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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Key choices in life

I must admit that there are times in my life where I get discouraged.

When I do, I know that I can rely upon the Holy Spirit go give me encouragement.  To strengthen me.  I know that there are people around me who will lift me up, if not by their words, then by their mere positive presence.

However, many times, it comes down to simply this:  A choice that I make.

Life is full of choices, some of them "big" and some of them "small".

When I begin to lose my joy, when I being to feel down, it all comes down to a choice to move on, keep going and let God have His way.

Author Carol Kent, in her book, "A New Kind of Normal," writes this:

When despair tries to take me under....I choose life.

When I wonder what God could possibly be thinking....I choose trust.

When I desperately want relief from unrelenting reality....I choose perseverance.

When I feel oppressed by my disappointment and sorrow....I choose gratitude.

When I want to keep my feelings to myself....I choose vulnerability.

When nothing goes according to my plan...I choose relinquishment.

When I want to point a finger...I choose forgiveness.

When I want to give up....I choose purposeful action.

My word to you today?  Don't give up!  Keep on going!

God has a plan and a purpose for your life!

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I can't tell you how grateful I am to the Lord at the number of people who raised their hand in the second service - signifying that they wanted to start or (restart) a relationship with Christ.

Our worship continues to be lead by the Holy Spirit - anointed by God.

While we plan, while we work, while we plant seed and water, only God can bring in the harvest.

Father, may we see the fruition of our work!

May you show us your favor!

Debbie and I attended a life group leader's luncheon yesterday after the second service.

What a feast we had!  David Dewes brought children and ribs - "fall off the bone ribs."

Some of the best I have ever had!

Many thanks to David and Rick Maldener for leading this endeavor!

If you are attending a life group - try one out!

Life groups are a wonderful way of connecting your non-churched friend to Christ - and to Stone Church!  While they may not come (initially) to a Sunday morning service - they will probably consider going to a home for a time of food and fellowship.

We continue to receive testimonies of people reconnecting or connecting to Christ in our life groups!

Small groups are a venue where a person can relax, be themselves, worship God and share personal needs.

My privilege to dedicate three kids, "unto the Lord" yesterday.  I appreciate the responsibility that parents feel in doing this.

Symbolic acts have meaning as a person comes with the right motivation of heart and spirit.

Derek Rose needs to step up and play for the Chicago Bulls.  Now is the time.

Love you all......

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A life of trivial pursuit

Is your life a game of "trivial pursuit"?

Are you satisfied with the mundane?   The trivialities of life?

Can I give you a thought today?

We, as a culture, are amusing ourselves to death. 

But it is not just our culture.  We, as the people who have professed Jesus as Savior and Lord have also allowed our lives to become filled with the trivial.

Trivial conversations.

Trivial fights.

Trivial agendas.

Trivial reading.

Trivial praying.

Trivial views of God.

I am guilty of that and so are you.

It reminds me of a Seinfeld episode.  A show about nothing.  Dialogue about nothing.

Our culture is filled with people facebooking (yes it is now a verb) and tweeting what they had for dinner and what kind of hair day they are having.

Now there is nothing inherently wrong with that  (please don't misunderstand me) - it's just that it is replacing the important things of life.

God has not called us to live a trivial life. 

Our life in God is meant to be a great adventure with Him.  Knowing him, pursuing Him, living passionately for God and with God - caught up with God' mission for the world.

Discussing the important things of life.

That should seize us, compel us and burn within us so trivial stuff still exists, but it gets a much lower level of importance on our agendas.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Which eye are you looking through?

One of the axioms of life is that we see what we want to see - and hear what we want to hear.

We can hear - but not really listen.

And we can see - but not really comprehend.

Many times the negativity and sin of this world remains oblivious to us - not because we aren't aware of what is going around us - but because we choose not to see and comprehend - and then do something about it.

My dear friends, how long can we "turn a blind eye" to the sins of this world?

How long can we "turn a blind eye" to the sins of the church?

