Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Up Tight? Out of Sight!

In a day and time when we spend so much effort on feeling safe and secure, it may be difficult to know what are fears really are. Besides, when it comes to fear, we tend to think of big, major, life-threatening possibilities rather than the deep fears we carry in our hearts 24/7. When you think about it, however, it's really quite easy to determine what our fears are. All you have to do is think about what causes you stress in life. Stress comes from what we fear whether real or imagined. What makes you anxious or what do you worry about? Things you fear. And very few of those fears involve life-threatening monsters, bad guys, or catastrophic events. It's usually things that have to do with our doubts, our weaknesses, our insecurities, and our imaginations. What causes most of us stress in life is the fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of criticism, fear of disappointing others, fear of being judged, and the fear of not being respected, appreciated, and loved by others.
Do you notice a theme in these fears? Others. We have such a strong drive to receive the affirmation of others that we fill our life with stress trying to get it. The stress of trying to look right, talk right, act right, and just BE RIGHT, so others will like us, admire us, and affirm that we are "worthy" of their praise - robs us of the peace and contentment God wants us to have. Oh - we can't completely avoid it, but at some point, "others" have to take a back seat to God. And the amazing thing is, when we please him, what others think about us isn't so important any more, and when that happens, all of a sudden a great deal of life's stress vanishes and we begin to enjoy "the peace that passes understanding" (that means "others" don't get it).
So, is it safe to say that if we want a good evaluation of where we are in our journey to a deeper relationship with God, we only need to look at our level of stress to see how we're doing? Hey, if "love casts out fear," doesn't that mean it also casts out stress too? Didn't Jesus say something about not fearing anyone in this world, but fearing the One who can "destroy both body and the soul"?
My stress is defined by my fears, but my only fear should be that I disappoint my Father. When that becomes our only fear, what do you think will happen to the stress of life?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Inspired By God?

Twenty-five years ago, if I had been asked, "Does God inspire people today?", I would have been alarmed that anyone would dare to ask such a question. It would have violated all my rational, theological, and fundamentalist training, and would have given me visions of Pentecostalism, spiritualism, and, at the very least, liberalism. I would have immediately thought about all the verses I could quote about being "thoroughly furnished" and "given all things" and "rightly dividing the Word of truth." All of which have nothing to do with the question. Inspiration does not mean new revelations, nor does it threaten existing revelation, or mean it's in anyway inadequate or incomplete.
Why do so many people find it so hard to believe that God can put something into your heart? Yes, we all know the horror stories about "crazy people" who think God was talking to them, calling on them to do something terrible. Those are extreme cases involving psychologically impaired people. Does that mean God doesn't put thoughts into our hearts? We have no problem (usually) believing that Satan can. He's the Tempter! What good is a Tempter who can't even get you to think about what he's tempting you with? Is God limited simply because He has given us His message about His plan for redeeming man? Should our fear of things unknown, things like the Holy Spirit, prevent us from hearing something God might put into our hearts? Where do "good thoughts" come from? Isn't being "moved with compassion" a Christ-like quality that God fosters, encourages, and helps with? When that pull hits your heart telling you that you ought to do something, is that just your conscience speaking or is it God speaking through your conscience? What does He mean when He tells us "draw near to God and He will draw near to you"? If prayer is communication with God, has He already said all He's going to say?
I don't have to understand how it all works, but God putting godly ideas into our heart - ideas that are also proclaimed in His written Word - is totally consistent with His nature and His Word. How can we have "the mind of Christ" and not be tuned into God? There is nothing in the Bible that says that God can't inspire or guide us through our thinking, our talking, and our writing. He's not going to inspire anyone to think, say, or write anything that contradicts what He's inspired others with in the past, but that doesn't mean He's stopped doing it!
Did Paul know he was writing under the inspiration of God? His reference to "scripture" to Timothy is talking about the Old Testament. Did he know that He was writing something that would become "God's Word" for all time? I think the answer is "no" both times, but it doesn't change our believe that God was inspiring him.
I love what Paul said to the Corinthians in his second letter. He said, "I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you." (8:16) I don't believe he was talking about a special miraculous indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Titus beyond what every child of God has. (Acts 2:38)
Just maybe, if we'd give God a little credit for the godly thoughts we have, we might be a little more motivated to follow through on those thoughts instead of seeing them as merely "one option".
Is it possible that He has directly and personally answered our prayers, but we didn't recognized that it was Him speaking?
Wow! Now why did I write this?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cast Picture

This is the official cast & crew photo for Fearless: The Story of Esther. Ben Lanterman has taken pictures for us every year and he does a super job. He brought the DVD of pictures he's taken to my office last week and there are over 800 pictures on the two disks. He really is very professional and does some awesome work. The hard part is trying to decide which pictures to use for our official picture collage in the hallway of the church building. I can only put 10 or twelve in it. Oh, just an FYI, only one person was missing for the cast picture, so I asked Ben if he could Photo Shop that person into the cast picture. He did. Can you figure out who it is?

