26 July, 2014

They Are Ruining the Place

One of my families favorite places to eat for the past 10 years has been La Roma's Pizza in Abingdon. For my Bethalto's peeps, La Roma's is as close to Roma's as you can get. The two families are in fact related and the recipe is almost (but not quite) the same. Every couple of years that owner returns to Italy for awhile and has someone else run the place while he is gone. A few years ago his replacement's were Gianni and Caterina who became very good friends and attended our church. When the owners returned from Italy, Gianni relocated his family to Hillsboro where he opened Gianni's Pizza and Ristorante, right off the square. If you are ever in Hillsboro, do yourself a favor and go visit them. Fantastic food and great people.  Anyway... the owners are gone again right now, and I am hoping this is a short stay away. The place is going downhill rapidly in their absence. The food is inconsistent and the service... well, let's just say that there IS NO SERVICE there right now. The guy running the place is letting the teenagers there run rampant. We were there last night and took some friends with us who had never been there before. One of them commented that she liked the pizza but would not return until the owners were back if this was how service was. The girl who took our order was so busy hanging with her friends that she never came back to check on us a single time. Only when my wife got up to get refills on our drinks herself did another girl come out to check on us. (By the way, all these teens are hanging out in the kitchen area, which is a bit unsettling to me. Last night there were at least 10 kids goofing off back there.) This was not a one time event. We went last week and it was pretty much the same. Our waitress took our order and then a group of friends came in and they all sat down to eat together and were acting like fools screaming and carrying on. I know kids will be kids, but 2 of these were SUPPOSED to be working. Not once did anyone check on us, we got our own drinks, got our own box to take the leftovers in and never did she or anyone else speak to us. And the language coming from that table was  loud, crude and vulgar. One of the boys that had come in actually told our waitress that she needed to tone it down because she was dropping so many "F-bombs" that people were staring at her. She just laughed. I love La Roma's, but I think I've gone for my last pizza until the owners return. At the rate things are going, he may not have a place to return to!

18 July, 2014

I'm Really Not Surprised

A famous restaurant in NYC decided to hire a firm to figure out why they kept getting bad reviews. What this firm discovered is quite interesting. Below is a transcript that the restaurant posted on Craigslist after they discovered what it was…

