Saturday, December 29, 2007

Better late than never!

I was going to wait until Monday to write this blog, but I decided I couldn't. Here is my first IL deer. I got it Thursday evening during a last minute quick hunt in cold drizzly weather. I got to my stand about 3:20 and he came by at about 4:30. At first he was only about five yards away, and when I drew my bow back he jumped and ran out to around 20 yards and stopped giving me a clear quartering away shot. He only went about 70 to 80 yards before dropping mid-stride about fifteen yards off the corn field. It's been a long hunting season trying to figure out how to hunt a new place and how to get close to deer who had hundreds of potential travel routes. I saw bigger bucks, but needless to say, I'm happy to get this one. With two weeks left, I'll still be chasing that big fat doe that I have a tag for. I've spent a lot of hours hunting over the last three months and they've all been good. It really is about enjoying the outdoors and the challenge of bowhunting. The success of the experience is not measured by arrows shot or deer harvested. Spending time in God's creation, enjoying the fellowship of good hunting buddies, and trying to outsmart one of His smartest critters is all part of the bigger picture. I'm thankful that I got to do them all. I'm especially thankful for some new friends in IL who graciously let Danny and me enjoy their beautiful property. Have I said it before? God is good!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Myth Church

It's been a busy week and I've been in and out of the office only when necessary. So, I haven't had much of a chance to share last weeks Myth. For many reasons it's my favorite Myth because it's - I think - the biggest challenge for the church right now. Myth Church is all about how what we do and think about church comes more from our culture and traditions than it does from the Word. It's time to get it back to what God intended. Be Real?
Myth Church
Introduction: (If you need the scriptures that go with this you've proven my point.)
A. Like the survivors in Spartacus, who showed their love and commitment for their leader by declaring "I am Spartacus!" and die with him - we need to say "I am church!" It IS WHAT WE ARE not the building, not the cathedral, the temple, shrines, organizations, institutions, religious bodies, or even denominations. Ekklesai is the "called out people!" It's the institutional church that is so negatively perceived in our culture now.
B. Our cultural training teaches us: You go to church to show that you are a good person. (and right people go to the right church - right?) Our culture built the church we know not the Restoration Movement. And now our culture is rejecting it!
C. It's time to Be Real rather than Be Church. Some cultural myths:
1. Church is a place. God says church is people!
A. Acts 2:42-47 early church was people helping people grow.
B. Like the difference in a house vs. a home - which do we have?
2. Church defines our faith! God defines our faith!
A. You're not faithful unless church says you are? Why?
B. We believe biblical knowledge must come from church. Why? Haven't we diminished personal study with that thinking? Same for worship, giving, witnessing, and our walk with God. ?That's why little happens outside of assembled church!
3. Church is about religion! God says it's about relationships!
A. First & always with Him, Son, and Holy Spirit.
B. With His people - love one another & learn to love Him!
C. Fear of error has become more important than love! Why?
4. Church is a Temple. God says it's a tool!
A. Church is not an option! What you are! How you grow!
B. But it's building love! Love is essential not traditional church!
C. Family of God? Body of Christ? Goal is relationship with Him and the church together is the support system. Others support us, we grow by supporting others!
D. The definition of faithfulness is love (Gal.5:4)
E. 1 Cor.13:1-3 love over extreme acts of church!
Conclusion: We have "churchitosis"! Like halitosis - stinking! Only cure is mouthwash! Our wash is "The Living Water" Jesus.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas 2007

There were actually other people at the dinner table when I took this picture, but it looks like Donna sat down to a huge dinner of crown pork roast and all the fixings by herself. She did her usual awesome job and we did our usual awesome job of eating too much. Mmmm!
After dinner and before the gifts, we had the traditional family pictures. Here are all the grand children. Ashlyn, Caleb, Curtis, Joshua, and Carter. Only Curtis wasn't very excited about the whole deal!

And then - the handing out of all the gifts. There really was carpet under all that! The kids handed them out, but Nana had to help them read the tags and tell them who to take them to. It actually took awhile.

Here is Curtis and one of his gifts from Uncle Jonathan and Aunt Holly. I think he's saying, "We missed you!" Another wonderful year and another reason to praise God for His ultimate gift of Jesus.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Top Ten Disney Observations

One morning last week, while we were at Disney World, I woke up at 5:30 and found myself sitting in the foyer of our resort drinking coffee and writing in my journal. I worked on a sermon some and did a little work on our Be Real adult Bible classes that start in January, and then I jotted down a few observations about Disney World. I hesitate to call them Top Ten anything, but I like consistency, so I'm just calling them my Top Ten Observations about Disney World (that day).
1. I love their incredible attention to detail. They are masters of the BIG, but what gives them class is all the little touches that they put into everything.
2. Every employee - they call cast members - is happy, positive, personable, helpful, and attentive. Impressive.
3. Everything is clean, neat, and in it's place - heaven for us borderline OCD-types.
4. It's a wonderful place for an adult vacation, even though it's usually thought of as being for kids. If you're an empty nester - try it!
5. It's a very physical vacation. It takes a lot of walking to see everything and do it all. I did see lots of wheelchairs and motorized chairs. If you can't do a lot of walking, you must have something like that.
6. It's not a place for people or families who are stressed, impatient, or who have children we politely call "strong willed". The crowds, the wear & tear, and the waiting are hard on the competitive, the confrontational, and the non-compliant - regardless of their age. But it's really not a place for small children who'd just as soon ride the children's train at your mall.
7. It's top rate, first class entertainment. Every show is big, beautiful and Broadway quality. (i.e. The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Finding Nemo, and the Lights, Camera, Action Car/Stunt Show is unbelievable - yes, even the High School Musical show at MGM was fun)
8. The Expedition Everest ride is incredible. A guy died of heart attack on it the day after we left. Been there - done that - never again! And the new "Soaring" ride is worth the price of the whole trip and the long wait!
9. The organization and coordination of transportation from airport to resort to whatever park and back is impressive - not to mention convenient.
10. For us, we know its a great place because of all the times we found ourselves saying, "Wouldn't the kids and grand kids love this!" So yes, it's a great adult vacation, but even better when you can share it with loved ones. This time it was special friends. Next time - who knows - maybe the whole family!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Myth No-Truth

I recorded this lesson last Tuesday, before we left on Wednesday, so it could be presented on Sunday and we wouldn't mess up the schedule of "Myths" as we've advertised them. I still had almost no voice, because of the botox shot Nov.30th, but I didn't want to not deal with the topic when I said I would. Last weekend, while we were at DW, St. Louis got 7-9 inches of snow, so they only had about half the congregation here Sunday morning. Anyway, for those who have been trying to keep up with my lessons on the Myth America Contest, here are the main points of what I shared about Myth No-Truth.
Introduction: There's not enough room here to tell my joke I used, but I made the point that it's really hard to know the truth about others. It's hard to know the truth about yourself sometimes. I believe this is one of the reasons so many people believe that truth is relative, situational, in flux, or always changing - because people are always changing. People are un-true, therefore life is un-true. They reject absolutes and values. People know better, but they are trying to escape responsibility or guilt. "The fool has said in his heart there is no God." Three thoughts about why the world view is wrong.
1. Truth is situational! Wrong! The world is confusing absolutes with application! Because people differ about the application of a truth, doesn't mean the truth itself is wrong or relative.
A. That's why Paul warned us to "handle the word of truth" correctly.
B. Mk.10:42-45 Jesus taught on servant leadership, but in the very next chapter (11:12-18) He made a whip and cleared out the Temple. Is that a conflict of truth or and application of truth?
C. Eph.4:15 "speaking the truth in love" is very difficult. Requires different applications.
2. Truth is "in the eye of the beholder." Wrong! Truth is in the One we behold!
A. Rom.3:4 "Let God be true and every man a liar."
B. Truth is the gospel - the gospel is God's Word & will! Jn.17:17 Sanctifies; 8:32 sets free; 14:6 in Jesus; Phil.4:8 fills our minds.
C. Man conveniently changes the truth to fit himself. See Rom.1:18-25
D. A country w/o values has problems! It's hard to have values w/o recognizing the giver of values.
3. Truth is elusive - unknowable! Wrong! Truth is knowable - it's just uncomfortable and convicting!
A. Col.3:16 Read it - what's hard to know? Hard to do - is the problem!
B. Gal.1:6-10 Another gospel? Really? No, just pleasing men!
C. Gal.2:20, Know, sing, memorize - but real?
Conclusion: Here's the truth! God made you, loves you, wants a relationship with you. He made a way for the unholy to unite with the Holy - because of Jesus' sacrifice! If we seek Him, serve Him, and sense Him - we will BE REAL in our spiritual walk.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Back From Florida

