Unity: An Intro and Why It Scares YOU!

Now, I am not naive and I have worked in the Church on various levels as a student, intern, ministry leader, and pastor. I have encountered many different attitudes in regards to “unity”. Some people associate unity as getting together with other churches of the same denomination/affiliation on an annual basis. Others take the approach that unity is not possible because our churches and communities are too different.

Christian unity scares people. It scares God’s Church but it should not. Unity should not scare Christians. Unity scares people because it brings our INSECURITIES to the surface. Our prejudice or assumptions about other churches or denominations is exposed when we aim for unity as One.

Unity scares the Enemy. And no….the Enemy is not the church down the street from you whose building is prettier or bigger than yours. The Enemy is not the church who hosts bake sales, fish fries, or youth activities in the parking lot. The Enemy is not the church who sings only hymns or only contemporary worship music.

The Enemy is the enemy……Satan. Satan hates to see Christians getting along. When Christians work together, much good can happen for the Kingdom. Satan hates that; it probably gives him heartburn.

Unity starts at home. It must be modeled and lived out at home. What we teach our children, friends, and siblings about Christian unity will trickle down. This is crucial because we must confess that we are not perfect. You and I are not perfect. Our churches are not perfect. We must agree to disagree.

A big assumption in Christianity is to assume we know what another church or denomination believes in. Do some research. Ask questions. Talk to people associated with those churches or denominations. You might learn more than that Bible course you took in college.

My next couple of blogs will tackle the topic of unity and I encourage us all to stay open to God’s Spirit. May we be One……….One united Body……..fighting for the hearts of men and women and bringing them restoration and healing in God.

Why You Should Write…..

You are reading this blog because you are curious. Maybe you stumbled here due to a Google search. Or maybe you are one of my friends and family who read what I write. (Hint: I do not write like a Harvard scholar. I hope you figured this out by now.)

Even though you came here to read, I would encourage you to start writing for yourself. Everyone has a story. Each of our stories are filled with joy, surprises, achievements, heartache, and trauma. The last word there (trauma) scares everyone; therefore, they try to minimize any pain in their life. “I’ve never experienced anything traumatic or horrible. I just suck it up.” <—- Right, because that has worked well for you and the rest of us. I speak in pure sarcasm.

Writing is good for you. Whether you write a blog or keep a journal (or both), it is like therapy. As you are thinking and processing life, you begin to write due to something in your life, good or bad. You know the living hell you walked through. And because you are STILL STANDING, you desire for others to have hope and healing.

Take some time today and evaluate your life. Start a journal where you can look at your journey and how God and others have walked with you in that journey. Be mindful of your style. Some people write huge paragraphs and others use bullet points on their pages. This is about process; not perfection. If you are into a topic of interest and wish to start a blog, go for it!

Don’t wait! Act now!

W.A.Y.

When I was first out of college, I worked at a church and Latchkey program. They were interconnected and this was great as a 4th and 5th grade pastor for ministry opportunities. In the Latchkey program, we provided before and after-school care to a large group of students from Kindergarten through 5th grade. Organization and structure were key. This was when I was introduced to “the W.A.Y.”

W.A.Y. stands for Worry About Yourself. One of my esteemed colleagues provided this idea to the children and the staff at the program. If a situation was out of control, we pointed the children to Worry About Yourself. This idea is not mind blowing. This idea is not something that Harvard researchers came up with after months of research and tests in a lab. W.A.Y. is meant to be behavioral but this can be applied to the spiritual life.

This was introduced to me in 2006. Yes, 15 years ago. But the truth that drips from the mantra holds true! Worry About Yourself can apply to our spiritual life. What does our time with Jesus look like? We cannot pour from an empty cup. Instead of being focused on how holy someone else’s spiritual life looks like (thanks social media), get close to Jesus. Talk to him. Hear from him. Really!

As I write this blog, I know there are people who are dying to say: “But aren’t we called to serve?!” Instead, we are! And herein lies the dilemma, you cannot offer others what you do not have. Your church attendance and service in the local church is admirable and needed; however, this does not go before your relationship with God. There is nothing more sad than when people are busy and neglect Jesus in the process.

