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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Why trials? Part 2

This week, a person turned in the following request to our church website (You Version). 

The request touched me.

All it said was, "Help me God."

It brought back what I know:  "When God is all I have - God is all I need."

Sometimes we reach a point in our lives where all we can pray is, "Help me God"!

Let's go back to James 1:3 (Part 2 of a two part blog on "why God"?) where Pastor James writes, "the testing of your faith produces".  Produces what?

Endurance.  Perseverance.

Literally, "the ability to remain under".

You see, in the midst of the adversity that you are going through - God wants you to remain (strong, steadfast, in peace) under.

If you are like me, when a problem comes, you start to feel the pressure - we start to feel the weight that God allows.

We try to remain strong.

But if we were all candid today, we don't want to remain under the trial, we want to get out from underneath it.  We want to run away - and run away as fast as possible.

Here's what I know (and it is a hard truth):  complaining is not the same thing as enduring.

When we face a problem we want to either complain, lash out or take it out on other people around us or bail.

"I didn't sign up for this."  "This is not why I got married."  "This is not why I took this job."

Can I tell you something?  Never make a major decision in your life when  you are feeling the pressure - and never quit.

What do we do when problems come?

We humble ourselves before God.

I Peter 5:6, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time."

In other words, bear up under that trial with the strength and grace of God.

Ask for wisdom.

James 1:5 states, "If you lack wisdom, ask of God who gives to all generously without reproach (without fault - God never looks down on us, friends, for asking the "why" question) and it will be given to him."

Remember, gang, this verse is written in the context of trials.  If you lack wisdom about the adversity you are going through, God will answer.

He may not answer the "big questions" of, "why is there a world.  Or why do bad things happen to good people."  (And there are good answers to those questions).

He may not answer the biggest "why" - "Why do I have to go through this Lord?"  "I need to know."

The "why" that Jesus will answer is the answer to the question, "What do you want to teach me through this Lord?"

"What's next on your agenda for me in becoming more like you?"


That doesn't mean I fake it or pretend like everything is okay when everything is not okay.  God's not into denial.  Nor does it mean that I am to be some sort of masochist.  "Great, Lord, hit me one more time!"  "I love it!"

That doesn't mean that I play the victim.  This is huge.  It is so easy for us (me) to play the martyr.  The victim. 

Here are some of the symptoms of playing the victim:

You can't stop talking about the issue.  You become consumed with "the issue" until you lose your focus completely and sometimes say or do foolish things that hurt yourself and others and permanently damage relationships so you end up feeling more miserable than when you were in the trial itself.

But give thanks, not for the problem but in the problem.  Not for the situation but in the situation.

Why should I give God thanks for my marriage ripping apart?  For cancer?  For an accident?

No!  We give thanks because we know that God can take the bad in our lives and turn it around and bring good out of it.

What makes the difference?  Our attitude.  We choose joy.

Praise God at all times.

David writes in Psalms 34:1, "I will bless the Lord at all times.  His praise shall continually be in my mouth."

I will praise that Lord at all times.  I choose to praise God.  I choose to walk in joy. 

Finally, know that God cares.

God is aware of your situation.  God sees everything you are going through right now. 

God has you on his speed dial!

God could change your situation in an instant - but God is more concerned about you!  Your character.  Your holiness.

James writes in James 1:12, "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial.  When he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him." 

God says, "there will be a reward."