How long can we "turn a blind eye" to our own sins?

How long can we keep blaming and pointing fingers at others without approaching the fact that perhaps we are "turning a blind eye" to our own faults and failures?

The phrase "turn a blind eye," means to ignore undesirable information.  It means to live in denial.

It means to have Pollyanna view of life - that things are great and will only get better.

That's not to say that I am to become a negative person, not at all.  But it is to say that I can be realistically positive - and not turn a blind eye to the evil of this world.

I can turn a blind eye to what is going on in my family.

I can turn a blind eye to what is going on at my job.

I can turn a blind eye to what is going on in my church.

Where did the saying, "turning a blind eye" come from?

The saying comes from a 19th century British naval battle.

Kevin Miller writes:

"On April 2, 1801, during the Battle of Copenhagen, the British fleet was attacking the combined navies of Denmark and Norway.

Three British ships ran aground, so the admiral, Hyde Parker, decide that the fire of battle was "too hot for Nelson to oppose."  So Parker sent an order, thorough signal flags, that the younger admiral Horatio Nelson should "Discontinue Action" and withdraw.

When Nelson heard his own signalman relay the order, the pretended not to hear him.

Mesmerized by the thrill of battle, Nelson had no intention of obeying the order.  He turned to his captain and said, "This day may be the last for us at any moment," even as a Danish cannonball struck his ship's mainmast, scattering splinter all around him.  This was typical of Nelson's stubborn and aggressive approach to war.

In fact, he'd already lost sight in his right yes in a previous battle.  So when he pressed again to respond to Parker's order, Nelson told his flag captain Thomas Foley, "You know, Foley, I only have one eye - I have the right to be blind sometimes," and then Nelson held up his telescope to his right eye and said, "I really do not see the signal!"

Sometimes we are like that.  With one good eye and one blind eye, when an order comes through from God, we hold up the telescope to the blind eye - and we ignore the leading of the Holy Spirit.

We ignore the evil around us.

I, as a pastor and teacher, have the biblical, God-given responsibility to encourage and lift up the "saints of God", but also to remind us of the fact that we can't ignore our sins and failures.

I have been called to confront - but to confront in love.

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Throughout my years of ministry, I have met (and continue to meet) people who have either tried to intimidate me (in church life) or have intimidated me.

I remember a 4 foot 10 inch woman in a previous church that we pastored that scared me to death.

Intimidation has nothing to do with how large or small someone is, or how young or how old.   (Read the story of how the mighty prophet Elijah was threatened by the woman Jezebel.)

It has everything to do with a spirit that can overtake someone - a spirit of fear and intimidation that they use either intentionally or unintentionally.

Some of the characteristics of someone who walks in this spirit are:  Pride.  Presumption.  Pushiness.  Inability to admit wrong.  Insubordination.  Rebellion.  Sowing seeds of discord.  Hate.  Distortion.  Using people to accomplish their agenda.  Withholding information.  Withholding names.  Sequestering information (they seem to know everything about everyone).  Criticizes everyone.  Ignores people.  Spiritualizes everything.  Vengeful.  Uses the element of surprise.  Blindsides.  Gift giving (making you feel you are obligated to them)

The dictionary defines intimidation as:  to render timid; to inspire fear; to discourage; or, suppress by threatening.

Being that part of the culture in Chicago is a culture of fear and intimidation, that can easily roll over into the church.

How does intimidation come about?

Through word curses.  Word curses are something spoken over you by someone.  A parent can speak word curses over their children.  "You'll never amount to anything."  "You're no good."  "I wish you had never been born."

An employee can speak word curses over his boss or co-workers.  "They are a jerk."  "They don't know what to do."

A church member can speak word curses over the leadership of the church.  "A lot of people are saying."  "No one likes you."  "You are doing a crummy job."

On and on it goes.

Through your own perception of yourself.

You think if not say, "I'm no good."  "I am a crummy excuse for a Christian."  "I'm no good at my job."  "Everyone hates me."

