Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Nasty Nine

For those who aren't members at Florissant, I wanted to share with you what I preached on this past Sunday morning - just because I think it is an interesting perspective. I wanted to do a lesson about Thankfulness Robbers, and after some prayer and meditation, I hit on this list. I call them The Nasty Nine. Like The Dirty Dozen, there's not a good guy in the bunch. These are robbers of happiness, joy, relationships, and spirits. Sometimes they are people, but most of the time they are attitudes - attitudes we all have to watch out for. These destroy my four principles of thankfulness, which are:
* Thankfulness is the foundation of all spiritual growth.
* Thankfulness is prayerfulness (building a relationship w/ God)
* Thankfulness is a choice
* You can't be thankful for only the big things that happen to you and believe that means you have a thankful spirit. A thankful spirit is being thankful for the little things - daily.

Now - here is The Nasty Nine:
1. Hateful
2. Dejection
3. Contention
4. Discontent
5. Mean
6. Valueless
7. Dishonest
8. Hurtful
9. Self-indulgent

What Bible illustrations would you put with each of these?
Can you tell where these all came from?
They are antonyms for the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23

Thursday, November 24, 2011

What Color Is Your Stripe?

The old saying about a picture being worth a thousand words can clearly be applied to the above. My buddy, who sent it to me, said it was a good pictorial definition of wisdom. I can see that. It might also be a good picture of patience, or sharing, or maybe - as you look at the dogs face - a good illustration of "counting the cost." I also thought of the caption "OK, I'm at the limits of being Mr. Nice Guy!" Or what about "Where did you get that funky fur coat?" Or what about the caption "Keep it a face-to-face encounter!" I also like "You don't have to raise a big stink about everything!"
Got any ideas?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Touch Down Club

I couldn't wait to play high school football. In the seventh grade I bugged the high school football coach so much that he let me be an assitant manager for the team. I actually was awarded a high school football letter while in the seventh grade! The next year, I bugged the coach so much about wanting to play, that he, after getting signed permission from my mother, let me dress out and practice with the team. That was when the whole concept of "being small in a game for big guys" finally - and literally - hit me. I was the target of many "average sized" football players who wanted to feel the joy of finally dominating somebody - even if it was a five foot five inch 8th grader who weighed in at 145 lbs when wet. It was rough and I was very intimidated, but I refused to quit.
In the ninth grade, it was a little different. I was still short, but I did put on another ten pounds, and since we were a very small school with very few players (everyone played both ways), I actually became a starting guard. Everyone I matched up against in every game - even practice - was bigger than me. I was still very intimidated and I stayed worried and scared most of the time. Oddly enough, I got to occasionally play fullback on the Junior High team a few times, when we played a school whose team was made up of 7th through 9th graders. It was fun. I was one of the big guys and I loved running over all those little guys who only knew how to arm tackle. But the next day, it was back to being the runt guard against Hulk Hogan. Still, I'd made a decision, and I was not going to back down even if I didn't enjoy it.
Prior to the start of football camp that next year - my 10th grade year - something amazing happened. I loved football! Once we started those three-a-day practices that week before school began, I was loving it, and I could not wait to get my pads on and do some hitting. When we finally did get our pads on and started scrimmaging, I was a monster. I was playing quarterback on offense and center linebacker on defense and I really don't know which one I enjoyed the most, but I think it was defense. I wanted in on every tackle. I wanted to hit anyone and everyone on every single play. I loved it.
What happened? I grew six inches between the end of the previous season and the start of football camp in August. I was 5' 11" and 160 lbs. and, while I wasn't a Bubba Smith, I was big enough for high school football at a very small school. I was changed and my attitude about playing the game changed. I remember it well - even though it was many decades ago.
It is the difference between a decision and a conversion. In those early years, I made a decision that I wanted to play football, but it wasn't until the beginning of that sophomore year that I was really converted to playing football. The decision was about acceptance, appearances, and image management. The conversion was about throwing myself into it with every ounce of my body because I was loving it.
After years of reading Galatians 5, it finally dawned on me that this is the same principle Paul is challenging the Galatians, and us, with. When you make a decision to be a follower of Jesus it must be a conversion and not just an intellectual choice. When it's just a decision, you can easily be pulled into giving up your freedom in Christ and "let yourselves be burden again by a yoke of slavery." A decision only can mean that we "use our freedom to indulge in the sinful nature" and remain in a state of conflict "so that you do not do what you want." A conversion is living by the Spirit which means we "will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature." The whole "works of the flesh" verses "fruit of the Spirit" is about more than a decision. It's a walk, a way of life, and a conversion to "keep in step with the Spirit."
Paul's challenge is to end the misery of mediocrity by giving ourselves over to a relationship with God. It's where love and grace motivate us, and it's where we find the peace that only comes from having "crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires."
Turn the decision into a real conversion. That's a real touch down!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rules to Hunt By!

