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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Shooting our wounded

My dear friends, are we guilty of shooting our wounded?

The church is an army, we are soldiers in that army, and we fight a horrific foe (Satan and his demons).

The battle is intense.  Satan wants to completely destroy us  - and our church.

I read this week where in Operation Desert Storm, more American Soldiers were killed by "friendly fire" than by the enemy.

I’ve often heard a similar statement made about the church.

"The church is the only army that shoots it’s own wounded."
That’s a troubling statement, but I’ve seen it proved true far too many times.
We fire at one another with criticism, gossip and slander.  We walk down the hallway, now paying attention to those around us – while the walking wounded, wounded by depressions, anxiety and fear, walk by.
We live in our own little world, our own little platoon, not caring about the other soldiers in the army.
Your life in Christian is not just about your own personal battles with the enemy.  We are to support one another, encourage one another, and "bandage up" one another in this battle.
If we are to be effective for the Lord, the local church must become a place of safety.

Did you know that your home is the most dangerous place you can be?
More accidents happen in the home than any other place. The air is more polluted and there are more potential hazards in your home than anywhere else.
Somehow this just doesn’t seem right. Your home should be a place where you are safe.

Likewise, the church should be a place of refuge and safety for the Christian.
Why not look around you this Sunday, go beyond the four or five people you talk to each week, and minister to the hurting.
Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Is God enough?

Is God enough?

It seems like that question has been haunting me lately.

Is God enough?

We know that God is more than enough to meet our spiritual, directional, emotional and physical needs.

We are people of faith.

We know that.

But what if our need aren't met - is God enough?  And what if our needs are met - is God enough?

God comes and speaks to Abraham in Genesis 15.  The context is that Abram is looking around at his enemies who have surrounded him and felt dejected that he hadn't made any progress.

And God tells him two things:  I am your shield, and I am your reward.

I that single verse (Genesis 15:1), God has given us the secret to the greatest blessing any of us (as followers of Christ) can ever receive. 

The Lord is telling Abram, "Go ahead and look at all those armies surrounding you.  Nobody can touch you because I am your protector.  Entrust your future into my hands."

He is our shield.

But he is also our reward.

God promises Abram a son.  And he says to Abram here, "You will have your son, and he will be a joy to you - but I will be the One who fulfills your deepest needs."

God knows all about human nature.

He knew that Abraham would have a great measure of joy when he got his son.

Abraham could then say, "God did it!  He promised this to me, and He kept his Word."

Yet God also knew that Abraham would not be totally fulfilled when the child came.  (Sometimes when we get what we want - we either want more or find out that it doesn't completely fulfill us).

God knew that Abraham would still have an inner hunger, a restlessness, an inexplicable need that no earthly thing could fulfill.

We do that don't we? 

"If only I could get this".  "Or go on that vacation". 

"Or have this person in my life."  "Or have this person out of my life."

"Then I would be happy."

"It will make my life wonderful and end all my problems."

No it won't.  Only God himself can fully satisfy our deepest need.

Is God enough for you?

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The bear and God's presence

Years ago, there was a movie that was simply titled (in English - the movie was French), "The Bear."
There wasn't much dialogue - just the life of a bear and its family.
Right near the end there's a beautiful scene. 
The bear cub is attacked by a mountain lion, and he's been backed up against a stream. 
The lion claws at the little bear's snout. The bear tries to bite the lion's paw and keeps making this high-pitched roar. 
Then suddenly the lion takes off. 
The little cub is on its hind legs making a huge victorious roar. 
Then the cameras swing round and you see the real reason why the lion fled. There's a 1500 pound bear standing behind the cub. 
What a beautiful picture of what it's like to trust in the Lord. 
He's right there with us, helping us even when we don't realize it.
That's my word of encouragement to you today - it might not seem like God is there - but He is - in ways that we might not understand until we reach heaven.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

Many thanks to those who came out last Saturday to help move some mulch on the church grounds.

I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day off to come and help us!

A special thanks to Amanda Boon, Leisa McNamara and Debbie Flattery!

Hot weather has finally arrived - you've got to like summer.

Several families were gone from our Sunday morning services yesterday - summer vacations are in full swing!

