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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Choices and limitations

Paul Tournier says that perhaps the most powerful and unused gift from God is choice.

In everything in life, we have a choice.

We can't choose how things happen to us, the events and situations that come our way, but we can choose how we react to them.

And how we choose to react to circumstances comes from not only the presence of God in our lives, but the experience of knowing that our choice will bring about a positive result inside of of us.

It is not what happens to us, but how we react to what happens to us that counts.

We decide, we choose to react in a positive way to anything in life.

The root of the word "decide" means "to cut."

One of the positive sides of pain and negativity in our lives is that we have to cut.  We have to make choices which we didn't at other times in our lives. 

We make the choice to move on in spite of our limitations.

We don't let our limitations hinder us.

In the 1952 Olympics a young Hungarian boy looked down his pistol barrel and split the bull's eye again and again, he just couldn't miss.

With that perfect right hand and eye coordination, he won a gold medal.  Six months later he lost his right arm.

But in Melbourne four years later he came back and split the bull's eye again and again, winning his second gold medal with his left hand.  He chose not to be limited by his limitations.

What is limiting you today?

I would encourage you to stop the blaming, complaining process and begin to make the choice to move on.  Accept what you can't do and move on to what you can do.

A great theologian (Clint Eastwood) once said in one of his movies, "A man must know his limitations." 

So true.  But don't allow your limitations to limit you from achieving the best that God has for you in life.

Just a thought for a Thursday

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Playing basketball and life

I have been playing basketball for 46 years, having first picked up a round, orange ball in the fifth grade.

Basketball has always been there for me.

Having moved every three years of my life (up until 1997), it has always been a way to "break the ice" with a new crowd of people.

When I was in High School, it kept me out of a lot of trouble.

When I was in College, it was a great distraction from the stress of my studies (when I studied).

When I was in my twenties, thirties and forties, it was a great way to meet people outside the church.

I played basketball last night for the first time in a long time.

Great group of guys.

I was the oldest person there.

Here are my observations (now that I am in my fifties):

Observation number one: 

For the first time in my life, I really didn't want to play. 

Night free.  Sitting on the couch watching sports.  Rainy and Cold outside.  Versus:  Getting dressed, getting out and getting fatigued from playing.

I chose to play.

And I was glad I did.  Good for the body, good for the soul.  Good for the spirit.

Sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zones and move ahead, step by step, even when we don't feel like it.

Observation number two:

I found out last night that my game is no longer existent.  It is gone.  G.O.N.E. 

As the evening went on, I found myself more excited about establishing relationships with the others that were there - than playing well.

Relationship is more important than winning.

Observation number three:

I can no longer talk "trash".  To talk trash (howbeit it "Christian trash"), one has to play well.

I was quiet the entire night.  I have lost the right to "speak out".

Sometimes the best thing to say is to say nothing, especially if you aren't qualified.

Observation number four:

At my age, I am faced with relying on "who I am" rather than "what I do" in relationships with others.  I can't do what I used to, but I can always be who I am, and continue to grow.

While our "outer man" is deteriorating, we are to never stop learning and growing in our inner spirit and soul.

Once we are through learning - we are through.

Now that I have perhaps, and just perhaps impressed you with four great life lessons, let me tell you that I still, I still miss playing well.  :)

Just some thoughts for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Perfectionism - at a cost

To be really candid with you, I sometimes grow weary of always trying to meet the expectations of others.

To my credit, it bothers me a lot less nowadays, in knowing that I will never be perfect.

I will never be the perfect husband.

I will never be the perfect dad.

I will never be the perfect pastor.

I will never be the perfect Christian.

But here's what I know:  While other people around me expect me to be perfect, I can relax in my imperfections.

In fact, I SHOULD relax in my imperfections, knowing that I can actually be a BETTER husband, dad, pastor and follower of Christ if I do so.

Here is a great example, one that we here in Chicago remember and relate to.

On April 12, 2012, the White Sox's pitcher Philip Humber pitched a perfect game.  That is, he retired 27 batters in a row.

No walks, no hits.  Only 18 other Major League Baseball pitchers have achieved that feat, in the 108 year old history of the game.

But in November of the same year, he was cut by the team.

What was his one flaw?  What was it that threw him down a downward baseball spiral?

One deadly character flaw - perfectionism.

And article in Sports Illustrated stated this:

"For one magical April afternoon, Philip Humber was flawless.  But that random smile from the pitching gods came with a heavy burden:  the pressure to live up to a standard no one can meet.  The biggest problem with Humber wasn't his talent.  It was, according to those close to him, the unrealistic expectations he set for himself.  "He's a perfectionist," says Robert Ellis (a former mentor to Humber).