My next blog (I think) will deal with the question: Does God inspire people today? What do you think? I'll tell you what I think tomorrow - or the next day at the latest.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lesson From The Porch

This is the view from where I sit on our porch each morning as I cool down from our walking. No, this isn't about the porch. If you look real close, in the middle, you'll see what keeps me entertained most of the time when I sit out there. I always love watching one of our visiting cranes (Blue Heron), but lately I've been enjoying watching the battle of the floating tire.

You can't see much of it, but you can see the turtles resting on it. A couple months ago, this tire suddenly appeared in our pond. Well, after all, it really is just a holding tank for rain run off. I didn't like looking at it and thought about rigging up a grappling hook to snag it and pull it out. The turtles love it - I guess. Every minute of the day there is a constant positioning battle going on as turtles crawl up on to the tire, and one another, to find a place to rest and get some rays. I mean turtles of all sizes, colors, and shapes. I never knew we had so many in the pond. They load up the tiny space above water, someone moves, and splash - they're all in the water and it starts again. What makes it even more interesting is that the tire is not anchored. It obviously has some muck and mud in the base of it, but if the turtles get it overloaded or out of balance - it rotates and dumps 'em all. Then they start all over again.
I caught myself in mid-laugh this morning as it dawned on me how much those turtles reminded me of mankind's constant attempt to seek preeminence, comfort, and success in a world that will, at some point, dump them like the turtles in my pond. Lessons? Climbing over one another? Repeating the same mistake over and over? Knocking everyone else off to open the way up for yourself? Following others to achieve success and ending up in the drink? Ignoring the need for balance in life? And, well, you get the picture.
They are turtles who only follow their instincts. They can't reason and make wise choices. What's our excuse? Kind of makes you want to crawl into a shell.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thoughts On Thursdays

Tonight we will have our first Thursday evening at home since February. Why? Because we've had our play rehearsals every Thursday night since the first Thursday in March. As much as I'm looking forward to having a nice, quiet, and undemanding evening tonight, I already miss our rehearsals. It's a lot of hard work, but when you get to be with people you love and enjoy being with, and when you're sharing a mission that you all are very passionate about, it's a joy not a burden. In fact, everything about our musical production is a living illustration of our church Purpose and Steps. Our Purpose is "Helping people develop a deeper relationship with Jesus," and the play does that on multiple levels. We do it to share a message from the Bible and touch people in ways that only a musical can. We introduce hundreds to the Lord's work in this place, and invite them to see how much we love one another and are working together to glorify Him. The process of working together builds loving relationships between all the cast and crew and give us all a sense of accomplishment and shared experiences that bond us even more.
Our Steps of spiritual growth are clearly seen too. People Connect with one another. Many times it is people connecting for the first time even though they've been in the same building together for years. And, as mentioned, we grow in love for one another as we get to know and appreciate each other more. Through our labors, laughs, and evening ending devotional time, we have a special bond that truly makes us Care deeply for one another, and thus, become very Committed to our task.
Connecting, Caring, and Committing, are really just steps to relationship building - whether it's with one another, or with God. If the church is not helping that to happen, it's not functioning as God intended for it to function. Putting together a musical performance about the story of Esther is just one tool to help those involved draw closer to Jesus. I am thankful that we have it - and it works.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Random Pictures

The Odd Couple, or as we know them - Art & Leonard, do their Bigthana & Teresh song that made their trip to the hangman seem hilarious. By the way, they won the Best Duet Award for the play at the cast party.

Little Miss Ashlyn waiting her turn to run through the yard sprinkler. She was smart enough to not go near it while the boys were running through it. It's a trust thing.

This is a picture I took while we watched the bigger grand kids play in the sprinkler. Deborah is holding her nephew, our grandson, Curtis, who has really turned into quite a sweet & polite little fellow - not to mention handsome.

What can I say? With a face like that, how could you not give Daniel anything he asked for?

Just another day at the C of C - NOT! This was my rendition of Bad Bad Haman Brown that I sang with the chorus as part of the play. Probably won't do that again...but it was fun.
This is a picture that my sister Becky took of us at Union Station. It was one of the places we took her the week after the play. I can't believe that I don't have a picture of her, but like I said, Donna and I were both so busy that we both forgot to take lots of pictures we meant to take.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Deacon Root