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why trials? Part 1

Tomorrow evening in our life group, I am giving a devotion about, "why trials"?  And....."How can I deal with adversity?"
So....I thought I might blog the next two days about some things that I am going to share.
(Disclaimer - these are the "bare bone points" - please feel free to apply your own illustrations).
Why trials?
It's probably the biggest question we face as Christians.
Why, God?
Please open your Bible to James 1:1-12. 
Pastor James (who was the pastor at the church in Jerusalem at that time) writes in verse 1:
"James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations."
Right off the bat, we see that the Jewish believers are scattered throughout Asia Minor for their faith.  They are going through adversity and trials.   
And then right away in verse 2, James writes, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers."
(We will talk about the word, pure, tomorrow).
Wow.   How would you like to get an email like that?  "You got problems - be happy"!
Is James saying, "Be happy, happy, happy, when you face trials?"  No.
Happiness is based upon our circumstances.  If only "this would happen," then I will be happy.
You might say, "My friends are coming over to watch the Bears game and we are going to eat some hot dogs and chips.  I am so happy."
But then when they lose (0-3 this year remember) - and we are not so happy anymore.
Happiness is fleeting.  But joy is eternal.  Joy comes from God. 
I cannot create joy in my life on my own.
When James says, "Consider it all joy," he is saying, "Reach out to God.  Get God's heart in this matter.  Understand the "big picture" of what God is doing in your life.
The bigger questions is not, "why God," but "what are you trying to teach me?
Joy is the deep settled confidence that God is in control of every area of my life.
I would suggest that to know the Lord, to really know God, makes happiness completely mundane and superficial.  Joy is a supernatural delight in the presence of God.
Your understanding of this determines your attitude in the midst of what you are going through.  Rejoicing is not just positive thinking - but is based upon the biblical facts of what we are talking about in this blog.
So what this have to do with the "why God"?
Well, joy comes from understanding that there is something bigger than me going on in the midst of my trials.  Something way beyond me.
God has a purpose for my trials - and the key is to find a way to keep on trusting God even though you and I can't see that purpose in the present.
And joy is a supernatural delight in just hanging out with other Christians! 
That's why life groups are so important.  We can share with one another, learn from one another, pray for one another.
We learn that most everyone is going through some kind of trial - if not the same thing that we are going through.  We find out that if another brother or sister can "make it" - we can "make it" too!
Notice that James says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers." 
Only Christians really get this - that only those who follow Christ can consider a trial - joy.
Now then, James says, to "count" or "consider"
In other words, go over it, measure it, even calculate it. 
As we do so, we have the ability to deal with trials in a way that unbelievers do not - and that displays to the non-churched person that life is Christ is truly powerful.
I can consider trials, "pure joy."  How?  Not by filling your mind with entertainment to dull the pain or by filling your heart with anger to deal with the suffering, or filling your body with substances to overcome the hurt. 
But by counting it, by considering it, and who and why you are on this planet.
Questions:  "What trial are you going through?"
"Why are you here on this earth?  What is the purpose of your life"
Write those down and then read on.
Surely, gang, we are not here just for a few moments of happiness.  We are here for God - to display his working and presence and power in our lives.
And then a third question:
"How can this trial advance that purpose?  What can I do here and now to advance the purpose of displaying the superiority of a life lived in God?   I have all of Kingdom resources at my disposal, how can I use these resources to bring glory to God?"
Let's take one more point here and then I will finish up tomorrow.
James writes, "whenever you fall into trials of various kinds."
"Whenever."  You can count on it.  You will experience trials.  They are not an elective in the class of life.  They are a required course. 
Life is difficult.  Life is hard.   We are not to run from that fact - but embrace it.  In fact, and listen to me gang, you will not live a healthy life, mentally and emotionally until  you put your arms around this principle and not run from it.
That word "fall" is interesting.  You are going through life, minding your own business, when "bam" you're flat on your face.  Trials are not planned.  We can seldom anticipate them.  They come when we least expect them. 
And that word "various" is fascinating as well.  It means that they are "many colored."  They come in many shades and varieties. 
There are physical trials, mental, spiritual, emotional trials.  What you go through is different than what I am going through.
Some trials are tough, some are tragic.  Some are difficult, others are devastating.
And finally (for today) James writes, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when  you face trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."
In other words, trials have a purpose in our lives.  They can be productive.  They can produce and accomplish something in us. 
"For you know."  In other words, if you don't know now, you will. 
Trials separate the mature believer from the immature believer.
When the pressure is on - they show us how deep our faith in God is.
They test us.  They purify us.  They develop our faith. 
We as Christians are like steel, when we are tested - we come out stronger. 
Job says, "He knows the way that I take, and when he has tried me I shall come forth as gold."  (Job 23:10)
Are you being tested? 
So, some questions:
Do you believe that God is in control?
Do you believe that God is good - no matter what you see or face?
Will you wait on God by faith until the darkness becomes light?  Will you wait?
You may be walking in the darkness - but will you wait until you see the goodness of the Lord?
Our natural, fleshly desire is to take matters into our own hands.  But will we wait?
What do trials produce?
Staying power.  The ability to keep on keeping on.  In the Greek (which is what James wrote - it literally states, "the ability to stay under pressure)."
They sanctify our character.  They make us like Jesus
James writes, "so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
God's number one purpose in your life is to make you like Jesus. 
More to come tomorrow.........subject?  How to handle your problems.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:
I am told that between the Royal Ranger and Mpact events over Friday and Saturday last week - over a hundred Stone Church family children were ministered to!
Many, many thanks to all of our Royal Ranger and Mpact leaders and volunteers!
You are appreciated!
Thanks for being such a loving and generous congregation - I am thankful to serve a church family that gives in their tithe - to missions and to the building fund!
We can never out give God.
You and I have a shovel, God has a shovel - we shovel in and God shovels back and He has a bigger shovel than we do!
God is concerned about buildings.  72 chapters of the Bible are devoted to the building of either the tabernacle or the temple.
In the second half of the book of Exodus - there are hundreds of detailed commands regarding how God wanted the tabernacle to be built.
If you read 1 and 2 Chronicles, 19 chapters are devoted in whole or in part to the construction of the temple.
God cares about buildings so much that he sent prophets like Haggai and Zechariah to rebuke his people when they procrastinated and didn't get on with the task of building a place where he will be worshipped or where people can meet with him.
And - God is concerned about buildings because of what they represent.  Ministry to people. 
The true goal of what we are doing is building people's lives, introducing people to Jesus, restoring people who have made wrecks of their lives, who have been abused.
We encourage you to bring your pledge to the building fund this coming Sunday!
Good worship yesterday - I love it as I sense God's ministering presence.
Fall is coming!
My condolences to all of your Chicago Bears fans!
Enjoy the weather - winter is coming.  (How's that for a word of encouragement!)
Love on somebody today - speak creatively - forsake negativity - and see what kind of day you have.
Love you all......