Through being threatened

Here's what I know on this point.  When I give in to the threats and intimidating statements and actions of those around me - I surrender my God-given authority.

I lose the ability to use my spiritual giftings.  They will like dormant or even be taken away.  If I give in to fear and intimidation, God will send someone else to do what He is calling to be done.

I encourage you today:  don't give in to the spirit of fear and intimidation!

Know who you are in Jesus Christ!

Stop all negative self-talk.

Know that if God loves you and if you love  you - what does it matter what other people think?

Stop measuring  your God-given talents and abilities with others.  Someone will always be better or worse at something than you are. 

Pray in the Spirit.


Worship God.

Read the Word.

Live in the Word.

Hang around positive people.

Keep the ultimate goal in mind.

Realize, that at the end of the day, your reward is in heaven.

Stay strong, my friends. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I love the seasons - winter, spring, summer and fall.

I am really ready for spring and summer (a.k.a. sunshine).

Great spirit of worship in our services yesterday.

Many, many thanks to our wonderful worship team and Amanda!

Each week, I come expecting God to do great things!

Do you come each week expecting?  Or do you come each week evaluating?

It is a challenging question.

God always meets us at the level of our expectations.

Both the White Sox and the Cubs are in for a long, long summer.

I encourage you to bring someone to our Sunday morning services this Sunday.

I like the fact that our church is so friendly.

We continue to pray for a further moving of God's Spirit.

God, please send renewal and revival our way!

Thankful for a wonderful deacon board this year.  Great group of men.  Great team of men.

This Wednesday is administrative assistant's day.  We say a big "thank you" to Debbie Smith and Jan Winkler in our church office!  They are dedicated, faithful and are doing a great job!

Reminder:  please read through the book of Genesis during our week by week study.

Every person you meet is not all bad or all good.  We are all a mixture of good and bad.  Times when we are really, really locked in spiritually with God - and times when it seems like we are a spiritual mess.

In short, we are all messy.

I am thankful for God's grace and patience with me in the midst of my "messiness" - how about you?

Love you all.....

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Finding your niche and being the best you can be

Last week, when Dr. Bob Rhoden was with us for a leadership retreat, he made a statement that really stuck out to me.

He said (and I paraphrase) that not everyone can be a 8 or a 9 or a 10 in leadership (or in anything they do in life).

He said, "if God created you as a 6, be the best 6 you can be."  "If you are a 7 (in anything in life) be the best 7 you can be."

The key is to find what you can do, your niche, and do it to the best of your ability.

At this stage of life, I know what I can and cannot do.  So, I tell myself, "why not focus in - not on what I can't do - but on what I can do."  And then grow in that area.  And excel in that area, whether it be a job, a hobby or a ministry in the church.

That is not to say I don't try certain things or "fill in the gaps" when there is a need. 

For instance, not all of us have the gift of evangelism, but we can still share our faith.

Not all of us have the gift of service, but we can still do acts of service.

Not all of us have the gift of music, but we can lift our voices in song to God.

However, I encourage you to become comfortable with what you can do - and relax about what you can't do.

Click on this video of a boy who is trying to find his niche in baseball.

Many times our failures in one area lead us to excellence in another.
I remember leaving the game of baseball as a junior high kid (after being hit by a fastball as a batter) and picking up a round, orange ball and playing basketball for hours on end, playing in high school and college.
Here's that I leave you with:  Let your failures (what you can't do) turn into a positive by leading you into successes (or what you can do).
Just a thought for a Thursday.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Can I work my way to heaven?

This evening:  Romans 4:1-8.

Can I work my way to heaven?

In a recent study by leadership journal suggests that of those who call themselves Christians there are five kinds.

There are active Christians (19%).

There are professing Christians (20%)

There are liturgical Christians (16%).

There are private Christians (24%).

There are cultural Christians (21%).

Of these, only active and professing Christians said, "accepting Christ as Savior and Lord" is the key to being a Christian.  That is, more than 60% do not believe that faith in Christ is essential to salvation.

