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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Doing love

We often speak about love as if it were a feeling.
But if we wait for a feeling of love before loving, we may never learn to love in a way that God intends.
Feelings of love are great - but our loving others cannot be based in that feeling.
To love is to think, speak and act according to the spiritual knowledge that we are infinitely loved by God and called to make that love visible to this world.
In short, we are to do more than "just" "feel" love, we are to "do" love.
Billy Waters writes in “Teacher Touch”, “after an accident in which she lost her arm, a girl named Jaime refused to go to school or church for an entire year.  Finally the young teen thought she could face her peers. 
In preparation, her mother called her Sunday school teacher and asked that he not call attention to Jaime.  The teacher promised, but when he got sick on Sunday and had to call a substitute, he forgot to tell the second teacher.   

At the conclusion of the lesson that day, which was about inviting friends to church, the sub led the class in doing the hand motions to the familiar children’s poem:   

Here’s the church
Here are the people
Open the door
See all the people 

Jaime’s eyes filled with tears.  A 13-year-old boy realized how she must have been feeling.  He knelt beside her.  With one hand apiece, they supported each other, making the church, steeple, and people.  Together they illustrated what real church is.” 

Love God, love people!  Our mission statement.  Love God - Love people! 

At the core is love. 

I remember the song we used to sing back in the early 70’s – “And they know we are Christians by our love.” 
People around us know that we are believers in Christ, not by what we believe or by our doctrine or theology, but by the love we show in our families, in our church and in the daily activities of our lives. 

Love is a very powerful thing.  Love is at the foundation of our walk with God. 
It should be as I have read, “our top priority, our primary objective and our greatest ambition.” 

Did you know that love can make a person become better looking?

It’s true!  Psychologists tell us that the excitement of being in love increases your heart rate so that your face glows, your lips look redder, and those circles under your eyes actually become less noticeable!  Heightened emotions of love cause your pupils to dilate, so that your eyes look brighter and clearer.  

However, love is more than a feeling.  Love is an action verb.  It goes beyond something I feel in my heart to extend itself to something I do in my life.  Love is to be the basis of everything that we do. 

The Apostle John puts it this way in First John 3:18, “My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love.  This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality.” 

John says, “let’s practice love.” 

Let’s think about that for a moment.  How can we practice love?  Or to put it another way, how can we “do” love? 

I would suggest to you that we can “do” love by loving those in our spiritual family. 
Paul writes to Timothy in First Timothy 3:14,15, “I’m writing so that you’ll know how to live in the family of God.  That family is the church.” 
Our church is not a building, an institution, an organization, a club; our church is a family.  It is not a place you go to; it is a family you belong to.  
We are a family here at Stone Church and as a family God has called us to worship together as brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Peter tells us in First Peters 2:17 to “love your spiritual family.” 
God is my father and we are His children.  We are a “family oriented” church. 
Hebrews 2:10 says, “God is the One who made all things, and all things are for his glory.  He wanted to have many children to share His glory."   

I read of a cartoon this week where a couple is greeting the pastor after church and he says, “Julie and I met during this morning’s ‘greet your neighbor’ time.  We’d like you to marry us.”  
Now that’s a little bit much, but God does call us to love each other in the family of God! 

Why does God want us to learn to love one another in our family?  If God is my father, and He is, than he wants me to get along with those around me like any earthly father would. 

When all of our kids lived at home (Debbie and I are now "empty nesters"), I wasn't thrilled when they got into arguments and verbal joustings.
At the same time, it pleased me when they loved one another and took care of each other and enjoyed being around one another.   

God feels the same about us! 

Another reason that God wants me to love those in our spiritual family is that I am never more like God than when I love those around me. 

Let’s go back to First John.  John writes in First John 4:8, 21,  “the person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love, so you can’t know him if you don’t love......the command we have from Christ is blunt: loving God includes loving people.  You’ve got to love both.”   

God calls us to love one another as He loves us – unconditionally!  God loves all people equally – even those who are hard to love and so he wants us to learn to practice, to “do” unconditional love as well! 

And then another reason why we are to love one another is that our love for each other attracts those who don’t have a relationship with God to Jesus! 

A woman by the name of Gloria one time was ready to take her life.  Years of drug abuse, failed relationships, and multiple rejections had taken their toll.  Prepared with countless prescription drugs she saved for this purpose, Gloria turned on the television to keep her neighbors from hearing. 

