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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Preferences and desires

Pastor Aldin showed me a book today that is entitled, "I Am A Church Member," By Thom Rainer.

We have decided to give the small book away to all of our new members (we will be recognizing our new members on December 8th - those are always exciting times!).

One of the chapters is entitled:

I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires.

Let me summarize the chapter for you.

Thom Rainer starts out by giving an illustration about his boys - when the were little -  fussing and fighting because they wanted something their way - without compromise.  You can't be around any group of small children without selfishness coming to the forefront.  Kids can be selfish brats at times.

Go back to the disciples of Jesus who had a tendency to fight with one another.  On one occasion (In Mark 9), the 12 were arguing about who was the greatest.- like spoiled children.

Thom Rainer writes, "Christians can sometimes act just like those demanding children who want things their way.  Temper tantrums in churches may not include church members lying on the floor kicking and screaming, but some come close.  But the strange thing about church membership is that you actually give up your preferences when you join.  Don't get me wrong; there may be much about your church that you like a lot.  But you are there to meet the needs of others.  You are there to serve others.  You are there to give.  You are there to sacrifice."

He writes, "get the picture?"

Instead of demanding our preferences, our desires and the way "we've always done it," Rainer writes that we are called to serve.  He writes, "we will never find joy in church membership when we are constantly seeking things our way.  But paradoxically, we will find the greatest joy when we choose to be last.....True joy means giving up our rights and preferences and serving everyone else."

Good stuff.  Challenging thoughts for all of us.

Jesus said in Mark 9:35, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all."

What are some of the characteristics of an "inward focused church?"

Again from the book.  Thom Rainer's research team conducted a survey of churches that were inwardly focused.  For the most part, they were not serving past their own walls and their own members. 

In other words, they were largely self-serving.

Here are the results of their survey.  The ten dominant behavior patterns of members in these inward focused churches (and I summarize what he wrote):

1. Worship wars.  Factions in the church wan the music just the way they like it.  Any deviation is met with anger and demands for change.

2.  Prolonged minutia meetings.  The church spends an inordinate amount of time in different meetings.  Most of the meetings deal with the most inconsequential items, while the Great Commission and Great Commandment are rarely the topics of discussion.

3.  Facility focus.  The church facilities develop iconic status.   One of the highest priorities in the church is the protection and preservation of the church's building and grounds.

4.  Program driven.  The problem develops when the program becomes an end instead of a means to greater ministry.

5.  Inwardly focused budget.  A disproportionate share of the budget is used to meet the needs and comforts of the members instead of reaching beyond the walls of the church.

6.  Inordinate demands for pastoral care.

7.  Attitudes of entitlement.  Demanding special treatment.

8.  Greater concern about change than the gospel.  Rainer writes, "Almost any noticeable changes in the church evoke the ire of many; but those same passions are not evident about participating in the work of the gospel to change lives.

9.  Anger and hostility.  Members are consistently angry.  They regularly express hostility toward the church staff and other members.

10.  Evangelistic apathy.  Very few members share their faith on a regular basis.


Paul writes that we are to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5).

We are to be servants.  We are to be obedient.  We are to put others first.  We are to do whatever it takes to keep the unity of the church.  We will not let our church be about us - but others.

I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires.

Just some thoughts for a Thursday.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A literal devil and God's power

Do you believe in a literal devil?

Being that tomorrow is Halloween, I thought I might ask.
Sometimes I wonder if pagans believe in a literal devil more than we Christian types do.
In an interview with New York magazine, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia explained his beliefs about the reality of the Devil. After mentioning his belief in a real heaven and hell he interjected, "I even believe in the Devil."
The interview continued (with interviewer in bold):
You do?
Of course! Yeah, he's a real person ….
Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He's making pigs run off cliffs, he's possessing people and what not. And that doesn't happen very much anymore … It's because he's smart.
So what's he doing now?
What he's doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He's much more successful that way … I mean, c'mon, that's the explanation for why there's not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament. What happened to him? He got wilier.
Isn't it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?
You're looking at me as though I'm weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It's in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.
There is a literal devil.
But here’s what he does not want you to know:
He is not omniscient. 
He is not omnipotent.
He is not omnipresent.
We respect the devil and his demons, but we need not fear them.
Why?  Because God’s power in us is greater than his power. 
A word of encouragement:  Don’t try to fight the devil on your own.  He is smarter than you are!  He’s had thousands of years experience in tempting God’s people!
On your own, you are no match for him.
But with God’s power in you – there is nothing that the enemy can throw at you that you can’t overcome.  
Greater is he in us – than he who lives in the world!
We stand in the strength of God.  We stand on what He has done for us at the cross.  We stand in the knowledge that Jesus is praying for us.
Jesus will not let the enemy overwhelm you!
You hear a knock at the door.  
“Who is it,” you ask.
“It is the devil.”
You say, “Jesus, would you mind getting the door?  I am not going to answer that door!  You get it, Lord.  You know my weaknesses.”
Here’s the word of the Lord to you today:  Rely upon His power and not your own ability to overcome the evil one.
There is a literal devil – but there is a literal God who is far more powerful.
Just a thought for a Wednesday.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Self doubt and rejection

There are moments in our lives when we doubt ourselves because of the rejection that we feel from others.

