Friday, August 28, 2009

Inconsistency and Truth

Something to think about until I have more time to elaborate:

You can be doctrinally right, but if you're un-Christ-like, you're wrong.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sex & Singing!

That title is not a cheap attention getter - but it does make you wonder what this is about, doesn't it? There are probably other parallels that could be made (not to mention jokes), but how we think of both sex and singing largely depends on what we think the purpose is. In Jerry and Lynn Jones Marriage Matters Seminar, they shared a lot of truly valuable information about building a strong marriage. When they talked about sex in marriage, and particularly the completely different ways that men and women view it, they said something very profound. They concluded the discussion by pointing out that "Husbands will have to learn to have sex less than they want and wives will have to learn to have sex more than they want." I love the practical truth of that comment, but I especially love the clear emphasis that in marriage you consider the needs and feelings of your mate, and you give or postpone your needs for their sake.
I'm a firm believer that sexual frustrations, lack of communication about it, and failure to be unselfish is the number one cause of marital problems. Arguing about finances and being thoughtless are just symptoms of the real number one problem. What complicates the truth is that most men won't admit it and a lot of women are clueless as to how incredibly important it is to men.
The challenge for all of us who want to have healthy and thriving marriages is to quit thinking of sex as a personal need and start thinking of it as a gift from God to share with the one we love. If we take it out of the category of "my drives" or "my mood" and see it as a gift to give, to be considerate, thoughtful, and loving, it becomes a blessing not a burden or source of frustration.
What in the world does that have to do with singing? Wow, there's an awesome joke there somewhere, but the point is that singing (in a spiritual one another setting) is a gift from God that we get to give to others. We have bought into Satan's trick that singing is about what I like or what makes me feel good, and it defines whether or not I label the assembly of the saints a success. Until it becomes a gift we give away - especially when it's not a song that we like or enjoy - it will always be a source of contention, judgment, and a misplaced church identity - as opposed to having our identity in Jesus and loving one another. God gave it to us as a tool to encourage one another not as some ceremonial rite to be checked off the "worship list" on Sunday morning or to be our church "feel good" pill to "pump us up" before the sermon.
So now you know what sex and singing have in common. They are beautiful gifts that we give as God intended.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Thumbs Up!

Last Friday morning the St. Louis County inspector checked out our porch construction and gave us the okay to continue. He inspected the framing and joist work we'd done and proclaimed, "It looks good." I'm not sure which part meant the most to me - the okay to proceed or the affirmation of having done a good job.

We come into this world seeking the affirmation of others, and we never seem to stop seeking it the rest of our life. When you are a "people pleaser," like everyone in our family tends to be, it doesn't matter how confident and secure you seem to be, you still want to know that others agree, appreciate, and approve of what you do. It's important, because we thrive on encouragement and assent. It's disheartening to know that someone disapproves or disagrees with us, and, in spite of all the unconcerned talk, it eats at our heart and causes lots of unseen anxiety. It's nice to be liked.

When do we reach the point where receiving God's approval is more important than the approval of others? I'm not just talking about doing what's right versus doing what's wrong. I'm talking about the joy of knowing He loves us, forgives us, and is pleased with our hearts that are seeking Him. Do we truly care about pleasing Him? Is it okay to do something good, when no one is around and no one will see it, just because it pleases God? Maybe if His approval - His affirmation - were more important to us, it wouldn't be so important to receive it from others. Maybe we really could feel confident and secure and get our self esteem from Him and not people who can't possibly know what is really going on in our heart. After all, if our direction is right (i.e. walking in the light), in spite of our mistakes and stumbling around, He's going to be saying to us, "Well done." It's simple, but more important than anything anyone else could ever say to us.

Can you see our Father giving you a thumbs up?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Thrill of the Thrill

We (all my rowdy hunting buddies) decided back in the early Spring that we wouldn't go elk hunting in Colorado this year. The tight financial situation that everyone is in seems to be the biggest reason for each of us. While I don't have any EXTRA money, and while I'm trying to save for our BIG Winter-time vacation next year, truth is - I'd go elk hunting in a heartbeat if anyone would say, "Hey, let's go!" It never was something I could afford, it was something I loved and longed to do, so I made it happen. And here I am in August, just 3 or 4 weeks away from when we'd normally be heading out on I-70 for Colorado, and I'm watching all these elk hunting shows on The Outdoor Channel and The Sportsman's Channel, and, well - I'm going through some serious Rocky Mountain High withdrawal pain. I already miss chasing elk through the scrub-oaks, glassing mulies across the valley, and checking out the same white rocks that every year, from a distance, make me think they're a mulie rear-end. I miss riding my Artic Cat around the top of LO7, the highest mountain on the property, feeling those cool breezes on my face, smelling the sage, and seeing those spectacular vistas that I never get tried of seeing.
Having said all that, one of the things I also miss has nothing to do with not going to Colorado. I miss the thrill of the thrill - the passionate excitement about the "once in a lifetime annual hunting trip" that began each year the day after I got home from the last trip and built throughout the year to a fever pitch in the Summer, causing me to loose sleep, pack early, and practice fifty-yard archery shots. Our first trip was in 1986, and since then I've only missed it a couple of years, and after all these years, well, I still love it, but it doesn't dominate my dreams like it did a few years back. In fact, I'd say I love it as much now as I did back then, I just have a different perspective now than I did back in the "passionate-all-year-long" days.
A lot of what I use to feel was the excitement of being excited. I used to thrive on being excited about some future event or adventure - something new and different. It seemed to give meaning to life. I think that's a normal part of being younger. I certainly wasn't pumped up about always bringing meat home for the freezer. While I managed to take four elk and three mulie bucks over the years, you can do the math and see that most of the time I came home with memories not back-strap.
I guess, like anything that means a lot to you, you naturally mature in the way you think about it. Colorado elk hunting is more like a good friend and less like a wild adventure. If it was all about the mountains, the hunting, and the ATV riding, I wouldn't need to have anyone with me to share it with. No, it's always been about the fellowship with good friends and the shared memories, and that's why, without that, I'll spend all of September in Missouri this year.
Oh, deer season opens in MO September 15th - I can't wait! NOT ALL OF THE THRILL IS GONE!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Construction! Construction!

