Thursday, November 15, 2018


A Car Dealer, a Doctor, a preacher, and a new brother

It was -- and is -- an incredible story of healing and answered prayed.  Hunter Hanner has Guillain-Barre Syndrome.  Life threatening.  Touch and go.  In and out of the hospital.  But he comes from a strong family, his wife is strong, and his church family believe in the power of prayer.  Meals, child care, donations, help of all kinds.  It became an all church journey.  And God healed Hunter.

Dan has Guillain-Barre Syndrome also.  He thought no one else in Abilene struggled with this.  Until someone told him about Hunter.  So he called to talk about their journey.  Hunter gave him his testimony of God, Jesus, prayer, and the support of a church family.  Dan didn't have that.  So Hunter did what Christians do.  Invited him to come to church.  And picked him up to give him a ride.

So Dan saw a community of faith for himself. 

And he met an ER Doc there who offered to study.  So Dan would ask questions about things he had learned as a child that seemed different than what he was seeing.  And Dr. Bobby Lawson would just open the Bible and let Dan see things for himself.

And Dan met a preacher who asked if he wanted to just share Jesus stories over coffee.  And that is how I met Dan. 

Faith seen, questions answered, and Jesus shared.

And now Dan is our brother.

Gulliain-Barre is horrible.  But God used it for an incredible testimony from Hunter.  And He used it to connect Dan to a bunch of believers.

So thanks Dan Castillo for being open to God's call.  Thanks Hunter and all the Hanners for letting God use you all and for being willing to serve others.  Thanks Bobby for sharing the Word.

Go God.

Thursday, November 08, 2018


Eppie Elmore Flew Away... Just Like He Said He Would

My cousin, Eppie Elmore, died a couple of weeks ago.  I did the funeral for his wife Lou a couple of years ago and truth be told, Eppie was ready to go home with Lou right after she passed.  It just took him a couple of years to die.

I loved Eppie for a lot of reasons.  Taught me a lot about hunting and fishing.  Carpentry.  He's the one who taught me to ride horses. 

He was a lot like an older brother. 

And Eppie was my brother in Christ.  He was pretty rough in his younger days, like a lot of the men in my family.  But he married Lou and she was a committed follower of Jesus.  My Mom and Dad helped teach Eppie about Jesus and my folks served as role models for Lou and Ep.  And following Jesus turned him into one of best hearted men I have ever known.

He was a deacon at the Winnsboro church where I preached when our family was young.  Lou and her twin, Sue, spent a lot of time with Marsha and our daughter Julie.  Eppie's boys spent a lot of time with our son Joe Don, and I spent a lot of time with Eppie.

I spent many nights coon hunting with Eppie, his brother-in-law James, and one of our elders, Jack Cross.  Two Deacons, a preacher, and an elder.  Great memories.  Made enough off the hides to buy Christmas each year.

Eppie and Lou served a lot of people.  Brought a lot of people to church.  Helped a lot of people to know Jesus.  Raised three boys to love Jesus.

Poured a lot of love and work into the Winnsboro church and into Camp Deer Run.

And Eppie loved to sing.  I'll Fly Away was his favorite song by far.  Always wanted to sing it.  Sang it with great enthusiasm.  Now Eppie only sang one note so the tune was occasionally a little hard to figure out.  But not the words or the heart behind the song.

And now Eppie has flown away to a home on God's celestial shore.  Just like he always said he would.  Hanging out with Lou, Sue and James, Jack and Hazel Cross, my Dad. 

And singing around the throne of God.  Maybe even with the right notes.

So I'll think of Eppie and I'll sing that song myself from time to time.  And I'll be thankful for a Godly man that influenced me and my family to stay the course and follow Jesus. 

Till we get to sing together again around the throne.

I'll fly away.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018


God, the week from hell, and we won anyway

I was in Oklahoma working with a church on how to share Jesus.  It was Sunday morning at 5 AM when I got the call that my cousin Eppie had passed away.  I agreed to do the funeral Wednesday morning in East Texas.  I was scheduled to teach at University in Abilene Wednesday night but we figured I could fly home Sunday night from Stillwater, Marsha and I could drive to East Texas Tuesday night, do the funeral the next morning, and drive all afternoon to speak that night in Abilene. 

Then Tuesday night our daughter calls to tell us that my sister-in-law, Phyllis, was on her way to the emergency room with what they believed might be a heart attack. Stayed up most of the night getting updates and praying for Phyllis.  We were four hours away.

