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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanks in the small things

It is right and proper to thank God for the "big" things in our lives. 

The healing that came.

The job that was provided.

The "money out of no where" when you were in financial debt.

Yet, God wants us to thank Him for the "small" things as well.

Being with good friends.


A loving family.

A loving wife.

A beautiful day.

Perhaps nothing is "smaller" than the very breath that you take.  Moment by moment you take in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide.

Luke 17:28 tells us, "For in him we live and move and have our being."

I read today that you and I take approximately 23,000 breaths every day.  23,000!

Who gives us that ability to breathe?  God.

Who gives us life?  God.

Who created us?  God.

The very breath you just took comes from God.

Paul writes in Colossians 3:17, "Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

The process of inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide is a complicated respiratory task that requires physiological precision.

When was the last time you thanked God for the gift of breathing?

Each breath?

We tend to thank God for the things that take our breath away.  And that's all well and good. 

But maybe, just maybe we should thank him for every other breath as well (the "small" things of life!).

From our home to yours - Happy Thanksgiving!

You are loved.......

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Radical Gratitude

This evening, the primary verse we will look at is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

We are to give thanks, which means appreciation, recognition and praise.

The words, "give thanks" actually come from the Greek word Eucharisteo, which is the word we get "Eucharist" from - one of the words we use when we speak of communion or the Lord's Supper.

In other words, when we take communion (as we will this evening) we will be giving thanks.

"In" all circumstances.  The word "in" is the Greek word "pos" which means any, all, everything, anyone, all the time, anywhere, everywhere, the whole thing.  There are no exceptions.  No excuses and no exemptions.

God's expectation level is that we will be grateful IN every circumstance.  Not for all the negative circumstances that come our way but "in".

We aren't called to be thankful for the bad or the evil in our lives.  That in and of itself would make God evil.

There is a lot of evil in the world and not everything that happens to us is God's will. 

What is one of the first responses to bad in our lives?  Many will automatically blame God and God turns around and say, "why are you blaming me?"  "What about the choices that you have made, or your parents made, or those around you made?"

I can thank God in my circumstances because God is in control

God can always bring good out of evil in my life.  God will never stop loving me.  I am going to heaven someday.

But here's one more thought (amongst others) that I will give this evening.

Gratitude is always God's will for my life because it serves others

We are all ministers, you and I know that.  We all have a ministry.  Showing gratitude to others is a ministry.  As I appreciate others, it increases their value.  When you thank people around you it raises their value. 

Everyone needs encouragement

No one says, "I don't need a compliment.  I have too many.  Stop, stop, don't give me any more."  We all need lifting up.  I can go for six weeks on one good compliment.  Do you want to be used by God - encourage others.

Paul writes in Ephesians 4:29, "Do not let any unwholemsome talk come out of your  mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

Anyone can tear others down.  But God's will for your life is to lift others up. 

Why not make this Thanksgiving week a week where with everyone you come across (in the stores as you by Christmas gifts, at the grocery store, in our church) you are lifting them up with words of thanks and encouragement?

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

I can't tell you how thrilled I was yesterday to watch 6 people baptized in water!

To hear their testimonies of God's grace and power, the power to change lives, God is moving, by His Spirit!

Ours is to work to the best of our abilities - God's is to move as he sees fit.

"God, send us more of your Spirit!  We desire more lives to be changed!"

During this Thanksgiving season, we say, "Thank you, Lord!"

What are you thankful for this week?  We encourage you to thank God daily for the one (or more things) that you are grateful for.

It was my joy and privilege to dedicate beautiful, little Josephina Grace to the Lord yesterday!

She is a beautiful baby girl.  Chris and Carolyn, Debbie and I love you and your family a lot!

Thanks to a wonderful church staff for their hard work while I was away in South Africa!

I heard great reports of the services a week ago Sunday.

Reminder:  Thanksgiving service, Tuesday, November 26th, 7:00 P.M.  Communion served.

South Africa (Cape Town) is an incredibly difficult place to get a handle on.  There are the black Africans, the white Africans, the mixed race Africans and people from all over the world.

