Tuesday, June 28, 2016

 

Happy birthday to my son Joe Don



My son Joe Don turns 38 tomorrow.  Here are just a few of the reasons I love him and am proud of him.

He is is committed to following Jesus personally and to leading his family to be Jesus followers.  He leads by both words and example.

It is not just his family either.  He wants everyone to know Jesus.  He teaches Bible class, talks to friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

He loves his wife Jamie.  He works at being a good husband.

Great Dad.  His kids adore him.  Love to be with him.  Rush to mob him at the door when he comes home.

He gives good spiritual advice.  He encourages people.  He inspires them to live better as followers of Jesus.

He is -- and has always been -- a good son.  He was all boy growing up and he is not perfect... but there was never a day I was not proud to be his Dad.

I think every Dad wants his son to be a better man than he is.  It is a rare and precious gift to be able to look up to your son as an example of what a Christian man is.  I have that.

Every family has that person who is the spiritual leader and center.  Joe Don is that for our family.  And for our extended family also.

I do not know how long I will live and function as the Patriarch of our family.  But I do know when the time comes that I cannot then Joe Don will.

God's words to Jesus are a good blueprint for how I feel about my son.

Joe Don, I love you and am proud of you.  You are worth listening to.

So thanks God for JD.  You have done an amazing work in his life.  Bless him as he continues to do your kingdom work in his family and in his world.  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

 

Your church may be dying... if it is not studying the Bible

Your church is in trouble...

If you are not studying the Bible.  Churches that are not involved in active study and reading of God's Word are dying.  Just like individual Christians that are not studying.

Here are some signs that may indicate your church has stopped studying the Bible.

Notice the class topics for your Bible school.  Are they textual (studying by books or chapters)?  Are they topical (Biblical subjects)?  Are they about felt needs?  Nothing wrong with any of these but if you have very few -- or no -- textual classes, you are in trouble.  I would pay special attention to what your youth and children study.

Is Scripture read in your assemblies?

Are your church members able to affirm all the doctrinal positions about worship, women's roles, church organization, baptism, etc but they do not know any Scriptural support for any of them?

Do your small groups have Bible study or just fellowship?

Is your preacher the only "go-to" person when a Bible question comes up?

And does your preacher/preachers think they are the only ones who can really understand and explain what the Bible means?

Do your elders use Scripture when doing counseling with members?

Would the sermons at your church be well received at the local civic clubs?

Does your church leadership use Scripture when making announcements about church belief or church decisions?

Is the Bible studied primarily to defend existing beliefs or practices?

Is the Bible studied primarily to rationalize changing existing beliefs or practices?

Are your members encouraged to read the Bible?  Are they encouraged to study it for themselves?  Or is everything filtered thru your church creed?  Or filtered thru your preacher?

Is everyone in your church expected to agree on everything?

I spend a lot of time talking to non-believers and they are often amazed at what they find in Scripture.  Great stories.  Things that speak directly into real life situations.  Things that speak to cultural issues. I love watching them learn.  It is encouraging.

I am discouraged when Christians -- even those who have been believers for years -- are amazed at what they find in the Bible.  It is as if they never read it before.  Not forgot things, not found new insight and understanding.  Never read it before.

Churches that do not have active, engaged study of the Bible are going to die.

So hold your preacher accountable for using Scripture.  And your church leaders.  Have Bible classes that are actually Bible class.  Get in a small group that studies together.  Encourage others to do that.  Read the Bible with your family.

Your church will come alive.

So will you.

So thanks God for giving us your Word so we can know you.  Thank you for the advice, guidance, and correction found there.  Thank you for teaching that is universal and eternal.  We don't always understand it, we don't always agree about it, and we do not follow it as well as we want.  But we promise we will use our Bibles to hear you.  





Tuesday, June 21, 2016

 

The Greatest Father's Day Ever



My heart is full.

Last Sunday, Father's Day, was one of the best days of my life.

That was the day my son baptized his oldest son into Christ.

Joe Don, my son, and his wife Jamie have been very intentional about imparting faith to their children.  Their goal has always been for their children to follow Jesus because of their personal faith and not just because of parental faith.

Andrew made that choice Sunday.

He has always had a heart for Jesus.  He loves to sing praises.  He has always talked about Jesus. He treats people the way Jesus would.

His Mom and Dad talked a lot with Andrew about what this decision means for his life.  They gave him a lot of Bible passages to read.  And he did.  They all prayed a lot about it.