The channel was tuned in to a Billy Graham crusade.  At the bottom of the screen was a telephone number for anyone needing help.  Gloria called the number before she took the pills. 

The counselor recognized the seriousness of Gloria’s situation.  She directed Gloria to a nearby church where someone would be able to help her.  Gloria decided to put off her suicide and attend the church the next day, Sunday.  Just before the worship service began, Gloria met the pastor.  “Billy Graham sent me,” she told him. 

Sometimes later, Gloria was able to give this testimony: 

“Billy Graham saved me from killing myself, but my church sowed me how to be saved from my sins.  The love of the people was incredible.  I never knew someone as dirty as me could ever receive love again.  The people accepted me just as I was.  I have seen Jesus.  He is in the faces of all these people who love me.” 

We are to love one another because it helps to grow his family.
Just a thought for a Wednesday.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The nonpossessive life

If there is one thing I know and practice - it is to "seize the day" or live life to its fullest - to embrace everything that each day presents.

I try to really enjoy life.

But here's what I also know:  To be able to fully enjoy the many good things this temporary life has to offer, we (I) must be detached from them.

What does that mean?

Well it doesn't mean to be indifferent or uninterested - a "whatever will be will be" kind of thing.

But it does mean that I am to be non possessive.

Life, and all that it brings (relationships, people, possessions, things) are gifts to be grateful for and not property to cling to.

In reality, in the eternal sense of things, I do not own anything.  It is only on "loan to me from God".

I am to not only be a good steward of what I have (possessions and relationships) but I am to hold on to them loosely.

Here is what we do:  We hold on to the things of this will with a tight fist, and hold on to the things of God loosely - when Jesus teaches us just the opposite.  It is as I hold on to God (for all I am worth) and the things of this world loosely that I can really enjoy life.

A person who lives life with an attitude of "non possessiveness" lives a free life.  A meaningful life.

Free from the "stuff" of this world.

You see, it is as we "let go" that we truly have.

It is as we realize that this world is not all there is - that everything around us is put into perspective.

But this freedom is only possible when we have a deep sense of attachment to God.

As I cling to God.  As I realize that I belong to God. 

This is what the "detached life" is all about.  A life that realizes that at the end of each day - my relationship with God is the only thing that is eternal - and worth holding on to - and then all else will fall into place in its proper order.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I would like to first of all say a big, "thank  you" to the entire group of folks who helped with the production of "Letters at Christmas."

Thanks to the choir, band, sound booth volunteers, power point volunteers - you all did a wonderful job!

Truly we are thankful for God's love letter to us - His Word!

Hard to believe that Christmas is just around the corner.

I am really looking forward to this coming Sunday:  Communion; prayer for needs; celebration of Christmas and want it means for all of us!

We have some talented people in our church!

Looks like we are going to have a "White Christmas"!

Here's a word that God gave us at the end of the first service:  "Slow down and let me fill you with My Spirit."

While the world is filled with bad news - we know that as followers of Jesus Christ that we have the "good news" - a message of love, hope and joy- it is the message of Jesus Christ, Immanuel, come to earth.  Jesus is "God with us"!

Thoughts I didn't get to yesterday:

When anyone, including you and I, say "yes" to God in acknowledgement and in faith - and take a step forward toward Him - God meets you there.

God takes you by the hand and takes you into the future that is a lot better than your past.

"Old things are passed away, and new things are here."  2 Corinthians 5:17

You matter to God.

Your problems matters to God.

Your pain matters to God.

Your potential matters to God.

He came to earth and is seeking you while you are seeking Him.

What better time than at Christmas to make contact with God!

In God's love letter to us it states in Jeremiah 29:13, "You will find me when you seek me with all your heart."

God longs for a two-way conversation with you and with me.

When I converse with God, he gives me wisdom, strength beyond my own strength, a love that I would never have in and of my own heart, a kind of hope that helps me overcome discouraging times, a certainty about where I am going to spend eternity.

I think that's worth celebrating Christmas!

Love you all.....

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Welcome home

Some of the sweetest, most loving words in the English language are, "Welcome Home."

Whether it be coming home from a trip, or coming home for the holidays, it warms our hearts to hear those words from those whom we love.

I know that the week of Christmas, Debbie and I are looking forward to seeing all of our children and grandchildren, giving them a hug and saying, "Welcome home."

As Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, "There is no place like home."

The parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15 shows us how the Father (God) welcomes those who come home to Him.

The Bible says that the father of the prodigal runs out to him, embraces him and kisses his son.  He clothes him with the best clothes and makes him the honored guest.

He throws a party, offering the best food he has and invites friends and family to the party.

And, most important of all, he doesn't ask for any excuses or explanations from the prodigal son, but only shows an immense joy that the son has come home.

That's God.

God is our Father.  God welcomes us home (if we have been away - or coming to him for the first time) without a trace of self-righteousness, recrimination or even curiosity.

The past is wiped out.

What counts is the "here and now", where all that fills our hearts is gratitude for the homecoming of our brothers and sisters.

Can I give you a suggestion?

Let's make this coming Sunday, December 15th a true homecoming by inviting non-churched family and friends to the production of, "Letters at Christmas."

There will be an "altar call" given at the end - an opportunity for people to accept Christ.

Truly this Sunday can be one of the greatest homecoming ever seen at Stone Church!

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sharing your faith with boldness

Have you ever worried about sharing your faith because you weren't quite sure what you would say?  Or you were intimidated with the thought that you might be rejected by the person you would talking to?  That you wouldn't "get it quite right?"  Or that you might embarrass yourself?

In all probability, we all have.

Yet, let me share with you something today that might help you with this.

With Jesus in you (and He lives in your spirit and soul as a follower of Christ) - Jesus will always speak through you to the person whom you want to share with - as you let Him.

Jesus said it this way in Matthew 10:19-20, "When you are handed over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes, because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you."

When you and I realize that we are spiritually free, and that the Spirit of God resides in us, we don't have to worry about what to say or do in unexpected, difficult circumstances.

We don't have to worry about making sure the "message" is perfect before we share our faith in Christ.

The right words will emerge from the center of our being (who we are in Christ) because the Holy Spirit, who makes us children of God and sets us free, will speak and act through us.

So - I encourage you to take a step of faith and keep trusting the Holy Spirit in you - and share your faith with boldness - knowing that the God who lives in you will speak through  you.

Pray for the person whom you desire to share with, pray that your words will be granted favor in their heart, and then seize the opportunity that is yours.

Acts 4:31 states that the early church, "...spoke the word of God boldly."

Word of the day?  Be bold in sharing your faith!

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Preparation and Christmas

I went to the Chicago Bears game last night at Soldier Field.

Needless to say, it was cold.

You only had to step outside of your house to know that it was cold, much less sitting in a stadium off Lake Michigan.

However, for me, it was very bearable (Brendon and I had a great time!!)

I'll tell you why.

I was prepared.

Preparation is the key to anything in life.

After having received "counsel" from numerous people on what to wear for the game, here is what I ended up wearing:

A pair of laced up snow boots.

Two pairs of thermal socks.

Toe warmers.  Foot warmers.

Long underwear (both tops and bottoms)

A pair of sweats.

Ski pants (that I wear when I ski).

A sweatshirt.

Another sweatshirt with a hood.

Body warmers around my lower back.

Body warmers in the pockets of my ski pants.

A Columbia jacket (with body warmers in the pockets).

A ski mask.  Ear muffs over the ski mask.  A stocking cap over the ski mask and the ear muffs.


I sat on a fleece/sleeping bag that I had brought (just in case).

Drank a big cup of hot chocolate.

I was prepared (thanks to everyone who game me all the advice).

BTW, I am still not prepared to talk about the game.  I am going through the 5 stages of grief.  :) :)

The key to anything is preparation.

On our church sign (in front of church campus) it states, "Christmas Prep Headquarters".

Our desire is that in the services that we have (until Christmas Day) that your heart (and my heart) is prepared to celebrate Christmas the way it should be celebrated - with a focus on Christ, a focus on Immanuel or "God with us."

I know that you, as well as Debbie and I are preparing for family coming in, buying gifts, strategizing on those special days as to what to do as a family - but I encourage you to give as much energy as well to your walk with Christ in the next couple of weeks.

Each evening, around the dinner table, bring out one aspect of the Christmas story.  Share the names of Jesus with your kids.  Pray each night before you go to bed - thanking God that he loves us enough to send His son, Jesus, to live on this planet and die for our sin.

Preparation, preparation, preparation.

It is the key to success in anything, whether it be at your work, in your walk with Christ, or a cold night at Soldier Field.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.


