Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Church of Christ in the news...

The Church of Christ has been in the news quite a bit lately due to the murder of a preacher in Tennessee. It has been interesting to hear various news organizations attempt to discribe us. Some have been fair and mostly accurate, while some have been horrible. But it has sparked discussion among many of us as to how we wish we were known. My son got an online discussion going with many of his friends (all very faith driven and very perceptive) about what we ought to be known for, and how we accomplish that. So it got me to thinking, and here is what I wish we were known for:

1. People of the book
2. Baptism (as a call to respond to God's grace)
3. People who live forgiven
4. Lord's Supper (our corporate witness)
5. Love each other
6. Evangelism (and not just by the professionals)

All of these are tied directly to the gospel: death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

So what do you wish we were known for?

Monday, March 27, 2006


Soulforce and ACU

Most of you know about the visit of Soulforce, a pro-homosexual advocacy group, to the ACU campus. Several reactions occur to me.

First of all, I wonder about those who see this as an evangelistic opportunity. If you want to evangelize among practicing homosexuals, there are any number of more effective ways to work in their lives as friends. I am not sure that we can have much real authentic ministry in this context.

Second, why are we seeing this as an innocent visit to exchange ideas? They targeted the ACU campus because they see it as hostile to the gay lifestyle. Of course it is. I would be disappointed if it was not. I think it is naive to believe their intention is to discuss the possible areas of disagreement. They believe we are wrong to oppose the gay lifestyle. They are not here on a friendly visit. I have several brothers and sisters who struggle with this sin. I pray Satan does not use this as an opportunity to confuse them.

However, civility on their visit is not to be confused with acceptance of their position. I regularly meet with a number of friends who live lifes that are not pleasing to God. They know I do not condone the way they chose to live, but we are friends. There are people on campus every day who do not accept Jesus. ACU is an educational institution, not the church.

There is no excuse for violence (physical, mental, or emotional). We are called to treat people as Jesus did.

We do not have to apologize for the truth. Scripture is clear about the issue of homosexuality. I am called to "speak the truth in love". Their issue needs to be with what God said.

Do not accept them as brothers if they maintain that you can live contrary to God's will and be a faithful Christian. We are not much on taking stands these days, but there are stands that need to be taken. And I would feel this way if this was a group promoting having a mistress on the side, or a group that advocated euthenasia or abortion.

Finally, Christians who struggle with this sin need love, forgiveness, grace, and help to defeat the sin in their life and to walk closer to Jesus.

As do we all.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Christian Politics

Christian politics is a subject that is sure "hot" today. Here in Abilene, we have an intense race contested by two Republicans (in a run-off) and a Democrat that has lots of people stirred up about our "Christian" duty in this election. I just read an national news article this week about how Democrats are trying to find their faith voice. And of course, the Republican party has for several years been identified with the religious right. My son even sent me an excerpt from a blog he read today talking about the religious values in both political parties.

So I feel compelled -or maybe I am just contrary- to remind everyone that we are not really citizens of any earthly country. Our citizenship is in heaven and our kingdom knows no earthly boundaries. I am much more concerned with expanding the borders of my heavenly kingdom than I am with anything that happens to any earthly government. God is in charge of this world. He was working in this world before there was an America and he will be after this country goes the way of all countries. And His will is going to be done. Now or later.

And I will vote in our local election. And I support candidates who I think reflect my values. But the truth is, my values are about changing lives and not in changing legislation. Legislating morals does not get people into heaven. Jesus does that, and he wasn't a politician.

So I know where my time, energy, and money will go. And I'll win the only election that matters.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


James is wearing me out...

Why did I ever agree to preach thru James during HIP this semester? That book is wearing me out. Tonite we are working in James 3 about controlling our tongue. Fat chance (that's a loose interpretation of James). It really is the most difficult part of our selves to bring into submission to Christ. It is the instrument Satan uses to destroy lives. I have lots of regrets in my life (tho I don't confuse forgiveness with regrets), but my greatest are things I said. Sometimes my words have led to sin, sometimes my words have hurt those I love, and sometimes my words made it harder for people to see Jesus.

