Sunday, July 29, 2007

Live Your Passion, Tell Your Story, Change Your World

Live Your Passion, Tell Your Story, Change Your World was the theme for the weekend revival at the Camden Point Baptist Church.

Friday night began with a magic show and continued with music and testimonies from some other guests. It's always interesting to hear how God has impacted other lives and changed them. There were some great original songs and inspirational stories.

The turn out was pretty light but I'm sure that all that showed up had a meaningful time. Some even made the commitment that they would live more like Jesus.

At some point I heard the comment that the people that God wanted to be there were there. Truthfully, I think that it is that kind of rationalization of our poor participation/planning/promoting that keeps the church in the crisis that it is in today. If all of the people that God wanted to be there showed up, we would have had to rent out Arrowhead Stadium and still turn people away. Let's face it. We are presenting a God that nobody feels that they need and one that nobody wants. Are we going to tell those that weren't there, "You really missed a great evening." Or will we tell them, "God didn't really want you there in the first place!"

Our schedules and the events that we plan in our own busy lives are infinitely more important that coming to be entertained by a lame magician, some local song writers and then being forced to listen to them go on and on about some god that has changed their lives. God owns so little of the lives of those that claim to follow him, that even they won't show up for a "church" event. We shouldn't be surprised when those outside of the church have something better to do.

I can hear it. Can you?

"So what?! You invite some outside person to come tell us the same thing that you've been saying. Do you think that we're going to fall for it? How good can a gospelmagician be? I'll just wait and catch Criss Angel on A&E."

Don't get me wrong. I believe that Todd Gordon did promote the event. I even believe that he promoted God in the process. The people that were guests really love God and love serving Him. The problem is that people are tired of hearing about church events. What they really want to see is God--in action! We have to be the face of God in our communities. They don't want to hear about God. They want to see Him. While we may walk by faith and not by sight, they are still walking by sight. Let's show them God. Let's not expect them to come to church for anything. Let's take God to them! No programs. No events. No propaganda or tracts. Let's just show them God by the way we live our lives.

Whew! Sorry about the rant.

Saturday was spent at Christian Family Day in Smithville. I'll post more about some of the great people that I met there in another post. I did enjoy talking to folks and sharing a little bit of magic as I walked around. The music was wonderful. Many different bands shared the stage throughout the day, each with their own unique style.

Sunday morning service at the church, a pot-luck dinner afterwards and another brief magic moment with yours truly. Sunday evening was a meeting with the youth. My part was relatively small with the majority of the time going to singer/songwriter Jeff Kelley. Jeff has a great talent for sharing the Word through the music that he writes. The evening turn out was again pretty light. Too bad, I really enjoyed the time of worship through the music and testimony.

I think that Camden Point Baptist Church is like so many of our churches. A very few are on fire and want to do whatever it takes to bring Jesus to the world around them. Unfortunately their spirit, their fire, is being quenched by the majority of the "church". We need to have the faith of the Old Testament Prophet when confronted with all of the prophets of Baal. His faith was so strong that all of the wood, the altar and the trenches surrounding the altar were soaked with water. In spite of those that would quench the fire of God, the fire fell and consumed everything.

The church is in crisis and the time has come for us to do something different.

Until next time,

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Summer Camp

Well I have survived another week of summer camp! The combined churches of Hopedale and Finley Crossings have had another wonderful week of children's camp. This year's theme centered around game shows. Our biblical focus was on "The Great Commision."

The lessons began with the parable of the one lost sheep and the ninety-nine still safely in the fold. A video of the wayward shepherd looking for his lost sheep in the fields, parking lots, Dollar General and other places was entertaining and taught a wonderful lesson of the great lengths that the Good Shepherd will go in order to rescue his lost sheep.

Lesson two featured the "Mad Scientist" and his explosive version of fruit salad. The lesson was actually about the "Fruit of the Spirit" found in the fifth chapter of Galations. We learned that the Holy Spirit helps us in all aspects of our life. He helps us in our relationship with God (love, joy, peace), our relationships with others (patience, kindness, goodness), and in our personal disciplines (faithfulness, gentleness and self-control).

