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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sticking your thumb in the dike

"Sticking your thumb in the dike" refers to the story of Hans Brinker, a young boy who saved Holland from flooding due to his plugging a hole in a dike with his finger.

When you place a "thumb in the dike" you are acting to find a quick solution to a problem before it becomes much bigger.

However, the negative to this thought is that in almost all cases, the quick solution doesn't last.

It is a temporary solution against the wave of challenges that you and I face.

That is the way I believe it is with commercialism in the United States. 

It seems to be almost fruitless to stand up against the wave of consumerism in our country.  Now there is talk of stores being open on Thanksgiving day.

Face it, friends.  Our culture worships things.

Professor James A. Roberts uses the following true story to illustrate the power of our "worldwide consumer culture".

He writes, "Surely a man the size of Walmart worker Jdimytai Damour could control the expected Black Friday shopping crowds.  At 6 feet 5 inches and 270 pounds, he was a force to reckon with.  In fact, he was chosen to work the front entrance to the Walmart store at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Strema, New York, precisely because of his hulking frame.

But alas, he was no match for the crowd of 2,000 Walmart shoppers eagerly awaiting the 5:00 A.M. store opening.  A few minutes before store opening, the throng could no longer be held back.

The sliding glass doors that separated the would-be shoppers from the holiday bargains ("door busters" takes on a whole new meaning) bowed form the bodies pressed against them.  Six to 10 workers attempted to no avail to push back, but they were fighting a losing battle.

In an instant, the glass doors shattered and the frenzied mob surged into the store in search of the heavily discounted "door busters" available in limited quantities for a short period of time.

Tragically, Damour was thrown to the floor and trampled to death (the official cause of death being asphyxiation related to his trampling) in the stampede that streamed over him in pursuit of bargains on big-screen TVs, electronics, clothing and a myriad of other consumer goodies.

One shopper, Kimberly Cribbs of Queens, said that the crowd acted like "savages".  And the shoppers' bad behavior didn't end with the trampling of Damour.

When the shoppers were informed that the store would need to be cleared because of the death of an employee, many continued to shop, yelling that they had been waiting in line since the day before. 

Many had to be escorted from the store."

Wild stuff.  Tragic.  Horrific.  Challenging.

Let me put the proverbial "thumb in the dike" by saying that as Christians, we need to keep all of this in perspective.

Thanksgiving Day is to be a day to give thanks.  To be thankful not for what we don't have but for what we do have.

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving service

This evening is our Thanksgiving service at 7:00 P.M.

We invite you to come.

Communion will be given.

One of the points of my devotion this evening is the following:

We can give thanks for ongoing hope in the midst of despair.

Even in the midst of, or especially in the midst of a hopeless situation, we can give thanks.

In the fall of 2000, former mega church pastor Ed Dobson was diagnosed with ALS (or Lou Gehrig's disease), a degenerative disease with no known cause or cure.

In 2012, Pastor Dobson shared his ongoing struggle to give thanks while living with an incurable condition.

He writes:

"There are many thanks for which I am not grateful.  I can no longer button the buttons on my shirt.  I can no longer put on a heavy jacket.  I can no longer raise my right hand above my head.  I can no longer write.  I can no longer eat with my right hand.  I eat with my left hand, now even that is becoming a challenge. 

And over time all of these challenges will get worse and worse.  So what in the world do I have to be grateful for?

So much.  Lord, thank you for waking me up this morning.  Lord, thank you that I can turn over in my bed.  Lord, thank you that I can still get out of bed.  Lord, thank you that I can walk to the bathroom.....Lord, thank you that I can still brush my teeth....Lord, thank you that I can still eat breakfast.  Lord, thank you that I can still dress myself.  Lord, thank you that I can still drive my car.  Lord, thank you that I can still walk.  Lord, thank you that I can still talk."

Finally, he writes, "And the list goes on and on.  I have learned in my journey with ALS to focus on what I can do, not on what I can't do.  I have learned to be greatful for the small things in my life and for the many things I can still do."

I am humbled by Pastor Dobson's words.  And grateful.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Great life group meeting last evening. 

Lots of "corny" humor.

It is fun to be around people who like to have fun.

While humor is in the eye of the beholder, laughter is universal.

Broke down and had two Portillo's hot dogs (with everything) and onion rings.


Dallas Cowboys pulled out a win in overtime. 