We've put all the smaller joists, with the angle cuts, in since this picture was made. We're about 10 or 12 boards away from being finished with this part.

It's Monday morning and I'm watching the rain come down outside as I think about all my plans to work on the porch this morning go down the drain. Maybe it will stop in a while and give us a chance to do a little work. As you can see in these pictures that Donna took, we've been putting the floor bracing in. Steve and I started it Thursday evening, after doing some other support requirements, and then Ken Teson helped me put some more in Friday afternoon.

My buddy Steve came back Friday evening and we put the last of the floor joists in that we had boards for. Today, Lowes is delivering about a dozen 14 footer 2x10's so we can finish it out - if the rain stops. Once all the floor joists are in, I have to call and order another County inspection. When the Powers-That-Be okay it, we can then put the decking on and begin working on the roof. We're not breaking any speed records - you can't when you're just doing a couple hours at a time when you can - but it's gonna happen. As usual, I couldn't do it without the help of some great friends like Steve and Ken. Steve as been the "foreman" of the project and I definitely couldn't have done it without all his help.

Hey, before long I will be watching the rain from my covered back porch. How cool is that?

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Power of Positive Thinking?

For some people it may be looking at the world through rose tinted glasses. For others, it's all about seeing life as a glass that is half filled rather than half emptied. Some say, "When life hands you lemons make lemonade." Others cheer, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." There are other axioms, analogies, and pithy sayings that describe how to have a positive outlook in life, but forget'em all. Here's what I think. The world is a wonderful place when observed while eating a DQ Blizzard - preferably a Butterfinger Blizzard.
It will never be put in marble somewhere, but it's philosophically sound. Try it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Scoop on Love

Do you remember what it was like as a kid to be watching a movie that had a romantic scene in it? We were all like the kid in The Princess Bride who cringed and said, "Not the kissing stuff again! Can we skip it?" I use to cover my eyes at the movies when a kissing scene came on. Way too mushy! Get on with the blood and gore stuff!
As adults, I think we tend to be the same way whenever the topic of love comes up - especially in a spiritual setting. We've spent our lives thinking about love as some romantic-warm & fuzzy-cloud nine feeling that, at least for most men, involves all kinds of things we don't want to talk about. And I don't care how many Bible classes we've been in that teach us that there are three different Greek words for love, each talking about three different kinds of love - we still think of love as romance, tingly feelings, and uncontrollable heart-throbbing.
Excuse my "writers license" but that ain't love - at least it's not the love that God is talking about when He commands us to love our self, love one another, and love Him. Agape love (I know that's a redundancy!) is loving the way God does. It's loving souls, the potential for good that is in everyone, and giving them the same compassion, forgiveness, and kindness that God gave us. Hey, it doesn't even mean we have to like them, and it certainly doesn't mean we have to have those warm romantic feelings that we think defines love. No way! Love is choosing to look at others the way God does. It may grow into liking them or even romance, as in "Husbands love your wife as Christ loves the church." That was said in the time of arranged marriages. Paul was calling on Christian husbands and wives to choose to love each other. Today, we just assume they're in love or they wouldn't have gotten married.
Love is the great essential in our relationship with God! We love to identify what is essential to salvation (because we know we've got it figured out), but when was the last time you heard anyone point out that love is essential to salvation? Always has been and always will be!
In the Word, love is God, which means love is Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Love is grace, because it's God character being given to us. Love is the driving force in our spiritual lives. It's the goal of our lives. It's the LAW we live by and the standard by which we are judged by God.
Maybe it's time to let go of the romantic definition of love and start thinking about the all encompassing nature of love in our journey to a deeper relationship with God. IT'S NOT THE KISSING STUFF!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Success Is Relative