Yet, when those moments come, I want you to know that you can tap into a wellspring of love, hope and joy that is available to every follower of Christ.

The key is to continually go back to "who you are in Christ," and jump out of the projected and self-projected thoughts of who you think you are or whom others think you are.

The key is to go to Christ in prayer.

As I go to Christ in prayer, I go NOT to make myself better, or to "clean myself up" so that I am presentable to God, but rather to surrender who I am to Christ and receive the life that God desires to plant within my heart. 

I encourage you today to memorize Psalms 91:1, "He who dwells in the shelter of the most high will rest in the shadow of the Almighty."

When you feel rejected, when you feel those emotions of self-doubt coming on, run to Jesus.

Let Jesus cover you with His spirit and the knowledge that you are a child of His.

Don't believe the lies of the enemy, the negativity of others, or even those thoughts that beat your own self down.

Believe in Jesus.  His opinion is the only one that ultimately counts.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

One of the DNA aspects of our church family is the number of people who attend Stone Church from other countries.

Last Saturday evening, there was a surprise 50th birthday party for Cuthbert Anidobu at our church. The evening was filled with Nigerian food, wonderful Christian music from Nigeria and of course great fellowship!

I love the diversity that our church offers - more importantly - God loves diversity!

Happy 50th birthday, Cuthbert!

We love our Nigerian brothers and sisters in Christ!

Many, many thanks to those who helped out at our annual Trunk or Treat event last evening. 

It was well attended!

Children are a priority of our church, if not the number one priority!

Our desire is to be a spirit filled church.

Our desire is to be a family oriented church.

Our desire is to see people come to Christ.

Our desire is to see people grow in Christ.

Great time of worship yesterday.  If you get a chance at church some time in the near future, I encourage you to stop and thank one of our worship team members for their faithfulness in using their talents for the glory of God - and leading us in worship!

Thankful for a great office staff (pastors and administrative assistants)!

We continue to experience the "after shocks" of Nathan Morris' time with us.

God spirit continues to move - it is almost as if there is a new sense of interest in experiencing the Spirit of God!

2 Chronicles 16:9 tells us, "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him."

"Father, we are those people!  Our hearts desire to draw closer to you!  Send more of your ministering presence in our lives!"

Today, I am going to start a new Monday blog segment called:  "What I didn't get to yesterday," or those thoughts that I didn't get to share from my Sunday teaching (because of time).

What I didn't get to yesterday (from the teaching entitled:  "Dealing with Family Conflict".

Here is a story of how some people handle family conflict:

People find different ways to deal with family conflicts.  But a 25 year old Norwegian woman discovered a rather imaginative way to deal with her father, who had moved in with her after his divorce.  She's giving him away over the Internet.

According to a March 10 Associated Press story, Nina Groenland loves dear old dad, but having him as a roommate isn't working out.  So she placed a classified ad on the Internet looking for a new wife for her 52 year old dad. 

"Giving away my daddy to a good-natured lady in Trondheim," Groenland's electronic ad read.  "Daddy is tall, dark., slim and in his best age.  I'm sick of him since he is living in my house.  Furniture included."

"It started as a joke, but we've had one serious call," she said.  Adds the father:  I'd like to hear from American ladies as well."

Here is a story about wanting people to met our needs instead of Jesus Christ:

Ruth Graham, Billy Graham's wife, wrote, "I pity the married couple who expect too much from one another.  It's foolish to expect from one another that which Jesus Christ can be - always ready to forgive, totally understanding, unendingly patient, invariably tender and loving, unfailing in ever area, anticipating ever need, making more than adequate provision.  Such expectations put a marriage under an impossible strain."

Proverbs 11:29 tells us, "The fool who provokes his family to anger and resentment will finally have nothing worthwhile left." 

It is foolish to intentionally cause anger or resentment in your home.  It is dumb but we do it all the time when we are angry.  You live with these people all the time so you know their emotional hot buttons.

You know what will tick off your husband/wife/parents/kids.

You know if you push that button it is going to make them mad.

The bible says it is dumb to push those buttons, to make people angry intentionally, to intentionally build resentment.  It is foolish!

Steven Covey:  Seek first to understand and then to be understood.

In conflict - listen.  Because you care.  Because you might learn something.

Hurting people hurt people. 

The reason people hurt others is because they are hurting inside.

When we are ticked off - generally speaking - we can't see past our needs, our hurts and how we have been hurt and offended.

To resolve conflict, we need to make a mental shift from my needs to the needs and doubts and fears and interests of those I am in conflict with.

