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Thursday, July 24, 2014

The stops of the Lord

One of my all time favorite verses in found in Psalms 37:23, "The steps of a righteous man are ordained (ordered, established) by the Lord.
Here's what I know:  so are the "stops of a righteous man."
Sometimes God closes a door - and when he does so, it is His will.
Let me explain it this way.
As I take my daily walk, our neighborhood is filled with dog-owners, walking their dogs.
Here's what I have observed:
If you walk a dog on a leash and come to a post, or a tree, and the dog goes to one side of the post/tree, and the dog-owner goes to the other side - they will both be stuck.
Although both of them are going in the same direction, they will not be able to move forward.
So the dog-owner has to back up and pull the dog in the opposite direction in order to get him going the right way.
That's how it is in our life with God.  God will pull us back sometimes to move us forward.  He'll jerk us back (as someone once said:  God leads his dear children along - me - he jerks). 
In doing so, God is not trying to be mean.  He is just the one who knows how to get us going forward in the right direction.
So....if you are seeking God's will about something, and you are living righteously, and you are going through a time when God says, "Stop!"  (How was that for a run on sentence) :)
Relax.  You are exactly where you should be.
Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Elie Wiesel once wrote, "God made man because He loves stories."
One of my favorite things to do is to listen to people's stories.
Where they have been.  What they have done.  Their ups and downs from the past.
Everyone's story is unique.  Personal. 
Your story is important.
As we studied last Sunday, Jesus said, "But you will receive power (dunamis; dynamite) when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  Acts 1:8
Jesus said, "You will be my witnesses."
Not my bible teachers.
Not my ushers.
Not my ministry leaders.
Not my pastors, teachers, apostles, leaders.
Not my deacons or elders.
And that is all well and good - in fact, very good.
But "witnesses."
Not my defense attorneys.
Not my prosecuting attorneys.
There is a big difference between an attorney and a witness.  The purpose of an attorney is to prosecute or defend.  They are always pushing for a decision (Hey, I know, I watched Law and Order :) ). 
"You did this.  You did that.  You didn't do this."
God doesn't need defense attorneys for him.
He doesn't need us to push people for a decision, a verdict.  To pressure them to accept Him.
What does a witness do?
He tells what he knows.  He tells a story, his or her story.
When you witness for Christ, you don't have to know the entire Bible.  You don't have to go to seminary.   You don't have to get your ministerial credentials.  You simply share what you know about Jesus.  Your story.
How Jesus changed your life.  What he means to you.  How he guides you day by day.  How he gives you strength to face your trials and courage to conquer your fears.  How he found you in your sin and gave you a brand new life.  Your role is not to convince people - that's the Holy Spirit's job.  Your role is to believe in what you believe, to share your story and let people see the change in your life.
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Thinking and doing

There is a big difference between thinking about doing something and actually doing it.
We think about witnessing - but are we sharing our faith?
We think about ministering in the church - but do we step out and actually participate?
We think about reaching out to our neighbor and do something nice for them - but do we take the time to do so?
We think about praying (and know it is the right thing to do) but we don't pray.
There is a big difference between thinking about doing something and actually doing it.
And here's what I know:  Many times we are content and self-congratulatory over just thinking about what we should be doing without actually doing it.
Let me explain.
The Comedian Louis CK has a routine in which he jokes about having the impulse to give up his first class airline seat to a soldier.
Louis CK says, "[Service men and women] always fly coach. I've never seen a soldier in first class in my life … And every time that I see a soldier on a plane I always think, You know what? I should give him my seat. It would be the right thing to do, it would be easy to do, and it would mean a lot to him … I never have, let me make that clear. I've never done it once … And here's the worst part: I was actually proud of myself for having thought of this. I am such a sweet man. That is so nice of me, to think of doing that and then totally never do it."
Isn't that so "human" of us?
Yet in June of 2014 - someone did just that.  Oscar nominated actress Amy Adams actually acted on that thought.
Boarding a flight Friday from Detroit to Los Angeles where she was shooting a new movie, Adams noticed an American soldier being seated in coach. She decided to do something that she's always just thought about doing.
Jemele Hill, a reporter for ESPN and a fellow first class passenger, witnessed Adams quietly asking the airline crew permission to switch seats with the soldier, whom she didn't know.
Adams moved back to coach, and the surprised soldier, who didn't know who his benefactor was, moved up to first class. Hill immediately got the word out on Twitter, and after their arrival in L.A. Adams told reporters, "I didn't do it for attention for myself. I did it for attention for the troops."
What a great example of walking the walk versus talking the talk.
If I remember right the phrase is not, "just think it," but "just do it."
Just a thought for a Tuesday.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:
About vacations I always say, "It is good to get away - and - it is good to get home."
I was very grateful for the way the Lord moved in both services yesterday.
The first and second services were different (in the way the Holy Spirit led us) but both were powerful and effective.
God is pleased when He sees His people worshipping Him - many falling on their face before Him.
What a wonderful way to begin our series in the book of Acts!
I am extremely grateful for the excellent staff that God has pulled together for us at Stone Church.  Brian, Charlie and Aldin are doing an excellent job in ministry!
Don't forget the following announcements:
August 3, 2014:  One service.  10:30 A.M.  (Prayer will begin at 10:00 A.M.)  Please plan on staying past the 12:00 P.M. hour - allowing God to move in your life.
I will be ministering on the passage found in Acts 2:1-13.  The topic:  "What's all this stuff about tongues?"  We are prayerfully anticipating a moving of the Holy Spirit that will be life changing for we as individuals and for our church! 
August 5, 2014:  Tuesday evening prayer meetings begin.  6:30 P.M. to 7:30 P.M.
God distinctly laid this on my heart:  We as a people of God are to pray.  We desire to pray.  "Just" pray.  Two pastors will be attending the prayer meeting to pray for needs (I will be there each week - the rest of the pastors will be rotating). 
August 17, 2014:  New services times begin.  First service:  9:00 A.M.  Second service:  11:00 A.M.
Why the new service times?  Primarily because our desire is that the first service see numerical growth (Our second service, Praise God, is ready for us to start another service).  In other words, to start a third service, the first service needs to see more people coming.
Part of the solution to that is pushing back the starting time a half an hour.  I am told that this makes it a lot easier on families with small kids.  The 30 minute window is important in preparing to come to church. 
We prayerfully hope to be starting a third service by September, 2015 (whether that will be on Sunday morning or on a Saturday night - To be determined).
I just want you to know that I am desiring the presence and the power of God in us - so that we might reach our area for Christ.
It's all about Jesus - and it is all about sharing our faith to others.
My heart is full.  I want more of God - how about you?
Love you all......

