Thanksgiving…more than just a day

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” ~ Psalm 9:1 (ESV)

The season of “Thanks” is upon us. Through all our hustle and bustle of the pending holidays, we will pause for a brief moment to be thankful for jobs, success, family, health, or whatever good thing has befallen us this year. It’s easy to show gratitude when times are good, for good outcomes and hope for the future. What about when nothing in the natural is worthy of thanks? Can we still be thankful in bad times, uncontrollable circumstances and from great loss.

Two years ago this month my brother-in-law, wife, youngest son and I were coming home from the “Warrior Dash”, my wife and brother-in-law had participated in, when our world would be changed in a moment. It was an overcast day, as we sat in the turning lane less than a mile from our home, when all of sudden things went dark. The next thing I remember is hearing moans, screaming, “she’s unconscious”, “we’re going to cut your out”, sounds of helicopter rotors, sirens and then dark silence again. After what seemed like seconds, I awakened to my own sounds of labored “Darth Vader” breathing and a man standing over me saying “You’re in a ambulance and we are taking you to the hospital”.

While fading in and out of consciousness I pieced together the fuzzy events. We had been rear ended by an 18 wheel semi truck, pushed into the vehicle in front of us, bounced into oncoming traffic and T-boned by an SUV. My wife broke neck, shoulder, collar bone, ribs, and punctured her lung and spleen; my son broke is collar bone, ribs, pelvis, tore meniscus in his knee, punctured his lung and spleen; I had broken ribs, cracked sternum and collapsed lung; and my brother-in-law broke ribs. To say we were in rough shape would be an understatement.

In a single instance my healthy family became broken. We spend a week in the hospital, 90 days recovering, another 90 days rehabilitating and almost 2 years in litigation. Today, we are fully recovered and have returned to our active life style. In all reality, we are actually in better health, wellness & fitness than before. This doesn’t mean we don’t have any physical reminders of what we’ve endured, instead we have purposed not be victimized by them or allow them to limit us in our call and mission to Christ.

As a memorial of thanksgiving, I would like to share a post I wrote 5 days after the accident on Thanksgiving Day 2011 (click to read original post: “Thankful”).

Today as I reflect not only on Thanksgiving and being “Thankful”, it just seems like such a trivial word or occasion to highlight not just what my family has navigated through this year and especially this week, but everything all of us have journeyed the past days, weeks, months and year. We wrap all our energy into a single day, instance or event. Why is our gratitude limited to a myopic moment, a speck in time and space that is nothing more than a vapor in eternity? I guess why I struggle so much today is that word doesn’t even remotely express, encapsulate or identify what I am experiencing NOW. I have heard and even said words over the past few days that barely scratch the surface. Don’t get me wrong because I don’t want to come across ungrateful or belittle all that has transpired.

I believe it is divinely orchestrated for my family to be where we are on this day. It’s only fitting and only the “Great Life Author could have penned”. So my challenge to me, all of us is this…God’s grace and mercy is NOT limited to a single moment or event, it is sovereign, dynamic and eternal. It is always at work, has never ceased and will never fail. I understand our human nature cannot contain all of God, so we compartmentalized Him in time, but in my opinion it degrades His true nature and will for His children, for us. So today, at least use today to begin our journey of true thanksgiving, instead of just citing rhetoric we only mean for the moment, let us stop, fall to our knees or faces, close our eyes, shut our mouths, open our hearts and minds, and truly reflect on the fullness of who He is in our lives and worship Him with the fullness of our thanksgiving to Him. Not for what He has done, but more eternal for who He is.

When we do this daily, then we can truly walk in the fullness of “Thanksgiving”.

James Miller Jr
“Missionary to a Generation”

*Published in the November 14, 2013 issue of the Port Aransas South Jetty newspaper. via Thanksgiving…more than just a day – Grace Community Church of Port Aransas.

“Be Imitators…”

Some of my greatest moments growing up were pretending to be a rock star, super hero, professional football player, or a Special Forces soldier. I would spin up my favorite record (yes, I realize I just gave my age away), grab a hair brush or anything that resembled a microphone, tune up my best air guitar, and scream at the top of my lungs to my favorite 70’s rock band. Let’s not forget every boys wish he had x-ray vision like superman (for obvious reasons, I’m not going to expound on that one), scoring the winning touchdown or field goal in the final seconds of the championship game, or running through the woods like it was the jungles of Vietnam (ok, I really need to stop giving my age away) on a mission to free prisoners of war. Those seemed like simpler times, less demands and absolutely more fun.

As an adult, I struggled early on who or what I wanted to be. Of course, I never became a rock star, super hero, professional football player or joined the Special Forces. My identity seemed to be encapsulated in the ordinary, mediocre and insignificant. Let’s face it…my very name is about as plain as they come. To top it off, I’m a junior so I don’t even get to be unique in my commonality.

