EITC Letter to U.S. Senators

My letter to U.S. Senators from the great State of Illinois regarding the Earned Income Tax Credit.

It Was Empty!

Today… It finally happened. July 2, 2014 is the date I’ll remember for awhile.

I was looking forward to a Bible study with friends (ages 60+). I’m 26 so I cherish the moments where I get to share the Gospel with others who are older than me. I learn more than I teach normally. Facilitating for others a safe place where they can learn and share honestly and experience intimacy with Jesus brings me such joy!

For this gathering I prayed about what to share with the group. A friend shared a study with me that he had done with his “Senior” group at Harvester Christian Church that looked at the books of 1, 2 & 3 John. PERFECT! I prepared a handout with a few exercises from Scripture to guide our discussion and prayer. I reserved the room where we would meet. Most importantly I chatted with Jesus about who would attend and their hearts be opened.

The time came this morning to gather with my friends at the feet of Jesus and get our “feet washed”! Everything was ready. Handouts printed. Check. Me prepared. Check (I think). Coffee made. Check. I prayed while I waited for people to arrive. I waited. 9:30am came and went by. Then 9:35am. Then 9:40am. I kept waiting.

No one came! I was by myself.

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It can be lonely at times to be a ministry leader.

The Disappointments of Leadership

Have you ever experienced a disappointment like that? I’m sure the pastors who I work with have. I’m sure the other Christ-followers who I minister with have. You probably have too. 

Maybe it was an open house to help sell your home or even a party. You schedule the event and set aside time to prepare it. You cleaned your home or room to make it nice. But no one showed up.

Maybe it was like me. Maybe it was a Bible study group, class, or meeting. You were the only one there!

To be honest, I am discouraged. I wouldn’t say depressed though. I do feel a little insignificant. I feel a little impatient, frustrated, and sad that people who said they would show up but didn’t.

I’ve felt sorry for myself long enough already. (pity me).

Over the three years I’ve been in ministry, I’ve talked with other pastors or ministry leaders from all over the world and they’ve shared similar experiences with me.

Self-Pity to Appreciating Jesus

Today I don’t question what God has called me to do or my capacity with his help to carry that out.

I’ve learned that when nobody shows up for the group I planned it’s not about me- it’s about them and their schedules, their stress, their hesitation.

Jesus experienced disappointment. Time and time again he gave all he had to people. He was criticized, rejected, abandoned. Nobody- not one single person truly understood what he gave his life to, why he came to earth, and why he suffered on the cross. His family and friends didn’t even understand what he was all about until after he died and rose from the dead.

Why do I think things should go better for me? Why do I think people shouldn’t disappoint me?

Intimacy with Jesus

It’s when I really look at the big picture I understand I wasn’t alone. When my focus is on Jesus, and his life laid out in front of me in the Gospels, his presence with me, I realize I’m not alone!

When I am disappointed by people or circumstances, I have been learning (very slowly) that I must focus on one thing that really matters and that nobody can take that away from me: “the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Truly, with Paul, “I want to know Christ… and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings… and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:8, 10-11).

In whatever trial I may face, whether it big or small, I must consider prayerfully how Jesus experienced difficulty so that my faith can be refined and purified. That is where I will find my intimacy with Jesus. Jesus teaches me if I rely on his grace I can become more like him, more loving toward God and others no matter how hurt or unfair my circumstances are.

It’s Not About The Numbers

In ministry and in all kinds of event planning organizations we leaders focus too much on numbers. We try too hard to market and advertise to push people to come to our events. Our big concerns are normally the circumstances that we can’t control. We have problems with ambition and control. 

I once read this quote about retreats and other gatherings: “Don’t worry about the numbers of people who come, focus on Christ in your midst. If God is not there it’s not a big meeting. But if God is there it’s HUGE!”

For me, it’s okay if nobody shows up. Jesus showed up and he is all I/we need!

 

 

Weekly Training Update – March 17th – March 22nd

Swim – 7800 yards
Bike – 76.37 miles
Run – 19.35 miles

Total: 100.15 miles

Hardest week thus far! My legs and shoulders whole body was done for on Sunday!

