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Thursday, May 29, 2014

When to ask for help

Here's an interesting question:  When should you ask for help?

Of course we should be dependent upon the Holy Spirit in all things.  We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

We need the Holy Spirit.

We need God.

But when should you ask for help from others?

The longer I walk in Christ, the more I realize that we really do need each other.

I need you.  You need me.  I need the church.  The church needs me (and you).

I hear people say, "I find it difficult to ask for help." 

Or, "I know from experience that no one will help."

Those are myths.

I believe in the principle of synergy, that two working together can accomplish far more than just one.

The Bible says in Deuteronomy 32:30, "How could one man chase a thousand, or two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock has sold them, unless the Lord has given them up?"

One can put a thousand to flight - two can put ten thousand to flight.  The number dramatically increases with just two working together.

But when should you ask for this help?

Some suggestions:

When the challenge is bigger than you.

When the challenge is personal.

When you have share the problem with God.  The first person to talk to is God.  Always.  No exceptions (we will be looking at this on Sunday morning).

When you know you are walking in God's will.  God will rarely put you in a position where you don't need the help of others in accomplishing His plan for your life. 

When people oppose you.  Whenever you move forward (in any area of life) you will always face opposition.  The enemy will turn up the heat in your life.  Don't give up.  Seek help from others.

Let me share this with you - many times you are praying for a miracle, when that miracle is right there with you in the form of someone(s) who can help  you.  We just need to work together.

No challenge you face is too big when you have help.

So, as we talked about dreams yesterday, when God gives you a dream (vision, goal), one of the first questions you should ask is:  Who can help me accomplish this dream?

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Your dreams and God

Don't give up on your dream!

That's the word for today.

From the youngest child (who dreams of being a fireman, policeman or astronaut) to the oldest saint (who dreams of seeing their family serve God, finishing well in the faith), we must not give up on our dreams!

Bullet points on dreams:

Dreams are conceived long before they are achieved.

The period of time between the birth of a dream and its realization is always a process.  Most of the time the process to the fulfillment of our dreams is like a river that bends and turns as to the way that the terrain allows it to go.  Rarely does the accomplishment of a dream follow a sequential ABCD plan, connecting each dot along the way (as previously planned). 

The process can be challenging:  filled with doubts, adversity, changes and surprises.  To use a sports analogy, audibles will need to be called.  Plans redirected to accomplish the dream.

In the process, you will have good days and bad days.  Don't get too high during the good days or too low during the bad days.

Each day the question is before you:  Do I give up or go on?

Here's what I know:

God is always with you as you walk through the process of accomplishing your dream.  Like Joseph in Genesis, God will be with you during the pit experiences of life.

Develop  yourself during the difficult times.  When you are mistreated, complaining doesn't do any good.  When you are knocked down, the best thing you can do is allow the experience to propel you to be and do better. 

Realize that the focus must always be on promoting God.  As long as I am promoting God, God will take care of bringing the dream to fruition.

When the dream comes to pass - rejoice!

What is your dream today?  Keep on dreaming and don't give up.

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Our Memorial Day Monday morning tradition?  Cleaning out the garage - sweeping and hosing down the garage floor after a winter's worth of dirt, sludge and grime is left.

Debbie and I went to the Chicago White Sox game yesterday.  It is hot. 

We had a blast.

I only had 2 plain hot dogs for lunch (I used to eat a lot more in my younger days :) ).

We got to see Governor Pat Quinn at the game. 

We watched as someone came in to the game (we were sitting near home plate - 29 rows up) with an entourage and security - and sat down.  Didn't recognize him at first - but then as he got up to leave (we found out later to do interviews) he walked up the row - came by me - I stuck out my hand and said, "hello governor."  He said, "Hello, and 'Go White Sox.'"

You never know who you are going to see at a game.  Strong handshake.

If only the Sox had some pitching - they might win the division.

Debbie and I had a nice time at Ken and Karen's Swanson's 50th wedding celebration.  Good food, great time of fellowship! 

Congratulations to Ken and Karen!

The song we sang on Sunday, "You deserve it all" (speaking of Jesus) - was beautiful.  Truly God does deserve all that we have and all that we are.

Principle:  We get into trouble when we think God hates the same people we do.

Blackhawks are down 3 games to 1 - tough to come back.

I encourage you to keep God at the top of the list of your priorities as we enter into the summer months. 

Question:  Would you be happy if Jesus was all that you had?

Worship flows from the heart of God to the heart of the worship leader to a congregation of worshippers.  An openness to the Holy Spirit is needed each step of the way.