Thursday, July 17, 2014

I don't know

As I get older, one of the things I know is this:  The more I know - the more I realize I don't know.
Starting as a young pastor in 1980, I wanted to give off the impression I knew everything (like a college sophomore). 
Now I realize how much I don't know.
So many Christians think they know everything there is about the Christian faith.  Nothing is new.  It's all, "been there done that," in their walk with Christ.

There is a feeling of having arrived.

Nothing could be further from reality.

For one thing, no one has ever "arrived" in the faith.  No one can reach a point where every experience has been experienced, every doctrine solved and understood, every verse in the Bible translated, parsed and comprehended.

Many times we just have to say, "I don't know," and either remain comfortable with that fact - or continue to seek out answers to the question.

(At this stage I am comfortable in saying, "I don't know - why don't you google that.")  :)

Over my vacation, I read a book entitled, "Think Like A Freak," by economists Steven Levitt and Stephan Dubner.

They write:
"It has long been said that the three hardest words to say in the English language are I love you. We heartily disagree! For most people, it is much harder to say I don't know." They point to the following experiment as one of the many ways that we won't admit "I don't know":
Imagine you are asked to listen to a simple story and then answer a few questions about it. Here's the story: A little girl named Mary goes to the beach with her mother and brother. They drive there in a red car. At the beach they swim, eat some ice cream, play in the sand, and have sandwiches for lunch.
Now the questions:
  1. What color was the car?
  2. Did they have fish and chips for lunch?
  3. Did they listen to music in the car?
  4. Did they drink lemonade with lunch?
How'd you do?
Let's compare your answers to those of a bunch of kindergarteners, who were given this quiz by researchers. Nearly all the children got the first two questions right ("red" and "no").
But the children did much worse with questions 3 and 4.
Why? Those questions were unanswerable—there wasn't enough information given in the story. And yet a whopping 76 percent of the children answered these questions either yes or no.
Kids who try to bluff their way through a simple quiz like this are right on track for careers in business and politics, where almost no one ever admits to not knowing anything. [But it's a shame we can't humbly admit our ignorance], for until you can admit what you don't yet know, it's virtually impossible to learn what you need to."
Good stuff. 
The next time you are asked a question you don't know the answer to - just reply, "I don't know," and rest well at night.
Just a thought for a Thursday. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Your tongue and the Holy Spirit

