Thursday, April 26, 2012


Does God want me to be happy?

God wants me to be happy.  I often hear this statement as a rationale for making decisions about what to do in life.  On the surface it is perfectly reasonable.  And yet, something about it bothers me. 

For one thing, that seems to make our relationship with God more about us than God.  And it is very easy to justify anything we want to do on the basis of whether it makes us happy.  It also sets us up to be the judge of what real happiness is.

I am more convinced that what God wants is for us to follow Him.  And in turn, that will lead to real happiness.  I know that this will sometimes seem to go against what we believe will make us "happy".  Things like staying in a difficult marriage, not buying a bigger house, making sure we have "me" time.  You know, things we think will make us happy.

But if God really knows what is best for us then the real question is not whether God wants us to happy.  The real question is how do I more perfectly live my life under the call of God.  Focus on that and I believe we will find happiness.

So, I would think God wants me to be obedient.  Happiness and contentment follow. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012


When it may be the right time to change churches...

I wrote last time about all the reasons that bother me about people who want to change church homes. Most of the time it is just about what we want and how another place can "meet our needs" better.

But I do think there are occasional legitimate reasons to change churches. Here are some of them.

Sometimes church leaders need a break and they can't get it where they are. Burnout sometimes happens. Stress gets overwhelming and leaders need a Sabatical. They can't take the pressure where they are. And sometimes their flock can't -- or won't -- leave them alone. And yes, I agree that something went wrong to get to that point but when it happens, you may need to worship somewhere else.

Ministry opportunities. You love and are gifted at special needs ministry. Your church doesn't have one but another congregation does and needs you. You are bi-lingual and your church is not ready to start a bi-lingual ministry. And there is another congregation that is. It may be better for the kingdom to go where your gifts are needed and utilized.

Sometimes sin and its consequences makes a move the right thing to do. And I would like to believe that God's peoople can work out any consequences of sin. But sometimes they don't. Or won't. Maybe you need to go somewhere else for healing and even forgiveness to occur.

If your children are not in a healthy spiritual environment, move them. I think this can really be overstated, but there are times when you realize that your children need something more than your current church offers. A parent's first responsibility is to their children's spiritual growth, not to their church family.

If you believe you and your family are in spiritual danger. Not that things are not as good as you want them, but you believe souls would be endangered. A church that condones sin (gossip, sexual immorality). I would talk to the leaders and if still convinced of spiritual danger, I would move.

If my church's core beliefs change so that they are in conflict with what I believe to be core, then I would leave. CORE BELIEFS. Or clearly in conflict with Scripture. And I realize some will have wildly differing opinions on what is core. But as an elder I have told members that what they believe to be core is not what we believe and they should go elsewhere.

A couple of last observations.

Some of these reasons that might be legitimate stem from spiritual problems. Every church has them and you would hope they could all be worked out. But if not, I would rather see someone be faithful somewhere else than die where they are.

Talk to your elders. Visit with the church leaders. Perhaps things can be worked thru. Perhaps they will bless your seach for another church home. Or perhaps you will come away convinced of what is the right thing to do.

I may write later about why you ought to stay -- even in hard situations.

So what are legitimate reasons you see to change churches?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Good luck finding a better church...

Sometimes people change churches. Even where I serve as an elder, they leave... and they come. Troop transfer in the Lord's army. Sometimes it is a good thing. But I often hear why they left, or why they came to us, and I really want to say... Good luck finding a church like that. Or, just wait till you get to know us better. Or, I hate to tell you but they really aren't going to be what you are looking for either.

And I do need to acknowledge that I live in Abilene so there are almost unlimited options to choose from so it is easier to just decide to change to a different congregation. Not sure I hear some of these things in churches in China. Or the Middle East.

Here are a few of the things I've heard that make me wonder. By the way, these are not specific to SH. I have heard at least some of them at almost every church I have ever been around, including at one time or another almost every church in Abilene. In fact, most of these complaints will eventually be true at the next church they go to. And the next. And the next. So maybe the problem they are identifying is not so much the church...

"I'm sick of church politics." Me too. So was Jesus. It was a real problem in the New Testament too. As long as people are involved, church politics will be around. But here's good news for you: change churches and it will take a few months or years to realize politics are there too. With any luck, you can avoid all church politics by moving every 2 or 3 years. Of course, I sometimes think that what this means is "I can't get everyone to do what I want so I'll say I'm sick of church politics".

