Thursday, January 19, 2017


Thinking about houses, homes, money, and Jesus

So I have been asked a few follow-up questions about finances after my last post.  Here are few more thoughts.

Houses.  I have no problem with big, even expensive, houses.  But I do think there are a few things you always ought to consider.

What is my motivation for a bigger house?  If it to use it for Kingdom business... great.  Showers, teen hangout, company, family gatherings.  If it is to keep up with your -- or your kids -- friends ... then not so holy.  But do not fool yourself about what you would do with a bigger, nicer house.  If you are not using what you now have for the Kingdom ... you won't use your new house either.  We chose to stay in a small house we could afford.  Marsha has always -- and still does -- all those kinds of things listed above.  If you want to use your house, you will.  After all, Marsha fed 200 college kids about 500 dove in that house.  All in two hours.  Three years in a row.

Do not over-reach for your house.  I think budgeting is a great spiritual discipline.

I think your home can be made in any kind of house.  Houses do not make the home.

I absolutely think your house can be a holy place.  I love it when people ask us to pray over their house so it will consecrated for Kingdom business.

Pray over you house decisions.  Ask God for a clear sign to sell or buy.

Who knows, God may lead us to a different house someday.  We still occasionally check out other houses.  But we learned a long time ago to be content where we are.  God, Marsha and the kids made it into a great Jesus home.

So God thanks for our house.  Help us still to be good stewards of this place you gave us.  It is a holy place.  We promise to keep using it to your glory.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


Daily Bread and Financial Advisors

So today was a day that left me conflicted over how I live my faith and how I trust God.

Marsha and I met with our Financial Adviser today.  Even writing this raises different emotions for me.  Should a Christian even have a financial adviser?  Maybe I should have already given away all my money.

Jesus said to pray for God to give us our daily bread.  If I am talking about retirement money, do I really feel any urgency to pray for daily bread?

On the other hand ...

My financial adviser is a devout Christian.  We go to church together.  I am one of his elders.  He talks about giving.  And ministry.  Providing for our family.  Incredibly supportive of my ministry.  And if you need help in this area, let me know.  He is a good one.

Maybe using him is one way I am being a good steward of what God has given us.  And I do believe that what money we do have is because we have tried to be generous with what God has blessed us with.  We tithe.  We spend a lot on meals and gifts.  We do for others.

We have tried to intentionally make financial decisions that reflect our faith.  Consciously stayed in the house we bought over 30 years ago.  It is nice.  We use it for Kingdom business.  We have wondered about getting a bigger/nicer house.  Would we use it more for the Kingdom?  Or less?

I am very aware that there are people in my world that do worry about eating tomorrow.  I know people living paycheck to paycheck.  I know some that are worried about money but it is because they bought into a materialistic lifestyle.

And I know some who write big checks and use their resources to bless the Kingdom.  I know some who give it away almost as fast as they make it.  And some who use big houses for Kingdom purposes.

There are some who put very little in the collection plate but spend a lot of money on Kingdom work.

We have done that from time to time.  I am not sure my giving can be measured by the tax deduction.

So we pray for God to guide our finances.  What to give, what to buy, what to do.  And so far He has.  And we believe he will.

Well ... enough rambling.  Just sharing some of my wrestlings with living out my faith.

And for those wondering, we are in good financial shape.  But Marsha did say that as long as I can hold my Bible and make sense -- I need to keep preaching.  That actually works out well because I really can't imagine I would do anything else.  Paid or not.

As she reminds me, God has always taken care of us and always will.

And it is all his stuff anyway.

Thanks God for all you have given us.  It is yours and we will try to be good stewards.  Thanks for people that help us know how to do that.

Thursday, January 12, 2017


Change is up to you

I hear a lot of talk about how to change a church.  Members talk about leaving if things do not change.  Staff members spend much time planning how to change their church.  I know elders who in their first meeting after being ordained start talking about what needs to change.

What people want to change is interesting also.

Most of what I hear centers on the one hour spent in worship on Sunday.  Change the preacher.  Change the singing.  Change how we do communion.  Change who can lead worship.  Change how worship is done.

Or change that we are always changing.

Or change the building.  Add, update, better sound system, signs, seating, etc.

Some changes I hear are more generic.  Better communication.  Healthier families.

And sometimes churches can make changes in these areas.  If they can even agree what the changes ought -- or ought not -- to be.

But sometimes I hear things like this:  our church needs to visit the hospital more (or our preacher does, elders do, ...), the church needs to be more evangelistic, we need to do more to instill faith in our young people, we should help the disenfranchised in our community.  We need more Bible study.

It is this last group that I am focused on this year.  I don't know about my church -- or your church -- but I do know one thing.  I am church.  I can change.

Here is the answer.

Visit the hospital.  Go support one of the teenagers in their game or concert.  Talk to your neighbor about Jesus.  Take a homeless person to Subway.  Invite another family or two over to read and study the Bible.

But how do I get these kind of programs started?

Don't.  No programs.  Stop trying to organize.  No budget money.

You and your family just start.  Others might see what you are doing and catch on.

And if you are a leader in your church, when you start doing these things the rest of your church will follow your lead.  By the way, if they do not follow... maybe you aren't a leader (no matter what title you hold).  So just do it because you believe it is the right thing to do.

So I am working hard this year to look first in the mirror when I talk about how my church needs to change.  I am going to do what I believe my church needs to do.

Maybe the change God really wants starts with me.

So God I am going to try and complain less about what my church should be doing.  And I am going to do more of what your church should be doing.  Give me strength and opportunity.  For your Son. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Jake Gilbreth is 11

My Grandson, Jake Gilbreth, turned 11 yesterday.  Here is why I love him and am so proud of him.

