Wednesday, May 31, 2006


I wish I had invented insurance...

Just recently I heard two more interesting experiences with insurance companies. And it just made me realize again that insurance is absolutely the greatest business in the world. Only a genius could have thought it up and then marketed it. But before I explain why I think that, I do need to acknowledge that I have some very good friends in the insurance business, and I know a number of Christians that work in that industry. I even sold insurance for a few months years ago but my view of how it ought to work was not conducive to making money so it didn't last long. I do carry various types of insurance and I have filed claims and recieved money from insurance companies. I have been treated well and I have been taken advantage of... so with those disclaimers, here goes.

What a concept: to build an entire industry around predicting the future. Insurance is to provide for things that may, or may not, happen. And we pay for protection for something that probably will not happen. Insurance companies would not be in business if they did not turn a profit, so most people will not recieve the benefit they pay for. Most people do not die prematurely and most people do not wreck their cars, and most people do not have devastating illnesses. It's brilliant. Sell something that is not real and that most people will never need. And then if someone does use what they bought, raise the rates. I cannot fathom any other business that sells intangibles in the future and expects you not to use what they sold you.

Then it seems as if they train an army of people to not give you what you thought you paid for. And they are smart enough not to make the agent the bad guy. He can sell you protection, but he has no control over whether you recieve what you thought you bought. I am even more amazed at the brilliance of an industry that gets a law passed saying everyone must have basic auto insurance, but still sells you insurance in case someone doesn't obey the law. Brilliant. And unfathomable. You would have to be a lawyer to figure this stuff out. And yes, my son is an attorney and he does work somtimes with insurance companies. And you know what, I'll never deal with an insurance company without using him. Because it is too much for me to deal with, or understand. Brilliant. In my living room, it is simple and smart. It is spiritual and a matter of stewardship, and can change the future of my family. Till I need to use it. Then it makes you want to say bad words.

I do want my family taken care of if something happens to me. I do want help if my house is destroyed or my car wrecked. Wouldn't it be great if we could be part of some kind of group that would do that for each other. Those of us that have extra could share with those in need. And we could take care of widows and orphans. Now that would be brilliant. And that's the insurance- or the assurance - I really want. And I can sell that all day long.

But it would probably never go over. It just seems to simple. And it might put insurance out of business.

Well...just some tongue in cheek food for thought. But I bet it hit home with most of you. Now I have to go see if anyone has hit my car recently.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Last day of school...

Today Marsha finishes another year of teaching school. If you think the students are happy to see this day, you should see the teachers. So I've been thinking about teachers today. I know lots of Christians who teach, coach, and administer in our public schools. They are on the front lines being salt and light in our world. They are generally overworked and underpaid. And they take lots of flack (and sometimes that word is too nice) that they should not have to put up with. Almost every teacher I know is in the business because they love young people and enjoy what they do.

I am so thankful for the teachers in my life: the Christian teachers who modeled Jesus and loved me enough to never give up on me, and also the teachers who loved knowledge and gave me the tools to learn and communicate. And I appreciate the teachers who did the same for Julie and Joe Don.

So thank your child's teacher today, and next year, and the year after that. They are molding your child's future. So to my wife and all the other teachers who just wrapped up another year... thanks and God bless. You do make a difference.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Louisiana Weekend...

I spent last weekend with the Riverside church of Christ in Lafayette, Louisiana. They are about one hour's drive west of New Orleans, and were inundated with refugees after Katrina hit. Our Herald of Truth team has done quite a bit of work with them, including radio spots in the community. This past weekend I was there to conduct our seminar: "What in God's Name is Going on Here". We were able to visit with a number of people who responded to our radio spots. Many of these had already been contacted by Paul Jones and Danny Hebert, two of the evangelists at Riverside. Let me share one story.

Shirley had lost a child and her first husband even before facing Katrina, so storms in life were nothing new. Shortly after Katrina, her mother was killed in a car wreck. Her husband is battling cancer. They are living in Lafayette because their home in New Orleans was destroyed. They got in contact with the church at Riverside because they were told that the church would help people. She was baptized a couple of months ago and studies are ongoing with her husband. She said the most touching thing at her conversion was to be introduced by Paul to her new family. She is convinced God worked through the storm to help her see His Son.

We also had twenty five visitors from a local half-way house Sunday morning. My friends at Riverside are now arranging to study with Rachel and Jeremy. They are two young people who want to change their lives through Jesus.

It strikes me that all this activity did not start with Katrina. It started with a church family willing to be used by the Master. When Katrina hit, they opened their building, their hearts, their homes, and their wallets. Many of their members have spent untold hours over the last few months in service and outreach. And so far, thirteen families have been converted and are still worshipping with them. And it continues.

I have to ask: are we ready to go thru doors like this if God opens them in front of us?

Friday, May 19, 2006


33 years and counting...

