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Thursday, October 15, 2015

The sounds of silence

I am old enough to remember Simon and Garfunkel's song entitled, "The sounds of silence."

Really, silence can be deafening in our lives.

Yet we struggle with it - I know that I do.

Our hearts, minds and souls are filled with noise, every minute of every day - especially in the age of social media.

Here's my challenge and word to you today:  Let's begin a process whereby we allow ourselves to spend time in the presence of the Lord in silence - both individually and corporately.

A.W. Tozer has written that in some instances, absolute silence might well become our greatest act of worship.

Revelation 8:1 shares with us:  "When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour."

I have been in worship situations where all of a sudden a "holy hush" would fall upon everyone standing there in worship.  No one would move.  No one would say anything.

And really, friends, that is when the glory of God begins to call.  The Shekinah glory of God.

In stillness, that is when life is put into perspective.

In stillness, that is when our hearts are filled with peace.

In stillness, that is when clarity can come in the midst of confusion.

In stillness, that is when we can really understand and experience the holiness of God.

Andrew Murray has written, "the very thought of God in His majesty and holiness should silence us."

But we must also learn to carve out holy moments of silence individually.

In Psalm 131:2, the writer talks of quieting his heart before God or, as The Message phrases it, "I've cultivated a quiet heart."


I cultivated.

In other words, I am working to create an environment of stillness in my heart and life where I block everything out but God.

Bill Hybels has written, "Is the ambient noise level of my life low enough for me to hear the whispers of the Lord?"

My encouragement today?  Let God hear your worship today - in silence.  Listening to Him.  Thinking about Him.  Learning from Him.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Entropy and Christ's authority and power

Entropy is a law of the universe.

The law of entropy is that everything in the universe is continuously  and irreversibly decaying.

All matter is degrading and all energy is dispersing. 

Scientists have known this for years.  Our world is dispersing into disorder - in other words, the world is winding down.

Our planet is decaying (which by the way completely discredits the theory of evolution).

The sun will burn out.

The rain forests are vanishing.

Different species of animals are becoming extinct by the thousands every year.

Your car falls apart by the mile.  It rusts and decays.

Your body is wearing out and will eventually die.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:16, "Our physical body is becoming older and weaker."

Just look in the mirror!

A lot of us have furniture problems - our chest is dropping to our drawers.
Have I encouraged you yet?  :) :)
Yet, there is hope!
Ephesians 1:21 teaches us that there is hope!
Paul speaks of Christ's power in Ephesians 1:19 - his "incomparably great power for us who believe.  That power, Paul writes, is like the working of his mighty strength."
What that means, my friends, is that the same power that brought Christ back from the dead is within us as believers! 
Because of that power - you and I can know that God is on our side, ready to help us meet each and every obstacle.
That God is always fighting against the forces of evil on our behalf.
That no human strength or spiritual power from the evil world (not even Satan himself) can deter or change God's inherent power. 
But then Paul writes not only of Christ power, but his authority has well.
(Ephesians 1:21):  "Far above all rule land authority (the laws of the universe including the law of entropy), power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come."
Christ's authority is far above any other.  All laws, especially the laws of the universe bow at the feet of Jesus! 
For we followers of Christ, instead of the world just fizzling out, we are heading toward a definite conclusion where Christ is Lord and God will make all things right!
Entropy is the law of the universe, but Christ is Lord over the universe.
Practical point today?  We can rely upon Christ and his all-sufficient power and authority to meet our daily needs.
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Christ's love in the little things