I continue to like where my coach, Ryan Falkenrath, of Set The Pace Triathlon Coaching and Consulting (http://www.setthepacemedia.com/) has put me. For someone who knew nothing about swimming, cadence on a bike, or proper heart rate training he had his work cut out for him. He’s great! He continues to challenge me in new and improved workouts every week.

This week March 24th-29th is what we call a Recovery Week. Normally my favorite weeks. It allows my legs to get back under me.

11 weeks until Ironman 70.3 Kansas

 

Serving Spirit

This is my email I sent out to our volunteers who gave of their time and energy in our West Worship Center. Some of the best sacrificial people I know. If you serve at Madison Park, then this also pertains to you.

—–

This is my email of thanks to you for your gracious heart to serve at Madison Park. We as staff could not do the things we get to do “full time” if it wasn’t for your help. 

Please know that we do not take our “jobs” lighlty. We are continuosly humbeled and sobered by your hearts in service, worship and giving.

Thank you, friends and partners in ministry, for investing in this message that we love so much: that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him (especially in hard times).  

Please pray for us as we enter in to a new season at Madison Park. On Palm Sunday, April 13th we begin a new “service”. That brings excitement and nervousness for me personally. My mind automatically goes to volunteers and making sure we have enough volunteers serving to make our guests first time experiences a healthy and God filled one. 

As long as God continues to give me life and health, I plan to be a committed servant to his Kingdom purpose. The doors that opens (or closes) will be up to Him. Let’s spread the passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all people together. That’s my mission. 

Thank you again for your spirit to serve and support the mission of proclaiming Jesus Christ. 

At Madison Park we remain servants for Jesus’ sake,

Tim Miller 

Weekly Training Update – March 10th – March 15th

Swim – 6400 yards
Bike – 46.2 miles
Run – 19.77 miles

Total: 69.6 miles

This week started “hard” with an hour long spin class. The class was the hardest one I’ve ever been through. Lots and Lots and Lots of hills. Hoping it equates to a good ride at Ironman 70.3 Kansas.

The next five days was normal routine stuff. Brick runs, easy runs, 90% effort rides and runs and good swims.

With 12 weeks left before Ironman 70.3 Kansas, I like where I am. So glad I chose the coach I did. He knows his stuff and is super supportive in “teaching” me the ropes.

I think everything is on track to the best of my abilities thus far. Very excited to see how this plan plays out in the next few months. I may even add in a marathon to end the year. 😉

Marriage Is More Than…

Beginning today, I will occasionally, possibly every Wednesday, post a quote that rips me to the core. Interestingly enough, the first one is about marriage. Something I’m learning more and more about as I live life with my Sweet Bride.

Marriage is more than your love for each other. It has a higher dignity and power, for it is God’s holy ordinance, through which he wills to perpetuate the human race till the end of time. In your love you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of the generations, which God causes to come and to pass away to his glory, and calls into his kingdom. In your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal – it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man.” Dietrich Bonhoffer

 

IMG_1974Our first picture together. (Pre-Dating). KC, MO in the background.

Madison Park Community: Sunday First Impressions

In Scripture, God often calls His people to protect, shelter, and nourish travelers who find themselves in need. Practicing such hospitality reminded God’s people both of their own wanderings and of His goodness and faithfulness to them when they were in the wilderness. We too, as recipients of God’s mercy and provision, have great cause to invite others into a realm of grace. “Hospitality,” as Henri Nouwen writes, “is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place.” The Madison Park First Impressions team serves in the hope of creating such space. A space where people feel warm, safe and free from distraction. A space where they are freed up to worship.

Below are the many areas of “First Impressions” that serve Madison Park people. Most time commitments are limited to once every month and during just one Worship Service.

(1) Van Driver shuttle – Drive the shuttle that goes around our community to Madison Park so people who wouldn’t normally make it church, can make it.
(2) Muggers Coffee – Brew coffee, set it up/tear down, stock the tables and welcome guests. It’s as simple as that!
(3) Greet – Welcome people in a loving way.
(4) Usher/Server – Help people find a seat in the crowded worship center. Serve communion and take the offering.
(5) Communion Prep – Help set up or tear down the bread & juice.
(6) Guest Center – Help answer questions that our guests may have.
(7) Traffic Team –  Volunteers ensure the safety of those entering and exiting the parking area and promote an efficient method of parking.

If you would like more information about any of these First Impression areas, please contact Tim at tim@madisonparkchurch.com.

