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Thursday, December 18, 2014

A God of surprise

I am continually amazed at the way God works in our lives.  Just about the time that I think I have God “figured out” He works in my life in a way that completely surprises me!  And then I realize, if I could “figure God out” than He wouldn’t be God! 
The Bible says in Isaiah 55:8, “His ways are not our ways; His thoughts are not our thoughts.” 
God works in ways that we can’t completely understand. 
Who would have thought that the way to bring the Messiah into the world was through a 13 or 14 year old virgin girl, giving birth to Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit?  Yet the scriptures tell us in Luke 1:37, “For nothing is impossible with God.” 
Life can be full of surprises. 
But God is a God of surprise and loves to take ordinary people and ordinary things and make them extraordinary in our lives. 
I encourage you - this Christmas season - to keep your eyes open for a fresh new surprise from our awesome God.  Keep your eyes open for something unexpected, something big. 
Many of our church family this year have faced financial difficulties, physical sickness and spiritual attack.
Here’s what I know:  nothing is too hard for God.  There is no degree of difficulty with God. 
God never worries.  God never frets.  God never raises his hands in the air and says, “Oh, my,” “What am I going to do next?”  “What is a God to do?”  There is no panic switch in heaven.
Just about the time that we are ready to give up - God steps in a does a miracle!
Know this:  Your surprise miracle is on its way!
Let me leave you with this prayer:
“Father, encourage each family at our church with a wonderful Christmas season.  Let this month be filled with times where we reflect about you.  May you give us a holiday surprise that comes not from a gift that we receive, but from your moving in our lives.  Thanks you Jesus.  Thank you for your salvation.  We love you!”
Written with much love........

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What are you looking for this Christmas?

Linus is talking to Peppermint Patty about the theological implications of Christmas and he quotes Luke 2:7, “and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.” 

Linus goes on to say, “Some scholars feel that the “inn” more likely was a private home with a guest room.  Manger could also be confusing here so some scholars think that perhaps the,” -  and Peppermint Patty interrupts him by saying, “Wouldn’t be neat to have a Christmas tree completely covered with just candy canes?” 
Two people looking for two totally different things.
What are you looking for this Christmas? 
Are you looking for the perfect gift, (or gifts) the bargains, the right decorations or Jesus? 
Dr. Luke writes in Luke 2:12,15, “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."  When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." 
They found Jesus because they were searching.  They were seeking Him.  And later on another group, the wise men found Jesus because they were seeking Him. 
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."  (Matthew 2:1,2) 
What are you looking for this Christmas? 
Let me tell you this – you will find what you are looking for. 
Jesus said in Matthew 7:7,   "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” 
Jesus is the reason for the season! 
Let’s all covenant together to seek after Jesus this Christmas.
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Have yourself a very ordinary Christmas

I know that we all agree that Mary being pregnant as a 14 year old virgin - by the Holy Spirit of God - is an extraordinary event - a miracle from God.
Yet, my challenge to you today is to take this extraordinary event and limit yourself to an "ordinary" celebration of what God has done for us.
Let me explain.
Joe Queenan, a writer for the New York Times and the magazine, GQ, criticizes what he calls our culture's "inability to accept the ordinary."
He writes that we insist that "every experience be a watershed, every meal extraordinary, every friendship epochal, every concert superb, every sunset meta-celestial - nothing can ever again be exactly what it was in the first place - ordinary."
In today's world, we all feel the pressure to make the Christmas Season - that much better - than the year before.  We put pressure on ourselves and on other people to make Christmas Eve and Christmas Day utterly fantastic.  
Have you ever driven around your neighborhood and seen homes that are lit up like the home in the movie, "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation?"
Over the top.
Christmas can become a competition of "who has the best celebration," to "who gave and received the best gifts," to "how big of a celebration we can have."
And at the end of the season we finally collapse on the coach, exhausted.
Christian author, Michael Horton writes this (in response to Queenan's quote):  "Today we feel the pressure to have our weddings look like the cover of a bridal magazine or movie set.  Our marriages have to be made in heaven, even though we're very much on earth.  Our presentations at work have to dazzle.  Our kids have to make the dean's list and get into the best graduate schools - nothing short of "brilliant" and "groundbreaking" will satisfy if you want a good job.  When we do stop and smell the roses, it has to be an unforgettable package at an amazing resort.  It is not enough to enjoy recreation at a public park, but extreme sports are what really interest us."
Can I ask you to consider something?  Why not applaud heaven for this extraordinary birth by spending Christmas Day in a very ordinary way - thinking of Jesus - deepening your relationship with family and friends - and retaining your sanity.
Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Sometimes it is easy to run out of superlatives when you watch and connect with a Christmas production like we saw yesterday.