Just some thoughts from my sermon yesterday that I didn't get to.

Love you all......

Thursday, October 24, 2013

God's presence in a business meeting

If I could be slightly cynical for just a second, historically, Annual Business Meetings of the church (in every church in America) are times when the people of God lay aside walking in the spirit and walk in the flesh for a night.

Many come to these meetings like those who run to see a car wreck.  They love the thrill of seeing something negative happen.

That was not last night.

As I was leading our Annual Business Meeting last evening, I had an unusual experience in the sense of sensing God's presence and anointing in a way that is normally reserved for worship settings.

In reading the constitution and bylaws requirements for the meeting, I begin to sense and feel God's presence in a way that I have come to recognize as a powerful visitation of God's Spirit.   

At first, I gauged my feelings as to the natural anxiety of leading such a meeting - but then I began to recognize that it was God's anointing - and realized that the table where I was sitting (on the platform) was at the exact same spot where God visited me on Sunday morning when Nathan Morris prayed for me.

Powerful stuff.

Here is what I know: 

We talk about our praises as "sweet smelling incense" before the Lord.

Many times, when the anointing, or the presence of God visits God's people in a sanctuary or in a certain place, that presence, that Skekinah glory, will linger.  The "smell" of the fragrance of God's anointing will continue to permeate.

As a church family, we meet for about 30 - 35 minutes, conducting the business of the church - made an appeal for adjournment - and then came down and worshipped God.

It was moving to me to see God's people hungry for more of God's presence.

My dear church family - God is moving.

Can I encourage you again to come expecting this Sunday?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

God offends the mind to reveal the heart

Usually, after a worship service of the intense spiritual magnitude that we experienced this past weekend - I receive letters or emails asking questions as to "what was in order" or "what was out of order."

For whatever reason, this week, I have not received one question.

That's not to say that questions are not "out there".  I would assume there are.

I would also assume (knowing followers of Christ as I do) that some were perhaps "offended" or minimally, "troubled" by some of the manifestations of God's Spirit last weekend.

I can remember that in our last place of ministry, God was moving in a powerful way.  The altar area of our church looked like a spiritual battlefield.  People lying around, praising God, slain in the spirit.

A dear saint of God (actually, he was a retired minister) waited in the back, as I was praying for people in the altar area, waiting to make eye contact with me - and once there was that connection - he purposefully walked out the door and never came back. 

Many times, Christians will take offense at the way God moves.

Why is that?

Well, many times God offends our mind in order to reveal our heart.

We determine the ways that God moves as "out of the ordinary" or "beyond human comprehension," or "out of order."

Sounds like God to me.  Out of the ordinary.  Beyond human comprehension.  Out of order.

Can I tell you something about the Holy Spirit?

He is not concerned about your reputation.

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit didn't do much to enhance the respectability of the people in the Upper Room.

Peter says in Acts 2, "These men are not drunk, as you think them to be."

With my sanctified imagination, I can perceive Peter preaching his Acts 2 sermon while still under the anointing and power (and perhaps laughter) of heaven. 

Peter preached to the Pharisees, who were deeply offended.

They mocked the followers of Jesus by saying, "they are full of new wine."  In other words, "what they are doing seems to be out of order."

Secondly, the Holy Spirit will intentionally offend people.

Paul writes that man would be offended (1 Corinthians 1:21-23) by the foolishness of the gospel message.

Why does God do this?

Because he knows our hearts.  He knows those who follow him with mixed motives.  So in order to reveal their hearts - he will intentionally offend their minds.

By offending people's minds with His ways, God reveals the pride that lies hidden in our hearts.

What am I saying? 

Let me put it as perhaps Jesus would:

Blessed are those who are not offended by the moving of the Holy Spirit - for they shall connect with God.

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Experiencing God's presence

What we experienced last weekend was God's presence.

I was grateful for Nathan Morris praying with and for me at the end of the service Sunday.

There was a definite sense of God's presence on my life.

At the same time, BEFORE the service started, we were sitting in the conference room of the church - and Nathan came over and "laid hands on me" in prayer and prayer with and for me.

It has been around 13 years since I have felt God's presence like that.

I am grateful and humbled by that visitation of God's Holy Spirit.

Now then, I need, or rather I feel prompted to explain what I mean by the word "felt."

Feeling God's presence is different from feeling any other kind of physical emotion that we might experience.

Paul writes in Romans 8:16, "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children."

God's spirit speaks to my spirit, giving me the assurance that I am a child of God.

Paul also writes in Philippians 4:7, "and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

It is a peace that Jesus gives. 

This peace is not generated from our human emotions but from the Spirit of Christ.

This is what many of us (dare I say most of us - even as Pentecostals) do not get.  Too often people think that the witness that Romans 8:16 talks about is a physical something.

It is not.

It is a spiritual something.

