Thursday, May 18, 2017

 

Celebrating 44 years of life together

I asked.  She said yes.

And tomorrow we celebrate 44 years of doing life together.

Here are just a few reasons I would choose Marsha all over again.

She loves God.  It's not so much that she talks about Jesus.  It's more that she does Jesus.  She is a really good person.  She loves others.  Thinks of others.  Serves others.  Puts others before herself.

We have buried both her folks this year.  I watched her care for her folks.  It was holy.

She has a heart for the marginalized and those that need help.  Food, advice, rides, money.  I have seen her give it all.  But she is drawn to those in need.

She has a heart for those who do not know Jesus.  She has them in our home.  Spends time praying for them.  Shares stories with them.  Invites them.

Loves her family.  Great Mom.  Sensational Mimi.  Her kids and grands really do love her.  Because she loves them.

She loves me.  She could have done better.  But she chose me.  She lets me go almost every weekend to tell people about Jesus.  Takes care of me in more ways than I even realize.

We make a good team.  Come see me to hear about Jesus.  Come see her to see what Jesus looks like in real life.

She still makes my heart skip a beat when she walks into the room.

I am blessed.

Monday, May 15, 2017

 

My father-in-law, Don Herttenberger, is home forever



My father-in-law, Don Herttenberger, is home with God and Granny.  My son and I will do his funeral Wednesday morning at Southern Hills.

But I wanted to share a few reasons why I love him so much.

My Dad had Alzheimers for several years before he went home and Don became my dad.  Treated me like his own son.  

He gave me Marsha.  But more than that, he modeled what it means to be a faithful and loving husband.  He took care of his wife for 71 years.  Right till she went home about seven months ago.  After that, he was ready to go.  He had done what he promised to do.  Took care of Granny.  Raised three faithful children.  Took care of his extended family also.  

He was a farmer.  I learned a lot about ministry from the farm.  Getting ground ready, planting, watering, and praying for God to give the increase.  He prayed over his crops.  He trusted God when they were abundant and when they did not make.  There were a couple of years when it was just me and him going up there.  Talked a lot about farming, family, and faith.  

And I sure learned a lot about following Jesus from Grandpa.    He was a world class hospital visitor and greeter at Southern Hills.  Read his Bible.  Prayed.  Took literally thousands of meals to people.  

He was my elder sounding board.  I asked his opinion about a lot of shepherding issues.  And I always got good advice.

His favorite saying:  "It'll all be alright."

And it is.  He is with Granny and God.  His legacy of faith is rich and continues right thru his great-grandchildren.  

I was blessed to marry Marsha.  Getting her folks made it the deal of a lifetime.  And then forever.

You did good Grandpa.  See you soon.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

 

The Parable of the Ad Salesman and the Soul Winner

I have always tried to make disciples of Jesus.  Sometimes I was paid by a church, sometimes I supported myself.  There was a period of time when my income came from selling ads for a phone book.  I was especially good at selling new advertisers.  Good enough to win some awards.  Even more telling... good enough to have members of my sales team ask me how I did it.  

Jesus taught a lot of lessons from everyday life.  He called them parables.  Everyday stories that had spiritual application.  So here is what I did to sell new advertisers.  I think there is a lesson here about sharing Jesus.

When asked how I sold so many new accounts, I always said it was a God thing.  I asked him to bless my business and I gave him the glory when it went well.

I worked really hard at it.  I talked to every business I could about advertising in our book.  I noticed a direct correlation between how many businesses I talked to and how much I sold.

I thought the product sold itself.  I just told stories about how it had helped other businesses to grow.
But I always asked for the sale.

I had a lot of fun.  And I did really well.  Thanks God.

So...

I ask God to help me see the people around me that need Jesus.  I give him the glory when people respond to his Son.

I talk to a lot of people.  I ask visitors to my church if they have any questions or want to know more about following Jesus.  Every time I speak anywhere I ask people to please let us know if they have questions.

Jesus sells himself.  I just tell stories from Scripture and stories about followers today.  Stories of how Jesus makes a difference.

I always ask if they want to visit a service with me, or if they want to hear another story, or if they want to die with Jesus and be raised to a new life.

And God has -- and is -- giving a great harvest.

And it is fun.  I am happy and blessed.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

 

Church Myths: The Sunday assembly is not the most important hour of the week

I am not sure I have ever heard any church leader proclaim that Sunday morning worship assembly is the most important hour of the week.  In fact, they all deny it.  We all claim that the hours outside the building are much more important.

And I think our actions absolutely proclaim that Sunday morning worship is more important to the church than anything else.

What does every new congregation do as soon as they can?  Build a building.  And the main focus of that building is the sanctuary/auditorium.  A lot of money is invested in those worship centers.  And how often is yours used?

The first hire is a preacher.  And what is his main job function?  To preach -- maybe only once per week.  How is he evaluated?  By how many people are showing up on Sunday morning.  If the crowds are going down, better look for a better preacher.  If the crowds are growing, give him a raise.
Listen to us talk about the great things going on.  Building programs, satellite campuses, growing crowds.  We even think the great accomplishment in some churches is to do something different in the assembly.  Change worship (or be sure it stays the same).  I even hear churches talking about women's ministry and I realize in almost every case they are just talking about what happens in that one hour on Sunday and not actual ministry by women.

