Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Years Left?

Here is the challenging question I tossed out Sunday morning. If life was measured by the number of years remaining rather than the number of years lived, how would it change the way we think and live? That would obviously requiring knowing the exact date of our death, but would it make a difference in the way we live. What if rather than being sixty, I was minus ten (and counting), or minus one? Some of us would become instantly uninsurable! All of us would probably drastically change our future plans.
As I reflected on that challenge, the one thing that really jumped out at me was "There would be some serious changes in how people thought about church." For one thing, we'd quit gambling with our souls by falling back on Satan's best excuse, "I've got plenty of time to do that!" On the practical side, here are the things that rose to the top of my list in terms of what would probably change. (See Hebrews 11:13-16 on how we should think)
1. We wouldn't define our walk with God by what does or doesn't happen in the Sunday morning assembly. We'd truly understand the difference between a pep rally and THE game, and turn our togetherness time into a giving, helping, and encouraging opportunity.
2. We would see the importance of loving relationships. Life is about who you love and who loves you back! So is the church! The purpose of the collective church is growing in Christ through loving relationships. We'd stop looking for the "wow" and start building genuine love that would allow us to be a supportive community through tragedy and triumphs.
3. We would seek to serve rather than be served! "One of these days" has limits and now it's time to be what we know Jesus called us to be.
4. We would want our children to know God more than anything else! School, sports, and entertainment would take second place to securing the souls of our kids! Having an iPhone would not be more important than having the great I AM!
5. We would not sweat the small stuff! Dwelling on irks, perks, and jerks is a waste of time! Remember what Jesus said was a waste of time? Worrying about food, drink, clothes, self worth, and tomorrow! (Mt.6:25ff) We'd do what he said and seek God's kingdom first. We'd also stop seeing the speck in others eyes, and stop being fearful about being a witness for God.
We would probably treasure every day as a gift from God, and if we understood his grace like we should, we'd live expectantly and not fearfully.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Real Friends?

My brother sent me this cartoon. The caption of the email was "There's friendship, and there's friendship." Not only did it make me laugh, but it made me thankful for good friends and good teeth.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Forget about it?

I was reading an article in USA Today (on my iPad) about Glen Campbell's struggle with Alzheimer's at the age of 75. The article was about how he stills records and tours even though he occasionally just forgets the lyrics of a song. He just laughs and asks the audience what the next words are. The article points out that one of the reasons for his optimism is that the disease itself causes him to forget that he has it. I can think of some other diseases that it would be nice for the one who has it to be able to forget they have it.
I like to think I have a good memory for things, though I must confess that my life-long struggle with remembering names seems to be getting worse. I really don't have OCD, but if I did, it would include an obsession with not forgetting things. It's a regular source of stress for me when I am working on something that is important to me. I truly can't stand finding out that I have forgotten to do something I wasn't going to forget to do. Even little things.
But what about the BIG things? You know - the really big things - things that really count? Like remembering to be thankful, remembering that many people in the world have no idea what it's like to struggle with WHICH food to have for breakfast, or remembering that tens of thousands of American men and women would love to be waking up in their home bed in their own house with AC, hot showers, and loved ones all around them?
Why is it so easy to forget how many good things so many people are doing because of their faith and love for God? How many acts of service are performed by godly people, in the name of Jesus Christ, and to the glory of God - but we don't know about it? And then we look around at what we don't see, can't see, and never will see, and conclude "We need to do more" because it's not being done in the name of THE CHURCH! Since when is an act of service or love done by a Christian, who is the church even when alone, not a work of the church? We forget that the very nature of being "light" and "salt" is an individual responsibility more than it is a collective responsibility.
I need to remember that good, godly people, are doing wonderful acts of service for others every day. I need to remember that my brethren are sharing their faith, speaking about God, and encouraging people every day. I need to remember that they not only don't need "The church's" permission, but they don't even need the church to organize and define when and where it happens. Before I start declaring "what this church needs" I need to remember that every cup of water given in the name of Jesus by his people every hour of every day, will not be ignored by God and will be rewarded. That's what Jesus said - I just need to remember it.
Now - what was this blog about? I forgot.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A New and Exciting Book!