The next morning after the funeral we were at the family lunch getting ready to head west when we got a call that my Mom was on her way to the emergency room with severe pain.  Still four hours away.

Eppie was dead, Phyllis could be in critical condition, and my Mom is about to be 88 so any health scare could be critical.  And we could not be with everyone and do everything.  Satan really wanted us to be afraid of death and dying.  He wanted there be tears, fear, anxiety, and panic.
The week from hell.

And here is what happened.

Lots of praying from lots of people.

My daughter Julie and one of Marsha's cousins, Cathy, live in Abilene and they took care of Phyllis overnight.  Does help they are both nurses.  The next morning CT and Carol, great friends from church, took over helping Phyl so Cathy could go to work and Julie could get her kids to school.

Marsha' brother and his wife drove in from Fort Worth and helped with Phyllis and my Mom.  Julie came back up to the hospital to help out.

And I preached Eppie's funeral.  Lots of stories.  Laughter thru the tears.  And an unshakable conviction that Eppie was seeing God's face and that we would all be together again. 

Satan wanted to attack us with death and the fear of death.  But Jesus already defeated death and we believe.  Resurrection.

Family (both blood and church) stepped in and did what we could not.  Our people treated our people just like we would have.

And we honored God and proclaimed Jesus thru Eppie's funeral.  We realized how much it really matters that we do not go thru this life alone.  And I taught that Wednesday night.

Satan attacked as hard as he could.  And God saw to it we won anyway.

Eppie home.  Phyllis did not have a heart attack.  Other issues that mimicked symptoms.   And it was a kidney stone for my Mom.

Prayer.  Deliverance.  Healing.

A community/family of believers.  Hands and feet of Jesus.

Our God.  Our people.

We win.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


Churches in trouble should do this...

I recently wrote about helping churches in trouble re-dig their foundations.  I start with I Corinthians 15:1-4 and remind them that Jesus death and resurrection have to be the foundation for their church.  And that good news comes from the Scripture.  So be sure you are a church that is about Jesus first and foremost and one that is rooted in Scripture.

The second passage I remind churches of is Mark 12:30-31.  This is what you need to constantly call your members to do.  Love God with all they have and love your neighbor as yourself.

Those are the two greatest commands.  It is the most important thing you want from your church members.

Churches need to be all about Jesus.  He is the most important thing you teach.  Many dying churches wonder about meeting needs in their community and among their members so they will be relevant.  Jesus is the greatest need anyone will ever have.  Sin is the problem.  Jesus is the answer.

Be a Bible church.  Do you expect your members to read the Bible?  Teach from it.  Counsel from it.  Let it be the basis of instruction and guidance for those seeking to follow Jesus.

Call your people to love God.  So many churches get in trouble by falling in love with doctrine, or worship, or buildings, or even the church.  It is God we are to love.

Love your neighbor as yourself.  That is the call to live Jesus in your community.

These are basic, foundational concepts. 

Even an unhealthy church that seems to be dying can be changed. 

Jesus, Scripture, loving God and people.

You do not need a big staff to do these things.  Or a lot of programs.  Or a large budget.  Or even a building.

Start evaluating your church based on these things and you can be healthy.

And by the way, if you ever find yourself looking for a church home... this is a good place to start.

Jesus death and resurrection.  Bible.  Love God.  Love people.

That would be a healthy community to be a part of.

Thursday, October 04, 2018


What I tell churches in trouble...

When Marsha and talk to couples in trouble, we often spend some time "re-digging" the foundation of their faith.  It is hard to build a stable house on a shaky foundation.  I do the same thing when I talk to churches in trouble.  There are five fundamental passages I think churches should buy-in to.  I think if I were planting a church, these would be my foundation principles.  If I were looking for a church home, these are the things I would look for.

So I thought I would share these over several posts.

I Corinthians 15:1-4  I use this passage because Paul makes the concepts found here so important.  He says this is gospel (good news).  It is what he preached and they accepted.  It forms the basis for their world view.  If they hold onto this, it will save them.  If not, it invalidates their belief.  And Paul says it is of first importance.

This is critical for the health of any church.  Essential.

Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures.

He was buried.

And he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

Jesus.  Jesus.  Jesus.

A church must believe that Jesus died for our sins.  That is the good news we live and the good news we share. 