Love you all........

Thursday, May 22, 2014

It is not what you own but who owns you that counts.

Here's what I know:  It is not what you own but who owns you that counts.

And that determines your value.

Your value as a person is not determined by what you own - or your last name - or your position or title at your company.

Your value is determined by who you are in Jesus.

Repeat that after me:  "I belong to Jesus."

Years ago there was a sale of items that belonged to Elvis Presley.

One of his cars sold for $277,000.

One of his outfits sold for $113,000.

By the time the auction as over, five million dollars worth of Elvis Presley's good were sold.

By itself, was that car worth $277,000?  No.

Was one of his outfits worth $113,000?  No.

But it was who owned them that made them valuable.

Wrap all of that around the fact that with God in you, God owns you - you belong to Him.

You are precious to Him - so much so that He died on the cross for you - and for me.

I give God my life - God lives in me - God owns me - so to speak - and therefore I am valuable.

Say that after me, "I am valuable".  "I am a child of God."  "God owns me."

And walk with your head held high today - you are worth something to God - and to others.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I will be praying for you - and call me if you need me.

I can't tell you how many times over the years I have used this phrase, "I will be praying for you."
Great phrase - if it is meant from the heart - and applied.
I read an article this week from Relevant Magazine that sparked this blog.
Let me quote from it and add on my own comments.
Prayer is important.
Prayer is the foundation of all that we are as followers of Christ.
The author of this article writes, "That said, the reality is that too many times Christians use this phrase as a general blanket statement to tell someone know we care, but only in a passing, surface level way.  It can become almost routine to throw out the prayer line whenever someone shares a concern.  Sometimes we follow through on it, often we don't."
Challenging thoughts.
We are all guilty (is that the right word?) of doing this - not because we intentionally want to mislead someone - but because we want that person to know we care.
Or here is something else we Christian types like to say, "Call me if you need me."
What that can sometimes mean is:  "I really want to help - but would probably pass out if you did call me - and know you never will."
Again, well-intentioned people using well-intentioned words.
Here are some practical suggestions from the article:
"Perhaps instead of just letting someone know we'll pray for them (or help them if they call), we should offer up other practical ways to serve them in love (I would add - in an unsolicited kind of way).
Are they sick? - maybe they need a warm meal (without being asked).
Just got laid off?  - Maybe some extra cash to pay some bills (without being asked).
New mom overwhelmed with a baby?  - Offer to help do their laundry or clean their house (without being asked).
Finally, the article states, "If you do tell someone we'll pray for them, be intentional.  Ask them what specifically you can pray for them about.  Write it down so  you'll remember.  Call or text them to check in.  Let's not brush off the hurts of others with an empty promise to pray that we'll likely forget."
Good, solid words for a Wednesday -  my desire is to practice what this article preaches.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Being real

I really work at it - probably because I like to see it in others - being real.

Being yourself.

Knowing who you are in Christ.

Knowing your strengths and your limitations.