Who Influenced You in 2013?

The end of the calendar year has come and gone. That means this is a great time for reflection and planning. It is a time that many people review the goals they set the previous year and develop their new list (which many times just includes the old list reworded) for the upcoming year.  I have done this for years and I am sure I will do it for 2014 in some form or fashion.

However, this year, I am adding a new component to my assessment of 2013.  I believe that God intended us to be in community with people and to allow people to speak into our lives as we speak into others.  As I have started to reflect on 2013, there is a list of people that have had great influence on me personally and professionally.  They have either invested themselves into me  (directly or indirectly) and my continued development, or have been there for me as an accepting friend, confidant, advisor, etc. Now, for the sake of space and to not come across as being politically correct, my list does not include God, my wife, parents or siblings.  Those are my rocks and constant influencers. I’m also not going to list the negative people in my life in 2013. No need to talk about the haters.

Here is the 2013 list of Influencers on Tim Miller….not in any particular order:

Keith Ehresman – Thank you for allowing me to confide in you and for speaking into my life and growth. You continue to challenge me and help me mature in ways you will never know. You see the positive in me when all I can see around me is negative. Thanks for shoveling snow with me every winter too. 

Mark Waltz – Reading your books brings joy to my life. You constantly are seeking out fresh and innovative ways to capture “First Impressions” in the church. Thanks for your time, efforts and late nights writing, editing and publishing your books. 

Steve Hill – You have taught me so much on what it looks like to be a disciple of Christ. The early mornings at McDonald’s will be memories I’ll never forget. Your sacrifice of time and family has and always will mean so much to me. 

Quincy Bike Club – Your influence on my short time of riding has been tremendous. The community we have together is phenomenal. Thanks for never letting me and others give up when we get “dropped”. Thanks for waiting for the slow man back in back. Thanks for allowing me to join in on the weekly rides.

Ryan Falkenrath – Thanks to you, I’m becoming a better swimmer. You will make my triathlon experiences much more enjoyable. Thanks for being there when I ask the most outrageous questions. Thanks for pushing me to get better. 

Andrew Messick – You do not know me… but what you do daily inspires me. I can’t wait to tackle Ironman 70.3 Kansas. Thanks CEO! 

Ann Voskamp – Your blogs inspire my wife. They point her directly to the Gospel. I can’t thank you enough for that. 

If you are not listed above, please do not take offense or feel slighted.  This list could have had many more people and included so many of you. Thank you for your influence.

So, as you reflect back on 2013, who would be on your list?

Another important question is, are you on anyone else’s list? What have you done to impact and influence others this past year in a way that made them a better person…personally, professionally, intellectually and spiritually?

Happy Cold 2014.

-Tim

Pray for Nairobi, Kenya

Dear friends,

My heart was saddened when I heard the news yesterday about Nairobi. 10 to 15 terrorists took to the Westgate Shopping Mall in a horrible attack on “non-muslims”.

The mall is Nairobi’s most high-end shopping center, completely up to Western standards, with movie theaters, nice cafes, supermarkets and even a casino. Pretty much anything you need.

According to multiple news outlets, 62 people have been killed with a possibility of more.

As most of my readers know, we have dear friends in Kenya. They are safe.

Please join me this week in praying for the transformation of the city of Nairobi by Christ our Savior.

Thanks,

Tim

 

Hunting Is A Great Sport, And A Horrible God

Most people don’t often write about the things that they most need to consider personally. The question I’ve been wrestling with is this: When does something switch categories from being a passion, to being a god? Specifically, I’m wondering if my over-the-top drive to deer hunt ever crosses that line. I could add turkey hunting, cycling or even college football to this question. However, I’ll just keep it to deer hunting.

A year ago, during the peak of the rut, I contracted mad cow deer disease. Most people figured that out when antlers started growing out of my head. (Insert laugh). I thought about big bucks all day long. I kept fantasizing about them after work, during dinner with my g/f (now Bride) and while hanging out with our friends. When I went to bed, I’d toss and turn for hours imagining what the next day’s hunt might bring. For most of November, I was your typical rut-crazed, out-of-balance deer hunter. I logged hours in the woods that month.