Monday, December 09, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Saturday was a busy, busy day on our church campus.

We had Teen Bible Quiz (5 church teams came).

Congratulations to our Stone Church kids and their efforts!

We had practice for our children's musical.

We had an adult Bible teacher's meeting.

We had a membership class.

We had a practice for the Christmas production, "Letters at Christmas" which is coming up this Sunday, December 15th (We encourage you to invite a friend!)

As usual, it is a busy time of year.

In the midst of all of the busyness, God is doing some great things!

Many, many thanks to Pastor Aldin and Debbie (and their team) for a wonderful children's Christmas production last evening!

Truly it was one of the best I have ever seen.  The kids did just great, the message was powerful - one could tell that a lot of time and effort was put into it!

What a joy it was to welcome in 10 new members as well yesterday!

I am thankful for the folks that God is leading our way!

Worship was powerful!

"Go Green, Go White"!  (Michigan State beat Ohio State and is going to the Rose Bowl).

I am really, really looking forward to 2014.  God has some great things in store for us!

Thoughts I didn't get to yesterday.

Jesus said in Mark 5:35, "If you try to keep your life for yourself, you're going to lose it, but if you give up your life for my sake, and for the sake of the good news,  you will find true life."

You are going to give your life away for something.  A career.  A big bank account.  Some kind of thrill.  Some kind of pleasure.  Obtaining some kind of status.

But the question is:  Are you giving your life away for the right thing?

How much is it going to matter in eternity?  How much is it going to matter forever?

When you die is it going to matter at all?

All of us give thought to how we can live longer.  But that is not the real issue.  The real issue is not how long you live - it is how you live that matters.

It is not the duration of your life - it is the donation of your life that counts.

If we live for ourselves, we eventually get bored and feel unfulfilled.

But when we know God's plan for our lives, we start saying, "God, I don't know it all yet, but I am going to start serving you in a simple way and giving back something of my life."

And..I would suggest that is what brings true fulfillment, satisfaction and significance in life.

Love you all...

Thursday, December 05, 2013

flexibility and self-esteem

I've always said that my self-esteem needs to be tied into my "God esteem" or how God looks at me.

God love me.  God likes me.  God saves me.  God forgives me.

I am thankful that my "self-esteem" can always be seen through the "God esteem" colored glasses of my faith in Him.

At the same time, there are characteristics of someone who does have a healthy self-esteem.

You know that you have a healthy self-esteem if:

You have a sense of humor.

You are open to new ideas and experiences.

You preserve harmony and dignity under stress.

You speak and move with ease and spontaneity.

You are comfortable giving and receiving compliments and affection.

You can speak honestly about accomplishments and shortcomings.

You project an attitude of flexibility and inventiveness.

As you progress in life, you have a choice.  Am I going to become more or less flexibly as I grow older?

I was reading today that trees look strong compared with the wild reeds in the field. 

But when the storm comes, trees can be uprooted, whereas the wild reeds, while they are moving back and forth by the wind will remain rooted and stand up again after the storm has calmed down.

Here's what I know:  When we cling to our own positions (traditions, way of doing things) and are not willing to let our hearts be moved back and forth a little by the ideas or actions of others, we may easily be broken.

Please note:  Being like wild reeds does not mean being wishy-washy, nor does it suggest that you and I should fall into ungodly compromise.

But it does mean that we move a little with the winds and culture of the times while remaining solidly anchored in the ground (our faith in Christ).

I find that people who are humorless, intense and opinionated about church life or life in general end up breaking in their spirits and become bitter people.

We can be flexible, friends, while remaining rooted in God.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Garbage collectors

Years ago, I picked up a book by Jerry Cook entitled simply, "Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness."

Some of the pages are torn and faded - I've had it so long.

Within the chapters of that book, Pastor Cook talks about the power of love, acceptance and forgiveness in our churches.

He states, "when love, acceptance and forgiveness characterize our lives and our churches, the Lord will send us people who need to be made whole."

He writes about a pastor friend of us who called him one day - very upset with the church that he (Jerry Cook) pastored.

Pastor Cook said that it was a friend that he liked and respected (and still does) - so he listened with great interest and concern.

This friend was irritated because some of his family had started coming to the church.

At one point this friend said, "You know what you are out there (speaking of the church)?  You're nothing but a bunch of garbage collectors."