I can only do so much with what God has given me - and to go beyond that (outside of a spiritual dispensation of God's grace and spirit) places me in a position of being fake and yes, even hypocritical.
If there is one thing I don't care for is hypocrisy in others - and I like it even less when I see it in my own life.
At times, we can all be so hypocritical.
I read a story today about Virginia college sophomore Danny Foley who just wanted to be part of his school's men's basketball team—even if that meant faking his way onto the court.
Danny noticed that all of his team's assistant coaches wore the same suit with a bright orange tie.
So before Virginia's conference championship game against Duke on March 16, 2014, he and his friends went searching for some cheap knockoffs.
He found everything he needed at Walmart—a suit jacket, suit pants, dress shoes, dress socks, a white dress shirt, and the orange tie.
The next morning, he bought $30 nosebleed tickets just to get in the door and headed to the game.
During a TV timeout, Danny made a move, confidently marching past an usher and onto the court.
Danny said, "'I walked right behind the cheerleaders and onto the court and joined the [team's] huddle on the court."
Following his team's big win, he went for an even bigger thrill.
When the game's final buzzer sounded with Virginia defeating Duke 72-63, Danny joined his "teammates" in the handshake line.
As the confetti fell around him, Danny got to shake hands with "Coach K," the legendary coach for Duke. Photos from the end of the game show Danny wearing a championship t-shirt over his suit and smiling in the middle of the confetti-covered arena.
After celebrating with coaches and players, Danny was caught by a member of Virginia's staff, but he quickly climbed the railings and disappeared into the stands."
I love that story!  :)
I would suggest that you can come to our church campus on a Sunday morning, dress the part, talk the part and even act the part - but are you a real Christian?
Do you pretend to be something you are not?
You can talk about STL, BGMC, TBQ, JBQ, MPACT, etc, with the best of them - but do you know God and are you - well, you?
Just a question for a Tuesday.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:
Congratulations to our Royal Ranger boys (Kyle McNamara, David Beckberger, Sam Arthur, Kyler Stephan, Caleb Czaja) who obtained the Saber award! 
We are proud of you and all of your hard work!
What a wonderful visual it was to see these young men in front of our church family.  May God continue to minister to them in their walk with Christ!
I can't tell you how thrilled I was to see several raise their hands, acknowledging that they had prayed a prayer of forgiveness, asking God to live in them - and connecting to Christ!
Truly we give thanks to the Holy Spirit!
It is the Holy Spirit who "saves", we are simply channels and vessels by which He moves.
We sang the hymn, "Jesus paid it all" yesterday - truly He has paid it all - for each one of us - for our sins both of commission and omission.
Debbie and I had a great time at Peter and Ann-Marie's life group last evening.  Great food (Peter is a wonderful cook) and meaningful fellowship!
If you are not yet a part of a life group - we encourage you to join one!
FYI - Pastor Brian is now giving pastoral leadership to our life groups.  I am really jazzed about this - he comes to us with a wealth of experience he leading different ministries in the church - and has a heart for community within a local body of believers.
I enjoyed being "out in the foyer" yesterday talking with people.  God has given me a renewed sense of physical strength to be able to do so.  I no longer take that for granted - including life itself.
We have a wonderful church - filled with fantastic people!
I also enjoy meeting new people each Sunday.  "Father, we pray that you continue to send to us those who not only need you, but those whom we can establish relationships with."
God calls us to not only be friendly but to strive to make friends.
Just about the time that we are ready to give up - God moves in our lives.
It looks like another long year for the Cubs and White Sox - at least summer is coming!
We encourage each life group to schedule a "once a month" activity throughout the summer months.  It is important, I would suggest, to keep that connection in the midst of all of the summer activities and vacations.
Love you all.......

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Purpose of spiritual power

Who gives spiritual power?  God.
How do we obtain that power?  Through humility.
What is the purpose of the power of God?
To do good.
That's it?  Yeah, that's it.
And that is enough.
One of the verses we will look at in our series on the book of Acts (starting in June) is found in Acts 10:38:  "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power and he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him."
God gave Jesus power so that He could do good - so that He could heal people, set people free from the bondages of the enemy.
God gives us spiritual power so that we can help other people.
God's heart is always about people. 
God loves people with a desperation that can only come a loving, caring deity.
And here's the deal:  God will watch how you use His power.
Do you use it for self-gratification?
Do you use it for personal recognition?
Do you use it to "feel good"?
Or do you use His spiritual power to influence and show the love of Jesus to a lost and dying world?
That's my goal:  how about you?
Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How do we receive power?

Okay, we saw yesterday that power, spiritual power comes from God.

But how do we receive that power?

It is very simple.

To receive the power of God - you and I are to do the opposite of what we think we're supposed to do!

The kingdom of God (especially the teachings of Jesus) are very paradoxical.

If you want authority - you must be under authority.

If you want to live - you must die (spiritually).

If you want to receive - you must give.

Have you ever noticed that with God (and in spiritual matters pertaining to your walk with Christ) it is always the opposite of the world's ways?

So how do you receive power - the power of the Holy Spirit?

By giving up the right to power.

In other words, we must become servants.

James 4:10 states, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up."

Power comes from God - right?  We saw that.

So it is God who lifts us up, or gives us power.

Pastor James tells us that if we want God to lift us up, or give us power, we must humble ourselves in His sight. 

The Bible tells us that (I Peter 5:5) God resists the proud - or comes against them.

Here's the word of the day:  It is impossible to walk in God's power while walking in pride at the same time.

When we walk in pride - here is what happens:

God hands us an assignment and says, "Stay behind me - I will go before you."

You say, "Not necessarily God, I don't need you."

God says, "What?"

You say, "I think I can do this by myself." 

And then you step out from behind God, and try to move forward on your own.

And God will let you do that!

And not only will God let you do that - but he will actually turn around and resist you!

My desire is to do my best to walk in humility before God - and with the help of His Holy Spirit.

Life is hard enough without God resisting me as well.