Social media has provided everyone with a microphone and a platform. If you have something to say, then you have a place to say it. You will probably have an audience given how much time we spend on social media. And with your audience comes those background beasts fondly known as trolls. Trolls are interesting. They may be passively nosy or they may want to engage and fight in the Daily Keyboard Olympics (its like Fight Club but for trolls). Pick your battles wisely.

Why W.A.Y. when dealing with all of the possible battles out there? Because you cannot be in ALL things, ALL of the time. In John Eldredge’s book Get Your Life Back, he teaches about Benevolent Detachment. Benevolent Detachment is an act of giving everyone and everything to Jesus in a time of intentional pause throughout the day. It is NOT a “I am done with the world, forget them” mentality. It is releasing your burdens and the burdens of others to God. We are not God.

Worry About Yourself. Your heart and soul need it. And when you care for your heart and soul, then you can help others.

The Best Life NOW Fallacy

There is a movement that is pretty strong and only gaining momentum. This is a force to be reckoned with and it has found its way onto may social media platforms–complete with cute quotes and pictures that are meant to empower and inspire. And light a fuse. This movement is: the Best Life NOW.

Because I like to be creative, I will be capitalizing “NOW” for the duration of this post. And I will also provide you with some thoughts on why the #BestLifeNOW movement is toxic to our hearts and souls. And because I am a pastor by trade and writer by hobby, I will play wordsmith and break down the elements of the movement.

Best: This implies that you are creating the BEST life for yourself. You are making things happen. You will make things happen right now and no one will stop you! One Google search and you will see that the Best Life has been greatly aimed at women. “You don’t need anyone”. “You don’t need a man”. “You do you!” The issue with these theories is they are crap. We are relational beings. God made us in His image during the act of Creation. God created us for perfect fellowship with Him and then Adam and Eve messed it up.

Adam and Eve wanted their best life too. In the Garden, the serpent (translated as Satan) tempted Adam and Eve to want more and more. They gave in and they broke that perfect relationship with God. Many times, people read the Bible and only point to Satan tempting Jesus. As you see, evil has existed since the beginning of Creation. Evil lingers in our heart and causes us to be selfish. If you want to focus on being the best, start with yourself but not the exterior: relationships, job, selfies, etc. Start with your heart. The best worldview you can operate in is in one where you know the world does not revolve around you. Start in God, not the world.

Life: Our life is not our own. Time is not unlimited on Earth. This is not to scare you but to make you aware of how fragile life is. People cry for joy when they become parents and cry in sorrow when they lose their parents or loved ones. When people are near the end of life, they will often look back and have regrets. They should have, would have, could have. This is a normal human response. Their normal human response is also the end of time with others. Life is precious. When we view life as more than these monumental moments and more about the everyday love that we can give others; it will rock our world. Consistent is more important than magnificent.

NOW: Herein lies my biggest issue with the #BestLife movement: the NOW. Now = everything is about the here and now and forget the future. This is bad ideology and if you believe in God, this is really bad theology. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer in our churches and at funerals and weddings, we pray “your Kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth and it is in Heaven”. We sometimes forget that the Christian life is not just getting our passport stamped for a future in Heaven. It is about the now and the future.

The Christian NOW should look different than the world’s NOW. The Christian’s NOW should be on relationships that are healthy and fruitful while staying GROUNDED in Jesus. We are grounded in Jesus and this keeps us open to continually being made more like Christ. Growth is a daily process. We are never done. The world’s now is about instant gratification: people are a temporary means to a greater gain. When someone is advocating to “live their best life now”, they must be careful what fire they will play with to move on up.

We must also look to the future. One day, we will walk with Jesus in Heaven. We will be free of any suffering, racism, hate, turmoil, etc–that we see on Earth. When we walk with Jesus, it will be a glorious moment. And that, my friends, is truly living the Best Life.

