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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

You are not "just" a volunteer!

Some Christians think that God kind of hangs out in the universe somewhere listening to some really good worship music and dialogues about the faith.

But the Bible teaches that God is at work in our lives 24/7 (He never sleeps) - all over the world - and is filling us as His followers with the appointing and the power of His Holy Spirit.

That filling has a purpose - to prompt and propel us to have an influence in the world that we live in.

It is as if God has work gloves on and He calls us to roll up our sleeves and join him in His kingdom work with our talents, our money, our time and our passions.

God's desire is that His mission becomes our mission.

His purpose becomes our purpose.

Do you feel that in your life - as much as I do in my life?

I desire to lay my head on my pillow each evening thinking that I have done everything I could (on any given day) to team up with God to change the southwest side of Chicago.

God has created you to be a world changer.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing like serving Jesus Christ.

Here's what I know:  As I serve Christ in ministry - I am ministered to - and as I am ministered to - I am changed!

Whether you are teaching a child how to pray - or guiding someone toward the faith - or helping a husband and a wife reconcile - or serving a meal to a homeless person - or producing an audiotape that puts the Christian message in somebody's hand - serving God not only helps others, it changes you!

As you know, I really like sports.

It is fun to watch a game.

But it is even more fun to play the game.

In the same way, it is wonderful to watch someone minister - but there is nothing like being a participant.

There is nothing like experiencing the joy and the pleasure of ministering for God.

I never, ever feel guilty in asking someone to minister in and outside our church.

Because I know that people who let God lead them to a place of ministry service find an incredible sense of satisfaction and joy.

So, I encourage you today - to find a place of ministry in our church.

Take baby steps of praying about what God wants you to do.  Experiment with a place of ministry.

You might feel scared or think that you have too little to offer, but have faith by taking that first step!

And listen, you are not "just" a volunteer!

You are a servant of God in ministry for the King!

Our church could not exist without the hundreds of hours given each month by our fired up volunteers.

There is not enough money in the world to pay for all of the good deeds that desperately need to be done in the name of God in our church and in Chicago.

Without the ministry work hours of volunteers, countless wounds would not be mended, mouths would not be fed, grieving people would not be comforted, broken marriage would not be put back together, lonely people would not be embraced and children would not be nurtured.

We need you!

You might say, "what do I have to offer"?

More than you probably think.

You have giftings and talents that you were born with - passions that inspire you.  You, perhaps have the blessing of an education.  You have skills that you've learned at home or at work.

You have life experiences that have matured  you.  You have pain that has developed you.

Those are powerful tools that God has given each one of us so that we might give out to others.

Our culture says, "Indulge yourself, fulfill your desires, satisfy your appetites, pursue pleasure, it's all about you."

Principle:  The true way to satisfaction and fulfillment in life is through servanthood.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said:  "It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A taste for something else

Most people hate dieting.

I mean despise it.

It is not fun.

So, as a result, most people are miserable as they diet.

It is difficult to not eat what you want and like to eat.

It is difficult to watch others eat what you would normally eat (and like to eat).

So here is what happens:  people who diet, spend all of their energy in focusing in on what they CAN'T eat and not on what they CAN eat.

And as a result, they become so irritable and frustrated with the food they have to eat that they can't lose weight, and eventually end of giving up the diet.

Why is that?  Because they do not have a taste for the food they need to eat in order to reach their goal.  They are only focused on what they can't eat and not on what they can eat.

What's the solution?  Can a taste for those things that are good for you to eat.

If you do that, you will naturally eat the right things and get the benefit of eating in a healthy way.

Spiritual application:

If you desire to lose the weight of the world in your life, focus on the good things of the Lord, rather than the bad things of this culture we live in.

Allow the Holy Spirit to change your "tastes."

Begin to develop a craving for the things of the Spirit, God's Word, spiritual conversations with friends, time spend in prayer.

Paul writes in Philippians 4:8, "....whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." 

Here's what I know: you and I can't force holiness and godliness in our lives.  It can only be accomplished through the Holy Spirit changing us and our cravings and tastes as well.

David prayed in Psalms 63:1, "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water."

Are you thirsty for God? 

Are you hungry for God?

Or the things of this world?