He has had some tough things happen and faced them with courage and grace.  Kawaski disease when he was younger and then hernia surgery last summer.  Wanted the elders to anoint him and pray over him.  It worked.

Jake is kind and generous.  He cannot stand bullies.  He takes up for those who are picked on.

He is just fine doing his own thing.  He does not have to be part of any crowd or be included in everything.

He is funny.  Makes his teachers laugh with his humor.  Right before they have to put his name on a list.  But still...

He is a good athlete.  Good shooter in basketball.  Good baseball player.

Loves dogs.  His dogs, our dogs, every dog he meets.  And dogs love Jake.  That's a good thing.

Makes good grades.

Loves his family.

Loves God and Jesus.

And here a few of my favorite Jake things from the last couple of weeks.

Giving his cousin one of his lego sest because he knows his cousin loves legos.

Helping my Mom, his great-grandmother, set up her computer.

Studying the Bible with him and his sister Avery.

Watching him conduct a funeral for a rat (long story but pretty cool).

Fishing with him.

So God thank you for Jake.  He loves you and wants to be more like your Son.  I cannot wait to see what amazing things you will do with -- and thru -- Jake.  So protect him and keep taking care of him.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


What to say to your family over the holidays...

If there is one thing I am relentless about over the holidays, it is to intentionally spend time with everyone of my family to give them a special message.  If you regularly read this blog, you will know what it is.  I tell each one of my family how much I love them and why I am so proud of them.

It is the same thing I do on this blog for all the birthdays and anniversaries.

I do it because it matters.  It matters to me because I want them to know they loved.  And why.

It matters to them because we all need to feel valuable and loved.  All of us do.

And to be honest, some of them will not be here next year.

I may not be here next year.  And I do know what I want them to remember from Pops.

You need to do this for the people in your family also.

But credit where credit is due.

I stole this idea from God.

Go back and read what God tells his son at the end of Matthew 3.

Identify the relationship.  Parents, kids, grands.  I remind them of why I am glad about our relationship.

Express love.  Never miss a chance to say I love you to the people that matter.  By the way, this is not just for the holidays, but always.  I am asking my grands how they know that Pops loves them.  Everyone of them without fail says it is because I am always telling them.

Say you are proud of them.  And tell them why.  I do talk about athletics and academics.  I do talk about professional success.  But mostly I talk about the things that really matter that make me proud.

Faith legacy.  Fighting for their faith.  Sharing their faith.  Living like Jesus.  Loving God.  Loving others.  Things that matter.

So tell your people this year.

I am going to tell mine.

So thanks God for my people.  I do love them and I am proud of them.  And I give you the glory for who they are and what they do.  Help them to always know because I tell them.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


Marsha's Dad, Don Herttenberger, turned 89 last Saturday

Last Saturday Marsha's Dad, Don Herttenberger, turned 89.  Life's hard for him these days.  Body giving out.  Mind getting really fuzzy.  He's got cancer now and it is spreading fast.  To be honest, his heart is just not in this life anymore.  Since Marsha's Mom died a couple of months ago, he has been slipping away.  I think in his rational moments he wants to go home to God and Granny.

But here is why I love him so much.

He took care of Granny for over 71 years.  That was his job and he did it well.  He loves his family.  The Herttenbergers are a big family and he loves all of them.  He loves his kids, grands, and his great-grands.  He adopts people into his family.  His care sitters, special friends from church, and any friend of his blood family.  All are welcome.  Including me.  When my Dad got Alzhiemers so bad, Grandpa became my Dad.  And treated me just like a son.

He loved the farm.  Grandpa is a farmer.  Farmed and/or managed the family farm up until they sold it a couple of years ago.  There is something spiritual about watching things grow.  I have listened so many times to Grandpa thanking the Lord for the harvest, the rain, and for calves born.  He really got the "give us this day our daily bread".  Still thanks God every day.

He is a great man of faith.  Before his eyes got so bad, he would sit and read his Bible.  I loved to hear his family prayers.  He doesn't pray much out loud anymore but he still loves the family prayer circles.  Our church asked him several times to serve as an elder and he would never do it.  But he encouraged me to.  I asked him for advice many, many times.  He always gave really good advice.  Lots of trips to the farm together.  Lots of farm talk, but lots of Jesus, shepherding talk.

I suspect his days here are winding down.  He wants to go home and it is time.  But he got in one more birthday.  And we celebrated like we always have.  Lots of family, prayer, laughs, and food.

Holy times.

So thanks God for Grandpa.  He did a lot of good for the Kingdom.  He led his family well.  It sure seems like he is getting closer to going home.  But until he does, bless him with peace and keep the pain away.  


Thursday, December 08, 2016


My Mom, Juanita Ridgell, had a birthday recently

So Thanksgiving weekend my Mom turned 86.  Here are three reasons why I love her and am proud of her.

She took care of my Dad for several years when he had Alzheimers.  She kept him at home.  For the last year she basically had to feed him, clean him -- and clean up after him -- and dress him.  Day after day and year after year.  No complaining.  It was faithful ministry because she loved God and loved my Dad.  Great example of what faithfulness and love really mean.

She just moved to a independent living facility here in Abilene.  Moved from her home of the last 20 years in East Texas.  Made the decision herself.  Planned and executed the move herself.  Sold her house herself.  She got advice and help from my sister and me but mostly it was her.  She did not want to be one of those parents whose kids make her move someday.  Independent.

She wants to make a Kingdom difference.  No slowing up for Jesus because of age.  One of her biggest worries about the move was finding ministry opportunities.  One of the things I love about her is she asks my advice about talking to her friends about Jesus.  Love that.

What a great role model for the women and girls in our family.

So God thanks for my Mom.  Thanks for her example of faith as your follower.  Keep giving her Kingdom opportunities for the rest of her days. 

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