Life Principles: It’s NOT All About You

In Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life, he opens up the 40-day journey by saying “It’s Not About You”.

Say what???

Life is not about me?  But….what is life about then?  I mean…..I have desires, needs, dreams, goals!!! Come on now!

Yes, we all have desires, needs, dreams, and goals.  But WHERE did we get these things come from and WHY are we pursuing them in the first place?

God GAVE THEM TO YOU!!  God gave everyone a purpose.  God gives all of us dreams and desires and goals.

But, LIFE IS NOT ALL ABOUT YOU.

See, as a human being, we need each other.  WE need each other for living.  We need each other for encouragement, fellowship, and getting through the tough times.  No one can do life alone.  They may say they can–but they can’t.

What is your purpose?

What are your dreams?

Ask God.

Ask your most trusted allies.

Friends, we live in tough times.  Let’s face it!!  The economy stinks, jobs are hard to find, and some families are all living together under one roof.  One thing that we need during times like these are purpose.  If we do not have purpose, we are just breathing and going through each day—-just getting by.  Who wants to just get by? Why not find our purpose?

Here is how to find your purpose:

1. Pray-It sounds like a Sunday School answer.  And it is! 🙂   Pray for God to show you what he wants from you.  Are you in the right job?  Do you need to prune some of the branches on your tree of relationships?

2. Discuss-Talk to trusted friends and advisers. Remember this: Look at your friend’s lifestyle.  If your friend does WHATEVER they can to get ahead in life; you probably do not want to seek advice from them.  Compare morals.  Not in a Pharisee-type way but in a realistic manner.

3. Explore-Look at your education, your passions, how you spend your time.  This will show you what REALLY SETS YOU ON FIRE!!!

4. Action-Take a leap of faith.  Why sit around and wait for things to happen?  There are two kinds of people: people that sit around and complain about what should be done AND people that make things happen.

Unity from the Pulpit

(Note: This was written 3 years ago by I feel my words are just as true today!)

Unity must come from the front. I am not talking about the front pew or the front row of people who have been holding down their seats since 1955.

Unity must be preached from the pulpit.

Ah ha! A light bulb flashed in your cranium. You are ready to jump out of your seat right at this very moment. Yes, we may teach and preach on unity in our churches; however, is this just a local church unity ordeal (MY church) or are we stretching our arms out to other churches (the Church)?

Again…….unity must be preached from the pulpit. Unity is much bigger than cooperating with other churches within our denomination. It will take great humility, love, grace, and acceptance in order for unity to occur between various Christian communities.

The pastor/priest/preacher sets the tone for their respective local churches. If they teach their flock the importance of embracing other Christians as brothers and sisters in Christ, the lifestyle of unity will flow freely through the congregation. If the congregation is taught that other Christian denominations are inferior to their church, the congregation will develop an elitist mindset.

John 17 20″My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24″Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25″Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Christ called us to be One. He is the Lead Shepherd (Psalm 23). All other shepherds (ministers) are to model Christ. If you are a pastor, what do you model to your congregation in regards to your attitude about other churches? If you are a church attendee, does your pastor or elders reflect an attitude of Christian unity?

Some of you reading this are thinking…”well we never partner with other churches or reach out to churches who need spiritual or financial help. I do not know what to do or where to begin. My pastor does not like those Catholics or Methodists.”

News flash. Doctrine differences between churches will always exist. We must ask ourselves…….Are we united as Godly brothers and sisters AND what is our agenda? Agenda = Walking with God as an individual and as a community. We must seek often God’s agenda.

It starts with one. One person. That person could be YOU. Approach your pastor or leadership and see where they stand on the idea of Christian unity. After all, if you attending a church, you want to know what your particular church REALLY believes about the Body of Christ. You are not attempting to start a revolution here. You just want to know the essentials……..such as…………does your church preach unity within Christianity and if so then how is this lived out in your faith community.

Resurrection

Today is Easter…………..the topic of Resurrection is on our tongues, hearts, and minds……..especially today.