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Post 911

I was going through some files today and came across a devotion that I gave after 911.
I still remember the feelings of shock and horror that beautiful day in September (2001) (much like it is today in Chicago).
My assignment was to stand up the next Sunday morning and provide words of comfort and encouragement.
Here are some of the bullet points of what I said that day:
Some may ask:  "Why didn't God stop this?  Where was God in all of this?"
The Bible teaches us that this is not a perfect world.  We live in a world where people, because of bad, evil choices and sin do wrong things (and bad things to happen to good people).
There are two mistakes that we make when a disaster like this happens:
We think that all good things that happen to me prove that I am good.
We think that all bad things that happen to me prove that I am bad.
But that is incorrect.
Ecclesiastes 8:14 states, "Sometimes something useless happens on earth.  Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people."
Sometimes we face problems in life that are our own fault (I can be my own worst enemy).
We do reap what we sow.
But sometimes we suffer because of what other people do to us.
Could God have stopped those terrorists?  Yes, but He chose not to for this reason:
God has given  you and I the ability to make free choices.  It is the greatest blessing in our lives but it can also be the greatest curse. 
And when people choose to do wrong, innocent people suffer.
Not everything that happens to us is God's will.  For example, God's will is that everyone should repent (2 Peter 3:4).  But does everyone repent?  No.
What happened this week (the week of 911) was not God's will.  God is grieving also.  God's will is not always done.
So - where is God in all of this?
Well, (and this is true today in 2015) God is there all the time.  God is just waiting upon you and I to call upon Him.  God does care.  God is concerned.
One of my favorite verses is Psalms 50:15, "And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you will honor me."
So what can you and I do in the midst of our grief?
We must reveal our feelings.
We must allow ourselves to walk through:
Denial:  "This can't be happening."
Anger:  "Why did this happen and what are we doing about it?"
Bargaining:  "God if you do this we will do this."
Depression:  "Lord, this is scary and we are fearful."
Acceptance:  "Father, I accept the reality of what happened."
We must feel free to grieve. 
Jesus said in Matthew 5:4, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Life isn't always happy, happy, happy.  It is okay to cry and show emotion.
Closing thoughts:
Accept what cannot be change.  Walk in faith.  Faith is facing the facts of life and not being discouraged.  It is not pretending everything is great.  Everything is not great.  But it is trusting in God.  I don't know why things happen as they do - but I do know God - and God can be trusted.
Job said, "Reach out to God, then face the world again firm and courageous."  Job 21:25
Focus on what's left - not on what's lost. 
This is huge.  Focus on what's left and not on what's lost.
Can you lose a home, career, marriage, your health, a loved one?
But can you lose God?  NO!
Paul said it like this (2 Timothy 1:12):  "I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day." 
Receive help and prayers from others.
We really do need each other.
Receive help from God.
Paul said in Philippians 4:13, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
Remember 911?  I do - and let's keep on applying the principles that we learned the week after to our everyday lives in 2015 - and be encouraged and comforted today my friends.
Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Identity determines behavior

Here's what I know:  Identity determines behavior.
Let me explain.
In Numbers 13, the nation of Israel is about to enter the land God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Moses sends 12 spies - in first - to see how fertile the soil, how rich the harvest, how big the warriors and how strong the forts are.
When the spies return, there is a majority report and a minority report (No I am not referring to the Tom Cruise movie!).
10 of the spies tell the people, "If we cross this border we will die.  The nations who live over there are tough and big."
Numbers 13:31-33 tells us, "But the men who  had gone up with him said, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us."  So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, "The land through which we have gone in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size.  There also we saw the Nephilim (a tribe of huge people - giants) (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); (the giants Goliath was a descendant of the sons of Anak, one of the Nephilim) and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight." 
"We're grasshoppers next to those guys."
Here's the deal:  Because the 10 saw themselves as grasshoppers, the Nephilim saw them as grasshoppers.
Please know this:  The way you see yourself is not to be determined by the way others see you.
If you think you are a grasshopper, other people will see you as a grasshopper.
How you see yourself will always, always determine your behavior (identity determines behavior).
Because the 10 spies saw themselves as small and weak, they were unwilling to do what God had commanded His people to do; invade the land and possess it.
You see, "grasshopper thinking is contagious."
The rest of the nation of Israel began to think, "We can't go in there, we are not able to possess it.  We are not able to conquer the tribes who live there.  We are going to get killed."
Only two of the spies - Joshua and Caleb disagreed.
They said:  "this is a wonderful land and God will give it to us - if we obey him."
What made the difference?  Joshua and Caleb saw themselves for who they really were - God's people for whom God himself would show himself strong.
But their voices were drowned out - and so 40 years later, the children of Israel made another attempt to go into the land of the promise.  40 years later!
Why?  Because the children of Israel said, "We became grasshopper in our own sight and so we were in their sight."  - and they ran into the desert.
Here's the word of the Lord today!  You are not a grasshopper
You are a child of God!
Don't let the enemy defeat  you with thoughts that you are any less.  Remember who you are in Christ!  Don't let other people and the circumstances in your life define who  you are!
Identity determines behavior.  You will always live consistently with who you believe yourself to be.
Stop looking at where you have been and start looking at where you can be!
Repeat after me:  "I am a child of God."  "I am an overcomer."  "The enemy has no hold over my life."  "Greater is He in me than he who lives in the world."
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Email from God

