Monday, April 30, 2007

Springtime In the Woods

An early morning walk in the woods - seeking Tom Turkey - always has things of special beauty to see that I had forgotten about. Spring is so wonderful in the woods. It's full of new growth, bright flowers, lots of critters, and easy to see deer sign (for Fall planning purposes of course). I completely missed last Springs turkey season and this is the last week of MO's season, so I went out this morning and really enjoyed the walking, looking, turkey calling, and taking a few pictures. I had a nice little raccoon kitten all curled in a ball just five feet from me, at one point, and neither of the pictures were good. So, lavender flowers and Mr. Turtle get top billing.
Look close at his mouth. Mr. Turtle is chomping on Mr. Grub. Ouch! Or is it yummy?

Each of these nests had a huge crane in it - all "Denny's" I'm sure, but they really took issue with me being in their area so I took this from about a hundred yards away with one crane who returned in the lower left. I didn't realize they could make such noise, but they did. I wonder if they had eggs or chicks in their nests and were trying to keep me away. It worked. Of course it was across a river from me too.

This is as close as I got to Mr. Turkey and this is a full zoom on the camera. He's about 125 yards away and really full of himself. He headed for that far corner off behind him and I circled way around the left to head him off - but - he went right at the corner. Go figure. Wait 'til next time Mr. Turkey - ha, ha, ha......
The best part was that as I walked or stopped and viewed things, I kept thinking "Man this is awesome!" Then I remembered, "But heaven's gonna be better!"

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Revelation And Realtree

"I was caught up into the third heaven on the Lord's day," which of course is every day he gives us. I passed pillars of stone, through automated doors, and into - the smell of hunting - new hunting! A grizzly at full stance greeted me, tables of labeled hats and t-shirts surrounded me, and to my left and right were the keys of untold wonder - Customer Service! From every column protruded a moose, a caribou, or an elk. In lines on the wall, in all directions, majestic trophy whitetail deer, with huge B & C or P & Y numbers posted below them, and if I squinted hard, I could see "Taken by Mike Root in 19__ or 20__". The streets of gold lead to a wildlife museum, a gun collection, and aquarium and other mansions on the hilltop. The walls were Realtree Hardwood, the curtains Mossy Oak, and Seclusion 3D was everywhere. There were racks and racks of camo cloths of every shape, size, fabric, and purpose to touch, feel, try on and visualize on your body - or just hanging in your closet. Clothing to impress the most discriminating of wildlife. There's no excuse for anyone to not be Critter Chic upon entering the forest his coming season. Each turn brought all new sections of the Master Catalog into reality. Hunting boots, camping gear, fishing stuff, and the new toys - ATV accessories! Rows of bino's and GPS's, tons of wild game cooking possibilities, and a wall of rifles from muzzle load to auto load, which I pass in a blur as I saw the Holy Grill of hunting sections - the archery shop. Tree stands in the air, Leafy wear waving, Scentlok unnoticed, 3D targets posing, and rows of little add-ons that every bowhunter must think about. Blinds, rain gear, camo underwear, and, and, and, more STUFF than any hunting lodge could possibly hold. The Fort Knox of gear! The Mt. Everest of accumulation! The Mecca of outdoorism! The Wonderland of wilderness possibilities! The ultimate Visa workout center! And I left it empty handed - but I'm making a list and checking it twice - and looking forward to being naughty and nice!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Inward Focus?

Is the church too inwardly focused? If you're talking about members being selfish, petty, comfort oriented, steeped in tradition, theologically shallow, and managing mole-hills - yes! If you're talking about our tendency to fuss and fight over preferences and treat the assembly as our most important activity - yes! If you're referring to the history of smugness, exclusiveness, proof-texting, and labeling others and one another - yes! If the subject is protectionism, isolationism, and legalism - well - yes! Is it the reason why we aren't spreading the Gospel more and converting more people to the cause of Christ? Yes - or no - depending on how you are using the terms "inward focus". Let me explain.

