The Perfect Gift for Changing Times

Christ in the PresentAs a young leader, there were a handful of men who have helped shape my leadership theology in life, business and ministry. 10 years ago, we embarked on our very first church plant in San Marcos, TX. The year previously, I walked away from my dream job, a football coach, in Copperas Cove, TX, and went into the ministry full time. During this year of preparation for the next chapter, I read many books to keep my mind and emotions sharpened. The one that has stuck out and made a lasting imprint on me is “The Present” by Dr. Spencer Johnson.

I was familiar with “The One Minute Manager”, his collaboration with Ken Blanchard, and his work “Who Moved My Cheese”; both of which I still recommend as required reading for professional development of young leaders. In “The Present”, I was able to see how humans spend exhausting amounts of time, energy and resources either regretting their past or fearing their future. We even see evidence of this in the “Exodus” story.

The Hebrew children were delivered from a great oppressive empire, robbing them of their spiritual identity and enslaved them to fulfill the insatiable appetite of the Egyptian culture. They witness miracle after miracle that exposed the fallibility of each Egyptian god revealing the glory, power and authority of the ONE TRUE GOD. However, even after experiencing their miraculous deliverance, they would continue to look back to their slavery, reflecting on all that was left behind and even longing to be enslaved once again because it was familiar, constant and even comfortable. They would eventually all die in the Sinai desert and never enter into the “Promised Land”. They were paralyzed by their past.

Fast forward to this millennium and we see everyone with their eyes fixated on their future: the “American Dream”, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. We spend years going to school to get a great job, with great benefits, paying off all that debt, so we can acquire possessions our parents only dreamed about, and then work a lifetime to save a nest egg to maintain that lifestyle well into our retirement years. We work 60-80 hours per week, make less than 15% of our family’s life events, and wonder why we are estranged, stressed, lonely, burned out, empty and unfulfilled.

This is amplified during the holiday season. We hope our family won’t repeat the horrible gifts of the past, but expect to get the next, latest and greatest, neighbor envying, techno gadget, luxury item or exotic vacation experience. Once again the past and the future converge in a cataclysmic consumer tension leaving us empty and void once it’s all over.

When did we stop living in the moment? When did “now” transform from an instance in time experiencing life around us into a microwave demand for convenience and selfishness? When did the present stop being a gift to dwell in? We pour out so much of our self into missed gifts and opportunities of our past, or in the unrealistic expectations of the gift of success to come that we miss the gift of the moment, this present moment.

Hebrews 13:8 states, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” In Revelation 1:8 Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” We are about to celebrate the birth of Christ, which is an important moment in history that we have encapsulated in an annual season. Jesus, the Son of God and the Christ, declares “HE IS THE I AM”. He is the past, present and future. He is the perfect gift, birthed out of God’s love for us.

This holiday season, don’t get lost in the failings of the past, the longings of the future, the hustle and bustle of seasonal consumerism, or even our religious “Christianese”. Instead live in the moment of the Living Savior, receive the gift of the King of kings and the Lord of lords, and seize hold of “The Present” that matters most.

The Perfect Gift for Changing Times is “CHRIST In The Present”.

James Miller Jr
“Missionary to a Generation”

Don’t Grow Weary

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” ~ Galatians 6:9-10

What causes us to grow weary? WAITING! Tom Petty released a song in the early 80’s called “The Waiting”. In the chorus, he says, “The waiting is the hardest part.”

When we’re young, we know that our birthday and Christmas will come every year. We wait…with anticipation, with expectation, and even pre-disappointment. The closer each annual benevolent out pouring of goodness from friends and family gets, the harder it is to wait. At a very early age, I would get so amped up that I would begin listening more intently to my parents conversations, snoop around for clues and even check my mom’s favorite hiding spots as the day would draw near.

I don’t know about you, but too many holidays as a child reaped more disappointment in what I didn’t get than what I did. I began to grow weary of those days, and not wanting to be disappointed and discouraged again I put up a wall of disenchantment, indifference and insensitivity into my adult years. Even now, I struggle with the whole holiday gift giving, receiving, exchange process. I’m not a child any more, so I don’t wait with that naive eagerness, nor do I have any expectations. It’s just another day for me. I have to work real hard to come up with gift ideas for my wife and kids.