What is the door into your life?
Your  mouth.  What you say.
Your words can bring life - or your words can bring death (Proverbs 18:21).
There is power in your words.
The ability to speak is part of being a human being.  Animals do not use rational speech.  Apes do not either, despite what the movie shows.
If your dog or cat were to say to you, "It's a nice day, isn't it?" and proceed to hold a conversation like Mr. Ed. You would probably say, "Why, you're not an animal, you are a person!"
But we abuse our ability to speak as we misuse and abuse the other gifts that God has given us.
The Book of James says that the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity," that needs to be tamed, and that it is like the bit that guides the whole horse or the rudder that steers the ship.
In other words, if you control the tongue, you control the whole person.
You open up the possibility of entering into the holy of holies.
Zephaniah 3:9 states that in the last days God will turn to the people a pure language that they may all call upon the name of the Lord."
When you speak words from the Holy Spirit, you are letting Him tame your tongue and gain a new level of control over your whole personality.
The voice is your chief means of expression.
How can you speak of total surrender to God if you haven't surrendered your most important means of expression?
It would be like one country surrendering got another while keeping control of the radio and television facilities.
Until  your tongue is tamed, your ability to verbalize and rationalize is a barrier to the moving of the Holy Spirit in your life.
If you let the Holy Spirit freely guide your voice, there will be a break through which permits him to flow forth from where he is living in your spirit, to fill, to baptize, to flood and overflow your soul and body and minister to the outside world.
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Freedom in the home

Parents, here's what I know:
You can create an atmosphere of freedom in your home.
Let me share with you quickly how.
Teach them well.
One of the principles I teach is that much more is "caught" than "taught".  But do not rely on this principle alone!
No child just naturally knows how to live in a way that brings freedom to themselves or others - some things need to be taught as well as caught.
I would suggest that you never assume that your children will "pick up" what is right or wrong - even in church - but take up the mantle of teaching your children spiritual things well.
Your child's primary spiritual leader/pastor is you!
And while I am thinking about it - it is never, never too early to begin their spiritual moral and social training.
Someone once wrote, "God's commandments are like the owner's manual for the proper living of life."
God says that (read Deuteronomy 11:18-21) if we will teach our children to respect, honor and live by His laws (owner's manual) then we can expect the following blessings for ourselves and for them:
Both our lives and the lives of our children will be long.
Our days on earth will be like those of heaven.
Live out the ways of God.
This is the "caught" part.
Living a life of obedience before our children speaks volumes.
One suggestion:  Have communion in your home once a week.  There is power in sharing the Lord's table with your children. 
Let worship be a part of that practice.
Explain the why and how of dealing with spiritual issues, elevating the depth of the truth as they grow older (and hopefully wiser).
Finally, (and there are many more), if your child (children) does come in contact with an ungodly influence (through a T.V. show or a movie or book), use that as a tool to understand God's ways in contrast to man's ways. 
I would encourage you to minimize the times that your children are watching T.V. alone - you never know what comes up in today's culture. 
As one author put it, "the key is for parents to watch TV programs and videos with their kids, helping them to understand God's way in contrast to what they have just seen or heard."
I understand those who are home-schooling their children in and effort to protect them from the evils of society.  But even in the homes of reasonably dedicated Christians there can be a lapse in moral and spiritual standards no matter how hard you as a parent try to protect them.
The positive side of that is that you can, again, use it as a teaching time to explain what is right and wrong.
Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Being like Nathan (Christ)

I talk a lot about "surrendering our entire lives" to God - acting like Christ.

Sometimes I wonder if anyone really understands what that means (including myself).

Are there really people in the world that are selfless enough to be like Christ?

There are.

Francis Chan in his book, "Crazy love," writes about a man by the name of Nathan Barlow.  Nathan was a medical doctor who chose to utilize his skills in Ethiopia for more than sixty years (and I am quoting Francis Chan here). 

Nathan dedicated his life to helping people with mossy foot.  Mossy foot is a debilitating condition primarily found in rural districts, on people who work in soil of volcanic origin.  It causes swelling and ulcers in the feet and lower legs.  The subsequent deformity, swelling, repeated ulceration, and secondary infection make people with mossy foot social outcasts equivalent to lepers."

Francis Chan writes, "I met Nathan shortly before he died.  His daughter, Sharon Daly, attended my church and brought him to her home from Ethiopia when his health started to fail.  After only a few weeks, he couldn't handle being in the States.  The people he loved were still in Ethiopia, so his daughter flew him back home so he could spend his last days there.

Once, Nathan got a toothache, the pain of which was so intense that he had to fly away from the mission field to get medical attention.  Nathan told the dentist that he didn't ever want to leave the mission field for the sake of his teeth again, so he had the dentist pull out all of his teeth and give him false ones so he wouldn't slow God's work in Ethiopia.

This amazing man was the first to help these outcasts, and he spent his life doing it.  yet he died quietly, without a lot of attention; no one really knew about him.

Finally, Chan writes, "It surprised me that such a man of God would faithfully serve for so many years, despite minimal recognition.  It is a beautiful thing to witness."
What an amazing, crazy love for God. 

Am I that kind of servant? 

Are you that kind of servant?

Here's what I know: God is probably not calling you to go to Ethiopia, but he is calling all of us to lay aside ourselves, serve others as Christ has served us - and do what we can to make this planet a better, holier place.

Just a thought for a Monday.