Thursday, January 31, 2013


This church is a bad church

You have heard it and seen it too.  People who leave a church and then in groups, Facebook, blogs, or other public settings will bash that congregation.  Let me share things I have heard.

Those elders don't listen.  What they really mean is I told the elders what I think and they don't see it my way.  So they don't listen.

You can't get fed there.  Or grow there.  If you have been a Christian more than just a couple of years, maybe you ought to feeding yourself.  If you have been a Christian for several years, you ought to be feeding others.  

They will never change. Translation:  I want things done the way I want them and they won't do it.

All they want to do is change everything.  Translation:  I want things done the way I want them and they won't do it.

No one helped me when I needed it.  Hard to visit you in the hospital when you don't let me know you are there.  

They weren't there for me.  You wanted the church to approve certain decisions you were making and we could not.  

They are all judgmental.  What you really meant to say was, I can't believe they wouldn't take my side.

All they care about is money.  So you don't give and don't want us to talk about that part of the Bible.

Almost every criticism of church that I hear is about "I".  Here is the thing complainers have to face:  it is not about you.  It is about God and Jesus.  What they think matters much more than what you think.  It is about the body of believers.  Church does not revolve around you.  By definition, church is not a solo act.  And finally, I would say church is about growth.  I don't mean troop transfer (you know, getting some of the Lord's army to transfer to us).  I mean reaching lost people.

But can't some of these be valid?  Of course, and if you are convicted by Scripture and your heart that you have to leave... well, go.  But people that leave out of real conviction do not say those kind of harsh things in public.  They might express them privately, but usually even then only when asked.

Finally, how does it help the kingdom to bash the place that used to be your church home?  How can that possibly please God?

But, people leave churches.  OK.  If you need to, or you are unhappy, or another place "fits" you better.  Your decision.  but don't try to justify it by tearing down others.

God help us to care more about each other. God forgive us all when we have said harmful and thoughtless things about your people.  Help us to lift each other up.

After all, Satan will enough bashing of the church.  Don't help him.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Our communal response to what matters...

More thoughts from the series Phil and I are doing on What Matters:  our communal response.

We believe baptism is our individual response to what matters.

Communion is our together response.

Jesus died for our sins.  The most important doctrine is stated in community terms.  He died for us all.

Loving God with everything we have results in us all being baptized by one Spirit into one body.  I Corinthians 12:13

Communion is our participation together in his death.  It is our unity statement.  I Corinthians 10:16-17

Loving our neighbor begins with our spiritual family.

From I Corinthians 11:

Communion does more harm than good when we are divided and that happens when we are not sensitive to each other.  It is about us, not me.

It is a together activity.  They are rebuked for not waiting on each other.

Unworthy communion is not about examining your individual relationship with God.  The unworthy manner that Paul condemns is about how we treat each other.  So examine how you treat your brothers and sisters.

So communion is about life together.  It is not designed to be done as a solo.

Communion is our church statement of gospel.  We proclaim the Lord's death

Acts 2 indicates that the way that 3000 new Christians functioned together was to meet in big groups and small.  Every day.  Praise, study, prayer, and Communion were a big part of that.

We do it on the first day of the week because that is the day Jesus rose and it is a big deal.  So at Southern Hills we do it at least every Sunday.  And yes, I think they may have done it more often in the early church.  But at least every first day of the week.


There is much more in Scripture about communion attitude than communion action (how-to).

You cannot take communion while being selfish, thoughtless, hurtful, or hateful toward those you share it with.

It is about us together with God.  It is not just about you and God.  In fact, I am not sure communion is about you at all.  It is about God, your family, and those outside who we want to become family.

So God, help our communion life to show our unity and our belief in your Son's death for our sins so that outsiders might someday be able to share it with us..

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Life's tough, God's good, so pray hard

Well, it has been interesting around our family lately.  Reminded that life is hard, God is good, so pray harder.

Our daughter Julie had prayers answered this week.  As some of you know, she has been on a two year journey to resolve some pretty serious health issues.  She had a procedure Wednesday that finally confirmed a diagnosis.  I would tell you what it is but can't spell it or pronounce it.  But it does have to do with her bladder and some other issues.  The Drs. at Scott and White are the first ones to figure this out.