According to a Barna study last year, more than half of all adults (53%) believe that if a person is generally good, or does enough good things for others during his life, he will earn a place in heaven.

This misunderstanding of saving grace is one of the major reasons why Paul writes to the church in Rome.

We will see this evening that not even Abraham or David (Romans 4:1-8) were saved by their works.  Their good works. 

That is good news.

Let me tell you why.

We live in such a performance based culture, don't we.  Our self worth and value is many times determined by what we have done.  Our production.  Our profit.  Our performance.

The more we do and the more successful we are, the more value we have (according to our society). 

Some say, "I'm good because I closed a deal."  "I'm significant because I got straight A's".  "I'm okay because I got a big raise at work." 

I used to have a t-shirt that said, "you are only as good as your last game) - and the true nature of what I do is that I am only as "good" as my last sermon.

The challenge with that kind of thinking is that God isn't impressed by our outward performance.  God doesn't look on the outside; he looks on the heart.

Nothing is hidden from him.

We can't fool God by our performance.  He judges our motives, not just our actions. 

That's why, my relationship with God (and eternal life) is a gift from Him.  I can't "boast" about it.  I can't claim any kind of credit for it.  It only comes from God.

It's only through believing in the life, death and resurrection of God that I experience his presence, power, favor and love. 

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Core values

What motivates you?

What drives you?

Kouzes and Posner, in their book, "The Truth About Leadership" state, "You can't fully commit to something that doesn't fit with who you are and how you see yourself."

Most people will join or connect with a church that is consistent with their personal values, or how they look at life.

When someone new comes to our church they ask themselves:

What does the church are about?

What drives them?

What makes them happy?

What makes them upset?

What is their story?

We as a church must understand who we are, what we care about, and why we do what we do.

Below is listed the 10 core values of Stone Church.

I would ask that you read them through several times and assimilate them into your mental computer.  Please feel free to share them with those around you.

Core values of Stone Church: 

  1. It’s never too late to be who you might have been
  2. Pray like it depends on God and work like it depends on you
  3. Passionate worship brings us closer to God
  4. Creating community is accomplished through large and small group gatherings
  5. Being culturally relevant while remaining doctrinally pure is foundational
  6. Everyone is invaluable and irreplaceable
  7. Love people when they least expect it and least deserve it
  8. To be all that we can be, we must use all that we can use
  9. Reaching non-churched people is important to God and therefore important to us
  10. Helping the hurting outside and inside our church is the only loving thing to do

Monday, April 15, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Great weekend with Pastor Bob Rhoden.

What a man of God.

Subject:  Leadership.

Some of his thoughts:

You make a difference.  Modeling or being an example is the best way to make a difference.

Values drive commitment.

If someone takes ownership of the corporate values (of any organization) they are more apt to be committed.

Mission is what we do.

Vision is where we are headed.

Values are what we believe.

Goals are the specific points of making the vision happen.

If a person's personal values conflict with the corporate values - there is conflict. 

Conflict on any level (marriage, co-worker, company, church) comes when the way you assume something will happen is different from the way somebody else assumes it will happen.

When your beliefs or values are different from someone else there is conflict.

We can't create an anointed future by constantly looking over our shoulder to the past.

We bless the past - live in the present - dream big for the future.

Great spirit of worship this Sunday - especially after the second service.

Really, really proud of our Teen Bible Quiz teams.  Thank you to Bob Hong and Dawn Wolf for your leadership!

Met several new guests yesterday in our services.

Looking forward to continuing my series in Genesis this Sunday.

Let me invite you to our Wednesday evening services.  40 minutes of worship.  Then a 30 minute teaching on the book of Romans (verse by verse).  Then we worship again for 20 minutes.

Great time in the present of the Lord!

Love you all,


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Love, acceptance and forgiveness

One of my greatest responsibilities as a pastor is to first love and accept and forgive people around me, and second, to bring them to ministry readiness by teaching them to do the same.