No one will stand before God on the day of Judgement and be condemned because their congregation didn't have an effective outreach program. The bible is clear, "each one of us must give account of himself" to God. The biblical concept (and purpose) of the church has been so blurred by institutionalizing it that we can't and don't recognize what the church really is anymore. Every "called out" individual is the church! Is outreach the responsibility of "the church"- assembled or the church - individuals? I just read another article from a church growth magazine dogmatically declaring the church's mission was to reach the people in our community! Because we have an institutional or temple paradigm of "church" we keep defining our purpose institutionally. Why did God command Christians to form a "body" or "a family" or be "the bride of Christ"? We can't do "one another" stuff unless we are with "one another." Are the "one another" things inward focus things? Which "one another" passage includes outreach? Jesus gave one identifying characteristic for his church that would show the world that we were his disciples - love one another. People will see it (or should), and realize they need it, and be attracted to it. Worked in Acts 2 (47)!

I can hear the screams already. Are you saying that the church is not supposed to have an outreach program?!!! It's a great idea to organize and be good stewards of our time and effort, but where's the hint that it's the purpose of the church (assembled)? It is the purpose of the church, that is every called out person, to share, witness, be ready to give answer to anyone who asks, and be living epistles of God! How many successful outreach ministries or programs have you seen a church put together? Why don't they last? Why are so few members part of it?

This is a blog not a book, so here's the bottom line. The purpose of Christians getting together (i.e. church assembled) is to build relationships that bring us into a deeper relationship with Jesus! We've spent so many years converting people to CHURCH that people don't know Jesus, and you can't give away what you don't have! Church togetherness is a tool not the focus! When we encourage one another (Heb.10:25-25), and when leaders equip members for maturity and closeness to Jesus (Eph.4:11-16), we go forth to "tell our story" (witness) every time God gives us the opportunity. The Christian assembly was never meant to be (and never was in the NT) an outreach event! When done right - focusing on family needs (yes, inward focus) - it should cause outreach. You don't win games at the pep-rally, but you can fire up the participants to play harder and represent who they play for.

So yes, we better be inward focused in bring each other closer to Jesus. Without Him, there's nothing to be outwardly focused about. The problem is not the inward focus, but the inward focus on the wrong things - doing "church" instead of knowing Jesus.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Spring Critters Out Back

This is Mr. Muskrat swimming back to his underground home. A second after this picture, he submerges and enters his house from underwater. Unfortunately, that's why people don't like to have muskrats around. They dig holes all around the pond and actually destroy the structure that holds the water in place. Each year our home owners association pays someone to trap (i.e. exterminate) the muskrats, and each spring they return. The Missouri River is only about a mile away, and that's evidently where they come from. We've lived in this house for a little over two years and we really enjoy watching all the critters around the pond. The edge of the pond is about twenty yards behind our house. We get to see turtles, muskrats, "Denny" crane, an occasional deer, and a huge variety of birds. These pictures were taken this past Saturday from the kitchen widow.
This is grandpa turtle. No telling how old this fellow is. His head is about the size of a Coke can and his shell is like a rock. After a long - hard winter, I'm sure the sun really feels good.

The muskrats quickly come out of the water and grab a mouth full of grass before hustling back into the water and taking the food to their family back in the underground home.
Next week on Wild Kingdom, we'll look at the insect world of the Root's back porch...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Interesting Preaching Moments

It's time for a new list. The following is a list of "Interesting Preaching Moments" since my first "full length" sermon in the Fall of 1968. WOW! Is that really almost 40 years ago? I never have trusted my math! Which leads me to the following:

1. That very first sermon was capped off by a young boy standing up in the middle of my lesson and projectile vomiting all over the pew and wooden floor of that old country church building. Was it a comment on the lesson?

2. In the middle of my first "Gospel Meeting" - I was preaching and I ment to say "trap" but, you guessed it all ready, I say "crap" with all the "fire & brimstone-Jimmy Allen-look-a-like" I could muster. What did I do? I acted like it never happen.