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Where does power come from?

We Pentecostal types talk a lot about the power of God - and rightfully so.

But let's not forget where that power comes from.

It doesn't come from styles or preferences - or "certain ways of doing church."

It doesn't come from how I dress.

It doesn't come from a certain denomination.

Spiritual power comes from God.

Psalms 62:11 tells us, "God has spoken once, twice I have heard this:  that power belongs to God."

I love that verse.

Power belongs to God.

So if we have power, spiritual power, it comes from God.

God is the source of power.

In John 19:10,11, Pilate is talking to Jesus about power.  Pilate doesn't seem to realize where his power comes from.

The Bible tells us:

"Then Pilate said to Him, "Are you not speaking to me?  Do you not know that I have power to crucify you, and power to release you?" 

Jesus answered, "You could have no power at all against me unless it had been given you from above."

This is actually funny, Pilate is talking to God and says, "Don't you realize that I have power over you?"

Now that is what you call "missing the boat."

But Jesus straighten him out when he said, "You could have no power at all against me unless it had been given you from above."

Jesus let Pilate know that all power and all authority comes from above - from God himself.

I say often, "Jesus is in me, Jesus has all authority, therefore I have all authority (and power)."  That authority and power comes from Jesus in me.

My encouragement to you?

Get your eyes off of people, preferences and positions and get your eyes on God - and receive His power today.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

It seems like there has been a heighten sense of God's presence in our services the past couple of weeks.  I am grateful to God for his ministering presence in our lives.

I never take the presence of God for granted.

May we never be in a position where we "do church" on a Sunday morning out of habit or ritualism.

If God is not present - what makes our meetings any different from a rotary meeting?

If God is not present - what makes royal rangers any different from the boy scouts?

If God is not present - what makes Impact any different from the girl scouts?

If God is not present - what makes our youth group any different from any club on a high school campus?

Thought of the day:  The difference between a ministry and a program is whether or not the Holy Spirit is present.

I was so thrilled that we had the opportunity to welcome 13 new members to our church family yesterday.

I really appreciated Debbie's presentation yesterday.  She did a fantastic job of communicating on the subject of choices!

I also appreciated her vulnerability - after all - we are all just trying to "do the best we can" - isn't that true?

Debbie is a wonderful mother, wife and pastor's wife. 

I was also jazzed that a newer couple to our church commented on how friendly we are!

Let's all continue to reach out and not only be friendly - but make friends.

I trust you had a wonderful day with your mom yesterday - or with your children's mom - I know that I am blessed with a wonderful mother!

I like the emphasis Debbie placed on choices yesterday.  Ultimately, when we sin - it is a choice that we make. 

A special thank you to everyone who makes Sunday morning "go."  I don't have an official count of how many participate in ministry - but THANK YOU for your help, service, work and time!

Love you all.....

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

God's daily grace

Here's what I would ask that you catch (even if you don't read any further):

God gives us enough grace for one day at a time.

For those of us who deal with fatigue, burnout, weariness and worry, we must learn to live one day at a time.

It has almost become cliché in the Kingdom of God - but it is true; truly we can only live one day at a time.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:34, " not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own.  Sufficient for each day is its own trouble."

God does give us grace and God does give us His strength.  But he does so incrementally, as we need it. 

We are saved by God's grace - and we live by God's grace - daily.

So often we want to try to store up God's grace so that we are covered not only for today but also for tomorrow - and next week - and next month - and next year.

But like the manna that the children of Israel received as they walked through the Sinai (on a daily basis) - so we receive God's grace daily.

Now then, do you know why this is true?  Do you know why grace can't be stored up?

Because it doesn't take any trust to live that way. 

It takes a firm trust and faith in God to live daily in His grace.

When you and I start worrying and fretting about what we are going to do tomorrow, or any other time in the future it just won't work.

God wants us to trust Him for today.

Would you pray we me (as Jesus taught us to pray), "Give us this day our daily bread."

Just a thought for a Wednesday

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Taking my place

I don't know about you, but I am thankful that Jesus has taken my place - on the cross.  He's "doing time" for me so that I don't have to do time in hell.  He paid the penalty of  my sin.