Today is our 33rd wedding aniversary. In some ways it seems like yesterday and in some ways it seems like we have always been married. And I think both of those feelings are pretty special.

It does seem like just yesterday in so many ways. And sometimes I still feel just like I did then. She still makes my heart leap and she still is the one I would pick if I had to start all over again. And I know we still don't look the same. She has a husband who has gained an extra forty pounds (I was pretty skinny when we started), and compensated by losing all his hair. She, on the other hand, carries her years very well. We really are close in age: I look 10 years older and she looks 10 years younger. And I like it that way.

Then sometimes it seems we have been married forever, and I like that too. The two of us have become one. For all the ups and downs, for all the struggles, for all the pain, for all the baggage we have gained from life...I cannot imagine life without her. We have produced two kids, got two other kids in marriage, and now have two grandkids. We have baptized lots, fed thousands, given much spiritual counsel, laughed often, cried some, "adopted" lots of extra kids, opened our home to more people than we can remember, and preached thousands of sermons. We have been shepherds, parents, Mimi and Pops, friends, and counselors.

And we still are. And it is because we are friends, lovers, soul-mates, partners, critics, helpers, and buddies. And I still don't know anyone I would rather live life with. So happy anniversary. I look forward to the next 33 years. What a ride it has been. I love you.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Do preachers wear their best...

After my last blog, a "non-comment" reader asked me about preachers and their worship attire. It was interesting. Are preachers accomadating a cultural trend (and so "connecting" better), or are they intentionally leading a move into a different type of worship atmosphere, or are they just tired of coats and ties? I am not sure I know the answer, but a couple of thoughts did strike me. Even if it is not intentional, the way the preacher dresses certainly helps set the tone for the type of assembly his congregation will have. It is a little disingenious to claim otherwise. I would have to say that it is easy to "under dress" and hard to "over dress".

For example, I don't know that I have ever adversly affected my preaching by being too dressed up. I would like to say the same about being under dressed, but I am not sure that is true. And it is probably true that the atmosphere of worship is more influenced by the personality of the preacher than by how he dresses. I know men who are formal in their jeans, and men who are casual in their suits.

So what does all this mean? If you are trying to make a statement by what you wear (preacher or not), take time to examine your purpose. Is the statement you are making really what you want to say? If you never really think about it, you probably don't need to spend much time worrying about it. I do appreciate what some of you said about our dress reflecting our respect for the rest of our family. So I probably dress up a little more than I would if I were not a leader and often leading in the assembly. And the main statement I make is that 1) I have a wife that keeps me from embarrasing myself by what I wear, and 2) sometimes I come to worship just as I am (not even time to take off my tie, much less get in my jeans).

And by the way, none of this applies to Randy Harris or Phil Ware. I have no idea why they wear what they wear to preach in, and I have no idea what statement they are making. But I still love them and I still want to hear them preach.

So now we can all look at each other the next few weeks and see what we think. Or would that be missing the whole point?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Putting our best foot forward...

The topic comes up more than you would think: do we dress up for God or do we "come as we are". You know how the debate goes. We should dress in our Sunday best out of respect for God. After all, worship is special and God deserves our best. If we would dress up for a visit with the President, isn't God more special? It shows a lack of respect when we dress casual. And there are some obvious flaws in this arguement. First of all, I am not sure God is impressed by what I wear. I don't think I can gain his respect based on what I wear. And then what does a poor person wear? Well, that doesn't really matter because we don't have poor people in our assemblies.

And you know how the debate goes on the other side. God wants me to be free to worship Him without making it a "special" occasion. Worship is an outgrowth of my everyday experience with my Father, so it is not like a visit to the President. The post modern generation is much more likely to come to our assemblies if they can come as they are. And there are obvious flaws here also. There is something special about our coming together as family to remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. And it is true that we have gone from Sunday best to Sunday worst in some cases. Do I really want to attract people based on the fact they don't have to dress up?

So do I wear my cut-offs or my tux? It may be that we are missing the point of the discussion. Maybe what I wear to worship is a reflection of my respect, not for God, but for the rest of my family. I do not want what I wear to make it difficult for others to worship with me. I don't know that it has to be suits and Sunday dresses, but I don't know that shorts and tee-shirts are appropriate. But it shouldn't matter what others wear, my focus should be on God. And yet, it is corporate worship and we are there to encourage one another.

Maybe we just ought to use common sense. I never want to be dressed in a way that brings reproach on Christ. So modesty is required. And I do not want my attire to be an issue that keeps my family from worshipping. Interestingly, I never hear complaints about someone who dresses in Sunday best. Unless they try to enforce that on others.

Reverence God, love your family, use common sense. What do you think?

Monday, May 15, 2006


Mother's Day Reflections

I always feel funny about special days for special people. For those really special people, every day is their day and if they are not so special...then why have a day for them. But having said that, I want to share a few reflections of Mother's Day.