Just thought I would blog about an email that I received from God today.  :) :)
God wrote to me:

"I am God.  Today I will be handling all of your problems.  Please remember that I do not need your help.  If the devil happens to deliver a situation to you that you can not handle, do not attempt to resolve it.

Kindly put it in the SFJTD (something for Jesus to do) file.

It will be addressed in my time, not yours.

Once the matter is placed into the file, do not save it or delete it. 

Saving it or deleting it will delay the resolution of your problem.

If it is a situation that you think you are capable of handling, please consult me in prayer to be sure that it is the proper resolution.

Because I do not sleep or slumber, there is no need for you to lose any sleep. 

Rest my child.  If you need to contact me, I am only a prayer away."

This echoes the prayer of David in Psalms 5.

David writes:

"Give ear to my words, O lord, consider my sighing."

David pleads before God for His help. 

"Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.  In the  morning, O Lord, you hear my voice, in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation."

Notice here that is a morning prayer.  You can pray any time and any where - but there is validity to getting up early and praying and starting  your day out with God."

Notice that it an honest prayer.

David's words seem to intensify as he writes.  He cries out, He sighs.  He cries out, "help"!  God never looks down on us when we are open and vulnerable before Him.

But it is also an expectant prayer.

"In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice....I wait in expectation."

That is a promise from God, gang.  God will always hear your prayers.  Instead of giving up, hand your troubles over to God - God knows what to do.  (Please read Psalms 142:2,3).
As I said last Sunday - God knows more than you and I do!

David writes, "I lay my requests before you."  The phrase here means to "place an order."  In other words, David is specific in his "asks." 

He "waits in expectation."  He is looking forward to an answer from the Lord.  He expects God to answer His prayers. 

Then - David goes from making a plea to stating how great God is.  He begins to mediate on God.

Verse 4 - "You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell.  The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong.  You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the Lord abhors." 

The key today in overcoming your discouragement is the word "focus."  Whom are you going to focus on?  If I get my focus off of myself and get it on God - much of my discouragement and depression and frustration in my inner emotional tank is drained. 
Go down to verse 11:  "But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.  Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you." 
Joy!  You can experience God's joy today! 
"For surely," David writes in verse 12, "you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield."
Some closing thoughts - I encourage you today to:
Take time to be alone with God.  Admit your need; your discouragement.  Be specific.  Review the attributes of God.  Remind yourself of God's defense.  Remember His promises.
God is for you today!
Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:
Wasn't Frank Wolf's testimony powerful yesterday!
As he spoke, I could sense the level of faith arising in the room.
It was and is a miracle!
Confirmed by the doctors!
We rejoice with Frank and Sandy at God's goodness to them.
Let me echo the announcement that Sandy made yesterday:  There will be a "celebration and thank you to Jesus" dinner at our church on Saturday, October 10, 2015:  4:00 P.M. 
You are invited to come and rejoice with the family!
I am grateful for the way that God is moving in our services.
It is a beautiful fall day today - can't wait for the fall colors to come.
I enjoyed meeting a new family yesterday - and introducing them to a couple of Stone Church families.
Tony Romo hurt:  Bad news for my Dallas Cowboys.
When all is said and done, much more is said than done.
Faith is persisting when you don't feel like it.
You don't become a master musician by only practicing when you feel like it.
Master musicians practice in spite of their feelings.
Super salesmen don't make calls just when they are in the mood.
"Oh, I don't feel like I'm in the mood today.  I think I'll stay home and watch, "The View".
You are not going to be a super salesman.
And godly men and women don't get that way just by their feelings.
They develop habits in their lives, spiritual disciplines, like having a daily time with God and they do it whether they feel like it or not - and that puts a smile on the face of God.
Question:  Does that mean that even if I don't feel like doing it - spending time with God - it pleases him?
Yes.  Why?  Because you are doing it in faith.
Faith is persistent.
I don't want to bring up a bad memory from yesterday (The Bears game) but let me share this story with you as I wind down this blog:
During a Monday evening football game between the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants, one of the announcers observed that Walter Payton, The bears' running back had accumulated over 9 miles in career rushing yardage.
The other announcer remarked, "Yeah, and that's with someone knocking him down every 4.6 yards!"
You see, Walter Payton, one of the most successful running backs ever, knew that everyone - even the best - gets knocked down. 
The key to success is to get back up and run again - just as hard.
That's God's Word for you today.
Love you all......