Excellent presentation by missionary Alan Pettinger yesterday.  I understand that he was a "hit" with the teenagers in the youth group bible class - sharing stories of being a missionary in South Africa.

My prayer is that teenagers will be called into full time missions service by having contact with the missionaries that come through our church.

God is still calling people to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ in other countries!

What a blessing it was to me to see men standing around the altar in both services - lead by the Holy Spirit to commit their lives to being the spiritual leaders in the home that God has called them to be!

May God help all of us as Christian men - to step it up and lead our homes, spiritually!

Enough of being spiritual wimps!

Remember:  People do what people see.  Much more is caught than taught. 

As a parent - your kids are watching you - and please know this:  you are much more of a spiritual influence and motivator on them than any activity that they might do in the church.

It is great to memorize the word - but we must also live the word as well.

Had a great staff meeting today.  Am thankful for our entire pastoral staff.

Okay, I have to admit that I am pulling for the San Antonio Spurs to win the NBA championship.  The play with style and class.

The sun has just about set for our White Sox.

Love you all......

Thursday, June 13, 2013

all we can do is love

Sometimes we are in a situation where all we can do is to love someone - that we love.
They make decisions that we don't agree with - or choices that are harmful to them - or experience circumstances or situations that are beyond their control.
And - there is nothing we can do.
All we can do is love.
That is hard for all of us.  We want to reach out and "make things right".  We want to turn the situation (or person) around for the good.
But in life we  will find ourselves without the ability or opportunity to do that - many times over.
All we can do is love.
As a 17-year-old Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy and Ruth Graham, was involved in a car accident. Speeding carelessly down a windy mountain road, Anne smashed into her neighbor, Mrs. Pickering.
Anne was too afraid to tell her father about the accident, so for the rest of the day she kept avoiding him. When she finally came home, she tried to tiptoe around her dad, but there he was, standing in the kitchen.
Anne tells what happened next (from her book, Wounded by God's people):
"I paused for what seemed a very long moment frozen in time. Then I ran to him and threw my arms around his neck …. I told him about my wreck—how I'd driven too fast and smashed into the neighbor's car. I told him it wasn't her fault; it was all mine. As I wept on his shoulder, he said four things to me:
  • "Anne, I knew all along about your wreck. Mrs. Pickering came straight up the mountain and told me—and I was just waiting for you to come and tell me yourself."
  • "I love you."
  • "We can fix the car."
  • "You are going to be a better driver because of this."
Anne says, "Sooner or later, all of us are involved in some kind of wreck—it may be your own fault or someone else's. When the damage is your fault, there's a good chance you'll be confronted by the flashing blue lights of the morality police. But my father gave me a deeper understanding of what it means to experience the loving, forgiving embrace of my heavenly Father."
Sometimes, all we can do is love - and maybe, just maybe, that might be enough.
Just a thought for a Thursday.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The world is a mess

Have you ever wondered why the world is in such a mess?

That's what we will be looking at this evening in our bible study (Romans 5:12-20).

You pick up the International section of the paper and read of terrorism and war and genocide.

You read the national section and you find political payoffs (especially here in Chicago) and lies and scams and churches set on fire.

If you go through the local section,  you are going to find rapes and abuse and murder and arson.

If you go through the business section, you will find scandals, fraud, and graft embezzlement.

If you even go through the sports section, you are going to find drug use, illegal gambling and adultery.

And especially, if you go through the entertainment section, you will find scandals and sins - to many to even mention.

Evil exists.  But why?  Why is the world a mess?

Paul shares that the world is a mess because of sin, and sin came into this world through the first man, Adam (who was a real person).

Paul writes in Romans 5:12, "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned."

The "one man" is Adam.

Adam's sin didn't just mess up his life, it has messed up the life of everyone since.

Why Adam and not Eve?

The Bible says in 1 Timothy 2:13,14 that Eve was deceived, but Adam made a conscious choice to sin. 

So, because of Adam's sin, sin is present.  The penalty of sin is death.  And sin is pervasive.

What are the results of Adam's sin?

Natural disasters and deformities in our world.

Physical decay and death (our chest begins to drop into our drawers)

Emotional distress and disappointment.

