Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Bobby's Baptism...

Most of you know the story of Julie and Bobby. He was in a bad car wreck several years ago and told he would never walk again. He proved the experts wrong and eventually met and married Julie. Now they have little Jake and lots of you prayed with us through the wreck and the uncertainty of Jake's birth. Bobby has been on a spiritual journey for some time. He has regularly worshipped with us at Southern Hills. We are a four generation row at church: Marsha's folks, Julie, Bobby and Jake, and Marsha and me.

For some time Bobby has been studying and praying about his spiritual journey. He has studied on his own. He and Julie would talk about spiritual things, sometimes he would ask me for passages dealing with various aspects of following Jesus, and he would take Phil's sermon notes and study them out. Yesterday he asked if I would baptize him in the stock tank at his old house. Julie, Jake, and Mimi went with us.

It was emotional, happy, spiritual, and special. He wore a pair of shoes into the tank that his Dad had given him when he was learning how to walk again. He told Julie that he took his first steps in those shoes and now he was starting his spiritual walk in them. We took pictures because he wants to show Jake someday when he is teaching him.

When Bobby married Julie I told him I didn't have in-laws, that he was my son. Now he is also my brother. God is good. My cup runs over.

Monday, April 24, 2006


Walking in the dark...

We lost electricity to our building today at lunch. No big deal unless you aretrying to get to the fourth floor. Lots of people were trying to decide whether to walk the stairs. Some wanted to go in spite of how dark it was; others wanted to quit and go home. Finally, one of our staffers and I inched up the stairs. We held on to the rail, stepped slowly, and kept talking to one another. Then we couldn't see the door at the fourth floor until we saw a glimmer of light around the frame. It was funny to feel like such a stranger in a stairwell that I go up and down every day of the week. And it was a little frightening.

You know where I am going with this don't you. Today was a lesson in Christianity. Stay together, remember it's easier to go through the dark when you're not alone. We really are strangers in this world. And keep focused on the light.

What other lessons did I miss?

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Reflections on storms...

Storms rolled into Abilene last night, and there is just nothing like a West Texas thunderstorm. It began to thunder in the middle of our elder prayer time. It made me think of "rooms being shaken" when God's people pray. I would guess that over 100 people were prayed for by name during that time. It is amazing to serve with men that are that committed to prayer for their flock. They invest untold time and energy in shepherding.

It was almost midnight when I got home, so Mom was long gone to bed. Tried to watch the Rangers but they were clearly going to blow their lead (which they did). So the dogs and I sat awhile on the back porch and watched the rain and lightening. I'm pretty sure they even prayed with me. I was struck by the power of our God. I marvel at his creation and praise Him for his power.

Then I woke up from 3-3:30 and listened to round two of thunder and lightning. Didn't sleep much afterward; storms disrupting my life. And I thought about people I know and love who have storms raging in their lives. Thunder and lightning from sin that is ripping apart their lives. But for many of them, they are beginning to see the power of God thru the storm. God's power can heal, restore, forgive, and make new. He can bring joy, peace, and love into broken lives.

So what do storms say to you?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Levi Jones is here...

Some of you have been aware of the faith walk of Nathaniel and Anne Jones. They have one precious little girl and have been trying to have another child. Anne has survived cancer and they have survived miscarriages. It was early last spring that they lost another baby. By faith they continued trying for a child. And God has blessed them. Some of you will remember at our first HIP this past year we gathered around Anne and prayed for the health of little Levi (tho at the time we did not know he was a he). Others of you know of this faith journey because of my blog - and other blogs- that have mentioned them.

Last Thursday Levi entered this world. Thanks to God for His goodness and mercy. And thanks to the Jones family for their example of faith. Singing "Blessed be the Name of the Lord" with Anne has been one of the spiritual hightlights of my life. It is one of my favorite songs because I have sung that song with so many people whose stories I know. And they mean what they sing.

So Levi, welcome to this world. God has great plans for you. You are special and I look forward to seeing God work in your life. And I bet you and my grandson Jake will be buddies. So Mom and I will be happy to be Mimi and Pops to you too.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Monday, April 17, 2006


Did you celebrate Easter...

Yesterday was Easter, and again I had those questions about celebrating Easter. Is it a special day of celebration or is it not? After lots of thought and discussion over the years, I have decided the answer is yes and no. I grew up in a church that did not put any special emphasis on Easter. I am not sure if that was because of theology or an effort not to look like all the denominations. After lots of reflection, I have decided there are some sound theological reasons for not treating Easter differently. For one thing, I am reluctant to have a special celebration of the resurrection on any one day. I do believe that as Christians we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord every day. I have life today because the Christ triumphed over death. And I should celebrate that fact every day. Then as the body of God's people we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus on the first day of every week. That's one of the main reasons we gather each week. And I am always hesitant to do anything that might encourage someone to once a year worship. If a Christian thinks Easter is the one day you better go to church, then they are missing the point.