I have never enjoyed or been more excited about my ministry than I am right now. At this point in my life and career as a preacher of the Gospel, I am busier, working harder, and feel more fulfilled about my job than ever before. I think I understand my purpose better, I know how to do what needs to be done, and I see more lives growing in Christ than any time in the past thirty-five years of full-time ministry. I am excited about what God is doing in our church family, I see more possibilities and opportunities for growth in the future, and our church family has the best chance of really being the kind of loving, growing, and Christ-like group God really wants His people to be.
I don't share that to brag. It's humbling to see what God is doing in our life. I share that to simply make the point that even with all those wonderful things going on in our life and with all the success and potential success that God may give us - it's still not the most important thing I've done in my life.
After having our family with us this past week and seeing how much they love each other as husband and wife, parent and child, and siblings and in-laws, and seeing how much they love God, glorify Him, and are growing in Jesus and raising their children to love Him, well - how do you put a value on knowing your loved ones are faithful children of God? What is it worth to hear your grandchildren singing spiritual songs of praise, saying prayers that are simple, pure, and from the heart, and how do you put a price on hearing your adult children discuss how they can best be of service to God. What does it mean when the hurt of having to move farther apart is softened and bearable because it's what needs to happen for the work of the Lord.
We had our chance to be parents. It's not our job now. But when we were parents of children, it was a high priority, and we will never regret the time and effort that went into raising them in the "nurture and admonition of the Lord." I feel pretty sure that when all is said and done, it will be our greatest work. Now they're teaching us.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Family Vacation

It's family vacation week, so I don't have time to write a serious, thought-provoking blog about anything. We're just enjoying being together and wishing Jonathan and Holly could be with us. We started the day out yesterday with a trip to Eckerts to pick blackberries and peaches. It was a lot of fun and only took a few minutes to fill up the buckets and boxes. Above you see our two best pickers.
The Milom part of the family made sure that they picked some peaches to take back to Nashville with them.

We then drove to Hardin, IL to eat at Mell's Riverdock Restaurant, one of our favorite out of the way places to eat. Wonderful food with huge portions. This is were I go for breakfast after a morning of hunting in IL.

What a great looking group! This was after the big lunch, so it's a much bigger group than when we walked in.
In the afternoon, we all went to a water park and got lots of sun and water. The kids, big and small, really loved all the slides.

Then we ended the day with another incredible dinner, and after the kids were all tucked in, we played a game until midnight. We even got Mamaw to stay up past her 9:00 bedtime. It's always a blessing to have times like this with family. God is good - have I said that before?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Slow But Sure!

I'll take all the help I can get to construct our porch. This is "vacation in St. Louis week" for our family, but we did take a couple hours last evening to work on the new project. I drafted my two sons-in-law to help us set up the 6x6 posts that will hold the deck and the roof. We got all five in place, so it's finally starting to look like something is going up out there. The digging of and filling up of the pylons (10) was a much bigger job than I imagined.
This is my good buddy Steve Smith, who is really the one making this happen. I'm more his helper. He has done this before, so his help is invaluable, and deeply appreciated.

I did receive a little extra help from one of my grandsons, Curtis. A socket wrench can be used as a hammer. Hmmm - I think there's an illustration there somewhere about "tools".

Saturday, August 01, 2009

A Time to Shift

I have spent a lot of time and prayer through the years attempting to understand God's will. There is one huge theme that has come from that study, time and time again. An honest and open and objective look at the Bible keeps telling me that I need to change my fundamental thinking about many things I've been taught. In the buzz words of today we call it "a paradigm shift." The need to change the framework, or preconceived notions about what we are looking at. I've been challenging myself, and those I minister to, to do that nearly my whole career. In the eighties I began challenging everyone to think of worship as a life given to God, not one hour on Sunday morning. Back then, that got me labeled a radical. Here are a few others:
Church is not an institution but a tool for relationship building.
Elders are not business leaders, but spiritual shepherds, who mentor and guide members and not just meet to make decisions.
Bible Classes should foster love not education. ("Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies")
Our church family must be defined by our love for one another not our assembly style.
The spirit of Christ is found in seeking a relationship with Him, not the pursuit of biblical patterns. When has God's will even been like putting together a jigsaw puzzle?
Grace is a matter of direction not perfection, so "seeking God" is the most important element in faith - and pleasing God.
The assembly of God's children is first, last, and always, an opportunity to give, not an experience to receive.
The list is much longer, but I share these simply to introduce what I believe is one of the most important paradigm shifts any Christian can make. It can and should completely change the way we look at, teach, and use everything God has given us to help us grow spiritually. I call these tools. Many people use the word a lot, but do we truly think about what it means? From prayer to communion, and from spiritual leaders to the Holy Spirit, God gave us a tool box full of tools so we can be totally equipped for everything He wants us to do and become. God was helping, or equipping us, not giving us a list of rituals to test our obedience.
Here's the paradigm shift - what is the difference between a rite and a tool? Look at anything and everything that God gave us to help us grow and help others grow, and ask yourself, "Is it a rite to perform, or is it a tool to use?" It will shake-up the way you look at everything you do whether individually, like study and prayer, or together with brethren, as in singing and communing. Just think about it.
Tomorrow morning I'm going to be preaching about communion being a tool to use rather than a rite to perform. We strangled it to death with our patterns, legalism, and Catholic sacraments. Could it simply be a common, readily accessible way that Jesus wanted us to regularly (during shared meals anywhere and anytime) think about Him and what it means to be His body?