There is a tremendous amount of validity to showing the love of Christ in the "big things". 
Ministering at City Church once a month.
Serving in a ministry at our church.
Making a meal for someone in need.
But there is also a huge amount of effectiveness in showing Christ's love in the small things.
John Ortberg relates this story:
"There was a front-page article in the San Francisco Chronicle about a metro-transit operator named Linda Wilson-Allen.  She loves the people who ride her bus, learns their names, and waits for them if they are late and then makes up the time later on her route. 
A woman in her eighties named Ivy had some heavy grocery bags and was struggling with them.  So Linda got out of her bus driver's seat to carry Ivy's grocery bags onto the bus.  Now Ivy lets other buses pass her stop so she can ride on Linda's bus.
Linda saw a woman named Tanya in a bus shelter.  She could tell Tanya was new to the area and she was lost.  It was almost Thanksgiving, so Linda said to Tanya, "you're out here all by yourself.   You don't know anybody.  Come on over for thanksgiving and kick it with me and the kids."
Now they are friends.  Linda has built such a little community of blessing on that bus that passengers offer Linda the use of their vacation homes.  They bring her potted plants and floral bouquets.  When people found out she likes to wear scarves to accessorize her uniforms, they started giving them, as presents to Linda.
Think about what a thankless task driving a bus can look like in our world:  cranky passengers, engine breakdowns, traffic jams, gum on the seats.  You ask yourself, "How does she have this attitude?"
The Chronicle states, "Her mood is set at 2:30 A.M. when she gets down on her knees to pray for 30 minutes," the Chronicle states.  "There is a lot to talk about with the Lord," says Wilson-Allen, a member of Glad Tidings Church in Hayward."
When she gets to the end of her line, she always says, "That's all.  I love you.  Take care." 
Have you ever had a bush driver tell you, "I love you"?
People wonder, "Where can I find the kingdom of God?"
I tell you where.  You can find it on the #45 bus riding through San Francisco.  People wonder, "Where can I find the church"?  I will tell you.  Behind the wheel of a metro transit vehicle."
Great stuff from John Ortberg.
I encourage all of  us today to be open to sharing the love of Christ in the small things today - and in the little things of life.
Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Another beautiful day in the neighborhood! :)

And Jesus says:  "Won't you be mine"!

I am really looking forward to this coming weekend with Ned and Joan Way. They are wonderful guest speakers who minister specifically to children - but will have the entire Sunday  morning service (both services) - and will share and gear the morning toward the entire family.

You won't want to miss this time of family worship!

Just while I am thinking about it - I encourage you to maybe invite a family in your neighborhood to come.  It would be a perfect event to bring them to - and let them hear the Gospel!
Thomas Merton, Trappist monk and writer wrote:  "To hope is to risk frustration.  Therefore, make up your mind to risk frustration."
Just a few quick thoughts:  We never get anywhere if we depend upon our feelings.  There is something a thousand times better than our feelings - God's Word.
There is God's Word that you hold in your hand - the Scriptures.
And there is God's Word that comes to you through divine revelation on a daily basis.
Both take obedience.
The word of the day is:  The question is not - is God speaking - but am I going to be obedient to what He says?
I encourage you to take time to be with Jesus today.  Take time for communion with Him.  It is the only true, sure way that you know that it is God speaking to you.
Love you all.......

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Every marriage needs a safety net