Not a good sign they had to do so against a terrible team like Cleveland.

Looking forward to my favorite day of the year - Thanksgiving Day.

The Father (God).  Faith.  Food.  Fun.  Family.  Football.  Fantastic!

Really, really enjoyed worship yesterday.

There seems to be a heighten anointing in our services.

I am grateful.

Many, many thanks to all who helped out with the Dunamis conference.

I can't tell you how many expressions of thanks and gratitude I received from the conference participants concerning our church family who helped out.

We have a good church - with good people.

God is in control - even when it seems like everything around us is out of control.

From the Dunamis conference:  The primary purpose of "speaking in tongues" is to empower us to witness.  To share our faith.

May the Holy Spirit help us to reboot that thought in our churches.

We need, we desperately need the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Word of God is necessary - we also need the presence of God.

Just a reminder of our Thanksgiving Eve service tomorrow evening. 

7:00 P.M.

I love you all......

Thursday, November 15, 2012

David and the Holy Spirit

King David in the Old Testament is one of my favorite Bible characters.

A mighty man of God - full of God's power and Spirit - yet extremely honest about his flaws and sins.

After his sin with Bathsheba, David comes in repentance to God and prayed for spiritual renewal.

He knows, he knows all too well that without a gracious reply from God, he would be without the sustaining presence of God's Spirit.

He prays in Psalms 51:1-12, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit."

More than anything else, we as Christians rely upon the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

We need the Holy Spirit.

You need the Holy Spirit.

I need the Holy Spirit.

Can I share this with you?

The biggest thing that will rob you and I from a direct connection to the Holy Spirit is the word - are you ready?  The word sin.


More than anything else sin will sever your relationship with God.

Do you feel an absence of the Holy Spirit in your life?

Just a suggestion:  Let God search your heart today - and ask for forgiveness for any known and unknown sin in your life.

If you do - I guarantee you that like David, you will have a renewed sense of the joy of  the Lord in your heart, a willing spirit to do his work and a steadfast spirit within your spirit.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Communion and our meeting tonight

Tonight's service is going to be powerful!

Months of preparation and prayer has gone into both evening services, tonight and tomorrow evening at 7:00 P.M.

My assignment this evening will be to lead our communion time (there are four segments to the concert of prayer - 15 minutes each).

Let me give you some thoughts concerning communion (that I will give this evening - here are my notes below).

Communion is an extraordinary event for a Christian.

Each time we gather together to remember and to celebrate Christ's death and resurrection, God moves in our heart and lives.

To take communion is not to participate in a ritualistic exercise - out of a sense of duty or habit - something we tag on to the end of a service before we head out to a local restaurant.

It is a meal with tremendous symbolism and power.

In this "meal" there is healing, in this meal there is freedom, in this meal, there is power, in this meal there is forgiveness of sins.  In this "meal" there is the presence of the Lord.

This is an extraordinary meal that we participate in this evening.

We're not bringing a sack lunch on our way to work.  Or stopping off at McDonald's for a quick hamburger.  We are not shoving something in a microwave to eat in front of the T.V.

There is power in what we are doing here this evening.  Spiritual power.

We have an extraordinary host

I'm not speaking of me as a pastor or any one here tonight.  I am not speaking of someone who takes your order at Taco Bell.  I'm not speaking of a restaurant maitre d' who is friendly, efficient and aloof.

I'm speaking of Jesus.  Jesus and you.  For while we take this communion collectively, we experience the presence of Jesus individually.

Jesus is calling you, tonight.  He knows you by name.  He knows you better than you know yourself.  He knows your situation.  He cares about you.

It's the presence of Jesus and his love for us that draws us to this table this evening.

It is his love that gives us a new identity and gives us a name.  There is a table in the foyer with the name tags of those who are participating in the conference.

Here at this table this evening, God has your name marked in his heart.  And he says, "you are my friend." 

"I am a friend of God." 

Jesus knows you by name.  He loves you.  And the Bible says that he is "ever interceding" for you.  In other words, Jesus is presenting your need, right now, before God the Father.

This is an extraordinary table that we have this evening.

It is not one of those fixed seats at a Burger King.  It is not a foldaway table on an American Airlines flight.  It is not a single-serving tray brought around by the nurses in a hospital.

It is a table that has been personally set for you.  Jesus said, "You did not choose me," but I have chosen you. 