Everyone, and I do mean everyone, stands in need of love, acceptance and forgiveness.

We all want to be loved.

We all desired to feel accepted.

We all crave forgiveness.

Here's what I know:  At Stone Church, when we "go after" the people nobody wants, God will send up people everybody wants.

Our desire is to reach the "no so togethers", the "non-perfect" people of this world.

Jerry Cook (a former Foursquare pastor) writes this:

"When love, acceptance and forgiveness characterize our lives and our churches, the Lord will send u people who need to be made whole."

He goes on to say:

"A pastor friend called me one day every upset at our church.  This was a brother I liked and respected then, and still do.  He was irritated because some of his people had started coming to our church.  I knew what he was talking about and I felt he needed to get it off his chest, so I let him talk.  At one point he said, "You know what you are out there?  You're nothing but a bunch of garbage collectors."

Jerry Cook writes, "As I thought about it, I realized he was telling the truth.  That's exactly what we are, garbage collector.  What were we before Jesus found us?  Weren't we all just garbage?  Jesus finds us and recycles us.  I mentioned this in church one Sunday and afterward a man who owns a garbage collection agency came floating up the aisle, all excited.  "That's supper," he said.  "Let me tell you something about garbage.  There's a landfill near here.  For 10 years we used it as a place to dump trash and garbage.  Know what's there now?  A beautiful park."

Finally Pastor Cook concludes:  "I've seen human garbage become beautiful too.  I've seen the stench of sin turned into the fragrance of heaven.  That's our business.  WE can't worry about what critics think nor say.  Where is God going to send the "garbage" for recycling if He can't put it on our doorstep?  He'll find a place.  If we're not open for business, someone else will be.  But we want to be used by God.  When love, acceptance and forgiveness prevail, the church of Jesus Christ becomes what Jesus was in the world:  a center of love designed for the healing of broken people, and a force for God."

Good stuff for a Thursday.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


We are going through the book of Romans on Wednesday evenings.

Paul writes in Romans 3:25, "God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement (speaking of Jesus)." 

The King James version used the word, "propitiation"

It means to "turn away wrath by offering a gift."

Pagan religions are built on the concept of propitiation, whereby a devoted person brings a chicken, a goat, a lamb, or a plate of food and offers it to his god (I saw this in Bali, Indonesia - where most follow the Hindu religion).

By bringing the blood of a chicken, the followers of voodoo hope to appease the evil spirits and turn away their wrath.

To use an illustration that is more culturally relevant for you and I, it would be as if a husband stops by a flower shop on the way home to buy flowers for his wife (after a horrific verbal "discussion"). 

He hopes the offering of flowers will turn away the "wrath" of his spouse and restore the relationship.

In the Old Testament (as we will see tonight), the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies once a year - on the Day of Atonement - bringing with him the blood of a bull.  When he sprinkled the blood on the Mercy Seat - the lid of the Ark of the Covenant - that blood was accepted by God as an "atonement" or a "covering" for the sins of the people.

I am, and remain, and will always be grateful for the sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross.  It is by that sacrifice that God's wrath against my sins is taken away.

How about you?

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Seasons of tempation

The past couple of years, there has been a Robin that has built her nest right outside my office window at the church.

She just came back today.

What that means is this:  Spring is just around the corner.

A new season has arrived.

I say this a lot (and have even blogged about it before) - that I am a big, big believer in seasons.

While you may or may not live in an area of the country (or world) that has seasons, life itself does.

There are seasons of joy.  There are seasons of sorrow.

There are seasons of victory.  There are seasons of defeat.

Well, you get the idea.

Life is fluid, it never stays the same. 

Seasons come and seasons go.

One of the seasons (that I didn't get to fully explain this past Sunday in my teaching) that we go through are seasons of temptation.

There are certain times and situations where you and I as followers of Christ are more vulnerable to temptation than at other times.

Satan knows this.

He studies you.  He studies me.  He studies us to find out what season is it where we are more vulnerable than others to his fiery darts.

