Tuesday, August 30, 2011
My wife, Dana, is the most even-keeled person I have ever known. Her favorite word is...BALANCE. The sole exception to her passion for balance is her love for shoes. However, in her defense, she would point out to you that her workout shoes are made by New Balance. The siren call of a shoe store is hard for her to resist, but in her eyes her passion for shoes is not an inconsistency to her philosophy of life. She reminds me that she always maintains her balance by buying two shoes at a time, one for each foot. How can you argue with logic like that?
Proverbs records the ancient writer's prayer for balance in his life. His call to God was for a blessing to be relieved from the tug of war between his need and his greed. Reading his request to God, reveals to us that he has known the chaos and confusion of trying to discern the difference between the two. He has determined that he wisest thing for him to do is to ask
God for help in pointing out what is best for his life.
Lies and deception have always been a part of the contest of wills that takes place between seller and buyer. Proverbs reveals the struggle in the heart of a person that comes under that influence of a consumer culture. Truth in advertising is a moving target in any generation. To be aware is to beware of the pitfalls of believing everything a salesman tells you to close a deal. There has rarely ever been better advice than, "Let the buyer beware."
The balanced life begins at the point of prayer. Prayer is the means by which we can ask God for help in revealing the difference between our need and our greed. A person who becomes satiated with everything he needs is often the very first to resent God's delayed response in granting what they want and when they want it. People who feel entitled to what they want and take it rather than wait for God to give it to them are no better than common thieves.
Prayer purifies our motives and clarifies the difference between our wants and our needs. God's delay does not necessarily mean God's denial, but the process of praying does remind us God is the source of all provision. Prayer places our need and our greed before God, and lets Him make a judgment call on what is best for us. God is not a divine delivery boy for petulant children who pout when they hear the word "No."
In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus taught the fundamental lesson of "The School of Prayer." Facing the crisis of the crucixion, He prayed, "Father, not as I will, but Thy will be done." Grasping for what looks good to us is a poor substitute for waiting on God to provide His best for us. When the lines get blurred between your need and your greed. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!
Gary Miller, TALK LESS! PRAY MORE! MINISTRIES
c/o The Whitefield Project 3717 Mossbrook Drive Fort Worth, TX 76244
Thursday, August 25, 2011
"Your walk with God is the next 20 seconds." In December 1986, I had been in very long meeting with a former NASA engineer, when I heard him make this statement. It was a life-changing moment. A month later, I met with him for a followup session, and had a chance to thank him for his input. He did not remember saying it to me. Go figure. I believe God used this short, simple phrase from this man to get my attention. He wanted to focus me on the breath in my lungs, before I tried to get a handle on His future plans. Think about it. Without being able to take a deep breath and get out a stop watch, how much breath do you already have in your lungs? Without warning, what do you have at your disposal to do business with God? I know, I know, it is a personal question. For some it may be more, and for others a bit less, but for me, it is 20 seconds.
For the past 25 years I have tried to keep breathing on a regular basis. That is how the system works. I know it is alot more complicated than that, but I can't get into a study of the whole cardio-pulminary connection without getting a bit queasy. So there you have it. Keep breathing on a regular basis and you will live. Use the breath in your lungs to keep walking and talking with God on a regular basis, and you will find it hard to drift into breathless panic or detour from a close walk with Him.
The problem is this. Life has a way of knocking the breath out of us on a regular basis. When Emmit Smith, former running back for the Dallas Cowboys, surpassed Walter Payton's NFL rushing record, someone figured out how many miles he had run. It was not very impressive compared to marathon runners. It takes on a whole new level of achievement when you realize those two guys had to run all those miles getting knocked down and getting back up every 3-5 yards. Looks a little bit like sport imitating life. Can I get a witness?
Proverbs warns us about losing control of our spirit. The Hebrew word means breath, and refers to the content and the character of a person's heart that flows out of person's mouth when they are under pressure. People under great pressure seldom say things under their breath. Crises on their mind or fears in their heart have a tendency to come out of their mouth. The older a person gets, the less control they seem to have over their mouth. Speaking one's mind has sometimes been referred to as the privilege of old age. It can also be a sign of approaching dementia. You are never get too old to watch your mouth.
"He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city." Proverbs 16:32
The Roman army was described as patient, or long-tempered. That would mean that as a military force they were not quick to take an offense, but when they were finally put into the field, there was going to be hell to pay. They were not in the habit of going to war unprepared, unarmed, or unaware of the consequences. The opposite is usually true of the short-tempered. They rush in where angels fear to tread. They speak their own mind before they seek to know God's mind. They bring a knife to a gunfight and end up stabbing themselves. The former description never found its way into active use in contemporary language. The second is alot more familiar to us. Little wonder that the God-breathed Scriptures describe two of the Spirit's characteristics as, "The fruit of the Spirit....is patience...self-control." Galatians 5:22-23
The sad truth is that we often find the fruit of the field to be more reliable than what we try to pass off as the fruit of the Spirit. When you squeeze an orange, you get orange juice. You can wrap a Christian in the latest holy logo wear, but when you squeeze him you don't always get what is on the label. Pressure on a Christian reveals the breath in their lungs and the focus of their lastest conversation. If they have been listening to the fears of their heart, and been intimidated by the things on their mind, it is revealed by the breath of their mouth. When our breath sheds more heat than light on the crisis around us, it is time to let God's light shine on the darker corners of our nature. He always picks up right where we left off in our last conversation with Him.
Dr. Bill Hendrick was one of my seminary professors. His sanctified sarcasm speaks to me at this point. He always said this whenever anyone in the class asked permission to ask him a question in the middle of one of his lectures.
