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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........ 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Kindness in marriage

I was reading today that one of the greatest attributes of a good marriage is kindness. of the most destructive aspects of marriage is contempt.

The article states that the number one factor that tears couples apart is contempt.

The constant drip of criticism and fault finding.

In fact (and I quote), "people who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it is not there."

And here is what I didn't know (and I quote again):  "People who give their partner the cold shoulder, or ignore them, or respond minimally to their spouse not only kill the love in that relationship but they also kill their partner's ability to fight off viruses and cancers."

In other words, being mean to your spouse is the death knell of relationships.

Now on to something more positive.

Kindness does just the opposite.

Kindness makes each spouse feel cared for, understood and validated.


And what is really interesting is that the more kindness we experience from our spouse, the more likely we are to show kindness in return.

So, if you want your spouse to be kinder to you - be kind to them.

After all, Paul writes that (I Corinthians 13:4) love is kind.

So, I encourage you today to show kindness to your spouse in 3 different ways - and maybe, just maybe you might find yourself closer to them than ever before.

Just a thought for a Wednesday

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Unilateral forgiveness

I call this the principle of "unilateral forgiveness."
Unilateral means one-sided.
Unilateral forgiveness is a forgiveness which flows out from the forgiver.
The other person does not ask for it, may not even realize that the needs it.
The forgiver takes the initiative and forgives without waiting for the other person to come and ask for forgiveness.
That's what Stephen is doing here in Acts 6 - as we will see Sunday.
He forgives those who are stoning him - even though they are not asking for it.
When we at Stone Church practice unilateral forgiveness then the gates of hell shall not stand against us!
The world can never break the church.  The power of hell cannot break the church.  The only thing that cannot break the church is her own unwillingness to live in forgiveness.
Let me share with you this:
Stephen reacts to the persecution of those around him with unilateral forgiveness: 
And as he is being stoned he cries out, "I see the Son of man standing at the right hand of God!"
Father do not lay this sin to their charge."
Hebrews tells us that Jesus sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:3)
But when Stephen sees him, he is standing up.  Standing  up in honor of Stephen!  Jesus himself!  Powerful, powerful, stuff.
David du Plessis says, "Jesus stood up to honor Stephen and his word of unilateral forgiveness."
Picture Jesus, standing up, looking over the whole of heaven, saying, "Who is this that my servant is forgiving?  I must go to that man."
Yes, and go to that man he did - to the ringleader of that band, Saul of Tarsus.  He met him on the road to Damascus as we will study. 
He met him because Stephen had unilaterally forgiven him, and opened the gateway for an encounter with Jesus.
That is hard.  It is difficult to practice unilateral forgiveness.
It is not natural - but it is supernatural. 
We think, "Oh, if they would just come to us and repent, we would forgive them."
But this kind of forgiveness rubs us the wrong way.
Forgiveness need not wait for the confession and apology from the offender!
You say, "Well does that take away the personal responsibility of the person who offended me."
No, what it actually does is open up the door for God to step in and really deal with that person.  Until  you forgive, that person will continue to be bound with his sin. 
Whether that person receives the forgiveness, whether they accept it, live in it and move on, that you can't tell.
Your part, my part is to forgive, freely and without waiting to be asked.
Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Concerning yesterday at Stone Church:  As Matthew McConaughey would said, "alright, alright, alright"!
That's the way would describe our worship yesterday.  Powerful stuff!
Isn't it great to spend time in the presence of God?
Each week, we are growing in our "attention span" in the presence of God.
I love it.
I had the privilege of dialoguing with two new families yesterday.
Again, many thanks this month for the show of appreciation to our pastors.
Your monies, gift cards and thank you notes were very, very appreciated!
Thanks for being such a loving congregation.
I had another wonderful men's meeting last Saturday.
God is raising up godly men - who are (or will soon be) the leaders of our church.
Praise God!
I am excited!
Many thanks to all of our volunteers who participated in "Trunk or Treat" last evening.
We are grateful for you participation!
We are beginning to turn the corner into the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.  Let me say immediately, let's make Jesus the centerpiece of the next two months.
It is all about Jesus.
I love Jesus - how about you?
Things I didn't get to yesterday in my teaching:
We choose our attitude.  Attitude is a choice.
Tim Hansel has written:  At any moment in life we have the option to choose an attitude of gratitude, a posture of grace, a commitment to joy.
There are things in our lives that we are not satisfied with - in our marriage, business, habits in ourselves, our spouse, our children, our boss. 
But I believe that there are also some things in those situations and people that we can learn to be thankful for.
When we complain, we are saying three things to God:  I don't trust your wisdom.  "Do you really know what you are doing God?  I doubt God's care.  "Do you really love me God?"  I forget God's goodness.  I begin to focus on what I don't have instead of being grateful for what I do have.
Replace your criticism and complaints at home, work or at the church with compliments.
We reap what we sow.
There is no more powerful witness than a positive Christian.
Beautiful weather today - winter is coming (but I am not complaining - per the message that was given yesterday.  :) :)
Remember:  Is today going to be a "grumble free day" for you?
Anybody can be a whiner - not anybody can be a winner.
Are you ready to soar with the eagles or wallow in the mud with the hippos?
Time change this coming Saturday/Sunday.  Fall back.
If you are not in a life group - please check them out.  We have some of the best life groups in the Kingdom of God.
Love  you all........