Humber admitted, "After the game it was like, I've got to prove that the prefect game was not a fluke - I almost felt like I had to prove that I deserved to be on that list.  I was thankful for it, but at the same time I wanted to make sure that everyone knew that this wasn't a joke.  I'm really good enough to do this.

Every time Humber took the mound, he tried to be the pitcher he was in Seattle - but competence seemed unattainable, much less perfection.  In his next start, he allowed nine runs in five innings.  Two outings later he was bombed for eight runs in 2 1/3 innings.  Every time he fell short of the new standard he set for himself, he pushed himself harder.

He began spending more time than ever in the video room.  He played with every imaginable grip for his pitches.  He threw extra bullpen sessions.  He rain more, lifted more.  He asked teammates how they dealt with their struggles.  He couldn't understand why he couldn't recapture the magic.  "I just feel lost," Humber said."

The article concluded with a ray of hope:  "Philip Humber doesn't know what twill come next in his baseball story.  This he knows:  He's done chasing perfection."

As a follower of Christ, we must let go of our perfectionism.  We must let go of expecting ourselves to be perfect and others.

I know of "Christians" who are harder on others than God is.

Only Christ is perfect.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I encourage you to check out the story that was shown on NBC NEWS, Chicago (channel 5).  It's the story of Alex Sheridan, who helped saved her mom during a life threatening situation.

Her parents, Rich and Jenni, go to our church.

Here is the Internet address to watch the televised story:!/on-air/as-seen-on/Girl-Stops-Car-from-Crashing--Saves-Mom/188507891

God is good!

Thank you, Father, for watching over this family!

Great promo for our Upward Basketball ministry as well!

Speaking of which - we would ask that you come out and watch some of the games on Saturday and meet some of the non-church parents that are coming.

You will be amazed at the energy in our church!

Wonderful worship yesterday. 

I am thankful for a great pastoral team of Aldin and Debbie, Amanda and of course my wife, Debbie.

We are here to serve you and minister to you!

In spite of being a huge NFL football fan, I have never watched a pro bowl.

I go back on forth on the validity of the game itself.

Could I ask you to consider something?  Please consider inviting and bringing someone to church this Sunday.  I will be speaking about the power of the resurrection, found in John 20.

My thought is, "why do we have to wait until Easter to talk about the resurrection?"

Good to have Jan Winkler back in our office.  Jan was in the hospital for 10 days.

She is a vital part of our team (as is Debbie Smith, Rosemary Janis and Drew Centeno).

I enjoyed listening to our worship band played after the service was "officially over."

They are really, really sounding great.

Please be in prayer with us as we look for a youth pastor, couple.

We desire God's direction upon our church in this decision.

We care about teenagers.

We care about our youth group.

Love you all.......

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Power of our testimony

One of the statements I love is found in Revelation 12:11, that we overcome Satan by the "power of our testimony."

Good stuff.

We can and should be overcomers!

It is not enough for followers of Christ to stop Stan's control over our lives.  We must desire to attack the strongholds of the enemy and win the world for Christ!

Being a "sports guy" I know that the best defense is a good offense.

I would suggest, today, that too many of us are just trying to hold ground when we should be gaining ground!

Too many of us are wondering what the Devil is up to when we should be focusing in on what God is up to!

What is God directing me to do?  What is God's plan for my life?

In a book entitled, The Civil War by Geoffrey C. Ward, it tells a story of General Grant and his adversary, General Lee, that illustrates the attitude we should have:

Right in the middle of the Battle of the Wilderness, all the staff men who'd been fighting in the East all this time - Grant had just come from the West - kept talking, "Bobbie Lee, Bobby Lee, he'll do this, that, and the other."

And Gran finally told them, "I'm tired of hearing about Bobby Lee.  You'd think he was going to do a double somersault and land in our rear.  Quite thinking about what he's going to do to you and think about what you're going to do to him."

I like that.

I the same way we should go forth, with the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit and let Satan be the one that's defending and scrambling and trying to withstand us as we move in God's power and in His will.

We are not spiritual soldiers holed up in a foxhole wondering if we are "going to make it!"

We are soldiers of the king with all of his spiritual arsenal at our disposal.

So today, I challenge you to not talk about surviving, talk about conquering - in His name!

That's the power of your testimony.  Praise God!

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Believing the right person

One of the feelings you will have from time to time are feelings of self-doubt and self-rejection.

