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/

My Dream for the Church

I had a dream……………

…..that churches would share buildings, resources, and even staff to better reach their communities.

……that churches would not compare themselves to the church down the street.

…..that Christians would not view non-believers as the enemy.  There is one Enemy, his name is Satan, and he is much worse than someone whom does not hold same religious beliefs as you.

…..that the Church would focus on Jesus FIRST before any other doctrines and traditions.  Doctrines and traditions are nice……but if you do not have Jesus……you don’t have Christianity.  You now have _ _ _ _ _ _ ianity.  (no Jesus)

…..that we would be more concerned with pleasing God than in pleasing others.

……that we would be different from the world; however, we would not be distance ourselves from the world as “holier than thou”.

…..that we would invest in the children and youth of the church more in terms of programs, staffing, etc.

…..that our churches would be better with money.  Yes, tithes belong to God but people worked hard for that money in today’s rough economy.  Maybe we should actually pray before we make financial decisions in the church.

…..that our leaders would get along.  Enough said.

What is your dream for the Church?

When Church is Not Enough

Another one bites the dust.  Another Sunday that is.

Many people view Sunday as a day of church, etc.  A day of “church”.   Because church is an event to some people.  Similar to going to a sporting event.  Sit back……see the main event (preaching or music)…..give your feedback (giving money or yelling “amen”)…..then you leave promptly when the show is over.

I can feel the rage of many of my readers already.  🙂

Hey, I like church.  I like attending. Don’t get me wrong.  However, I am not a fan of what we have been expecting these days from going to church.  Many people view church as the sole requirement for Christianity these days.  Get Jesus to punch your time card on Sundays…and then you are good for the week.

Church attendance is not enough.

This is not a blog on guilt; guilt for you to be the do-all, be-all Jesus follower.

Church (in general) is not enough—-because we are called TO BE THE CHURCH: the hands and feet of Jesus.  We are called to be in the presence of Jesus in all places throughout the week.  Jesus is not confined to just your church or my church.  You see…Jesus is MUCH bigger than that.   Satan could not hold Jesus back from accomplishing his mission either in the past or the present.

Attending church may be vital—but it is not the most essential thing to Christianity.  The most important element is a relationship with Jesus.  It is still important to get involved in community within Christianity; this is why people go to church, small groups, fellowships, etc.  We get taught within the context of community.  We get encouraged and receive life within the Christian community.  If you ARE NOT receiving life within your faith community, I challenge you with the following questions:

1.  Why do I REALLY go to this church?

2. What hurts my faith by being a part of this faith community?

I ask you these questions not so you can hate the Church or have a massive exodus from our churches; I ask these questions because I know so many people who feel stuck at their churches.  They feel guilty for staying (for whatever reason) and they want to leave however they refuse to leave.  They are scared.  Scared of what?  Scared of what people may think?  Scared of Jesus?  Yes, I am pretty sure Jesus would want you to be spiritually nourished at your church INSTEAD of scared and starving within your soul.

I will go the opposite route now………

If you ARE receiving life within your faith community, I challenge you with the following questions:

1. What draws you to this church?

2. How can you use the ministries of this church to help others?

Friends, it’s about Jesus.  Simply that.

Experiencing JESUS in LENT………

We are a few days removed from the beginning of Lent.

Many people will give something up.  Some will give up things that are small struggles and others will give up something that majorly impacts their daily living.

It is okay to focus on what we will  give up; however, it is vital to also focus on what we hope to gain from the season known as Lent.

Life is tough.  It is quite easy to think about things that hold us down.

But what about what we need in our lives?

I am not equating needs with material stuff.  Yes, we could all use more money, a better vehicle, or help with home repairs.  But our needs are far more greater than materialistic.  We have internal needs.  Needs for peace and comfort in this ever changing and chaotic world.  We have needs for love in a world that often tells us we are not good enough, not pretty enough, not ___________ enough (fill in the blank).

This is where having a different perspective on Lent comes into play…………..

Many people simply view Lent as giving something up. The issue with this is I know a lot of people who would not even consider themselves as “spiritual” or “Christian” who give something up for Lent.  So if you are a Christian and you are reading this post–perhaps putting a different twist to LENT would be more appropriate.

What could you add to your life or do differently during Lent?  Maybe you need to read Bible more or journal your thoughts.  Maybe you need to try to mend some relationships that went sour.  Do Lent differently.  Anyone can give something up but you need to grow too!

Ponder the following questions:

—-What can I give up for Lent ? (stumbling block)

—-What can I add to my life? (for growth)

—–How can I simplify my life? (work/personal)

Any questions?  Comment on here and I will get back to you!

Open/What-Is-Spiritual DIRECTION ? ! ?

Be open.

Be open to growth his year, 2013.

Set some goals.  Eat better. Get more sleep.  Etc, etc, etc.

What about this………Spiritual Direction.  It sounds cliche.  People are engaged in “spiritual direction” all of the time.  Church on Sundays.  Small group during the week.  Listen to some Christian music while driving to work in your car.