We moved on to telling "our story" and telling His story--the Great Commission. Through it all, David and Jenny Stone did an awesome job of leading our worship time and calling out to God so that He might bless us with His Presence. The Drama Team brought great skits. Our friend Rusty made regular appearances and always brings an interesting (but often flawed) view of the Bible. I hope that the kids learned how important it is to ask questions. The team challenges were a blast and the annual water gun fight lived up to its growing reputation of fun--soaking and getting soaked!

Mike and Denise, you guys are incredible. You are the best Children's Directors that a church could hope to have and I feel very blessed that you serve at Hopedale. All of the adult volunteers did so much to see that the kids had fun and learned a little bit while doing it! The staff at Windemere also did a great job of meeting our needs.

In the end, five of our campers made professions of faith in Jesus! I am humbled to serve along side of all of you. The kids, the camp, the workers all rocked. It almost makes me look forward to next year!


By the way--the blog has reached its one year anniversary today!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Health Issues

A few weeks ago I ran out of my prescription allergy medication, Singulair. I was also out of refills on my prescription and so I made the obligatory call to the Doctor's office to get a new one. Well, they check with the Dr. and he would only call in a thirty day prescription and I would have to come in for an office visit to get a new 'script with refills...and they can't get me in for two weeks.

Does this sound like a scam to anybody else? I'm thinking that the conversation will go something like this:

Dr: How have you been feeling?

John: Fine, when my allergies aren't bothering me.

Dr: How have you been managing your allergies?

John: With Singulair. (unspoken--duh)

Dr: Okay, you can pick up a new prescription at the desk. (unspoken--where we'll also collect your co-pay and bill your insurance for an office visit!)

If it weren't for the job, I'd manage with the over the counter stuff and forget the note from the Dr. to tell the Pharmacist that I said I needed Singulair and (for a small fee) he agrees with me! The air traffic controller gig prevents me from taking anything that might make me drowsy and so I'm somewhat limited. Claritin is better than nothing--but not that much better.

In the end, I'm changing Doctors. I doubt that the policies and practices will change much from one office to the other (they are most likely dictated by malpractice insurance--which drives up the cost of health care, which drives up the cost of health insurance, which eventually increases liability and drives up the cost of malpractice insurance and increases restrictions on doctors, yada, yada, yada. Blah, blah, blah.) But this new Doc is the one that I see annually for my flight physical. I'll start with a real physical in a few weeks, fasting, blood work, the whole bit. That gives me about six weeks to lose some weight and get into a little bit better shape. It gives me some incentive to do what needs to be done anyways.

Here's an interesting article about Baptists and health issues.

In the words of Homer Simpson, "It's a good thing God didn't make gluttony a sin!"

We're all (Southern Baptists) pretty big on condemning the drinking, gambling, abortion and any number of social sins. But eating?! How can that be a sin? And even if it is a sin, it's not as bad as ...(fill in your favorite "I'm not as bad as so-and so's" sin).

At my recent family reunion, I took the "fat boy" award pretty much hands down. At work, I'm the go-to guy for where to go for good eats. Hey, you don't get advice for good food from a skinny guy! It's time for a change. I'm sure I'll still have the occasional indulgence in a ballpark dog and I doubt that I'll miss a rare opportunity for some Ted Drewe's Frozen Custard. For the record, I'm starting at 245 lbs. It's seven weeks until my physical. That will tell the story of just how serious (or not) I really am. My usual weight loss endeavors have been accompanied by a bet/challenge. This time it's just for better health and longer life, which should be incentive enough. Of course, if anyone wants to make it a contest...


Monday, July 16, 2007

New Ventures

I’m gearing up for some new ventures in magic performance. Strolling magic in an outdoor environment is something that I’ve never done before. I have done some walk-around at a trade show, but that was indoors and there were tables available.

I’m not planning on utilizing a whole bunch of effects. I really would rather use a few effects, done well—and keep moving. Part of the strolling event is to invite the community to the evening revival that is being held at Camden Point Baptist Church. I’m excited about the opportunity and looking forward do doing some more of this type of performing. I have a second (potential) event in October as well as looking to do some local stuff during the holidays.

Since this first event is a learning event, I’m planning of a few extra effects to see about practicality and audience response. It’s the end of July and I’m expecting it to be hot. I haven’t really decided about dress yet, but I have to consider that I really sweat. Might have to bring a change of clothes along!


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Reunion Weekend

I’m riding backseat on the way home from our weekend reunion. You’ve got to love the convenience of a laptop and a cell phone internet connection!

