion of the moment."

Lonna made some delicious homemade egg rolls.

Debbie Johns brought an pumpkin pie (all calories taken out - of course).

Great time of prayer at the end.

I encourage everyone to be in a life group!

Please prayerfully consider turning in a three year pledge from for our "Moving to Completion by faith" building campaign.

We need "all hands on deck"!

Stone Church is God's church - yet God calls each of us to be faithful!  Faithful in ministry.  Faithful in attendance.  Faithful in giving.

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

I encourage you to enjoy today - and dwell in God's presence.

God is good all the time - but especially today.

Love you all........

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Thinking eternally

One of the mile markers to spiritual maturity is my outlook on life.

Is my focus on the here and now, the temporary?

Or, is my focus on the there and then, the eternal?

Here's what I know:  This planet is not my home - as a follower of Christ - I am going to live eternally with God.

We are here on this earth on a short term visa.  It's really not that long.  Maybe it's 80 years plus for some people.  But for others it is 60 years or 40 years or less. 

It has nothing to do with how good looking or non-good looking I am, how rich or how poor I am, how smart or how intellectually challenged I am, but it has everything to do with the timing and will of God for my life.

The Bible says, "Each man's life is but a breath." (Psalms 39:5)

A breath.  Take a breath right now.  In the larger scheme of things, that's how long your life is.

Life on earth is a dot.  It begins and ends.  A very, very small point.

But from that point goes a line that goes out for all of eternity, never ending.  The Bible says we are going to be spending eternity in one of two places, heaven or hell. 

Right now, I am living in the dot.  But in eternity, I will be living for the line.  In eternity, we're going to live with an eternal perspective.  That perspective can start today.  Right now.  This week.

Begin to live for the line - not the dot.

That is especially true when it comes to our money.  Don't just think three days ahead or three months ahead.  Think 30 years ahead.  40 years.  50 years.  But more than that, think 30,40,50 million years ahead. 

Ask yourself how your money is going to be paying off 50 million years from now in eternity.

One way to do that is to not only tithe (whereby more money is poured into ministry, and more ministry means more people coming to Christ) but to give to missions and to our building fund.

You might think, "how in the world can giving to paying off our church mortgage bring people to Christ?"

As we pay off our church mortgage, we can spend more money in ministry and more money in ministry means people drawing closer to the Lord.

Every time someone accepts Christ you can say, "I had a part in that."

Every time  you tithe or give to the building fund and see a life changed, you can say, "I had a part in that."

"Do you givin' while your livin' so you know where it's goin'"

You can't take it with you, but you can send it on ahead. 

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Preparing for the worship service

My Sunday morning worship begins on Saturday evening at 5:00 P.M.

Let me explain.

I want to give God my best.  I want to worship God with the best attitude I have, the best physical awareness that I have, the best condition that I can be in.

For years, people in church life have talked about "dressing their best" on Sundays in order to worship God.

And yet, on the inside they are far from being prepared to engage God in worship.

Some will spend 45 minutes pampering their bodies in preparation to "look good" for Sunday's service, but not spend 45 seconds in preparing their hearts for God.

Here's what I know:  Good worship takes planning.


Planning works.

If I told you that you had the opportunity to meet your favorite celebrity or political figure at 8:00 A.M. tomorrow morning in downtown Chicago - you probably wouldn't sleep much the night before, you would get up early and prepare yourself and not only arrive on time but arrive early.

Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that every Sunday morning, we have an appointment to meet with the creator of the universe!

God.  God himself!

Some people come to a worship service prepared.  Others come preoccupied.

They fail to realize the potential that is present in a service.

Oh, at work they arrive early and are consummately prepared.  They remain on task.  Overtime is no problem.

They made be overheard saying, "Let's close the deal - no matter what it takes!"

Yet that same person will somehow compartmentalize an encounter with God, shoving it into a lesser category.

"If I'm there, okay, but my priority - indeed, my identity is my work (or my family, or sports, or shopping, etc)."

But what is more important? 

Your job is temporary - your worship is eternal. 