I know you will agree with me that having a healthy, holy marriage is just a lot of hard work.  Daily work. 
We never "arrive" at a complete state of perfection in our relationships with our spouses.
Every so often, I come across someone who says, "My mate and I never fight."  When I hear that, I make a mental note to teach on lying.  :) :)
Debbie and I like to say that we've been married for 34 years (20 of them pretty good!) :) :)
No matter how hard two people try to love and please each other, they will fail.
What's the safety net?
What's the one thing that will maintain an open, intimate and happy marriage?
Asking for and granting forgiveness quickly. 
I don't need to tell you that Jesus taught a lot about forgiveness and the fact - well let me just quote Him from Matthew 6:14, 15:  "For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." 
God expects us to be "forgivers" - and marriage is the supreme setting for implanting this practice.
To forgive means this:  "To give up resentment or the desire to punish."
Forgiveness is a choice.  An act of the will.
It is not an emotion.  Forgiveness is an act that says, "I am letting this go - now I am going to drain my emotions and process my feeling of disappointment or rejection."  It may take a while for your feelings to catch up with your will. 
You say, "I cannot forgive you," - that translates out as:  "I choose not to forgive you."
Forgiveness is saying:  "I am sorry."  "Please forgive me."  "I was wrong."
Forgiveness is not just feeling sorry that the person feels bad or has been hurt - true forgiveness accepts that wrong has been done and take ownership of that.
That is hard when you're 60 percent right and only 40 percent wrong - and 60/40 situations come up all of the time.
You and your spouse are angry with one another.  The battle lines are drawn.  Your ticked off. 
Verbal blows have been given.  Wounds have been created and scars are beginning to pile up upon scars.
Here's what I also know:  To truly forgive, we need the help of the Holy Spirit.
"God, you have to help me here.  I need to move to forgiveness because you have commanded me to do so.  I need you to empower me, to enable me to give up the right of punishing my spouse and to forgive."
What if the person just keeps doing it again and again? 
Forgiveness is tough when there has been no authentic repentance on the offender's part. 
In that case boundaries and consequences need to be established - in some cases restitution will need to be made - but that does not take away from the fact that Jesus (Matthew 18:21-22) tells us to keep on forgiving - and saying, "I forgive you, and if you are really serious about being forgiven, I would ask that your actions show some believable repentance."
Ruth Bell Graham says it in just a powerful way:  "A good marriage is the union of two forgivers."
Action points:
Think about the issues and situations where you find it hard to forgive your spouse.  Write down why it is hard to forgive.
In prayer and as an act of your will, give up "your rights" to punish your spouse.
Write across your list of offenses and hurts a statement of forgiveness.
Live in freedom. 
Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Christian marriages and walking with Christ - together

Warning:  reading this blog will lead to you having a healthy marriage!
I am of the firm opinion that any two people, who put Christ at the center of their marriage - will have a long, loving and committed marriage.
That is not to say that there won't be trials and adversity - every marriage has times of disagreement.
What you have in any marriage are two wounded, imperfect, broken sinners who do not have the ability to love (on their own) another wounded, imperfect, broken sinner the way they need to be loved in this thing we call "marriage."
But with Christ at the center of our marriages - we can make it.
This blog describes some practical ways that you and I can implement "a God-centeredness" in our relationship with our spouses.
Let's start with some thoughts from Jesus about the two different foundations for life itself:
"Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock.  And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock.  And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand.  And the rains descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell and great was its fall."  (Matthew 7:24-27).
Principle:  Build your marriage upon a solid foundation through increasing obedience to God and His Word.
When you build  your marriage (your house) upon that Rock, you can withstand any storm - and the storms will come.  Financial storms.  Health storms.  Relational storms. 
How can you and your spouse be obedient?
It all comes back to this one word:  Discipline.
I am not talking about applying a punishment when a spouse does wrong, I am speaking of those daily activities that  you and your spouse are called upon to implement if you desire Christ at the center of your marriage.
Let me give them to you.
Disclaimer:  I am not proposing a lifeless list of legalistic tasks that will turn the Christian life into a series of do's and don'ts.  A joyless, religious marriage based upon works.
No!  But just as you and I must exercise to stay health - so we must apply our daily spiritual disciplines not only on an individual basis but on a "couple basis" as well.
Pray individually but also as a couple.  More than anything else, Satan will fight you on this.  Couples will practice intimacy in any and every area of life except in the spirit realm.  In fact, I would suggest that it is the  most intimate thing you can do as husband and wife - and will draw you closer more than anything else.  Try starting by praying together for 1 minute a day.  Then 2 minutes.  Then 5 minutes.
Study the Bible together.  Now, I am not talking about an hour, verse by verse study.  I am speaking of taking a verse, reading a devotion, listening to Bible CD's together.
Worship together in church.  Come to the altar - together.  Put on a praise CD at home and spend 5 to 10 minutes "praising the Lord" together.
Debbie and I teach that it is a necessity to have joint checking accounts.  The same goes in this area of giving.  Tithe as a couple.  Give as a couple. 
Of course, we talk about small groups a lot.  Small groups give you as a couple time to be with other couples.  And - when you hear who other couples are dealing with certain issues - you know that you are not the only ones struggling.  You can know that you will make it - as other couples have.
Volunteer together for service at church or in the community.  Even as I write this, the word "Together" really comes to the forefront of this blog.
This is huge.  Rarely does a couple witness together.  But it can happen and should happen.  Debbie and I had dinner the other night with a non-churched couple.  It was a wonderful time of them seeing how a Christian couple can have fun.
Now then, three things:
1.  Discuss the above thoughts - together.
2.  Use the following scale (1 = poor and 5 = great), how would you rate your commitment to each of these spiritual disciplines?
Prayer                       1 2 3 4 5
Bible Study              1 2 3 4 5
Worship                    1 2 3 4 5
Giving                       1 2 3 4 5
Fellowship                 1 2 3 4 5
Service                       1 2 3 4 5
Witness                      1 2 3 4 5
3.  What changes might you make as a couple in being more faithful in exercising these disciplines?
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Guilt and living in freedom