It is the Holy Spirit connecting with my spirit.  He does not testify to my body - but my human spirit.

In life, you and I cannot go by physical feeling - especially in this area of "experiencing God's presence."

This "inner witness type of connection of the Holy Spirit" is a thing that you sense, not in your physical body and not in your emotions.

It has nothing to do with physical feelings.  The inner witness has to do with your spiritual feelings within your spirit.

That takes many years of prayer and practice before the average Christian can distinguish between the two.

You begin to recognize the difference between a godly joy and a joy that comes from your circumstances being perfect.

You begin to recognize the difference between a peace that comes from "perfect circumstances" and a peace that comes no matter what the circumstances are.

Let me give you an example of that. 

When a Christian is hurt by another person, they may feel angry, rejected and wounded by their human feelings.

However, in their human spirit, the Holy Spirit can give them an inner witness of peace and joy to guide them to forgive and love this person that has hurt them.  It is a feeling that transcends the human emotion of resentment and hurt and anger.

Or, conversely, a Christian person may feel very peaceful and joyful in their physical feelings about buying a new car.

However, in their human spirit, they may at the same time have an inner witness of a lack of peace or an uneasiness from the Holy Spirit.  God may be giving them this lack of peace because they may know that the money that would be spent on a new car is needed for some other purpose.

Here's the principle:  You and I as followers of Christ should not do what our human emotions tell us to do but what the Holy Spirit tells us to do.

In encourage you this Sunday, to come expecting God to move in your spirit, by His Holy Spirit.  I encourage you to not try to "work up some kind of emotion" but let God's Holy Spirit touch your human spirit - and lift you once again into the glory of God!

Come Holy Spirit we need you!

We desire more of your presence and power!

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

Wonderful, powerful, anointed services over the weekend!

It was an "exclamation point" type weekend!

Both Saturday evening and Sunday morning were life changing - I pray - for everyone who attended.

People are hungry for God's presence!

We do need more of God!

May His fire fall on us!

Many, many thanks to our worship team for their faithful service in leading us in worship.  Thanks for taking us to the throne room of God!

God is moving - our prayer and desire is to ride that Holy Spirit momentum!

God's presence is to be emotionally experienced as well as theologically understood.

A mature Christian walks in God's Spirit - while understanding that the foundation of what God is experienced is God's Word.

The goal of the manifestations that we saw and experienced yesterday is transformation.  And the glorification of the name of Jesus.

We encourage you to come expecting this Sunday!  God always moves on the level of expectation that we desire.

Our expectations were high this past Sunday - let's come with those same expectations this coming Sunday!

The experience of God's Spirit is an intangible that cannot be explained. 

It is, as Paul writes, as "foolishness to those who are perishing (speaking of the message of the Cross), but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God."  (1 Corinthians 1:18).

We are all afraid of those things we can't fully explain.

I enjoyed worshipping with the body of Christ yesterday.

From my blog (December 2, 2010).....I write:

"One of the things I do is to answer questions that are emailed me - questions pertaining to the Bible, theology and practical Christian living.

I thought I might share one with you today.

I was asked:

"In regards to orderly worship, in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul explains that there should be at most 3 people speaking in tongues at one time, taking turns, and that there must be an interpreter.

Obviously, the Pentecostal Church does not necessarily follow this guideline.

At Stone there are many times when numerous people are praying out load in tongues. How do we justify this as we are aware of Paul's teachings?"

Here is my response:

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul is speaking of tongues as prophecy.

When he writes or teaches about tongues as prophecy (prophecy is the sense of forth telling and not fore telling) he encourages the body of Christ to have at the most three, one at a time, and interpreted each time.

That would be distinguished from tongues as praise.

When we, as a congregation, are in the act of corporate praise, than praising God with our spiritual language(s), as a church family is very appropriate and interpretation is not needed.

A disclaimer: Sometimes the lines and distinctions between the two over lap. For instance, tongues as prophecy can include praise. And out of a time of praise (using the gift of tongues as worship) the use of tongues as prophecy can spring forth.

That's why I love worshipping in the Holy Spirit. While there are guidelines, we never know how God is going to move.

May we all enter in to worship this Sunday - and walk in the freedom that He desires for us!"

Expecting great things.

Love you all.....

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Walking in fear and trusting in God

I must admit that there are times when I am anxious and walk in fear.

When those times come, I know to tell myself that every person who has ever done something for the Lord will experience feelings of uneasiness as to the future - and what is going on in the present.

We know that "God is in control," and "all things work together for God."

We believe in the promises of God.

Yet we still have times of doubt and worry and well, just outright fear of what might take place.

During those times, I try to do the following:

Immerse myself in scriptures that build my "spirit man" up.

2 Timothy 1:7 is one that we talk a lot about at Stone Church, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."

I also make it a point to hang out with "firelighters," or those people who when I am around them I want to put on a t-shirt that has a big "S" on it for Supernatural.