Jesus says, "I call you to by table.  I make a place here for you."

The great thing is that this table expands and expands.  There is no limit to its size.  It cannot be confined.

It may not be fenced.  This table expands with the love of the host (Jesus) and grow with the grace of his invitation to us.

Here comes the thief on the cross.  The woman taken in adultery.  The puny, the pompous, the guilty and the gutsy, the sensitive and the simple, the indecent and the intemperate, the foolish and the fickle, the hopeless and the hopeful.

It is an extraordinary table that pushes to the ends of the earth the gospel of peace.  Red and yellow, black and white, rich and poor, African, Japanese, French, Mexican, American we are all welcomed at this table.

These are extraordinary people we celebrate with this evening.

We are children of God - repeat after me "I am a child of God."

As we leave this table, we are no longer ordinary people.  The ordinary within us wants to abuse or accuse, to obliterate or isolate, to bite back or attack. 

Yet as Christians, we can do the extraordinary.  We can return love for hate.  Peace for anger.  Forgiveness for hut.  We are not ordinary people here tonight, for at this table something happens to us.  The ordinary is swallowed up into the extraordinary. 

We are extraordinary because we have been forgiven through God's amazing grace.

Praise God!

And Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:26, "for whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."

Let's proclaim that Jesus saves tonight as we participate.  Let's leave here this evening with God's Spirit in our hearts, ready to proclaim to the world that Jesus saves.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Paradoxical statements

Kent Keith has written a wonderful little book entitled, "Do it anyway."

It is a handbook for finding personal meaning and deep happiness in a crazy world. 

He starts out by saying that "the world is crazy".  I think we can all agree on that.

The world is crazy.

You and I can't control the events and people around us.  We can't control the economy or the crime rate of the weather. 

We can't control when terrorists may strike or wars that may break out.

We can't control whether we will have a job this time tomorrow.

We can work hard, and prepare, and seize opportunities, but there are a lot of things in our external world that we cannot control.

So how are you coping when it seems like the world is out of control?

Here's what I know:

Our (your) personal meaning and deep happiness don't depend on the way the world treats us.  They depend on how we respond to the way the world treats us.

And the way we respond is our choice.  Our decision.

In other words, we can only control the way we respond both with actions and in attitudes.

Let me give you Kent Keith's 10 paradoxical commandments with a comment on each:

1.  People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.  Love them anyway.

Jesus says basically the same thing.  That we are to love and pray for and bless those who want to do us harm.  How can I do that outside of the grace of God and the help of the Holy Spirit?

2.  If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motivesDo good anyway.

Many can't believe that anyone would do anything without expecting something in return.  And so they project their lack of compassion on others.

Can I tell you something?  There are people in the kingdom of God who do good works - with the sole intent of advancing the kingdom of God.

3.  If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.  Succeed anyway.

As you are successful, it will bring out the worst and the best from those around you.

4.  The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.  Do good anyway.

That humbles me.  That gives me perspective.  Our church is not about me.  Our church is not about whether "I am a success or not".  Our church exists to build up the kingdom of God and glorify Jesus.

30 years from now (or less) Stone Church family members will be hard pressed to remember my name.  And here's what I know.  That is the way it should be.  It is all about Jesus. 

5.  Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.  Be honest and frank anyway.

6.  The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.  Think big anyway.

It is hard to soar with the eagles when you are running with Turkeys.

By the very nature of what I do, I am obliged to pause and deal with "nay-sayers".  It drives me nuts, but I have purposed in my heart to dream big anyway.

7.  People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.  Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

8.  What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.  Build anyway.

That would include a godly family.  A godly marriage.  Health.  Success at your job.  A ministry.  We can't control what will happen to those elements of our lives - we can only continue to build.

9.  People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.  Help people anyway.

I never let a person's attitude toward me effect how or when or where I will minister to them.  It doesn't matter whether they like me or not - my calling is to minister to them.

10.  Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.  Give the world the best you have anyway.

Sometimes those whom you have helped the most will turn around and desert you or hurt you.  Give them the best you have anyway.

Good stuff for a Tuesday.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

Turned out to be a very eventful weekend!

I picked our guest speaker up, Greg Mundis, at the O'Hara airport.  He was suffering from a painful rash - over his entire body.

Took him to a clinic.  They told me to take him to the emergency room (all of this Saturday afternoon). 