I recently watched the newest James Bond movie “Skyfall”.  (SPOILER ALERT!!)  In the movie, Bond is tied to a chair and the villain is taunting Bond.  The villain talks about how he has been spending his time in all of these “hobbies”.   The villain then asks James Bond what his hobby is, to which Bond replies “resurrection”.  Bond stated this because he was believed to be dead……….his own agency moved on without him.

Today is Easter and Christians around the world will celebrate Easter.  What if we lived everyday in a resurrection mindset?  By this, I am insinuating that we live everyday like Jesus is alive.  Too often, we just celebrate the church calendar.  Nothing wrong with celebrating the church calendar,  but what if we firmly believed and lived like Jesus is alive (and Risen) everyday?

Happy Easter!!

Be glad for Jesus’ Resurrection today and the amount of second chances that he gives us.  His love never fails.

 

 

 

Child-like Faith

Have you ever noticed the faith of a child?

Innocent.

Honest.

Open.

You see, children do not have the baggage that us adults do.  Let’s be honest-we have all been burned by the Church.  All of us.  And if you have ever been in leadership (paid or unpaid) in the Church–you have definitely been burnt.  Some of us have never recovered.  Some have recovered and some are still healing.

I am reminded of child-like faith by our daughter.  She is 2 and is such a joyous and loving person.  She loves to laugh and enjoys being silly.  She likes to learn and enjoys being taught.

Although our daughter is young, my wife and I have found is vital to begin to teach her the basics.  Mackenzie loves the stained glass windows at church and the many crosses and statues of Jesus; however, she knows this much—–Jesus is in her heart.  We have taught her that and she knows this.  While I respect the beauty of our church and many other churches, I want her to know there is more to knowing Jesus than having a pretty church building.

What if we approached our faith—like a child does?  A child does not sway in faith because of denominational ties or pressures from leadership.  A child embraces themselves and their faith…….without worring what others think.

Here’s the irony.  We live in a culture where everyone thinks they are “independent” and can think for themselves.  Yet, when it comes to faith/church/beliefs……people often take the comfortable road.  They don’t question the doctrines that are placed before them.  They don’t engage in conversations about Jesus, etc……..other than in church on Sunday mornings.   Friends, your FAITH is in you.

Your faith is not stuck in your local church building.  Let it out!  Talk about your faith.  If you don’t have like-minded friends, make some.  Befriend people who have views opposite you so you don’t live on the 5th floor of an ivory tower—above everyone else.  And be real in your faith journey.  We all experience joy, heartbreak, illness, hopes, dreams, and setbacks.

Will you have childlike faith—-with arms wide open?

A Real Man…………

Many of us will often ask the question:  What does a real man look like?

Some people picture the model, Fabio, with the perfect hair, chiseled body, and the flawless smile.   Other people picture a real man as a guy that lets nothing in the world bother him.  Everyone has their idea of what a real man looks like.

I know a real man.  His name is Paul Miller, Sr.

When I was a high school punk, I was invited to church by a friend.  I was hesitant because my exposure to “the religious crowd” was not that pleasant growing up.  I was baptized as an infant but that was about it as far as sporadic church attendance as a child.   Now you can understand my unwillingness to “try youth group”.

Let’s flash back to the fall of 1999 when I attended a Lock-In at a local church.  I thought I was going to experience cute girls and basketball.  Nothing is better than that!  I also thought that I could deal with this “Jesus stuff” later on.  I did not have time for that stuff at the moment–or so I thought.  I went to a few events and slowly became part of the church crowd.  Now, friends…..let me remind you, there is great power in community, awesome power in the context of community.  In this church community, I noticed that some of these adult volunteers were different. They were capable of a great transformation within me.

I could write about all of my awesome youth leaders that I had a teenager, but there is not enough space on this blog for that.  Our youth group leaders were great.  They talked about Jesus and they lived out their faith.  This one guy though, he really stuck out to me.  This guy is that “real man”, Paul Miller, Sr.