She has a treatment plan.  It involves surgery next Tuesday and then some medication but Drs. are confident and Julie -- and her family -- are glad to have a treatment plan.

God did this.  Some of our elders anointed her and prayed over her last Sunday.  We asked for healing.  We asked specifically for a diagnosis and a treatment plan if God chose to use Drs. for the healing.

We use small vials of oil during our anointings and we have our people keep what is left in the vial as a reminder of God's answering their prayers. And yes, we give it to them before we know the answers.  But we believe.  It is why we do it in the first place.  Julie said during her procedure she kept that vial in her hand.  Pretty cool.

Marsha's sister, Phyllis, is having back surgery in the morning.  She and Marsha do significant caregiving for their folks so this is going to be a challenging few weeks.  But Phyllis has been in a lot of pain and needs this.  We are anointing her tonight.

Marsha's Mom fell again and it looks like the wheelchair is going to be her new best friend.  Anointing her tonight also.  Granny is amazingly upbeat about this in many ways.  Love her faith.

Oh, and the Hanner dealership called and our Yukon is toast.  I thought we might should anoint it, but Marsha thought I might be a little overboard on that.  Well, didn't really want to anoint it, but we are praying about the new vehicle we will have to get.

And in the midst of all this, we are still a happy family because...

Jesus said in this world we would have trouble.  Boy are we living proof of that lately.

God is good.  He is answering prayers in amazing ways.  God has a long track record of taking care of our family.  And it only gets better.  We praise him now and 200 centuries from now our whole family will still be praising him.

So we are praying hard these days.  Because we believe God is the real healer, provider, and head of our family.

Life's tough, God's good, so pray hard.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


My personal response to what matters...

Love the Lord with all you have.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus died for our sins.

He was buried.

He was raised on the third day.

Make disciples everywhere.

These six statements sum up what we think matters at Southern Hills.  This is the call of the elders to our flock.  But last Sunday we began to explore a critical question for us.

So What?

And the first "so what" is an individual response to what matters.

We believe that happens in baptism.

Baptism is not a step, an outward symbol.  It is not just correct theology, or right doctrine.

It is a response of faith to the good news that Jesus died, was buried, and was raised.

It is when you die with Jesus and are raised to a new life empowered by the Holy Spirit.

What shall we do? (Acts 2:38) and What must I do to be saved? (Acts 16:30) are not questions about the process of coming to Jesus.  They are a cry for mercy, help, and how to rescue lives that were going the wrong way.

And in both cases the answer to that cry was to respond to Jesus in faith thru baptism.

Other people may see it differently.  We do not speak for them.  God is the author of salvation, not us.  So we are not going to judge others.  We will teach what we believe is in God's word.  We will not give assurances where God did not speak.  Translation:  we are not going to tell you that you are going to hell if you are not baptized.  We are not going to tell you that you are going to heaven if you are not baptized.  We are going to speak where we believe God speaks.  So you won't hear us talking about the Believer's Prayer or "letting Jesus into your heart".  You will hear us calling sinners to repent and be baptized.

And if you do not respond to what matters individually, then this discussion is really a moot point to you.  So read Colossians 2:12  to see what it means to be buried in baptism, and raised thru faith in the power of God.  Then read Chapter 3 to see how you live after being raised with Christ.  It is more than than being right.  It is being right with God.

So at Southern Hills we are baptism people because we believe you have to really do have to "buy-in" to what matters.

so thanks to our elders for thinking thru what matters.

And thanks to Phil Ware, my co-teacher for the What Matters series.

But most of all, thanks God for giving your Son so by faith I will get to live with him forever.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


So is there any doctrine more important?

Yes.  Yes.  Yes.

All Bible is truth and so everything in Scripture is important.  But there is one doctrine more important.

It is identified as "of first importance",  it is what Paul preached, we are saved by it (but we must hold firm to it), and it is the doctrine on which Christians take their stand.  It is the gospel, the good news.

It is the core doctrine of the church.  It is our core belief.

It is taken from I Corinthians 15.

Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures.  He came to earth to die.  He died so I could be restored to a relationship with God.  He paid a price for my rebellion and sin.  He is the living embodiment of God's love for me.  Jesus died for unholy, unworthy me.

He was buried.  It is real.  It is life changing.

He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.  He conquered death.  He went back to the Father and showed me the way home.  Satan cannot win.