We are a popular restaurant for both locals and tourists alike. Having been in business for many years, we noticed that although the number of customers we serve on a daily basis is almost the same today as it was 10 years ago, the service just seems super slow even though we added more staff and cut back on the menu items…
One of the most common complaints on review sites against us and many restaurants in the area is that the service was slow and/or they needed to wait a bit long for a table.
We decided to hire a firm to help us solve this mystery, and naturally the first thing they blamed it on was that the employees need more training and that maybe the kitchen staff is just not up to the task of serving that many customers.
Like most restaurants in NYC we have a surveillance system, and unlike today where it’s a digital system, 10 years ago we still used special high capacity tapes to record all activity. At any given time we had 4 special Sony systems recording multiple cameras. We would store the footage for 90 days just in case we needed it for something.
The firm we hired suggested we locate some of the older tapes and analyze how the staff behaved 10 years ago versus how they behave now. We went down to our storage room but we couldn’t find any tapes at all.
We did find the recording devices, and luckily for us, each device has 1 tape in it that we simply never removed when we upgraded to the new digital system!
The date stamp on the old footage was Thursday July 1, 2004. The restaurant was very busy that day. We loaded up the footage on a large monitor, and next to it on a separate monitor loaded up the footage of Thursday July 3 2014, with roughly the same amount of customers as ten years before.
I will quickly outline the findings. We carefully looked at over 45 transactions in order to determine the data below:
2004:
Customers walk in.
They gets seated and are given menus, out of 45 customers 3 request to be seated elsewhere.
Customers on average spend 8 minutes before closing the menu to show they are ready to order.
Waiters shows up almost instantly takes the order.
Appetizers are fired within 6 minutes, obviously the more complex items take longer.
Out of 45 customers 2 sent items back.
Waiters keep an eye out for their tables so they can respond quickly if the customer needs something.
After guests are done, the check delivered, and within 5 minutes they leave.
Average time from start to finish: 1:05
2014:
Customers walk in.
Customers get seated and is given menus, out of 45 customers 18 requested to be seated elsewhere.
Before even opening the menu they take their phones out, some are taking photos while others are simply doing something else on their phone (sorry we have no clue what they are doing and do not monitor customer WIFI activity).
7 out of the 45 customers had waiters come over right away, they showed them something on their phone and spent an average of 5 minutes of the waiter’s time. Given this is recent footage, we asked the waiters about this and they explained those customers had a problem connecting to the WIFI and demanded the waiters try to help them.
Finally the waiters are walking over to the table to see what the customers would like to order. The majority have not even opened the menu and ask the waiter to wait a bit.
Customer opens the menu, places their hands holding their phones on top of it and continue doing whatever on their phone.
Waiter returns to see if they are ready to order or have any questions. The customer asks for more time.
Finally they are ready to order.
Total average time from when the customer was seated until they placed their order 21 minutes.
Food starts getting delivered within 6 minutes, obviously the more complex items take way longer.
26 out of 45 customers spend an average of 3 minutes taking photos of the food.
14 out of 45 customers take pictures of each other with the food in front of them or as they are eating the food. This takes on average another 4 minutes as they must review and sometimes retake the photo.
9 out of 45 customers sent their food back to reheat. Obviously if they didn’t pause to do whatever on their phone the food wouldn’t have gotten cold.
27 out of 45 customers asked their waiter to take a group photo. 14 of those requested the waiter retake the photo as they were not pleased with the first photo. On average this entire process between the chit chatting and reviewing the photo taken added another 5 minutes and obviously caused the waiter not to be able to take care of other tables he/she was serving.
Given in most cases the customers are constantly busy on their phones it took an average of 20 minutes more from when they were done eating until they requested a check. Furthermore once the check was delivered it took 15 minutes longer than 10 years ago for them to pay and leave.
8 out of 45 customers bumped into other customers or in one case a waiter (texting while walking) as they were either walking in or out of the Restaurant.
Average time from start to finish: 1:55
We are grateful for everyone who comes into our restaurant, after all there are so many choices out there. But can you please be a bit more considerate?

(Credit for this story belongs to http://news.distractify.com/culture/craigslist-surveillance-restaurant/)

16 July, 2014

No Man Is An Island

Today I bring you the parable of a mouse, a chicken, a pig and a cow.

A mouse looked through a crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife opening a package; what food might it contain?

He was aghast to discover that it was a mouse trap!

Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning, "There is a mouse trap in the house, there is a mouse trap in the house."

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, "Mr. Mouse, I can tell you this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me; I cannot be bothered by it."

The mouse turned to the pig and told him, "There is a mouse trap in the house."

"I am so very sorry Mr. Mouse," sympathized the pig, "but there is nothing I can do about it but pray; be assured that you are in my prayers."

The mouse turned to the cow, who replied, "Like wow, Mr. Mouse, a mouse trap; am I in grave danger, Duh?"

So the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected to face the farmer's mouse trap alone.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house, like the sound of a mouse trap catching its prey. The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught.

In the darkness, she did not see that it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught.

The snake bit the farmer's wife.

The farmer rushed her to the hospital.

She returned home with a fever. Now everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient.

His wife's sickness continued so that friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.

The farmer's wife did not get well, in fact, she died, and so many people came for her funeral the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide meat for all of them to eat.

The moral of the story: The next time you hear that someone is facing a problem and think that it does not concern you, remember that when the least of us is threatened, we are all at risk.

No man is an island!!

14 July, 2014

We Are Handing Over Our Freedom's

Thomas Sowell said the following concerning the Obama Administration's approach to governing:

...What they are trying to do is create an America very unlike the America that has existed for centuries — the America that people have been attracted to by the millions from every part of the world, the America that many generations of Americans have fought and died for. This is the America for which Michelle Obama expressed her resentment before it became politically expedient to keep quiet. 
It is the America that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright denounced in his sermons during the 20 years when Barack Obama was a parishioner, before political expediency required Obama to withdraw and distance himself.