We arrived back from our five day Disney adventure yesterday afternoon. I was worn out - Donna wanted another five days. What can I say! It's her favorite place, so I think I hit a home run by giving her this trip for our thirty-fifth anniversary. I had originally intended for it to be a last minute surprise, but with the children's musical, a new grand-baby due, and a dozen other things all merging at around the same time, I decided to spring it on her for her birthday back in October (see blog from then). I didn't mind doing that because the best part of the surprise was hearing her scream when we walked off the plane in Orlando and we were met by Don & Kathy Rose, two of our best friends and travel buddies from TN. Donna was so surprised that she thought for a second that we'd landed in Nashville. But - there was more to come!
I put this in here mostly so you could see the new Expedition Everest in the background. We'd just ridden it minutes earlier - I'm not really that white! I'm glad I did it, but don't be looking for a repeat. These pics are just a small sample of what we have. I took about 80 pictures and Donna has about 400 on here camera. Even after cutting out the bad and the blurry, it's still a mess of pictures.

(Everyone but Eric and Diana Crawford, who were there but not with us when this was taken.)
On Thursday evening we rushed to a dinner reservation in the Mexico pavilion. As Donna turned the corner in the restaurant, she found a table with 14 more good friends waiting for her. To say she was surprised is an understatement. These are all wonderful friends who we were in a small group with for about six and a half years in TN. We love them all dearly. We've shared a lot together and done the very things God put His church here to do - love another. When I asked them to consider this - back in January - they all jumped at the opportunity for us all to be together. Thanks guys. I can't say how much it meant to both of us - Donna especially, but I got to enjoy the love and commitment for 11 months. Thanks for helping to make it an unforgettable anniversary. Isn't God wonderful?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Myth Death

According to Weather.Com, it's 83 in Orlando today and it's supposed to be 81 tomorrow when we arrive for our 35th anniversary trip. Oh, it's going to be tough to enjoy that with so much ice and cold here in St. Louis - but we'll try to have a good time in spite of that. Needless to say, you won't be seeing a blog here until we return next week. So before we head south, I wanted to share my outline from last Sunday's Myth America Contest series. It wasn't a fun subject, but a very important one. Hope some of the thoughts bless you in some way.

Myth Death
Introduction: I asked everyone to hold there purse or wallet and imagine someone else handing it to their "next of kin" because you're dead and don't need it anymore. Here are three introductory truths I shared. 1) The single biggest indicator of lack of faith is the denial of the fact that we are going to die. Because we don't live like we believe it. 2) The foundation of faith is the belief that there is more to us than this physical life! There is nothing more real than death and nothing more important than our soul. 3) Everyone who has every lived has died! Bible characters, historical people, and famous people. All just like us! Some cultural myths about death vs. God's Truth!
1. It's predetermined vs. it's undetermined. World says it's fate, luck, or "numbers up" - almost predestination. The physical elements of life are choice, the fact we're mortal (dying), accidental and intentional death. We add to that the spiritual elements = God's will, which includes the natural (He created) and the providential (He intervenes).
2. Avoidable vs. Unavoidable - Heb.9:27 says is unavoidable!
3. Fear vs. Fearless - God/Love takes away the fear 1 Jn.4:16-18
4. The End vs. The Beginning - 1 Thess.4:13-18 even early Christians had a hard time with that.
5. Ultimate Loss vs. Ultimate Win! World says to die is to lose, God says it's to gain (Phil.1:21) and a victory (1 Cor.15:51-57) At death we receive every spiritual blessing the physical can't have - and we call it losing?
Conclusion: Be Real - nothing reveals how genuine our walk with Jesus is like how we feel about death. We're going to Disney World! I starting planning and preparing back in January. If you want to go, that's what you have to do - start taking the steps! Want heaven? Start taking the steps that get you there. Start seeking God!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Da Play! Da Play!

This is the best cast picture I could get. There was a swarm of parents and grandparents squeezing into the narrow aisle to get the same picture. The kids were awesome and the play was truly cute! I was extremely proud of them and of Donna for deciding to do it, plan it, work so hard at it, and pull it off beautifully. I think she has started a new Florissant tradition of having a Children's Christmas Musical every year.

Watching these little pre-schoolers get up there and perform was very touching. Of course, some were more hams than others, but all were sweet.

At the risk of sounding non-PC, it sure seems that little girls are a lot more comfortable on stage than little boys. I don't even want to speculate why.

Here is the amazing Children's minister and director of the play talking to the audience at the end. They are all "hearing unimpaired" but that doesn't keep Donna from talking with her hands. Have I said how awesome she is?

This is our "Mini-Supremes" doing a number in the play. I could hear the buttons popping off parents and grandparents all over the auditorium.
Congratulations to all the kids and adult helpers who worked hard to make it a great experience for the performers and the audience. As wonderful as it was, I know Donna is glad to have it behind her. Now she can focus on our thirty-fifth anniversary trip to Disney World this Wednesday.
We had a wonderful but quick trip down to Nashville to see all the family. I was great to see Jonathan and Holly, even if it was just a couple days. Click on Deborah's name on the side-bar and see our new family pictures on her blog. I don't have them transferred over to my computer yet. We just had them taken last Thursday. Thank you Father for letting us be together for a while.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Myth Goodness

It's hard to believe that my last post was my 15oth blog posting. That could have been another book if I'd planned it better. I also can't believe that my last blog was already last Friday! Wow - were does the time go. I was hoping, after spending all day out hunting, and mostly freezing, on Monday, that I'd have a story and picture to share, but - well, there's always a story - mostly only other hunters would appreciate - but there's no venison for the freezer yet, and that is the ultimate goal. Anyway - this is a busy and hectic week. We are running down to Nashville for a quick two day trip to see family, so a lot of stuff HAS to get finished today (i.e. sermons, classes, bulletin outlines & articles, etc.). We plan to leave TN early Saturday and return to Florissant by lunch-time because Donna has her Children's Musical rehearsal that afternoon and I'm hoping to get in a short afternoon hunt (the season is rapidly coming to an end). Obviously, there won't be any additional blogs this week, so save a click until next week. Just in case you're wondering, I do try to blog about three times a week, but it's hard at times to do that - like this week. So with that explanation and longer-than-necessary-introduction, here's some of my notes from last Sunday's Myth American Contest Series.
Myth Goodness
Introduction: I used the final scene from "Saving Private Ryan" where 50 years after the war, Ryan is in France at the grave of Capt. John Miller, one of several men who died to try and get him home to his mother. Miller's dying words were"Earn this" and now Ryan asks his wife if he has. She tells him he's a good man. So just what is a good person? In Romans 5:7-8, Jesus died for us because we were "no good" to make us good. The world's definition of good is not God's. We talk about people being "basically good" or "mostly good" but good is good - not basically, partly, almost, or sometimes. God's creation was good - not basically good. God is good - not sometimes good, but all the time good - period!
The problem is that there are multiple definitions and uses for good. I shared all thirteen dictionary definitions of good and they don't even include slang. And "goodness is the state or quality of being good" - so what in the world is it? Which definition are you using.
1. In the world, goodness is a relative term.
A. Like labels - it all depends on the starting point! Are you a good person? Church people are always good people -right? Good compared to crooks & perverts? Compared to other Christians? What about compared to Jesus?
B. We have a vision problem? 2 Cor.4:4 blinded by the god of this world.
C. We have a sin problem? Eph.5:1-10 lost our focus on Jesus
2. In the Lord, goodness is an absolute term!
A. Only One is good (i.e. Best) Matthew 19:16-26
B. Our job is to choose good (i.e. the better) Luke 10:38-42
C. Only then can we be called "good" by God. Matt.25:14-30
Conclusion: Real goodness is being real about seeking Jesus! Staying close to the One who is good! Sign at convenience store at Halloween "Remove your mask before you enter!" Need to know if it's a real costume or a robber! Are we real seekers or robbers stealing the appearance of goodness?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Top Ten Being Real Reasons

It's been a while since I did a Top Ten list, so I thought I'd do one that might possibly show up at the beginning of my lesson this next Sunday. We are studying and praying about Being Real in our desire to know Jesus and be like Him. So, this Top Ten is: You might Be Real about seeking a deeper relationship with Jesus if...