Talking results in alot of hot air, but it does not provide the breath of life. Talking about a crisis does not have the power to provide power to move us through the crisis and onto victory. It is bad breath. Talk leaves us stranded, vulnerable, dead in the water and reveals our weakened position to the enemy. Prayer calls for reinforcements, and gives us the courage to take our stand next to our Champion, and face the worst the enemy can throw at us. Prayer is the means by which our breath is put to the best possible use. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Thirty years ago, Dana and I rebranded our singles ministry in the city of Houston with the logo, "SINGLEHEARTED: Marked by Sincerity and Unity of Purpose." Our mission was to equip single adults to take their eyes off of themselves and focus their attention on a first love relationship with Jesus. They responded to this with a zeal and a devotion that I have seldom seen matched. Never underestimate the power of a group of people who sincerely believe that life is not about them, but it is all about Him.
Proverbs is filled with warnings about guarding and protecting one's heart from selfish desires, strange women, and unrepentant sinners. The heart needs to be harnessed for the best, or it will wander into the worst. The heart of the matter has always been the matter of the heart.
"Do not eat the bread of a selfish man, or desire his delicacies; for as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, 'Eat and drink.' But his heart is not with you." Proverbs 23:6-7
This passage gives us a clue to inner the recesses of the heart. It is the repository of the true self. A person's words cannot be trusted, if their heart is twisted.
"Every man's way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts. To do righteousness and justice is to be desired by the Lord more than sacrifice. Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, is sin." Proverbs 21:2-4
Greek education dealt with the development of the mind, but Hebrew education focused on the heart. The collection of information by the student did not necessarily lead to wisdom. Elevation of the mind was nowhere near as important to the Hebrews as intallation of wisdom. Hebrew teachers focused on the creation of character in the life of their student. Education of the mind without the protection of the heart would lead the Greeks to focus on themselves as the center of attention. Hebrew teaching led a student to look to God for direction, protection and direction.
"Trust in the Lord, with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6
Chasing after what really looks good to us, but in reality is not best for us is not a new temptation. Contemporary culture seems to have an obsessive compulsive urge to identify with celebries or attain rock star status. Seeking to be in the picture with cultural icons has always been relentlessly pursued, even before the invention of the camera or cell phone.
There has always been a temptation for the "Have Nots" to look upon the lifestyles of the rich and famous "Haves" with a voracious hunger. The point seems to be that this kind of longing for what others have, property, popularity, possessions, or power, is ultimately disrespectful to God. Looking at what others have and convincing yourself you are entitled to a piece of their property is a sin against God.
Proverbs warns against an "envy" of sinners that would lead a person to be jealous of or to be zealous for, or to provoke themselves into a passion for something that someone has. The word "sinner" describes someone who is exposed to condemnation, one who bears blame, one counted culpable, or reckoned as an offender against God. It is unacceptable to God for His children to envy the life and the property of those who choose to be separated from Him. Looking to other people and wishing for what God has not provided them is not child-like, but childish.
The Ten Commandments explicitly and extensively warned God's people not to covet what others had. This would protect their hearts from harboring thoughts of dissatisfaction and discontent. Looking upon the possessions of others with a seething, relentless resentment, or a work stopping, wishful thinking are two extremes of the pendulum of covetousness.
"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor." Exodus 20:17
The Law of God specifically forbids the cultivation of a culture of covetous class envy. God's plan was never about a redistribution of wealth based upon the dissatisfaction and discontent of the "Have Nots" taking what they want from the "Haves." God's Law pointed out the blind logic that was a result of an "I" problem on the part of the "Have Nots." They were called upon to resist looking upon the "Haves" as source for getting hold of what they considered to be their "fair share" of property that did not belong to them. Desiring what others had did not make it theirs. They were to look to God for their needs, not take what others had to satisfy their wants.
The Hebrews saw the heart as having the capacity to: incline to understanding, hold fast to, keep, trust, flow, be inscribed upon, be wise, be perverted, be sickened, be in pain, rest, be open, be joyful, be sad, be cheerful, instruct, be haughty, be proud, rage, plan, be cleansed, be channeled, be weighed, be pure, be foolish, be given, hold abominations, and reflect the truth. They believed that what was on the inside of a person was going to come out, sooner or later. Long before people start hanging out with and enjoying the company of those who have offended God, their heart was regularly inclined to lean in their direction through misguided envy.
Spiritual Awakening begins with a wakeup call to those who have given their hearts to God. The Hebrews understood the heart to be the seat of the emotions and passions. In a man's heart resides the capacity for moral character and courageous living. The heart was a term used to describe the mind, the will and the emotions. From it flowed the knowledge and undertanding necessary to think clearly and to engage in reflective memory. Quoting God's word to others has value, but it pales in significance to the capacity and passion to apply it to one's own life.
A hardened heart is resistant to God's touch, but persistent prayer, like consistent rain, softens the heart of person to receive instruction from the Word of God. Prayer puts a person in a position to revere again what they once held dear, time with the One who has their best interests at heart. Prayer reflects the heart of a person who believes The Father knows best. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!
Gary and Dana Miller, TALK LESS! PRAY MORE! Ministries
c/o The Whitefield Project 3717 Mossbrook Drive FTW, TX 76244
Monday, August 22, 2011
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Recently at "The Response" in Houston, Texas, Tony Evans delivered a powerful six minute message that crystalized the role of pastors and the churches they lead during these tumultuous times. He gestured towards the playing field of Reliant Stadium. He reminded the thousands of people in attendance for the day of prayer and fasting that the arena in which they stood would soon host two opposing teams. These two teams would line up against one another in a quest for dominance on the field of competition. They would be joined by another team, the team of the officials. This third team would carry a rule book provided by the commissioner of the league. The officials could only maintain their integrity by maintaining their objectivity. They were accountable to the commissioner of the league for applying the rules of the game in equal measure to the two opposing teams. If they sided with one team or the other, they would lose their voice as a team of officials. If they did not remain impartial, theywould have to answer to the commissioner, and face the consequences for their lack of integrity.