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Last Saturday morning, I had an excellent meeting with Howie Hansen and Leo Firanek concerning a men's life group for men over 40.

Here are some of the particulars.  We will be meeting at Howie's home, 7:00 P.M. once a month, starting on Tuesday, September 17, 2013.

Men, I would ask that you consider putting this on your calendars, and invite others to come as well!

Our desire is to use this as a tool (for the men from our church) to invite their non-churched friends to come to a setting where they feel comfortable.

Great having our daughter, Becky, with us over the weekend.

Lots of first time guests in the second service yesterday.

I love meeting new people.

I love to experience the excitement that new folks bring to our church.

In both services, I enjoyed (was blessed by) the expressions of worship from our church family.

We are all called upon to take ownership of our worship.

God desires your worship.  Your love for Him.

No one else can worship for you.

Thanks to our worship team for a great job of ministry yesterday.  Way to go Pastor Amanda!

We are all responsible for the information that we receive concerning God's Word and our walk with Him.

Perhaps you have heard hundreds, if not thousands of sermons in your lifetime.  You are responsible for the implementation of those sermons (thoughts, principles).

Jesus said in Luke 12:48, "To whom much is given, much is required."

For most of our church family, the issue is not more knowledge, but more implementation of what we already know.

I am very, very, excited about the fall for our church.

So many great events, plans.  Let's all continue to pray for a continuing move of the Holy Spirit!

We need you! 

You need the church!

Love you all.......

Thursday, July 25, 2013

One way windows and worship

Here's what I know:

Sometimes people, in any given congregation, think that there is a one-way window that is between the platform and the chairs or pews.

That they can see the people on the stage, but that the people on the stage can't see them.

Coming in late.  Choosing not to worship.  Bored with worship.  Not participating. 


Coming on time.  Choosing to worship.  Excited about worship.  Participating.

Please know this:  You are not invisible as you sit or stand out in the audience!

Those of us who minister from the platform do see you!

And we see and know who worships God and who doesn't.

But here is what I also know:

More importantly, God sees your worship!

And God wants you to know that he is concerned about your worship.

Not somebody else's worship.  God is concerned about your worship.  He longs to hear YOUR words of love, the expressions of YOUR heart, the groanings of YOUR sighs.

God's heart is drawn to you.


You might say if not think, "God has all the other people in the congregation today who are worshipping, he doesn't need my worship."

But God is not satisfied unless YOU are pouring out your love to him.

Don't expect someone else to do your worshipping for you.

And when  you do, your perspective begins to change.

There is a renewal of your mind and a renewal of your perspective until you begin to be lifted up in y our spirit above all the burdens and trials of your life.

If worship does anything, it lifts us up.  It lifts us up above all of the stuff of life.

It is so easy for us to walk into the sanctuary, the chapel, and when we walk in there, to be so consumed mentally with our jobs and our kids and our bills and everything else.

It is so easy to walk in and let all of those other thoughts begin to have command of our mind.

But as you and I focus on God - and fall on our faces before God, he lifts us up.

Peter tells us in I Peter 5:5,6, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Humble yourselves therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time."

As we begin to let go of our pride and bow down before God in worship, he begins to lift us up above those jobs and those bills and those heartaches and those broken relationships.

And all of a sudden, we begin to say, God is El Shaddai," or "God is all powerful," "God is Lord over my relationships, my fiances, my job, my health."

I encourage you today to take ownership of your worship - and know that God is watching - with outstretched arms of love.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Trust and temptation

Here's what I know:

I trust you - but I don't trust the tempter.

Author and minister Bob Russell writes:

"When I was a teenager, my mother had a rule:  don't ever bring your girlfriend to our house when no one is here.  And I'd always say, "Mom, why?  Don't you trust me?"

(That can be a tool your kids can use to try to deflect what they are doing or going to do).

Pastor Russell writes, "She always had the same answer.  "No.  That's too much temptation."  She did not say, "It looks bad to other people.  I don't trust her; I do trust you."  She said, "No, that's too much temptation."

Finally he writes, "I would act like I was really hurt.  My own mother doesn't trust me.  That's terrible.  I'd walk away and deep inside I would think, My mother's pretty sharp.  she knows what I'm thinking.  My mother believe in the sin nature - that it needed to be restrained more than my self-esteem needed to be boosted.  Otherwise, maybe I wouldn't be here today."