Relational distance and discord.

Spiritual discontentment and darkness.

How do I deal with sin?

Receive God's grace.  Receive Jesus.

Paul writes in Romans 5:17, "Through the sin of one man (that's Adam), death begin to rule, but now how much greater is the results of what was done by one other man, Jesus Christ?"

Receive God's grace daily.  I sin daily.  Therefore I must receive God's grace daily.

Why not pray something like this?  "Father, I thank you for your grace.  I want to be a part of the solution and not the problem of the world being a mess.  Help me Oh God, to accept, live and walk in your grace and forgiveness.  In your name, Amen."

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

revolving doors

Sometimes I feel that I as I go through life, that I am walking through a revolving door.

It seems like I am going around in circles.

I forget to get off the "merry go round".

Here's what I know today:  the purpose of a revolving door is to take you somewhere - but you and I must choose to go forward.

We must choose to continue our journey.

The revolving door is only there to facilitate our journey - it is not an end in itself.

Have you ever seen a small child in a revolving door? 

They love to go round and round.

But we adults know that going round and round is not the point - we need to get off and go on.

God has a purpose and a plan for your life. 

Perhaps he is speaking to you today to move on - get going - continue your journey.  Stop taking delight in the routine and ruts of your life. 

Be bold.  Be willing to risk.  Break out of that habit.  Leave behind that bondage.

Shatter the mold.  Dream Big.  Set new goals. 

And let me leave you with this:  A revolving door has to be pushed by those within it.  When we stop pushing, it will stop turning - but not until.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

It is absolutely wonderful to have Charlie and Heather with us as our new youth pastors.

I am grateful for a couple that are "on the ball" and sharp - knowing what ministry is all about!

I believe in my spirit that they have come to us for "such a time as this."

Heard reports of several of the older teenagers praying for other boys at Pow-Wow this past weekend.  I am thrilled that ministry took place - and continues to do so.

Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks for their win - pushing them into the Stanley Cup finals.

I've not taken the time to learn the rules of hockey - but enjoy watching the game.

Summer is now in full swing - I encourage all of us to be faithful to God and His church!

I am glad God does not take a vacation.

We do - and rightly so.  But God does not.

I am thankful that we can come to God any time, any where.

He will never leave us or forsake us!

We continue two work toward our goals - God show us the way!

I don't know why things in life happen as they do - but I do know God and I know He can be trusted.

We can't control life - or the things that happen to us - we can only go to God and ask him to help us be strong in the midst of the storms that come our way.

We are either entering a crisis, dealing with a crisis or leaving a crisis.

It hardly ever stops.

"God, we need you"!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Praying and writing

Is your prayer life boring?

Are you in a rut and routine in prayer?

Or do you not like praying because you say the same thing over and over again?

Let me give you a very, very practical solution to breaking out of that rut:  Write out your prayers as you think them.

In other words - journal.  Get a notebook (or anything like that) and write out your prayers while you are praying them.

The greatest example of this is in the Bible itself - the book of Psalms. 

In Psalms, David starts with a question.  For example:  "God, how come my enemies are prospering when I'm trying to live for you and I'm not making it?"

And then he waits and writes down God's answer.

Psalms is basically David journaling his thoughts to God.

That will keep you focused

Your mind won't wander as your pray.

That will allow you to remember what you have said to God and what God has said to you.

That will allow you to test a word that God might give you.  An impression.

And who knows?  You just might end up writing a book and having it become a bestseller!  :)

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

God and grudges

One thing I know:  I am glad that God doesn't hold grudges.

We tend to hold grudges like a pet cat that we are holding.  We stroke the grudge.  We feed the grudge.  We hold it up high for everyone to see.

We love to hear the grudge "purr". 

People around us will remark as to the size of our "grudge" (cat).  How is continues to grow and grow.

I am glad that God doesn't hold grudges.

This evening, in our bible study we will study Romans 5:9-11. 

Paul writes in verse 10, "for if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life."

In other words, if God sent His Son to die on the cross for us while we were his enemies, how much more will he do for us, now that we are his friends?

Good stuff.

