Monday, January 30, 2006


God is changing lives...

I spent yesterday with the church in Cross Plains. I was conducting a series for Herald of Truth on the recent disasters and what God is doing thru them. While there, I met Robert and Amanda. I share some of their story with their permission. They met a few months ago at a bar and moved in together. He has spent most of his life in rebellion against God, and she knew very little of God until recently. She spent three years living on the streets, and he has battled alcohol. They lost their trailer in the fire and the next day he broke his leg in an incident involving "alcohol and temper".

While Robert was recovering, they realized that they could not continue living the way they were. They became convinced that God had a reason for sparing their lives in times they believe they could have died. They became convinced that the fire was a wake-up call for their life. Robert knew where the answers were found and they began visiting the church of Christ in Cross Plains with his mother.

They were there for the entire day yesterday and shared their story with me over lunch. Amanda expressed a strong desire give her life to Jesus and Robert was committed to returning to God. I got to pray with them during the last session of the series and the local preacher and one of the elders committed to continue working with them.

I got a call late last night that Amanda had been baptized into Christ and that she and Robert were getting married. I think that is a wedding I will try to attend.

A fire, a mother's love, a remembered faith, a loving fellowship, God's Word preached...

You are playing roles in God's work like this every day. Keep it up.

God, you work in ways we can never understand to bring people to you. Thanks for letting me be a little piece of your work in this world.

Friday, January 27, 2006


Our God is powerful...

"Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds...". Life is tough sometimes and Mom and I spend much of our ministry time praying for those of you facing your trials. Often I share them with you, and sometimes I do not. But you need to know Rick and Amy's story. All of their friends were having babies. Even her twin sister, Ann, is now pregnant. When they found out Amy was expecting they were overjoyed at God's goodness.

At one of their early sonograms, the Doctor found evidence of cystic hygroma. In faith, they began to have their friends, their family, and their church pray for them. And we gladly joined with them in asking for God to heal their baby. And He did. When they went to the specialist, he found no evidence of anything wrong. He told them if he had not known the background, he would have wondered why they were even there.

Thank you God for healing Rick and Amy's baby, and for healing Jake and Julie after the car wreck.

So I'll keep praying for Anne and Levi, and for Jack, and for Emily, and for all the rest.

To God be the glory.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Today is the day I try again to confess to God that I cannot do it all. I say it to others all the time: God does not expect us to be able to do everything; give the burden of busyness to Him. So why can't I let go myself? There is lots going on at work and I can barely keep my head above water. My calendar is a joke. I am preaching all over Texas early spring, all over Louisiana late spring, and all over the world this summer. I am guilty about not teaching the University class much on Sundays, so I work extra hard to make HIP good. And I stress over not taking good care of my Shepherding Groups, but I am so busy with those is crises that I don't have time to lead. Then there are income tax records to organize, I want to spend time with my grandkids, and the dogs want to walk.

Sounds just like you, doesn't it? When I complained to Marsha, she said try being a teacher, Mom,Mimi, daughter, wife, elder's wife, mentor for all her "daughters", hostess, and... well, you get the picture. You do it too: family responsibilities, work demands, ministry pressure, alone time, chores, people who need you.

So what's the answer? Time with God. I need to hear His words, I need to talk to Him, I need to be with Him. If I get that done, everything else will work out somehow.

So God help me to remember to connect to you, give me energy for my tasks, help me remember the difference between what is important and what is urgent. And most of all, help me give my day -and my life- to you.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I get to start preaching again in HIP tomorrow night. It is one of the hightlights of my ministry. We are going to be in the book of James, and it really is life changing. It is challanging, confrontational and not for the faint of heart. I meant what I said last week: don't come if you don't want your life changed.

I travel so much for Herald of Truth that I can only do about ten or so of this year's HIP, but I will get to preach through this marvelous book. I love the praise time and the Garden of Prayer is the highlight of the week for me in many ways. I believe God is going to do a great work through HIP this spring. Thanks in advance to Jonathon and the Praise team, to Gary, Phil, Vann and the others who lead the Garden of Prayer. Thanks to the campus ministry team and elders and spouses who make the Garden of Prayer special.