So with those around you, let them know that you do trust them - but you don't trust the enemy of our souls who is out to destroy us.

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The advice you didn't ask for

Everyone once in a while, someone will approach me and give me their advice (opinion) on an aspect of church life.

Some of the time it is helpful, other times it goes in "one ear and out the other", other times still, it is some form of negativism that it difficult to hear.

(I was sharing with someone today that the first six months in our new church facility I almost emotionally drowned from the unsolicited advice that came as to our new building - and how to use it.  It was a horrible season of my ministry life).

So, how do you deal with unsolicited advice?

I was reading about an article in the Wall Street Journal that summarized a series of studies which proved what many people may know from experience - that giving advice isn't always helpful, in any sphere of life.

Let's take marriage as an example.  Researchers at the University of Iowa conducted a series of six studies that tracked 100 couples for the first seven years of their marriage.

They conclude that both husbands and wives felt lower marital satisfaction when they were given too much advice from a spouse, as opposed to too little (some would call that nagging).

The researchers focused on a fundamental biblical principle:  serve your spouse, or put the needs of your spouse ahead of your needs.

Their conclusions?

Let me give them to you in bullet points (on how to give unsolicited advice):

- Make sure the person your are giving advice too (spouse, co-worker, boss, pastor) actually wants your help.  You do this by asking a simple question.  "Would you like some ideas on that?"

- Stop and listen.  Some times listening is even more effective than giving advice.

- Tell a story instead of giving a principle.  I learned that from a friend of mine about 10 years ago.  We would be in a situation at the church, and instead of telling us "what to do" he would tell a story from his own life or a story that he had heard - with the punch line being exactly what we needed to hear.

Now then, how do you handle "unsolicited advice"?

- Be gracious. 

- Respond with a "thank you," to acknowledge the thought.

- Share that they have "given you a lot to think about".

- Tell them that at the time, you weren't looking for advice.  This allows for the possibility that down the road you may want advice.  Then explain what would be helpful to you.

The key phrase?  Here's one that I use:  "you may be right."  That way you aren't committing yourself to their thought - either positively or negatively.

Just some thoughts for a Tuesday.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Many, many thanks to our staff for their hard work and time in ministry while I was away. 

I understand that both Charlie and Aldin preached effectively and well!  Thank you to you both!

It is nice to know that the "pulpit" is in capable hands while I am gone!

Looking forward to a great fall - lots of wonderful events coming up!

I want you to know, Stone Church family, how much we love and appreciate you!

Lots going on in the world - much to pray about.  Truly we are living in the end times - Maranatha - even so, come Lord Jesus!

I encourage you to be in prayer with me for the fall - Holy Spirit come to us in a powerful way!

Change our hearts, Lord!

I love Jesus, how about you?

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Signs you need to leave the church you are attending

I found something yesterday that was so true that I had to share with it with you.

Have you ever thought about leaving the church you are attending?


Many do.

Some go from church to church to church, seeking the perfect church.

BTW, when you find the perfect church, you will have to go somewhere else - because no one is perfect and you will bring your imperfections into that perfect situation!

Anyway, Pastor Nathan Rouse has written the following (Note:  It is written "tongue in cheek".  In other words, it is a sad, but true and humorous commentary on the reasons why people leave a church).

Pastor Rouse writes:

"There are a ton of reasons you should pick up and walk away from your commitment to your church family. I’ve narrowed it down to the top 5. Be on the lookout for these signs….If you see them get out!

1.   Someone offended you. At any point that you feel your feelings are hurt you should leave. Make sure you look for the subtle signs that people don’t like you: someone walking by and not saying “hi”, not being invited along with a group, not being thanked for something you did, a point in a sermon that made you feel uncomfortable, someone doesn’t notice that you weren’t at church because of the other hundreds of people in the room. If you’re offended it must be a good enough reason to leave. Go with that emotion.

2.   You don’t “feel” like you’re being fed. This is really important. You need to purposely forget that your pastor is moving a large group of people from across a wide spectrum in their faith experience to maturity. Make an effort to avoid other discipleship opportunities like Life Groups and classes. It’s completely understandable that you would blame your pastor for your lack of discipline in feeding yourself the Word during the week. Make it a point to have a view that it’s really all about you instead of investing in helping others around you grow.