The thing most associated with America — freedom — is precisely what must be destroyed if this is to be turned into a fundamentally different country to suit Obama's vision of the country and of himself.
But do not expect a savvy politician like Barack Obama to express what he is doing in terms of limiting our freedom. He may not even think of it in those terms. He may think of it in terms of promoting "social justice" or making better decisions than ordinary people are capable of making for themselves, whether about medical care or housing or many other things.


To this day, no one has been able to explain to me how someone (i.e. Mr. Obama) can spend the whole of his adult life associating with, and being mentored by, leftist radicals who despise what the United States has traditionally stood for, yet still maintain a mainstream value system and a traditional view of our country. Yet this is the deception that millions of Americans bought into, not once... but TWICE!

Now we are all paying the price. What truly amazes me is that most of those left leaning minds still will not put the blame where it belongs. Instead, they blame politics as a whole. Ladies and gentlemen, this is is about the Progressive Agenda. Powerful people who bankrolled and created Obama. They duped millions of people into voting for the color of a man's skin rather than what he stood for. Seven years ago I was screaming from this blog to stop and LISTEN to what this man was saying because he clearly stated what his agenda was, yet nobody listened. They were enchanted with the notion of making history by voting the first black man into the office of President. They were so caught up in that powerful spell that now, after six disastrous years under his leadership, all they can do is scream "racist" every time anyone dare oppose Obama. I think some of you need to look up the definition of "racist" and then take a good long look in a mirror.

Silent No More

I have been fairly quiet on my blog concerning political matters for quite some time. This was an intentional thing on my part, but a message from someone this weekend provoked me. It was one of my friends who is extremely liberal in her thinking and she thanked me for being silent. Her next comment is what provoked me. She said, "Christians just need to shut their mouths and let politics take care of itself." Now you've done it lady! You've gone too far. What you in effect said to me is that as a Christian, I have no voice in America! I will be silent no more! How dare you to assert that as a non-Christian you have rights that I do not have as a Christian! I know, you will say that I interpreted your comment wrong... but I got what you said loud and clear. Not only do I have the right to speak up, I have a duty to speak up! Let me quote from my sermon a couple of weeks ago: 
During the 1800’s, Alexis de Toqueville, a famous French political philosopher, visited America seeking to uncover the secret of our greatness. He traveled from town to town, asking questions, examining every aspect of our society, & then wrote his conclusions in his famous work, “Democracy in America.” In it, he penned these words that have been quoted in speeches by at least 3 sitting U.S. Presidents:

"I sought for America’s greatness. I found it not in her fields & forests.
I found it not in her mines & factories.
I found it not in her Congress & great tribunals.
It was only when I entered her churches and heard her pulpits thundering against sin and preaching righteousness that I discovered her greatness. 
America is great because America is good.
If America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."
(emphasis mine)

Today the liberal crowd wants to tell us that the church cannot be involved in politics, screaming "separation of church and state."
That is one of the most grievous errors concerning our Nation and our Constitution that has ever been uttered. No where does the Constitution even begin to insinuate that God or religion should be kept out of governing this Nation. What is does say is that the Government cannot interfere with one's right to worship or not worship. Period. 

Now days the left leaning crowd is pushing the idea that if a person chooses to be a Christian, they lose their right to free speech and other freedoms. Just last week Senator Chuck Schumer asserted that one can either choose religion or business, but not both.  Again, pushing the notion that if a person is religious, they lose rights afforded to those who are not religious.  

Enough.
I will be silent no more.


10 July, 2014

One of My Pet Peeves

Something that has bothered me for years within the Body of Christ is that when a person is first saved and all excited about what God has done and is doing in their life, the "established" folks in the church want to temper their zeal and excitement for Christ by telling them that they need to wait until they know more about God and His Word before they get involved in the work of the church. To that notion, I say, "Bull hockey!" I'm convinced that most of these "well meaning" (I use that term, tongue firmly planted in cheek) people actually are afraid that these newcomers to Christ and the church will show them up or take over their position in the church.  