The message was not lost on those who heard what the preacher said that day. The conflicts that are raging in our nation and around the world today will never be settled by pastors and their people siding with one warring faction or the other. The Church, the team of officials, must maintain the prophetic voice of their Commissioner and adhere to The Rule Book.
Pastors should never exchange the prophet's mantle, the shepherd's staff, or the two-edged sword for pom poms. When a pastor or his people take on the role of a cheerleader for a popular person or a particular political party, they violate the covenant of their office, and the mandate of their mission. The influence of the pastor's office does not come from associating with powerful people who are in authority. The power comes from a pastor being a person under Authority.
Jesus extended His highest praise for a Roman Centurion who came to Him requesting healing for his sick servant. Jesus offered to go to the man's home and honor his request. The Centurion said that he was not worthy to have His Presence in his home, nor was it necessary for Jesus to make the trip. He knew instinctively that Jesus needed only to say the word and His will would be done. He was familiar with the chain of command. He gave orders every day, and men carried them out based upon the authority of his Emperor in Rome. He saw in Jesus the same principle of power at work. By submitting Himself to the Authority of God, Jesus tapped into the power of God to transform people into the children of God. Scripture records the Centurion's insightful words, "For I too am a man under authority." Matthew 8:9
The role of prayer in spiritual awakening is all about keeping the people of God under the Authority of God. Whenever pastors lead their people to believe in other politicans and processes more than they believe in God and the power of prayer, they have forfeited their place in the chain of command. God's word is clear. The rule book states,
"First of all then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that they may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity...Therefore I want men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension." I Timothy 2:1-8C
Democratic elections have not always been held, and Christians have not always been able to select their own political leaders. They have been commanded to pray for them anyway. Paul told Timothy that God intended for His Church to be known as a source of prayer for and not criticism of "all who are in authority." Christians have not always played for the right team. They have sided with one party or the other and tried to muscle their way onto the stage of history by throwing their weight to one side and then the other. The Church must never forget that their voice comes from God, and His Rule Book is The Authority. His word must be applied equally to those who need God's direction, protection and correction. To do anything less is a gross misuse of power, and tempts God to pull His pastors and His people out of the game and replace them with those who serve under His Authority.
Pastors who take their opinions very seriously, but refuse to make prayer a priority need to remember the principle, "What a leader does in moderation, the people will do in excess." A prayerless pastor leads to an opinonated people and a powerless church. It is hard to believe, but people can convince themselves that it is possible to fix their problems without ever fixing their eyes on Jesus. Too often, the people in the pew model what they have seen from the pastors in the pulpit.
Jesus set the bar for anyone facing a crisis and in need of finding the power of God in the middle of it. He went to the Garden to pray on the night before He was crucified. His final words point us to the place that prayer is meant to bring us all...to the end of ourselves and to the beginning of God. The words of Jesus are the GPS for arriving at our correct destination in prayer, "...yet not as I will, but as You will." Matthew 26:29
The role of prayer in spiritual awakening: It is a wake-up call to the condition of our own hearts. Pridefulness leads to prayerlessness. Prayerlessness leads to carelessness. Carelessness leads to rebelliousness. Whenever anyone or anything becomes more important to us than being under The Authority of God we are in need of a heart transplant and a course correction. Prayer softens the hardness of our heart and replaces it with a willingness to yield to the touch of His Spirit on those areas of our life that have drifted out from under The Authority of His Word and the intimacy of His Presence. Prayer restores a fellowship with Jesus and allows His pastors and His people to hear His voice guiding them back to the place where they left their First Love.
Pray for those who are in authority. They need it and you need the practice. Don't subsitute a love for your party, your political celebrity or your country for a love for God's Son. America has no reason to exist without being "One nation under God." We get the kind of nation and the kind of leaders we pray for. Finding yourself in need of a First Love Awakening?...TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!
Gary and Dana Miller, TALK LESS! PRAY MORE! Ministries
c/o The Whitefield Project 3717 Mossbrook Drive Ft. Worth, TX 76244
Friday, August 19, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Thursday, August 11, 2011
August 16, 1983, Dana and I were blessed by God with a little bundle of energy that has continued to energize and vitalize our lives for the past 28 years. On that day in Houston, Texas, Dana gave birth to our second daughter, Allyson Dawn. Even through the thickening haze of the delivery room, I could see she was beautiful...as I slid down the wall. You can probably guess that I am not a huge fan of husbands being allowed in the delivery room. I don't live and breathe Lamaz. I don't berate it, but I have to confess it was never a religious experience for me. I know! I know! Children are a gift from the Lord, and husbands should be interested in the culmination of the process, not just the initiation of it. I have heard it all, and I don't disagree with any of it. Im just saying that if you want me to cut the cord, you will find me with my head between my knees, seated on the floor, with my back against the wall, and cotton balls of ammonia in each nostril. Check please! I'm outta here!
A few hours after Allyson's birth, Hurricane Alicia hit Houston with a solid punch. Destructive winds, and torrential rain led to flooded streets and fallen trees. Resulting power losses forced the hospital to go on emergency generators. For two days, the fallen debris made it impossible for me to get back to the hospital to see Dana and Allyson. Since that day, I have often thought we may have picked the wrong name for our little girl. Allyson vs. Alicia is still a race too too close to call.