I took him to Palos Community Hospital. 

They admitted him.

It turns out that two weeks ago he had a shingles shot - and 14 days to the day - he came down with a very, very painful case of shingles.

Greg will be released from the hospital today - I am taking he and his wife, Sandy, to the hospital this afternoon (she flew in yesterday to be with him).

We are praying that he will return this Wednesday as our lead speaker for the Dunamis2 conference.

Speaking of the conference, I invite and encourage all of our church family to come to the two special evening meetings, Wednesday, November 14th and Thursday, November 15th.

We are prayerfully anticipating a great move of God!

7:00 P.M.  Both evenings.

Come prepared to experience the presence of the Lord!

I am grateful for the Lord's help in speaking yesterday (on short notice).  A teaching entitled, "A theology of the Holy Spirit."

The outline will be on our website this week.

We had wonderful times worshipping God yesterday! 

A distinct and personal sense of God's presence!  We stayed until sometime after 12:30 worshipping God.

Sorry, gang, about the Bears last night.  My Cowboys finally won a game.

I love you all!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Complaining about complainers

If you would permit me, I would like to complain about complainers.

Oh, the irony of it all.

By the very nature of what I do, I deal with those who complain.

There is always a "crisis of the week" or someone who is complaining about something.

And, to be honest, I can find myself complaining about those who complain.

I don't know what is worse, those that complain behind my back, or those who complain to me in person!

Jeff Manion, in his wonderful book, "The Land Between" writes:

"The heart drifts toward complaint as if by gravitational pull - after all, complaint seems a reasonable response to a sequence of disappointing events.  Generally, you don't have to extend an invitation for complaint to show up.  It arrives as an uninvited guest.  You return home from yet another frustrating day to discover that complaint has moved into your guest room, unpacked its luggage, started a load of laundry, and is rooting through your fridge.  Even as you seek to dislodge complaint - as you move its bags to the curb and change the locks - it crawls back through the guest room window.  Complaint resist eviction."

He goes on to write, "before we know it, complaint feels right because it is familiar.  With every struggle, we become the Israelites murmuring in the desert.  We  miss the faith lessons.  God desires to prepare us and build things into us, but we are hunkered down in our pattern of response.  We need to wake up and notice what is happening!  How do we evict that spirit of complaint?"

Finally, he writes, "I have heard it said that "bad movement pushes out good movement" and "good movement pushes out bad movement."  We can discourage complaint's residency in our lives by inviting another guest to move in with us.  That new guest is trust.  When we choose to trust in the face of deep disappointment, complaint has less space to maneuver.  While attempting to unpack for an extended stay, it discovers that trust has taken all the drawers in the guest room and already occupies the empty seat at the table.  Trust evicts complaint.  Trust and complaint are incompatible roommates.  One inevitably pushes the other out."

Good stuff.

Let me ask you this question:  Are you a complainer?

You say, "who me"? 

Yes, I am talking to you.

Do you whine?  Complain about everything?

The weather.  The economy.  The government.  Your family.  Your neighbors.  Your church.  Your kids?

Where nothing ever meets your expectations and standards?

Do you go by the motto that, "if it weren't for the imperfections of others, you would have nothing to talk about?"

Come on now, you are better than that aren't you?

BTW, how egotistical it is of us to expect perfection around us.  Whoever said that you had the right to a perfect spouse?  Perfect children?  Perfect boss?  Perfect church?

What makes you any different from anyone else?  And - how perfect are you?

Here's what I know:  People who complain about everything - don't like themselves.

In his book, Confessions of a Pastor, Graig Groeschel offer some advice on how to handle people who complain.

He writes, "It's a fact that "hurting people who people."  They usually dislike themselves and criticize other sin a misguided effort to validate themselves.  If one of these injured souls lobs a criticism grenade in your direction, defuse it with understanding.  Part of considering the source is seeking awareness of what that person may be going through."

He goes on to give this illustration: 

"One time I was praying during worship, a few moments before preaching.  Eyes closed, focusing in God, I felt someone slip a note into my hand.  I never saw who it was, but the note was marked "personal."  I though to myself, someone probably wrote a nice note to encourage me before I preach.

A warm, loving feeling settled over me as I unfolded the paper. 

A moment later, I lost that loving feeling.