Didn't God move in a powerful way?

Several raised their hands for salvation!  663 people attended.

I especially enjoyed the "Stomp" - the boys pounding on the buckets in conjunction with the Christmas tune, 'Lil Drummer Boy."

From the beginning to the end, Jesus was lifted up and glorified!

I encourage you to keep the moment of exalting Christ in your own individual family times - united around our Savior and Lord.

I can't begin to list all of the names of those who participated - but let me say a huge, huge, "Thank you," to everyone who gave of their time and help.

You are appreciated!

Wasn't the "kids choir," just wonderful?

Much gratitude to Pastor Brian (whose vision it was to produce, "The Christmas Collision") and the rest of his team!

I met so many new people yesterday, I stopped counting.  Good stuff!

I applaud you for inviting friends and family - and trust that they will "keep checking us out."

Your children (and teenagers) are a priority for us at Stone Church.  We are a church that honors and respects the family!

Upward Basketball will begin in a couple of weeks.  Please pray for this incredible outreach ministry to the community!

Parents with children:  We will be starting a second Kid's Hub service (during first service as well as second service) on January 4th.

Please put on your scheduling radar:  Season of renewal.  January 4-7 (Sunday A.M. and P.M.)  Bishop Murisa from Tanzania.  Child care provided at each service.

Okay, I have to say it:  The Dallas Cowboys beat Philadelphia last evening - but must win the last two games to make the playoffs.

God is good, my friends.  Through the highs and lows of life - he is always there, always caring for us, always providing for us.

We have much to be grateful for.

Love you all......

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Master of the obvious

Have you ever caught yourself saying something that is so obvious, you almost come off looking foolish for saying it?
I do that sometimes.  I call that being, "master of the obvious."
Let me give you a story that illustrates this - and then at the end of the blog apply it to the Holiday Season.
There is a story of a customs officer who observes a truck pulling up at the border.
Being suspicious, he orders the driver out and searches the vehicle.  He pulls off the panels, bumpers, and wheel cases but finds not a single scrap of contraband, whereupon, still suspicious but at a loss to know where else to search - he waves the driver through. 
The  next week, the same driver arrives.  Again, the official searches, and again finds nothing illicit. 
Over the years, the official tries full-body searches, X rays, and sonar, anything he can think of, and each week the same man drives up, but no mysterious cargo ever appears, and each time, reluctantly, the customs man waves the driver on.
Finally, after many years, the officers is about to retire. 
The driver pulls up.
"I know that you are a smuggler," the customs officers says.  "Don't bother denying it.  But I just can't figure out what you have been smuggling all of these  years.  I'm leaving now.  I swear to you I can do you no harm.  Won't you please tell me what you have been smuggling?"
The driver replies, "TRUCKS."
My dear friends, don't miss the obvious this month - Jesus.
It is all about Jesus.  More than anything else, I challenge you to draw yourself and your family closer to Jesus.
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Talking to other people

I read today that according to a study published in Scientific American, we each speak an average of 16,000 words per day.
(I would suspect - that for women, the number of words is higher).  :)
If I were to ask you, "how many different people, people outside of your circle of friends do you speak with," most folks would say that they routinely converse with a very rich and diverse variety of people very day.
But separate research studies show that we routinely talk to a very small group of the same people over and over again.
Most people converse with 7 to 15 people very day - but here's the deal - about 80% of our words are shared with a small group of about 5 trusted confidants, allies, and friends.
That means that close to 13,000 of our 16,000 daily words are directed at a very small group of friends and confidants.
These closest coworkers, team members, family members, and friends make up our true inner circle.  These are the people who think like us, care about us, and believe in us.
Now here is the challenge:  Perhaps, just perhaps, God is calling  you to (with intentionality) reach out to those outside of your Christian "huddles" and build relationships with people outside the church or with people who don't know Christ.
At any rate, I encourage you to make it a point to speak with one person (outside of your small group of friends) each day.
After all, don't we have the good news?  (We do!)
Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:
God is moving at Stone Church!
We used to sing a chorus with the words, "Wonderful, wonderful, Jesus is to me....."
And truly - Jesus is wonderful.
God is a God of the miraculous!
As God does a miracle in your life this week, please contact the church office with your story!
I received a testimony last evening of a man (after he was prayed for yesterday during the altar time).  He said that he felt his ear pop and that he was hearing better!
Praise God!
During the second service altar call, people lingered and worshipped God.  I, personally, felt God's presence in a powerful way - I long for more of God's presence in our lives.
In the midst of the stress of the month of December, I encourage us all to pause, and reflect - and reflect on our relationship with Christ.
Many, many thanks for the love offering that was given to us yesterday as a church staff.  We are very grateful for your love and thoughtfulness to us.
Debbie and I had a great time with my men's life group (and spouses) last evening at our home.  It is always gratifying for us to see people grow in Christ!
Just a reminder - the yearly theme for 2015 is coming soon!
All parents:  We will be having Kid's Hub in the first service (as well as the second service) beginning on Sunday, January 4, 2015.
If you aren't in a life group yet, please consider joining one - life groups change lives!
In mentioning the lack of touchdowns the Chicago Bears fans have scored recently, the second service booed me yesterday.  Booed in church!  (I love it!)
Love  you all.......

