Tuesday, April 14, 2015

 

Where was God when Nick died?

I first met Nick when he, his Mom, and his sister started visiting Southern Hills.  They came because their next door neighbors asked them to church.  Nick's girlfriend and her family were visiting Southern Hills while looking for a church home, so Nick got a little more interested in coming to church.

It was Saturday night before Easter.  Nick and his Mom were planning on coming to church the next morning.  Nick even had a new Easter suit he was going to wear.  He was a Junior in high school, an honor roll student, and a gifted musician.

And that night he was killed in automobile accident.  His Mom was injured in the wreck and was in the hospital for almost a week.  Our preacher, Jarrod Robinson, and I did the funeral yesterday.  Buried him in the suit he was going to wear to church.

It always happens in a tragedy you never see coming... questions, questions, and more questions.

But most of them center around this one question:  where was God when Nick died?

So I want to tell you where I saw God this week.

I saw God in the mom's hospital room.  Visits from so many of our members.  Mary, the next door neighbor, and Cherisse, the girlfriend's Mom, were amazing in crying with, taking care of, and just being with her.  Lots of prayers said in that room.  Lots of hugs and tears too.  Lots of God words spoken into her life.

God was there when we gathered to celebrate the life of Nick.  He was there when His Word was spoken.  He was there when words of comfort were shared.  He was there in the memories shared.  He was there when the Wylie band played It Is Well.

He was there at the graveside when Scripture, prayers, memories, hugs, and love were being shared by people who love Nick, his family, and his friends.

I saw God when precious sisters prepared and served a meal for the family afterwards.  I saw it when one of them shared her story of losing a teenage daughter.

So where was God when Nick was killed?  Where is always is... right in the middle of our lives.  In our hugs.  In our service.  In our tears.  He is among us in our prayers, our words, our meals, our songs, and our sharing.

He is where He always is... among us.  Seen thru his people following Him.  Letting our lives of love point to Him.

So God thanks for being among us when Nick died.  Thanks for your people seeing with your eyes and serving as your hands.  Thank you for people who reflect your heart.  Thank you for being there.  May we all see you more clearly.


Thursday, April 09, 2015

 

Mission creep is going to kill the church...

Every church wants to grow.  And, if they are honest, a whole of churches worry about not being around in the future.  There is one absolute certain way to ensure that your church does not die:  make new disciples.  If you are constantly reaching new people for Jesus, you will grow.  Followers making followers is the mission of the church.  Almost every church I speak at will say that is their mission, or it is vitally important, or that they really want to reach the lost.  But the reality does not match the rhetoric.

By the way, if your church does not see evangelism as critical, then you do not have to read the rest of this. Your church is not going to make it anyway.

Mission creep is killing the church.  Mission creep is when you think you are on point with the purpose.  It is when you lose focus without even realizing it.  It is when you talk about the mission without noticing that talk is all you do about the mission.  Or you assume everyone is on point with what really matters, yet no one is talking about it or doing it.

So here are some signs that a church has mission creep.

When leadership discussions about the future are primarily about how to keep our young people from leaving.

Your big worry is about losing members, not making new ones.

You deceive yourself into thinking that troop transfer (having Christians leave their current church to come to yours) is actually growth.

Most of your talk about mission is about "over there" and not right here.

Your young people can go on mission trips year after year and never have to talk about Jesus.

Your ministry staff is more about doing for the flock than sharing Jesus in your community.

Your hire pastors, not evangelists.

Your people can argue about worship activities and women's roles, but not share their faith with a non-believer.

Most of your members are at least third generation Christians.

You never give an public invitation to non-Christians to engage in conversation about Jesus.

You never celebrate/announce/bless new converts.

When every baptism you can remember was one of your own children.

When you do talk about reaching lost people, it is about what you need to do to be ready to reach them.  Never about actually talking to them.

Mission creep.  It will kill your church.