If there were never another holiday to celebrate, I would be ok with that. Thankfully, when I found Christ, I realized no other gift, no other expectation and absolutely no earthly harvest could compare. It is that, I am comforted, content and satisfied. Christ turned my weariness into confidence. Unlike most people, I don’t wait with earnest, eagerness and wonder for the day He returns. I just trust with confidence it will come and I have work to do until it does.

Many relationships fall apart because of the “WAITING”. Waiting for him to pop the questions after a long courtship; waiting for God to change or fix that spouse; waiting for that loved one to come to or back to Christ; waiting for a promise; waiting for a promotion; waiting for a raise; we are constantly waiting for some type of expected harvest; waiting for the manifestation of God’s call, vision and purpose He sowed into your spirit.

Two key things jump out at me in Galatians 6:9-10“DO GOOD” and “DON’T QUIT”! If all we do is wait, hope and expect without any action, we do it in vain. This creates too much idleness and anxiety, which breeds doubt. The result most often drives us to do something foolish, like make poor business decisions, over extend our finances and create debt, or make an emotional life impacting change without a well thought out plan.

Don't Grow WearyInstead of allowing the waiting to consume our emotions, I want to encourage us, especially during this upcoming holiday season, to redirect that energy to “DOING GOOD” and “REFUSING TO QUIT”. When we are doing good for others, meeting them in their affliction and giving them hope for their future, we become fully focused on them instead of our circumstance. In turn, we are distracted from our own shortcomings that we don’t realize our weariness has dissipated.

Opportunity to “DO GOOD” is all around us. We don’t have to look hard or travel far. Often times, we just need to open our eyes, ears, hearts and wallet. As we go doing good in the daily rhythms of our lives, become very intentional to create a posture and attitude of “DON’T QUIT”. When we do, the very thing we’ve been waiting for will come into our lives. The funny thing is that it rarely comes as we were expecting, but always how God intended it.

Be encouraged. Don’t grow weary. Do good and above all…”DON’T QUIT”!

James Miller Jr
“Missionary to a Generation”

*Published in the November 20th, 2014 issue of the Port Aransas South Jetty newspaper.
via “Don’t Grow Weary” – Grace Church of Port Aransas.

Faithless Generation

And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” ~ (Matthew 17:14-20 ESV)

Faithless Generation

As I pondered the above scripture, the words “faithless and twisted generation” just began to grieve me. In this passage, these were men who forsook and left all to follow Christ. They traveled from village to town, river to sea, desert to forest and every place in between with him. His disciples observed and even participated in miracle after miracle, yet he calls them “faithless and twisted”.

A few verses later, Christ says to them, Matthew 18:18-20, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Then in another passage, Luke 10:19, He gives them authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.

This same group of men would go on after Christ’s crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection and ascension to become the catalyst for the Christian faith we hold dear and practice today. In Acts 17, they were referred to as “men who have turned the world upside down”. What changed? How did they go from faithless to faithful in a matter of days?

When Jesus was with them, they acted like they could do nothing without Him. However, after He is gone from them physically, they walk in the fullness of all He taught them when He walked the earth. How often do walk like the disciples, faithless and twisted, paralyzed and hobbled by our circumstances? I’m convinced that if Jesus himself was here today, we would be so enamored, in awe and perplexed by Him that we would fair no better than the very men who lived with Him for over three years.

Here’s the key to their faithfulness and power… John 14:10-17 says, believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

The Helper, the Spirit of Truth, Christ speaks of is the “Holy Spirit”. After his resurrection, in Acts 1, Jesus tells his disciples they will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon them, and they will be His witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. This is a mystery… they struggled to walk in faith and power while He walked the earth, but became our greatest examples of it after He went to be with the Father. This is our hope. Jesus, the Christ, is the living Lord and the living Savior who sent us the Holy Spirit to help us overcome faithlessness in our generation.

Hebrews 11:16 declares, it’s impossible to please God without faith. Therefore, it’s impossible to have faith without Christ, and without the power of the Holy Spirit, we too remain a “faithless and twisted generation”.

James Miller Jr
“Missionary to a Generation”

*Published in the November 6th, 2014 issue of the Port Aransas South Jetty newspaper.
via “Faithless Generation” – Grace Church of Port Aransas.