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Then January rolled around and I discovered that something was broken. It was a Monday afternoon and I’d filled my buck and doe tag. I was done hunting until turkey season. I sat at work and thought about what I wanted to do that week. Nothing sounded good. The more I considered my options, the more I realized that I wasn’t motivated to do anything. I didn’t want to hang out with friends, exercise, two of my more favorite things to do. As a somewhat highly motivated person, this realization really confused and bothered me.

Then, I saw my mistake. I’d made hunting so important, so supreme and central to my happiness, that when the season ended, my zeal for life ended with it.

This was sadly ironic. All of a sudden, the energizing, life-giving sport of deer hunting had evolved into something that sucked the joy out of all my other interests and priorities. That was when the question of whether deer hunting had become my god slapped me in the face like a blast of winter air.

That was also when I wondered if I was the only one who experiences the over-powering allure of hunting. When I pull back and look at our greater hunting community – our fascination with larger-than-life hunting celebrities, our constant push to develop new gadgets and gear, and our compulsive competition to shoot the largest racks – I suspect that I’m not alone; it appears to me that thousands of other sportsmen likely make hunting too important.

No Other Gods

When is the line crossed? When does hunting move from an exciting pursuit, to being a god? A long time ago, God summoned Moses to the top of Mt. Sinai and gave him the Ten Commandments. The very first commandment God gave him was, “You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)”

“No other gods” – that’s an interesting phrase. It’s inherent in the entire Bible that there truly aren’t any other gods, in a creator-sense. The same God who commanded people to not have “other gods” says, “I am God and there is none else. (Isaiah 45:22b)”

So when God commanded Moses to “have no other gods,” clearly he wasn’t taking about other literal gods. He must have been referring to things. Created things. Like that shiny, ridiculous, golden calf that the rest of the Hebrew tribe made while Moses was on Mt. Sinai with God. You remember the story – the Israelites grew tired of waiting for Moses to return, so they melted down their gold and made a calf. They wanted something to distract them, excite them, and keep them busy.

What turned that golden calf, a silly created thing, into a god? According to that passage in Exodus, it became a god when the people began treasuring it too much. They spent all their time working on it. They said to each other, “Let’s make this calf the most important thing in our lives.” And with that – presto! – a bovine became a god. (As someone who lives in the Midwest and knows how smelly and dumb cows are, this particular choice for a god baffles me.)

They spent too much money. They gave too much time. They paid too much attention. This is what turned that thing into a god.

Answering my question about whether hunting can be a god is beginning to sting a bit. I’d hate to have someone look at my past bank statements and see how much money I’ve spent on hunting over the past 8-10 years. I’d be just as embarrassed to have someone tally up the number of hours I’ve spent watching hunting shows, putting up stands, sharing hunting stories and spending time in the local hunting stores. I’d feel sheepish about having you look into my heart and see how important hunting is to me and how much mental and emotional energy I give to it (especially in September, October, November, December and January!).

My Bride and I don’t have an altar filled with wooden carvings or golden statues. I don’t have a golden calf in my home. But, according to the Bible’s definition of what qualifies as a god – something we treasure and pursue more than we treasure and pursue God – it appears that my passion to hunt can quickly qualify.

Let’s admit together, this isn’t a light-hearted topic. Truthfully, I’m a little surprised you’ve read this far. If it’s any consolation, I’m not having any more fun writing on this subject than you are reading about it. But, this is the most important stuff in life. What we choose to make our god/God determines our relationship to all the other people and priorities in our lives. We all have one sun, around which all other things in our lives orbit. We also have one Son who our lives should reflect.

When God commanded us to “have no other gods,” he was telling us to keep him that central thing. Because he’s worth it.

Great Sport, But A Horrible God

Hunting is a fantastic pastime. It puts us outside. It challenges us. It gives us adventure. It consistently surprises us – we never know what we’ll see or come home with. Hunting is an exciting, fulfilling sport.

But, it makes a horrible god. As fun and rewarding as hunting is, there’s no way that it can produce the meaning, purpose, and peace that only God can provide. Hunting simply can’t satisfy our deepest needs like God can.

I’m not done thinking about this topic. I certainly haven’t found all the answers. But, I have drawn one conclusion: Sportsmen will suck the marrow out of this sport, enjoying it as much as it can possibly be enjoyed, if we keep it in its appropriate place – circling around God, not giving it his status.