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Making adjustments for a healthy marriage

This evening the Chicago Bears play the Dallas Cowboys.
Of course, I will be watching, pulling for the Cowboys to win - unlike they did last year at Soldier Field (remember - I was at the game and it was very, very cold).
In one way, marriage is a lot like football.
In a close game, each team has the responsibility to make adjustments according to what they other team is doing.
The ideal time for this is halftime. 
Good coaches makes the required adjustments during the intermission, especially if they are losing.
A winning marriage requires the same type adjustments - adjustments that are made proactively.
Each person in a marriage come into that relationship with a set of assumptions, traditions, values, habits and rules from their previous life as a single person.
And so:  adjustments are to be made if the marriage is to be healthy.
And what's wild is that it is normally in the smallest of things that can bring the greatest of frustrations.
Someone has said, "We are worn down less by the mountain we climb than by the grain of sand in our shoe."
Something as small as where the toothpaste holder is - can bring about a siege of horrific conflict between the husband and wife.  (Not picking up after yourself - even something as small as whether the toilet seat stays up or down).
These small things can lead a couple to ask themselves:  Why did I marry this person (with a lot of tears and anger).
Can I tell you something:  You did marry the right person - without a doubt.
So...let me give you some points to remember as you make adjustments in your marriage (from the book, "Starting your marriage out right."
Recognize that adjustments are inevitable
It is 100% normal to have times of frustration and conflict over different areas of relationship in marriage.  In these adjustments, focus in on changing your behavior and becoming more tolerant and accepting of your spouses behavior.
Understand that adjustments have a divine purpose.
God uses these adjustments to teach us how to love one another in a godly way - as imperfect, different human beings.
Ask God for wisdom on how to live with this person who is different from you.
Instead of working, "just" on your spouse (and changing them) - how about accepting the situation and work in adjusting yourself?
Be more concerned about your own rough spots than those of your spouse.
Jesus said it best:  take the log out of your own eye before trying to take the speck out of your spouse's eye.
Make a commitment to hang in there, to work through the inevitable adjustments.
What's a good verse to memorize for all couples?
Philippians 2:3, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself."
And finally, know this dear couples:  Your spouse is your friend, not your enemy.
I encourage you to say at some point today to your spouse:  "You are not my enemy.  You are my friend."
Just some thoughts for a Thursday.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

If God says I'm Okay, then I'm okay

Here's what I know:  If God says I'm okay, then I'm okay.
What counts in life is gaining and receiving the approval of God.
You see, if God likes and approves of me - than what does it matter what others think?
Realize this, my friends.  You are on this planet to please an audience of one.
No matter who rejects you - God never will.
As a pastor, over the years, I come across those who have experienced rejection - especially from their parents.
Let me hone in on that for just a second (the thoughts apply to any relationship in life).
The Psalmist tells us in Psalms 27:10, "Even if my mother and father forsake me, the Lord will receive me."
Even those who brought you into this world, even if they reject you, God won't.
We are always our "parents children", and some still, are trying to win their parent's approval. 
You never could get it growing up.
Let me share this with  you:  If your parents rejected you growing up, it wasn't your problem, it was their problem.
It is a biblical principle:  Parents are not to reject their children.
So it wasn't your problem, it was their problem.
Perhaps, just perhaps, they were rejected and now they are just turning the rejection that they experienced on you.
Many of you, even as adults, are still trying to win  your parent's approval in many and varied way.
The truth is, if you haven't got it by now - and - you may never, ever get it.
Probably not.
Perhaps they have died and there is no way to get that approval.
Listen to me, please:  It doesn't matter.  You don't need it.  You don't need anyone's approval to be happy. 
All you and I need is for God to approve us.
I leave you with this:  Don't  let your happiness be dependent upon other people.
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Being a "cool" parent