Did you know that God not only wants to forgive you but take away the guilt of your sin?
Yes he does.
David wrestles with this in Psalms 32:4,5 where he cries out to God, "for day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength as sapped as in the heat of summer.  Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord and you forgave the guilt of my sin."
God forgives - but God can also take away your guilt.
When God forgives, he forgives instantly, totally and completely. 
Lee Strobel shares this story.
He writes, "We were doing a baptism service.  We told people before they came up to the platform to be baptized to take a piece of paper, write down a few of the sins they've committed, and fold the paper.  When they come up to the platform, there was a large wooden cross on the stage.
Take that piece of paper, take a pin, and pin it to the cross, because the Bible says our sins are nailed to the cross with Jesus Christ, and fully paid for by his death.  Then turn and come to the pastor to be baptized.
I want to read to you a letter a woman wrote who was baptized in one of those services.  She said:  "I remember my fear.  In fact, it was the most fear I remember in my life.  I wrote as tiny as I could on that piece of paper and read it and find out it was me.  I wanted to get up and walk out of the auditorium during the service, the guilt and fear were that strong.
When my turn came, I walked toward the cross, and I pinned the paper there.  I was directed to a pastor to be baptized.  He looked me straight in the eyes, and I thought for sure that he was going to read this terrible secret I kept from everybody for so long.
But instead, I felt like God was telling me, I love you.  It's okay.  You've been forgiven.  I felt so much love for me, a terrible sinner.  It's the first time I ever really felt forgiveness and unconditional love.  It was unbelievable, indescribable."
Strobel goes on to write, "Do you have inside of you a secret sin that you wouldn't even want to write down on a piece of paper out of fear somebody might open it up and find out?  Let me tell you something about the Jesus I know.  Not only does he want to adopt you as his child, he wants to lift the weight of guilt off your shoulders."
I encourage you today, my friends, to walk in freedom - for as Paul writes in Romans 8:1, "There is therefore now, no condemnation in Christ Jesus."
Rebuke the enemy and his condemning thoughts.  You are a child of God!
Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

We are now into some fall weather.  Beautiful stuff.

God is good - all the time.
Thank you to those who prayed for my dad - his second surgery last Thursday was a "success"!  We are still waiting on the results of the biopsy - but the doctors feel they got all of the cancer.  We are grateful!

When you have a need - plant a seed.

I always enjoying being in the presence of the Lord in worship on Sunday mornings.

We have such a giving congregation.

Many thanks to everyone who makes Sunday mornings "happen"!  I don't have an official count in front of me of all those who participate - but we are grateful for all that you do!

If you haven't been baptized in water yet - or have and would like to be baptized again as a sign of your recommitment to Christ, please feel free to sign up in the foyer this Sunday.  Water Baptismal time:  Sunday, October 18th - first service.