Old Testament priests came to worship prepared.

New Testament priest came to worship prepared.

Perhaps we should run with the comparison of work and worship.

Perhaps we should use the same values for worship that we do for work.

Arrive at work on time - arrive at worship on time.

Come to meetings prepared - come to worship prepared - spiritually, mentally and physically.

Speak articulately - praise and worship with common sense.

Defer to the supervisor - defer to the worship team/leader.

Be cognizant of the needs of those with whom you work - be aware of the needs of fellows worshippers.

Give your full time, honestly, knowing it will be rewarded - seek after God, knowing that he rewards those who diligently seek him.

Numbers 3:10 tells us, "Appoint Aaron and his sons to served as priests; anyone else who approaches the sanctuary must be put to death."

Preparation for worship sounds very serious here to me.

Tradition tells us that they would put bells on a rope, tied to the ankle of the High Priest as he entered into the holy of holies - in case of a sudden death if the High Priest entered into the presence of the Lord in an unworthy manner - they could drag him out with the rope.

Even in the New Testament, Ananias and Sapphira were struck down, dead, because they came to worship with impure hearts.

In the New Testament, believers were all considered priests, living stones, a holy nation (1 Peter 2:5,9) - in order to declare the praises of him who call you out of darkness into his wonderful light."

In Christ, we have authority.  Christ's authority in us.

However, this authority if only fully implemented in the spirit of praiseful worship, as we exercise the office of "priests."

Worship is the foundation to kingdom advance in your life.

The power of the believer before God's throne, worshipping the Lamb and exalting in the Holy Spirit of praise, is powerful in overcoming the enemy.

Through praise and worship - I am an overcomer.

When we enter into a worship service; our hearts should be pure.  Forgiveness should have been given, sins confessed, our bodies presented as a "living sacrifice to God."  Romans 12:1,2.

The things of this world must be put aside.  Distractions are to be laid down. 

And when we do that, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3, that there is liberty - which leads to transformation. 

Don't miss that principle:  Liberty leads to transformation.

That's where the sacrifice of praise comes in.  The word sacrifice means to "kill, slaughter for a purpose."

Praise often requires that we "kill" our pride, fear or sloth - anything that threatens to diminish or interferes with our worship of the Lord.

Our focus should only be on Christ!

Here's what I am saying - in every worship experience, we must embrace our personal responsibility as priests.

We must plan in advance - we must arrive early with a distinct frame of mind in place that will release the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Your preparation for worship is just as important as those who are leading worship. 

So, whether you are up or down - praise God.  Psalms 150 tells us that everything that has breath - and I assume you are breathing as you read this, praise the Lord - at all times (Psalms 34:1)

Here are some practical ways of preparing for Sunday worship:

Get a good night's rest before a worship event.  Watch what you watch on Saturday evenings - "garbage in - garbage out."

Who wants carnal images distracting their focus during a worship set?

Prepared your heart.

Pray in advance.  Lift up the arms of the worship team/leaders.  Ask for the Lord's presence and blessing upon the gathering.  I must say this at this point:  As you come to the church, or as you stand in the foyer, or even as your stand in a worship experience and are criticizing the worship either verbally or in your heart, you create walls or barriers around the worship team, whereby it is very, very difficult for them to experience and lead the rest of us into the presence of God Lord.

It is like the critical "worshipper" is putting a "ball and chain" around those leading us, whereby they are in the prison of a bound spirit - that takes time and effort to break out of!

Sanctify your drive.  Instead of daydreaming or arguing, build an altar in your car.  Play worship music.  Pray on sentence prayers.

Be a self-starter.  Don't wait for someone else to stimulate your worship response - but proactively assume that responsibility!

That is the essence of maturity - accepting responsibility for your behavior.

Pastor James tells us (4:8-10) to cleanse our hands, purify our hearts and to walk in humility as we draw near to God - and He will draw near to us.

Finally, if you are like me - you come to any worship set with worries. 

Worries from this world - worries from the day.

The word "worry" in the New Testament denotes distractions, anxieties and burdens.  It means to "divide the mind."  It means to live with a divided mind.