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Life without complaint

Did you know that you can live in bondage to a negative spirit?
It's true - and don't be negative about what I am about to write.  :)
God desires that we walk a life free from complaining and grumbling.  

Someone once wrote: “"The person with the discontented heart has the attitude that everything he does for God is too much, and everything God does for him is too little."
It’s very difficult to be around whining, complaining, negative people.  Yet at times we all find ourselves in that position.  Continually throughout their sojourn through the desert, the children of Israel found themselves directing their discontent at Moses and ultimately God. 
They complained about the miracle nourishment that was sent by God. They whined about the report of the men sent into Canaan to spy out the land.  They spoke of stoning Moses and Aaron.  
The Psalmist says it directly in Psalms 52:9, “Your tongue plots destruction, like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit.” 
Our words can bring life or our words can bring death. And more importantly, our words are an outgrowth of our inner spirit.  They express the bondage that many experience from constantly looking at the negative side of life experiences.
Journalist James Glassman declares that "a culture of complaint" has infected American society. Some Americans file complaints against food companies, seeking to hold a corporation responsible for making them fat.

Others seek litigation against banks for lending them money even though they were a credit risk. There are complaints about overcrowding in schools, low paying jobs, and cheap foreign labor. The truth is that some of these complaints are unfounded or else ignore offsetting blessings.
According to Glassman, there are many reasons not to complain:
In 1955 the ratio of students to teachers was 30 to 1. Today it is 19 to 1.
Adjusted for inflation, compensation has tripled since 1947, and the cost of necessities has   plummeted.
Food in 1950 represented about one third of a family's total expenditures; today, it's one seventh.
The U.S. Gross Domestic Product is more than the total of the next five countries.
The current U.S. unemployment rate of 5.7% is lower than the average rate over the last 30 years and lower than most countries, including industrialized countries.
Americans work fewer hours, and have more cars, cultural institutions, and children in college than ever before.
Remember when Jesus served his disciples communion the night he was taken away?  Knowing that His hour had come, he took the bread and the cup and he gave thanks.  He gave thanks.  Even in the midst of difficult circumstances we can choose to give thanks.  It comes down to a choice.   
Will I choose to speak words of gratefulness and gratitude?  Or will I choose to speak words of complaint and dissatisfaction?  Let’s not forget that the joy of the Lord is our strength.  Let’s remember that we are to rejoice “in” all things.  Not “for” all things but “in” all things.   
God is in control.   
Prayer:  "Father, help me to live a grateful life, free from the bondage of a complaining spirit."
Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Are you picky about what you pray about?

At our prayer meeting last evening, we had a wonderful time of intercession and supplication before God.
It is one of the highlights of my week:  gathering together with other followers of Christ - and having conversations with God.
Prayer, as you know, is a conversation with God (and I am thankful I can speak with God about anything - God will never get offended by anything I say).
Here's what I know:  A true intercessor is not "picky" about what they pray about.
They will pray about everything.

Paul writes in Philippians 4:6, "Don't worry about anything but pray about everything."