He talked to several of us about his decision.

He even wrote a letter explaining what he believes about Jesus.  Here are the highlights of Andrew's belief confession.

That Jesus is God's Son and that God loved us so much that he sent Jesus to earth to die for our sins.

That Jesus is the way to God.

That baptism is a way to share in his death.

That Jesus was raised from the dead and we will be too if we believe in him.

That he wants to spend his life sharing the good news of Jesus with other people.

The only thing I ever really wanted for my kids was that they would decide to follow Jesus because it was their choice, not mine.

And that is all I really want for my grandkids.

Now Andrew has, just like his sister Anna.  And I fully expect that so will Austin, Avery, and Jake.

I got to watch my son baptize his son into Jesus.  It really does not get any better than that.

So God thank you for Andrew.  Thank you that his parents taught him just like they were taught.  Protect him from the evil one.  Use him to share the good news with his world.  I look forward to the amazing things you will do with -- and through -- Andrew.  We love you.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

 

God in Guatemala



I become more and more convinced that we have to be telling what God is doing among his people..  It inspires us, it makes us happy, and it encourages us to realize the same things can happen where we are.

So one of the great things I get do working for Hope for Life is to be part of our evangelistic campaigns around the world.  I love to preach in them because the lessons are designed for non-believers to hear the story of Jesus.
I just returned from a week working on the western edge of Guatemala City.  Five congregations worked together in three locations to host a campaign.  Then on Sunday, twelve congregations came together for a combined service.

My teammate Tim Archer has been on the radio in Guatemala City for several years now and the local churches are starting to get quality contacts from the listeners.  While there, we were interviewed on the radio for around 30 minutes each day.  In addition to the radio contacts, the members were inviting friends and family members to the campaign each night.  Students from the Biblical Institute of Central America (BICA) also helped by knocking doors and conducting Bible studies.

Hope for Life provided Bibles and literature for the campaign.

During the week, 21 people gave their life to Jesus and were baptized.  Another 10 souls came back to the Lord and were restored.

So here are a couple of my favorite stories from the week.

One congregation had their oldest member talk on the last night.  They introduced her as a great evangelist.  She talked about how she prayed for friends and family to know Jesus and how much it meant to her to see these people respond.  I also found out she went out every day to talk with people, then cooked every night.  She is 74.  Old for Guatemala.  Inspirational.

I also realized they were really impressed with my preaching. Not because it was so good, but because it was impressive that such an old guy was still preaching. I am old in the States, but I am really old down there.  Even better when I got to preach to a special gathering of 150 teens on Sunday.  Told them I was not only older than most of their parents, but most of their grandparents.

Tim had a great story from the second night of the campaign.  At the Monte Carmelo 3 congregation a man came forward to be restored.  His Mom was cooking in the back and came rushing out to embrace him.  His Dad rushed down the aisle to cry with them.. They had been praying for 10 years for their son to come back to the Lord.

I preached there the next night.  Several asked to be baptized and/or restored.  Among them was another son of this family who was restored and then one of their daughter-in-laws was baptized.  Tears of joy thru the whole congregation.

So you pray, you share Jesus stories, you live your faith, you invite others to worship and into the life of Jesus... and God gives the increase.  It happened in Guatemala and it is happening all over the world.

So thanks God for letting me be a part of your work in calling men to follow your Son.  Bless the continuing efforts from my family in Guatemala.  And bless what Marsha and I are committed to do here in Abilene.  Bless the efforts of your people all over this world who are making disciples.  We will plant and water Jesus seeds.  We ask you to give the increase.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

 

Julie's birthday

So last week our daughter, Julie Gilbreth, turned 40.  In spite of the fact that it is hard to fathom having a child who is 40, here is why I love her and am so proud of her.

She is strong and tough.  She has faced things physically and emotionally that could have destroyed her.  But she hung in there.  Did what had to be done.  Made it.

She has great faith.  I love her for reminding me that faith shows up in different ways.  She has been in a real wilderness in many ways the last few years but she kept moving toward God.  Kept praying.  Kept believing.  Sometimes great faith is seen in putting one foot in front of the other and keeping your face turned to God.

She is an amazing Mom. How can you not love a Mom who has spontaneous dance parties with her kids?  Speaks truth to them.  Does what is best for them.  Puts them ahead of herself.