3.   Your Son or Daughter isn’t happy there. In today’s child centered world this makes sense to leave your church if you’re child says they don’t want to go. What’s great about this one is it gives you an opportunity to model for your kids what you should do when something is not done your way: leave. Besides your child must know best….I mean they are the child. Whatever you do don’t teach them to adapt, appreciate the differences in others or model ongoing faithfulness. Get out before they plant roots.

4.   Your area of passion is not being promoted enough. If the leadership team at your church doesn’t promote your area of involvement you should find the nearest exit sign. It’s obvious that the reason the pastor is refusing to do this is because he doesn’t like you and not because he has a million other important plates that need to be spun. Here is your chance to read sign #1 and be offended.

5.    You made a mistake and a leader brings accountability. When you committed to follow the pastoral leaders of your church you certainly didn’t mean you wanted them to help you grow by holding you accountable. Who needs to submit? Not you! Don’t be sharpened by the experience or walk through restoration. Why should you when there’s another church down the street that doesn’t know anything about your issues and will welcome you with open arms.

(Important Note: If you decide to hit the door because of these valid reasons, make sure you share your reasons with as many people as possible.

Question: What’s better than leaving your church?

Answer: Taking People with you!)"
Just some thoughts for a Wednesday.


Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Preparing for God to move

We are praying for a move of God - but are we prepared for that move?

Are you, yourself, preparing for God's move?  Are you actively preparing yourself and our church for what He wants to do?

Or are you relying on others?

Are you relying on others to pray - to promote - to plan - and to prepare?

What if the catalyst for the next great move of God at Stone Church was entirely dependent upon you?

It is a challenge for you today: 

Get your hands dirty, get down in the trenches, fight the way for God's Kingdom to come rushing in. 

I encourage you to find your place so that when the wind of God's Holy Spirit blows again, you will be operating and flowing in the Spirit, right were He needs you to be.

You may have dreams and vision (for yourself and/or for our church) of the future, and that's good, but I would suggest that NOW is the time to aggressively pursue the call of God on your life.

You can't learn to play the piano or ski or anything else without beginning, practicing, taking lessons, and trying.  So what if you fail!  Try again!

It doesn't matter how old  you are - nor how young.  Learn.  Grow.  Plan.  Volunteer.  Dream big and pursue those dreams 

Separate yourself from those who are only dreaming about doing something - and then do it!

Get out of the rut you are in.  Get up out of the dullness of your life and purse with strength what God has given you to do.

I sense that you are dissatisfied with the direction your life is going.  Well, then, Let me encourage you that God's got something better for you, but YOU have to chase it down.

Be aggressive with the Spirit of God and begin declaring that you will not just "wait and see" how things turn out, but that you will do it.

Anyway, just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

We are so blessed to have Charlie and Heather with us at Stone Church as our youth pastors!

They have already shown us that they are hard workers - pro-active - and self-motivated!

Thank you Lord for your faithfulness to your people!

Scheduled most of our guest speakers for 2014 - some powerful, anointed preachers are coming to share!

Had a wonderful time at Brendon and Wendy's home - having dinner on Saturday evening.  Delicious food, wonderful time of fellowship!  Thank you Brendon and Wendy!

Many, many thanks to our choir that sang so beautifully yesterday.  Uplifting.  Encouraging.  Powerful.  Perfect songs to help us usher in a week where we celebrate the birthday of our nation.

Great job, Pastor Amanda!

It was a blessing to me (and by the word, "blessing" I mean an encouragement, a spiritual sense of satisfaction as a pastoral shepherd) to see the people of God in worship in both services yesterday - as we lifted our voices to God - asking Him to "give us faith," for the impossible.

God wants to blow through the "8 foot ceilings" of our lives!

Let's not put God in a box.  Let's dream big!

Thanks for your faithfulness in giving - especially during the summer time.

Looking forward to sharing this Sunday - Genesis 16 - "What to do when you are in a season of waiting upon God."

None of us is very patient - yet patience is a virtue that can only be ultimately achieved through the presence of God's Holy Spirit in our lives.

My desire is that we continue to seek after a powerful expression of God's presence.

Come Holy Spirit - we need you!