Many years ago we had a family get saved that were literally a part of the Chicago mafia. When they got saved, God did some phenomenal things in their lives and they were radically transformed. Yes... they were rough around the edges. Yes, they were far from perfect in their walk. But they were also so excited about all that God was doing in their lives that they were telling everyone they could about Jesus and our church. On most Sunday's they would make 5 or more trips in their car picking up people and bringing them to church. They were literally bringing 25-30 people per Sunday. Rather than be excited about what was happening some of the older, established church folks went to them and told them that they needed to stop this, that they were not strong enough in their faith yet and they were not ready to do this. They succeeded in putting out the fire in these folks and eventually chased them from even attending the church. I'm convinced that the real issue was that the church was only running about 70 at the time and half of them were coming with this family, and they saw their control over the church being threatened. That church eventually closed and was sold.  Gotta wonder what might have been if these folks who "had all the knowledge and understanding would have gotten excited themselves and started inviting others, or at bare minimum encouraging this family. We'll never know what might have been. The sad truth is, those folks who had been at that church for 30 or more years did not have a clue what they were talking about when they told these people they needed to wait. What that family needed was some guidance and discipleship training, but what they got was the wet blanket treatment.  If only those "old timers" really understood what the Word of God has to say. Paul wrote in Philippians 1:6, "Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." What that verse tells us is that the very moment we receive the Lord Jesus Christ into our hearts, we all become saved and set apart for God's use. Not use for some juncture down the road... but use RIGHT NOW! At this point of salvation, God immediately began to do a good work in us. This good work was initiated by the Holy Spirit and will continue throughout our lives, advancing as we meditate on the word of God, as we walk in love with people and as we walk by faith every day of our lives. This good work in us equips and prepares us for the good work that God intends to do through us. The Holy Spirit is endeavoring to train us to be "Christ-like."  And what did Christ do? He was constantly seeking for those which are lost! You see, God has established certain virtues in our hearts and minds,  and he will empowered to do His works exactly as He wants it done.
The problem is... man has their own agenda, and they want to quench that fire of enthusiasm in that newly born again person. 

It is my sincere prayer and goal as a pastor to help release these newbies in Christ to do the work of Christ, and to equip and train them to do it. Yes, they will make mistakes along the way... but I'd rather see them make a mistake than to sit in a chair or pew and grow cold and lifeless as a Christian like so many others in the church. They are babes in Christ. Babies make messes in the natural, but we don't smother the life out of them. We clean them up and teach them how to do better. This is where the church is missing it. Someone new comes in and is dying to do something for God and we tell them, "not yet... you have to grow up first." If a child grows up sitting and doing nothing... they become disinterested and/or lazy. Same thing in the church.  It is time to release these new converts and allowing them to soar. Hopefully their zeal and enthusiasm will rub off on some of us.  It is my prayer that in my church (yours as well)  that we embrace the same prayer that Paul prayed for the Jewish believers in the book of Hebrews 13:20-21 – "Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."

06 July, 2014

Ibrahim:The Execution

I received the following in one of those emails that has been forwarded dozens of times and somewhere along the line, the original author who did the adapting of this story was left off, so I do not know who to give credits to. Whoever the author, this was so good that I had to pass it on.

Adapted from Live/Dead - The Story by Shawn Smucker

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. Act 7:5960

I recently heard the story of an Afghan man who was living in Iran. Well call him Ibrahim. There are more than a million Afghans who live and work there, a lot of them having migrated south during the Soviet war in the 1980s. They speak basically the same language as Iranians do, although it has slight variations and is called Dari. Some Afghans are born in Iran, but people of Afghan heritage are not permitted to receive citizenship there, so even those who are born there are considered outsiders.

Ibrahim became a Christian in Iran after hearing an evangelist preach on the television. He was extremely sick, and his doctors gave him no hope for recovery, but while he watched the Christian television show he became saved and healed. This just happened in the last year or so. He ended up coming to Turkey, where, for the first time, he saw a New Testament. Imagine reading the words of Paul for the first time, so close to some of the cities he had visited during his journeys.

About the time Ibrahim arrived in Turkey, his father and mother found out that he had converted. We dont have anything to do with him anymore!his father exclaimed to his mother. Do you understand? Your son is dead. He has denied the faith.