While some of those feelings might come from sin or failures in our lives (we Christian types call that conviction from the Holy Spirit or condemnation from the Enemy) - we can project upon ourselves negative feelings that are of our own making.

We take in the rejection of those around us, we take in the rejection from the enemy and begin to believe it.

Satan and those around us can pound us with thoughts like:

"You're no good."

"You call yourself a Christian and you did that?"

"How can you even live with yourself?"

"You are crummy at what you do."

"You are a terrible spouse."

"You are a terrible parent."

"You are a horrible employee."

And what happens is that we begin to believe those statements and internalize and personalize them to the extent that it comes out in our thought life as:

"I am no good."

"I call myself a Christian and I did that?"

"How can I even live with myself".

"I am a terrible spouse."

"I am a terrible parent."

"I am a horrible employee."

Yet the answer always lies in not believing what other people say about us or what we even tell ourselves but what God says about us.

I come before God in all humility, knowing that He and only He has the true viewpoint of who I am.  But I must come in humility.

And as I do, God reminds me that in Him, I am a child of God.  In Him, there is no more condemnation.  In Him, I am a good person.  In Him, I can live with myself even with the mistakes that I make (for if God can forgive me, shouldn't I forgive myself?)

In Him I am a wonderful spouse and parent.  In Him, I am a good employee.

I come in humility, asking God to refocus myself on who I am in Him, and then recommit myself to relying upon His Holy Spirit to living and godly and productive life.

Just some thoughts for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Have you ever met someone that when they fail, they always blame someone else?

I have.

It's always somebody else's fault but their's.

Whether they blame their teacher, a parent, a coach, or a boss, it is always someone else's fault.

Unfortunately, this type of person is doomed to a lifetime of failure.

Failure is never final unless we let it be - unless we don't get back up, dust ourselves off and press on to other adventures.

However, blame, and the character deficit of always displacing personal responsibility will build a wall so high that even the most well intentioned of people can not overcome.

People say:

"I lost my job because of this person or that person".

"My marriage failed because my spouse did this or that".

"I failed at my job because of my boss, or because of the people around me."

Blame can lead to self-pity and a victim mentality.

People who fail (while not accepting responsibility) mess up and then they can blow up, or try to cover up, or seed up, or back up or simply give up.

They do everything but "wake up" and accept responsibility.  They fail to open their eyes, admit their mistakes and accept complete responsibility for their current wrong actions and attitudes. 

Here's what I know:  the characteristic of blaming is learned at an early age.

Kent Crockett has written:  "One day when my son Scott was two years old, I heard him crying.  I went into his room and my daughter Hannah, who was four, was there also.  A plastic bat was lying of the floor. 

"What happened to Scott?"  I asked.

Hannah answered, "He hit his head." 

"On what?"

She pointed toward the bat on the floor and said, "The bat."

"Where was the bat?"

She said, "In my hand."


Here's the good news:  what has been learned can be unlearned.

Wayne W. Dyer has written, "all blame is a waste of time.  No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much  you blame them, it will not change you.  The only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you when you are looking for external reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration.  You may succeed in making another feel guilty of something by blaming them, but you won't succeed in changing whatever it is about you that is making you unhappy."

So true. 

Part of living the Christian faith is accepting responsibility for our actions.  We can't blame anyone else.  When I sin, it is because I choose to sin.  When I fail, I need to look at myself first.

Here's a question:

Why not accept responsibility today for your actions, and then move on with God's power in your

Finally, Michael Korda writes, "Success on any major scale requires you to accept responsibility....In the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have is the ability to take on responsibility.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

It thrills my heart to continue to meet guests and visitors that come on Sunday morning.

Meet a couple moving here from Richmond, Virginia.

Thankful for the ministry that took place yesterday.  The subject was difficult (abuse) - but needed.  I am prayerfully anticipating some breakthrough's.

Really, really thankful for our worship team and Pastor Amanda.  I sensed God's presence in a powerful way!

Super Bowl?  San Francisco - Baltimore.  You read it here first:  San Francisco 31 - Baltimore 17.

I am grateful for all of the volunteers in our church.  Many are spending an enormous amount of time in service to God.  Please know that you are loved and appreciated!

Please be in prayer with us in our search for a new youth pastor.  We are giving a great deal of energy in conversations with God about this.

God has the "right couple" for us!

Please continue to pray for all of us on staff here at Stone Church, that God will give us wisdom and direction for the coming year!

2013 - A year of renewal and revival!

God, let your Holy Spirit fall in a powerful way!