Most of us pick our churches based on what happens on Sundays.  Do we like the worship style?  Do we connect with the preaching?

Because the truth is that most of our leaders and members like it this way.

Preachers like it because if the worship time is not the main focus it might get very difficult to justify the paycheck.

Elders like it because that is something you can see and measure.  Real shepherding is hard and exhausting -- and does not happen in an assembly.

Members like it because it is easy.  Evangelism gets reduced to an invitation to come to church.  Bible study is handled by the guy we pay to talk for 20, 30, or 40 minutes.  And all you really need to do is show up, shut up, and pay up.

But it does not have to be that way.  Members can -- and some do -- live, serve, and make disciples outside of that one hour.  Preachers become evangelists.  Elders become shepherds.  Deacons serve people.

Maybe our assemblies could become a way for all of us to be inspired and motivated to go out and do real church in our communities and families.  

But all of that would require radical reordering of our lives and churches.

Let's just stick to buildings, and arguing about one hour worship and who can lead it.

Our actions really do speak louder than our words.



Thursday, April 27, 2017

 

Inbred churches get sick and then they die...

Inbreeding is not healthy for families.  Not physical families, and not church families either.

Inbred churches are those that have no -- or very little -- new blood.  Very few first generation Christians, and not many second generation ones.  No new converts and few whose parents were new Christians.  Many churches are mostly third and fourth (or more) generation Christians.

One obvious problem is that if you are not making new disciples, you are not growing.  But there are a number of other problems that are a result of inbreeding.

Inbred churches tend to want to preserve tradition.  Family traditions become church traditions.  Nothing changes because we are comfortable with the way it has always been. Preferences become traditions which become commands, which leads to convoluted attempts to explain that Scripture means what it does not say.

Or... inbred churches get focused on themselves.  They expect to be fed instead of feeding others.  After all, there are no new Christians to feed.  Buildings for us.  Youth programs to teach our kids.  Preachers at inbred churches have to please an increasingly self-centered audience.  Self-satisfied, inward focused churches.  And that leads to fighting and a desire for something fresh and exciting.  Eventually old things are discarded without much thought to why they were done in the first place.  Which often leads to convoluted attempts to explain why Scripture does not mean what it does say.

New Christians mean that a church is being outward focused instead of inward focused.  New Christians need teaching, fellowship, and discipling.  They bring excitement and enthusiasm. Teaching lost people the good news of Jesus keeps churches focused on the main thing:  Jesus.

We worry about keeping our young people.  Why would they want to stay in a church that is more focused on preserving the past than creating a future?  Or why would they want to stay in a church so focused on change that there is no sense of something solid and permanent?

So do a survey of your church friends.  Find out how many of them are first or second generation Christians.  You will find that to be a very accurate barometer of the overall health of your church.

God did not send his Son to die just for your kids and grandkids.  He sent Jesus to die for the sins of the world.

Start believing it and then start living it.

It will change everything in your community of faith.  It may even change everything for you.

 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

 

How to destroy your credibility as a Bible teacher...

The worst thing that can happen to a preacher, Bible class teacher, or Christian parent is to lose your credibility.  And even worse is if you claim to teach from the Bible but no one believes you.  Even when you try to just open your Bible, or to speak directly from Scripture, you are not heard.

Here are a few ways you can destroy your credibility as a Bible teacher.

Act as though you do exactly as you teach.  No you don't.  You know it and we know it.  If you are lying about your life, what else are you lying about.

Live differently than you teach.  Of course you are not perfect.  But we need to know you are trying to live up to your teaching.  You repent, you do the work, you bring your life into harmony with your words.

You teach that the Bible means what it does not say.    

You teach that the Bible does not mean what it does say.

Which leads us to think you believe that we cannot understand what Scripture means so we will just have to trust you to tell us. It is as if you do not even want anyone to read or think for themselves.

Credibility.

Do your best to live what you teach.

Do your best to be honest about what God's word does -- and does not -- say.

 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

 

Three tests for every elder...

Being an elder is not always easy.  You make decisions that deeply and personally affect your community of faith.  I believe as an elder I am accountable for the spiritual welfare of my flock.  I have to deliver them safely home.  There are times when truth must be spoken into the lives of people who do not want to hear it.  There are times when you will not be popular and not be liked.  I have been yelled at, cussed out, and threatened as an elder.  And there are times when you will have to make policy decisions about core beliefs, or worship, or personnel.  Any of those decisions will not always please everyone in you church.  You wrestle with Scripture, you call on a long history of spiritual experiences, and you partner with other elders in leading your flock.  

And sometimes you will wonder if you are right.  You will have to urge to quit.

So how do you know you are doing the right thing?  How do you know what to do?

For me personally, I have found there to be three things that help me focus and decide things.  These tests have gotten me through difficult times with individual sheep and with my community of faith.  These are the reminders that help keep me going.  These are even the tests that I believe will help me know when it is time to quit.

And these are the only things that really matter to me when evaluating my shepherding.

I have to look myself in the mirror.

I have to look my wife in the eyes.

And someday, I will have to see my God face to face.

That's it for me.  My three elder tests for any action I take.

Can I look at myself in the mirror, can I look Marsha in the eyes, and can I look my God in the face?

My ultimate elder tests.




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