On the other hand...

Easter is a wonderful time to share the truth about the death and resurrection of Jesus. All over the world there are people thinking about Jesus. What a wonderful opportunity to invite friends and neighbors to worship. It's the one time of the year when they might be receptive to attending church. We had a family visit Southern Hills with us yesterday. Phil did a great job talking about starting life over in the context of Easter. And we did have two baptisms yesterday, one raised in a family of believers and one who was not. And I always think that some of our once a year attenders might actually get it this year. Maybe they will start realizing what it is to live the Christian life.

So I can argue both sides of the celebrate Easter question. If you are talking theology, I believe I celebrate the resurrection daily in my life and weekly in the life of my church. If you are talking practical opportunities to reach out to non-believers, or to refocus and renew as believers, then of course we should celebrate Easter.

So how was your Easter?

Friday, April 07, 2006


Another Honduras story...

Jose was a captain in the police force. His wife was a faithful Christian, but Jose had no time for religion. He saw church as something for women and children, not men. Then he got framed for a crime he did not commit, then he got sent to prison. While there, he begin to attend church in prison. He came to realize the good news of Jesus was for him and was baptized by Rigo Vargas. When one of the local gangs put a contract out on his life, he was transfered to a prison in the north of Honduras. He was the only Christian there, so with only a Bible and a songbook, he set out to start a church.

Soon he had them remove his bed from his cell and slept on a mattress. He did this so there would be more room for church in his cell. They eventually had 16 new Christians meeting on Sundays in his cell (standing room only). The prison officials let the church build a rough shelter on the prison grounds so they would a place to meet. That church is still meeting and is led by those converted in prison by Jose.

He was released from prison last year and moved back to Tegucigalpa. He is attending law school and expecting to recieve a full pardon any day. And he works with one of the churches in the men's prison and with the one in the woman's prison. Jose says "going to prison saved my life...and while there I found life".

Our God is an awesome God. There are more Joses out there. Keep sowing seed.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Marsha's Birthday...

Well, today is Mom's (or Mimi as she is now known) birthday. Everyone will say it is not correct to call your wife "Mom" or "Mimi" (her grandmother name). But if you know Marsha, that's who she is. She has more adopted daughters than anyone I know. And today is her birthday. I would tell you how old she is but some of you would yell about that. But she probably wouldn't. She just doesn't have the age hang-up. Maybe it's because she carries her years really, really well, or maybe its because she loves her life, but she doesn't get uptight about how old she is.

Of course I have to buy something for her birthday. Our daughter Julie will come up with something great. Our son Joe Don will too (tho it may be thanks to Jamie). And I will come up with nothing. Or something that is really pathetic. And why will no one give me a good suggestion? Well, I'll do the best I can, and hope its the thought that counts.

So Mimi...happy birthday. For all those you love, mentor, shepherd, laugh with, cry with, counsel and pray with-thanks for being you. You are a living model of Proverbs 31.

It's your birthday, but I got the best gift of all. And I thank God every day for you. I love you.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Back from Honduras...

I am back from Honduras and what a great trip. We baptized 27 in all and so it was exciting and exhausting at the same time. I will share more but today I want to talk about the Juvenile prison. They were just getting a ministry started last year and one couple (and he is an ex-prisoner himself) committed to work in this minstry every Saturday. Last year I preached there and when we were giving out New Testaments I got pinned against the wall, the rest of the team had left and the only thing that kept me being mobbed was the fact that I could throw New Testaments to these teenagers at light speed.

This year we went into where they live. We gave out New Testaments again and two gospel tracts I had written. I was inspired and heart broken at the same time. They live in one large room with no furniture at all. Mattresses line they walls with not one inch of space between them. I have been in a lot of rough places during my years in ministy, but this was the most inhumane place I have ever seen. They stink was unbelievable and these young men were living in conditions that are hard to fathom. But they wanted their Bible, they listened as gospel was preached, and they read along in the tracts.

We baptized nineteen of them in a concrete tank that was itself very nasty. But I think it was the scars so many of these kids carried that got to me. I can only imagine the scars inside. But they are now washed clean. Will they all stay faithful? I don't know. Satan is powerful in that place, but I am sure the retention rate of kids raised in church is anything to brag about...so I will pray for them and look forward to hearing how they do.

The warden did allow two people to go back in on Sunday and let these new brothers have their first communion. The two evangelists who went in said it was incredibly touching.

More to come later.

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