I leave there presence afraid of nothing, especially the enemy and his attacks.

I like to be with people who despite their own fears and worries - are trusting in God.

But I also fill my mind with stories like the one below

It exemplifies the attitude we should have when those anxious moments come - that we can stand firm in our faith.

We need to be like the 84 year old grandmother who fiercely maintained her independence and lived alone in the family home.

Her 4 children lived in the same town, but she rarely called them except in emergencies.  It was with some apprehension, therefore, that one of her sons drove to her house one morning in answer to her phone call.

When he arrived, she said she suspected that there was a burglar in her bedroom closet, since she had heard noises in there the night before.

"Why didn't you call me last night?" he exclaimed.

"Well," she replied, "it was late and I hated to bother you, so I just nailed the closet shut and went to bed."

That's the kind of attitude we can have when faced with anxious moments in our lives.

Nail the door of fear shut and go to bed in calm assurance.

I encourage you, as you go to sleep this evening, give your worries to God - he's going to be up all night anyway.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Using a pencil instead of an pen

Here's what I know:  When we sin - God always writes down our sins with a pencil and not a pen.

Paul writes in Romans 8:1,2 (Which we will look at in tonight's bible study):

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death."

There is no condemnation in Christ.  To those in Christ.

Sometimes we are harder on ourselves than God is.

I read a story today in which the author writes, "One day, while I was grieving over some past failures, I received a letter from a friend who told me how she and her granddaughter had been watching a plane sky write.  The little girl was puzzled when the words began disappearing, but suddenly piped up, "Maybe Jesus has an eraser!"

In her innocent wisdom I realized that just as skywriting disappears, Jesus wipes away all things I so bitterly regret.   No matter how much we mature as Christians, and try desperately to compensate, memories of our own failure can rise up and haunt us.  But with God's forgiveness, they will fade away - and Jesus does have an eraser."

I am very grateful today that when I sin, Jesus always writes down my sin with a pencil and not a pen.  His love is unconditional. 

So why not exchange your perfectionism for His peace today?

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sometimes you get what you ask for

To a certain extent, I am really grateful that God has many times NOT given me the desire of my heart.

He knows what is best for me far more than I do.

Here's what I know:  Sometimes when people finally get what they want and long for - it is not all that it is cracked up to be

In fact, it can even be detrimental to their spiritual, emotional and physical health.

There is the story of a fly that was buzzing along one morning when he saw a lawn mower someone had left out in their front yard.  He flew over and sat on the handle, watching the children going down the sidewalk on their way to school.

One little boy tripped on a crack and fell, spilling his lunch on the sidewalk.  He picked himself up, put his lunch back in the bag and went on.  But he missed a piece of bologna.

The fly had not eaten that morning and he was very hungry.  So he flew down and started eating the bologna.

In fact, he ate so much bologna that he could not fly, so he waddled across the sidewalk, across the lawn, up to the wheel of the lawn mower, up the handle, and sat there resting and watching the children.

There was still some bologna laying there on the sidewalk.  He was really stuffed, but that baloney sure did look good.

Finally temptation got the best of him and he jumped off the handle of the lawn mower to fly over to the baloney.  But alas, he was too full to fly and went splat!!! - killing him instantly.

The moral of the story:  Don't fly off the handle when you are full of baloney.

There is a dark side to us - that is a reckless as the fly.

It doesn't matter, seemingly, what the cost are, we just HAVE TO have it. 

Our carnal nature is like that, so full of baloney, that we can't see it and we fly off the handle, thinking we can handle it all and in the end - we end up splat!

My word today?  Be careful what you ask for - you just  might get it.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

First of all, let me give a big shout out to those who came and ministered Saturday morning by going door to door - leaving door hangers behind which share about our church.

It is all part of the bigger picture of "getting the word out" about our church.  More and more people in our area are beginning to find us - it is exciting!

It was also fun to watch whole families come to participate in this ministry.  Parents bringing their children.  What a wonderful way to "coach" your children about the spiritual needs of others - by bringing them with you - and going door to door - letting people know about Jesus!

A big hand clap for all of your parents!

Beautiful fall days we are having.  I love it.  Looking out my window here at the church I can see the leaves beginning to turn. 

It is a wonderful time of the year - sweater weather is coming!

Thanks so much to all of the encouraging words about the teaching yesterday.  It thrills me that God is giving us a big, big vision - with goals to match!

God is doing a new thing!  God is going to do a spiritual thing in our community!

Let me give you the word picture that God gave me last Saturday morning - concerning our church.

Here's what I said (you can listen to the entire message - with the goals of our church - on our church website):

"In years past, we have been like a big jumbo jet, floating through the sky.  Tremendous things took place in the past.  Much ground was covered.  Now, since we have relocated, we are like a smaller, modern jet - just ready to take off - the engine is running.

It's taken us 3 years to do all the flight checks and acclimate the passengers to the new plane.