"I'm not getting fed". If you are a new Christian, or a non-believer visiting, this one seriously bothers me. But if you have been a Christian for 20 or 30 years, shouldn't you be able to feed yourself? And even feed others? I do realize some of this is a product of the fact that we use one primary voice for the preaching in most of our churches. And it's hard for one person to connect with everyone. So I assume your solution is to just read Scripture for 30 minutes each assembly. Or find a preacher who "feeds you" and just follow them around anytime they move. Or is this code for "I don't like the preacher and he's not as entertaining as the last guy -- or the visiting guy -- and boy I wish I hadn't been so critical of the last one..." And this one is really tough in a small church without the resources to hire one of the top ten preachers of our day. So maybe you ought to preach...

"All you do is ask for money." Well, actually God asks for it. Oddly enough, I have never heard this from a generous giver. So does it really mean "I am not going to give, so leave me alone." Or, "I know I signed a pledge but I'm not going to fulfill it so leave me alone." I hate to break it to you, but every church I know has obligations that require financial support. But maybe you can find one not doing much or that has a substantial balance in the bank. So they won't bother you about money.

"All you do is change everything." Or, "you are afraid to change anything." It is hard to find a church that does everything just like you want it done. I think you are looking for a church that has around -- well, one member. You. Nothing, or everything, will change/not change just like you want. Just don't ever add another member or you may hear this one directed at you.

OK. This was written with much sarcasm. But I do wonder about people who are always looking for a different church. I know there are sometimes very legitimate reasons to change churches. I'll do my next post about when it may be the right thing to do to change. But most of the time it is because things are not done the way we want. So we criticize, complain, try to get things done the way we want. And when it fails, we leave. And then, after some time passes, we realize the new church is full of church politics, not feeding us, asking for money, or changing/not changing too much or not enough. So we start looking all over again.

So I have to ask: when I am unhappy with my church, does that say more about the church... or me?

Thursday, April 05, 2012


Happy birthday Mimi Marsha

Tomorrow is Marsha's birthday. Here are just some of the people who are thankful she is in their life.

Her husband -- me: She is the perfect compliment to me. She is calm when I am excited, mad, or worried. She loves me. She takes care of me. She enjoys our life together. God knew what He was doing when He put us together.

The kids: Julie and Joe Don (and Bobby and Jamie): She is a great Mom. She listens, loves, helps, prays, and is so proud of her kids.

The Grandkids (Anna, Jake, Avery, Andrew, and Austin): one of the absolute greatest joys of her life is being Mimi. She spoils them, loves them, prays for them, keeps them, and likes nothing more than being their Mimi. And Cousin's Camp is legendary.

The parents: Both my folks and hers. She does so much for her parents. She spends hours helping them be able to stay in their home and be independent. She manages, laughs, explains, and helps them navigate the next phases of life. She spends hours helping my Mom figure out what to do to care for my Dad. She would do -- and does -- anything for any of the four.

Her friends: Her friends love being with her. They seek her advice, covet her prayers, and love her joy.

Her "daughters": She is a great role model. She has been an excellent daughter, wife, mother, and Mimi. And there have been untold numbers of college girls and young wives who have watched her life... and copied it.

Our neighbors: She is a good neighbor. She keeps up with everyone's family and what is going on.

Our flock: She is a good elder's wife. She cares. She prays. She cooks. She listens. She cries. She hugs.

Above all, she loves Jesus.

So happy birthday Mimi. We are all thankful every day for you.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


So what do I do about the next tornado?

Yesterday was scary for the people living in the DFW metroplex and on up thru Sulphur Springs. I was keeping up with it because my son Joe Don and his family, my parents, my sister's family, Marsha's brother's family, and two nieces were in areas where the tornados were. And that doesn't count all our friends and family of friends in the area. As far as I know, everyone I am connected to is OK. I had lots of thoughts about these storms, but one has really stuck with me.

I am not going to write about how this makes us all realize that things are not what really matters, though that is a great lesson to be reminded of. Not going to talk about how thankful we are that God protected loved ones, though I am.

But I have been thinking about the next storm. There will be one. And next time there will be destruction and maybe lives will be lost. Because we live in a hard and fallen world. Scripture is full of warnings about the trials and troubles of this world. They help refine our faith, demonstrate our faith, and help us witness to this world.

I believe when God delivers us from storms, illness, persecution, and pain that we love Him and praise Him. And I believe that when those trials result in what is tragic and incredibly painful... we must love Him and praise Him. He is our God in the good times and bad. And because we believe, all times will someday be good. Someday.

There will be another storm. There will be economic hardship. There will be bad news from the Doctor. There will be car crashes. There will be persecution. And whatever happens to us and/or our loved ones will reveal our faith.

So I believe we prepare now for the unthinkable. We commit to love Him and praise Him whatever happens in the future in this life. We will do that because in the end all will be made right. We will live. Tears will be wiped away.

He is God. He is our God. We love Him and praise Him. No matter what. And the "what" will someday happen in all of our lives. If it hasn't, it will. It is a choice.

And I choose to love Him and praise Him.

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