1. Your first "Good Morning" was to God!

2. You increased your church family giving rather cut back to help pay for Christmas gifts.

3. Throughout the day you keep reflecting on the passage of Scripture you read earlier.

4. You notice all kinds of things to be thankful for besides leaving work.

5. You don't mind the crowds at the Mall because it only reminds you of how God has blessed so many people (including giving you the time and money to go shopping).

6. You understand that loving one another is not an option - it's the reason we get together.

7. You know you can't have a relationship with God without talking to Him - so you do it often.

8. You're excited about the challenge to Be Real and not just "doing church."

9. You fasted and prayed to draw closer to God, not to be seen by others.

10. You're excited and looking forward to doing anything that will bring you closer to Jesus.

I actually wrote this the first time as Ten Reasons you might be Un-Real about seeking Jesus. I didn't like the negative points - even though they were somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Hope this finds you Being Real!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Myth Thanksgiving

There are few subjects that I have thought more about over the last several years than being thankful. I believe with all my heart that our decision to be thankful - with every beat of our heart - is the single biggest spiritual step we can make. Since we just got in from the birth of our new grandson the night before I presented this lesson (see previous blog), I had to be careful that I didn't become a blubbering grandad all through it as I reflected on how thankful I was. So here are the main points of what I shared.
Introduction: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the whole year. I grew up with it being important to our family. I still remember having to miss Thanksgiving when I went off to Georgia Christian in the seventh grade at the ripe old age of thirteen. That was a sad Thanksgiving for me. But it is a memorial feast, to remember our blessings, and not unlike the Jewish feasts of old or even the agape feasts of the new. Still, our view of thanksgiving is impacted by our culture and traditions. Here are some simple thoughts about the worldly vs. the godly view of thankfulness.
1. Thanksgiving is a holiday, but giving thanks is a way of life! (or should be)
A. It's hard to commercialize thankfulness - it fosters contentment and good stewardship.
B. It gives us great priorities, like family, friends, and good food, but it must be a heart matter not just an event.
C. Thanksgiving is the way Christians choose to look at life! Makes us spiritual adults. Look at 1 Thess.5:16-18 and see what God expects us to always do!
2. Thanksgiving is not just gladness and appreciation! (Dogs & cats can do that!)
A. It's a matter of building character. Character is controlling and defining needs. We always seek a higher value in life because we are seeking God.
B. Our Thanksgiving is recognizing and seeking God - our greatest choice!
C. It's all part of our journey in Him. 2 Cor.4:4-15
3. Thanksgiving (the heart not the holiday) is the foundation upon which every spiritual quality rests (and grows).
A. Faith comes from what you tell yourself. Thanksgiving is what you tell yourself!
B. Each fruit of the Spirit rests on being thankful - Gal.5:22-23
C. Thanksgiving is relationship cement! It holds together and builds every relationship from marriage and friendships to God and Jesus and His church. Relationships don't die when we choose to be thankful! We choose it and cause it! Look at 2 Cor.9:6-15 and think about how what we do causes others to be thankful. It's never just me being thankful!
Conclusion: Being real is being thankful. Being real must be a full time job. It's time to stop being part time with Jesus.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Number Five

As you can see in the above picture, I had better things to do last week besides blogging. This is our newest grandson, Curtis Michael, who was born around 7:00 P.M. last Wednesday evening. Elizabeth called us that morning telling us that the Dr. was sending her to the hospital. We threw stuff together and were on the road from Florissant by 11:30 and got the hospital by 5:00. Elizabeth looked really good when we saw her and, praise the Lord, had a fairly short labor. What a beautiful Day-Before-Thanksgiving gift. Chad, Elizabeth, Carter, and Ashlyn were all thrilled and excited. Nana and Papa were pretty excited too.
This is the next day, in Nana's lap, as Curtis discovers for the first time what a treat it's going to be to have Super Nana as a grand mom.

This is Curtis and Mom & Dad arriving home Friday morning. He was unimpressed with his reception committee.

Here is the whole NEW Milom clan in the basement of their home. We had a big Thanksgiving dinner Friday night that Nana made and it was soooo good. Who cares what day the world says Thanksgiving is supposed to be. We celebrate it 365 days a year!

Little miss moma couldn't get enough of her new little brother. She was so tickled to see a real, moving little baby doll. She soon began to realize that baby Curtis was going to require a lot of Mommy's attention and that will be a difficult adjustment for her to accept, but her excitement over Curtis will help offset that a lot - I'm sure. I'm glad that we got to be there for his arrival and help with the kids some. We are so thankful that God blessed us with another beautiful and healthy grand baby.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Myth Happiness

One of the biggest challenges in preparing this series of lessons on Sunday about Myth America Contest, has been dealing with the huge overlap between the topics. The myths about success, things, and happiness (just to mention a few) are nearly the same. Our culture has bombarded us with the lie that life is all about self, feeling good, and doing whatever turns you on. It's hedonistic, animalistic, and - because we want to believe it - it's seems realistic! These lessons all overlap because they are all about fighting off the world view of life and accepting the godly view of life. So that having been said, here are the main points I made in last Sundays lesson on Myth Happiness
A. Nothing defines our true character like what makes us happy. What does it tell us about our character. Happiness is a huge subject, but the simplified definition I give it is Happiness is basically fulfilling a need!
B. Our character comes from controlling & defining our needs. What are needs and what are wants? We all have physical, emotional, psychological, & spiritual needs - God given, but each can be ignored, neglected, or abused. Control = balance; Define = priorities! We must keep our balance in each, and be guided by proper priorities.
C. The world says "If it makes you happy, do it!" The MYTH is Happiness is all about ME! The IRONY is that we KNOW it's a lie, but lack of character makes us "Buy the Lie!" We buy it with two lies of our own: First, it's not so bad to be a little out of balance, and second, it's not so bad to have flexible priorities! We don't have values, we have restrictions! Does Rev.3:15-17 make you squirm?
D. Young people have such a hard time because it's the time in life when they are determining balance & priorities. It's always when they "Buy the Lie," especially the "It's not so bad" lies.
E. The truth about happiness is it's not about ME! Happiness is seeking God's balance & priorities and finding real joy!
1. Godly joy is nothing like worldly happiness!
A. Compare what world says to each of the "blessings" Jesus discussed in Matt.5:3-10. I contrasted each one.
B. God's balance and priorities = blessed = joy!
2. Godly joy is nothing like worldly happiness because they produce two completely different results.
A. Gal.5:19-21 "...those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God"
B. vs.22-23 Aren't these what we really want and need?
C. vs.24-25 Clear balance & priorities: "crucified passions and desires" = balance; "live by the Spirit" = priorities
Conclusion: What makes you happy? Relationships teach us that happiness is a bi-product of making others happy. Giving! Happens in life's school w/ family, friends, marriage, parenting, church family, etc. - learn the joy of giving. Real faith is making God happy - even if no one knows about it! His balance & priorities are always blessed. Look at Psalms 1 again.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

So You've Seen Some Deer?