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Faith - trusting God when I don't get it

One of my points this coming Sunday (How to be a success - from Acts 20) is this:

Success is walking in faith - and faith is trusting God if I don't get what I am praying for.

Here's what I know about prayer:

God always, always hears and answers every prayer.

God does not always answer the way we want him to answer.

That is so true - and sooooooooo frustrating.  Would you agree with me on that?

Sometimes God's answer is:

"You've got to be kidding me."

"No way".


"Not yet."


"Wait a while".

And....."No."  Ugh.

Why does God say, "NO"?

Because he doesn't love you?  No, because he does love you.

Now follow me:

God knows what you need before you ask him - that's what Jesus said in Matthew 6:8.

But how well, do we know what God wants for us?

Bold statement:  God knows more than I do.  Can we agree on that?

Someone once wrote, "Too many of us want what we don't need and need what we don't want."

You and I (especially me) need to walk in God's agenda and not our own - and when we walk in our own agenda, God will mercifully withhold his answers to our prayers until we come to him with the right request.

Ruth Graham, wife of Billy Graham, once said:  "God has not always answered my prayers. If He had, I would have married the wrong man - several times."

God is not a vending machine - where you put in a prayer - and get out whatever you want (BTW - the stuff in vending machines will kill you - right).

But God will only give you what is for your benefit and spiritual growth. 

So if you, like me, are praying about something today, remember what I read this morning:  "You don't always need a plan - sometimes you just need to breathe trust (In God) - let go and see what happens"!

I'll finish this thought with you on Sunday!  See you there!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Battling bitterness

Probably the greatest temptation Christians face is to give into bitterness.

Paul writes in Hebrews 12:15, "See to it that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many."

One quick thing on that verse:  Bitterness is contagious.

I have found that the most difficult person to deal with is not the offended person - but those who pick up and carry someone else's offense.  These kinds of people think that they are on a "mission from God," to make things right.  :)

Let me give you some quick thoughts on overcoming bitterness - and perhaps you could prayerfully apply them today.

Acknowledge the problem.
Be willing to admit.  Yes, I am bitter.  I am angry.  I am upset.
Stop feeding the bitterness.
Turn off the DVD in your mind - and stop replaying the event over and over again.  Bitterness remembers details.  The time, place, even the tone of the voice of the person who offended.  Memorize Philippians 4:8 and think positive thoughts.
Don't make excuses for what happened.
The person who offended you may have been doing his or her best under the circumstances.  But they still failed you.  Moving into forgiveness requires acknowledging that failure.
Live in forgiveness
As God forgives us "unilaterally" - take the initiative to forgive.  confess your desire and determination to forgive and then act on it.  Remember, our feelings always follow our actions. 
Give your emotions time
We choose to forgive - but then our emotions need time to catch up.  Many times the way we feel toward the event or person will take a whole lot longer to parallel with that decision to forgive.
Initiate reconciliation.
Offer you hand.  Reconciliation is not the same as resolution.  I can walk arm in arm with someone without seeing eye to eye.  Contact with the person who offended you may be uncomfortable - but remember, you have decided to forgive.
Offer you bitterness as a love offering to God.
Give it to him.  Package it up and mail it to the Lord.  Ask him to use the experience for good in your life.  You can pray, "Father, I give you my anger and bitterness today.  I place it in your hands."
Renew your mind
Don't play the victim.  This is hard for ALL of us.  Instead of focusing on how you have been victimized, assume some responsibility for the way things have gone.  Ask yourself, "what part did I play in this situation?  What could I have done to make it better?"
Take charge of your present
Refuse to live in the past.  Find something positive you can do and keep moving forward.
Know that God is in control and proclaim it!
Today, you can move from victim to victor by recognizing the sovereignty of God and the instantaneous availability of His grace in difficult times.
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Why do you attend church?