Fortunately, I have had the last 28 years to clear my head and to get a better view of what God was up to that day. I have needed every one of them. From the moment she entered my life, she has taken my breath away, in more ways than one. I was more than a little surprised by the challenge. After all, I was an old hand at the parenting gig. I had been broken in by her older sister, Ashley.
Between December 6, 1979 and August 16, 1983 I had been actively enrolled in Daddy 101. I didn't realize two little girls may come equipped with the same plumbing, but gifted with totally different personalities. What a surprise to learn that my effectiveness in raising one did not prepare me for the other. It has been a thoroughly humbling, and incredibly delightful journey learning afresh and anew the true value of the gift Dana and I received August 16th, back in the day.
Don't get me wrong. The scenery along the way has not always been pretty. The trip has sometimes had the chill and the thrill of a world class roller coaster. Just when I thought my lessons had been learned and the ride was over, I would hear the ominous...click,click, click, and her mother and I would hold on to dear life and shout out, "Lord, help us!"
As the scenes have sped by, some of what I remember includes:
- Diving into our pool in Tempe, Arizona to save her from drowning...twice in one day. I was fully clothed in my Sunday best, hosing down the cool-deck, and she was right beside me, holding my pants leg. Seconds later, I looked over my shoulder, and she was rolling over in the water like a dead fish. I dove in, pulled her out, and revived her. I recall hugging her and yelling at her all at the same time. She did it again that evening. Dana taught her to swim before she turned one.
- Racing after her in Borger, Texas. She was always running! This time she was headed towards the street and about to cross the path of an on-coming oil field truck. The driver and I locked eyes. He was terrified. He knew he couldn't stop, and I knew she wouldn't stop. I ran after her, and dove. I knocked her down, just before she reached the curb. The driver slammed on his brakes and with the sound of screeching pads, and smoking tires slid right past us. He had his head on the steering wheel, and I had my hands over her ears as I heard the Panhandle French coming out of his mouth.
- The valiant effort she made to stop sucking her thumb was epic. I saw her admiring a red wrist watch in Ann Holt's Boutique. She wanted that watch...bad. I told her I would get it for her if she stopped sucking her thumb for just two weeks. We went home and made a calendar and every day she brought it to me and crossed off a day she didn't suck her thumb. She hit her mark in 14 days. I still recall watching her sit in front of the TV set, and as she gradually fell into her comfort zone she would raise her hand to her mouth. Just before she put her thumb in her mouth, she would visibly shake and try to throw her hand away. It was a tremendous act of the will, and it gave me a little insight into what was in store for us.
- She always held us accountable to our standards. One day we decided to set the bar for watching TV in our home. If there was a curse word spoken by an actor, we would turn off the TV or change the channel. During a particular intense episode of some long-forgotten suspense show, a word popped out. With the remote in my hand, I kept watching, totally absorbed in the drama. She looked over her shoulder at me, nodding her head toward the TV and making the motion with her hand to hit the remote. I was really ticked, but God had placed a munchkin prophet in the house. I hit the remote.
- Breakfast at Burgee King! I started dating Allyson when she was almost four. We went to breakfast every Thursday morning until she graduated from high school. I held the door for her to get in and out of the car. I held her chair for her, and treated her like I would want a man to treat her on a date. The first time we went out, I taught her three little words to say if she was not treated with the kind of respect she deserved. "Take me home!" One Wednesday night we were driving home after a long day at church, and I asked her if we could go to lunch instead of breakfast. She didn't answer. It was very quiet in the back seat of the car. Dana leaned over and whispered in my ear, "That is all she has talked about all week." I immediately rescheduled the big event for breakfast, and she started laughing and talking again. Note to Dads: It is never too early to start treating the women in your life with the respect they deserve. Little girls get their self-respect from their Dad. Today we go to Starbucks.
- She has always been a great little sister. I always loved hearing Allyson brag about her big sister, Ashley. She always spoke with glowing praise of her beautiful singing, and any other achievement she made in life. Her total lack of jealousy for her sibling may be her greatest expression of her character. They did their share of fighting at home, but she always had her sister's back outside of the home.
- One day I called Allyson's elementary School to speak with the principal. The crisp, clear voice on the end of the line answered, "Bill J. Elliot Elementary School, how may I help you?" I expressed my need, and the receptionist said, " She is in a meeting, may I take a message, and have her return your call?" Something familiar about the sound of her voice caused me to ask, "Allsyon?" She replied, "Yes?" I said, "This is Dad." She responded, "I know that." In other words, she was at work, this was all business, and I should expect no special treatment. I was stunned at her poise, and professionalism. She was in fifth grade. Takes after her mother.
- She has the heart of a runner and the spirit of an athlete. Her junior year in high school she ran the mile and two mile event. The two mile came at the end of every track meet, and made for a long day of waiting. At the Georgia Regionals she was up against a solid field of accomplished runners and the eventual state champion. She finished second that day, by gunning down every other runner in the field on the last lap. By the stunned looks on their faces, they were taken by surprise. By the time she was heading into the final turn, every athlete and coach had taken notice of what was happening on the track and they were all on their feet cheering for her, screaming at the top of their lungs. They knew she could not possibly come in first, but they knew she ran with the heart of a champion. Dana and I almost passed out with parental pride. Priceless!
- Later that summer she accepted the challenge to skip her senior year in high school and go directly into her college studies. She crammed four years into three, and saved us a bundle of money by graduating a year early at the age of 20. Remember I told you she has always been a runner at heart. She missed graduated with honors by a fraction. Que pasa?