Last Sunday I made the statement that the Bible as the newest book of all. Sure, if you date it from the time it was written, it is one of the oldest books of all, but the unique message of the Bible makes it new every time you read it. It doesn't matter how much of a scholar you are, how many degrees in Bible and biblical languages you have, or how many passages of Scripture you can quote - it's new every time we read it because we are not the same person we were the last time we read it. That is why we constantly find ourselves "discovering" a new truth from a verse we have read - literally - thousands of times. There is no other book in existence that becomes deeper and more precious as our hearts draw closer to the author!

I also made the statement that there is nothing more interesting, exciting, and enlightening to me now than the Bible. Of course, I had to point out that I haven't always felt that way. Why? Because of the two principles that determine when a new subject becomes exciting. First, the principle of being Age Appropriate. We must be mature enough to understand it and see all or most of the possibilities it holds for us. Secondly, the principle of Prerequisites - those things we must know before hand that lay the foundation for understanding the new subject.

There have been many time in the past when I was not "age appropriate" to understand the power and thrill of what God was sharing with me. Remember, I'm not referring to a matter of years, but of spiritual maturity. When we are ready and wanting to see the things God has for us in his word, things start hitting us like proverbial "ton of bricks" on a regular basis. And the prerequisites are not Introduction to the New Testament 101 or Church work 201, but love, grace, and a seeking after the mind of Christ. That is why, before I shared my four rules for understanding the Word of God, I offered the suggestion "Communicate don't study." Think of it as talking to God. Hear him talking to you, and as you seek him, talk to him. Communication is an essential part of relationship building, so think about listening to God not just studying him.

For those who wonder what the four rule were:
1. Read it objectively: try to ignore all preconceived conclusions others taught you.
2. Read it consistently: see God's consistence message and let the Bible explain the Bible. Always understand and address the context.
3. Read it historically: consider the culture and the occasion.
4. Read it lovingly: look at it through the eyes of God and Jesus.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Please! Please! Please?

In my family we laugh about our personal obsessions. What else can you do? When something is important to you, even if it is driven more by your personality than objectivity, "you gotta do what you gotta do." If there was one personality obsession that pretty much captures every adult member of my clan it's being a people pleaser. Intellectually you know you can't please everyone all the time, but emotionally you expect to. I have learned to develop a little bit of a thicker skin than I used to have, but I still have to fight the tendency to be disappointed and depressed when I find out just one person doesn't like me or agree with something I have said - and I say a lot to a lot of people. The older I get (I guess I'll never stop saying that) the more I find myself getting angry with myself for being that way. Again, it's an emotional thing verses an intellectual thing, and sometimes balance just isn't possible.
What makes me angry with myself is that I allow one disgruntled or negative person to dwarf the scores of people who love, appreciate, and support me as their friend and their minister. Since perfect pleasing is a perfect impossibility, why be surprised when imperfect people point out your imperfections? (Don't say that in front of a microphone!)
I guess we all do that some. We let the "squeaky wheel" run over us, or dominate our attention too much. It happens all the time in every church family. I few people complain to some elders, and all of a sudden "the whole church is upset, inactive, unfaithful, uninvolved, un-enthused, and/or leaving in droves!" A classic case of going from specific to generic, making mountains out of mole hills, and not seeing the forest for the trees - or any number of saying and cliche's we could apply to this. Shepherds are probably be best example there is of a group of people pleasers. How many decisions are made based on who and how many will be displeased? A happy church is a growing church right? Right - and since it is an impossibility to keep everyone happy, what does that say about us? The faith that is pleasing to God is not always a faith that will please people. If the purpose is clear and biblical, you will not please everyone. We need to keep our focus, please.
So here is the new Rootism I want to keep in front of my eyes and also share with my fellow church leaders. Don't let the squeaking wheel cause you to forget how full the wagon is!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Advice to Young Ministers

