Tuesday, December 22, 2009


He came to earth to find me...

I am not one who is particularly hung up on the religious aspect of Christmas. I don't believe it is any more significant than any other day. I don't think Jesus needs a special day to feel good about himself.

On the other hand, I am always excited when lots of people think about Jesus. It provides lots of open doors to share our testimony.

Of course, the birth of Jesus is easy to make into a "feel good, cutesy" story. Look at baby Jesus. Much easier sell than the cross. But I am not sure you can talk about the birth without talking about the death.

But here is the most striking thing to me always. God's Son left home to come find me. In my rebellion, my sin, my messy life... God sent a Son to save me. He didn't set up a series of doctrines for me to understand. He didn't set up a series of acts for me to accomplish so I could get back in His good graces.

He sent His son. And it wasn't a quick trip. He lived among us. Jesus gets it. He was tempted. He "got his hands dirty" with people just like me. He understands what I go thru.

He showed me how much he loved me. He came to find me. I believe in the virgin birth. I think it is remarkable that the good news was announced to shepherds. But most astounding of all is that Jesus showed up. In my world. So I could be part of his world. Forever.

And that is worth celebrating forever. And I will.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Elder Accessibility

I have spent time during our elder selection process thinking about accessibility. How approachable is he? I think this concept comes from the text where it talks about being hospitable. And I certainly think it speaks to the involvement of his wife. I want my sheep to come to me when they are in trouble, or when they need me. We have typically expressed this concept in terms of desire: "Feel free to come see me."

I am convinced this characteristic is not one of intent, but of reality. It is not enough to be willing for people to come to you. Do they come to you? We all know people that just are not approachable. So I have tried to identify some things that make a shepherd approachable.

Openness. You have to invite people to share with you. It is worth repeating that your door is open and that you are available. Then back it up. I give out my cell phone number. And I return the calls.

Attitude. It is too easy to project an attitude that seems judgmental. Above all we must communicate grace and forgiveness. We do not have to be "soft on sin", but wounded, hurting people are not going to go to someone who will kick them while they are down.

Not self-righteous. I have spiritual wisdom. I know how to follow Jesus. I can help others do that. But most of that is because I am elderly, not just an elder. I have lived a long time, so I have learned a lot about following Jesus. And some of those lessons were not easy. I often tell people they can tell me anything because I can't imagine it will be worse than some of the things God has forgiven me for. Been there, done that in terms of sin and restoration.

Be careful with your words. I don't trust elders who say they are shocked at addictive behavior, or marriage trouble, or spiritual doubts. Why would I go to them. I am not sure about elders who act as if they have never had any sin struggles or problems in their marriage. We know it's not true, so why act like it is.

Reputation. Word gets around. Most of the people that come to us with problems have talked to someone we have helped in the past. Shepherding wounded people is a referral based ministry.

Results. When people share the deep struggles of their life and realize they are still loved and that there is hope, and then they really change... it gives others hope to do the same.

Authenticity. I really believe Jesus makes alcoholics sober, sexual addicts pure, angry people sweet, stingy people generous, and gossips trustworthy. I believe he heals broken relationships. I believe he sets captives free. I have seen spiritually blind people see, and spiritual cripples walk. I believe these things because I have seen them. He has done amazing things in my life. I know it to be real and people sense it.

Just some random thoughts. What do you think makes some people accessible, an others not? What are the things that would give you confidence to go to a certain person when you are in trouble?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Tammy's story of faith...

Tammy Marcelain is a friend of mine, an excellent photographer, a wife,and a mom. She writes and speaks in different venues about the faithfulness of God. Her own faith journey is remarkable. Over the past few years, our church family has walked with her family thru the discovery of a brain tumor in her son Jack.

You can see her testimony about God's faithfulness thru this journey at the Herald of Truth outreach website hopeforlife.org.

We need to share our stories of God's work in our lives. I thought this one would encourage you.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Grandpa's birthday...

Today is Don Herttenberger's (my father-in-law) birthday. I know some are thinking I have to say nice things about him to stay on Marsha's good side. But actually, I want to use this to say how much I love and appreciate Grandpa. I really do have two Dads. He really does treat me like a son., not a son-in-law.

I have learned a lot from him. I watch how he loves Granny and takes care of her. I see how he loves the church -- not in the abstract, but in real tangible ways. I see how much he loves his family.

I go to him for elder advice. I know he is not an elder at Southern Hills, but he has a lot of wisdom... so I listen to him.

So Grandpa, happy 82nd birthday. I pray God gives you more years to lead our family. I have lots more to learn from you.

I love you.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Bobby's conversion...

He was told he would never walk again after a devastating accident in his 20's.

It was a ten year journey to find God's purpose in his life.

He is now an active Christian with a wife and two precious children.

See his testimony at www.hopeforlife.org on the Herald of Truth evangelistic website.

One more thing... he is my son-in-law so I am especially proud of him.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


Letters From the Lamb...

The book is out. Tim Archer, my co-worker here at Herald of Truth, and I have a new book out on the letters to the seven churches in Asia. Tim talks about what they meant to the readers then, while I write about what it means to us today. Worth it because Tim's material is outstanding. Great resource. As to my sections, as my Mom said, "You write just like you preach". That is either real good... or real bad.

Check it out at www.lettersfromthelamb.com.

Published by 21st Century Christian. You can get it from them. If you want an autographed copy from me (and/or Tim), you can get those from us.

Writing is a fascinating process. Much harder than preaching. But very rewarding.

Anyway, already working on the next ones. One on how to share the good news of Jesus through stories and one on restoring fallen Christians -- not on forgiveness only, but on restoration. Both subjects close to my heart.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Elders and leadership...

Not too long ago, our video ministry at Southern Hills asked some of the shepherds to share their goals for SH. I guess they were looking for numbers, programs, or big dream kind of statements. Mine was not anything like that, but they left it in anyway. I just said my goal was for all of my flock to get to heaven.

We can talk about casting vision, about setting goals, about dreaming big things for the kingdom. Those are all fine, but when everything is said and done ... the most important thing is to make sure my flock gets home safely.

So when thinking about the kind of men you want to follow, ask this question: If I follow this man, will I get to heaven? Will he show me Jesus? If I look through him, will I see Jesus?

And if I want to be a shepherd, the most important question for me is whether or not I am following Jesus. I better be, because people are following me. So this is not the time for false modesty. People need to know that if they follow me, I will lead them to heaven. It is the question I hope all of the men asked to serve are now asking themselves.

Personally, I may not have been perfect -- in fact, I'm still not perfect. I may not be a great theologian. I may not be a great vision caster. I may not communicate as well as I would like. There are lots of things I see in other elders that I wish I had. But one thing I am sure of is that I will follow Jesus to the day I die. All the way, all out, and holding nothing back.

And that's the kind of men I want to follow. And serve with.

So what do you think is the most critical aspect of leadership for an elder?

And by the way, for those curious... today is the deadline for those asked to lead our congregation to commit to the next stage of the process. That stage is a time for the congregation to get to know these men, ask questions, read our answers to the questionnaire, and raise any Biblical objections. Sunday will be the day we announce those names. So pray for those men.

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