I have always tried to be relevant with my kids and understanding of the culture that they live in.
There have been many times when they have mentioned a tune or a movie or a book, and I will go out and buy that certain "something" and read it or listen to it or watched it.
However, here is what I know:  your kids want you to be their parents, mom and dad, someone they can go to for advise and counsel - and not necessarily their "cool" friend.
A recent article in the Washington Post spoke of the growing phenomenon of "cool" parenting, complete with "selfies" and "Lol's".
Writer Andrews Reiner observes:
"Cool has been morphing from a political statement to a self-serving, at times desperate, need to simply fit in with a culture of conformity.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in the place where our children spend most of their time, the Internet.  A big part of cool today means curating a Photoshop-perfect image in social media, staying constantly looped into whatever pop culture news has gone viral and blithely dropping pithy, snarky tweets and text messages, as if this was the way we talk all of the time.  In other words, you're cool if you are relevant."
The writer sees "cool parenting" as an extension of Facebook "like" culture, a dumbing down of individual morality and backbone, and a pooling of "right" and relevance based on perceived popular opinion. 
I guess my thought to you today is this:  Maybe, just maybe, God isn't calling you to be the "cool" parent that our culture presses us into being - but the man of God or the woman of God the Scriptures consistently prompt us to be.
Do I want to know and understand the culture that my child is living in?  Absolutely.
But do I need to act, think and talk like the culture that is present in America today to be an effective parent?  Absolutely not. 
We are called to raise our children as "unto the Lord," and not as "unto the culture that we live in."
A disclaimer:  that does not mean that you ban your child from any participation in the culture we live in (that's legalism - and candidly impossible) but that you, as a follower of Christ, are explaining culture and comparing it to Scripture. 
Your child will not love you more if you are the "cool" parent.  But they will love and respect you as you are there to counsel them, guide them and encourage them in the ways of the Lord.
Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:
Wasn't it wonderful to hear the testimonies yesterday (first service) from the people from City Church in Chicago?
God is on the move!
It is our privilege to minister at their church once a month:  feeding the homeless.  Ministering of the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Thanks for giving to their ministry on a continual basis!
It is encouraging when the suburbs and the inner city unite in one common cause:  Jesus Christ.
I enjoyed spending "foyer time" yesterday - sharing and hearing of Thanksgiving experiences with our church family.
Debbie and I drove to Springfield, Missouri this past Wednesday for Thanksgiving with our family.  We came back Friday - so it was a quick trip. 
We had a great time!
Of course, the Dallas Cowboys losing (and losing bad) wasn't a lot of fun - but, hey, they play the Chicago Bears this coming Thursday!
You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family - which is why the love for family runs deep - you are family forever.
I am thankful for a wonderful dad and mom - and children and grandchildren. 
Debbie feels the same way.
There are a lot of exciting events at our church this month - as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Reminder:  Invite friends, families (and enemies) to our Christmas celebration on Sunday morning, December 14 (both morning services).  An appeal for salvation will be given.
Reminder:  I will be speaking on miracles this coming Sunday morning (in the context of the birth of Jesus).  Would encourage you to bring someone who needs a miracle in their life as we will be praying for people.
As a staff, we have settled on a theme for 2015.  More to come.
Thanks for being, you, Stone Church.  You are loved and appreciated!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Three phases of prayer

I was reading today about Kevin Kling, who was born with a birth defect:  His left arm was disabled and much shorter than his right.
When he was in his 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 Kling learned a life changing lesson about the "three phases of prayer."
Phase one:  We pray to get things from God.
Phase two:  We pray to get out of things.
Phase three:  We pray to give thanks to God.
Kling writes:
"I'd been through many surgeries during my six week stay in the hospital. And each day, I would ride the elevator to the ground floor and try and 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 on. 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. The 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 for 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."
Good stuff.
A couple of weeks ago, I walked out of the doctor's office with a good report (my CT Scan was clear) - the tumor had not returned. 
As I walked to my car, my eyes teared up as my heart was full of thanksgiving to God - and at times, my gratefulness wells up throughout the day.
I am grateful.
And maybe, just maybe, that is what the celebration on Thursday is all about.
Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:
My favorite day of the year?
Thanksgiving Day.
May this coming Thursday be a wonderful day of family, food, fun, football - and don't forget our heavenly Father!  And give thanks with a grateful heart.
I am grateful for so many, many things:  My relationship with Christ.  A loving family.  A wonderful church to serve as a pastor.  My health.
We never know what we have until it is taken away.  Again, I am grateful for my health.
Thank you, Father.
As I am writing this, it is snowing outside. 
I am grateful we didn't have the snow like they did in Buffalo, New York.
Debbie and I had the opportunity to meet a new couple yesterday after the second service. 
Just a reminder:  Reach out to someone this week - invite them to church - and/or share with them about Christ!
More people come to Christ through relationship than any other way.
You could be the difference maker between someone going to heaven or hell.
Jesus saves - but uses you and I to bring people to Him.
It is all about Jesus.
I love Jesus, yes I do, I love Jesus how about you?
I have to say, my Dallas Cowboys won yesterday - setting up a great game for Thanksgiving Day versus the Philadelphia Eagles.
Just read this:  "Raymond Edman, one of Billy Graham's mentors, once said, "Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light."
God's grace will always be there, especially when you don't feel it.  Your circumstances cannot change the character of God.   That He will always love you and his with you - that he knows what you are going through - that he cares and has a plan for your life.
Good stuff.
Love you all......