Some have come on board since we have been here.  Some have gotten off board.  Some are thrilled to take the flight with us - and yes - some are complaining about the trip.

Here's the word of the Lord:  We are just about ready to fly through the skies.  God is just about ready to do a new thing!  A Spiritual thing.  A supernatural thing!"

I also quoted from Haggai 2:9, "The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house," says the Lord almighty."  "And in this place I will grant peace," declares the Lord Almighty."

May it be so, Lord!

May it begin this coming weekend with our revival services!

Love you all......

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Potential and your child

One of my favorite things to do as a pastor is to visit parents who have just had a baby.

The hospital room is always a place of joy and celebration.

The parents are filled with happiness and anticipation!

There is such hope and expectation for the child!

Good times.  Happy times!

If there is one word that could possibly summarize this season of child rearing - it is the word potential.  The "sky's the limit" as far as a mom and dad's hopes are for the potential of their newborn.

But then, as the child gets older and moves from the maternity ward to junior high school and then to those "wonderful" teenage years, the hopes and expectations of most parents can be eroded.

You live with your child, mom and dad, day in and day out, through the bad times as well as the good - and begin to realize that they are human beings just like the rest of us, with strengths and weaknesses.

How can you recapture the dreams that you once had for your children? 

If you don't read any farther - know this:  See your child not as he/she is, but as he/she can be.

Every child has room to improve.  Every child has potential that they have never even touched.

That's what you can do as a parent - work to help unlock your child's potential.

Help them be the people God created them to be.

God has a plan and a purpose for your child's life (and realize that it might not be your plan and purpose for their lives but God's plan and purpose - we are to train up our children in the way they should go).

Disclaimer:  You are not ultimately responsible for your child in reaching his/her potential.  They are to make the decisions that will affect their lives.  But you can help them unlock their own potential by encouraging them and moving them in the right direction.

That's a principle in our walk with God - God never looks at us as we are but as we can be - in Him.  God never gives up on us - especially when we fail.

You don't think that Jesus saw the potential in Simon Peter when he was standing by the seashore, fishing?

Most people thought of Simon as a "pebble".  God saw him as a "rock".  The "rock" that would lead his church.  Jesus said, "Follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men."

So, I encourage you to encourage your child to dream.  To reach for new heights.

Here's what I know:  it is not what they are that holds your child back from reaching their potential, it is what they think they are not.

If your child sees themselves as a failure - they will act as a failure.  They will fail.  If they believe they have little to offer the world, they will contribute nothing.

No person can act in a way that is inconsistent with the way they see themselves - especially children

Your child will only go as far as the image they have of themselves - specifically in Christ.  Let your child know that with Christ, they can do all things.

Speak positive blessings over your child.  Speak creatively to your child.  Discipline them when they fail.  Teach them to accept responsibility.  And then - lift them up with love and encouragement.

Some "bullet point" lessons to teach your child to help them  reach their potential:

1.  Pay before you play. 

2.  Pick your friends wisely.

3.  Minimum effort will never bring forth maximum results.

4.  If you fail - get up and try again.

5.  Don't always expect the experts to be right.

     Beethoven's music teacher said about him, "As a composer he is hopeless."

     When Thomas Edison was a young boy, his teachers said he was so stupid that he could never
     learn anything.

     Walt Disney was once fired by a newspaper editor because he was thought to have "no good

6.  You can never go wrong doing the right thing.

7.  Make your choices wisely - they have consequences both good and bad.

8.  I trust you - but I don't trust the devil and his temptations.

Just some thoughts for a Thursday 

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Walking in the spirit, not the flesh

This evening, we are studying the wonderful, classic passage of Paul in Romans 7:15-25. 