Several people have sent me this picture of this herd of deer under someones backyard trampoline. There is actually a series of several pictures of all these deer finding shade where they can. For several years I've been amazed at the number of people who report to me about all the deer they have seen in their neighborhood, at the ball field, crossing the road, standing in line at the store, or flying a fat guy in a sleigh around town. I suppose it's because they know how much I love bowhunting, and they are just trying to connect with me by talking about something that I'm interested in. But I don't think a lot of people really understand the point of bowhunting. It's not about "seeing" deer. I see plenty of deer. It's not as if they're buzzing me like flies, but I see some nearly every time I go hunting. If I were gun hunting, most of them would be well within range of a high powered rifle or even a shotgun, but I'm bowhunting for a reason. It's the challenge of getting close. I need my target (not the store) to be within thirty yards and preferably twenty (Donna would settle for a Target within fifteen minutes drive). Not only that, but I don't shoot every deer that walks within range. This year I started out the season intending to harvest (PC term for kill) a doe or two for our freezer, but then, well I saw a couple of the "Big Boys" in IL, where I've been hunting. So I've been holding out to get a chance at one of those big monster bucks I've seen. Just last week I had eight does within ten yards of my stand - all within easy bow range. They knew I wasn't interested in them. They were doing line dancing to an old Clint Black song right under my stand, just daring me to take a shot! They knew I was waiting for King Kong to walk out! They're mean animals I tell ya! So starting tomorrow, it's no mercy. I've got to get on with the business of putting some venison in our freezer, so those little cuties better be careful. I'm still looking for an IL buck with huge bone on his head, but it's time to show folks - yes, I've seen some deer too.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Myth Things

"God's Smile"

The ring, in The Lord of the Rings, provided me with a great illustration of how things can be given way too much focus in our life (excluding all mystical powers of course). Achan, in Joshua 7, is a good example of someone being pulled by possessions with disastrous results for himself, his family, and all his other possessions. Solomon's wisdom, in Eccl.5:10-20, provided again the concept of balance, because he declared things a gifts from God to be enjoyed but not something to love and focus on. That's really the point isn't it? Things are only things! To love things is to get our priorities out of balance and even become guilty of idolatry. Here are some of the simple points about things that I shared in this lesson.

1. Things may bring moments of happiness, but not joy!

A. There is a huge difference between a thrill and contentment. In Phil.4:11ff, Paul said the secret what not a What, but Who!

B. Ask yourself some tough questions when you're seeking things. 1. Will it feel good or build good? 2. Am I seeking stimulation or improvement (esp. when shopping)? 3. Is this driven by wisdom or weakness?

C. Be Real: Does Jesus want us to have happiness or joy? Moments or life? Why do we keep pursuing happiness, especially when in Him we can fine eternal joy?

2. Things build ego not character!

A. i.e. the Rich Young Ruler, Luke 18:18-25, Jesus saw his heart.

B. Ego is driven by what we want others to think about us! Character is being real about pleasing God! (Even if no one else sees it!)

C. Be Real: Ego is superficial stuff! Character is integrity of the heart!

3. Things distract rather than clarify our focus!

A. i.e. the soils, Matt.13:22 = thorny ground was shallow, easily distracted by things.

B. Is it true that "It's more blessed to give than to receive"? Jesus said it is Acts 20:35

C. Be Real: Distraction of things is a huge reason why so many are half-hearted about seeking Jesus. Just look at how higher gas prices effects how we view our economy, our country, and our abundant blessings!

4. Things are temporary!

A. They rust, rot, and ruin! Them and us! Matt.6:19-21

B. Seen sign "Temporarily Out of Order"? Need signs on everything that read "Temporarily Working" because that's always true!

C. Be Real: How many things have you actually worn out? (Not counting underwear and socks)

5. Things become our master!

A. Didn't plan on it or want it, but obsession created it!

B. Matt. 6:24 Jesus was clear - CAN'T have two masters!

C. Be Real: The reason Jesus isn't your Master is there is no room in your heart for two masters!

Conclusion: I love The Lord of The Rings movies! I have all three. After seeing them several times, it dawned on me that it really could be called The Ring Is Lord!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Who's Telling On You?

Discovery is totally dependent on what you're looking for. That is why we miss so much. No where is that more true than when we look a God's Word. It is so totally new every time I look at it because I'm not the same person who looked at the last time. I'm different, changing - with the help of God, being transformed into His likeness. I want to be real about that journey, so I see things I didn't see before and that makes the journey exciting, amazing, and scary.

Here's a discovery that knocked-my-socks-off spiritually. When you're in the Word looking for affirmation that our number one goal is to seek Jesus and be like Him as much as possible, you get hit with a passage like this (and how many times have you read it?): "Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord" And just what do you want him to do Paul? "HE WILL REMIND YOU OF MY WAY OF LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS, WHICH AGREES WITH WHAT I TEACH EVERYWHERE IN EVERY CHURCH." 1 Cor.4:16-17

I don't know whether to say "WOW!" or "OUCH!". First of all, how comfortable would you be asking everyone to imitate your walk with God? Would the people you know be better off spiritually if they were more like you spiritually? Would it bring them into a deeper relationship with Jesus? And who's telling on you? Are there people in your life who are witnessing to the exemplary way you live for Jesus? Are they proclaiming that your walk matches your talk? Paul's credibility in correcting their spiritual immaturity depended on them KNOWING that he not only knew Jesus, but he REALLY lived like Him. Is it important to "Be Real" about this personal relationship with Jesus stuff? Without it, all the doctrinal problems in the next twelve chapters were meaningless.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Myth Success

Part of last Sunday's lesson is actually in the previous blog. And since we will be out of town for the next three days, and I'm incredibly pushed for time as I try to get everything done today for the whole week - well - this will be a brief overview of last week's Myth America Contest - Myth Success.
In the story of the wealthy farmer, in Luke 12:15-21, Jesus is very clear about what worldly success is. This guy was all about possessions, abundance, bigger & better, security and easy living. Jesus said he was a fool! Death would own him that very night so what are all those things worth? His point was that we need to be rich toward God. That's godly success. So there's the conflict - worldly success vs. godly success - a problem for us all.
1. What is Worldly Success? (The list is long, but I picked out four.)
A. Impressing others = the "Wow Factor!"
B. Greed = "beware of all kinds of greed" like recognition, respect, power, winning, and just possessing things.
C. Temporary Toys = things that don't last or bring real quality or better relationships.
D. Ignoring the Ruby Slippers! Forgetting that we always have the ability to go home and refocus on the soul. Matt.16:26
2. What is Godly Success? Simply being rich towards God.
A. Honestly Seek Him - Heb.11:6; Phil.3:7-11
B. Lovingly Serve Him - serving is what those who love each other do!
C. Truly Sense Him - His presence is real. See all three in Acts 17:27-28
3. Which kind of success do we want as a church?
A. Are we about possessions, abundance, bigger & better, security, easy living?
B. Are we "Honest to God" in our desire to have a relationship with Him?
The rest of the lesson is roughly in the last blog. The shepherd's challenged the whole congregation to join then in a journey to find out what it means to BE REAL as individuals and as a church family.
Conclusion: In the hands of God!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I've been struggling for a lot of years with developing an authentic faith in God and a genuine desire to be like Jesus. I guess it's something that I'll never stop doing because it's what "seeking" is all about. I know first hand that you can preach it and teach it while (at times) not truly seek it! For the last several years, the two words that have been echoing in my heart, maybe because God keeps repeating it to me, are BE REAL. Well, to make a long blog short, for a long time I've wanted to ask my whole church family to BE REAL about seeking a deeper relationship with Jesus. I've clearly and forcefully said that in sermons and classes, but I've never asked my church family, starting with the shepherds, to confront what it means to BE REAL before we BE CHURCH. I know that's not grammatically correct, but I'm sick of "doing church" without ever asking ourselves "What can we do to REALLY build deeper relationships with Jesus?" We always start out with the usual, traditional, cultural, and expected "How can we do more of what we've always done and get BETTER results?" Is the question really, "How can we do church better?" or should it be "How can we become more like Jesus?" What would happen if a church family just forgot about all the "church goals" and "church plans" and "church budgets" and focused on BEING REAL about becoming more like Jesus? What would we really look like as a church if we looked like Jesus? What would we do differently?