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Are you a bitter person?

Let me ask you today:  Are you a bitter person?
Have you been keeping score?
Is there a mental balance in your mind that every time that "someone" in your life who has hurts you does something, you say, "they owe me one?"
Some of you, in your marriage, you have had a spouse who made a major mistake - and you are still holding it over their head.
You are an unpleasable person because in your mind - no matter what they do - it is all just repayment.
No matter how good they are to you, you are saying, "They owe it to me."
You are unpleasable - because you won't forgive.
And let me tell you this:  You are killing the marriage - not the other person.
You're doing it by your unwillingness to forgive.
You are a bitter person who will never let them off the hook and you are holding in resentment and you have become unpleasable to the point that they want to say, "What's the use!  I'll never repay!"
In your mind you are saying, "You're right!"  "You never will!"
If you want to save your marriage (or any relationship), forgive, let it go and never bring it up again.
Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Laying on of hands

There are many things that we take for granted in the kingdom - or practices that we do without knowing why we do them.

Here is one:  Why do we "lay hands on people" when we pray with them?
We saw last week in our study in Acts, this verse:
"When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands....."  Acts 8:18.
What does that mean?

First of all, let's go back to the Old Testament.

The laying on of hands was in a different direction than New Testament laying on of hands.

In the Old Testament, the  most common usage was a person laying a hand on a sacrifice.

And by that, they were transferring their sin to a pure object, thereby, that pure object became a representation that - that animal was an atonement for sacrifice.

The impurity was being drained out of the individual was being transferred into the animal.

In the New Testament, the laying on of hands is not the laying on of impure hands onto something that is better, but it is the laying on of hands of a person that's filled with the power and might of God - and that energy, that power, that life of God which is in them is now being transferred to people who are without power, with the Spirit, and without the deeper consequence of the Lord's work in their life.

Jack Hayford writes:

"It's important when there is a laying on of hands that hose are not empty hands and those heads are not empty heads.  Someone has said that ordination is sometimes like that:  the empty hands of the bishop being laid on the empty heads of the candidate.

If there's no spiritual vitality in a person's life, the laying on of hands is just ritualistic.  So it's incumbent upon those who lay on hands that they be in a place of dynamic relation with God.  And those who receive, be in a position of tremendous hunger and openness to God.

When that combination occurs, God is a work doing His thing."
In other words, as you pray with people and "lay hands on them," at least make sure that your heart is right before God for that prayer to be effective.

To summarize, the laying on of hands is an often overlooked but foundational biblical truth  among its many proper biblical uses of laying are:

Healing.  Ordinations.  Sending qualified, called people out in ministry.  Receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Imparting spiritual gifts.  Imparting a blessing.
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The simple life