Great Upward Basketball games.  Over 50 kids.  We are prayerfully anticipating over 100 kids next year - and starting Upward Soccer in 2015.

Come Holy Spirit, we need you!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

There is no place like home

Dorthy, in the Wizard of Oz, is famous for saying, "There is no place like home."

That is so true.

After a trip, or after a vacation, or even after a day of work, there is no place like home.

Have you ever thought about the fact that God has a home?

And that home is in  you?

God desire for a home is so great that He decided to build a home in us.

In you!  In me!

God's home is in us!

It's the good news for you today!

If you are being tortured by inner or outer fear, and you are looking, I mean desperately looking for a house of love where you can find peace and spiritual intimacy, Jesus says, "You have a home.  I am your home.  Claim me as your home.  You will find my home in you as a place of closeness to me.  I am right where you are.  I am in  your innermost being.  I am in your heart."

The more you and I realize that one fact, the more you and I can realize that we don't have to go far to "find God".

God lives in us!

So, peace, joy and happiness come from simply "going home."

Going to to where we belong and listening there to the voice that desires our attention.

Go home, today, my friends.  There is no place like home!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Occupations and Preoccupations

We live in a culture that identifies itself by its work.

What is the third question you ask someone after you meet them (the first being, what is your name, the second being, where do you live)?

"What do you do?"  "What is your occupation?"

And you respond by saying, "I am a carpenter".  "I am an accountant".

You see, the "I am" of our lives are wrapped up in what we do and not in who we are.

Ministering as a pastor is what I do, it is not who I am.

So, if you follow me, if a person's occupation is threatened, or if retirement draws near, a great fear can overtake a person.

After all, who are we when we no longer have an occupation?

However, I would suggest that even more enslaving than our occupations are our preoccupations, or those thoughts that fill our mind even before we get there.

Those "ifs" of life.

"What if I get the flu?  What if I lose my job?  What if my child is not home on time?  What if there is not enough food tomorrow?  What is a war starts?  What if the world comes to an end.  What if....?"

Most of our anxiety and fear in life do not come from our occupations but our preoccupations. 

Possible career change,s possible family conflicts, possible illnesses, possible disasters - all of these can make us fearful, suspicious and nervous. 

They will keep you in bondage and prevent you from living in freedom. 

We can begin to live in the possible negative future, instead of living, truly living in the present.

We live in the land of the "possible" and not in the land of the "present" and the "presence" of God.

Why not take a step back today from all of those preoccupying worries of the future, and just enjoy today - and the presence of God?

Jesus said in Matthew 6:34, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

God's unconditional love

Let me share something with you that is so simple, but yet so profound.  And important.

God loves you, not because of anything you have done to earn that love, but because He (God) in total freedom (because He chooses to do so) has decided to love you (and me).


In other words, His love for us comes down to a decision that He makes.

It is a "once and for all decision" in that God will never love you and more or any less than he does right now, today.

His love for us is not based upon whether we have done "good" today or whether we have done "not so good."

We tend to look at live as "if you do good to me, I will do good to you," type thing.  "If you help me, I will help you."

"If you love me, I will love you."

As a result, it is ingrained within us (at any early age) that being loved is something you have to earn.  Everything has to be worked for, even a kind word, an expression of gratitude, a sign of affection.

That's why people crave attention.  That's why some have (what Joyce Meyer's calls) the approval addiction.  It is all rooted in the fear that, without the perfect approval of those around them, they are worthless.

Here's the result (and please note):  A state of mind that makes us live as though our worth as human beings depends upon the way others react to us or treat us.

We allow others to create and mold our own self-image.  That creates a lot of frustration and emptiness in our lives because most people will expect more from you than you can possibly give (especially those closest to us).

Some people are harder on others than God is.

I would suggest to you that my self-image (or how I look at myself) should not be based upon what others think about me but upon what God thinks about me.

And how much God loves me.  In spite of myself.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Please be in prayer with us as we begin the search for a new youth pastor.

Teenagers are a priority in our church.

Our desire is to give an enormous amount of energy to finding the right person in the next few months.

God has the right person for us - the person who will lead and guide our youth for Jesus Christ.

There is a heightened sense of expectation in our services - our prayerful goal is to "ride the momentum" of our wonderful, powerful week with Allen Griffin into the next few months.

We need the Holy Spirit.

We need God.

We need a powerful moving of God's Spirit.

Many, many thanks to our worship team for their help last week!

Thank you for your faithfulness and ministry!

People need the Lord.

God always moves at the level of our expectation.

I was pleased at the response to the teaching yesterday - several shared with me that God spoke to them.