Here's what I know:  It is important to be aware of the seasons of high temptation and be ready to defend yourself spiritually during these times.

Ask yourself:

When am I the most likely to be tempted?

What day of the week?  What time of day? 

Where am I most likely to be tempted?

At work?  At home?  At a neighbor's house?

At a bar?  In an airport or hotel out of town?

Who is with you when you are the most likely to be tempted?

Friends?  Coworkers?  A crowd of strangers?  When you are alone?

How are you feeling when you are tempted?

Tired?  Lonely?  Bored?  Depressed?  Stressed out?  Angry?  Worried?

One of the keys of spiritual victory in the midst of battle is to know when and how the enemy will attack.  Be aware of Satan's tactics, friends!

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Busy, busy weekend.

What a delight it was to watch our Teen Bible Quiz teenagers in a match with other churches. 

Our kids know the Bible!

I am 100% behind memorizing the Bible.

Our church team won State!

On to regionals!

I was extremely pleased and proud of them.

Thanks to all of our adults leaders as well!

Our district youth director, Paul Hinzman, spoke last Thursday evening to our youth group.  Great guy.

Title of his message - Stop staring!

In other words, we are to not keep our gaze, our eyes on those who lead us or those around us - we are to keep our eyes on Jesus!

God is moving in our youth group!

I was thrilled as I watched 25 or more teenagers worshipping God around the altar.

Again - many thanks to our GREAT leadership team!

It was my privilege to baptize 5 people in water yesterday (two adults, three children). 

One of the women that was baptized came to our church through the following story:

A few weeks ago, she had set her GPS to go to Nordstrom's Rack, here in Orland Park (on a Sunday morning).  Her GPS instead lead her to our church.  As she drove up the driveway to Stone Church, the GPS stated, "you have reached your destination."

She decided to come into a service (the first time she had been in church in 20 years) and has been coming ever since!

Praise God!

Wonderful testimonies from our teenagers as they went to Ascension convention - they are "on fire" for God!

God is moving - by His Spirit!

Father, we desire renewal and revival!

Love you all,


Thursday, April 04, 2013

Catching your kids doing something right

Parenting is hard.


There are seasons of great joy - and seasons of great challenge.

Now that our three kids are out of the house - I am an authority on parenting.  :)

Here's what I know (and this applies to anyone in life that you are in relationship with):  Catch your kids doing something right - and praise them for it.

While this is especially true during the critical two to four years of age - it can be vitally important during the junior high and senior high years (which can be brutal relationally) as well.

As our children interact with other children, it is inevitable that they will come across criticism, teasing and even taunting.

By the time they come home on any given day, the last thing they need is for mom and dad to add on to the constant stream of being putting down throughout the day.

Now then, I really get the idea of "If I spare the rod and spoil my child, that won't be pleasing to God."

We must never shy away from discipline as parents.

I get that.

But here is what I would suggest:  We must be slow to criticize and quick to praise (and by praise - I mean genuine applause from the heart).

Try to catch your child doing something right.

Years ago, Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson wrote the excellent book entitled, "The One Minute Manager."

The thesis was that as you enter and exit someone's life, you can, in one minute, leave them "better" than when you found them, leaving them with a sense of feeling good about themselves by giving them a quick, "you did good on such and such."

It's called - giving affirmation.

Instead of seeing your parenting role as primarily a matter of catching  your kids doing something wrong and making sure to correct them, why not take a fresh look at relating to your children and spend just as much time, if not more time, in catching them doing something right?

Everyone needs affirmation.  Everyone needs encouragement.  Everyone needs appreciation.

Even Jesus received affirmation from God the Father in Matthew 3:17, "This is My Son, Whom I love, with Him I am well pleased."

Now then, a word of caution.  Praise, but praise in the right way.

Your child must know that you love them unconditionally. 

That is so important, for if you only praise them for doing something right, then they will start to live on a performance basis, thinking, "If I do a good job.....if I get A's...If I hit a home run...then my parents will appreciate me."