Evidently, the note was from a woman who had tried to see me on Friday, my day off.  She took offense at my absence and blasted me with hateful accusations.  This happened literally seconds before I was to stand up to preach.  In that moment, I had a choice.  I could internalize the offense and become demoralized and discouraged.  Or I could ask myself, "I wonder what she's experiencing that caused her to lash out?"

Finally he writes, "I chose compassion over depression.  My heart hurt for her.  I knew that such a disproportionate reaction must indicate deep pain, so I didn't take her note personally.  Consider the source.  And consider the possibility that the jab may have come from an injured heart.  Dismiss it and move on.  If you don't you may become the very thing you despise."

Wow, between the two quotes, it really hits home.  It convicts me.

"Father, forgive me for complaining about complainers.  They will always be with us.  It is the nature of our carnal nature.  Help me to look to you Lord, and realize that beneath all of the complaining is a hurting person.  I rely upon you, oh God.  Amen."

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Worship as Contemplation

For those who are serious about worship, there is a definite link between contemplation and our connection with the Holy Spirit.

We talked last week about mediation which is defined as a daily, quiet time.

Contemplation, the focus on this evening's "Pure Worship," is a more specific form of mediation.

Contemplation is to our prayer life as intimacy is to a marriage.

Debbie and I can just look at each other and know what each other is thinking - with the "non-verbals" - subtle ways of communicating.

Have you ever thought that there are "non-verbal" ways of communicating with God?

Contemplation builds upon mediation.

The word meditate means to "reflect; to moan, to mutter; to ponder; to make a quiet sound such as sighing; to mediate or contemplate something as a worshipper repeats the words."

In the Bible, the word meditate or mediation meant something more than a mental exercise.  In Hebrew thought, to mediate upon the scriptures is to quietly repeat them in a soft, droning sound, while utterly abandoning outside distractions.

In Jewish tradition, there is a specialized type of prayer called "davening," which is when a worshipper recites scripture, praying intense prayers, wile bowing or rocking back and forth.  The intent is to get lost in communion with God.

There is a new movie about the life of Abraham Lincoln coming out this week.  Lincoln himself often spoke of how slowly his mind worked, how even as an adult he read laboriously and out loud.  His law partner and biographer William Herndon claimed that "Lincoln read less and thought more than any man in his sphere in America."

Here is a simple principle:  What the mind repeats, it retains."

Or, as I say, "repetition is the mother of all learning."

David writes in Psalms 1:1-3:  "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night." 

What is the result? 

"He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers."

Now follow me.  Our strength (emotional, spiritual and physical) comes from time spent in God's presence. 

In reflection.  In contemplation.  Without distractions.  Alone.  Silent. 

To quote, "solitude is the one place where we can gain freedom from the forces of society that will otherwise relentlessly mold us."

Henri Nouwen writes, "In solitude, I get rid of my scaffolding."

Scaffolding is all the stuff we use to keep ourselves propped up, to convince ourselves that we are important or okay.  In solitude we have no friends to talk with, no phone calls or meetings, no T.V, no music or books or newspapers to occupy and distract our minds. 

Our minds (to use a wonderful image from Henri Nouwen) are like a banana tree filled with monkeys constantly jumping up and down.  It is rarely still or quiet.  All these thoughts, like so many chimps, clamor for our attention.  "How can I get ahead?  I someone trying to hurt me?  How will I handle this problem.

You have heard me say repetitively, "apart from Christ we can do nothing."

This type of worship is disciplined and deliberate.  It isn't accomplished on the run, nor by offering prayers from a pulpit or at a hospital bedside.  I know I can't be busy and pray at the same time (in the sense we are talking about here).

I can be active and pray; I can work and pray; but I cannot be busy and pray.

I cannot be inwardly rushed, distracted, or dispersed.  In order to pray I have to be paying more attention to God than to what people are saying to me; to God than to my own ego. 

Usually, for that to happen, there must a be a deliberate withdrawal from the noise of the day, a disciplined detachment from my own self.

We must (as one author put it) ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives."

The CEO of Domino's Pizza was quoted as saying, "We don't sell pizza, we sell delivery."  30 minutes or less.  Fast food.  Drive-Thru lanes because going inside takes too long.

But here's what i know:  Hurry is not just a disordered schedule.  Hurry is a disordered heart. 

We desire microwave maturity in Christ.  "Okay, God," we say, " you have 5 minutes to connect with me."