Why do you attend church?
It is an interesting and challenging question.
I would suggest that there are three legitimate reasons for attending church:
1.  Prayer and praise:  We come to worship God, focus on God, dwell in His presence.
2.  Personal growth:  We come so that we can grow in our spiritual walk and development as a follower of Jesus Christ.
3.  Pass it on.  We take what we have learned and pass it on.
Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 3:4, "We trust the Lord that you are putting into practice the things we taught you."
I was so "proud" (if I could say it that way) of how many of our church family spend the time during City Fest connecting with either:  people they didn't know; or people new to our church.
Wow - good stuff!
We do come to our church campus on West Orland Parkway to worship God; and to grow spiritually.  But just a friendly reminder today that we are also to come and then leave to "pass it on"!
Let me share with you that:
When we receive without giving, we become fat.  We become spiritual porkers.
When we give without receiving, we become faint.
When we receive and then give, we become faithful.
God's calling upon your life is to be faithful!
So, just how can you "pass it on"?
Well, let's use the word "PASS" as an acronym.
P - Prospect.
Look around and ask, who needs what I have learned?  With whom can I share my faith?  Show compassion to?  Minister to?  Invite to church?  Reach out and invite them over for dinner?  I would encourage you to look around each Sunday morning (in the foyer) and pick out someone whom you don't know, introduce yourself and get to know them.
A - Action.
When will I pass it on?  We are all busy.  None of us is exempt from the "busy bug."  Here's what I know - we make time for what it important to us.  We carve out time for ministry - especially to those who are hurting and needy.
S - Share
How are you going to share what you have?  Will you do so in love and with compassion?  Or with judgment and finger-pointing?
S - Show
Will you back up what you say with what you do?  Ask yourself:  Is my life an example of what I am supposed to be passing on?  Do I talk about "people coming to Christ"
Two closing thoughts:
Football season is here - so let me use a football analogy.
Coming to church can be like getting into the huddle of a football game.  We are here to call the plays and get the strategy to go out and do the work of the Lord.
But so many churches just call the huddle, and when they are done, they all go and wait for another huddle.  They don't have a plan (like City Fest), a strategy, a goal.  They just have "holy huddles."
Secondly, I must choose to reach out to those around me by being vulnerable.
If I choose to love the world, I open myself up.
You see, I can either withhold love and compassion and kind of stiff arm (another football analogy!) my way through life or else I can open my arms and let people come in (with is God's will for Stone Church).
I believe that City Fest was just the beginning of how God wants to use our church family.
How about you?
Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Our own Mike Muchowciz is now a published author!  We encourage you to go on-line and purchase his book entitled, "Becoming Pratholic:  part Protestant, part Catholic - A New Twist On Christianity."  You can purchase it on-line at Barnes and Nobles, iBooks or Smashwords.

Frank Wolf has shared with us that the doctor's have told him that he is now cancer free!  And they said that it is a "miracle"!  We rejoice with Frank and Sandy over what God has done in Frank's body!  Our God is a miracle working God!

We are very grateful for the many who accepted Christ over the weekend at our first annual City Fest and in our Sunday morning services!  It reinforced to me that people are hungry for God!

Thanks to all of our volunteers who worked so hard in making City Fest such a success!
Everything seemed to run smoothly.
The food service was great!  Free food!  Delicious hamburgers and hot dogs!
Bounce houses for kids were a real hit.
The set-up was perfect.  Chair, tents, etc.
I really liked the band "Abandon".  They all were nice with servant hearts.
David Dewes did a wonderful job in sharing his testimony on Saturday afternoon!
I met several, several new people, most of whom had no connection to a church or even to Christ.
City Fest was one more opportunity to let our community know that we are here.
The parking lot attendants did a great job!
Grace, Grace, God's grace - Grace that is greater than all our sin!
I am very thankful for God's grace!
Mercy always triumphs over judgment.
Beautiful day today!
My Dallas Cowboys:  What can I say - they play poorly and win; their best defensive player was hurt a month ago - now their best offensive player is hurt.
Because I love my Chicago Bears friends (fans) so much - I will not mention them in this blog.  :)  :)
I really enjoyed the song "Warrior" from the band "Abandon".
Love on somebody today friends - doing something good.
Love you all......

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Where is God when it hurts?

Where is God when it hurts?