Thanks to those of you who worship with us on Wednesdays. The university students add so much enthusiasm and life, but I also thank our resident Southern Hills members who are involved. We are changing our lives and in doing so we are changing our church. And thanks for the visitors who share in our time together. I pray your lives are more focused, more enthusiastic, and more deeply spiritual because of your time with us.

Thanks God for the chance to be part of your work in this world.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Jonathon and Jennifer

This is the post I don't want to do. Jonathon and Jennifer Ross are leaving Southern Hills. He is moving to Houston to work with a church down there. I know I am partial to praise leaders for several reasons. The first is that good ones enhance my worship experience so much. And any preacher will tell you that your preaching is helped by dynamic, thoughtful praise time. It is a hard job too. I know, I used to do it (only then we called it song leading).

Even more than that, I am going to miss Jonathon and Jennifer. They are special to Marsha and I, and we feel in some ways it is like our own kids moving. They are loving, committed Christians and our family will miss them. I treasure my relationship with Jonathon and I will miss our lunches and our prayer time together.

This is one of those times when I don't like being an elder. When Jonathon and Jennifer first shared this possibility with us, the shepherd in me wanted to guide them to what was best for their family and their growth. The elder in me wanted to keep them at Southern Hills no matter what. But they are going to Bammel Road and we will miss them.

We will survive at Southern Hills. I worried when D. J. Bulls left us. He had done so much to build our praise team and was so instrumental in the beginning of HIP. But God called him to another ministry and we found Jonathon. So I am praying for whoever God will bring us next.
And He will bring us the right man. He always has.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Somebody wasn't thinking...

I ate this morning at the new Cracker Barrel restaurant here in Abilene. Every time I go near it I am reminded of the sign controversy. They wanted to erect a sign taller than city ordinance would allow. They threatened not even to build if they could have this sign high enough to draw traffic to their location. Well, they got their sign and I'm sure people pull off the Interstate to eat there.

However, it is the hardest parking lot to pull into I have ever seen. If you head toward where the front seems to be, there is no entrance. You really have to work to get in. Great thinking on someone's part; throw a fit to get traffic to come to you and then make it hard to get in.

I don't guess we would ever do that in the church, would we? We wouldn't spend incredible amounts of money on buildings, fight over what draws the non-believer to be attracted to us, and then make it hard on them to get in. Or would we? If we are going to make it hard to get in, then why worry about what is functional in terms of attracting outsiders. Maybe some of these discussions are really about what we want anyway, and we just dress them up in better language so we feel good about ourselves.

Oh well, I like Towne Crier restaurant better anyway.

Friday, January 13, 2006


Real Men Cry

I know that I am a crier. Some of the university students take bets on when I will tear up during my lessons. I cry during the Garden of Prayer when I visit and pray with my flock. Of course today I cried while I was holding my grandson Jake. I guess that is when I started thinking about men and their tears. If you want to be a man of God, learn to cry. And I am not talking about any of the situations above.

I am talking about the tears when no one is there to see them. I cry in front of thousands but the meaningful tears are when I am alone with my God. I cry tears of regret for sin and missed opportunity. I cry for joy at the fact that my Lord died for me. Sometimes I cry because my heart is full of love. I cry because I am so blessed. I believe that it is these tears that form us as God's man.

My favorite Bible heroes were criers (David and Peter), and they were real men. They were real men of God.

If you want to be God's husband, father, son, brother, or friend... learn to cry the alone tears. It really will make you more of a man. God's man. And someday He himself will wipe away my tears.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


I found a budget presentation in the Bible...

Most of you know I have a serious aversion to church budgets. Yes I know we have to be financially responsible, and I know you can't spend what you do not have. But budgets have always seemed so limiting. It is as if we are saying what we think we are able to do based on our ability. I am always afraid we are leaving God out. Where is the room for Him to work? We cut programs because we don't think we will give enough. We don't support missionaries because they are not in the budget.

We even tell people to tithe on faith, but we will not budget on faith. Maybe our people do not give because they don't agree with the budget. Maybe they do not feel challanged. Maybe budgets seem reactive and not visionary.

I always said budgets were not in the Bible, but I may have found one. Read John 6:5ff. Phillip presented a budget. And it was a test. And he failed. Jesus ignored his budget.