The political scene is a convoluted mess - with President Mandela near death.

Yet God is on the throne!  God is moving!

It was a privilege to minister in a couple of settings of God's power and grace!

Thank you, Stone Church, for allowing me to go!

What I didn't get to yesterday in my sermon (our Monday morning segment):

God helps me change my thinking through His Word

That's why I am to immerse myself in God's word on a daily basis.  It is in reading the Word that I am set free. 

I choose what I put in my mind.  What I dwell on.  If fear comes into my mind, I remember 2 Timothy 1:7, that "God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of peace and love and of a sound mind."

If worry comes into my mind, I remember 1 Peter 5:7, that I can, "cast all of my cares and anxieties upon Him."

God helps me change my thinking through His Spirit

That's why worship is so important.  Every time I stand with other believers in the faith on a Sunday morning and worship Him, my mind, my emotions are being renewed.

God helps me change my thinking through His community.

That's why you and I need to be life group.  George Barna, the Gallup poll person states that 79% of all Americans would go to a small group meeting if somebody would ask them."  79%!

It will make a difference in your life - and let me tell you how.

A lot of times when something happens in your life and you have been hurt by a toxic person, you can become so emotionally hooked in with a toxic person and what they did to you that you cannot think straight.

Even when you read the bible or stand in a worship service you're not going to filter it in the right way because of the wall of hurt that you are feeling.

That's why you need a small group.

You need other people in  your life who will say to you, "have you thought about this?"  "Have you thought about that?"

"Well, no," you say, "I am confused, and so ticked and angry at that person, I can't think straight."

I can't tell you how many times in my life my small group has saved me from major relational disasters.

If you are in a small group and you haven't got to this level of fellowship, start being authentic in your group because that's what they are there for.  Remember:  vulnerability breeds vulnerability

The small group is not there just to discuss the curriculum or have a Bible study.  The group is there to help you handle the situations of life - and your toxic relationships.

When you are doing life together, when you're dealing with any problem - worry, bitterness, fear, anger, boredom, whatever, they are going to think straight when you can't think straight.

Love you all.....

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Giving thanks for the small things

We encourage you to daily take time to give thanks (with your family - around the dinner table) for one thing in your life.

Here's what I know about prayer:

When we pray, we pray, normally to get things from God, don't we.

And there is nothing wrong with asking God to meet our needs.

Another phase of prayer is when we pray to get out of things.  An illness.  A debt.  A crisis.

But there is a deeper phase of prayer that I am trusting all of our church family will participate in this month - this "month of thanksgiving."

It is the prayer of giving thanks to God.

And normally, giving thanks need not be quarantined to "just" the "big" things in our lives, but the "small" things as well.

A sunset.  A sunrise.  A hot cup of coffee to start your day.

A moment with your kids as they go to sleep.

Another day of living with good health.

The ability to see.

The ability to hear.

The ability to walk.

A great meal with good friends.

A scriptures that speaks to you.

The "small" things of life.

Minnesota storyteller Kevin Kling was born with a birth defect - his left arm was disabled and much shorter than his right.

Then, in his early 40's a motorcycle accident nearly killed him and paralyzed his healthy right arm. 

While he was in the hospital recovering from the accident, Kevin learned a life-changing lesson about prayer and giving thanks.

He said:

"I'd been through many surgeries during my six week stay in the hospital.  And every day, I would ride the elevator to the ground floor and try to take a walk.  That was  my job.  9/11 had happened the week before.  And as our country was entering trauma, I was living one.

After my walk, my wife Mary and I went into the gift shop, and she asked if I wanted an apple.  She said they looked really good.

Now, I hadn't tasted food in over a month....I lost a lot of weight because food had no appeal.  So I said no, but she persisted.  Come one.  Try it. 

So finally, I said all right.  And I took a bite.  And for some reason, that was the day flavor returned, and that powerful sweetness rushed from that apple.  Oh, it was incredible.