Loves her family.  Adores her grandparents.  She and Mimi are best friends.  So are her and Avery.  Pretty neat to watch Granny, Mimi, Mommy, and the Ave.  Adores her nieces and nephews.    

Loves nursing and loves her students.  Being a school nurse is a ministry for her.  Works in a school whose students need care, but who need to feel loved too.  She does that.

Shares Jesus.  She invites people to church.  She listens to their problems.  She shares her story.  She offers Jesus as the answer in a hard world.

She is fun.  Laughs and loves.  Loves sports, which makes her a great baseball Mom for Jake.

So happy birthday last week Jules.

I love you and am proud of you.

Thanks God for our Julie.  She has shared joy, love, and faith in our world.  Bless her this year.  



Thursday, May 26, 2016

 

Every Church Needs a Phyllis Hadley

Phyllis Hadley was one of the church secretaries at Southern Hills for almost 20 years.

She finished her journey last week and got to go home to live forever.  Here are just a few reasons why I loved her, miss her, and why every church needs someone like her.

We all knew she was on her way home.  Phyllis knew it too.  Stage 4 cancer.  Marsha and I got to see her at the hospital and at home during her last days.  Prayed for healing while giving thanks for her life and for God's gift of Jesus.

She was dying and she wanted to ask about our Julie's health.  Thinking of others, not herself.  Of course.  That is who she was.

Church secretary was not a job for Phyllis.  It was a calling.  It really did not do her justice to list her as support staff.  She probably should have been listed under the Ministers.

She worked hard at her job.  Loved her church.  Knew everybody.

She was one of my secret weapons as an elder.  Everyone always wondered how I knew everybody at church.  I didn't.  But between calling Marsha and Phyllis, there was not anyone that I could not identify.

And Phyllis worked countless hours on nights and weekends.  Volunteered for everything.

I don't think she had a lot of money, and we did not pay her near enough.  But she sure was generous.  Gave her contribution of course, but was also quick to give to people in need.

She could speak her mind.  I liked that.  I always thought it was valuable to listen to someone who knew the congregation so well.

She was part of a group of older single ladies who took care of each other.  And who helped untold numbers of younger women.  Helped them spiritually, emotionally, and financially.

Though I do need to say here that I used the phrase "older ladies" one time in her presence.  Only once.

One of her favorite things to do was get the information for the new converts.  Loved all new members, but really got excited about new Christians.  She wanted to know about their stories, how they found Jesus, and what she could do to help them.  She showed up at several baptisms during the day -- and not just the guy doing the baptism could never find his keys.  But at least I knew who to call.

Phyllis was one of God's great servants.  Her faith and work helped God build our church.

We will miss her. We will see her again.

I hope your church has a Phyllis.  Tell them how much you love and appreciate them.

Or better yet... be a Phyllis.

So thanks God for the gift of Phyllis Hadley.  She made a difference for your Kingdom.  Just like you planned for her to do.  She went home just like she lived -- with grace and faith.  Please raise up more like her.  We need them.     

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

 

Thoughts on 43 years of marriage





Marsha and I have been married 43 years as of last Thursday, May 19.

We have raised two great kids.

We have 5 grandkids that are doing really well.  Loving God and Jesus.  And, based on the awards they are getting at the end of school, they are smart, athletic, and popular.  And they live their faith.

We have made a Kingdom difference.  Helped a lot of people decide to follow Jesus.  Helped heal a lot of people who were wounded on that journey.

And here is how we did it.

We never stopped following Jesus.

Never stopped loving each other.  No matter what.

Were sorry for the bad and worked to fix it.

Forgave.

Kissed lots.

I am forever thankful Marsha said yes.

I picked well.  She is a keeper.  She was the right one for me to do life with.

When you want to hear about Jesus, find me.  When you want to see Jesus, find her.  Which makes us a pretty good team for the Lord.

She is strong in those areas I am not not. We complete each other.

So here is how you can stay married 43 years.

Love Jesus.  Go to church.  Raise your kids in faith.  Love your grands and be in their lives.  Help others.  Forgive.  Kiss.  Hold hands.  Don't quit.

Repeat.

So thanks God for putting us together.  I am a better man and I am still your follower because of her.  Thank you for all the incredible ways you have blessed us for 43 years.  I don't know what happens next or how long we have left, but this we promise.  We will love you and we will love each other.  You can take care of the rest.

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