- She has always had a great love for people, and rarely meets a stranger. I have never seen anyone more adept at connecting with people, young and old. This has turned out to be a real asset. She is now a recruiter for Dallas Baptist University, and calls on businesses all over the metroplex to discover people who may have a need for higher education.
This past week Allyson graduated with her Master of Arts in Leadership from Dallas Baptist University. The University administration has expanded her duties and given her a significant raise as a result of her completion of her second degree with them. We are so proud of her accomplishments, and have a deep conviction that what we have seen is only the beginning. God has a great destiny in store for her.
When Allyson hit our beach a few hours ahead of Hurricane Alicia back in 1983, she took my breath away. She still does. Thank you Allyson for making such an impact on my life, and for allowing me the privilege of being known as Allyson's Dad.
God bless you! Love,
Dad and Mom
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
That phone call ended with an invitation to visit Houston on Memorial Day weekend and consider an offer to move to the city and help Dr. Bisagno pastor 3,000 single adults. Dana and I accepted the challenge to move that August and take on the assignment. As they say, "The rest is history." We spent three years in the fastest growing city in America, at the peak of the oil boom and "Urban Cowboy" culture. It was wild and crazy. Houston had three times the population of San Antonio, and the same number of freeway miles. It was terminally infected with road rage, and "Love Ya Blue" fever. It seems everyone in Houston was from somewhere else. A native Houstonian was a rare as a four leaf clover in a parking lot. Folksy, cowboy hat wearing coach "Bum" Phillips led the NFL, Houston Oilers, and his down home witticisms were always an inspiration. For the uninformed, the Tennessee Titans have their roots in a team once cheered as the Houston Oilers. Miss Ya Blue.
There were 750,000 single adults living in Houston in 1980, and we had a ton of them at HFBC. I don't know what I thought singles ministry would be like, but it involved alot of counseling. The most surprising aspect of all was that it involved a boatload of PRE-MARITAL counseling. The church employed three full time wedding coordinators, and held weddings every weekend. We conducted over 300 weddings a year, and they were often scheduled in rapid fire processions on Saturdays at 10AM, 2PM and 6PM. You get alot of single adults under one roof and you are going to have alot of weddings. Go figure.
Typically, we would have 10-15 singles a week join the church and baptize over 200 of them a year. Not bad for one staff member, and a part-time secretary. I often pointed out to the finance committee that every one of them had a job, and the 1,000 single adults attending Sunday School each week had the same stewardship punch as a church of 2,000 married adults. It never did any good. We were offered the least desired Sunday School space, and denied every request for additional assistance. With all the weddings, we were constantly having to reconfigure our leadership team. The turnover was enormous, but it was a huge boost to the attendance in the Married Young Adult area. After three years of burning the candle at both ends, I had 21 ulcers and a very weary body. I knew I wasn't going to be able to sustain the pace for much longer.
Dana and I led a weekly service for Single Adults on Friday night in the chapel. It started at 8PM and we called it "8's Thee Place." Later it morphed into the more agressive brand, "Single Hearted." This was our mission statement regarding the ministry: Single Hearted: Marked by sincerity and unity of purpose. The purpose of the ministry was to develop churchmen. We were focused on developing people you could count on, not just people you could count. While other ministires in town dealt with the touchy, feely, group hug, and gave singles dating tips, and advice on changing their oil or balancing their checkbook, we pointed them to the Word of God and prayer. Still works. Always will. Nuff said.
We were blessed to be associated with some of the finest people in the world. When we arrived in Houston, Henry and Wilma Hansen adopted us into their family. They treated our six month old daughter, Ashley, as if she was one of their own. Henry was director of our oldest single adult department. He was one of the greatest deacons to ever serve at HFBC, and he was a dear friend to me. Henry went home to be with the Lord not too long ago, but Wilma is still an active member of HFBC. She still sits in the same place in church each Sunday, just one seat over, and she still helps them count the offering. She is the original church lady. Dana and I easily found her in her place when we attended worship on August 7, 2011.
Following the worship service, Steve and Donna Bell hosted us for a reunion luncheon at a Mexican restaurant not far from HFBC. For four hours we were immersed in a steady stream of blasts from the past. It had been almost 28 years since we had seen one another, and although most of the other parts of our bodies had been rearranged, our hearts were all in the right place. It was a memorable time filled with laughter, tears, hugs, stories, and ALOT of pictures of children and grand children. It was a sensory overload of emotion and energy.
I was able to give a brief update of The Response, and thank them for their pastor's participation in the event. Greg Matte is doing a great job leading HFBC into the 21st Century. It did not surprise me to learn that Dr. Bisagno is his greatest cheerleader, and when he is in town he sits right up front to show his support for his pastor.
The Single Adults of HFBC were the first to put out a welcome mat for our youngest daughter, Allyson. She was born 28 years ago this month, the day before Hurricane Alicia hit. It was great getting to introduce her to people who have loved her from the day she was born. Donna and Steve, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am sorry it has taken us so long to get back to Houston. Dana and I look forward to doing this again, real soon.
Following the reunion, Dana and I headed to Katy, Texas to reconnect with Ray and Nancy Lewis. Ray was a deacon at HFBC, and the director of one of my youngest Single Adult departments back in 1980-83. His calm, quiet demeanor was always a great balance to my youthful, wild-eyed intensity. Ray is now 84 years of age, but I still feel my blood pressure lower when I am in his presence. Ray walked by my side faithfully for three years, and guided me away from more than one land mine. He is a pastor's friend, and his wise counsel was always a welcome relief to me. Dana was not sure the Lewises had forgiven us for taking Allyson off to Arizona. When she was only a month old, we moved to take on the pastorate of First Southern Baptist Church of Tempe. It was a long way from Ray and Nancy. Fortunately Allyson was with us when we arrived, and they let us in the house. We spent a very short hour reconnecting the love lines, and having prayer out on their patio before we headed back to Fort Worth.