God raised him from the dead.  That changes everything.  This world is not the end.  It is the beginning of life.

When asked about our doctrine/beliefs/theology, this better be the first thing we say:  Jesus died for our sins and God raised him from the dead.

And a church needs to know that is Scripture.  That is where this truth is found.  Scripture. 

Healthy churches use Scripture.  They read it, study it, and preach from it. 

And the fundamental truth from Scripture is this:  Jesus died for our sins.  He was buried.  And God raised him from the dead.

Healthy churches are all about Jesus. 

Live Jesus.  Share Jesus.

Because his death for our sins gave us the way back to God.  The God who will also raise us from the dead.  Just like he did Jesus.

Jesus.  Jesus.  Jesus.


Tuesday, October 02, 2018


The Constitution, the Bible, America, and the Church

So in listening to discussions/debates/arguments over the kind of judges should be appointed to the Supreme Court it seems there are two philosophies most often held to.  One is that the Constitution should be followed as it was written.  That it is not to be interpreted/changed anew with every generation.  Others see the Constitution as a living instrument that must interpreted differently as each generation views it.  It is to adapted to the culture in which we now live. 

Obviously your view of the Constitution would determine your position on any number of issues that face America in this day and age.

So in listening to discussions/debates/arguments over how to read/interpret the Bible I see two distinct views.  One is the the Bible is the inspired word of God and it actually means what it says.  Another holds that the Bible is the inspired word of God but must be interpreted anew by each generation.  That is, it was written for a certain time and place and means different things depending on the culture in which we now live.

So here is what strikes me about these conversations.

One is how similar the discussion seems.  How do you read documents written in a different time and place.

I am also a little disappointed that a debate over the Constitution and the Bible have any similarities.  The Constitution was written by a bunch of men.  I believe the Bible was written by the living God.  The Constitution may or may not be true.  It may or may not have application over the course of human history.  The Bible is true and absolutely has application for everyone in every culture and in any time.

So why is the discussion so similar?  Some would argue that Christians have been influenced by the culture in which we now live.  So if your culture (America in 2018) is questioning what to do with the Constitution, then that influences Christians to question what to with Scripture.

Some would even argue that both of these discussions are agenda driven.  That is, you decide what you want to see in your country and that determines your view of the Constitution.  Or, you decide what you want your church to be and that determines your view of Scripture.

But here is the thing about agendas.  Everyone has one.  Even the people who say they do not.

So  here are a couple of personal insights.

I think you fundamentally change our country when you believe the Constitution can mean any thing you want it to.  But it was just a document written by men.  So maybe it matters and maybe it doesn't.  And America is old for a country but pretty new in the overall view of history.  I lean more toward one particular way to view the Constitution but I am not really sure it matters 1000 years from now.

I believe how you read/interpret the Bible does matter.  I think it is a dangerous road to assume God did not make his will clearly known.  I think the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible and I think He was clear about the will of God.  I do think how you view Scripture will matter in 1000 years.

And I do have an agenda.  It is to do my best to follow God's word.  Even when it doesn't fit with what I want to do or to believe. 

I don't know what will happen with America and the Constitution. 

I do know what will happen with the church and the Bible.  God's will absolutely will be done. 

I want to be part of that.

Thursday, September 27, 2018


A few thoughts about Jesus, America, politics, and temptation

God was active and working in this world before there was a United States.

I am a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.  It was here way before America.  And will be here way after.

America is not God's country.  Never has been a Christian nation.  Never will.

Presidents are not the pastor-in-chief.

Politics are not conducive to Christianity.  Side note:  Church politics will kill a church.

Their is no political party that follows Jesus.  No party aligns all of their programs with the gospel.

God is in charge.

You do not have to vote Republican to be a member of God's kingdom.

You do not have to vote Democratic to follow Jesus.

Being a good American may have nothing to do with being a faithful Christian.

And being a faithful Christian may have nothing to do with being a good American.

Politics will destroy your spirituality if you are not careful.

Christians cannot be hateful. 

God weeps when our politics divide his people.

Do not worry.

Spend your time and energy convincing people to follow Jesus. 

Do not give in to the temptation of Satan to put your politics above your faith.  Stop being afraid. 

What does Satan think about what you say and do politically?

What does God think?

Glorify God.  In everything you say and do.

I want my friends, neighbors, and my family to know what I think about Jesus.

Our kingdom is NOT of this world.  Do not betray your allegiance. 

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