I am guilty - He was and is innocent - yet he did my time for me.
Chuck Colson writes this story: 
“Near the city of San Jose in Brazil is a remarkable prison facility.  Twenty years ago the Brazilian government gave up on this prison and so they turned it over to two Christians who renamed the prison and decided to build this prison based on Christian principles.  With only two full employees all the work is done by inmates.” 
Chuck Colson visited this prison in Brazil and he said this,
“I found the inmates smiling particularly the murderer who held the keys to the prison open the gates and let me in.  Wherever I went in the prison I saw men at peace.  I saw clean living areas.  I saw people working cheerfully.  This is the power of the gospel. 
The walls were decorated with Bible verses.  Then my guide escorted me to the notorious prison cell that had once been used for torture.  He told me that it now houses only one inmate. 
As we walked down the long hall and he put the key in the lock he paused and asked, ‘Chuck, are you sure you want to go in?’  ‘Of course,’ I said impatiently.  ‘I’ve been in isolation cells all over the world.’ 
Slowly he swung open the massive door and I saw the solitary prisoner in that cell.
It was a wooden statue carved by the inmates of Jesus hanging on the cross. 
My guide said softly, ‘He’s doing time for the rest of us.’”
Powerful story.
Now then, let me ask you this question:  Once you are set free, once a prison sentence has been paid for and the doors open do you hang around the prison?  No.
You walk out the doors of that prison as fast as you can and never look back.
What I am saying this afternoon is this:  Whatever has you bound - in Jesus Christ -  you can be released from - you can walk out of that prison - free in Jesus Christ.

Why?  Because Jesus took your place.

So what you are struggling with?
Perhaps it is guilt.  You can't forget what you did.
Or resentment.  You can't forget what others have done to you and you're still locked in the prison of bitterness and hatred and anger and resentment.
Perhaps it is loneliness.  Or worry, anxiety or fear.
Perhaps you are bound by an addiction.  You can't stop "it" no matter how hard you try.
Please understand that through Jesus Christ and the power of the cross, you can walk out of that prison and be free.
Jesus was hung up on that cross so that you can lay your hang ups on him.
Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I can't tell you how thrilled I was to see several baptized in the Holy Spirit last evening.

I appreciated the emphasis by our guest speaker (Greg Hubbard) on the fact that God gives us the power of the Holy Spirit to share our faith.  To witness.  To evangelize.

We are all called to share our faith.

While some have the "gift of evangelism" - we are all called to spontaneously tell of our walk with Christ when the occasion arises.

Can you not sense the presence of the Lord in our worship?

God is using Pastor Brian and our worship team in a powerful way.

More and more, our church family is engaging in worship without having to be "prompted".

I love the hunger that I see for God's presence.

Tonight:  Greg Hubbard will be speaking on the subject of miracles - and will be praying for the sick7:00 P.M.  Child care provided.

I would encourage you to bring a friend.

Many came to Christ Sunday morning!  Isn't God good?

I always enjoy seeing "new faces" in our services. 

Debbie and I noticed a lot of small children "running around the church" after service.  Isn't that wonderful!  Our church is growing!

As Greg shared Sunday morning, "God help us all not to be like the elder brother as Christians, angry, prideful, having to have our own way."

Come on spring and summer - you can make it - we want you to come!

I encourage you to witness this week of your faith in Jesus Christ.

Thankful for a great pastoral staff.

This coming Sunday is membership Sunday!  We will be recognizing 14 new members!

I am excited!

Love you all......

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Making friends

At Stone Church, our vision is to make friends by being a friend.
We are a place to belong.
Our goal is not to place another "warm body" in a chair on a Sunday morning - our goal is to establish deep and fulfilling relationships with people from our community.
In Christ, as followers of Him, we are always open to welcoming new people into our circles of friendship.  We make friends by being a friend.
We desire to be a sanctuary where not only are people welcomed the first three or four times they enter our doors - but they are establishing and creating friendships as well.
Jerry Seinfield once said, "When you're in your thirties it's very hard to make a new friend.  Whatever the group is that you've got now that' show you're going with, you're not interviewing, you're not looking at any new people, you're not interested in seeing any applications.  They don't know the places - they don't know the activities.  If I meet a guy in a club or the gym, I'll tell him, "I'm sure you're a very nice person, you seem to have a lot of potential, but we're just not hiring right now."
Of course when you're a kid, you can be friends with anybody.  Remember when you were a little kid?  What were the qualifications (for becoming friends)?  If someone's in front of my; house right NOW, that person is my friend.  That's it.  Are you a grownup?  No.  Great!  Come on in.  Jump up and down on my bed.  And if you have anything in common at all - "You like Cherry Soda?  I like Cherry Soda" - we'll be best friends!"
Maybe, just maybe, what we need is a total sense of love and acceptance - and the willingness to be a friend. 
Just a thought for a Thursday.