3. Then there was the time I tried to think of a different word for swine, from the gospel story where Jesus caused the herd to rush off a cliff into the see. Out of nowhere, I called them poultry, and couldn't figure out why so many people giggled through the rest of the sermon. I guess the mental picture of chickens going over a cliff does change the story.

4. Just before I stopped using a pulpit, I discovered a little known reason to keep using it. As I stood to sing the official "song before the sermon," I put my hands in my pocket and suddenly felt a rush of air flow into my pants from the front. Yes, it was the unattended zipper. Back then, the coat I wore hid everything and the pulpit gave me the cover to recover. Now I know why so many of our folks think sports coats and pulpits are required parts of worship.

5. With three published books on worship, I tend to think I have a thorough understanding of the subject. Except for the time in Texas when I preached an entire lesson on "Horizontal Worship and Vertical Worship" and had horizontal and vertical backwards for the whole thing.

6. Then there was the little boy on the front pew with a toy gun, which he kept pointing and shooting at me until I finally stopped and suggested someone give him some guidance.

7. I will never forget the invitation song where a cricket came the full length of the aisle, all the way to the front. What could I do? I baptized him of course.

8. In Virginia, we had a guy come to church and he had a Bible with a nail driven through it. He said God told him what to say so he didn't need an open Bible any more. So we made him an elder. (Just kidding!)

9. As a fresh-out-of-college-preacher in Arkansas, I got so excited to baptize someone who responded to my lesson that I put my light brown "leisure suit" back on forgetting that my underwear was soaked. They didn't have waders, so I just used a baptismal jumper and kept my undies on. I had a rather interesting "ring-around-the-pants" when I came back out to do the final announcements. Did I learn anything? Depends.

10. I don't know! When all is said and done, I still think of Kevin's "JOY TO THE WORLD" invitation song experience as one of the highlights of my preaching career. (For those who don't know, my brother-in-law scared us half to death with his sudden start to the old song and since the whole family was there for Christmas, we try to make sure he never forgets it) Thanks Kev.

Alright you gutless preachers! Own up to your low-lights!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Yes, He's there and He cares!

I had a funny blog I was going to put together today, but my heart aches too much for all the students, teachers, and families of Virginia Tech to write anything lighthearted today. Another crazy, self-centered, gun carrying anti-social angry person destroying the lives of thirty-two people, most just kids in adult bodies, and leaving a scar that will forever mark a good school. I suspect we need to redefine the word "terrorist" to include community psycho's. And the news sharks are already focusing on who did what wrong and blaming everything from the police to the Virginia gun laws, and ignoring the simple fact that in an open society, there is very little we can do to protect ourselves from a determined suicidal maniac. We could put a guard at the front of every school, church building, and public event and all we be doing is guaranteeing that he'd be the first one shot. I am thankful for all the focus on prayer and the need to help those who are grieving. I've been encouraged to hear so many fellow students talk about the faith of their friends who were killed and to hear them so be so comfortable and confident about their place in heaven. May God comfort and strengthen them and help them to see how He will use this to cause thousands, maybe millions, to think more about eternity and the brevity of life.

Something else that disturbs me is the on-going debate about "you-know-who" and his racist remarks. After listening to so many comments and arguments about who's racist, who started it, who's responsible, and who's going to change things, I've been very frustrated waiting for someone to point out that THERE IS NO SOLUTION WHEN YOU DON'T HAVE AN AGREED UPON SET OF VALUES! Everyone talks around it because they're talking about what's socially acceptable. If they just listen to God, it would all be clear. It's never right to hate, show prejudice, be unkind, or degrade anyone in anyway - period! That takes it out of the realm of finger pointing and historical research immediately, but no one wants to point out that "God says" or "the Bible says" because that's not politically correct. Get ready America. The more we remove our God-given value system from our society, the more we are going to argue about what's right and wrong.

Did I mention that turkey season started this week?