I like simple things.   
Watching the sunset on a beach.
Having dinner with friends.
Taking a long walk with Debbie. 
Isn’t it true that it’s in the simple things of life that we find the most joy! 
God is calling us to keep our faith “simple.”  As in not complex, not complicated and not busy. 
God desires that we have time to walk and talk with Him.  To love Him. 
God desires that we have time to walk and talk with others.  To love people. 
God desires that we have time to reach out to others.  To serve others. 
That’s our mission.  That’s our goal. 
We desire to love God thru shared worship and instruction. 
We desire to love others thru involvement in a small group. 
We desire to serve others thru ministry. 
Living the Christian faith is more than “bringing people to church.”  Living the Christian faith is “taking the church to people.”  Being the followers of Christ He has called us to be.  
Howard Hendricks has written, “You can impress people at a distance; you can only impact them up close.  The general principle is this:  the closer the personal relationship, the greater the potential for impact.” 
We come to Christ in relationship.  We grow in Christ in relationship.  I mean, think about it for a second.  Who has had the greatest spiritual impact on your life?  Perhaps it was a college professor, a youth pastor, a friend, your spouse, or your parents.  Regardless of who it was, you had a relationship with that person. 
You knew that they cared about you.  You spent time together.  You gave them permission, formally or informally, to check up on you. 
We really do need each other.  That’s why the small groups shown in this issue are so important.  Where else can we really, truly and ultimately connect with others but in a setting where we consistently slow down and share each other’s burdens and laugh and cry and encourage one another?
Let me ask you a pointed, personal and perhaps irritating question.  Are we spending so much time “doing church” that we forget that we are to “be the church” to those around us? 
Perhaps Christ is calling us to simple Christianity.  Perhaps the “kiss theory” should come into play here (Keep It Simple Stupid).   
Our world and culture is so complex that people are longing, and yes searching for something that is going to simplify their lives.  The last thing they need is one more “busy thing to do.”   
Jesus knew this.  The religious leaders of his day had developed a religious system with 613 laws.  They chose the number 613 because that was how many separate letters were in the text containing the Ten Commandments.  Enter Jesus.  A man comes along and asks, “Which of the commandments is the greatest?”  And Jesus basically responds, “Love God and love people.”  Simple.   
We must continually ask ourselves, “Is what we are doing changing lives?”  While greatly appreciated, a lot of what we label “ministry” in the church is simply “busyness.”   
Is God calling us back to the simplicity of the gospel?  Of serving?  Helping?  Encouraging?  Relating?  Affirming?  Restoring?  Of loving God and loving people? 
Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:
I'm not quite sure how many volunteers we have on a typical Sunday morning to facilitate all of the ministries of our church - but there are many.
And to all of  you who help out - a huge thank you!
We are very appreciative of your time and help.
I participated in a very productive meeting with Bobbie Dirks (our new head of our greeters and welcome booth ministry) and Tom Kirchner and Jon Gerstenkorn!
I really appreciate their burden and desire to see that everyone is welcomed to our church on a Sunday morning.
Upward Basketball.  Still time to sign up!
I know that you will agree with me that worship was powerful, anointed and encouraging yesterday.
I especially enjoyed to flute solo.
Thought for today:  Just about the time you are ready to give up - that is the time God is ready to step in and His thing.
Many thanks to the young men in our youth group who stood and cheered as I wore turquoise tennis shoes and jeans in their honor!
I must say that wearing jeans was very, very comfortable.
We are building moment as to the theme for our church family in 2015.  More to come.
What I didn't get to yesterday (in my teaching):
In spite of my circumstances:
I can be joyful because God is with me. 
I can be joyful because God has a plan for me.
I can rejoice because God will help me.
I am to focus on God's power rather than my problems.  Psalms 62:8:  Trust in God at all times; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge." 
Paul writes in Philippians 4:13, "For I can do everything with the help of Christ who give me the strength I need."
Do you need strength today?  Draw from God's power. 
Love you all.....

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The church, a man's wife and criticism

Wake up  your sanctified imagination and think of this scenario:

A man invites a friend into his home for dinner.  They enjoy a delicious meal that the man's wife had graciously offered to make.

The man and his friend casually catch up on life, but then halfway through the meal, the invited guest starts to do something unbelievable.

He starts listing things that his friends' wife could have done better.

His friend says, "the chicken was way too tough, You should  have marinated it longer.  And the broccoli is overcooked, mushy and bland.  My 12 year old daughter could cook a better meal.  And you should really do something else with your hair."

Then he starts to criticize her character, even ridicule her.

It doesn't take a brain surgeron to realize his visit could be cut short.  And the guest would probably be sent away with a few choice words.

Even if he was right about certain things, the typical husband simply wouldn't tolerate someone openly and caustically criticizing his wife.

He loves her, and for a husband, that leads to accepting and honoring his wife despite her quirks and shortcomings.

Did you realize that the church is the bride of Christ?

That Christ gave his life for the church?

And what's interesting is how followers of Christ can tolerate this mean-spirited  criticism all the time when it is directed at the church.

If we are not careful, it is easy for  us to look at the church and her leaders, and says, "The church should have done (and fill in the blank)."  Or, "I wish they hadn't done (and fill in the blank)."

Just remember, the next time you are really laying into the church - that you are talking about the "wife" of Jesus.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


One of my favorite stories in the Bible is found in Luke 17:11-19

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, traveling along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 

As he is going into a village, ten men with leprosy encounter him.

They stood at a distance (because of the physical threat of getting leprosy - like Ebola - and also because it was the cultural norm) and shouted, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!"