Jerry Cook writes, "As I thought about it, I realize he was telling the truth.  That's exactly what we are, garbage collectors.  What were we before Jesus found us?  Weren't we all just garbage?  Jesus finds us and recycles us."

He goes on to write, "I mentioned this in church one Sunday and afterward a man who owns a garbage collection agency came floating up the aisle, all excited.  "That super," he said.  "Let me tell you something about garbage.  There's a landfill near here.  For 10 years we used it as a place to dump trash and garbage.  Know what's there now?  A beautiful park."

Good stuff.

Can I tell you something today? 

I have seen human garbage become beautiful as well. 

I have seen the stench of our sin turned into the fragrance of the Holy Spirit.

At Stone Church, we can't worry about what critics think or say.

Where is God going to send the "garbage" for recycling if He can't put it on our doorstep?

He will find a place. 

My desire is that we be THAT PLACE.

My desire is that we be used by God

And - when love, acceptance and forgiveness prevail, the church, God's church, the church of Jesus Christ becomes what Jesus wants us to be:  a center of love created for the healing of broken people - and a force for God.

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Life meaning trumps happiness

During my missions trip to Cape Town, South Africa, a couple of weeks ago, I woke up the first morning and went to breakfast (the missionaries put me up in a "bed and breakfast").

As I had my morning coffee, I sat across from a young Chinese man who was in South Africa as one of four representatives for a mass communications company, based in China.  They are in the country to help South Africa get "up to date".

He had somehow found out that I was a pastor, wanted to use his English (that he was learning) and so wanted to talk.

During the course of the conversation he mentioned, "I feel this deep hole within me that isn't satisfied by the things of this world." 

I hadn't had my morning caffeine yet, so it didn't register to me what he was saying.

We talked some more and he again stated, "I feel this deep whole within me that isn't satisfied by the things of this world."

Now, upon hearing that the second time, and sometimes not being the brightest guy in the world, even I recognized that this was an opportunity to share my faith (the caffeine was kicking in).

We talked about the things of God - and when I left him - he was reading some of Watchman Nee's writings (a Christian Chinese man of the last century).

(As a side note - it is amazing how God sends an American to witness to a Chinese man in South Africa!)

According to a recent poll, our "happiness levels" are at a four-year high - nearly 60% of all Americans today feel happy.

But a new study also cautions that there is something more important than happiness - finding meaning or a life purpose.

Happiness relegates itself to nothing if there is no purpose tagged to it.

Even living in a paradise can lose its effectiveness - if a person is living with no purpose.

You and I were born, created for a purpose.

I would suggest to you that the ultimate purpose is to life for God, with God in you.

So what's the more important goal in life - happiness or meaning?

Again, new studies show that having purpose and meaning in life increases overall life satisfaction.  And recent research also shows that the single-minded pursuit of happiness actually makes people less happy.

Final thoughts?  What we all need is Jesus.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

A big "thank you" to the Holy Spirit for visiting us around the altars as we worshipped God.

Truly, our church family understands what it means to stand in awe and reverence of the Lord.

Sometimes I wish you could stand where I stand as we are worshipping God as a congregation.

It is wonderful to see God's people:  hands raised and seeking Him.  Crying out to Him.

Christmas is coming up - busy time for all of us - I know that you know to pause and spend time with Christ.

I have purposed in my heart to focus in on Christ this month.

In the midst of your "hustle and bustle" to buy gifts, decorate the house and make plans for the Holiday Season, please pause and mediate on Jesus!

During the next three Sundays, I encourage you to invite non-churched people to our Sunday morning services!

This is a great time of year to invite and bring those who don't know Christ!

My teams all won over the weekend:  Dallas Cowboys, Michigan State Spartans.

I have never seen a team win a game like the Auburn Tigers won versus Alabama this past Saturday. A failed field goal was returned 109 yards for a touchdown.

Christmas dinner tonight, one tomorrow evening - it is that time of year!

I am looking forward to this Sunday:  We are welcoming ten new members!  Praise God!

There is an excitement in my spirit about 2014!  God is going to do great things!

Whatever is happening in your life - God is in control.

Jesus is Immanuel - God with us; who understands all of our pain.

Please look for my annual Christmas letter to our church family - it will be mailed on Thursday.

If you have been missing our Sunday morning services - you have been missed!  I would encourage you to "get back into the habit" of worshipping with God's people!

Love you all.....