The spiritual direction that I am referring to is one-on-one.

You must understand this: large group spiritual direction is great but it is easy to hide in the crowd on Sunday morning at church.  It is easy to say “I am fine” while enrolled in a small group.  However, one-on-one spiritual direction is just that–one-on-one.  One-on-one spiritual direction can engage the soul of a person in ways that a corporate setting cannot.

Do you have someone who guides you in spiritual direction?  A friend?  Pastor?  Trusted professional?

I have some people that I go to for spiritual direction.  I try to get together with them monthly because consistency is key.  We will be honest before God and they will speak into all areas of my life.  It makes me vulnerable to change—and change is needed for those of us desiring to be like Jesus daily.  Let me emphasize this: spiritual direction can be intimidating and revealing.  Whoever is speaking INTO your life and peering into your heart–they have great power.  Be careful whom you go to for spiritual direction.  Since spiritual direction is revealing–make sure you trust the person.  You do not want your business all over Facebook.

Let me give you some reasons why one-on-one spiritual direction is needed for EVERY CHRISTIAN:

—–Direction: When you are meeting with someone consistently (weekly, bi weekly, or monthly); it provides you with direction.  The person aiding you can probe your intentions, help you with your struggles, and map out your goals with you.

—-Consistency: People are more successful when they are journeying with others.  Accountability equals growth.

—-Creativity:  Meeting with someone else in spiritual direction may bring out your creative side.  Maybe a talent or idea will come to light due to meeting with someone and allowing them to see your true colors.

—-Growth: In order to grow, sometimes we need others to guide us.  This is normal.  We all need someone to guide us.

Need spiritual direction?  Contact me.   I am willing to work out a rate with you and a plan with you.

A New Year, So What??

Today is the last day of 2012.

Today, everyone will make New Years’ resolutions and will break them by January 2.

A New Year, so what?

Theme. What is your theme for 2013?

First, you are wondering how and why you should create a theme for 2013.   A theme is different than a resolution.  A resolution is often something that is broken in a short amount of time.  A resolution is focused on the short term.  A theme will give you focus for the entire year.  A resolution is something that we put little thought into because it is obvious.  A theme is something that shapes the whole year and is sometimes something that is only revealed through prayer.

How does one develop a theme for 2013?

Pray: Ask God to show you  an area of your life that you need to focus on for the next year.  Seek a broader topic (relationships/finances/health) first.

Dig: After God has shown you the topic, ask God for the specifics.  Whom will aide you on your journey?  Whom will hinder your progress?  God will begin to fill in the details.

Apply: Plan out how you will live out this theme on a daily basis.  It may change how you manage your time or it may change how you spend your time.  Perhaps your theme for 2013 will impact how much (or little) you involve yourself with the news or social media.

A theme for 2013 is important because it will shape your WHOLE year.  It is vital that you have a theme for yourself (as an individual) and as a family.  It is good for you to grow as a person and equally important that your family have a theme and focus for the year.  Imagine what families would look like if they had a focus for the year.  Sadly, too many people (including families) pass through life and go through the motions without having a theme or focus.

Remember, if we aim for nothing–we get exactly that–nothing.

“Not Ready for That”

“I am not ready for that.”

I have heard these words about following God/Jesus.

I respect that.  I appreciate honesty.  God knows we could use more honest people in this world.

However, I want to point out some things about “being ready for that”.

1.  Jesus loves you right where you are.–You do not need to be “ready for him”.  He is not your prom date and he is not taking you out for dinner.  Jesus loves you right here, right now, in the moment.

2. You are loved anyway.–Jesus loves you anyway.  Whether you have known him personally your entire life OR you just met him OR you never have really known him; he loves you anyway.  He loves you when you are in church.  He loves you when you wander far from him and have not spoke to him in quite some time.  He even loves you when you use him name in vain (although he does not like it!).

3.  Accept him.–Life is short.  We never know when we will take our last breath.   I am not speaking of Turn Or Burn Theology here.  I am speaking of reality.  Why wait?  Why wait for the right moment to begin with Jesus?  Folks, there is no right moment to wait for because Jesus is already walking right beside you.

It is easy to wait to begin a relationship with Jesus. ” Hey, let me indulge in this (name a struggle of yours) a few more times.  Then I will be ready, Lord.”  We just want to “have fun”.  The core issue is a lot of the things that hold us down from being free are the things that distract us from reality.    We then trudge though life–aimlessly–and gain no authentic satisfaction.   Jesus will give you a peace that is OUT OF THIS WORLD because his Kingdom is bigger than our daily worries.  When we are living in Jesus and in Kingdom living–it will transform how we spend time, energy, money, work, worries, etc.

Are you ready, friends?

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!!!

You are reading this post on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day…..so either way…..MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

My prayer is that you did not get caught up in the busyness of Christmas; therefore, you are enjoying the beauty of Christmas.

Take away all of the gifts, cookies, fancy Christmas dinners, parties, and church functions.  Yes, even the church functions can be distracting.  Take away all of these things.  What are you left with?  Jesus.