Time passed, and eventually Ibrahim was able to call back to Afghanistan to speak with his mother. She was so upset when she heard his voice on the telephone. How could this happen?she asked. How could you leave the faith?Ibrahim told her the story of how he had found Jesus. He talked about being born again.When he used that phrase, she became silent.

“Mother, whats wrong?” he asked her. 
She sighed. When I gave birth to you, I had a vision of an angel that came to me on a horse. The angel talked to me about being born again,but I had no idea what the angel meant, and as the years went by, I put it to the back of my mind. But here you are, talking about being born again,and now I finally understand what the angel was trying to tell me.

They spoke for a little while longer, and Ibrahims mother professed faith in Christ. 
Two months ago Ibrahims father killed Ibrahims mother after learning she had become a Christian. He burned her to death. 

LIVE/DEAD CHALLENGE

I heard this story from an American man who lives and works in Turkey. He knows the people involved, and he knows firsthand the price that many Iranians pay when they decide to follow Jesus. So many times we embark on a new journey with God only to turn back in fear or mistrust. We cant see how things will work out. Were not sure how the financial pieces will fall into place. We cant envision how God will provide.  Time and time again, both in stories about the early church and in stories from Iranian Christians, we see people who didnt let fear keep them from moving forward. After Stephens stoning in Acts 7, Im sure there were many who turned away from the faith. Their fear was simply too great.

Thankfully, the execution of Stephen didnt deter every Christian from moving forward in Christ. In fact, many more joined the Christians in spite of Stephens death, perhaps because of it. The same can be said of our brothers and sisters in Iran— they are moving forward in spite of threats to their freedoms and their lives. Even after the interrogations, the beatings, and time in jail, they return to the streets and continue to share the gospel.

List the thing or things you believe God is calling you to do or be. Next to that list, make a list of the fears that keep you from moving forward with that call. 
Offer those fears to God and ask for courage.
Then, one by one, draw a line through each fear. 
Begin to focus on your call rather than on your fears. 
Trust that where God has called you, He will make a way for you.

04 July, 2014

It's Independence Day!

I'm reading all over Facebook where people are wishing everyone a "Happy 4th of July." People are talking about their plans for picnics and backyard BBQ's and going out to watch fireworks tonight. Several have noted how peaceful it is as they sit quietly drinking their coffee and enjoying the serenity of such a beautiful morning. I love reading all these posts, and yet I find myself wondering... do they really realize the powerful statements they are making about the peaceful morning, the quiet neighborhoods, the joy of having family and friends gathering today to have a BBQ or cookout in their yards or the park?We are SO blessed as a people and as a nation. I hope no one takes it for granted.

I mean absolutely no disrespect toward anyone else with what I am about to say; I'm only expressing a personal conviction and find myself no 'better' than anyone else. It's just my personal view. Many years ago I came to a decision that I would not say, "Happy 4th of July" again.  It so happened on the morning of July 4, 2003 I was sitting in my house, drinking my coffee and (remember this was pre-Facebook" days) I sent out a mass email to my friends and family. Within a few minutes I received a rather scathing email reply from Wolfgang, a friend of mine in Berlin, Germany. He said in his reply that American's were arrogant (and a few other choice words) because we acted as if July 4 belonged to us only. He said, "you do realize that we have July 4th in Berlin as well, don't you?" He went on to say that in all countries around the world it was also July 4th and that the day was nothing special and that it was just another American excuse to be lazy and blow off a day of work with pay. 

I tried explaining to him why it was so special to us and Wolfgang's reply stuck in my heart and mind and remain there to this day. He said, "You speak of patriotic glory and it may well be as such for you, but I'd wager a bet that the vast majority of American's only see a day off work and a reason to get drunk." I tried to come up with a witty reply. I wanted to make him eat those words. But the sad truth was that deep in my heart, I knew Wolfgang was absolutely correct. Most American's probably do not give a second's thought to the purpose of the celebration or the day off work. Those who must work today are for the most part fussing about not having the day off... and without a thought of the great meaning of July 4, rather they are upset that they don't have a day off with pay or that they are missing a chance to party. 