Tuesday, April 07, 2015

 

Why I love my wife and am proud of her

Yesterday Marsha turned 62.  Yeah I told her age.  She doesn't care -- and I love that about her.  Of course, when you do not look your age it is nice to announce it so everyone is amazed.  So here is my birthday tribute.  why I love her and am proud of her.

I tell my grands all the time there are four things they want in a husband or wife.  their Mimi is a good example of why.

She loves God and Jesus.  Loves them more than she loves me.  That love is what drives her to take care of her parents. It is why we have stayed married for almost 42 years.  It is why I am an elder (in fact, having her as an elder's wife is probably the main reason I'm an elder).  She buys in to giving our lives to people.  Loving God is why we have people in our home, why we share our time and resources with those in need.  It is why people seek her out for advice and a loving ear.  Loving ear, not just listening ear.  Loving God is why she teaches Bible class and why we serve as mentoring couples.  It is why we share Jesus.

She loves me.  I am thankful for that every day.  She is a stay-er.  And a keeper.  When times get hard, she is someone to count on.  Even when I am not always lovable, she loves me.

She loves babies and kids.  At this stage of her life, that means her grands.  They are so blessed to have a Mimi that loves them, supports them, hugs them, does an incredible cousin camp, and that makes the best Easter/birthday/back to school, July 4, well... just about any special day... baskets and goody sacks.  They know that she unconditionally loves them.  And of course that love spills over onto lots of other kids.

She loves dogs.  Some people wonder about this one, but I believe that dog lovers are good people.  And Mimi is.  She is just of those genuinely sweet, good people.  She prays for people.  She checks on people.  She serves people.  That is because she is a good person.  I know that when I saw she loved dogs.  Still does by the way.

Loves God, loves me, loves babies, loves dogs.  That is the kind of person I want my grands to marry.  I guess that is because that is the kind of person I married.

Second best decision I ever made.  Picking Jesus was the best.  Picking Marsha was the second.

And making those two decisions has made everything else OK.

So thanks God for the wife, daughter, Mom, Mimi and friend that Marsha is to so many.

Love her and am so proud she is mine.

I am a happy man.


Thursday, April 02, 2015

 

The secret sin we do not talk about...

I do not think I have ever heard a sermon on it.  I never hear it confessed.  No one asked for prayers to do better with it.  Yet I know many people who commit this sin.  I hear it casually discussed with a whole list of excuses.

The Bible says if you commit this sin you have denied the faith.  That is strong language.  Denied the faith.  If you are guilty of this, your actions announce that you do not believe in Christianity.

Scripture also says that committing this sin makes you worse than a non-believer.  This is serious sin we are talking about.

And it is not something you do.  It is something you fail to do.

So what is this horrible sin that we fail to identify or confront?

Failure to take care of your relatives, especially your immediate family.

If your parents, your spouse, or your kids have needs, as a Christian you have to take care of them.  If not, you are not living as a Christian.

Physical needs.  So bathe your elderly parents.  Wipe their butt.  Haul them to the Doctor.  Cook.  Clean.  Mow the yard.  If you live to far away to do this, then ensure that it gets done.  Hire someone to clean the house.  Set up home health.  Spend what it takes.

Emotional needs.  Talk to your parents.  .  Pick up the phone.  Go by the house.  Listen to their stories.  Go visit.

Take care of your kids emotional needs.  Make sure your kids are emotionally secure.  Listen to them.  Be the parent.  Wipe the tears.  Hug lots.  

Spiritual needs.  Do not make sure your children have everything they need -- or even want -- in terms of physical things (clothes, big house, car, etc, etc) and then not equip them spiritually.  Talk to them about Jesus, read Scripture, pray for them and with them.  Get everyone to church.  Serve together.  Have Christians over for meals.

Take care of your parents spiritual needs also.  Let them talk to you about dying.  Help them get to church.  Sing, pray, read to them.  Do communion.  If you live away, make your visits count.  Check in with their church home and make sure someone is seeing them.