That produces a lot of unnecessary guilt. 

So, here's the solution.  Bend over backwards to make your children feel accepted, first - and then appreciated.  Let them know that you accept them and then move on to appreciation. 

Josh McDowell, in his wonderful book, "How to be a hero to your kids" (from which I get a lot of this blog) writes, "I appreciate my child's effort more than my child's accomplishment, and I appreciate my child's worth as a human being even more than my child's effort).

Good stuff for you parents.  Praying for and with you!

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


Here's what I know:

The Christian who thinks everyone is a hypocrite but them - is a hypocrite.

We are all being deceived in one area of our lives (as followers of Christ), we all act in ways that aren't consistent with who we say we are - as much as we don't like to admit it.

That's what we will be looking at tonight as we continue our study in the book of Romans (chapters 2 - 3:20).

Paul is writing to a church in Rome that is filled with both Jews and Gentiles.  The Gentiles thought they should receive even more grace because they hadn't had the Old Testament law as the Jews did.  Their excuse?  Ignorance of spiritual things.

The Jews were thinking that they weren't as bad as the Gentiles, because they weren't as "bad" as they were.  Their excuse?  They were more "spiritual" than the Gentiles.

Both were wrong.

At the root of both of these groups was a feeling of judgmental ism, pride and finger pointing.

Paul writes in Romans 2:1, "You, therefore (the Jews) have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things."

It is hypocritical to judge others, without first of all looking at ourselves.

It is especially hypocritical to judge someone for doing the same things that we are doing.

A hypocrite says, "Mary is always criticizing others."  That, in and of itself, is a criticism of Mary.

We don't become righteous by pointing out the sins of others.

Someone once said that a "hypocrite is someone who complains there is too much sex and violence on their DVD collection."

Whom do you judge more - yourself or others?

Three takeaways that I am going to give tonight at the end of the teaching.

All three of them are "don'ts". 

My prayer is that we all (and that means me) learn to three principles and apply them to our lives.

Don't condemn in others what you do yourself.

This is clearly an enormous point in the mind of Paul in Romans 2 and 3.  The essence of hypocrisy is to preach hard or speak harshly against the very sins (in the life of others) that you commit in secret.  It is to excuse in yourself the behavior you condemn in others.

Are you practicing what you are preaching?  Are you living what you are saying?  Does your life match up to your lips?  Do your deeds match your declarations? 

Don't claim special privileges without accepting personal responsibility.

Religious people do this all the time.  They like to give advice, but they don't like to take it.  They like to talk, they don't like to obey.  They like to be first in line - they don't like to do the "chores after dinner."

The Christian life includes freedom but also responsibility.

Don't go through the motions without Christ in your heart.

As shocking as it might sound, there will be many church members in hell.  Why?  Because  many people are locked into a false religious confidence.  They trust in religion.  They trust in how long they have gone to church.  They trust in the ministry that they are doing - rather than trusting in Jesus Christ.

Just some thoughts for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Being polite; being nice

Here's what I know:

Being polite is not the same thing as being nice.

I meet people in the kingdom of God (and in our church) who are very polite.  But they are not very nice.

They are politely mean.

Some Christians have perfected this "art" over the years.

They know how to smile that plastic smile, and feign friendship and concern, if only for a moment.

They are polite and even give to others (or serve in a ministry) (Martha's - men and women - in the faith tend to be susceptible to this - they think that their service in ministry nullifies a bad attitude).

Can I give you a suggestion?

Just because you are polite - does not mean that you are nice.

People can slander - politely.

People can gossip - politely.

People can disagree - politely.

People can sit in a church service - politely.

And still be mean.

Meanness is most of all an attitude.  An attitude of the heart.

Have you ever heard someone say, "your attitude stinks?"

That can be more than a metaphor for what's going on inside.

Sometimes, I can "smell" people's attitude about life in general - from a distance.

I would ask that you pray about something:

Pray about being polite and nice - and the fact that just because you are polite - does not mean that you are a nice person.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.