It is basically an autobiography of Paul’s struggle with sin.  As you read the passage (and I encourage you to read the entire passage today), notice how many times Paul uses the pronoun, “I”.
Paul speaks of wrestling with his carnal nature; his tendency to sin.
Here’s what I know:
The Christian life is not hard; it is impossible – if I am trying to walk in the Spirit on my own.  Using my own will power.
There’s the true story of a Christian who was driving home from work each day and had the temptation to stop at a certain bar, but he knew he’d stay too long and his family would get made over his drinking too much.
So to keep from going in, as soon as he got into his car, he’d pull of his shoes and socks, because you don’t ever go into a bar without shoes and socks on.  Then he’d pull off his tie, and he’d pull of his shirt, and he’d be saying to himself, “Now I can’t go into the bar.”
But as he drove down the Pasadena freeway from Los Angeles, he’d get to about Avenue 64 and he’d be pulling at his socks; and as he kept driving he’d be toeing his way into his does.  On would go his shirt, and when he go to the bar he’d go on.
Why?  Because, as Paul says,  “What I hate I do.”
Here is one of the principles we will look at this evening:
Your Christian life was begun by grace and it must continue by grace.
Every Christian must experience the “second crash.”  The first “crash” came when you saw you were spiritually bankrupt, a sinner with no righteousness to present to god on your own. 
The “second crash” comes when you see you can’t even live the Christian life on your own.  You need God’s help.
Watchman Nee writes, “Living in the Spirit means that I trust the Holy Spirit to do in me what I cannot do myself.”
It is not a case of trying but of trusting; not of struggling but of resting in God.”
If you have a temper, or impure thoughts or a quick tongue or a critical spirit, you can’t change yourself with your own will power, but your must consider yourself dead in Christ to these thing and look to the Holy Spirit to produce in you the needed fruit that you need in your life.
When you are struggling with the flesh - the Holy Spirit will see you through.
The object of temptation is always to get us to do something.
Watchman Nee writes, “During the first three months of the Japanese war in China we lost a great many tanks, and so were unable to deal with the Japanese armor, until the following scheme was devised.  A single shot would be fired at a Japanese tank by one of our snipers in ambush.  After a considerable lapse of time the first shot would be followed by a second; then, after a further silence, by another shot; until the tank driver, eager to locate the source of the disturbance, would pop his head out to look around.  The next shot, carefully aimed, would put an end to him.  As long as he remained under cover he was perfectly safe.”
The whole idea was to get the soldier to come out into the open.
In the same way, Satan’s temptations are not designed primarily to make us do something particularly sinful, but to cause us to act in our own energy; and as soon as we step out from the covering of the Holy Spirit and try to overcome the flesh on our own – the enemy has won. 
That’s why Paul says, “Walk in the spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”  (Galatians 6:15)
Walk in the Spirit.  Choose to walk in the spirit – and then let the Holy Spirit give you the power to overcome the flesh.
The cross has been give to obtain salvation for us – God’s Holy Spirit has been given to produce salvation in us. 
Would you pray this prayer with me today?
“Lord, I cannot live the Christian life on my own.  Therefore I will take my hands off; from now on I will trust in your to lead me in the ways of righteousness.”

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Handling mistakes

While some of your mistakes in life can be devastating, did you know that the vast majority of your failures can be turned around for something good?

It is true.

We all fail.  We all make mistakes.

Yet, I want you to know today that you can turn that mistake into something positive in your life!

Proverbs 24:16 tells us that "a just man falls seven times, but keeps on getting back up!"  (My paraphrase).

You are only a failure if you refuse to get back up and keep on going.

Some quick thoughts on this:

You will make mistakes.  You are not God.  You are not perfect.  You will fail.

It is important to admit that you failed.  Don't live in denial.  Do not try to justify it.  Confess your sin to others who were damaged by your mistake.  Proverbs 28:13, "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy."

Give the responsibility of the mistake (failure, sin) to those who are truly responsible.  Accept responsibility if the genesis of the mistake comes from you.  If others are involved, allow them to accept their own share of the blame.  Don't cover for someone else!  I see parents who always "cover" for their children - and in doing so they destroy their child's chance to grow emotionally and spiritually.  Proverbs 19:18, "Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death."  Sometimes little "Johnny or Susy" did do wrong.

Be willing to experience the pain of your mistake.  We live in a world that refuses to allow themselves to experience the full depth of the difficulty they are going through.  From substances to medications to technology, people are doing everything they can to avoid "going to the mat" with their suffering.  There are times when God wants us to feel the hurt of our mistakes.  Can I share this with you?  If God cushioned every blow, you would never learn to grow.

Write out a list of lessons that you are learning from your mistake.  What have a learned about myself?  What have I learned about others?

Stop talking to everyone about your failure.  It's great to have that someone that you can trust to pour your heart out to (after pouring out your heart to God).  Stop putting yourself down!  Make up your mind that you are not losing the battle, you are in the process of learning!

Mend the broken fences that your mistakes have caused

Allow yourself time to heal.  Time does NOT heal all wounds.  But many times we need to give ourselves some time to get over, to grieve the fact that we have done something wrong. 

Use your failure to help someone else who struggles with the same thing.

And finally, never, never, never quit.  You can make it!  Don't let yourself stay on the bottom.  Rise up and reach for new heights once again!

Remember:  "Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world."  1 John 4:4

Just some thoughts for a Tuesday

Monday, October 07, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

We had a wonderful meeting with our adult Bible teachers last Saturday morning!

Thanks to all the men and women who came.

It is exciting to all of us to come up with a "game plan" for discipleship - for our church family.  I encourage you to look for some positive changes in the "way we do Sunday School," for our adults in the next year and a half.

Changes that will help the spiritual growth of both the new convert and seasoned saint at the same time!

Debbie and I had the privilege of attending the Illinois Family Institute banquet last Friday evening, with Dr.  Ben Carson as the guest speaker.

He challenged all of us that America is heading down the pathway of every other civilization in the world (focus on entertainment and sports, moral collapse of country, laying aside of spiritual values) but encouraged us with the fact that as we all work together, and pray together and minister together, our country can turn around!