And if your mate gets sick, take care of them.  If they get Alzheimer's, care for them as long as possible.

Taking care of your family will consume your time, energy, and money.  You may feel like there is no time left over for you.

Yes, and that is called being a faithful follower of Jesus.

If you do not care for your family, you are worse than the non-believers and you have renounced your faith.

So here is a salute to all of you doing real ministry in your families.  Thanks to my sister and to my sister-in-law.  Special thanks to my wife.  And to my daughter.

And thanks to the kids, spouses, and parents who are carrying an enormous burden caring for their loved ones.  They do it because it is ministry.  They do it because they follow Jesus.  They do it because it is right.

You testify to the truth of the Jesus story.  Your life witness is powerful.  God is honored.




Tuesday, March 31, 2015

 

Sinners are welcome at our church... but not all

I am always excited about Easter Sunday.  It is a real chance to invite people to come hear the amazing story of Jesus.  They hear that God loved them so much that his Son came to earth to die for their sins.  They hear that after being killed, God raised him from the dead.  And most exciting of all, they will hear that they are invited to participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus and live forever.

So this Sunday -- and every Sunday -- sinners are welcome.  I am very aware that if we mean this, some will come in the midst of their sin. They may show up drunk, or with their battered wife.  They may come with their girlfriend instead of their husband.  They may be greedy, hateful, and racist.  But they are welcome to come.

Some will not come back.  Jesus will not be the choice they make.  Some will choose Jesus and will become part of our church of followers living life together.  They will find out that some of us still struggle with some of these things.  We are not perfect, but forgiven.  By the grace of God, the example of Jesus, the work of the Holy Spirit, and going through life together... we are being transformed more and more to be like Jesus.

We learn more what pleases God and what hurts God.  We confess our sins, we repent of our sins, we seek to be changed.  As we mature as Christians, the bleeding wounds of our sins turn into scars.  So even though we may have brothers and sisters who are adulterers, or racists, or neglectful of parents, or struggling with pornography... we are changing.  We are not called to stay the same.  The point is we are struggling with our sin and not accepting, excusing, or remaining in our sin.

So if you are a Christian struggling with your sin, you are welcome.

I do know that some of our group are not struggling.  They love their sin more than their Jesus.  They do not repent, they are not sorry, and they do not want to change.  We will confront them, challenge them, work in groups, and even bring their sin before the church.  All in an effort to call them back to Jesus and faithfulness.

But if you have no interest in living out your commitment to Jesus, you are not going to feel welcome at our church.  We will be talking about things that will not interest you. And if you show no repentance from continuing sin, you will asked to leave our fellowship.

I also am aware some Christians not only practice sin, but call on the church to embrace sinners who not only do want to change, they insist they do not have to sin.  They can have Jesus and their sin.

False teacher like this are not welcome at our church.

God help us if the sinner in our world is not welcome.  Forgive us when we do even make friends unless they believe in Jesus first.  I don't want to be that church.

And forgive us when we passively allow our family to live in sin as if that is normal for a Christ follower.  But also forgive us when we do not allow for grace, forgiveness, repentance, and change.  I don't want to be a church that is more like a civic/social club.  I do want to be a church that invites the struggling pilgrim to find healing and restoration.

Forgive us when we allow people to be taught that sin is acceptable to you -- and when we make our wants the standard instead of what pleases you.  And please forgive us for not being consistent.  We are sorry for condemning some sins so stridently while ignoring others.

So let's be a church that welcomes sinners.  But never let us be a church that is more comfortable in the world than in the presence of Jesus.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

 

Herttenbergers, Bar Church, and Hunter Hanner = why I love my church

On the surface, they would not seem to be related, but I want to tell you about how these three people made me happy and proud of my church last Sunday.