The question is:  What is "everything" mean to you?
A read of a poll today (conducted by LifeWay Research) that found that many of us are very picky about who we will pray for.
For instance, the poll revealed that we typically  pray for:
Family and Friends 82 percent of the time.
Our own problems and difficulties 74 percent of the time.
Our enemies 37 percent of the time.
Government leaders 12 percent of the time.
And.....interestingly enough, 36 percent of survey participants said they typically pray for financial prosperity, 21 percent pray to win the lottery, and 13 percent typically pray for their favorite sports team to win.
Now then, obviously, we are to pray about those people that are dear to us.
(In fact, one rule of prayer that I have - as I enter into a time of intercession - is to pray about what is on my mind or heart, first - and then pray for "world peace.")
But as we go along the pathway of our Christian faith - and grow in God - our prayers become less "picky" and more along the lines of the needs of others and the world we live in.
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Creating a team

Here's what I know:  When you are walking through a crisis, you need a team around you to support you.
You need "Team ________" (and fill in the blank with your name).
When I am walking through a difficult time - I need "Team George" to come together and pray with me, give me godly counsel and help soothe my troubled soul.
Some of my favorite verses are found in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:  If one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm along?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
Notice that last phrase:  "A cord of three strands."
Who comprises your "cord of three strands"?  Who are the people in  your life who are there for you, pulling for you, not afraid to tell you the truth?
Which friends, in your life, are available to comfort you when you are down, show you more about God than you already know, and pull you back when you are headed for trouble?
Who is there to celebrate with you in the good times and cry with  you in the bad times?
Who is on your team?
One disclaimer:  Be careful as to whom you bring on  your support team.
Bring on those who are growing personally and not those who are stagnant in the faith.  Don't entrust your heart to those who are negative, always complaining or critical.
They will kill your dreams and turn you away from God's path for you life.
If you are looking for some team members to support you - why not look into a life group today?
Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I had a great meeting with our two head ushers:  Tom Kirchner and Jon Gerstenkorn. 

Did you know that most people (according to studies) decided whether they are going to come back to any given church in the first 8 minutes of their visit?

That is how important our "First Impressions" ministry is. 

I encourage you to ponder and pray about joining our "First Impressions" ministry.  Be an usher.  Be a greeter.  Be an "informational booth" team member.

These volunteers are crucial to the church growth of our church!

Many, many thanks to everyone for the love offering that was given to our pastors yesterday for "Pastor Appreciation" Month.

It is a privilege to serve you.

We love you.

We appreciate you.

While I am thinking about it:  Many thanks to all of our volunteers who help make Sunday mornings "go."  You are appreciated.

You are important to the ministry that takes place.  As I said yesterday - you are a minister.

What I didn't get to yesterday:

Elton Trueblood has written:  "If the average church attendee should suddenly take seriously the notion that every lay person, member, man or woman is really a minister of Christ - we could have something like a revolution in a very short time."

And then this story:

33 year old Larry Walters recently decided to see his neighborhood from a new perspective.  He went to the Army Surplus store one morning and bought 45 used weather balloons.

That afternoon he strapped himself into a lawn chair to which several of his friends tied these helium-filled balloons together.

He took along a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a BB gun, figuring he could shoot the balloons one at a time when he was ready to land.

Walters, who assumed the balloons would lift him about 100 feet into the air, was caught off guard when the chair soared more than 11,000 feet into the sky - smack into the middle of the traffic pattern at Los Angeles International Airport. 

Too frightened to shoot any of the balloons, he stayed airborne for more than 2 hours, forcing the airport to shut down its runways for much of the afternoon.

Soon after he was safely grounded and cited by the police, reporters asked him, "Why did you do it?"

He replied, "Because, you just can't sit there."

That is a great challenge for everyone in our church:  You just can't sit there.
Love you all......