I could get pretty depressed about it, but it's not wise to live in the past. So I resolve to work harder in the future. I am going to bite my tongue when I need to. I am going to work harder at saying the right thing to encourage others. I am going to be thankful for those of you who have said the right thing to me.

And I am going to keep getting an elder to pray over my sermon every time I speak.

What are your helpful hints for using our tongues in the way God intended?

Monday, March 20, 2006


Zechariah who?

I taught the University class Sunday on Zechariah. I am ashamed to admit it but it has been awhile since I read this great book, much less taught on it. It did remind me of one of my favorite passages in all of the Bible, Zechariah 3: 1-4. It is a scene of judgement when Satan stands ready to accuse one of God's servants. Go read it now. I love it when God rebukes Satan and says this man is a burning stick snatched from the fire. Then they take off the filthy garments (our sin) and put on rich garments. That's me at judgement...a man snatched out of the fire. I love that passage.

It's been a while since I preached that passage. Now I am going to use it lots and lots. I wonder how it dropped off my radar for a while. And what other great passages am I missing out on? Maybe we ought to take a moment and reflect back on the great passages from God's Word that we haven't thought of for a while.

Don't you have a passage that really speaks to you as this one does to me?

Share it with someone, and start with me. Maybe it speaks to me also.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


March Madness

It probably is a sickness, but I love this time of year. Once again I am in a pool with the same group I have been with for probably ten years. We started with a group of Joe Don's friends and a handful of Dads. It is always good for a lot of trash talking and fun.

I am just emotional this year because my Arkansas Razorbacks are back in the tourney. Go Pigs. And yes, I will watch as much of the tournament as I possibly can.

And as always, I will wonder about the incredible amount of energy used on filling out brakets and running office pools.

And as always, someone who knows almost nothing will win the pool instead of those of us who really know college basketball and have been doing this a long time.

It's almost like Christianity... you don't win because of how long you have been doing it or because of what you know.

I'll let everyone know how I am doing, but right now my bracket looks great.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Preaching and technology...

I had a discussion the other day with some university students about preaching and technology. Their opinions were all over the place. Some thought the use of film clips, images, and power point was wonderful and exactly the way to reach our modern culture. Others thought technology distracted from the message, put too much of a premium on entertainment, or was not done in just the right way. In other words, they debated how to use technology in the same way my generation debated the use of illustrations. And I must confess, I am conflicted about this whole technology in preaching deal.

Why isn't God's Word enough? If I get bored with a "non enhanced" sermon, is my faith weak? Is the preacher poorly prepared, or just a poor communicator? How long before someone begins to market the technological outlines for a sermon? I heard Rick Atchley preach Sunday, except for the fact that I was in Fort Worth and he was in Canada. He was pre-recorded. Is this the wave of the future? Why not take the 10 or 12 best preachers in our brotherhood, record them, and make sure every church uses just their videos? Maybe we could do the same with our praise teams. In fact, this whole meet together thing could be eliminated with just a little work and some more technology.

I don't know. I hear Phil preach every Sunday and he is about as cutting edge as anyone in our fellowship. And I don't use any technology. Maybe I ought to, it might help. But people seem to listen to both of us. I do know that we better decide how it works, how we use it, and how it fits in our mission. Is it critical, important, helpful, confusing, or distracting? And what is the difference in how a believer and a non-believer view it? How different is a "post-modern" from a baby boomer? And is the target audience even in our assembly?

Well, wiser heads than mine need to think on this and help me sort it out. And then you may have to do a power point for me...or maybe not.

Monday, March 13, 2006


It's about family...

Saturday was one of those days when I was reminded that our lives are about people, and more specifically I was reminded that family is what matters. Saturday morning we went to the funeral celebration for Tim Yandell's dad. We rode from Abilene with Phil and Donna and John and Jana. Along with Time and Traci, that is our small group and our spiritual family in a very real sense. I saw lots of you there also being the family of God in a real way to Tim and his physical family. You took time and made an effort to be there. That's what families do...we are there for each other. By the way, Tim sang Amazing Grace at the funeral. I've heard Tim sing that at lots of funerals, but this was special. It touched me.