We recognized the Herrtenbergers, my in-laws, for being married 70 years.  But that is not why I love Southern Hills.  Nor is it because we had a huge turnout for their anniversary party at SH on Saturday.  I love this because I was reminded how much our church loves marriage.  This was more than recognition.  It was encouragement, motivation, and example.  It was a message to our young couples to hang in there.  It was a testimony to loving God and your mate.  It was a living witness to not give up.  We live out grace, forgiveness and love.  Makes me happy to be part of a church like that.

And we celebrated two years of Bar Church.  A lot of people seem to think we were trying to make a statement by planting a church in a bar.  Nope,  It is not about the image.  It is about the people we reach.  It is about Christians whose lives blew up.  Jail time, families destroyed.  And who found a place to come home.  To be restored.  To experience forgiveness.  To do ministry.  The original dream was to reach lost people who did not think Jesus and his people were for them.  So Sunday I watched Clay Martin talk about relationships and remembered about how he baptized 8 or so people into Christ this summer in his swimming pool.  What an evangelist.  What a minister.  And even better, we don't pay his salary.  He is a baseball coach.  Reaching people.  Making disciples.  That is what we do and that is who we are as a church.

Hunter Hanner was there Sunday.  If you have kept up much with Southern Hills, you know the story.  Life threatening illness.  Major and courageous transfusion treatments.  Months in the hospital.  He was there Sunday.  Long way to go, but God has acted to heal.  So powerful to hear him talk about the love and support of Southern Hills.  But it was about so much more than Hunter.  He just represented our belief that our God hears and acts.  Cole Watts was there Sunday also.  Shot in a hunting accidents.  Intensive care for weeks.  Multiple surgeries.  And he was there Sunday.  Healing.  Praising God when things are great.  Remembering we also praised him when things did not look so good.  

So I guess Sunday was really about two things I love.  Making more followers of Jesus and living life together.

The Herttenbergers, Bar Church, and Hunter Hanner.

And everyone of these gave the glory to God.  Where it belongs.

I love my church.



Tuesday, March 24, 2015

 

Don and Jean Herttenberger have been married 70 years

Today is the day.  We celebrated Saturday.  Our local paper did a front-page story today.  You can read their story by checking my Facebook feed.  But it was 70 years ago today my in-laws, Don and Jean Herttenberger, got married.

Yes, they were kids.  (But that certainly came in handy when they thought Marsha and I were too young to get married).  They still hold hands, still kiss, still hug.  Still don't like to be apart.  Still say I love you.  Still say Sorry when they need to.  

So here are a few reflections of why I love them and am so proud of them.

Their marriage is about God, not just them.  Grandpa converted Granny.  It is no exaggeration to say their lives have been spent in church.  They have been at Southern Hills 50 years.  Taught Bible class, served as a Deacon, asked several times to serve as an elder.  They raised their kids that way too.  All three are active in church.

But more than that, they live their faith.  They have fed literally thousands of meals to others, they have visited those in the hospital, they have given generously.  They still read their Bible, and they pray for their family, their church, and for lost people.

Jesus is a real part of that marriage.

Family is a big deal.  They love their grandkids.  I take great comfort in knowing how much my kids and my grandkids have been prayed for by Granny and Grandpa.  They love their siblings, their nieces and nephews, and all of their extended family.  For years, our church small group was the Herttenberger family.

They love the family farm.  115 years in the family.  There is something special about being connected to the land.  Cotton, wheat, peanuts, cattle, horses.  Tomatoes, beans, squash, okra, peas, and peppers.  Dove, quail, geese, and ducks.  Sunsets and sunrises.  Bobcats, rabbits, coyotes, and skunks. Drought and rain.  Sweat and tears.  Praying over crops and cattle.  Life.

I have been blessed to be part of this family for almost 42 years.  They gave me Marsha.  They have loved me.  I think I am their favorite.  And maybe that is the secret.  Everyone thinks they are their favorite.

I am blessed to be part of Don and Jean Herttenberger.  I honor them, but more importantly, they honor God.  By their words and by their lives.

Thank you God for the living miracle of 70 years loving You and loving each other.

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