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Have it your way

"Have it your way", if I remember right, used to be a slogan that McDonalds used.
And now - restaurant chains are taking it to new levels.  There is an increasing amount of "tell-them-what -you-want" food chains.
Similar to Chipotle (the burrito joint where you can build your own custom Mexican inspired meal), new franchises bring the ultimate in custom food to Korean, 5 minute cook time pizza, tacos, Indian and Mediterranean restaurant (according to a recent Washing Post article).
That's great for you and I.  I am FOR that.  I really like to choose what I want to be in my burrito or on my pizza).
Here's the question:  should we let that kind of cultural shift into the church?
Should church be done, "your way?"  Or perhaps a more challenging question would be, "do you have to have "church" done "your way?" - or you will take the proverbial highway?
In a culture where nearly everything now is convenient and exactly how YOU want it, what happens to the spiritual climate of the church (specifically concerning our growth in Christ), when we think that everything must be done our way?
I would suggest that following Christ is not a matter of seeking for convenience - but of following Him.  Of being willing to be transformed.  Of placing ourselves in a position of sacrifice and commitment - no matter is things are going my way or not.
Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fear and the world

There is a lot to fear in the world today.
Ebola.  ISIS.  War.  Tornadoes.  Financial collapse.  Earthquakes.  Crime.  Murders in Chicago.
In the midst of this, let's all remember that God is in control - and - we can live with courage (given to us by the Holy Spirit) on a daily basis.
Bill Hybels analyzes what he calls "destructive fear," the kind of fear that tricks us into believing, beyond what is reasonable, that the world is an ominous and dangerous place.
Hybels writes:
"History is filled with men and women who said no to destructive fear and changed the world. But imagine if they had given in to the paralyzing effects of fear on their lives. Imagine the apostle Paul, fearing resistance or rejection, choosing to stay home rather than embarking on the missionary journeys that took the message of Christ throughout the known world.
Imagine Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. giving speeches filled with gentle hints about the evils of segregation, because he feared pushing too hard. Instead, King championed the civil rights movement against racial segregation in the United States.
Imagine Rosa Parks, during that same era in American history submitting to the bus driver's command to give up her seat to a white person.
Imagine Nelson Mandela looking the other way when he witnessed and experienced apartheid in South Africa, because he didn't want to make a fuss. Instead, he spent twenty-seven years imprisoned and brought apartheid onto the world's radar, helping end the centuries-old regime of oppression.
Imagine Malala Yousafzai passively quitting school, because she was too frightened by the death threats she received from Taliban extremists, who abhor education for girls. Instead, she became even more vocal about the educational rights of children and women, survived a 2012 assassination attempt, and was a Nobel Peace Prize nominee in 2013 and 2014.
Imagine yourself, fully aware of the mission and vision God has placed in your heart to advance his kingdom in this world, yet held hostage to phobias, irrational worries, and destructive fears of failure, harm, or rejection. If you don't fulfill the mission God assigned to you, who will?"
My encouragement to you today is to live with the courage that God gives you, for God has not given you a spirit of fear, but a spirit of love, courage and a sound mind."  2 Timothy 1:8.
When the enemy and fear comes knocking at the door, ask Jesus to answer it.  And dwell in his peace that passes all understanding.
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Our riches in Christ

Tim Keller gives us this story:
"Imagine you're a billionaire, and you have three ten-dollar bills in your wallet.  You get out of a cab, and you hand the driver one of the bills for an eight-dollar fare.  Later in the day you look in and find out there's only one ten-dollar bill there, and you say, "Either I dropped a ten-dollar bill somewhere, or I gave the taxi driver two bills."
He asks, "what are you going to do?"
I ask you the same question - what would you do?
Get upset?
Call the police and demand they search the city for the cabdriver to get your money back?
No,  you are going to give a shrug and go on with  your life.   Why is that?  Because you are a billionaire and too rich to be concerned about "just" 10 dollars.
Now then, apply that to you life.
Somebody criticizes you.
You bought something or invested in something that is cheaper or less expensive or valuable than you thought.
Something didn't go the way you wanted it to go.
What are you going to do?
Let is ruin your day, week, month, year?  Nuke your contentment in life?
Shake your fist at God and blame him?  "God it is your fault I lost the ten dollars!"
Lay awake at night thinking about the ten-dollars (criticism, that situation that didn't go the way you thought it should go)?
If you and I do that (and we all do at some point in time) - we don't realize how truly rich we are in God.
I would suggest that if you are upset about your status with other people, if you are constantly lashing out at people for hurting your feelings, if you have a lack of self-control or a lack of self-esteem, you have lost the reality of your identity in Christ.
My word to you today?  You are a spiritual billionaire and you're wringing your hands over "ten-dollars?"  Remember who you are in Christ.  A child of God.  A saint.  A Christian.  Someone that God sent His only Son to die for.  Heaven will be your home.
Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

If you were permit me a moment of talking sports:  I really can't believe that the Dallas Cowboys are playing as well as they are - beating the world champion Seattle Seahawks yesterday.