C.S. Lewis once wrote, "Meanwhile, where is God?  This is one of the most disquieting symptoms.  When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, if you turn to Him then with praise,  you will be welcomed with open arms.  But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain and what do you find?  A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside.  After that, silence.  You may as well turn away." 
Wow.  Have you ever felt like that when you are in pain?  As if God is there or perhaps more importantly, God doesn't care?
Here's what I know about hurt:
Pain is allowed in our lives to protect us.  In one sense (and please meditate on this) it is God's great gift to us - a gift that nobody wants.  But without it, our lives would be open to abuse and horrible decay.  Example:  Pain is what keeps us from keeping our hand on a hot stove.
God gives us the freedom of choice.  We can choose to do good.  We can choose to do bad.  When we (or others) choose to do bad - there is pain.  There is hurt.  that this world is full of evil and suffering is an example of God's mercy - not his cruelty.  When Adam ultimately chose against God, our world was forever spoiled.
Pain is "God's megaphone" (as C.S. Lewis writes).  When we are in pain, God is desiring to speak to us.  The existence of suffering in our lives shouts to all of us that something is wrong.
The issue is not:  "Why is God allowing pain" or "Is God responsible" - but "What is God trying to teach me"?  "How should I react now that this terrible thing has happened?"
I can only overcome pain as I let go and "let God."  The Christian life is like a trapeze act.   You can swing on the bar, exercising and building muscles all you want.  But if you want to excel, you have to let go, with nothing beneath you, and reach out for the next trapeze bar. 
The story is told of a group of Jewish concentration camp prisoners held a mock trial to determine whether or not God was guilty of the suffering in the world. In the movie the actors are from all walks of life, a doctor, a rabbi, a glove maker, a professor and a criminal, to name a few.
The prisoners have been selected for extermination in the gas chambers the next day. As they try to make sense of all that has happened to them, they also wonder where God is in all of this. Some are afraid to question God. Others are ready to curse God.
As the trial proceeds various witnesses are called forth to testify for or against God. The current situation of European Jewry and Israel's long history as an oppressed people is recalled. Some testify that God is working out a purifying mystery in the Jewish people.
Others claim that God has broken the covenant and is no longer interested in the Jewish people. In the end, the men in the barracks find God guilty of breach of contract.
He has not taken care of them as promised in the Bible. As they enter the gas chambers one of them asks another "What do we do now that we found God guilty?" His friend answers: "Now we pray."
Like the disciples, we cry out in the midst of our pain:  "Where else can we go God, but to you?"
Know that while you may not feel His presence - God is with you in the midst of your pain.
I think of Elie Wiesel.  I think of him watching a little boy hang, almost but not quite dead from a gallows at Auschwitz.
Wiesel writes (In his book, "Night"):  "One day when we came back from work, we saw three gallows rearing up in the assembly place - three victims in chains - and one of them the little servant, the sad-eyed angel. 
The three victims (were) mounted together onto chairs.
The Three necks were placed at the same moment within the nooses.
At a sign - the three chairs tipped over.
Total silence throughout the camp.
Then the march past began.  The two adults were no longer alive - but the third rope was still moving; being so light the child was still alive.
For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes.  And we had to look him full in the face.
Behind me, (Wiesel writes) I heard a man asking:  "Where is God now?"
And I heard a voice within me answer him:  "Where is he?"
"Here he is - he is hanging here on this gallows."
My dear friends, when  you hurt, know that God is suffering with you.
Just a thought for a Thursday.


Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Not knowing what to do and the anointing

Sometimes we don't know what to say.
You've been there and so have I.
Your spirit is crushed - your spirit is overwhelmed.
If one more thing happens.......
You know that you need God to touch you, you know that there is a circumstance in life that needs God, but you don't know what to say.
You don't know what to do.
All you can do is to say:  "Jesus, help me."  "I need you Lord!"
And God listens, and God hears and God answers.
But you can also tap into the anointing of God to help you as well.  You can also wait on the Holy Spirit because he knows how to pray and what to pray. 
Paul writes in Romans 8:26,27, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will."
The Holy Spirit will always pray in alignment with the will of God.
The anointing of the Holy Spirit brings power - that does not necessarily have to be equated with chills or emotional goose bumps.
It isn't always charged with emotion.
The anointing can help you make it through life - it can give you the power you need for living.
I encourage you to pause right now, and ask God for His anointing on your life.
The anointing will take authority over your situations (Read Psalms 133:3).
The anointing will lift burdens from you shoulder (Read Isaiah 10:27).
The anointing will break bondages and restore you to the calling that God has on your life.
Cry out to God for that anointing today!

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:
Many, many thanks to Pastor Charlie for "pinch hitting" this past Sunday for me.
I understand that he hit a "home run"!
City Fest is coming up Saturday - the excitement is building!
It is still not too late to sign up as a volunteer - in fact we would encourage you to contact the church office - and our staff can share with you how you can help!
I guess I would offer you three things to do in preparation for the weekend:  Pray, pray, pray.
And then maybe three more:  Invite, invite, invite.
Sunday morning, I am going to give a salvation message on grace - and we prayerfully anticipate many coming to Christ!  9:00 A.M. and 11:00 A.M.
Life groups (home groups) are in full swing - we encourage you to attend - and share and pray and have fellowship with the brother and sisters in our church family.
Prayer meeting this evening:  6:30 P.M. to 7:30 P.M.
Unite service:  Wednesday, September 9, 2015.  One hour.  Worship and prayer. 
We are combining the two words:  Worship and Unity. 
Come join us as we spend time in the presence of the Lord!
Can I tell you something?  Debbie and I love you - pray for you - and consider it a privilege to serve you as your lead pastors.
Love you all..........

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Ask and believe

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Mark 11:24, where Jesus says, "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."

Powerful stuff.

A life-changing verse.

Notice that the verse is from Jesus.  Jesus said, "therefore I tell you."