A lot of years ago, my buddy Jim Mankin had me down to Abilene Christian University to speak to the Bible Majors about what full time ministry is like. I spoke to them about what I called Ministry Mountains, and after pointing out the abundance of "mole hills", I shared with them what I thought the three greatest challenges of being a full time preacher are. They are the Three Big "E's" of preaching: Ego, Elders, and Economics. These are not bad thing at all, but they are things that every minister must get a handle on or they will destroy your effectiveness and cause grief on every level of your life.
I could write volumes about my mistakes and life lessons with each of these, but that isn't why I share them in this article. I'm sharing them (again) to simply make the point that ministry is first, last, and always about glorifying God. I don't care how amazingly talented a minister may be, if they are not in an honest relationship with God, they will not deal with the Three Big "E's" in a godly way. Only a humble heart that is genuinely seeking to please God can stay focused on His plan and His mission for your life. It's a difficult job to be a dynamic and forceful leader and at the same time be humble and meek. Even the most humble leader will have people who misjudge their actions and motives, but God knows the truth. If unqualified men are given the title of Elder and in their need for control they make ungodly decisions - hurtful and destructive decisions - a minister who is walking with God must show what Jesus would do and not let that other "E" (ego) be their guide.
And in a day when churches are not expecting their ministers to take the Catholic "Vow of Poverty," and salaries are much more in line with qualifications and abilities, ministry can't be about "the money" or ever appear to be a driving force. At the same time, you can't control how people want to think. You can only choose to be at peace with God.
It will aways come back to integrity. There will aways be people who second guess, judge, and criticize, but when your conscience is clear and you know God is please - it becomes their mountain not yours.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Reflections on Teachers

This coming Sunday I am beginning a new and short series of lessons called Back To School. I'm basically planning on using this time of "beginnings" to challenge everyone to refocus and reconnect with God. This Sunday I am discussing A Fresh Start, which is what the first days of a new School year are all about. As a result, I have really been doing a lot of reflecting and remembering as I try to deal accurately with what all our young people are heading into in the next couple weeks. I always loved the beginning of a new school year. I mention in this weeks bulletin article about my memories of seeing old friend, finding some new ones, wondering what kind of teacher I had, getting new books, new supplies, and, on a good year, some new clothes to wear for the first time. Looking good and feeling good! I was never afraid of going to school. I always looked forward to finishing up, what was by then, a long boring summer.
In the midst of all my reflecting, a couple things jumped out at me. First, what I'm talking about this Sunday, how important fresh starts are. We have so many throughout our lives and they are so pivotal for getting us back on track or reminding us of our priorities. Often those times of renewal are because of stressful changes in life - some by choice and some by circumstances, but they change us. As we grow older, we learn the importance of choosing renewal - of putting ourselves in a place we need to be to jump start our commitment. If we don't choose it, life will choose it for us - eventually.
The second thing that my reflecting did was remind me how important teachers have been in my life. I turned sixty last month, but I can tell you the name of every teacher I had since the first grade. I can see them in my mind, and I can remember things they taught me. That's saying a lot for a guy who can't remember the name of someone I shook hands with five minutes ago. It just reminds my that our culture has a truly twisted sense of who our heroes are. Those football, baseball, and basketball stars that we worshipped as we grew up are long forgotten. I lived through every Super Bowl Game ever played and I only remember a hand full. And those movie stars that we idolized over they years never did a single thing to improve the quality of our lives, and now they're just trivia questions every now and then on Jeopardy. But those teachers - men and women who never knew whether or not they made a difference, but who taught, encouraged, praise, and pushed all of us into another school year and into a better life - they are the real heroes of this world.
I wonder when we will start treating them with the recognition and reward they deserve? Could that be a better way to make sure "no child is left behind"?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Life is full of it...