Jesus was the point of all of these posts.  Yes, my blog is entitled Java and Jesus.  But the last few weeks, we have intentionally focused on Jesus and all that HE IS and ALL THAT HE CAN BE IN YOUR LIFE.  Yes, we focus on the birth of Christ at Christmas but there is more to it than that.

We must let Jesus live…..in US.  ALL YEAR ROUND.

It is easy to get all spiritual and holy during Christmas.  People get all emotional over Christmas lights and “the perfect gift”.  The air seems to be different too.  Some people are actually nicer this time of year more than any other time of the year.  It is temporary.

This Jesus thing is a daily thing.  Being with Jesus is not limited to the sermons we hear at church or where your church is in regards to the liturgical church calendar.  Jesus does not care if you are a church member or have not been to church in 25 years.

He is waiting.

And he will continue to wait.

Celebrate the birth of Christ this Christmas AND also celebrate that Jesus has never given up on you.  Ever.

Reflections on Advent-Out of this World “Peace”

Greetings friends.

We are in the third week of Advent.  This week’s theme is Peace.  I am a little behind in my writings but it is still the third week until tomorrow (Sunday).

Peace is something all of us desire but few of us find in today’s culture.  Our culture says, “more is better”.  The more gifts you give at Christmas; the more giving of a person you are.  The more apps on your iPhone, you are much cooler than your peers.  The more hours you work at work, then you must be really productive.  And my favorite one, the more you are at church during Advent/Christmas; the holier you are!! (Note: Can you sense my tone of sarcasm in the above paragraph?)

It is disruptive today to say “no”.

I am not implying that we be Grinches at Christmas.  I am not against gifts.  Or going to church.  Or iPhones.  We have an iPod and iPad in this home.  What I am against is the busyness that has become Christmas.  Just because someone may attend every special church event during this season does not mean they are benefitting from it.  Attendance does not always equate to spiritual fruit.  And doing all kinds of “Christmas things” does not equate to being close to Jesus.  However, if you are a Christian, your Christmas should look different than someone who does not know Jesus.  You should have peace and not chaos.

Peace.  Ah, where do we find it this time of year?

In Jesus.

Yet another Sunday School answer.  Yet…so….true.

If we are desiring out of this world peace, we must look to the Prince of Peace.  Peace this is of this world is temporary peace.  Temporary peace is when your children take an extra long afternoon nap.  Temporary peace is sometimes bought at the local spa or coffee shoppe.  “AHHH….this is the life”.

Out of this world peace (from Jesus)– focuses on the big picture.  Out of this world peace says “I will not lose my sanity this holiday season because I know the real reason for the Season”.  Out of this world peace says “I do not need to keep up with the Joneses to feel like I am somebody important”.  Jesus gives peace and life.

Find peace this season in not what you will do…but in how you will be…..finding peace……in the Prince of Peace.

Reflections on Advent-Love and Tragedy

We have entered into the second week of Advent.

Christmas is two weeks away.  People are mapping out their game plans for Christmas Day.

This week.  We focus on the love of Jesus.  Christmas season tends to have us focus on nice, clean, handsome baby Jesus.  Think about the Christmas musicals you have attended.  Was Jesus dirty, crying, or worse yet…ugly?  No.  Never.  That baby Jesus on that stage was SPOTLESS!

Ponder this: Jesus was both human and divine.  As a baby, we was born in a stinky stable.  He probably needed his diapers changed like everyone else.  He was divine in that he would conquer sin,  defeat Satan, and entrust His Kingdom to US

Jesus got dirty.  In his love, he gets dirty.

During this week of Advent—with a focus on love, we must invite Jesus into our sins.  We must invite Jesus into the places within us that need us the most.

Yesterday, our country experienced a horrible tragedy.  Many innocent children were gunned down by a madman while simply going about their day at an elementary school.

I know people have a lot of questions about God in this tragedy.  Allow me to provide you with some insight…..

WHERE WAS GOD?  Friends, God was right there.  God never leaves us despite the times we chose to ignore Him.  God was there in that moment.  Heroes (teaches and staff) shielded the children from danger.  Casualties would have been higher if these heroes did not step up.  God was there.

WELL, THIS IS ABOUT GUNS!! IF WE TAKE AWAY GUNS–PEOPLE WILL BE BETTER BEHAVED!—–This was not about guns.  This about the daily battle of good and evil.  Holy and unholy.  This shooter who took innocent lives—he CHOSE to do evil.  It is called free will.  We have the ability to choose to do good or harm everyday.  Some people choose to use words.  Other people use weapons.  Some people use their authority to bring pain and sorrow.

HOW WILL WE MOVE FORWARD?  In love and in relationship with Jesus.  Sounds like a Sunday school answer, yes.  But where else will we find hope and love?  The media?  They have a job to do.  Our possessions and jobs?  These only bring temporary joy.  Other people?  They will give us peace but people will let us down.  They are human!  This is where Jesus comes in.  He wants to walk with us daily.  But we must first choose to love him AND allow him to love us.

Allow Jesus to love you today.  Right now.