The reunion we experienced in Houston is a foretaste of what God has in store for us in Heaven. Good friends are never really separated by time and space. When they get together after a long separation from one another, they just pick up where they left off in their last converstation. Love relationships are like that. They are seamless and solid, strengthened by a God-given bond that cannot be broken. We are grateful for the little taste of Heaven we were able to enjoy this past weekend. Thanks Donna and Steve for your kindness and hosptiality. FYI: Next time does the hotel have to be right next door to the Galleria? Just sayin'.
Until we meet again...TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!
Gary and Dana Miller, TALK LESS! PRAY MORE! Ministries
C/O The Whitefield Project 3717 Mossbrook Drive Fort Worth, TX 76244 firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @garydonmiller
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Calling people to prayer takes the courage of a lion and the hide of a rhinoceros. When the focus is on calling pastors to return to the priority of prayer, I suggest gargling with testosterone, and adding extra body armor. From the disciples in the Garden to the ministers of today, there has always been a subtle temptation to drift away in slumber from the priority of prayer. Waking up someone from a deep sleep seldom results in a pleasant response. The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis, held in Houston's Reliant Stadium on August 6th generated a wide pendulum swing of reactions. They ranged from open hostility, to benign neglect, to active participation. Excuses were many, criticsim was great, but God's call to pray was heard by thousands in spite of the opposition. The harder the opponents of The Response kept shoveling out the criticism, God kept shoveling in His favor. They shoveled out. God shoveled in. God's shovel is bigger than theirs. Always has been. Always will be. Nuff said.
In "Words to Winners of Souls" (1877), Horatius Bonar quoted the personal confession of pious Puritan preacher, Richard Baxter,
"And for myself, as I am ashamed of my dull and careless heart, and of my slow and unprofitable course of life; so, the Lord knows, I am ashamed of every sermon I preach; when I think what I have been speaking of, and who sent me, and that men's salvation or damnation is so much concerned in it, I am ready to tremble lest God should judge me as a slighter of His truths and the souls of men, and lest in the best sermon I should be guilty of their blood. Methinks we should not speak a word to men in matters of such consequence without tears or the greatest earnestness that possibly we can; were not we too much guilty of the sin which we reprove it, it would be so."
Bonar added his own confession, "We are not in earnest either in preaching or hearing. If we were, could we be so cold, so prayerless, so inconsistent, so slothful, so worldly, so unlike men whose business is all about eternity?"
For 73 intense days, Dana and I were privileged to take part in an effort to mobilize Texas Baptist pastors to participate in The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis. It was Governor Perry's Joel 2 call for a solemn assembly held at the Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas on August 6, 2011. You may want to mark that date down for future reference. Something special took place more important than any Super Bowl that will ever be played in that stadium.
My small part in this great day began when I was invited to attend a meeting in Houston re: The Response on May 24th by David Lane, a long-time friend. David and I met for the first time in August of 1980, while Dana and I were serving as Minister to Single Adults on the staff of Dr. John Bisagno, Senior Pastor of Houston's First Baptist Church. During those three years at HFBC, we were so pleased to see David meet and fall in love with his future wife, Cindy. It was not love at first sight, but Cindy heard from God, and obeyed His call. She took on the daunting mission assignment, and married David. When she got on board the Lane train, we hosted their rehearsal dinner in our home, and our oldest daughter, Ashley, was a flower girl in their wedding. Years later, when I pastored in Fort Worth, David served as one of my finest deacons. He has always been a pastor's friend. God has placed a call on David's life to encourage pastors to turn their hearts to God, and to lead their people to turn the nation back to a focus on a Holy Spirit awakening. He prays for me every day. Dana and I have always felt honored to have him ask us, "Can you help me?"
The meeting in May was hosted by Doug Stringer. Doug and Lisa lead "Somebody Cares," a tremendous ministry in Houston with a world-wide impact. They are two of our newest friends. Their lives are a remarkable story of God's grace, and they bring to the table powerful prophetic and diplomatic skills that can cross generational, ethnic and linguistic lines with superb organizational ability. Doug stook his neck out for The Response, but without losing his head. He became the on site coordinator and communicator for The Response, and God used him to bridge divides and smooth waters that prepared the way for a movement of the Spirit in Houston prior to August 6th. Doug, John the Baptist would be proud of you, and maybe even a litte jealous. Baptists are like that sometimes.
The first week of June, I received a call from the Director of The Response, Luis and Jill Cataldo, dear friends from I-HOP in Kansas City, to assist the amazing Alice Patterson with mobilizing Texas Baptist pastors to take part in the event to be held in Houston on August 6th. I called Alice and asked her to pray for our efforts. After that, she never looked back. The lady is a lazer of light in the darkness. Alice, "Many daugthers have done nobly, but you excel them all." (Prov. 31:29). The web site went public for the first time on June 6th, and our first Response Team conference call took place on June 9th. For anyone who is counting, that is roughly 60 days lead time to mobilize pastors to get their people to a stadium in Houston that seats 71,000 people. We needed a miracle, and God was on the move.
To put the challenge into a more personal focus, I am an interim pastor of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. This a great country church with an attendance of thirty people, meeting for the past 107 years, 50 miles north of Fort Worth. It is a wonderful group of sweet people, but not considered the kind of platform from which to leverage Texas pastors who often associate size with significance. When I walked into the church's one Sunday School class on July 31st, they had prominently written across the little white board, PRAY FOR THE RESPONSE IN HOUSTON - AUGUST 6TH. I was moved to tears by their participation. So was God. The prophet Zechariah contained a warning in his question, "Who has despised the day of small things." Not God! He is not leveraged by the prominent or the dominant. He is moved by the slightest whisper of the smallest saint who calls out to Him for help. There must have been ALOT of small churches praying to a big God. Some larger churches sat on the bench. Mt. Pleasant brought their A-Game. Just sayin'.