As we were walking this morning, I told my wife that I was that I was probably 85% following our South Beach Diet, and 15 % cheating, but for me, just not over-eating is doing more to help me lose weight than just sticking to the items on the diet. Then I said something I find myself saying regularly. "Isn't it amazing how much of life is a matter of balance?" We so quickly label things as "bad for us" when in reality, they aren't bad at all - unless we do too much of them. Chocolate is good. In certain amounts and at certain times, it can even be healthy. But if I choose to eat a sixteen ounce giant Hershey's Milk Chocolate bar, and do it enough, I shouldn't be surprised to see my spare tire turn into a Mac Truck sized inner tube, and find out that my arteries are clogged up worse than Granny's field lines. When I talked with my Doctor about possibly training to run a half marathon, he didn't say "Don't do it," but he did say he'd rather see me stay on a good regimented daily exercise program than overdue it, and spend months recuperating. I heard him say, "balance" even though he never used the word.
I was talking with one of my daughters about children today being so drawn to technological things, like Wi games, cell phones, Ipads, computers, and all the other devices available for today's kids. She was concerned about her children spending too much time connected to technological devices and not learning to socialize and use their minds for creative things. All those gadgets are for entertainment. Yes, there are some that are educational, but it has multiplied the number of electronic baby sitters that used to be just limited to TV. Any parent that allows their child or children to use technological devices and doesn't have guidelines and restrictions as to when, where, and how long they can be used, is a parent who is not parenting.
Again, it's a matter of balance. Those games, computers, and electronic toys are entertainment, but life isn't just about entertainment. Remember, proper parental control exists to guide children to proper self-control. If they don't learn the principle of balance in life, their life will be out of balance. Just think about the level of balance that is required to "love your neighbor as you love yourself." When things get out of balance, someone is going to have problems. That's what happens to children who never learn to balance things in life.
Now, were is my Ipad?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Another Happy Birthday!

I borrowed these pictures from my daughter Elizabeth's blog because we didn't have any. The first day of our family vacation in Branson, we celebrated my birthday (just six days late) at the house we were renting for the week. I received two really neat gifts. Above is a custom made Cardinals shirt with my name and new age on it. I love it. Can't wait to wear it to a Cardinals game and have people wonder "Was there a player named Root? When did he play?" Thanks to everyone for a neat gift.

The BIG gift was this album that Deborah & Pat, Elizabeth & Chad, and Jonathan & Holly worked on as a joint gift for me. It's awesome. I knew they were putting a picture album together for me because I had to go through all my hunting pictures for them when they were here for the play in June. I had no idea they got most of my hunting buddies to write articles about a special memory or hunt with me.

What a thoughtful and super special gift that I will treasure for years. Thanks to Kev, Brian, Danny, Rob, Steve, Jonathan, and grandsons, Joshua and Carter for contributing to this special book of memories.

FYI family - I did put this shirt on last Sunday at the beginning of my lesson to show everyone. The pictures that were taken didn't come out very clear.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Perfect Marriage?

It only took a short amount of time to put together my notes for last Sunday evenings presentation on The Perfect Marriage. That is because I had spent many hours reflecting and building the lesson in my head over the last week - or should I say, sixty years. The process is not the point. The points are the point, and I thought I'd share a few of those with anyone who reads this blog. Here are some bullet points from the lesson.
1. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage. I have no knowledge of one in my life experiences from my parents, to people who have influenced me, to all the spiritual leaders I've ever know, and including the almost thirty-nine years that I've been in one.
2. All marriages involve imperfect people, and every one has problems and struggles. Even in the best marriages, there are times when you don't even like each other - for a while - but, like the song says, "Love will keep us together."
3. They really aren't marriage problems, they are character problems. Working through and resolving those problems builds stronger marriages and stronger character.
4. All marriages involve making the right choices. Paul gave us Jesus and the church as an example of a perfect marriage (Eph.5:21-33) because he couldn't find any on earth. His challenge is for us to choose submission, love, caring, oneness, and respect..
5. The key to making the right choice is thoughtfulness. It is thinking of others because you want what is best for them!
6. Thoughtfulness is looking to the needs of you spouse and recognizing they are different. Here is the Root List: Everyone married person needs...(both want the same but w/ a different focus)
A. Companionship: Women = sharing; Men = presence
B. Admiration & Respect: Women = self worth; men = achievements
C. Intimacy: Women = touch, hold, cuddle; men = sex
D. Trust: both want security, honesty, & commitment
7. All of these are only as strong as your ability to communicate. Remember, if you don't communicate you speculate!
8. The key to thoughtfulness is thankfulness. Thankfulness is what you tell yourself and thus what determines your values.
9. All marriages are learning and growing relationships as we learn to adjust to meet one another's needs through the years.
10. Just look at God dealing w/ the Israelites right after they miraculously crossed the Red Sea. They complained a lot, but surprisingly He listened! Water! Manna! Quail! Yes He was forced to punish there infidelity, but it's really a story of how deeply He loved his people and took care of their every need.