As we often do at Southern Hills, we maintained another one of our messy traditions. We had every child (from little to big) get a flower to give to their Mom. Some had to get more than one, and it wasn't very orderly, but there sure was a lot of love shown to mothers. And I appreciate the fact that we honor all of our Moms, including the spiritual Moms in our church family who do not have physical children of their own.

And I have thought a lot this year about Moms who are in pain. I marvel at those of you parenting as single Moms. I honor the faith of those of you mothering children with major illness. I hurt for those of you who have children who cause you great pain. I hurt for moms whose children do not know Jesus. I remember all the moms who added children this year, including those of you who had complications and trying pregnenccies. And I remember those of you who want to be moms so badly and have not yet had that blessing.

Finally, I thought of the five mothers this year who are close to me. This was the first Mother's Day for Julie and Jamie to get to hold Jake and Anna. They are such good mothers, and to see their love and prayers for my grandchildren touches me. And when I think about my grandchildren, I realize how blessed my children are to have had their mom. Marsha has prayed, loved, and modeled faith for them for thirty years. And that is a reflection of her mom. Granny continues to be a rock for our family. To see her, Mom, and Julie pass Jake around each Sunday is an amazing sight.

And then I need to say how much I appreciate my Mom. Her faith in God, family, and me has sustained me thru lots of tough times. She never gave up on me, even when she could have. Much of my preaching on grace comes from watching her model grace to our family.

So thanks to the great mothers of this world. Thanks to those of you who model Jesus for the rest of us. And thanks to the five mothers in my life. You inspire me to love more, hold on to Jesus more tightly, and to continue to show Jesus in this world.

Hope you had a good Mother's Day too.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


More thoughts on "in or out"...

I know I am supposed to respond to the comments as they come in but I forget to check my blog. How do you do it? I know the responders to the last post are as busy or busier than I am. But thanks for the thoughts. I am going to steal them and preach them. I'll try to remember to give credit.

Two or three things really struck me in the responses. It is true that we really do talk things to death, and maybe that's because that way we don't have to do them. Which comes back to credibility. It may be that the point is not to expend so much energy on what to do, but rather expend the energy on the doing.

And it is true that we have lost the "every member a minister" mindset that sparked the growth in the first century. We really do not talk much anymore about our vocation. Our jobs and our careers are not our vocation, tho some do have jobs that actually dovetail with vocation. Our career is to be salt and light, and to engage our culture with the good news of Jesus. We live as witnesses and we give answer to our hope.

If we live authentic and forgiven lives in this world (workplace, neighborhood, family, ballfield, school), then we will not have to worry about bringing them in. Living out the gospel in community, in family, and in personal lives will give us more opportunities to share the gospel than we can imagine. You know what I mean because many of you do this now.

Finally, if we are really sending ourselves out into the world, we don't have to worry about how to bring them in. Any building will suffice because we are a building not made with hands. We will naturally be warm and welcoming, we won't have to try to convince visitors of this. People will be drawn to real families regardles of how big, or how nice, the house is. I think that works for the family of God also.

Well, maybe I need to quit talking about it, and go do it.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Nothing new under the sun?

I always enjoy Lectureships because I get to hear about what is going on in our fellowship. However, after this past week at Pepperdine (yes I was tough but someone had to go) I am once again struck by how hard it is to line up practice with theory. Let me share a few examples...

There was lots of theory about missional theology. I heard about how we need to be out in the world, not just expect them to show up at our building. Then when talking about great things happening in congregations, it was amazing how many talked about building projects (all designed to draw in the unchurched). So I'm confused. Do we go out or draw them in?

There was lots of talk about how we need to not be exclusive and/or judgemental about people who disagree with us about certain doctrines (women's role, instrumental music, etc.). Of course, if you don't agree with the "right" position then you are intolerant, ignorant, or not spiritually mature. So does inclusive mean only if you agree with me (and of course my position is correct)?

I heard lots of discussion on how we must figure out new approaches to reach this post-modern generation. There was talk of interactive ministry, new technology, and bold approaches. Then most of the actions I heard were build youth outreach facilities, hire more staff, and be more aware of their needs. I heard those same proposals when I was a youth minister 30 years ago. So did we do a good job, or did we not?

However, my favorite was a new model of empowering ministry by radically reorganizing our ministry structure. I even saw a chart that showed how this new structure would energize our congregations. It looked just like the old deacon organization charts from 40 years ago. Except the titles are not deacon, but ministering servant leader.

Finally it dawned of me. All of our talk for fifty years has been about radical change so we won't be trapped in our past mistakes. And the solutions are always more or different buildings, different preaching styles, or better staffing. Every revolutionary proposal I have heard for fifty years has involved a building or staffing or a new preacher. So I'm confused. Have we done well, or have we not? It really seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. Past ways are bad, I have the new answers, build buildings the right way, preach the modern way, and increase staff.

So what am I missing? More thoughts later. Let me hear yours.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?