We're doing it! Or at least we're going to try. For the next two months we are going to spend some extra time in prayer about how to BE REAL and then we are spending the first three months of 2008 studying and praying a lot more about how we can look and act like Jesus instead of being the church the world says we should be. I don't know where it will lead, but I'm more excited about this than anything else I've done in over three decades of ministry. Here's the tough question - the one every child of God needs to struggle with and act upon, and the question every church family needs to be helping every member confront - What is keeping me from truly being like Jesus? It's time for the people of God to start looking like Jesus, both individually and congregationally - and that needs to drive everything we do! What might happen to a church where every member was driven to be as much like Jesus as possible? I want to find out.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Take That Satan!

We had the biggest Trunk or Treat night ever this past Wednesday. After talking to John (The Head Cook) Young, and heard about how many hog dogs, chili, and popcorn was eaten, I feel we easily had between eight hundred and a thousand people come through the facilities. It was so wonderful to see so many folks from our community coming by to enjoy our alternative to Halloween and to see them truly appreciate the things we did for them. I really like the idea of something like Halloween being taken away from any ownership of Satan and used as an opportunity to share, have fun, and let people see a church family in action. And of course, one of the best things about it was all the kids getting to meet Dorothy as they walked in to enjoy the games or get some food. Donna is THE BEST ever kids greeter. She's an awesome Nana to our special four (soon to be five), but she's really a universal Nana to every child. She loves to see kids smile and learn things about God. Hundreds of children learned many Bible stories from her as they enjoyed her toddlers class through the years.

This is a visiting family getting the Dorothy/Donna treatment. She handed out the glow necklaces to the kids and they really loved it. Most people didn't even know she's been sick with allergies and colds-yuck-stuff all week too. I am very proud of all the hard work so many of our folks did that night. Of course, I'm partial to Dorothy - after all, there really is "no place like home."

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Myth Family

Of all the dream families that I grew up watching on TV or at the movies, the one that really gave me dreams of wishing I were part of their family was the Swiss Family Robinson. I loved that tree house! It was even better when I first got to see it at Disney World in January of 1972. Now, I'd be happy for any house in a tropical paradise like they had. Still, we must remember that there aren't, and never have been, any perfect families. Just try to find one in the Bible. All families are dysfunctional to some extent because who defines functional? We're all sinners, and we all make mistakes, and all we can do, with God's help, is try to be the best spouses and parents we can. It will always be true that our view of family is molded by our culture and our traditions. That can be good at times, but it can also be bad. The "Myth of Family" is that while it's important and precious, it's not THE most important thing in life.

1. The Magic of Family includes at least three parts. A. The Magic of Marriage, which is God's plan for us. It's a primary way He wants us to learn commitment, giving, unity, togetherness, and keeping promises. B. The Magic of Molding (not moldy but life changing), is simply that in relationships we grow to become the people God wants us to become. We are what we are because of our education, our experiences, and our examples. The family is the main place these three things happen. C. The Magic of Memories is maybe the best part of families. Memories are treasures that can never be taken away. All of these elements are made even better when we add God's magic. The special glue that comes from keeping Him at the center of our home.

2. The Mission of Family. Amount other things, God put us in families to give us A. Belonging, B. Bonding, and an environment for C. Building. Eph.6:1-4 makes it clear that the family is a place to learn and grow. Look at how we are told to treat other Christians in 1 Timothy 5:1-3. Where did we learn those things if not in the family? A successful family is one that points each member to God.

3. The Misuse of Family comes from misplaced priorities and dishonesty. We need to be careful of A. Misuse of Blood (Mk.3:31-35) only One saves, the rest is just DNA; B. Misuse of Purpose = family is important but not #1. Jesus said there are more important things than food and clothing and being anxious (Mt.6), and the kingdom can't take second place to the loss of a family member (Mt.8:18-22) or a bad family experience (John 4, woman at the well). And, C. Misuse of Blessings = Did God bless you so you could forget Him? Are physical blessings pulling you from God? What are we teaching our children about putting God first? The most valuable thing you can give your family is your own deeper relationship with Jesus!

Of all the descriptions God could have used for what He wanted the "church" to be, He used Family! Not club, business, corporation, institution, charity, school, or even a place! He used one word that means related, connected, committed, united, accepted, supported, and loved! What else do you call folks who have the same loving Father? It's got to be FAMILY!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Treestand Philosophy

One of my favorite things to do on my Monday day off, is for Donna and I to go out to lunch together some place where I can get breakfast for lunch. That usually means Bob Evans, especially the one across the street from Cabela's. As we enjoyed our time at Bob Evans yesterday, I mentioned to Donna that our presence there brought the average age of the customers down considerably. We're not spring-chickens, but most of the clientele were clearly elderly folks, I'm sure enjoying the good Senior Discount that Bob Evans gives to anyone over fifty-five. Oops! I guess that includes us! Really, most of these folks were well past that, whereas we are newbies to the oldies crowd. Anyway, being the people watcher I tend to be, I couldn't help but notice how so many elderly folks seemed to be so unhappy and grumpy. Not all, for sure! One nice gentleman stopped at our table to ask me where "Harding University" was since he saw it printed on my shirt, and we had a wonderful little talk about Arkansas and Searcy in particular. But others, well, they seemed so, so, down and depressed. Like they were mad at the world for letting them get old.
The other day I was sitting up high in my tree stand, watching the fall color explosion more than looking for deer, and I had a metaphorical vision about life. We all know and are familiar with comparing the seasons of the year to the seasons of life, but have you ever just thought about a leaf. A single leaf, clinging to a branch like all the other leaves, and yet unique in ways that the naked eye can't easily detect. All of them start out the same. Shiny, green, and strong. Some don't make it through the storms of life before they get ripped loose and fall back to the earth. The comparisons are endless and any metaphor will fall apart if you try to make TOO MUCH of it, but I was truly touched by one particular thought. Isn't it interesting that so many leaves reach their peak of beauty at the end of their life. Just before being disconnected, they are bright yellows, gorgeous reds, and vibrant orange, and they give joy to the world around them. Then they're gone. Back to the place that gave them life in the first place.
I want to be like that, don't you? I want aging to be my peaking not my dying. I want to bring joy to the world around me, and then return to the One who gave it all to me.
That gives all new meaning to the old joke, "Make like a tree and leave" doesn't it?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Happy Birthday Donna

Yesterday was Donna's birthday and she spent it doing what she loves best, playing with our grandchildren. It is really nice to have Chad, Elizabeth, Carter, and Ashlyn with us for a few day. Chad and I are trying to hunt with all the rain we are having, which is a blessing for those of us in a drought, but not so much fun for hunting. But, hey, a rainy hunt is better than no hunt. Anyway, we didn't get to celebrate Donna's birthday until later in the evening. She is opening the birthday presents I had for her. The above, is a Lenox Snow White statue to add to her Snow White collection. I think Ashlyn was as excited to see it as Donna was.
So, of course, she had to give Snow White a big hug. Notice the grip Grandma has on Snow White.

Not only is this Donna's big fifty-five birthday, but our thirty-fifth anniversary is coming up on December 14th. I've been planning since back in January to surprise Donna with an anniversary trip to her favorite place in the world, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Since the time frame, Dec.12-17, of the trip has a new grand baby arriving (any time late Nov. early Dec.), Donna's Children's Christmas Musical (Dec.9th), and a surprise visit of Jonathan and Holly to Nashville - where we will of course be then (Dec.6-8), the calender got too hectic for me to wait any longer to drop this anniversary trip on Donna. Originally I was going to surprise her after the musical was over on Dec.9th, she has several weeks to plan and be excited.

We took a similar trip for our thirtieth anniversary and had a wonderful time. Just the two of us, running all over the four theme parks like kids. Well, she did have to push me some. I couldn't even get her to take an afternoon break for a nap! I guess I better start getting in shape for five days of trying to keep up with DW's greatest fan. Ya know what? It's fun doing things for people ya love! There's a sermon there!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Myth Image

Just for the record, the pictures on the previous blog do show a thinner me and it's not the camo. There is about fifteen pounds less of me than there was back in the summer. And no (Nancy), you don't have to wear camo to practice with your bow. I was on my way to hunt at the time, but generally, camo does make any activity seem more outdoorsy.