Jesus basically replies, "Go and see your doctor" - and as they did - they are healed.

One of them comes back and praising God at the top of his lungs, throws himself at the feet of Jesus - and thanked him. 

The other nine did not.

This really bothered Jesus - a lot.

He tells the one who came back to thank him - "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."  In other words, your gratitude will heal you in your emotions and mind as well as you body.

Today, I want to emulate the one that came back to thank Jesus.

Yesterday, I went to my doctor who examined my blood work from two weeks ago and the CT Scan I had last week.  (I am on a schedule of 3 month checkups after the tumor was taken out of my stomach in April).

Everything was clear

I am very grateful.

Thank you, Jesus.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The leading of God

Here's what I know:

Normally God leads us a step at a time.

The Psalmist writes in Psalms 119:105, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path."

In Old Testament times, they didn't have flashlights on their IPhones, or high beams on their carts.

How did you get anywhere at night?

They had little oil lamps that they would actually strap to the top of their feet and light the lamps and they gave light as you walked in the dark.

As you took a step, that lamp lighted that step.  As you took the next step, that step was lit.  It was not a high beam that you could see a half mile down the road.  It was simply a step by step enlightenment.

It is the same with God's will.  God is not going to lay it all out and say this  is what's going to happen in your life over the next 20 years. 

To be candid with  you - that would blow your mind - and even keep you up at night!

God says, I reveal my will to you a step at a time, and my word will give light to your path.
My word to you today?  Relax knowing that it will all come together.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Busy, busy time.

What a joy it was to have family members with us over the weekend!

Doug and Cindy Sites (Debbie's brother and sister-in-law) gave a powerful, moving presentation of the need in Asia.

God is moving!

It was fun to have the entire church together in one service.

I relished the unity and oneness of spirit that we all sensed and felt!

We have a very, very good church - filled with good people.

Thanks to all who helped out with the dinner yesterday - we appreciated your time and help!

I also enjoyed having our children in for the service:  their support of missions through Boys and Girls Missionary Crusade is invaluable both to the missionary and to the casting of a vision for missions to the boys and girls!

Thanks to everyone who brought food - it was delicious!

Worship again - I know that I sound redundant - but each we are drawing closer and closer to the Lord.  Thanks worship team for your leadership.

Am grateful for an excellent pastoral staff team around me!

I am thankful that I have the opportunity to be with 5 men (on Saturday morning) who are craving to grow in God - and as leaders in their home.

Didn't the kids choir sound good yesterday during the banquet?

Could I give you a suggestion?  I encourage you to invite someone this Sunday morning.

Why?  Just because.......

You never know that this Sunday might be the Sunday that God moves in that individual's life!

Thanksgiving is coming (my favorite day of the year!)

As I mentioned in my article (email blast) to everyone:  Please be in prayer for our pastors and their families.  And...please know that we are praying for you!

Can I tell you something?  You are needed at our church!  You are important to us!

I am looking forward to "bigger and better" things for our church - how about you?!

Love you all,


Wednesday, November 05, 2014


Have you ever needed encouragement in your life?
I would guess that you have.
We all do at times.
Encouragement is like a cool breeze on a hot summer day.  It revives and refreshes.  It is like a cold drink to quench your thirst.  It renews and gives strength.
It helps you overcome when  you feel overwhelmed.  It helps you soar rather than sink.
It helps you to be a victor rather than a victim.
Here's what I know:  We all hunger and thirst for encouragement.
When encouragement comes our way, we soak it up like a sponge.  We're ready for more because that's what gets u through the day.
This day - be an encourager and not a discourager.
What are the characteristics of an encourager?
They give freely of their resources.  They recognize that what they haven't doesn't belong to them but to God.  They have an open handed philosophy of life.
Corrie Ten Boom says it well, "I've learned not to hold onto anything too tightly because it hurts too much to have God pry back my fingers to get to it.  So I've learned to live  my life with an open hand so that God can put in and he can take out whatever he wants, and that way I never miss the blessing."
Encouragers accept you where you are.  They are willing to accept you where you are and help you get to where you need to be.  They realize that none of us came to Christ with an advantage.
Encouragers get excited about the progress of others.  The rejoice and get excited when others succeed in their marriages, parenting or at their jobs.
Encouragers meet the current need.  They sit in the back seat and let somebody else drive if that's what brings God glory.
Encouragers give others a second chance.  They realize that one failure doesn't mean total failure.  They are quick to say, "try again".
Every day, you and I make messes.  The last thing we need is for someone to come along and say, "what a mess!"  What we need is the fresh air of encouragement.
I encourage you to find two or three people today and give them a wonderful, sincere word of encouragement. 
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Parents - you are doing well!