I had them at three wins and thirteen losses for the year.  They are now five and one.  Shows you how  much I know about football.

I can only attribute it to two things that can apply in every area of our lives:  Leadership and heart.

It helps to have the right leaders - and it helps to play (live life) from the heart.

With passion.

With courage.

With fortitude.

Anyway, the proverbial "true" fan in me is just waiting for the "other shoe to drop" and see the Cowboys fall apart - but we will see.

Great services yesterday!

Many, many new families attending - we are going to give energy this week in our pastoral staff meeting to the word, "assimilation."  Assimilating people into our church family.

One note (while I am thinking about it):  When you see someone new (or newer) in our church, we encourage you to stop and "get to know them" a little bit.

I remain thankful for all of the volunteers who minister in all of the ministries of our church.  You are important.  We are grateful for you!

Reminder:  Tuesday evening prayer meeting, 6:30 P.M.  One hour.  I would encourage you to come and pray for your family, our church, our state, our nation and our world.

I know you agree with me that our world needs prayer.

We are living in the end times.

I had a wonderful missions trip to England - having the privilege to speak in a new church plant in Bristol (the ministry home of John and Charles Wesley.

As you can see below, centuries old churches are being turned into bar, restaurants and even car washes (picture taken in Oxford, England - former home of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien).  England needs God!  America needs God!

May God help us to come back to God!

Looking forward to a great week in God!

Love you all........

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Your self worth

In what or to what are you finding your self worth?
In our attempt to find our self worth - we many times look to other things (even good things) and make them the ultimate things in our lives.
As Tim Keller writes, "it is seeking to establish a sense of self by making something else more central to your significance, purpose, and happiness than  your relationship with God."
He uses the illustration of the movie Rocky, where the title character's girlfriend asks him why it is so important for him to "go the distance" in the boxing match. 
He replies, "Than I'll know I am not a bum."
In the movie "Chariots of Fire," one of the main characters explains why he works so hard at running the hundred-yard dash for the Olympics.  He says that when each race begins, "I have ten lonely seconds to justify my existence."
Both of these men (as Tim Keller writes) looked to athletic achievement as the defining force that gave meaning to their lives.
Author Ernest Becker notes that a child's need for self-worth "is THE condition of his life," so much so that every person is desperately seeking what he calls "cosmic significance."
In other words your need for, my need for worth is so powerful that whatever we base our identity and value on we essentially "deify."
Keller writes, "We will look to it with all the passion and intensity of worship and devotion, even if we think of ourselves as highly irreligious."
What or in whom are you finding your "cosmic significance?" 
The approval of others?  Possessions?  Yourself?  Your appetites (pleasure seeking)?  Your family?  Your spouse?  Your children?  T.V.?  Money?
I would suggest that the only place to find true significance and self worth is in God. 
So...why not seek to deepen your relationship with God today.
Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Planting seeds reaping goodness

Pastor James tells us in James 3:17, "Peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness."
It's a biblical principle - but also a principle of life.
What you sow is what you are going to reap.
If you want people to cooperate with you - you must cooperate with them.
If you want people to be nice to you, you've got to be nice to them.
If you want people to compromise with you, you've got to compromise with them.
Whatever you give out - is what you are going to get back.
If you find yourself in conflict, somehow you are giving out part of that.
It takes two for conflict.
So ask yourself, "what did I do?"  "What seeds am I planting?"
If you are always planting seeds of griping, complaining, arguing, hassling, and putting down your spouse, guess what?  You are going to reap conflict.
Whatever seeds (as James writes) you are planting in your marriage (or in any relationship) is what you are going to grow.
I encourage you today to start planting seeds of peace and compromise.  Seek first to understand and then to be understood - and take the initative.  Don't wait for them.
When somebody offends you - you go to the Lord - but you also go to them.
Just a thought for a Wednesday