Wasn't the presentation from the kids Nicaragua wonderful yesterday?  These are kids taken off of the streets of Nicaragua - who have come to Christ - and are expressing their love for God in the way they know how - through doing flips, etc.
Just as a side note:  If I tried to do what they were doing - I wouldn't be walking today.  :) :)
Thanks for giving to the building fund - and making faith pledges!  I know that the Holy Spirit lead you to give by His revelation!
Let's continue to press in and pray - pray for our church family, pray that more people would come to Christ - pray that God's healing power will touch those who are sick in our church body - pray for the leadership of our church - the list goes on and on.  There is power in prayer!
People need the Lord!
Let me encourage you today, in the midst of all of the stress and pressure, to stop and even physically raise your hands and praise God.  Place everything in His hands, and I would suggest that there is no other place we would rather be than in God's hands!
Debbie and I love you all.........

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Pressure and stress

Let Debbie and I be open with you:
Debbie's sister-in-law, Cindy is experiencing a recurrence of cancer (her and her husband are missionaries to China).
Debbie's mom is slowly "going downhill" and is now in assisted living.
As I write this - this morning, my dad is in surgery to remove any more of the cancer cells in his bladder and to see if the cancer has spread.
It is a trying time in our lives.
Lots of pressure.  Lots of stress.
Yet here is what I know:  God is a refuge for His children in times of pressure and stress.
Listen to the words of David in Psalms 91:
"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.  Surely he will have you from the Fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence.  He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge."  Psalms 91:1-4.
God provides a shelter - a refuge.
Are you under enormous pressure right now?  Are you feeling like there are some unfriendly people or forces that you just can't seem to escape?
In the Old Testament, God established six cities for the people of Israel to run to in a time of need.  They were spread out for easy access.  They all had paths going their way and signposts pointing to the city or refuge. 
Joshua 20:23 states, "to designate the cities of refuge as I instructed you through Moses, so that anyone who kills a person accidentally or unintentionally may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood."
Sometimes we need a safe place to run to.  Free from accusations and negativity.
God is that refuge - and He delights in that role.
God is our physical refuge.  In a times of physical need (such as my father today) He is there to provide healing and comfort.
God is our spiritual refuge.  He "shelters us under his wings."
A couple of years ago, outside my office window here at Stone Church, I watched as a mother Robin built a nest, had some chicks - and then watched as the little chicks hopped around chirping, pecking, doing all that chick stuff. 
I watched as someone or something came over to the nest and all of a sudden the mother bird would lift both wings simultaneously and within just a few seconds all the baby chick disappear under them.
They hide there.
They are sheltered there.
They regroup there.
Eventually, they have to crawl out to face the real world again, but for a time, there is nothing like being sheltered under wings.
Here's what I know:  Hurting people need a refuge from their distress.
Who needs a refuge?  Well, I would suggest that if you have to ask - you probably haven't needed one yet. 
Cities of refuge didn't mean much to the average guy on the Old Testament streets of Israel.  But to the person who had a blood avenger chasing them, it was the most important place on the planet.
God is our emotional refuge.
Are you feeling oppressed today?  Run under His wings.
Are you feeling troubled?  Run under His wings.
Are you feelings worried?  Run under His wings.
Do you feel grief?  Run under His wings. 
Do you feel lonely?  Run under His wings.
God says, "Let me shelter you for a time.  Let me shelter you from those angry, spouses that some of you are dealing with.  Let me shelter you from devious business partners, from frightening medical reports, from overwhelming financial needs, from parents or children who do not understand."
I can hear God whispering to all of us in need today, "Stay here for a time."
Take the first step.
Psalms 91:15 says, "When he calls upon me (God is speaking to you and I) then I will answer him.  When he calls upon me, I will be with him in trouble.  I will rescue him and honor him.
Call out to God today.  Run to God.  Don't hesitate.
Secondly, pour out your hearts to God.
Just for a moment, stop complaining to those around you about your adversity - and give it to God.  Let God take care of it.  Let God take control. 
I love Psalms 62:8, "Pour out your hearts to God, for he is a refuge for us. 
Pouring our hearts out to God is messy.  It is not pretty.  But God welcomes us to rest under His wings.
You can do this anytime, anywhere. 
Just a thought for a Thursday.