It was personally gratifying to have Missionary Doug Hollis with us this weekend.

Doug is a life long friend of mine.  He also is one of those missionaries that is being extremely effective in the country that he ministers in (Indonesia).

What passion!  What commitment!

May God continue to call missionaries such as these to the mission field!

May God help us all to "pick up the torch" and do what we can to see the gospel of Jesus Christ spread throughout the earth!

Please consider giving monthly to missions.  $10, $20, $30 or $40 or $50 a month.  Our desire is to support even more missionaries for the cause of Jesus Christ.

People need Jesus!

Do we care?  Will we pray?  Will we give!

Great, challenging questions for all of us.

Love you all.....

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Focusing on what you do have

This evening we will continue to work our way through Romans 7, which is a self-portrayal of Paul in his struggles with the flesh as a mature Christian.

Tonight:  Romans 7:7-13.

In my studies yesterday and today, I noticed something I have not pay attention to before. 

Paul struggled with coveting.  Being content with what he had.  Wanting what others had.

Another nugget in establishing this is that Paul writes in Philippians 4:12, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation."

It was something he learned.

It is was something he wrestled with.

Out of all of the 10 commandments, Paul mentioned this one - possibly because it is the only one of the 10 that deals with "just" the attitudes of the heart.  Sin begins in the heart and you and I can covet without anyone knowing it.

We can be discontent while giving off the appearance of being satisfied.

We always want more.  We focus not on what we do have but on what we don't have.

Elias Morgan, the former president of MOPS (Mothers of Pre-schoolers) shares this insight into how a child views the world.  It's called the Toddler's Creed:

If I want it - it's mine.

If I give it to you and change my mind later - it's mine.

If I can take it away from you - it's mine.

If I had it a little while ago - it's mine.

If it's mine - it will never belong to anyone else, no matter what.

If we are building something together all pieces are mine.

If it looks like mine - it's mine.

Mine, mine.  Me, myself and I.

Do you see a theme there?

Here's a great principle to overcome covet:  Focus not on what you don't have but on what you do have.

Appreciate what you've got and be grateful to God.

Open your eyes.

Ecclesiastes 5:19 tells us, "If God gives a man wealthy and property, he should be grateful and enjoy what he has.  It is a gift from God." 

Grateful.  Enjoy.  Gift.  God says I want you to enjoy and be grateful for what you've got.

It's a gift.

You wouldn't have anything if it weren't for God.  It's all a gift from God.

We get into a trap that is called, "When and then thinking."  "When and then" thinking says, "When I get (and you can fill in the blank) ________, then I will be happy.

Here's what I know:  That "fill in the blank" will not ultimately make you happy.  You will be happy for a little while, but it won't last because something else has happened.

You've got to get the newer, bigger, better, more improved model.  Apple makes billions on this one principle.  They want you to look forward and buy the next IPhone.

What are you waiting on to make you happy?

When I get married - then I will be happy.

When I get out of this marriage - then I will be happy.

When I have kids - then I will be happy.

Listen to me:  You are as happy as you want to be.  It is  your choice.  Forget the "When and then thinking."

Happiness is not getting whatever you want.

Happiness is enjoying whatever you have.

God wants you to enjoy what you have.

He commands you to enjoy what you've got.

God enjoys watching you enjoy what He's given you.  I always really like watching my children enjoy what I have given them, how much more God does!

Again, the word of the day:  Focus not on what you don't have, focus in on what you do have.

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Now or Forever?

Are you living for the "now" or are you living for the "forever".

It's a huge question for all of us - especially as followers of Christ.

Every moment, of every day, you and I have a choice.  Will I live for the moment?  Or, will I live for eternity?

Your alarm clock goes off, you get ready for work, eat breakfast, drink your coffee and then bam, almost immediately you are faced with the question, "will I live for what I can see, knowing it will soon disappear?  Or will I live for eternity?

When we put our work before God - we are living for the "now".

When we put our hobbies before God - we are living for the "now".

When we put our family before God - we are living for the "now".

Don't get me wrong, the "now" is important, but only in the context and priority list of following after our relationship with God.

Here's what I know:  When I put God first, then my "living for the now" becomes incredibly better!

Jesus said it this way in Matthew 6:33, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and then all these things will be added to you."

And what's really cool is that when we put God first, we not only receive temporary benefits (happiness, spiritual security, emotional help) but we will receive an eternal reward!

Revelation 22:12 tell us, (Jesus is talking) "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work."

Did you notice there that Jesus is not coming to set up his kingdom?  He's coming for his people because he cares about the people of his kingdom, people who have given a lifetime to Him because they believed what he said, and they wanted to please him and they chose to be faithful.

Listen, God notices and cares about every decision you make to live for the "now" or for the "forever".  

What is your choice today?

Just a thought for a Tuesday.