As we make our way back to Ozark, all of the others disperse to different areas of the country. This was the first time in a very long time that everyone has made it home for a gathering of the Jerry/Leticia Hill clan.

Theresa, Mike and Justin are on their way home to Oklahoma City with Jason returning to Florida tomorrow. My family just made a pit stop at Ted Drewes in St. Louis on our way home to Southwest Missouri. Steve, Laura and Austin are making the long trek home to Maryland (DC area). Mike, Christine, Andrew and the triplets (Tyler, Ben and Zach) should be at home in Bolingbrook IL by now. Mary, Chris, Amelia, Joe and Haley are probably back in their un-air conditioned home in Indianapolis. And Pat, Jeanna, Grace and Ryan are heading back to Norfolk VA after making the detour to Rockford IL to drop off Morgan and Amber for a few weeks. That will leave Mom and Dad to a much quieter home than it’s been in the past week and I think that all of us could use a good rest!

If you weren’t counting, it is six of us that are siblings, five spouses, seventeen grandkids and the two responsible for the family—30 all-in-all. I really do love my family. The kids (cousins) get along very well in spite of the fact that they rarely see each other. I know that all of the moms and dads are extremely proud of their kids (and they ought to be!). Our kids range in ages from 29 to 2 and interact remarkably well with each other. And although we do a fair job of keeping up with each other via e-mail updates, there isn’t anything like actually getting together.

We are separated by time zones, live in small towns and big cities, have diverse political views, go to different churches and have varying degrees of education. It is very apparent that we all love our kids a great deal. We love each other and each other’s kids, too.

“One big happy family” is the understatement of the century. Oh, we have our struggles and our stresses, to be sure. But they cannot diminish the feeling that I get when we are together.

To Mom and Dad, who will be celebrating their 50th Anniversary this fall: Well done!


Friday, July 06, 2007

Something with Meat, Please

So having been taunted by fellow blogger, David Stone, I thought that perhaps it's time for a post with a bit more meat in it. Looking back over the past couple of months, I can see that I haven't posted much in the way of anything very meaningful. Mostly, it's because I haven't felt like devoting the time it takes to do much more that report past happenings.

So here are some thoughts/rants from a study that I'm working on:

The topic is taken from a conversation that Jesus had with His closest followers and is found in the 16th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. I think that the questions that Jesus asks his followers then are questions that He asks us (assuming we are His close followers) now.

"Who do men say that I am?" is the first question that He asks.

I believe that it is important for us to know where others stand in regard to their belief of Jesus if we are to share with them the Jesus that we know. In the evangelism series Sharing Jesus Without Fear, the question is asked, "Who is Jesus, to you?" Something tells me that Jesus had a pretty good idea of what others were saying about Him.

Teachers always seem to be asking questions that they already know the answer to as a way of getting their students to investigate or as way to find out what we know. In battle, it is said, “Know your enemy.” Jesus wants for us to know what others are thinking. If we don’t know, we should ask. The question "Who is Jesus, to you?" is a way to let somebody express what they have heard and what they believe about Jesus.

This is not the point at which you begin to argue with them, criticize their opinions/beliefs or persuade them that you are right and they are wrong. You have asked them for information and they have given it to you. Be polite.

In the Bible, the disciples answered with things that they had heard others saying about Jesus. Maybe you've been listening to what others have been saying about Jesus. Maybe you've looked to what different religions are saying about Jesus. Maybe you are trying to figure out who this Jesus person really is. When so many experts are saying so many different things about who he is, who do you believe? How do you know who you can trust? What makes one religion right and another one wrong? And if you are the one sharing Jesus, why should anyone trust you?

These are all valid questions. The question "Who do men say that I am?" can have many different answers. But the second question that Jesus asks, "Who do you say that I am?" or the question that somebody else might ask you, "Who is Jesus to you?" can really have only one answer. And the reality of who Jesus is, also has only one answer.

I would encourage each reader to investigate the claims of the Bible. Investigate the claims of Jesus. I believe that it is vital for you to figure out this Jesus thing. I believe that it is a matter of life and death, of heaven and hell. I know that you may not even believe in heaven or hell. You may not believe in God or an afterlife. But if these things are real, then your not believing in them won't change the consequences of a God-less life.