What are deacons? Have you ever wondered what God's intent was in having a "special group" of people in his church as deacons? Did he intend on them being appointed to an "office"? Were they supposed to have authority and power as spiritual leaders in the church? Did he intend on 1 Timothy 3 to be a clear list of qualifications for the job, with some very legal requirements about their marriage history, the character of their wife, and well behaved children (who, as you remember, don't have to be old enough to be Christians like elders kids)?
Could it be that the simple word "deacon," which is the Greek word for servant, was just a simple way of referring to Christians who had specific responsibilities, and Paul was just trying to make sure that Timothy didn't put an inexperienced and unproven person in charge of something important? I mean, it's never capitalized, it's not a name or position, it's not in the Titus 1 leadership passage, - it's a servant! Which Christians are exempt from that description? Is 1 Timothy 3 really a list of required qualifications for us to argue about, divide over, and strain through a legal sifter, or was Paul just trying to say, use people who have a proven track record and "served well"? And why does that word "deaconesses," which really is the better translation of "their wives" (vs.11), frighten everyone so much? We're just talking about servants - right? We all know who the best "servants" in the church are anyway - right? Oh yes, but we've been told it's a "leadership" position, so he couldn't possibly have been talking about women deacons - right? Wrong.
I think we've had so many years of assuming "Deacon" with a capital "D" that we can't see the simplicity of what the Holy Spirit is saying. If we'd stop trying to force a pattern from everything we read, we might see that Paul was just saying, "Tim, use some wisdom, and don't give people responsibilities that they aren't ready for." I don't think for minute that Paul was setting up an "office" in the church for "special" servants, or creating a worldly hierarchy of authority, or saying that a church isn't a church if it doesn't have "Deacons". Jesus was a deacon/servant, but for him it meant that he humbled himself to the point of dying on a cross. I think we're all deacons - or at least we should be!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Family and Show Time

With the play in full swing and all our family in town - we had a full week. The crowds for each of the four nights of the play were wonderful. I couldn't get an accurate count, but it was well over the 2000 mark again for the four nights. And the cast did an awesome job. The results of five years of experience together, and the fact that I wrote the play to fit our talents and stage peculiarities made for, what I think was, the best play we've done. Still, the best part is getting to be with family.
These are pictures that Elizabeth sent to us. Donna and I both had our cameras with us, but didn't have time to take any or many, pictures. The top picture is us with the bigger grand children and the one below that was taken Saturday night with all four Milom grand children. One of the real highlights of the week was the surprise arrival of Jonathan and Holly late Friday night. They helped me keep make it a very special surprise for Donna and they were here to see our Saturday night show, and then they flew back to NY Sunday evening. It was so great to see them and spend a little time together. We don't get to do that very much because of their hectic career demands. It's only the second time they've been to St. Louis to visit us in five and a half years. For a short while, late Friday night, the entire family got to sit and visit for a few minutes. Pat and Deborah and their three boys had to leave early the next morning to get back to Dallas so Pat could preach on Sunday morning. We are glad for whatever time together God gives us.

It was a great time with family and a wonderful experience with each of the four nights of the play. Maybe I'll share more about that later. We have the cast party and watching the rough cut of the video on Thursday. God is good!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Busy But Fun!

Backyard sprinkler time!
The three big boys are enjoying Nana pancakes on the porch.

Dress rehearsal for the play last night. Everyone did a super job. It's going to be great tonight!
The next to last song in the show. I love the words in Fearless For You. It needs to be listened to by every church family. Hope you get to see the play. I think it's one of our best.
Probably won't do another blog for a few days. KINDA BUSY AROUND HERE!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Righteous Reading?

I'd love to show everyone pictures of all my family spread out all over our new porch enjoying it immensely, but - enough about our porch. Tonight is our last rehearsal for this year's musical Fearless: The Story of Esther. Tomorrow night is dress rehearsal, but it's a total show because we won't be stopping to correct anything or give Directorial changes, and there will be a small audience of those who can't be here for a show, or will be working as ushers, greeters, or parking helpers. So it's really more a performance than a rehearsal. And, we've got family coming and going all this week. All that to say - it's a busy week and I probably won't be blogging a lot. Maybe I'll get a few pictures up of dress rehearsal on Thursday morning. We'll see.
I did want to share one observation from this past Sunday's lesson. Mark 7 has always been an important passage to me. I've always loved the strong language of Jesus as he pointed out to the Pharisees that they were hypocrites, vain worshippers, heartless legalists, and essentially doing more harm to God's plan than helping it. It's a great passage to use to hammer traditionalism, legalism, and several others "isms" that should put the fear of God in us all - since they disappoint God. But, when you really look at the chapter through the lens of God, through the eyes of Jesus, and ask "What was it that they did that really disappointed God and Jesus?"- you see more than just good tradition bashing material. The real problem was the disconnecting of their hearts from God. What really disappointed Jesus was something that each of us need to be diligent to avoid. What saddens God is seeing his people REPLACE A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD FOR A RELIGION ABOUT GOD.
The Bible is a different book when you read it looking for what God has done, and is still doing, to bring about a relationship with man. We can never correctly understand it or interpret it if we don't read it under God's spotlight.