Myth America Contest: Myth Image
I used Forrest Gump as a good example of someone who was not driven by image. And his famous "box of chocolates" line is a perfect illustration of something that is good, but can be bad if we eat too much. Image, like chocolate, is not bad until we get it out of balance. Most of life's problems come from our in ability to control our drives, desires, and limitations. Food, drink, drugs, sex, and most everything we enjoy in life are God-given, but we can't seem to keep them when and where God intended. Our image is something to care about, but we must grow up, mature, deepen our values, and at some point, care more about the image of Christ than we do our own.
1. The Problem of Acceptance (Wanting to be liked)
A. "Love one another" means it's good to be liked by others - but not required!
B. Loving yourself must never depend on being liked by others. That's how peer pressure gets it's power in our lives. (Look at what it caused Herod and Pilate to do.)
C. One of my all time favorite quotes, "You wouldn't care so much about what others thought about you if you knew how little they did it." Are we paranoid or egotistical in thinking people are looking at us so much?
D. Faith is seeking to please God first! Heb.11:6; Matt.6:33
2. The Problem of Conforming (Changing to be liked)
A. Fit in but don't sell out! We all observe others and adjust ourselves to be liked and accepted, but don't let that control you. Be who God made you to be. Celebrate your uniqueness! Have convictions, values, and self worth! People respect that and you admire those who have them. Joseph's brothers are good examples of people who didn't like uniqueness.
B. We are all changing! Getting older is changing, so why do older people resent change so much? Maybe we're changing into something other than Jesus.
C. Romans 12:2 challenges us. Are you conforming or transforming? It's all about choosing Jesus over the world! As a church, do we expect transformation or conforming? Become like US or like Jesus?
3. The Problem of Self Absorption (Obsessed with self, and wanting everyone else to be obsessed with you too!)
A. How important is "Image Management" to you? All do it some, but some do it all! How did you decide what to wear today? The only thing I have? This is what's clean and modest? This is what's comfortable? This is what's acceptable and expected? This makes me look good?
B. Obsession with self is ego, pride, and pleasure NOW! Work, family, marriage, and church are all about you? Phil.3:15-21 some early Christians had the same problem.
C. Image is idolatry! The worship of self! (Actually, imbalanced image!) Romans 1:24-25 worship of creature rather than Creator!
D. Image is idolatry for the church too - if it's more important to look good to the world than to God! Are we more interested in acceptance and conforming to what the world says we should be and look like? Are we guilty of self absorption? What really is church growth?
It's time to BE REAL and forget our image! We need to be real about looking like Jesus. Sounds like a good reason for an Image Makeover to me!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Signs and Practice

Over a month into this year's hunting season and I'm still trying to figure out the best place to put my stand so I can get a shot at a big buck. If you look hard at the above picture, you will see the white buck rub on the sapling in the middle. It's about 25 yards from my tree stand, but I did use the zoom on my camera. This is a nice sized rub on about a three inch tree and there are several more all around. The only problem is that the Big Bucks who are making these rubs are doing it at night. Hopefully that will change when the rut kicks in soon.
This is another buck rub just under my tree stand about five yard in the opposite direction from the first picture.

One of the hardest things about being "in season" is reminding yourself to keep practicing. We don't have the privacy around our house I'd like to have in order to practice without making the neighbors nervous. This is our neighbors house, about 15 feet away from ours, but it gives me a little hidden lane to take a few quick shots at times of the day when no one is around. I'm shooting towards the pond behind our house - not the kids who play back there occasionally.

What form? And no, I didn't get shot in the rear! Those are my practice arrows in my back pocket. Notice the wind enhanced high forehead. Practice, practice, practice. Actually, I don't do nearly as much as I should. Well, it's Monday morning, so Lord willing, I'll mow the yard and then go hunting this afternoon. I might even shoot a couple more practice arrows before I go. Our freezer is really getting low on venison. Time to get serious and stop being picky about does and bucks.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Top Ten October Things

It's been a long time since I did a Top Ten List, and with nothing else rising to the top, it seemed logical to do it on the Top Ten Things I Like About October!

1. It's not August!

2. You gotta love the cooler temps!

3. Just to show I'm not obsessed with it, I'll put Bowhunting season here in the middle, but in truth - it's 1 through 10!

4. In October my wife becomes just one year younger than me rather than two years!

5. Fall colors, and I mean all of them. In Texas the seasons went from Summer to short Winter, then back to Summer again, and the few trees with leave instead of thorns turned yellow for two days before dropping.

6. Columbus Day! Which really means nothing, but I can't say Halloween because certain folks in Nashville will label be "Witch Lover"! (That's a joke Nashville!)

7. Cranking up the fireplace for the first time after Summer. I just wish I knew why I can't get the pilot light lit on my gas logs.

8. The beginning of rut starts in late October. That's bucks in rut not me, though...better not got there.

9. I love the electricity that is in the air as people start thinking and planning for family time at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

10. Did I mention that turkeys are in season for archery hunting now?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Myth Youth

In preparing for this Myth, I found out the hard way that Peter Pan, the Disney version, does not have the song "I Won't Grow Up" on it. It's only in the play version. And since I waited until Saturday night to check the DVD we own, well - let's just say that there was no movie clip on Sunday morning. Still, most people know what The Peter Pan Syndrome is because we all struggle with it some. We fight growing old as if we can change it. We can't, and here are some of the things I shared about the Myth of Youth last Sunday.
* Do you focus on what you can't do anymore or on what God has empowered you to do now?
* Have you retired or been reassigned?
* Are you productive or pouting (feeling sorry for yourself because you're getting old)?
* We will never be younger than we are right now!
* The only exception is spiritual living, because the more you mature the healthier you become! How's that for a great thing to think about ? To God, we are always His children.
1. The Myth of Youth is the myth of external beauty!
A. To be young or look young is beautiful? That kind of thinking is shallow, selfish, and sin seeking not God seeking?
B. What do we really want? Attention, admirers, people jealous, or lusting over us?
C. We need to redefine beauty to match God's definition of beauty! 1 Sam.16:7; 1 Peter 3:1-4
2. The Myth of Youth is the myth of "better days." Everything was better when we were younger!
A. We suffer from selective memory. There were wonderful times, but not all of it!
B. Remember insecurities? Fears? Ignorance? Twisted priorities? Weakness? Lack of self control? Just to name a few.
C. There is nothing better than NOW! (Eccl.9:7-10)
3. The Myth of Youth is the myth of long life! The younger you are, or think you are, the farther away death must be! Wrong!
A. The older you get, the harder it is to ignore death, but it's a step away from everyone.
B. We must remember that we don't deserve anything! Every day is a blessing and a gift that many others didn't get to have.
C. If you are still fearful of death, what have you been doing all these years as a Christian? Not preparing! Not growing in your walk with God? (Eccl.12:13-14)
4. The Myth of Youth is the myth of significance! You only count if you're young!
A. Only to those who are selfish or full of self pity! Poor me!
B. If thankfulness grows w/ age, who should be the most thankful people on earth?
C. Praise God for every wrinkle and gray hair! They proclaim to all how wonder God has been to us to let us live long enough to have them! They are our badge of blessing! Our promotion stripes! Our crown that most people never got to wear!
D. Older Christians are significant, not because they are alive, but because of what they have to offer. Thankfulness! Years of walking with God! Loving relationships! Learning to give not receive! Learning that God is right! Where else will the young learn these things - from other young people?
Conclusion: Ask Moses which part of his 120 years was the most important? How long did it take to get him ready to be used by God! So, how many burning bushes do you deserve?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Tags & Camo

A friend at church sent us this picture. The caption was "What to wear when your wife wants you to do the chores."