I know that you will agree with me that when Jesus speaks, I listen.

When Jesus speaks, I believe in what He says.

I can know that it will come to pass.

Are you dealing with some issue, some problem, some crisis today?

Jesus says, "Ask," and "Believe".

First of all we have to ask - as ask in a specific manner.

Jesus asked the blind man by the side of the road, "what do you want for me to do for you today?"

What's going on Jesus, can't you see (pun intended) that the man is blind?

But Jesus wanted the man to ask - to be specific about his need.

I ask you today - what do you really want Jesus to do for you today?  Ask.  Be specific in your asking.  Do you need a job?  Ask Jesus for the specific type of job you need - what pay you need to pay your bills and beyond - and what hours fit best for you and your family.

Do you need healing?  Be specific with your need before Jesus.  Take it beyond, "Lord, I need healing in my body," to the level of, "Lord, I need healing from this specific type of illness."

Ask.  Seek.  Knock.

And then believe.

Believe that you have received it - in other words, thank God in advance for meeting your need.  It is an act of faith to say, "thank you Father that my healing is already there."  "Thank you God, that the job I am praying for is already there."

Believe in God.

Don't put your faith in your faith - but put your faith in God.

You might say, "I have such little faith."

I encourage you to use the faith that you have.  It is not the size of your faith - it is the size of your God.  Little faith in a big God brings about tremendous results.

And finally, Jesus says, "and it will be yours."  It will be, not it might be.  It will be.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

God is all you have

I have often heard it said that when, "God is all you have, God is all you need."

I believe that deeply in my heart - it is just that it is hard to act out in our everyday lives.

Our circumstances can be so real - so prominent - so overwhelming that it can be hard to focus on the reality of who God is - and how he is there (continually during difficult times).

Yet we know that as followers of Jesus, the true crux of our faith is believing in God when there is no where else we can go.

I believe that God can do miracles - I really do.

I believe that God can heal - I really do.

I believe that God can take the vilest sinner, forgive them and set them free - I really do.

But I believe that the greatest exercise of our faith is when it seems like everything else around us is caving in - and all we can do is place ourselves in the hands of God.

And, at the end of the day, there is no other place I would rather be than in God's hands.

Have faith in God today, my dear friends, and He is will see you through.

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

For all of you parents

Parents of Stone Church:

I pray for you each week.

I know that parenting can sometimes be frustrating.


You feel this incredible responsibility to raise your child as "unto the Lord."

There is a longing that your child grow up to be a follower of Christ.  Free from the struggles and temptations that you as a parent have faced in the past.

Because you don't always know what to do.

What works with one child - doesn't work with the other.  What works with one family in Stone Church - might not work with your family.

Even with the wealth of materials out there - each child is so different.

Each child has their own unique bent, their own unique personality and temperament.  You can't motivate them all the same.  They don't all have the same strengths, weaknesses, talents abilities or interests. 

Do you home school them or send them to public school?  How many activities do you let your child participate in?  What do you do when they are not interacting well with other children?  What happens when your child is dealing with anxiety and depression?

So many questions and challenges.

What do you do?

Well, I would suggest that first of all you know your child.

Proverbs 22:6 states, "Train up a child in the way that he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it."

You've got to know your child - because  you can't raise them in the way that should go until you do.  Know their characteristics, their personality, their temperament.

"Train up" means to a create a thirst; to direct or lead.

Find out their "bent" and then create a desire in them to go that direction.

Some parents think their child is born as a soft hunk of clay.

And they poke it and mold it.  Then, they fix it the way they want it to go.

And when they get it shaped the way that they want, they bake it in the oven and bring it out hard.

Then they put the child on a shelf and expect him or her to stay that way the rest of their lives. 

No, it is a constant process.   Every child is always growing.  Always changing.

If they are shy, don't try to make them boisterous.

If they are boisterous, don't try to make them shy.

That can be difficult for the following reasons:

Your child may be nothing like you. 

Your child may not be like any of the other children in your home (Think Cain and Abel).

I encourage you today, mom and dad, to not make these mistakes in parenting:

Parents tend to raise their kids the way they were raised.  Why?  Because it is what we are familiar with.  That just perpetuates generational dysfunctionalism.

Parents tend to compare their children with each other.

So what is your responsibility?

Help your child know who he or she is.

Understand that God has a specific plan for that child.

Look for the uniqueness of the child

Accept your children unconditionally (as God accepts you). 

Provide opportunities for gifts and talents to be developed in your child.

Encourage, encourage and encourage. 

Show affection.  Express affirmation.  Give them attention.  Discipline them consistently. 

Discipline them calmly.  Quickly.  Sparingly. 

Pray for them daily

I have learned this with people:  It is not what you are that holds  you back - it is what you think you are not. 

Well, I've given you a lot - in "bullet point" form.  But know this:  You are doing a great job in raising your children!  I affirm you in that.

With much love.......