Just food for thought. I think I'll just keep giving and keep pushing missions and just see what God can do.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


What if they don't have anyone...

It has been fun the last couple of days to be with Bobby, Julie, and Jake. Last night in particular was fun as their room was filled with family and friends celebrating. We have enjoyed laughter and tears and prayers and fellowship. Bobby's dad even commented how Jake was so surrounded by love. And Marsha was laughing about how it took her and Bobby both to take care of Julie and Jake.

But Bobby had the comment that really started me thinking. He said he had seen several Moms and babies who appeared to be alone. We wondered why. Is the Dad not around or not interested? Does the family not care? Do they not have friends, or a church home?

What a great time to connect with people and let them see a glimpse of Jesus and his family.

Maybe that is a ministry just waiting for someone to take hold of...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Jake is here...

Jake Ryder Gilbreth is here. Julie and Jake are both doing fine, as is Bobby. Jake is just a shade over 21 inches and weighed 9 lbs., 4 ounces. But the best thing about Jake is that he is loved. Yes, his grandparents love him and I'm sure we will all spoil him rotten. And of course, Julie and Bobby are thrilled and committted to love and nurture him. It was all the other love for Jake that struck me the most yesterday.

I was reminded by what a loving family he is part of now. Watching his great-grandparents hold him was amazing. Watching aunts and uncles ( and great aunts and uncles) was special. And the ones that weren't here yet kept calling for updates and prayer. Jake's spiritual family is incredible. Elders and their wives, our small group, people that love us and Jake from church all came and called and prayed. I am not just talking about Southern Hills either. God's family is so much more than one congregation.

Most of all, I was struck by God's love. He protected Jake from the wreck, and He delivered him safe. I don't know all of God's plan for Jake, but it is special. Bobby and Julie see Jake as part of God's plan for their life. And he is part of God's plan for Mom and I. Maybe Jake is even part of God's plan for you. After all, we are family.

And thanks God for continuing to bless me way beyond what I deserve or can even imagine.

Monday, January 09, 2006

My daughter Julie and her husband Bobby Gilbreth are on their way to the hospital. It is time for Jake to come out. They have scheduled a C-section for noon. She really wanted to have Jake naturally, but after the wreck the Doctors thought this was the best route to go. So thanks for the prayers and we will keep you posted.

It really is baby season at Southern Hills and also with lots of our friends scattered around the country. We pray for safe delivery, we pray for parental wisdom in raising this next generation, and we pray that God will raise these little ones into a mighty army for Him in this world.

And for those of you who have asked, of course it is amazing to see your baby having a baby. But Julie and Bobby have prayed for this, want this, and are excited about this. Me too, and Marsha (MIMI) is beside herself.

My life is rich and full, and God is gracious.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


I've had it...

I hope the holidays were good to you. At our house there was lots of fun, food, and family. But in the midst of the joy, there was pain. I had talks with several Christian friends who are in trouble in their marriage. Some of them are facing up to sin in their lives and dealing with the consequences. Others refuse to acknowledge sin in their lives...or they have excuses for it.

These events solided two truths that are critical if we are going to heal and restore fractured marriages. The first is that as a Christian, life is not about you. I am tired of hearing how the "new relationship" makes you happy. I have even heard how the new love of your life is going to make you a better Christian because you will be satisfied and happy in this new relationship.

Once and for all, hear this: other people will not make you happy. If you buy into this lie of Satan, you will not stay happy. When the new relationship has problems, or things do not go just like you thought, what do you do then? Must you find someone else to make you happy? Take your relationship with Jesus seriously, work on your marriage, and quit thinking everything in life is about you and what makes you happy.

On the other hand, some of you better learn to forgive. Do you really think you are the perfect spouse? When you said "for better or worse" were you kidding? Sin is horrible, and it must be dealt with- whatever it takes. However, a harsh and unforgiving spirit is not how Christ would have you to live.

I have seen God take many shattered marriages and heal them. Some of the healthiest marriages I know have been through horrible struggles. But if both spouses want to be faithful (to Jesus, not just each other), and if you want to save your marriage... it can happen.

Our God can do amazing things in your marriage. I know. Trust me on this... and more important, trust God.

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