To be honest, even as an adult, I find myself in need of something or someone to imitate. In our day and age, it’s not enough to find fulfillment in self. Our daily grind demands an immeasurable, relentless and exhausting outpouring of every fiber we have. Our reward for a life spent is provided in money, houses, cars, possessions, and idle entertainment. We want more, so much more. We cry out, even scream at the top of our lungs for something real and often come up empty.

Why? SUPER HEROES DO NOT EXIST!no_superhero

In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul makes this very bold statement, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (ESV) Seriously? Can you believe this guy? How arrogant of him to draw attention to himself. How can he remotely compare or identify with Christ? I mean…this is the guy who hunted down, persecuted and killed the early Christians. What audacity to declare the early church imitate him?

You would never hear a preacher today make such a claim. At least one who expects to be taken seriously or have success in his church or ministry. Surely, the media, his own church, and denominational organization would crucify him. Even now, I tremble sharing this article for how it may be received.

That, my friend, is the problem with the modern church, its leadership, and people who claim to follow Christ. Such a statement as Paul’s would not incite a relentless pursuit of the Christ in us because the very people we are to love, serve, show mercy, be salt and light to have never seen enough of Christ in or through us worthy of imitating.

We work so hard to be like our favorite celebrity, boss, friend or neighbor, and fail miserably to be like the One we claim to love unconditionally, serve selflessly, obey without reservation and emulate our life after. We wonder why no one wants to be like Him. If being like Christ looks like us at times, I wouldn’t want to imitate Him either.

The truth is Paul, in spite of his many failures, was confident of one thing…Christ in him was greater. His shameless, relentless and bold pursuit to imitate Jesus was all he needed. It’s all we need. It’s time for the church to “Be Imitators of Christ”. We are the only Jesus people see. When they see us, do they want to imitate Him?

James Miller Jr
“Missionary to a Generation”

*Published in the October 10, 2013 issue of the Port Aransas South Jetty newspaper. via Be Imitators… | Grace Community Church of Port Aransas.

“Be the Church Jesus Built”

After surviving the last 10 years as a boy’s football, basketball and track coach, associate pastor, regional youth director, manager in two businesses, and pastor of a failed church plant, I’ve discovered a glimpse of what the New Testament church of our day should look like. When I refer to “church”, I’m not speaking of the organized institution, called Grace Community Church of Port Aransas, where I have the humble privilege to lead a group of amazing people. I’m speaking of the “CHURCH” Jesus birthed according to Matthew 16:18 (ESV), “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Read Matthew 16:13-20 for full context)

There are not enough words left in this article to fully unpack this scripture; however, I want to highlight one key point…Jesus said He will build His church. He didn’t tell Peter or the other disciples to build it. This is very pivotal when we look at later supporting verses found in Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV), And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Many believers know these verses as the “Great Commission”; however, we have limited them to enlist and empower missionaries to be sent abroad. Between Matthew 16 & 28, we have concluded that our role and purpose was to plant, build and grow “church” as we know it today. The modern context of church is expressed primarily in our buildings, detailed programs and elaborate ministries. In these final words recorded by Matthew, Jesus doesn’t command His followers to build the church, buildings or ministries. This was never our intended role; Jesus already built it upon the revelation of who He is as Christ.

The purpose of the church as we know it today is not to make more churches, but to make disciples. How we do this is not manipulating people to attend church, give them a catchy sales pitch in a club like atmosphere of euphoria, and finally usher them to buy into our plans and programs with a major life impacting decision sealed with a “repeat after me” prayer. We must understand Jesus gave us the framework to carry out His Kingdom plan.

He commissioned, “Co-Missioned” or better stated: “COmmanded us to go on MISSION”, and MAKE DISCIPLES of all NATIONS. Of course this is a little broad, and makes sense to think it was intended for the traditional missionary calling. Therefore, we look at Acts 1:8 where Christ states, “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”. To put this in proper context for us…”we are commanded to go on mission, making disciples, first in our community, then region and finally all the earth”.

My heart for all churches, ministers and believers of Port Aransas and the Coastal Bend area is this… Let’s stop trying to compete, out shine and exhaust all our resources to build bigger buildings, larger ministries & programs, and ear tickling & crowd attracting services in a vain attempt to grow “our” church & kingdom. Instead, let’s us “BE the CHURCH” Jesus built by walking out His gospel plan. We all must be on mission with intentionality and purpose in our community, which is where ever we find ourselves during our day to day activities, being “salt” & “light”, making disciples of our Lord Jesus, the Christ. It is for this purpose I don’t call myself a pastor, but a “Missionary to a Generation”.

Are you ready to go on mission with me as I follow Christ, in our community, and making disciples? Will you be the church Jesus built?

James Miller Jr
“Missionary to a Generation”

*Published in the September 5, 2013 issue of the Port Aransas South Jetty newspaper. via Be the Church Jesus Built | Grace Community Church of Port Aransas.