Paul and his lovely wife, Shelly, hosted several of our youth group events.  Paul attended several events, while at the same time, operated his own trucking business, too.  Needless to say, he could have spent his free time doing something else other than hanging with a bunch of teenagers.  The more I got to know Paul, the more I could not help myself but to want to learn from him.

We went through leadership changes at our youth group.  Paul and other leaders stuck with us when it would have been easy to abandon ship.  I was really getting to know Paul just when, well, we toilet-papered his house.  Let’s just say that peer pressure in our youth group consisted of talking others into doing things like toilet-papering houses.  Good, clean fun….literally!  🙂

So we TP-ed the Millers’ home one weekend.  And one week later, we ran into Paul’s son (Paul Jr) in a friend’s neighborhood.  It was random because they did not live near our friend’s house.  Later that night, my friend’s home was TP-ed.  It was the artwork of Paul Jr.  These kind of things are what we partook in for fun during our youth group years.  Obviously we participated in the typical church camps, retreats, weekly gatherings, etc. but Paul’s ability to laugh about the TP incident reflected the vision of forgiveness that we’re taught Jesus has for us.

I continued to get to know Paul (and his family) as I finished out high school and left for college.  As the years unfolded, I was blessed to witness both of Paul and Shelly’s children get married.  Grandchildren were born.  Paul Sr. was still active in his family business.

Today, the legacy continues.

Let’s get back to the focus of this post.

What makes a real man?

Paul is a family man.  Paul loves his wife and children and his daughter-in-law and son-in-law as his own.  He is an equally awesome grandfather.  Oh, and when I say he is a family man, I am not referring to just going to church on Sundays “just because”.  He lives out his faith.  He practices what he preaches.  And he has made an impact on many people’s lives.

Recently, Paul began to face a serious illness.  In fact, I will post the story on here from the donation website because my words cannot do it justice:

Paul Miller Sr. was taken to the ER at York Hospital on Feb 4th for what his wife thought was the flu. Once there the doctors realized he wasn’t getting oxygen to his extremities. They immediately put him in an induced coma and put him on a ventilator. At this time his body was going through Toxic Shock due to bacteria in his blood. He had purple blotches all over his skin and his hands and feet did not have good blood flow.

On Feb 7th the doctors at York Hospital decided they had done all they could and had Paul airlifted to Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown . It was there that the doctors treated his infection which turned out to be Streptococcus Pneumonia. The rest of his body was healing with the antibiotics except for his hands and feet.

On Feb 12th the doctors determined that the tissues in both of Paul’s hands were dead and that they needed to be amputated. The procedure was done on Feb 13th. Two days later on Feb 15th the decision was made to amputate his feet which also had no viable tissue left. The money raised through this fundraiser will be put towards the cost of medical expenses and prosthetic hands and feet.

One of the fundraisers last Sunday was at Alfredo’s Pizza II in Hanover.  They donated a portion of sales to help the family and also had raffles and coupon booklets.  My two leading ladies (my wife and daughter) and I went up there to join the dinner crowd.  The place was PACKED!  Friends of mine also attended lunch shift and said it was equally PACKED!  As we were eating our pizza, I saw several people that I personally knew, from church or youth group, that had been greatly influenced by Paul.   Alfredo’s Pizza staff were gracious despite a packed and hectic atmosphere.  While inhaling my pizza, Alfredo’s staff took pictures of everyone there.  I overheard stories of how people knew Paul or his family and how much he meant to them.  Paul continues to fight towards recovery but he has continued to build a legacy.

For me personally, I know Jesus because of Paul and a few other real men, who invested in me as a teenager.  They loved me despite of where I had been or what I was doing in the present.  They put me in check when I needed it and let me vent to them when I needed to clear my head and my heart.   Paul and these other men showed me that there is great value in living from the heart.

Friends, what legacy are you building for your family and friends? How about for those whom know you personally and professionally?  What difference are you making in your work? There is a difference between making money and making a difference.  Do people know that you will fight for what is right?  Do your spouse and children know how much you love them?

If you want to make a difference, I encourage you to help and get involved.  Follow the link below to make your donation.

http:/donatemillerfamily.com/