A man died and was transported to the pearly gates. 
He was met by an angel who said, “All you have to do is perform one task correctly and you’ll be granted entrance into heaven.  It’s really pretty easy.  All you have to do is spell ‘love.’”
The man sighed in relief and quickly answered: L-O-V-E.”   The angel then asked the man if he could watch the gate for a few minutes because he had a couple errands to run. 
The man immediately agreed.  As he awaited the angel’s return, he saw another man walk up the pearly gates.  He recognized him as someone he couldn’t stand when he was alive.  In fact, he had incredible conflict with him for many years. 
Seeing who was manning the gates, the man became noticeably anxious.  The gatekeeper said, “Don’t worry, all you have to do is perform one task correctly and you’ll get in.”  The man breathed a sigh of relief and said, “What do I have to do?”  To which his enemy said, “Spell ‘chrysanthemum.’”
Aren’t you glad that there’s no human gatekeeper to God’s kingdom?  Flawed people cannot judge whether someone makes it or not.  The task that needs to be performed has already been completed by Christ. 
It’s through His blood that we have entrance.  We are justified by Jesus through faith, and we’re saved from wrath because we’ve been declared righteous.
I am sooooo glad that God doesn't hold grudges.
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Football and church

We desire non-churched people to come to our church.  We desire to be culturally relevant and doctrinally pure.

Here a great question:

What if we translated some of our "church talk" into common every day ordinary language so that the average Chicago Bears fan would understand?

That would help the average "Chicago Bears, non-churched visitor" wade through all of our God-talk and feel comfortable.

For example (let me give you the football term and than apply it to the church):

Blocking - Talking endlessly to the pastor at the church door and keeping everyone else form exiting.

Draw play - What restless children do during a long sermon.

End around:  Diaper-changing time in the nursery.

End zone:  The pews.

Draft choice:  The decision to sit close to an air-conditioning vent - and then complain it is too cold.

Extra point - What you receive when you tell me that my sermon was too short.

Face mask:  Smiling and saying everything is fine when it isn't.

Forward motion:  The invitation at the end of the service.

Illegal use of hands:  Clapping at an inappropriate point in the service.

Delay of game:  Someone who always walks in late.

Offsides:  A person who won't look at the pastor as he preaches. 

Interference:  A person who stands in the foyer and gossips.

Illegal motion:  Leaving before the benediction.

In the pocket:  Where some church attendees keep God's tithe.

Passing game:  The maneuver required of late-comers when the person sitting at the end of the pew won't slide to the middle. 

Quarterback:  What tight-wads want after putting fifty cents in the offering.

Running backs:  Those who make repeated trips to the rest room.

Anyway....just some thoughts so that people might feel comfortable in our services.  :)

Monday, June 03, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Great meeting with Stephanie and Eric this past Saturday morning.

I enjoyed talking about the vision of our church - and Christian music.

We are blessed in 2013 with a ton of wonderful Christian tunes to sing.

As you know, I really like the Christian song, "Revelation".

It is so important in worship to recognize the holiness of God.

Stone Church is a place to belong.  Grow.  Serve.

I really enjoyed Rob Rienow's teaching yesterday on the family.  Biblically based.  Great stuff.

Many responded around the altar for prayer for their kids and families.

"Training up a child" take place first in the home - and then in the church.

We all are to have a part.

What kind of legacy are you leaving as a parent?

Whenever our family members make choices we don't understand - their future is in God's hands.

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

Good to have Jan back from vacation.

Thanks to Debbie Smith for picking up the slack last week.

We are excited about Charlie and Heather being in town as of tomorrow evening!

They are going to "fit in" well with our church family!

I would ask that you remember to bring a gift card and a note of encouragement for Charlie and Heather, this Sunday, June 9th.

Why not bring a friend to one of our church services this Sunday?

I used to think I wanted to have "At least I tried" on my tombstone - now I want, "dream big or go home."

God, Paul writes in Ephesians 3:20, God do far more than we can think or imagine.

And I can dream some big things for God - but He wants to double that, triple that - amazing!

Let's continue to believe and walk by faith.

I don't know why things happen as they do - but I do know God - and I know that God can be trusted.

Love you all.....