In some cases the response to the call to prayer in Houston was underwhelming, but often, it was soul-stirring. I was so honored that pastor friends, Ricky Griffin of Amarillo would take time from serving as a pastor at Trinity Fellowship in Amarillo and take his place in prayer. Lakan Mariano drove from San Angelo to Houston to pray for 30 seconds on the platform of The Response. John Yarborough, made the journey from the mountains of north Georgia to intercede for an awakening. They were not alone, but these three men are poster boys for many men who set aside time out of busy schedules to "pray" their part in a call to God to do something only He could get credit for.
In July 2010, Dana and I began our fledgling prayer ministry, TALK LESS! PRAY MORE! After ten months, we were hardly in a position to set aside a ministry we were trying to get off the ground, and volunteer for two months for The Response. In spite of our 35 year investment in Texas Baptists, we felt inadequate for the task of mobilization on several levels.
In light of this, God impressed me I needed to take my personal preparation for The Response to another level. I began to read, "Preacher and Prayer, by E.M. Bounds. I reopened, "Words to Winners of Souls," by Horatius Bonar. It contained, "The Ministerial Confession of 1651." This is a remarkable, startling corporate confession of the ministers of The Church of Scotland during a national crisis. I soon learned calling people to pray and praying are two different things. The Father began to awaken me at 4:oo AM every morning, and I spent three hours of prayer with Him before I began my work of mobilizaiton. It has been an amazing time. Getting up has not been a problem. One morning, I awakened to the sound of someone pounding on my front door. I bolted out of bed and with heart racing, and adrenaline pumping, I looked through the spy glass on the door, but no one was there. I think I heard the Holy Spirit say, "Good morning!" Believe me I was awake before the coffee was made.
The next person I called in this mobilization effort was Ted Elmore. Ted and Cheryl have been leading Texans to pray for years. In the middle of their battle against Cheryl's breast cancer, Ted met me for prayer every week, and took time to provide great counsel and assistance in getting word out to Texas pastors re: The Response. His intimate association with Southern Baptists of Texas was key to this. Many thanks to Jim Richards, Executive Director of the SBTC, and Gary Ledbetter, Editor of The Texan for their willingness to cheer Ted on and to encourage SBTC pastors to support an event they did not plan. May your tribe increase!
Everyone who took part in preparing for The Response, those who attended in Houston, attended a simulcast or logged in on their computer have a story to tell. This is mine. About a week out from August 6th, I began to sense we were going to have a crowd. My concern shifted from mobilizing pastors to sending a personal invitation to an Audience of One. I began to believe we were getting traction for The Response, but I feared we might draw a crowd and miss putting the welcome mat out for The One Person who could make all the difference in the world. I began to pray to The Father to allow His Holy Spirit the elbow room He needed to take part in The Response, and to glorify The Manifest Presence of The Risen Christ, His Son, and Our Savior, Jesus Christ. This was more about me getting it right, than God getting an invitation, but I'm glad I prayed this way. It calmed my fears, and focused my eyes on Him.
Another person who stepped in at crunch time was an old friend, Ron Harris. He helped me to make connection with radio stations throughout Texas who he knew would be willing to assist us with getting the information out regarding The Response. Thanks Ron for lending us your impeccable professional credentials and solid reputation at a critical time when we needed help in clearing the air of all the negative media coverage. Among many, Sharon Geiger at KCBI was a messenger from God. I am grateful, and God was pleased to use your influence to give us favor for such a time as this.
Each team member and attendee of The Response had to overcome obstacles to get to Houston. Some fought cancer, unsupportive church boards, suspicious and cynical critics from the right and the left, and all faced scorching August heat. Dana and I live by faith, and and get paid by works. We had worked hard prior to The Response, blessed with several ministry opportunities. It looked like our needs were being met in time for the big day in Houston. Our work was growing, but our faith underwent a test when the checks we were expecting to arrive were still in the mail before we had to leave home. We left Fort Worth with gas in our car, and eight dollars in our pocket. Our personal and ministry accounts had enough money to allow us to purchase gas to get to Houston. We were not sure we had enough to get back. At best, we would be traveling on fumes when we pulled back into town late Sunday night. We prayed, and went anyway.
Our weekend schedule was tightened and brightened by our daughter Allyson's graduation from Dallas Baptist University on Friday. After she received her M.A. in Leadership from DBU, we grabbed a few quick pics, a quicker lunch, and headed to Houston. We made it to and through Houston in four hours during the peak of rush hour, a miracle indeed. We arrived in time to serve at the welcome desk and register program participants for an organizational dinner at the Reliant Stadium. It was our first time to meet many of the people we had only known by conference calls. Jim and Sharon Garlow, from San Diego arrived together as the sun was setting and the heat/humidity index was oppressively hot. During the ramp up for The Response, she and Jim have been fighting a battle with her cancer at M.D. Anderson. She could see Reliant from her hospital room. She would look from her window during treatments and pray for God to meet her there. Her prayers were answered. She showed up and so did God.
I was able to introduce Dana to Rebekah Ayodele, a beautiful Nigerian prayer warrior who had been praying for years for this kind of solemn assembly to be held in Reliant. From the day the stadium opened its doors, she had been praying and annointing the entrances with oil, asking God to bring His Presence to Houston for a day such as this. The stadium may be the home of The Texans, but The Saints were in the house! It looked like a gathering of the United Nations. Late Friday night, we checked into the hotel and fell into an exhausted sleep.