One of the issues that Christian parents struggle with is this:  "Am I doing well as a parent?"  "Am I providing the Christian parenting that they need?"  "What if I am not perfect as a mom, or as a dad?"
Let me give you two thoughts today as a word of encouragement:
No parent is perfect (only our Father God is).
You are doing really, really well as a mom or dad.
I have been saying this a lot recently:  More than at any other time in ministry as a pastor, I see parents who are "doing their best" as parents, with God's help.
Please know that you are, mom and dad.
So many parents are guilt ridden, fretting that they are overdoing it or not doing enough.
I encourage you to relax today, knowing that from my perspective, you are doing a wonderful job.
And know this:  When you are having a hard time with one of your children (and you are really feeling the heat), you're a candidate for a breakthrough.  Pain prompts change. 
It's like the Chinese symbol for the word crisis:  It means "danger," but it also means "opportunity."
There is a possibility hidden in every problem.
Know this:  Without problems, there can be no miracles.  When times are really tough and you're hurting, think about Jesus.  Every trouble He experienced ended in triumph.
Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Debbie and I went and saw "Amazing Grace" (the musical) this past Friday - it was very good.

Of course, at the end, as the cast is singing the hymn, "Amazing Grace" (along with a good portion of the audience) it was difficult not to cry tears of rejoicing at God's goodness to us.

God is good - all the time.

Worship was phenomenal yesterday. 

Many thanks to our worship team.  There was a powerful sense of God's presence in the chapel.

Did you enjoy your extra hours' sleep last Saturday evening?

Missions banquet this coming Sunday!

We love missions!

We love missionaries!

One service.  11:00 A.M.  Sunday morning, November 9th.  Global Potluck dinner to follow.  Please plan on bringing an international dish to the lunch.

We will also be hearing a story of healing:  Cindy Sites, the wife of our missionary will be sharing of how God healed her from cancer.

I encourage you to vote tomorrow - and pray for the elections.

May God's will be done.

As I said yesterday, I can't wait for all of the attack ads to be over with - on television.
I read this today:
"It had to be a weird day for the Coast Guard when they got a report about a man in a bubble needing rescue in the middle of the ocean. Reza Baluchi, an ultra-marathoner attempting a globe-wide run to promote world peace, was attempting to "run" from Florida to Bermuda in the person-powered "bubble." But walking on water is for very elite company, and much like the last guy who thought it was a good idea to walk on the water (Peter), Baluchi needed to be rescued. Sometimes we are called to take crazy risks, in search of our goals, or just to follow Jesus. But if you're in over your head, don't be too proud to call for help. Walking on water isn't easy."
John Ortberg has written a book entitled, "If you want to walk on water - get out of the boat".  But I would add - don't forget to take people with you on the journey.
Love you all.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Not doing marriage alone

Yesterday I talked about kindness in marriage.
Let me encourage you today with this thought:  Don't do marriage alone.
For many married couples, developing accountability relationships is one of the most important steps they can take to a great marriage.
It seems like I have been quoting the scripture from Ecclesiastes 4:9,10 a lot recently, but these verses are so true:
"Two are better than one because.....if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.  But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up." 
How can you be accountable in marriage?
Some suggestions:
Pray together.  There is nothing that promotes relational intimacy more than praying together.  Ask each other questions like:  "What has God been teaching you lately?"  "What are you praying about these days?"
Be open about the tempations and moral sturggles of life, especially in the realm of physical intimacy.
Help each other with schedules.  Monitor each other's workload and schedules.  Making good decisions means saying yes to some things and no to others....and saying "no" can be a lot easier when you can honestly add:  "WE have decided that I don't have time to do this."
Have joint checking accounts.  Keep each other up to date on all financial issues.
Become united on parenting styles.  Most parents obtain their parenting techniques from what they saw modeled by their parents.  Many times, husband and wife are 180 degrees apart on "how to parent."  I encourage you to interact and sharpen one another on which style you choose to parent.
Now then, on to something just as important.
I would suggest that at least one other couple knows how you really are doing in your marriage.  If I could say it with a "you" statement:  You need at least one or two other couples who know how you are doing in your marriage.
Formats for that include your small group or lifelong friendships in the church.  
I am grateful that God is filling our church with couples who earnestly desire a genuine relationship with other couples - and with God!  They desire godly marriages.
Here is the principle:  Accountability, with a spouse and in a small group, is one of God's tools for building a strong and lasting marriage.
Just some thoughts for a Thursday........