Saturday night we spent with Marsha's brother, Don, at his 60th birthday party. Most of the Herttenberger family was there, as were lots of Don's friends from his church family at Alta Mesa. When asked to say a few words, he spoke of God's goodness in granting him second and third chances. Not many people can pull off giving a testimony at their birthday party without it seeming a little forced and odd. But it was powerful. More emotion for me and family...

And then between funerals and parties, we hung out with Anna Claire- our seven month old granddaughter. Oh yeah, and Joe Don and Jamie. As always, Anna stole hearts and hugs with her rosy cheeks and personality plus. And I think happy kids come from happy parents, so it made me a happy "Pops".

So what's the point of all this? To remind you to value your family, both your physical and spiritual one. Take a moment to thank God for them, and it wouldn't hurt to let some of them hear from you how much they mean to you. After all, we're all in this together.

So thanks God for surrounding me with family that loves me and cares for me.

Friday, March 10, 2006


Another Hero of Mine...

Rigoberto Vargas is one of my heros. He is a preacher from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and he does his evangelism in the National prisons. He has established congregations in the men's prison (one in the general population and one in the high security section), the women's prison, and a downtown congregaion of ex-prisoners and families of those incarcerated. He also works with the Herald of Truth halfway house for newly released Christians.

Eight of his released converts are leading churches in Honduras, and many others are faithful workers in various congregations. The leaders in the prison congregations are converts baptized and discipled there in the prison. Rigo is now working on a halfway house for women and on some job skill training for released prisoners.

I have spent the last two days with Rigo working on plans for the next year. He is energetic, passionate, and committed to reaching this world for Jesus. We have a little trouble with Rigo over the whole concept of budget. He is so hung up on this "faith in the power of God" thing. So most of the time, we agree that kingdom work must be done and that God will provide the resources. And it always seems to work out.

I just wish I wouldn't be so embarressed about my own stewardship of time, energy, and money when I am with him. Being around him inspires me to remember what is important. So thanks God for letting me have a friend and brother like Rigo. And forgive me when I major in minors. And forgive me when I buy into the world's concepts about how to do kingdom business.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


What I missed growing up in the church of Christ...

There are things I have come to appreciate spiritually that I just didn't get growing up. I am not saying these things were not taught or modeled, just that I didn't get it. It may reflect my immaturity or perhaps these were really not emphasized in my church heritage.

I didn't really get what a big deal the Holy Spirit is in my life. It was not so much that I learned poor theology of the Holy Spirit, it was that I didn't learn much at all. There is lots in Scripture about the power and importance of the Holy Spirit. I just missed it.

I am just now really learning the value of congregational praying. We pray publicly for many things at Southern Hills, and I value that. I love the Garden of Prayer. I like that as elders we pray over the sick and annoint them with oil. But I am getting all this later in life.

I am not sure I learned how to deal with sin in the family of God. It was hushed up, covered up, or dealt with by a generic response and prayer. I must have missed the engaging in lives, confronting sin, and going to battle with those wounded by Satan. We could preach about it, I just never learned what to do about it. Maybe that explains my passion for "getting in the trenches" now.

I did not see much racial, economic, or cultural diversity where I grew up. We all looked and acted the same. I will always be grateful for the fact that my parents let me go lead singing for a "black" congregation my senior year in high school. I still don't understand why we couldn't merge. Or maybe I do understand and still don't like it. And we still all look alike.

Finally, I missed the value of confession and accountability. We are getting better at it and I think our fellowship as a whole is learning this. I just wonder how many brothers and sisters we lost because they did not know how to break the cycle of sin in their lives.

And I am sure my children will have these same kinds of reflections someday. There are things they really will appreciate and things they will have missed. I wonder if their lists will look like mine.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Things I learned growing up in the church of Christ...