I started to cry, cry for the first time in years.  And tears flowed and as the anesthesia and antibiotics flushed through my tears, it burned my eyes.  And between the sweetness of that apple and the burning of my tears, it felt so good to be alive. 

I blurted out, "Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for this life."

And that's when my prayers shifted, again to giving thanks."

Great stuff. 

A moment of thanksgiving, because of an apple.  And the realization that in eating that apple - life was extended.

The word of the day?  Of the month?  Ask God to meet your needs.  Ask God to take you out of difficult situations.

But most of all - let's give thanks to God - for the "small" things as well as the "big" things.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Keeping in step with the spirit

This  evening we will be looking at Romans 8:2-11.

It is a great passage that challenges us to combat the flesh by walking in the Spirit.

I encourage you to read the passage before coming tonight to "Pure Worship".

Partnering with that passage are the words of Paul in Galatians 5:16, "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature."

Another translation puts it this way:  "Keep in step with the spirit."

The key to overcoming the flesh (your sinful nature - or your tendency to sin) is to keep in step with the Spirit, not lagging behind and not racing ahead.

Walking in the Spirit implies two things:

1.  We are walking in the spirit, not sitting in the Spirit.

One of the most dangerous and harmful detriments to you spiritual growth is passivity - putting your mind in neutral and coasting.

Sitting back and waiting for God to do everything is not God's way to spiritual maturity.

We cry out, "I want more of your Spirit, Lord".  We sing, "I need you more," when in reality God may be waiting on you to give more of yourself.

2.  We are walking in the Spirit, not running in the Spirit.

The Spirit-filled life is not achieved through a set of endless, exhausting activity.

Myth:  The harder we work for God the more spiritual we will become.

That is a lie of the enemy.

Satan knows that he may not be able to stop you from serving God by making your immoral, but he can most certainly slow you down by simply making you busy.

Jesus said it this way in Matthew 11:28-30:

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn form Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.  For My yoke (the principles of my teachings) is easy, and My load is light."

Jesus invites you today, to a restful walk in tandem with Him, just as two oxen walk together under the same yoke.

"How can a yoke be restful" you ask?

Because Jesus' yoke is an easy yoke (A yoke in the times of Jesus was a word used metaphorically for the teachings and principles of any given Rabbi).

As the lead "ox", Jesus walk at a steady pace. 

If you pace yourself with Him, your burden will be easy.

But if you take a passive approach to the relationship, you'll be painfully dragged along in the yoke because Jesus keeps walking.

Or if you try to run ahead or turn off in another direction, the yoke will chafe your neck and your life will be uncomfortable.

The key to a restful, growing, life giving relationship with Jesus is to learn from Him and open yourself to His gentleness and humility.

The picture of walking in the Spirit in tandem with Jesus also helps us understand our service to God.

How much can you get done without Jesus pulling on His side of the yoke?  Nothing.

How much will be accomplished without you on your side?  Nothing.

It is amazing, stuff, gang, that God has chosen to work in partnership with you to do His work in the world today.

There are things that only he can do, and if you try to do them (without His presence) you will botch them up.

And there are things God has clearly instructed you to do, and if you don't do them, it won't get done.

Let's walk together, friends, in step with the Spirit - and see what God can do in our lives!

Just some thoughts for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Where have all the servants gone?

Peter Seeger used to sing, "Where have all the flowers gone?"

I write to you today to ask:  "Where have all the servants gone?"

When Christ calls us to him - he calls us to be (above everything else) His servants.

To put others first.

It is the "American way" to strive to be number one - yet Christ calls us to be willing to be "number two."

To worship God in a way that will meet other people's needs and not just my own.

To put other's preferences before my own.

To seek first to meet other's needs before my own.

To being willing to go the extra mile in ministry.

When most people in 2013 look for a church to attend, they are looking for a church that will meet their needs in the way they want their needs met.

Not many look for a church on the basis of service and serving.

It's the "me, my, mine," decade. 

"I want what is mine," and "no one can take it from me."

"I have my rights you know."

Oh really?  Is that the Bible way?

Or does Jesus call us to pick up our responsibilities.