I'm of the mind that we, as a Nation, need to cling to the meaning of this day. We must never lose the import of this day and what it symbolizes to each of us personally and as a people. Wolfgang was so right... because they have July 4th in every nation, but here in America, this is Independence Day. The trend over the last few decades has been to tear down and destroy patriotism in our young people, and for the most part, that plan has been very successful. Young people today have been taught that America is evil and that she must pay for her sins. Is America perfect? Not by a long shot. But I submit to you that for all her faults and failures, America is the greatest nation on earth and we are truly blessed to live here. Just imagine, if you will, how different your life would be if you had been born in Ethiopia. How about Iran? What if you had been born in China? Or any other country. How's your freedom and privilege sounding to you now?  

There is a reason that thousands, even millions of people from other countries risk life and limb to try to slip into this country illegally. They realize that even as an illegal, with the real threat of going to prison or deportation, they have a shot a much better life living in America. I wish all these knuckleheads who want to bash America and destroy her from within would open their eyes and ask themselves the question; "why do they keep coming here to America?"  The answer is simple; Because America is the greatest Nation on earth!

Happy Independence Day everyone!

03 July, 2014

Sign of the Times

A friend of mine from Berlin recently posted on Facebook about the rapid inflation of food costs and pointed out that this is exactly what the Bible predicted at the end time just before the appearance of the Anti-Christ.  He quoted form the U.S. Department of Labor (Bureau of Labor Statistics) and showed how in their most recent report the BLS shows that in the past 12 months the prices for meat, poultry, fish and eggs have risen by 7.7%. Ironically, the Obama administration claims that the inflation rate is only 2.1 percent.  Noting how that not only food costs have soared, but so has the price of gasoline and pretty well anything else you can think of, is it possible the government is lying to us? Oh no... they would never do that; would they?

The fact is that over the last 50 years, food prices have risen by 664%. That's pretty amazing, but it is even more amazing when you dig a little deeper and discover that the overwhelming bulk of that increase has come in the past 8 years alone. Even worse news is that Congress is even now working to add another 12 cents per gallon tax on gasoline, which will only further drive up the cost of everything else we purchase.  There is no end in sight... or is there? This is exactly what the Bible predicted.  "When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”  (Revelation  6:5-6 NIV)

Consider further that the value of the American dollar continues to drop around the world. One article I recently read made this dire prediction for food prices in America, " Within a decade, a loaf of wheat bread may cost $23 in a grocery store in the United States, and a 32-oz package of sugar might run $62. A 64-oz container of Minute Maid Orange Juice, meanwhile, could set you back $45.71. This is all according to a new report released Friday by the National Inflation Association which warns consumers about the coming wave of food price inflation that's about to strike the western world."


These things and other news stories could cause fear to rise up within your heart (which is another sign Jesus told us to look for! Matthew 24) but in reality it should be a time to rejoice as we know the time is short. If you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, there is no need for fear. If you don't know him... What in the world are you waiting for!

28 June, 2014

10 Years... Where Did They Go?

10 years ago today my family moved to Galesburg, IL to assume the pastorate of Harvest Church of God. I can hardly believe it has been 10 years already... until I look in the mirror and take a look around the house and see my kids no longer live here. June 28, 2004 happened to be my daughter's 11th birthday, and the fact that we moved on her birthday made her anything but happy. In fact, she did not want to move at all. She was mad at me and made no bones about it. We had only lived in Lincoln, IL for 3 years as pastors, but she had made a home there and was very involved in her school and had many friends. She got over it and in time loved living here, but I don't mind telling you that for the first few months I thought I'd driven a wedge between Ashley and myself that would never be repaired. Thankfully, with God's help, she grew to love Galesburg and her friends here. When we moved here, Daniel was just getting ready to turn 14 in 9 days and was ready to begin high school. Actually, he had been going to the high school in Lincoln for math classes for a couple of years already and was kind of a "pet" to the older kids who were in awe of this little guy who was blowing through their math courses like they were nothing. He was not all that happy with me for moving him to a new school when he already had an in roads with the faculty and student body at Lincoln High School. Band helped him adjust to Galesburg much easier than Ashley as he made friends very quickly. Libby was agreeable to the move because she knew it was God's will for our lives, but even she was not the happiest of campers, because she loved her job at Lincoln High School and was giving up her tenure to move here.  So... it was an uphill climb for our family all the way around. 