I've been tripled tagged so I guess I better do something about it. For those who tagged me, I wasn't ignoring you, but according to the rules I'm supposed to tag eight more people and I don't know eight more blogs that haven't already been tagged. I didn't want to be the one to break the chain and cause catastrophic events, prove to be unloving, unpatriotic, unfaithful, or be cursed for the next seven years. So, here are my eight unusual things about me (I can't say unknown, because they've probably all been sermon illustrations at some time in the past.)

1. I am paranoid about spelling. Praise God for spell-check. I'm mostly paranoid that everyone else in my family are all incredible spellers and don't have to think twice about any word. I avoid names and places especially because I'm afraid of misspealling thim!

2. Of all my Rootisms and thought provoking wise saying, the hardest one for me to remember to say to myself - several times a day - is "It really doesn't matter." It's my biggest defense against, as Elizabeth says, being annal retentive! (Did I spell that right?)

3. While we did use Bible names for our children, the toughest part was coming up with their middle names. All three names came from relatives.

4. I am totally comfortable with my age and thankful for every day God has given me, but the biggest thing I miss about the "old days" is being able to sing well. I'm talking way back before botox-shots time.

5. After a battery of psychological tests for Harding's mission internship program in 1972, the counsellor said I was "Very honest. Very stable. Very extrovert." And that was all he said.

6. My mother is still one of the most intelligent women I've ever known in my life.

7. If I were starting over again, I wouldn't be a full time minister. I'd be in vocational ministry of some form. I love ministry and preaching and can't imagine doing anything else, but I'd truly love to be self supporting some how.

8. When I was a kid in school, I thought my middle name Rand was so corny that I told people it was Randy. Later I liked having my mothers maiden name as my middle name.

So there they are. Just the first eight things I thought about on a Monday morning when I skipped going hunting because of potential rain that turned out to be late and wouldn't have arrived until after my hunting time. Oops, is that number nine?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Lesson From a Six-Pointer

A friend of ours sent us this picture today. I'm confident the Ford will fly - aren't you?

This morning I snuck off and went hunting. I couldn't wait! It has been so warm that it wasn't worth even trying and a third of October is already gone! So when this cool front came through this week, I finished up everything on Thursday so I could get away for a few hours this morning. And it was cold not cool. The bank sign down in Sullivan said 35 degrees when I passed it at 6 AM. I wasn't wearing enough and ended up shivering for the first couple hours. But hey, such is hunting. I had a little six point buck feed under my stand for about ten minutes, totally oblivious to the predator just above him in spitting range. It was fun watching him. He was so young and so stupid, as most one and a half year old's are, but he won't stay that way for long. I couldn't help but wonder how many times in my fifty-six years I've been as close to my death as that deer was today - and, like him, been totally oblivious of it? It probably completely dwarfs the number of "close calls" that I'm aware of. Did God intervene? Was I just lucky? It really doesn't matter. I praise Him and thank Him for every day He has given me. I know in my heart that He protected me during many of my "young and so stupid" days. I believe He wanted me to share what He's taught me to others. Things that took time, a lot of questions and struggles, and a lot of experiences. Part of being older and wiser is seeing life's predators, and they have the best camo, weaponry, and tactics there is - and they work for the best predator of all - Satan. Remember, Peter called him a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. So dear brethren, keep an eye on those trees!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Myth Begins

Last Sunday morning I presented the first of my series on The Myth America Contest. I'm really enjoying this because it's not only an attempt to be relevant and take a break from expository preaching, but it allows me the chance to challenge some of our cultural myths. For example, this first lesson was Myth Chemistry, subtitled EHarmony.Con (intentional changing of the M). I challenged the cultural myth that relationships are all about chemistry - finding your "soul-mate" is all about finding the person who answers the secret 25 questions the same as you do. While there's an element of truth to the idea, my counter argument is that relationships are about commitment not chemistry. This chemistry myth causes people to have unrealistic expectations, see relationships as automatic rather than hard work, and to have an excuse to end it when "the chemistry is gone." It's built on three other myths...
1. The Myth of Compatibility = if we are so alike we will be so close! Compatibility doesn't always build closeness. Sometimes it fosters competitiveness, comparing, and it's boring. We weren't made to be alike, but to like how we are made different. It's not about shared interests, it's about shared values. Love is not chemistry, it's a choice. 1 Cor.13:4-8 are choices, just as loving God is a choice.
2. The Myth of Conformity = "I want someone who will become what I want them to be." I call this the "They'll Change Syndrome". NO relationship will work where people think about controlling, molding, or training their mate. Relationship building is about giving not taking - or making! Eph.5:21-25 describes it as submitting and being like Christ, but this is about what we must be not what we must force "them" to be.
3. The Myth of Continuity = the fantasy of "the eternal honeymoon". The problem free marriage never existed and most young people are totally unprepared for the reality of working through relationship problems. After all - they have chemistry! BUT, do they have commitment? It's working through the problems that deepens a relationship and the love. That's why the Bible talks in terms of effort, work, and seeking - even in spiritual relationships. It's what we decide it will be - look a 1 Thess.5:12-18 and apply it to marriage!
Would you say that our "Chemistry" with God is strong? He made us in His image! If it was about chemistry, we'd ALL be as close as angels to God! It's about choices and commitments and love that grows through trials and tough times. That's why "love covers a multitude of sins," - not because of a chemical formula, but a committed faith.
This coming Sunday I'll be taking a look a Myth Youth. The subtitle is "Get the Wrinkles out!" (If you are one of those who download the lessons from the web page, be aware that our recorder crashed last week. They're making recording from the video tape and that will make each lesson be at least a week late. I'm hoping we get the new recorder in this week.)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Chuck E. Church?

Welcome to Chuck E. Church. It's the ultimate experience for professional church-goers. There are two sections for the discriminating non-participant. The first section is filled with predictability and security. Auto matrons sing three hundred year old hymns, with prayers and scripture readings spliced in at the appropriate and expected points. Male only servers deliver up the Supper, in silence and with training that every submissive woman can only dream of being able to carry out. And then the real fun begins. A robot in suit and tie, carrying a "family size" KJV, delivers up a message of orthodoxy, guilt, and exclusivism. This is followed by an "everybody sings" rendition of Just As I Am - An always Will Be. All who attend are satisfied they can deal with whatever the next week can throw at them, because they will be back next week - or die trying.

The second section of Chuck E. Church is much louder and more animated. There are numerous sing-a-long-robots on the stage, the audience is impressed with their big sound, and everyone feels free to clap, raise hands, or shout spiritual cliche' to one another. It's slick, it's professional, and it's different. The songs are all radio hits, the words are projected, personal, and praise oriented. The Supper is served by - well - anyone who wants to serve it! There is a sense of freedom that says it's okay to laugh, cry, or watch. The MC, in a three-button golf shirt and carrying a purple leather Max Lucado New Testament, shares a lesson about overcoming mediocrity. It's all good. People leave feeling their needs have been met, and if they can't make it back next week - it's okay - because no one will notice.