On NCIS Jethro Gibbs has a list of rules that all the members of his investigative team must learn. They are all rules about investigating a crime, dealing with people, and what he expects - and some are generic rules for life. I think the number of "Gibbs Rules" is up in the fifties and maybe higher.
We all have rules of living. We may not have formalized them or put them down on paper, but there are rules - i.e. principles, beliefs, guidelines, and truths - that drive how and why we do the things we do. After nearly four decades of preaching, writing articles, doing bulletins, writing books, and - the last six years - writing blogs, I have a long list of Rootisms that I live by and share when I teach or preach. Many of them have appeared in this blog over the last 66o plus blogs.
It's hunting season - in case you haven't noticed the trail camera pictures I've shared and the picture of the nice buck I got last week. I mentioned in that blog that my good hunting buddy and brother-in-law Kevin was in town last week to hunt with me in IL. We have a lot of hunting trips in our memory scrapbook, not the least of which is twenty something trips to Colorado to chase mulie deer and elk all over the mountains. Notice I said "chase" not "kill".
Here are a few of our spoken and unspoken rules about bowhunting.
1. On a hunting trip there are two things you never count or worry about - cost & calories.
2. When it stops being fun, I stop doing it. (I have nothing to prove to anyone about my dedication to hunt in the cold, wet, and nasty.)
3. If it is followed by a good breakfast, there is no such thing as an unsuccessful morning of hunting.
4. It's better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. (It's all about the equipment)
5. A trophy is something in the freezer as the result of a good bow kill.
6. "Be still and know that I am God" was written for tree stand hunters.
7. Harvesting is for vegetarians. Bowhunters kill deer for dinner.
8. No, I don't hunt Bambi, but I am after his great, great, great, ........great grand-dad. (By the way, they don't talk and play games with rabbits.)
9. It's never about the kind of weapon you use, but about spending time in God's creation and enjoying the fruits of being a good steward.
10. While you're at breakfast, after a morning hunt, the deer are doing a Conga Line dance under your tree stand. It's still a good day.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Sort of" Free in Christ?

I got to preach on one of my favorite verses this past Sunday. Because it was part of a larger passage I was wanting to expose, I had to "hit it and move on" rather than dwell on it alone for a while. If I had been a little smarter or more alert, I would have notice a long time ago how supremely relevant Paul's letter to the Galatians is. I guess it was aways just hard enough to understand that I tended to use verses and sections without noticing the over all purpose of his letter. Legalism, whether it's found in Moses or man made laws, robs people of their freedom in Christ. That freedom is an inseparable part of the gift of grace, and grace is a very expensive gift from God. So it is no wonder that Paul pulls no punches in warning and condemning anyone who would elevate law over love. (see 5:4-6)
His point is summed up powerfully in that favorite verse I referred to at the beginning. It is verse one of chapter five, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."
It gives me chills to read it. For many people, freedom in Christ means you are free to believe and agree with everything they believe, it means you are free to have fellowship with them as long as you obey and follow their traditions, and you must see their opinions as equal to God's truth rather than something to "agree to disagree" about.
It gives me chills because Paul is so clear that freedom in Christ isn't just a great spiritual slogan. We have been set free, and that is what it means! No one has any right or power to change my relationship with Jesus or to place any burden on me that Jesus hasn't placed on me. That is true whether it is a person, an organization, a church, or even family. If I let them, I'm choosing a yoke of slavery that Jesus never intended for me to carry.
It gives me chills because Paul declared "stand firm" and don't let it happen! Those early brethren where having a hard time letting go of their works and performance geared approach religion. Today we don't struggle with people requiring obedience to the Old Law, but we do struggle with people binding rituals, rules, guilt, external acts of righteousness, dishonest and inconsistent interpretations of scripture, institutional expectations, Lording leaders, sacred traditions, uniformity, and beam-eyed judgmentalism - just to name a few. I can hear Paul screaming off the pages of my Bible saying, "STAND FIRM - DO NOT LET YOURSELVES BE BURDENED AGAIN BY A YOKE OF SLAVERY!"
How can that not give you chills? Grace means freedom in Christ!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Make some room in the freezer...

Here is something you won't see very often. This is the buck I shot yesterday, coming in to a buck scrape just to the left of the picture. My trail camera took this picture just seconds before I sent an arrow through him. My tree stand is off to the right of the picture and (obviously) up about twenty feet. It ended up being about a ten yard shot. I was actually packing up my stuff to leave because it had been about three hours of hunting, I was cold, and ready for a big breakfast at Mel's Riverdock Restaurant. The clock on the pic is an hour off because of the change from DST. It's really about 9:15. He ran about 60 or 70 yards before he dropped, and it was three hours later before we made it to Mel's - for lunch.