That first year was rough. The weather was a shock to our system. It was so cool here the first summer that we lived here that we took down and got rid of the above ground swimming pool that was in our back yard. It was rainy and cool all summer. I remember Libby becoming somewhat depressed and asking me just where I had moved her to. It was so cool that summer that we did not run the air conditioning in the house the entire summer until September when for two weeks it suddenly jumped to the high 90's and was over 100 for several days. Then, as quick as the flip of a switch, we had our first snow fall with an accumulation of a couple of inches the third week of October. (Yes, seriously) On Thanksgiving day we had a snow and ice storm that caused many of my family members to have to turn around and go home because they could not get here. That winter was fierce, and it never got above freezing from Thanksgiving Day until mid January. Trust me... my family was not liking dear old dad too much at that time! But we made it. We've acclimated (somewhat) to the wild and unpredictable weather conditions around here, and although a few times over the years I was ready to pack it all up and move south, we've made it 10 years. It's been a wild and crazy ride. 

The first year in Galesburg, in our 11th month, we lost more than half the church within a 3 week span. We've built it up and watched it decline several times. We've seen dearly loved ones leave this life, watched children grow up before our eyes and seen people turn and walk away... but we are still here. God has a plan. In all seriousness... there have been many times I've gotten mad and been ready to throw in the towel and walk away. Yet every time I prayed, I knew in my spirit that God was saying, "hold the course, it will come in my time."  I had a vision several years ago of a river that I've found myself questioning at times, but just a few weeks ago as I was praying, the Lord spoke so clearly to me and told me to pull it out and look at it again. In that vision, almost everyone who had been with us turned around and left us, and after that happened, the flow of the water changed directions, sped up and people began to come and jump into the river with us. I've finally come to realize that I had failed to see where we were in that vision until just a few weeks ago. All these things had to happen and all those who left in fact needed to go before God would do what he had promised to me. He's showing me that it is not me, or any group of people... it is all about him, his will, his power and his timing. So as we begin a new year with tomorrow's worship service, I'm excited. This is going to be a year of great change. I sense it. This is going to sound strange, but as I've prayed, the Lord has shown me great chaos and even destruction as a wind blows in and shakes the foundation, but then as the calm comes, great things will begin to happen with rapid and profound changes happening in my life and in the church. I'm excited to see what God has in store for us! 

26 June, 2014

I'm a New Creation

I am greatly troubled by the trend we are witnessing in the church of America today. It seems our message is "Come as you are and remain as you are." I believe that our door should be open to anyone and everyone and that our goal should be to get the sinner into the doors of the church... but I also believe that if they come in, they will hear a message of the Gospel and that message will affect a reaction. No, I'm not saying that our "goal" should be to offend (Lord knows, there are churches a plenty that will do that) but the plain and simple fact is, if the truth is preached, people will not be comfortable remaining in their sin. All one need to do is read the four gospels of the New Testament and it is easy to see that where ever Jesus went and taught, there was always a reaction. Some loved him and followed him. Some thought him a nut. Others hated him enough to plot to kill him. It should be the same today.When light is introduced to darkness, things change. That's the way the Word of God should be. And this most certainly holds true in the lives of those who profess to have accepted Christ and call themselves "Christian."

Paul wrote, concerning our conversion, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17    That certainly does not sound like there is any room for this modern preaching which allows people to continue down the same road that they were on before they met Christ.  No, the gospel of Christ is about the creation of a brand-new species of man.  The phrase "New creation" is an accurate description of the nature and status of all those we call Christians. The word "new" as used in this scripture literally means "previously unknown, previously unheard of, a new kind, unprecedented." This is pretty powerful because it reveals that the new creation is not a "cleaning up" or renovation or refurbishment, as we so often put it, but rather the result of a completely brand new work of creation. God literally places within us a brand new heart. Not the heart that beats and pumps blood... but a new spiritual nature! This new creation can also be referred to as the "new man" who has taken the place of the "old man" who was in existence before you received Jesus in your heart and became born again. In God's eyes, if you are now born again, the old man is no longer in existence and everything that had to do with him has passed away. If in fact that old man is dead and gone, then it only serves to reason that all the habits and actions of that old man are gone too... right?  So where do we get off with dragging all the old "junk" into the life of the new man?  Dare I say it? Many of the folks who call themselves "Christian" are not. They have never truly had an encounter with Christ and become "born again." If they had, then that old man would not be dominating their lives. I believe this is illustrated to us in Matthew 7:21-23 where we read, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers!'  
Yes, there are going to be some shocked people, because they've played the modern religious game to the hilt, but they've never been born again! To be born again means, old things are gone, all things are new. If the old still dominates, then you need to be asking yourself if you've ever died to self and surrendered your life to Christ. Nothing less will do.