For most Christians, the great danger is not that you will renounce your faith, but that you will settle for a mediocre version of it.  God has so much more for  you!

What's the end game?

Rest.  Peace.  Freedom from anxiety. Freedom from worry.

Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke (my non-legalistic way of serving God the Father) upon you and learn from me (follow my example), for I am gentle (I have strength under control) and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  Matthew 11:28-30

As I contemplate, I worship and as I worship it brings rest.  It brings an understanding that I do not have to "make things happen" - I simply need to be obedient to Christ and dependant upon His Holy Spirit.

The more I know Christ, the easier it is to obey Him.

So what is the challenge today?

Look at your schedule.  Every schedule must contain a balance of recreation and rest.  We live in a busy world.  We as Christian are susceptible to schedule abuse.

Look at your stress levels.  As Christians, we cannot give what we do not have.  We must be dependant upon God.  Most men and women of God let burdens turn into a need "to make things happen (or taking on in their own flesh the responsibility to do what God desires)."

Look at how you are sleeping.  Something very practical.

Look at your spiritual condition.  We must repent of any sin - especially any attempt to carry out His plan by our own effort.  So many times we can do the right thing in the wrong way.

Look at your spirit.  There are no great men and women; only humble men and women whom God chooses to use greatly.

I challenge you this week to slow down. 

Deliberately choose to drive in the slow lane on the freeway.

Declare a fast from honking.

Eat your food slowly.

At the grocery store, look for the check-out line that is the longest. 

Go though one day without wearing a watch. 

Finally, spend 5 minutes each - practicing the following elements of communion with God (all in one hour):

Praise, waiting, confession, reading the Word, petition, intercession, praying the Word, thanksgiving, singing, meditate, listening and ending with praise.

Can't wait for tonight's "Pure Worship".

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

This past Sunday morning, between services, I stood in our "coffee connection" area and listened to the buzz of relationship and friendship.

Check out our new 1 minute Stone Church video at:

I love the church.

I love our church.

I love the family of God.

It is our calling to be a place to belong, a place to grow and a place to serve.

As we love one another, it attracts people like a magnet.  When a church really offers love to each other and those who are welcomed into it, you have to lock the doors to keep people out!

I read an article today entitled, "Six secrets for becoming a loving church."  (I have picked out five of them to give to you).

Let me summarize it:

1.  We must be committed to building each other up.

Note of appreciation.  Hugs in the hallway.  Phone calls of encouragement. 

Life is tough - there are enough discouraging people in the world.  We need to be encouragers, not discouragers!

We all like to be around people who are positive.  People who are going to lift us up and not tear us down. 

2.  We need to recognize the value of every person.

Even the people we don't like - or who don't like us (I am learning that it is harder to love the person who doesn't like me than the person I don't like).

That person may be immature; they may be disagreeable, but Christ died for them.

When you get your nose bent out of joint because of someone in your area of ministry or in the church (and inevitably it will), just remember:  Christ died for that person.  That shows how valuable they are.

3.  We need to stay focused on what is really important.

The essence of my walk with Christ is not external but internal. 

Back in 1917, as the Bolsheviks grabbed the reins of power through a revolution in Russia, the priests in the Orthodox Church were in a heated debate over how long the tassels should be on their robes.  They ignored the Bolshevik revolution, and instead, split their church arguing over this trivial matter!

Churches almost never have division over major issues.  They divide over trivial, foolish little things.

Are you really going to "go to the mat" over ____________ (and you fill in the blank) when there are Christians that are dying for their faith?

4.  We must must not insist that everyone agree.

I really do believe that we can walk arm in arm without seeing eye to eye.

Paul writes, "As far as it depends on you, if it is possible, live at peace with all men."  Romans 12:18

God even admits that there are some people you will not get along with!  No one "gets along" with everyone.

So if you know of someone who is nitpicking about something in your life, that says something more about them than you.

Take them to God and see what He has to say.  We can be agreeable in the midst of disagreement.

5.  We must accept one another.

Paul writes in Romans 15:7, "Accept one another just as Christ has accepted you in order to bring praise to God."

How did God accept us?  Unconditionally.  Non-judgmentally.  No one's acceptance is based upon what they do or not do.

No church will ever be perfect, but it can be healthy.  Stone Church is not a perfect church, but we are striving to be healthy. 

May we grow in joy and peace and hope and power.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Big, big day tomorrow.