Monday, April 16, 2007


Epiphany? What a weird word. Sounds like the name of some Mother Goose fairy or the south side of a north-bound "Epi". It's actually a word that deals with spiritual discovery or experience. Our walk with God is full of life changing moments and discoveries. An epiphany is the proverbial light bulb going on as our Father gets our attention and reveals something incredibly profound to us. In 1972 I had an amazing epiphany when a missionary from Greece, who was fluent in ancient Greek, pointed out that in the New Testament the word or concept of "worship" was never applied to the Christian assembly. (Yes, in 1972, Donna Sue was an epiphany for me too.)

For me, questions have been the greatest source of personal discovery. When I honestly asked the question "How can I get to know Jesus?" I started to move from religion to personal faith. About 8 to 10 years ago, the epiphany for me was "What is lacking in my life that is keeping me from really being like Jesus?" That caused me to seriously focus on humility, compassion, and thankfulness. Until we ask that question and deal with it honestly, we're playing church.

A couple weeks ago, while riding alone in my car, another question popped into my head (maybe placed by God is more accurate). It wasn't new. In fact it's an old old question that had probably been turned into a cliche for me and most people. What would I be without Jesus? Simple aint it? I've said it, sang it, preached it, and wrote it, but for the first time I applied it and it impacted me - surprised me, like I never would have imagined. What would I be without Jesus? The picture was striking, sad, and scary. I didn't like what I saw. I know what kind of person I would be if it weren't for Jesus. Selfish, uncontrolled, addicted to everything wrong, and angry with life. I could feel it - see it - and the thought of how much I would have missed in life brought tears to my eyes. All the wonderful family and friends I would have missed - all the people who have touched my life, and I theirs - all the stepping stones to a closer relationship with God - all the - the goodness and grace of God! To have missed that is the saddest thought I've ever had. With tight throat and wet cheeks, all I could say was "Thank you Jesus."

Then I thought, "What about those who don't know what they're missing?"

Thursday, April 12, 2007

"Country Road" to Florissant

We were so blessed to have Kevin and Kathy with us this past weekend. Kathy is Donna's sister and Kevin, our brother-in-law, (dah!) has been my hunting buddy for over a couple of decades. They are wonderful people that we love a lot. Back in the days of our ministry in Fairfax, VA we were only five hours away from their WV home in Mannington and we used to get together several times a year for visits and vacations and HUNTING! Kev and I have gone to Colorado together to bowhunt for elk and mulies since 1986. There is no better hunting partner. He enjoys others successes more than his own and that takes a special person. Thanks for sharing Easter with us! I'm glad you got to be with our Florissant family too.

It you haven't eaten at Mel's in Hardin, IL, you have truly missed something special. It is really awesome food and huge portioins and choices - heaven right? I'm pumped because it's minutes from our new hunting spot. I smell ham and eggs already!

We took the Golden Eagle ferry back across the Mississippi River to "God's Country" but after Mel's, I have to say He's on both sides now. We had a great day seeing some wonderful IL country and enjoying wonderful friends (and relatives). God is so good!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Grace Is Scary Stuff!

I wonder how I spent so many years as a Christian and heard so little about grace? It was rarely taught, preached, or even talked about during my early years. Did people not know about it or understand it - or were they just afraid of it? I pick "all of the above" but sadly recognize that fear was the major reason. It's still true today in some areas. Why after all, if you start teaching people that they are and can be forgiven for any sin they commit who knows what kind of ungodliness they might get into? Grace is scary! It messes up our ability to judge others and condemn them to hell. It really messes up our ability to distinguish between the big sins and the little sins...the dirty sex sins and the heart-level greed and pride sins...the socially acceptable sins and the Puritanical heathen sins! The fearful think grace means license! "You're telling people it's okay to sin because they'll be forgiven!" That's why the possibility of God forgiving divorce is so repugnant to some. "Why it's telling people that it's okay to destroy their marriage vows, because they can always just ask God for forgiveness and start all over again!" Does the old saying, "It's better to ask for forgiveness than permission" really wash with God? Paul said, "May it never be!" Grace isn't about license or liberty, at least as Paul was using it in Romans. It's about motivation! God is so good - so amazingly gracious - so loving and so forgiving - HOW COULD WE EVEN CONSIDER SINNING! The person who sees God's kindness as their personal Trump Card on sin is missing the bigger point! His grace cost too much to treat it so shabby! Grace is for the seeker not the swindler! It's not real grace to us until we are overwhelmed by God's love. Fortunately, God is bigger and grace is greater than our ability to understand it or live up to it, but then - that's what makes it grace.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Real Religious Robbery

Our spring cherry tree out back just before the record spring freeze (25 today)!