One of the interesting things about living in Abilene is the discussion about the pros and cons of growing up in the church of Christ heritage. Mostly it seems to be seen as some kind of negative thing to have been burdened with. Here are my five reasons why I'm glad I grew up in the church of Christ.

I learned to value and appreciate Scripture. We may bicker over how we interpret it, how we read it, and what it means...but I did learn a lot of Scripture. And I learned to value God's Word as the authority from God. I still am amazed how many believers don't stay in the Word. I hope we never lose this emphasis.

I learned to appreciate baptism. I do think we have some issues we need to re-think about baptism, and often we only emphasized one aspect of it (forgiveness of sins), but I am glad I knew that was how one responded to Jesus. I'm glad I didn't have to come to an understanding of baptism out of a church culture that ignored or downplayed its significance.

I am thankful for the emphasis on the Lord's Supper. Is it hard to keep it fresh? Yes. Is it easy to lose focus on it? Yes. But we did it. We remembered the death and resurrection of Jesus every Sunday. If the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, then baptism and the Lord's Supper are the two visible responses we can make. One we do individually and one we do as family.

Maybe it was just where I grew up, but I appreciated the emphasis on evangelism and missions. I remember seeing friends and neighbors being baptized. I remember church leaders telling the story of their conversion (including my own Dad). I remember knowing people in my church who were going to the mission field. That is still my passion.

Finally, I appreciate my heritage of singing. I am not talking about theology here, but rather the joy of worship. I learned that and felt that even as a child. As I talk to friends from other religious backgrounds, I am continually surprised by their amazement at how well we sing. If you grew up in the church of Christ, you knew how to sing.

There are lots of other things I could mention, but I just thought I should take a minute and celebrate the good things I grew up with in the church of Christ.

Thanks for my heritage of faith.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


I got upset by a blog...

I don't read many blogs, and on the ones I read I rarely leave comments. I barely have time to keep up with my own (as you know). However, someone asked me to check out another blog by someone who has endured a lot of cheap shots from people who do not agree with his theology, or by those who do not even know his theology. Well, his blog got even. He took some shots back at those with whom he does not agree. His were not particularly harsh, but it sure opened the door for some tough comments.

So what upset me? After all, I've been shot at a few times myself... sometimes from the left and sometimes from the right. And boy have I wanted to fire back a few times. And I probably have more than I should have. And I do understand the hurt. Even Marsha has taken shots from people over things I preached.

Here's the thing: why do we all think the people who disagree with us are taking cheap shots, while it's OK for us to have "fun" at their expense. I am fairly sure the only one really laughing is Satan. So my issue is not with the person who wrote the blog. I think he is a good man who makes me think and I consider him a friend. I just don't want us to open the door to this garbage anymore.

We can disagree. We can even see how wrong someone else is (at least by our standards). We can even laugh at some of the absurdities (others and our own). But at what point do we cross the line?

By the way, I sure can tell when everyone else crosses the line. God help me to see it when I do.

And I'm sure someone will let me know.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


I love Spring Training...

I love baseball and Spring Training. It is a time of optimism and new beginnings. This year I believe the Rangers really have decent pitching, they will stay healthy, the big hitters will hit, and the players that didn't come through last year have gotten it figured out this year. Every team thinks that this year they have it figured out. And they all can see the playoffs. Of course, most of them, and their fans, are wrong. But there is just something about new beginnings that gives hope.

We see it in life sometimes too. Every newlywed has visions of how great their marriage will be. Every parent of a newborn baby sees nothing but greatness ahead. Every new Christian is never going to take their eye off of Jesus. And sometimes we get some of this wrong. Life gets in the way of spouses and children. Satan attacks the people of God.

Yet I see life just like Spring Training. This time I am going to get it right. I think this view of life and love and new beginnings is fundamental to our Christianity... ever hopeful, ever believing, ever confident.

And some of those teams and their fans are right. Some of them do win.

We win too and it is because of Jesus. So every day my marriage will be better, my kids stronger, and my walk straighter. Bring on the season, I'm ready to play.

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