Leonard Bernstein, the famous orchestra conductor was asked one time, "Mr. Bernstein, what is the most difficult instrument to play?"

He responded with quick wit:

"Second fiddle.  I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm or second French horn or second flute, not that's a problem.  And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony."

Great words.

That is one of the reasons why Jesus was so different.  Not only did he encourage us to be servants, he modeled it continually.

It is on that basis that Paul writes in Philippians 2:3-5, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests but also for the interests of others.  Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus."

Where have all the servant's gone?

J.B Phillips illustrates the challenge to live a life of servant hood when he alters the beatitudes to read as follows:

Happy are the "pushers":  for they get on in the world.

Happy are the hard-boiled:  for they never let life hurt them.

Happy are they who complain:  for they get their own way in the end.

Happy are the blasé:  for they never worry over their sins.

Happy are the slave drivers:  for they get results.

Happy of the knowledgeable men of the world:  for they know their way around.

Happy are the troublemakers:  for they make people take notice of them.

Those "beatitudes" are the exact opposite of what Jesus said.

We are to give.  We are to live unselfishly.

I caught myself singing an old chorus today as I was driving.  It goes like this:

Jesus use me, and oh Lord don't refuse me.
Surely there's a work that I can do.
And even though it's humble, Lord help my will to crumble.
Though the cost be great I'll work for you.

Where have all the servants gone?

God call you today - not to be a getter, but a giver.  Not to be someone who holds a grudge, but a forgiver.  Not to be someone who keeps score, but a forgetter.  Not a superstar, but a servant.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

It was wonderful having our daughter Christie, her husband Andrew and their two daughters with us over the weekend (Georgia 4 and Kinley 2).

Becky also came and visited us on Saturday.

We missed George being with us.

I watched the movie "Tangled" with my granddaughters for the third time.

I really like that movie - probably more than they do.  :) :)

Three things I know about my granddaughters (for those of you new to my blog):

They are the prettiest girls in the world.

They are the smartest girls in the world.

They are always right.

Huge hand clap to Andrew and Christie on their parenting.

Congratulations to the Michigan State Spartans on their overwhelming win over the University of Michigan!  Go green!  Go white!

Beautiful falls days.  Colors are turning.  Love it!

I continue to receive great reports from the first and second services yesterday.

There was a powerful sense of God's presence in worship!

Our church family is "hungry" for the ministering presence of God - His Holy Spirit!

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

Thank you, Stone Church family, for wanting to draw closer to God!

I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg in what God wants to do!

What I didn't get to yesterday (to continue this Monday segment):

To be blessed by God, I must expect God's blessings by faith.

God blesses people who trust Him.

The writer to the Hebrews states (Hebrews 11:1), "Only faith can guarantee the blessings we hope for."

You can go to church, you can be a nice person, but only faith can guarantee the blessings you hope for.

God loves it when you expect Him to take care of you - it is a compliment.

When you say something like, "I don't know how this is going to work out, I don't know what you are doing, and I don't know what the problem's solution is but I do know this - you are a God of blessing and you have blessed me many times before and I am counting on you.  I am trusting in you.  I am expecting God to bless me!"

And God says, "That's my girl!  That's my guy!  You are doing exactly what I want you to do.  Trust in me!"

It is faith that brings the blessing of God in your life. 

What are you expecting God to do in your life this week?

Sid Lowe Baxter says that, "the proof that you have God's spirit in  your life is not that you speak in an unknown tongue but that you know how to control the tongue you do know about."

Let's build one another up this month.

In an old Peanuts cartoon, Peppermint Patty phones Charlie Brown and says:  "Marcie and I are about to leave for camp, Chuck.  We're going to be swimming instructors."

Marcie takes the phone and adds:  "We just called to say good-bye, Charles.  We are going to miss you.  We love you."

Charlie Browns' little sister, Sally, asks, "Who was that?"

Standing there by the phone with an ear-splitting grin of satisfaction on his face, Charlie Brown answers, "I think it was a right number."

Each day this month, let's ask ourselves, "Who can I encourage today?"

Love you all......