He's not a monster buck, but he's a nice mature buck. The guy at the processors est. it was a 185 to a 190 pound deer. All I know is that dragging a deer uphill for about 80 yards is a lot harder than it was thirty years ago. The best part was having my brother-in-law Kevin with me for the whole thing. We had a great week of hunting (and still trying to get some work done). He didn't tag one, but it was great to spend the time together.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

I SEE YOU!!!!!!

I am taking a few days off this week to bowhunt over in IL with my brother-in-law Kevin. So far the weather has been terrible - either too wet or too windy. But - tomorrow is another day. Haven't seen many deer and there haven't been many even on my trail camera. The above doe performed in front of my camera for about five minutes and had about fifteen pictures taken of her. She was truly interested in the little IR light that came on every time it took a picture. I have several of her sniffing it out and providing some REAL close-ups.
I thought a good caption for this picture might be WHO IS WATCHING WHOM?

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Gospel of Chuch Growth

I am more convinced than ever that most of us have been raised on the "gospel of church growth" so thoroughly that we can't bring ourselves to see the simplicity of what God really wanted the church to be. The church is a family not a corporation that judges itself by a growth chart and a data base. Many church families have many amazing people doing all kinds of amazing acts of service, sacrifice, and sharing. People who are quietly glorifying God and causing others to think positively about His church family. BUT, we still find ourselves moaning and groaning because our church family is not generating more visitors, baptizing more people, and causing an electrical stream of excitement to be shooting through every member. We still want something new, something innovative, or something magical that will cause our family membership to explode and do amazing things as we impress the religious world with our success!
I love excitement. I love new people, new things, and new ideas. BUT, we are in the "maturing in Christ" business not the worldly success business. God placed shepherds, evangelists, and teachers in his family to guide every single member of His body to a deeper relationship with Him! His plan, which is usually ignored and/or forgotten in the pursuit of church growth, is for each member to grow in Him and help each other grow in Him. When that happens, people WANT to serve others, they WANT to share His Good News, and they WANT to be involved in whatever they can to help others grow! When that happens - how can a church family not grow?!!!
There is no magic bullet, special program, or dynamic ministry that will make that happen. It can only happen when spiritual leaders learn the old old story from Jesus about the value of one wandering sheep. Most leaders would rather meet and have discussions about how to get the ninety and nine more involved. Spiritual formation in Christ is the only goal, and that is a one-on-one mentoring proposition.
You want to see some excitement in a church family? You want to see some spiritual electricity shoot through every member? Forget the program, the ministry, and the new idea. Follow Jesus' lead and personally guide the weak, the marginal, and the wandering back into His family and a closer walk with Him.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Animal Revenge

My good buddy JV sent me this pic. The man who wouldn't kill a rabbit - I suspect - is on the animals side of hunting. I love it.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

DW Review

Disney World is an amazing place. Duh - that's why people flock there by the thousands pretty much 365 days a year. My wife thinks it's the best place in the world. If you catch her at any given time or place and ask her where she'd rather be at that moment, she'll say "Disney World!" She loves it. I enjoy it. There is a difference. A trip there once every four or five years is plenty for me, but she could do it annually - okay, maybe monthly. I'm not a crowd person, rides don't just compel me, and long lines don't thrill me. Still, DW just amazes me with it's attention to detail, it's total customer orientation, and it's ability to give everyone an incredible, memorable experience. I love the friendliness of everyone who works there, I love the cleanliness, and I love the total-kid-friendly-atmosphere, professionalism, and high moral standards that are part of everything they have. More than anything else, I love watching kids (especially my grand kids) see everything and be totally wowed at every turn!
Of all the times that I have been there (and there have been many since my first visit in 1972), I was really aware of how nice and polite nearly every one in the park was - and I'm talking about the visitors - parents, kids, and families of all kinds and sizes. I saw more smiles, less stress, and more acts of consideration and friendliness than I ever have before. Not that it was THAT bad before, but it just seemed to be more obvious and prevalent. As an official "stroller watcher" a couple times, I got to just watch people/families - especially at the Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween night when we were there until 11:30 P.M.. Good people having a good time. I liked seeing that. I loved seeing my family love it. I loved seeing my beautiful wife love it. So I suspect, Lord willing of course, this won't be the last visit we make to DW. Maybe my wife's right. Maybe it is a special place. Where else can you spend so much money and yet find yourself saying, "I don't care"?