Dana, Allyson and I were asked by Wayne Hamilton, an amazing and gifted special event coordinator to assist his team with some final behind the scene responsibilities. Dana and I have come to love and appreciate all they do to make events like this move from dream to reality. We also responded to Jill Cataldo's request to assist with the Hospitality Team. This meant we arrived at the stadium at 7:45 AM, and would be on our feet all day. My back went out that morning as we were leaving the hotel. I had to lean on a chair most of the day, but I had a great view of what God was doing out front, and behind the scenes at The Response. When the doors opened, Allyson and I were standing stage right, just beneath one of the huge projection screens. I was praying that the people would come. In spite of all the preparaton, my heart was still in my throat. THEN IT HAPPENED. The doors opened, and the aisles filled with people racing down the steps to the main floor. It was an unending stream of people, RUNNING to enter the room, and to get to the FRONT of the stage. I remember saying to Allyson, with tears in my eyes, "They're coming!" I had to add, "They must not all be Baptists because they're not sitting in the back. They are moving to the front!"
From 8:00 AM-10:30 AM there was a steady flow of people entering the room, and taking part in the prayer and praise that was being offered up for personal and corporate repentance. One of the stadium reperesentatives told us their estimate at that time was 35,000 people. It's their house. They should know. With the coming and going of the day from 8:00 AM-6:00 PM, I would not be surprised if the number of people who came to the event did not exceed 50,000. You feel free to watch the video on http://www.theresponseusa.com/ and make your own guesstimate.
You may not appreciate all of the music or the volume of it, but it didn't seem to bother God. He was there, smiling like a proud parent at a child's birthday party at "Chuck E. Cheese." Senior adults looked on with smiles on their faces as they watched young people worshipping God in a way that they could not fully comprehend, but they totally embraced. My favorite memory of the event involves Richard Ford. He moved from the reserved section out onto the floor of the arena. While the young people danced to the Lord, Richard whirled his battery operated chair in a circle with his head thrown back and a huge smile beaming toward Heaven. Richard is my new hero. I want to be like him when I grow up. Side note: It probably helped that I left the stadium with Bill and Vonette Bright's son, Brad and drove him to Walgreens to buy all the ear plugs they had. When we returned Brad handed them out to grateful senior saints. He could have sold them for a bundle. Remember the eight dollars? The thought crossed my mind, but Brad is a better Christian than I am.
This one thing I know. God's people prayed up, and God showed up. My prayer was answered when The Audience of One arrived on the scene. No one stole the show away from God. No one took His seat of honor. The focus was on Him from the beginning to the end. Governor Perry disappointed his critics by not turning it into a political rally. However, he probably angered them more by praying in the name of Jesus. Throughout the day, children, young people, and senior adults did the same thing. Personal prayer times and prayer groups were initiated from the audience, as well as from the platform.
In mid-July, I was invited by Luis and Jill Cataldo to participate in prayer on the platform at The Response. I love spending time with this couple. They know how to pray and how to laugh. A great way to live. They brought incredible energy and endless grace to a huge task. It is not easy to tell preachers of international prominence to keep their remarks under seven minutes. They kept control of the platform and made sure the prayer meeting did not turn into a preachathon. I am proud to call them friends. I was given 15 seconds to express a prayer focusing on the First Commandment. It doesn't sound like much time, but Luis encouraged us all to be in prayer as we walked to the stage, and allow him or Doug to simply place the microphone before us. They would break into our intimate converstation with the Father, and let others listen in. It made sense to me, so I timed the words, "Father, forgive us for exalting our systems and overshadowing our Savior, in the Name of Your Son, Jesus, Amen." When I got to platform, we were told we were ahead of schedule so the game plan changed to, "Ignore the timer, and let 'er rip." It is hard to believe, but I was a little annoyed. I had already memorized a perfectly good prayer, and now I had to shift gears. So much for prepared prayers. They never seem to work for me.
On a personal note, when I left the platform, I walked back stage and was met by my daughter, Allyson, who gave me a big hug. Right behind her was my wife Dana. She had her cell phone to her ear. I could see from her face that the conversation was important, but it was apparent that it delivered good news. She looked up at me with a smile on her face and announced, "The checks arrived!" What timing! We would be able to get home after all. It always pays to TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!
The Response was a call to prayer for a nation in crisis. That crisis continues, and will not be solved by the change of political leadership, turnaround of the economy, or restoration of national pride. Trusting in politicians, pursuing wealth, and building armies have put us where we are today. The paradox of our dilemma is not lost on God. We worship money, but our currency is engraved with the words, "IN GOD WE TRUST." God is not mocked, and doesn't suffer fools gladly or endlessly. The Response was a call to repentance. Tony Evans took only six of his seven minute time slot and left 60 seconds of change. He pointed us to an exit ramp, that requires the bridge of God's grace for us to continue to cross over the wrong road. He reminded us that turning to access the entrance ramp to the right road must continue. Turning our lives individually and corporately in the right direction is a begining, not an end in itself. We must remain focused with our eyes on Jesus long enough to see His face clear enough to know when He knows enough is enough. A look from Jesus should be enough to give His Church direction, protection and correction.
We left Houston in love with Jesus. A look from Him will quickly remind us if we ever leave our First Love. Until then, join us and enjoy the journey towards a First Love Awakening as Dana and I learn to TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!
Gary and Dana Miller, TALK LESS! PRAY MORE! Ministries
c/o The Whitefield Project 3717 Mossbrook Drive Fort Worth, TX 76244 email@example.com Twitter@garydonmiller