Encourage everyone to get out and vote.

God's will be done!

I am thankful for the wonderful staff we have here at Stone Church (both the pastoral staff and our support staff).

Looking forward to the Dunamis meetings a week from this coming Wednesday!

Debbie and I are grateful for the continual outpouring of love, support and prayers that are coming our way as your pastors.

We love you!

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

Mine is to be faithful and trust in God - God's is to move as He sees fit.

We live in a world where Christians are being persecuted.

Let's all continue to pray for the persecuted Christians around the world.

God never qualifies our pain (our pain is our pain) - but at the same time - there are Christians who are suffering for their faith in ways that we will probably not experience in our lifetime.

Thankful for a wonderful worship team - leading us into the throne room of God.

Debbie and I were thrilled to meet several guests yesterday at our church.  Our prayer is that they continue to check us out and connect as the Holy Spirit leads.

Let me share with you - I love my life group.  Twice a month, I get to relax with a great group of people, study God's word, and pray (good food as well!).

I covet your prayers - for wisdom, guidance and strength.

Am sensing that God is ready to pour out his spirit upon us!

Thank you, thank you to all who came out last Saturday to paint in the foyer and wash windows.  Your help was greatly appreciated!

I love you all!

Thursday, November 01, 2012


There is a story involving Yogi Berra, the well-known catcher for the New York Yankees, and Hank Aaron, who at that time was the chief power hitter for the Milwaukee Braves.

The teams were playing in the World Series, and as usual Yogi was keeping up his ceaseless chatter, intended to pep up his teammates on the one hand, and distract the Milwaukee batters on the other. 

As Aaron came to the plate, Yogi tried to distract him by saying, "Hank, you're holding the bat wrong.  You're supposed to hold it so you can read the trademark."

Aaron didn't say anything, but when the next pitch came he it it into the left-field bleachers.  After rounding the bases and tagging up at home plate, Hank Aaron looked at Yogi Berra and said, "I didn't come up here to read."

Love that. 

Hank Aaron didn't allow Yogi Berra to distract him from his true purpose.

If there is one thing that can keep us from a complete and fulfilling walk with Christ - it is distractions.

Yet what is true individually, is true corporately as well.

As a church, we can become distracted.

Distracted by preferences.

Distracted by personal agendas.

Distracted by opinions.

Distracted by rumors, gossip, anger and unforgiveness.

What frees us from these distractions?

Time spent in the presence of the Lord.  As I reconnect with the Holy Spirit -  my true purpose as a Christian comes back into focus.  You show me a Christian whose conversation is filled with thoughts and attitudes toward people - and I will show you a Christian who needs to reconnect to the vine - the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Think of the conversations you've had the past couple of days.  Where they filled with thoughts about people or thoughts about God?

A choice to refocus on Christ.  Hebrews 12:2 tells us, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith."

I choose as to what I will focus on.

It's an old church cliche:  "I must keep my eyes on Jesus"

We used to sing, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in his wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim.  In the light of his glory and grace."

I can't tell you how many times I have heard people say, "I got my eyes off of the Lord and got them on people and people let me down."

I spoke with a woman this week (on the phone) who has given up on Christianity.  She used to go to our church (Stone Church) years ago and feels so wounded by the way she was treated by the people in our church, she no longer serves God.

For an hour, she railed and ranted about the church and Christians in general.

"All Christians are hypocrites," she cried out (and BTW at some point in time we all are hypocritical in attitudes and actions - because we are human beings.  If you think you are exempt from that - you are the hypocrite).

She is bitter and angry against God.  She is bitter and angry against the people, who as she said, "claimed to be Christians."

Here is my word to you today:  Keep your focus on Jesus and His purpose for your life and for our church.

Our church is here to bring people to Christ and to grow in the Lord - together.

Our church is here to love God and love people.  We can work in ministries, pray, memorize scriptures, be faithful in church attendance, but if we don't have "love" as Jesus said, "we are not walking in obedience to Him."

Opinions and preferences come and go - we will let each other down - I will let you down - but I am grateful that Jesus never lets us down.

And - that our purpose remains the same - to be a place where people can belong, grow and serve.

Will  you join me?  Will you join me in getting your focus off of others and our likes and dislikes and what we prefer and don't prefer - and get our focus back on the mission that God has called us all to?

Just a thought for a Thursday.