When the prophet asked, "Will a man rob God" he was talking about tight-fisted Jews not giving to the Temple. Becoming a true cheerful giver is one of the never ending goals of life for anyone who is seeking God. The other day, as the topic of pain and suffering came up again for the countless time in just a few days, I started to wonder if robbing God is a much bigger subject. The real question about pain and suffering is why doesn't God intervene and stop or prevent MY PAIN and MY SUFFERING! Because until it's MINE I can be incredibly firm in my theological convictions and simply say, "who knows the mind of God - our job is to trust him." Amen? Here's where we rob God! First, we rob him by forgetting all the answered prayers that he's blessed us with throughout our relationship with him. We pray, he delivers, and we forget, and sometimes don't EVER recognize his involvement or thank him for his answer. Check Philippians 4 again and see how petitions and thankfulness go hand-in-hand.

And then there's the bigger way, I believe, that we rob God, and this just dawned on me the other day. We love God for what we know he has done, but what about all that he's done that we DON"T know about? We don't know the specifics, but because we KNOW he cares and is involved CAN YOU EVEN BEGIN TO IMAGINE HOW MUCH HE HAS PROTECTED YOU FROM OR HEALED YOU OF? As I told my church family last Sunday, "When the doctor looks at me and says 'Mike you have terminal cancer,' instead of saying 'Why me, Lord' I need to realize that he may have kept me from or healed me from cancer ten times in the last fifty-five years to give me all the days he has blessed me with." How many times has he guided us to an event that changed our life or kept us from being in a fatal car accident? How many diseases has he removed from our bodies that never even gave us a headache? The possibilities are endless! Were all those "close calls" in you life simply "good luck"? Maybe if we give God a little more credit and thanks, we won't continue to feel like life owes us so much. And maybe (?) we won't feel so inadequate in confronting those who question God every time they have or see pain and suffering. We need to start hearing Satan say, "This is a stick-up!"

Monday, April 02, 2007

You may be a "Change Agent" if...

Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but most everything else is constantly changing. And I'm glad - aren't you? Life would be boring if things never changed. This past weekend, our oldest daughter and our only son became another year older and our middle Root-kid moved to a new house. How can my kids get old when I stopped getting old several years ago? Change and denial usually go together! I am reminded of two very important things. First, how proud I am of my three "adult" and very spiritually mature kids, and secondly, how thankful I am for each of my kids-in-law. Chad, Pat, and Holly are amazing people who I love and respect more each year they are part of our family. It's difficult being far apart, but knowing all our kids, their spouses, and their kids are growing and maturing in Christ makes the time apart manageable. After all, eternity will be a long vacation.

As warned in the last blog, here are my ten picks for; You know you're a "Change Agent" if...
10. FHU will never appear on your speaking appointment resume.
9. You think Jeff Walling is "sound in the faith" as well as a good speaker.
8. You believe "the tie that binds" is not the TIE that binds.
7. You see clapping and raising hands as irrelevant issues in the Christian assembly.
6. You ignore the verse in the Bible about how many song leaders there can be at one time.
5. You confess to having read Spilt Grape Juice, Unbroken Bread, or Empty Baskets.
4. You wonder if "pattern theology" is just neo-legalism.
3. You believe the assembly is a giving opportunity and not about rituals, rites, or receiving.
2. You ask "When are we going to restore New Testament Christianity?" and people look at you like you are crazy.
1. You died on a Cross for the sins of the world.