Another thing about this new man is that as such, we are a supernatural being and also have the exact nature as God. What an amazing miracle of God! "And be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:23,24). This is why it is so crucial that we renew our minds with the word of God, especially in the areas that teach us about the new creation. As we do, we will start to think in line with this reality and we will start to live on earth in the full capacity of the new creation. This means that we will live above all the forces of this world and excel in every facet of our lives. A truly born again man or woman... a new creation is not subject to the pull of this world that tries to drag us down. The reason so many succumb to this traps is that we have not died to our old way of living. People ask me all the time if I miss the life of hitting the clubs and partying. NOT AT ALL! That's not who I am any more. That me died long ago and that stuff just does not even sound appealing to the new man in me. I'm a new creation... old things have passed away... behold all things have become new!  Hallelujah!!!

If you are reading this today, I hope you will let this sink into your mind and spirit... if you are in Christ, then you are now a new creation! It is time to start thinking and acting like one! Forget about your past life because as far as God is concerned it no longer exists. Start enjoying your new life as a supernatural being, start living above the mundane forces of this life! Only then will you really understand what it means to be free! 

Make this your daily prayer and confession: 

I submit myself to the life of the new creation and I absolutely refuse to respond to the call of the old man any longer, because I have been made new in Christ Jesus!

20 June, 2014

Breaking the Chains

It seems that anymore one of the topics that comes up in my discussions and in counseling is that of people who say they cannot forgive someone. I say it so often that I sound like a broken record; "It's not that you can't forgive... it is that you are unwilling to forgive."  When we choose not to forgive, it is not the other person who is really being harmed or hindered. We are hurting ourselves more than anyone. I've actually had people come to me and ask me to forgive them for things for which they have carried a grudge for years (in one case, more than 20 years) and being absolutely honest... I did not even know what they were talking about because I had let it go years ago and did not even remember the event they were talking about.  They had been in chains of bitterness and resentment over something that I did not even remember!  It's just a fact... an unforgiving attitude can keep you from moving forward in life. That other person most likely does not ever give a thought to the thing that has you bound up with rage and resentment.  So isn’t it time you got serious about forgiving the one who hurt you?  I know... I hear it all the time: “But if I forgive them, then they’ll have gotten away with it.”  Baloney! They’re not getting away with anything! God is the one who keeps record and He alone is the one who will judge.  And I hate to break this to you, but God is not going to ask for your opinion in the matter when He does judge that person.  For all you know, that person may have asked God to forgive them for their wrong doing long ago, so they are forgiven, God has forgotten and you alone are the one lugging around the ball and chain of bitterness. Something to think about; don't you agree? We need to keep in mind that our critics are making decisions about us based on limited information, but God knows the truth and He will deal with your detractors in His own time and way. So when you and I continue to try to defend ourselves and prove them wrong, we’re stepping into territory that belongs exclusively to God.

The Bible says: “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone...never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord. Instead, ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads’. Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good” (Ro 12:17-21 NLT).

Do you understand that Satan’s goal is to get you all tied up in knots and steal your peace? He wins when we stay bound up with an unforgiving spirit.  Don’t play into his hands! Christ, your example, prayed for those who drove the nails into His hands: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”  Let's be honest...  some people are just mean. Some are wicked people, and they get their jollies by seeing you tormented within by what they've done to you. They may really think they’re smart, but one day they will give an account for their actions. In the meantime... Don’t come down to their level by plotting and retaliating. You become just like them when you do. 
Want to experience real freedom?  Forgive them, and let it go.