I present the word - but it is the Holy Spirit that takes what is taught and truly ministers to people.

Upward Basketball - it was incredible to see all of the kids and parents involved this past Saturday!

Met a lot of parents that I have never met before!

I encourage you to be in prayer with me for this coming year!

A season of renewal and revival!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Keep it real

For years, our culture has embraced the phrase, "keep it real".

We detest hypocrisy (and are hypocritical in the midst of our disdain of hypocrisy - for we are all hypocritical in at least one area of our lives) in others.

"Keep it real".

Don't be fake.

Don't settle for a substitute.

At the same time, I would suggest that nothing is ultimately "real" unless it finds it roots in God.

This was the great discovery of St. Francis when he suddenly saw the whole world in God's hands and wondered why God didn't drop it.

The Bible says that everything lives and breathes and finds its "reality" and meaning in God (Acts 17:28).

God is alive!  God exists!

My point is - that I find my reality in those two statements.  Everything in my life springboards off the idea that with God in me, with the reality of his existence and working in my life - I find reality, true reality. 

In our flesh, we desire to find reality in our opinions, needs and desires.

We are hesitant to let God be God.  We create a God of our own making.

As long as I do this - life is an illusion.

A "non reality".

Now a word.  Your thoughts, your plans, your projects, your ideas do matter.  All I am saying is that when I bounce everything off of God, and who He is in my life - I live in the true spiritual reality that God intends for my life.

I begin to see, hear and understand with a divine perspective, a divine heart.

So, what is the basis for your life today?  Politics?  News?  Sports?  Your job?  Your family?  Your emotional health? 

Or God?

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Thoughts and prayers

If you are like me, your mind is constantly racing.

Going, going, going.

We analyze, reflect, daydream or just flat out dream.

There is not a moment in the day (or night) when we are not thinking.

To use a biblical word, we are thinking in an "unceasing" manner.

And again, if you are like me, you just wish you could get your mind to slow down for one minute - it would save me from all of the worries, guilt feelings and fears of the world.

You see, that which is our greatest gift - the ability to think and reason - can be the source of our greatest pain. 

So what do you and I do?

Well, I would suggest that you (and I) turn our unceasing thoughts to unceasing prayers.  Turn that inner monologue into a continuing dialogue with God.

And peace will come, and joy, and happiness. 

In other words, we are to pray without ceasing.

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

I will pray for you

Have you ever said to someone, "I will pray for you?"

Of course you have - and so have I.

But do you and I have a full understanding of what that means?

To articulate to someone, "I will pray for you," means that I do my best to enter into their pain and pray from the place where they are at."

When I really bring the needs of others and pray for them, I mean really pray for them, I feel their pains, I feel their struggles, I cry out with them with a compassion that comes from the Holy Spirit working through me.

I guess what I am saying is that to truly follow through and pray for someone, I must have compassion for what they are going through.

When I pray for the world, I have compassion for the world.

When I pray for the endless needs of others, my heart expands and desires to embrace their needs and bring them into the presence of God.

But again, a word.  In the midst of that prayer, the compassion that comes is not something I "work up" but is God's gift to me.

It comes from the Holy Spirit.

I cannot fully enter into the pain of others, but God can.

I cannot fully pray for the needs of others, but God can.

God can pray in me.

And as God prays through me (by the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life) I can lose myself and really experience the love of God.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Powerful services yesterday!

Great spirit of worship.

People are coming expecting an experience with God.

Wonderful time around the altar last evening - praying for healing.

Physical healing.  Spiritual healing.  Emotional healing.

I really like Allan Griffin's humor.  He makes me laugh.

He said:  "We grew up in a poor home.  It was so poor we had cockroaches everywhere.  Our cockroaches were so big they mugged other cockroaches."

Funny stuff - but with a deeply spiritual tone.

Tonight - an emphasis on the anointing - we encourage you to come!

7:00 P.M.  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.

Tuesday night is pie night.

I heard a story yesterday of a woman who was going to a local store on Sunday morning.  She set her GPS to go there - and ended up in our Stone Church parking lot!

She decided to come to inside the church building (the first time she had been in a church service since 1993) and came to our first service!

Now that is God!

We really do need an experience with God's Holy Spirit.  I do - and I would suggest that you do also.

Great meeting with our youth leaders staff.  A godly, mature group of folks.

People need the Lord!  May more people come to Christ in 2013!

Here is a general rule of church life:  If you goal is to be disappointed; you will be.

God always, always meets us at the level of our expectations.

May God bless us this year with more, more of His Holy Spirit!