However, even there, we can worship or we can worry.  It is more than ironic that in the midst of our worries, if we worship, our worries will vanish!

During your worship experienced, "cast all of your cares upon Christ" (I Peter 5:7), "because he really does care for you."

What are other common hurdles to worship?

Pride.  An arrogant spirit.  A spirit that says I can come in to a worship time any time I want to.  A spirit that tries to draw attention to itself.  A spirit that is constantly criticizing those who are leading in worship or worshipping around them.  Pride objects to open, expressive praise.  It rejects the notion that people can be free in the spirit, taking the scripture, "all things are to be done decently and in order," out of context.

Peer Pressure.  The opinions of others.  Being intimidated by others, as far as  "whether or not I will express myself in worship."

"What will they think if I express myself openly."

Or, "what if I cry, what if I show some kind of emotion, they will think I did something wrong."

Let me ask you this:  By whom do you want to be controlled?  The opinions of others or the spirit of God?


This is what we have been talking about this entire blog.  Not being prepared.  Working through problems at home or at work while  you are worshipping.  Counting the ceiling tiles.  Noticing Suzy or Joe's hair style.  Taking note of what Sally and Bob are wearing.

As at work - we must remain on task in our worship.

1 Peter 1:13 states, "prepare your minds for action (worship)...."

It all comes down to preparation.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Our conscience and perfectionism

John writes in 1 John 3:19-22, "This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.  For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.  Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we we obey his commands and do what pleases him." 

Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 that we are "body, soul and spirit."

Within those three spheres of our existence, we have three boundary keepers in our lives.

My body is the "temple of the Holy Spirit" and I am responsible to listen to what my body tells me.  If I overeat, I can get fat and even die from heart disease and high blood pressure.

I need to listen to what my physical body tells me.  Slow down.  Exercise more.

My spirit contains the presence of God and I am responsible to listen to what His Holy Spirit tells me.  Through conviction.  The Holy Spirit will never condemn you (or put you down) but He will convict you (to draw you closer to God). 

My soul (emotions, mind and will) is dictated by my conscience and I am responsible to listen to my conscience as long as it is in sync with God's spirit and direction for my life.

In other words, my conscience can be "out of whack" and because of a desire to please God out of works or worse yet, perfectionism, I can become consumed with pleasing God through keeping a set of rules.

Perfectionism will kill every relationship you have in life.

Many times we are harder on ourselves than God is.  We set the bar so high, that not even the Apostle Paul himself could jump over.

John writes, "For God is greater than our hearts," meaning that an oversensitive hyper-active conscience can be quieted by the knowledge that God himself has declared active love to be an evidence of our walk with Him. 

Even when I am walking through self-imposed condemnation (or the condemnation of the enemy) I can receive assurance that I am a child of God from the objective test of God's word - and the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life.

There is, no condemnation to those in Jesus (Romans 8:1).

So - walk in freedom today.  Let your conscience be your guide, but under the leadership of the Holy Spirit and God's Word.

Just some thoughts for a Tuesday.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

A momentum building Sunday yesterday.

God moved in a powerful way.

Wonderful teaching from Robert Madu Jr.

Our walk with Christ is built on private prayer.

The foundation of corporate prayer is time spent alone in prayer with the Holy Spirit.

Several raised their hands to draw closer to Christ in the second service.

60 new young people attended the youth service Saturday evening!

50 students came to Christ!

Praise God!

Our Nigerian dinner/service (Friday evening) was spectacular.

Debbie and I wore Nigerian clothing.

Ate some delicious Nigerian food.

Robert Madu Sr. spoke.

I love this one Nigerian dish composed of black eyed peas/tomato/egg and spices.

We love and appreciate our Nigerian families - they are godly people!

It warmed my heart to see our church family participating in worship in both services yesterday.

I met several visitors after the second service.

My prayer is that God will continue to lead people from our community to us!

Tonight:  Dallas Cowboys 17 - Chicago Bears 14.  You read it here first.

Love you all.......