If you have questions, ask. Feel free to e-mail me direct or to post a comment. I don't know all of the answers, but I'll gladly share what I believe to be true.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Today, July Fourth, is my dad's birthday. We have always celebrated it with friends, family and a free nation by watching the fireworks displays. Happy Birthday, Dad.

To help in your celebration of America's birth, I highly recommend you read my friends blog from The Main Bang.

In the words of Russian immigrant and Branson entertainer, Yakov..."What a country!"


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Hot Dog!

Okay, here it is. It's the dog report from our recent trip to several major league parks. I'll begin with the dogs at Chase Park in Phoenix from May. The dog itself was a good hotdog but there wasn't anything special about the condiments making it nothing more than a good hotdog.

I'll tell you that the Kansas City Royals had a very good dog. It has the potential to become my favorite except for two things; they grill their onions with peppers. The peppers make it look pretty but grilled peppers tend to be a bit bitter. And the onions need to be grilled a little longer to carmelize or they need to use a sweeter onion. If they would do those two things, they would have the best ballpark dog I've ever had. Topped with kraut and mustard...a ballpark masterpiece.

I was disappointed in the Wrigley Field dog. Their Chicago "style" dog was a far cry from a real Chicago Dog. I know that I would have had to pay more for a Vienna Beef dog and a genuine Chicago Dog but so what? The KC dog was $6.

Saturday at the Jake I'll have to admit that I passed on the Pound Hound. I think that I ate too much at the stop on the way or maybe was just not in the mood for a dog. I will say that it smelled great.

Great American park in Cincy was a different ballpark experience. It didn't feel like a ballpark and our bleacher buddies weren't the appetite enhancing neighbors.

By Monday at US Cellular in Chicago I was ready for a good dog and was rewarded for the wait. In spite of filling up on gyros and baklava in Greek Town, I powered down a great dog loaded with grilled onions and brown mustard. The only complaint here was that you could only get kraut at the brat stand and even then, it cost extra!

At Milwaulkee I skipped the dog and went for the Polish Sausage and kraut. It was pretty fine cuisine but I'm not sure how to compare it to the dogs. For the most part, I go for the dogs.

Aaron loves a good brat and said that the KC brat was the best. Cincy had a good brat and to my surprise,he was disappointed with the brat in Milwaulkee.

Overall, whether by prejudice or just good taste, my favorite dog was the one I was waiting for in St. Louis. I'm not talking about the concession stand dog. You have to get these Kosher babies at their own little grilling cart. The kosher dog with grilled onions and kraut are absolutely the best. I can tell you that I've introduced a number of Cardinal fans to these babies and they ALWAYS go to the park looking for one of these dogs.

My ranking for the dogs:
St. Louis
Chicago (Sox)
Milwaulkee (Polish Sausage)
Chicago (Cubs)

Aaron's ranking on the brats:

I should mention that Aaron also ranks the St. Louis Dog as #1 although he doesn't use the kraut!

Bon appetite,


2007 1/2

Wow! Can you believe it?! 2007 is half over as we turn the calendar page to July.

The halfway point is as good a place as any to pause long enough to see how we are doing on our goals/dreams/wants for the year.

I got to thinking the other day that it's been almost a year since I started blogging. If you've read that first post, you'll remember that I was supposed to be writing a book. So far, that hasn't happened. The desire to write that particular book hasn't changed so I guess it's time to make time and to get busy writing.

The first half of the year was a busy one with regards to ministry work. I had several revivals, conferences, magic shows, pulpit supply and a church camp. The second half looks to be filling up as well. God has been very good to me. Our local church is working through some growing pains as we look to move forward in God's Kingdom work and reach the community around us.

Even though these posts seldom seem to generate comments, I am encouraged to find that many of you are reading and make personal comments to me from time to time. My wife thinks that blogging is silly and wonders who would read the rants of one like me or any of the others that I check in on frequently. Sometimes I wonder the same thing!

The Bible Study/sermon that I'm working on currently is about two questions that Jesus asked to His closest followers in Matthew 16: Who do people say that I am? and Who do you say that I am? I believe that these are still relevant questions today and questions that we need to answer. I am looking forward to the study and to the opportunity to share the findings with others. My last message on producing fruit was one that I really enjoyed and I'll include the high points in a future post.

The time to head to church approaches so I'll close and post. Check back soon for more ramblings.