No, this is not about my cynical opinions any more than it's about which Chuck E. Church is right. Here's my point. When we forget that our togetherness is supposed to be a giving opportunity - a relationship building opportunity, then we might as well rip the sign off the front of the building and call it Chuck E. Church - the place that's all about getting what I want. When we use it for what God intended - the section you attend becomes irrelevant.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Moving Past the Sadness

The title of this picture was "This is what sad looks like." I knew my cat-loving family would enjoy it. But speaking of sadness, I was reminded a couple times this week about how short and uncertain life is. First, I watched all seven episodes of The War on PBS and it was incredible. One of the best documentaries on WW2 ever done. It was about the people who lived it, at home and on the battlefield. It looked at the war from the perspective of four cities/towns in America from Alabama to Minnesota and Connecticut to California. It was about how everyone had a part to play and everyone made sacrifices. And of course, I was especially touched to see so many young men who went excitedly off to war, only to die on a beach or field, never to enjoy the happier things in life - like family, spouse, children, future. It was profound to see elderly men telling their experiences and still getting choked up and teary as they remembered the ones who didn't come back - and maybe still felt the guilt of being alive. Well over four hundred thousand American soldiers died in that war. Most in their late teens and early twenties. Men who thought they would live to a ripe old age and then die in their sleep one night. And then Tuesday morning we received word that Mark Moran, who was the minister at Florissant before I came, lost his son-in-law in an automobile accident. Mark's daughter has two small children, and everyone was talking about how they were finally getting things together.
These just reminded me what a difficult task it is to live in the now. I've committed myself to enjoying each day and not letting it "just happen" - but I've failed at it more than I've succeeded. It's so hard not to live anticipating the next "exciting happening" or to not wallow in the past like it was some standard of excellence that will never return. We can't spend our lives looking backwards or forwards, nor can we spend it just "trying not to die." We have to spend our lives enjoying the life we have this minute. Treasure it - be thankful for it - share it with those God gave us. The minute we spend complaining and griping, and the hours we spend worrying or feeling sorry for ourselves - are minutes and hours that won't come back and only bring us closer to wasting our life instead of truly living it. The joy of loving and being loved is all we've got time to do - and all God expected from us.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Hunting Across the River

This may not seem like much of a picture, but it's the view I looked at yesterday from my tree stand on the first day of my first IL bow season hunt. You can actually see part of my shadow in the fork of the tree's shadow. There are several well-worn deer trails coming out of those woods as well as some obvious trails under the stand of trees I'm in. It's at the top of a hill about 250 yards from a neighbor's corn and bean fields. It's got a beautiful view in all directions - when you look around all the leaves that are still there.

This is the view behind my stand, looking down the hill. My bow and arrow are hanging on a bow hanger just to the right of the picture. That's actually a valley that drops off to the left going down to a pond and the crop fields. Danny (my hunting buddy) Younger was in a stand up the draw to the right of this picture. He saw several does, and from all the snorting I heard, a couple of them at least smelled him. Unfortunately, the wind changed on us and blew down the hill as the deer came out. I saw some of the deer that came by Danny, and three more on the distant hill in the next picture.

The tree branch covers the valley that is between me and the next hill. It really goes down steep before it comes back up. This doesn't do justice to how beautiful it is. I can't wait to see all this when the leaves start changing.
My first day of hunting in IL was fun. It's too hot and too dry still, so the deer don't move until just before dark. But, they are loaded with deer and I've never hunted anywhere where the land owners and other locals talk so freely about hoping we get several deer. The deer there really do a lot of damage to the crops and cause a lot of car accidents. I'll be doing my best to help them all I can.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Top Ten Rootisms

I was going to wait until Friday to do this week's Top Ten, but tomorrow is going to be so incredibly beautiful - weather-wise, that I don't trust myself to be inside long enough to do a blog. So, as mentioned, I'm putting together a list of Rootisms for this week's Top Ten. With no suggestions offered from those who've had to hear them regularly through the years, here are my favorite Top Ten Rootisms.
1. If you don't communicate you speculate. Maybe one of my most profound statements because it is so true of any and all relationships.
2. Grace is not about perfection but direction. I've heard others say the exact same thing, but I truly said it after studying 1 John almost twenty years ago.
3. If what you're doing is not giving, then what you're doing isn't worship. Still said almost weekly.
4. A Christian can't go to worship any more than a fish can go for a swim. (Living sacrifice, Rom.12:1) I just like it!
5. Prayer is our blood mark on the door frame! Think about it.
6. Life is all about who you love and who loves you back.
7. The greatness of a person is not measured by his talents, but by what discourages him. I didn't say it, but I can't remember who did - so it's mine! I love it!
8. Spiritual integrity is pleasing God when no one is around.
9. There is no passion for the lost when there is no passion for being saved. Ouch!
10. My favorite Rootism - not for the sensitive: He who is full of himself, is in need of a good laxative.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Covenants, Catholics, & Concubines?

Wonderful picture sent to me from a friend (JV) and should send fear into the hearts of any parent!

Funny stuff aside, let's talk about marriage and divorce. Second thought, it's too big a subject for a blog, but I have a more specific question about why churches keep feeling like they have to sit in judgment on people's marital history. I hear horror stories all the time of elders forbidding membership, and worse, baptism to people who don't agree to correct their "unscriptural marital situations." That is sooo wrong and so un-Christ-like, that I have to fight the anger I feel burning inside just thinking about it!

Frankly, there is nothing that we've adopted from Catholicism that drives our thinking, interpreting, and our traditions, like the sacramental elevation of marriage to a church approved, sponsored, and policed activity (except maybe the Lord's Supper, but that's another subject for another time). Sure, the Bible clearly teaches that God's plan was one man and one woman for life, but where's the wedding and the legal agreements? Where's the description of why divorce so much more a "biggy sin" than any other transgression of God's will. Yes, He hates divorce, but He hates pride, greed, and coveting. Where's the historical inquisition about these sins? If God's plan is so immutable, who gave Moses the right to change it - yet Jesus said he did it because of the "hardness of your heart." Since when does that change God's commands? Someone explain why there is no condemnation for the multiple wives that nearly every patriarch and king in the Old Testament had? And what's with the handmaids and concubines thing? Remember what it took to get the twelve tribes started? Why wasn't David condemned for being unfaithful to his wife - I mean wives - and not just for taking another man's possession? If in the Gospels, Jesus was spelling out the guidelines for marriage and divorce, rather than pointing the Jewish people back to God's original laws, why is it never restated by the rest of the New Testament writers, who had rampant divorce in every congregation that was established?

So what am I saying? Nothing new. God still hates divorce, but not because it's some sacred institution, but because it's violating a promise - a covenant, and that's always sinful. There is no such thing as a scriptural divorce in the Post-resurrection biblical teaching. There is also no exception to the call to forgive. Marriage was probably always more of a social contract than we want to believe - especially since we are so far removed from arranged/transaction oriented marriages than they were in Bible times. There is too much of marriage and divorce that is heart-to-God stuff for anyone or group to sit in judgment or try to apply some legalistic requirements. Churches (congregations of Christians) need to be in the marriage strengthening business not the condemnation business. "Love covers a multitude of sin" - some would say, even murder and fornication, but for some reason, not divorce? That's ludicrous, and no more encourages people to get a divorce than forgiveness for murder encourages more murders. How many times would Jesus say, "Go your way and sin no more"? Yes, it's time to drop the stones and get on with helping other have a deeper relationship with Him.

Friday, September 21, 2007

One Picture, One Year, One Question

Someone emailed me this picture. The caption was, "How can you identify a Redneck with a DUI?"

This is my 125 post and also the anniversary of when I began this blog. Wow, a whole year already! Is time going faster or is my brain overwhelmed with so much stuff to do that it just seems to go faster? The answer is obvious. Anyway, I've been playing "catch-up" so much from being gone to Colorado last week that I haven't taken the time to think of a good TopTen for this week. I'm thinking about one for next week though - my Top Ten Rootisms. I've got quite a list to chose from. Any suggestions?

So here's my thought of the week: If faith is not sight, does sight mean it's not faith? If that's true, did Jesus have faith? Sounds like blasphemy doesn't it? If prayer is an act of faith, when Jesus prayed, was it faith or communication? You see, faith is bigger than just not seeing God. Even with those we see we have to "have faith" that we can trust them, believe them, and they listen and care. Faith isn't the absence of knowledge but a form of knowledge. As "I think" becomes "I know," it's just faith that is growing. Still, you know that Jesus never said or thought, "I think God is real." He not only knew God, had been with God, He was God! (Trinity) He never entered into prayer feeling, "Father, I sure hope you're there and you're listening." He had faith and sight. He was incapable of doubting. There were no "ifs" or "maybes" in his relationship with His Father any more than you and I can question whether or not we have/had a physical father. What does that teach us? I don't know - I just like to throw out things to make people think! Actually, it reminds me that my journey to be like Jesus must include an absolute awareness of the presence of a real and loving Father. There will be a time when faith and hope won't exist - only love will. Maybe that's where Jesus was when He was flesh and blood. He didn't need faith - He had love.