God said this.  Scripture.  This is not something we made up.  Or something we think God meant to communicate.  God told us it would happen.  And it did.  And then he told us it happened.

Jesus is always the answer.  What do you believe?  What do you teach?  What do I need to know about this church?  The answer is always Jesus.  Any answer that does not start with Jesus is the wrong answer.

So when people ask about my church, I tell them I worship with my community of faith at Southern Hills church of Christ.  I do not believe this our name.  I do not believe it is a title. I don't believe it is an identifying sign to put on the building.

It had better be a description of who we are.  The church of Christ.  The body of Christ.  The family of Christ.  It is why we are called Christians.

It is always Jesus.

Love God.  Love your neighbor.  Jesus died for your sins and God raised him from the dead.

That is who we are and that is what we believe


Tuesday, January 15, 2013


So are some sins worse than others?

After last week's post on the truth that some commands are greater than others, Monty Montgomery asked an interesting question:  are all sins equal?

So I decided that was worth looking into.  They are not.  One sin is worse than any other.  It is so bad it is unforgivable, which sure makes it the worst sin of all.  Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an eternal sin.  It is the only sin for which you will not be forgiven.  So what is it?  Jesus talked about in response to the  accusation that he had an evil spirit and that he was driving out demons by by the power of the prince of demons.  So I suppose it would have something to do with attributing God works to Satan.  See Mark 3.

Hebrews 10 talks about the person who deliberately keeps on sinning after being converted.  No sacrifice for sins remains for them, but an expectation of judgement and raging fire.  I think in some way this refers to those who "obeyed the gospel" but never intended to live any differently.  Deliberately mocking the sacrifice of Jesus.  I know that in some ways every sin that any of us do is deliberate... that is, we make a choice.  But this is evidently an intentional decision to lie to God and not repenting (making an intentional effort to change your life).

So good news for those of you who may wrestle with whether you have crossed the uncrossable line:  if you are repenting, confessing, trying... probably not.  and i think that repentance can be sooner, or later.  It just has to happen.

And some sins have greater consequences than others.  All sins have consequences.  I have never known a Christ follower to "think they got away with it."  They recognize that even their "secret" sins have consequences.  But consequences are not the same as evil.  Sin is sin.  Consequences may make it seem worse.

The obvious example is Eve's sin.  Cast out of the Garden.  Pretty big consequence.  Opened the door for Satan.  Big consequences for all of us.  Set the pattern for male leadership and authority.  Not a spiritual consequence maybe, but certainly a functional one.

And sexual sins are against your body, the temple of the Holy Spirit.  No indication it is not forgivable, but it is in some sort of different category with special admonition against it.  I think probably because it can hinder the Spirit's work in your life if you do not repent.

So one sin is worse.  Intentional ongoing sin mocking your conversion is worse.  Some sins have worse consequences.  Some endanger your relationship with the Holy Spirit.

So here is the answer.  Repent.  Always repent.  Strive to live more by the Spirit.  Be thankful for grace.

So thank you God for loving, forgiving, healing, and giving your Spirit to help me live holy -- and wholly -- for you.


Thursday, January 10, 2013


What matters: the most important commands

The elders at Southern Hills have asked Phil Ware and I to lead a study for our whole congregation on What Matters.  I am trying to not just teach, but to learn what difference it makes to figure out what really matters. Personally, not just as a congregation.  

Just take commandments.  There are lots in the Bible:  the 10 commandments, lots of New Testament things we are told to do.  But two of them are more important that any of the rest.

1.  Love God with all I have.  That is absolutely the most important command to follow.  I have got to be radical about God with everything I have.  

2.  Love my neighbor as myself.  Jesus said this was the second most important command.  This is the one that is easy to lose among programs and projects.  Jesus did not say for my church to get this one right.  It is personal.  I must love the people I interact with as much as I love myself.  Of course, if we all did this... well, we wouldn't worry about church projects and budgets.

So even if I nail a lot of the other commands, if I miss these two I miss everything.  

We preach these, we read these, we sing these two commands.  They are more important than any other commands.

And I think if I would just learn to obey these two, I would catch all the rest.  Jesus said all the other commands hang on these two.

Learning to love God with everything I have.  Learning to love everyone I meet (Good Samaritan application here).  This could keep me busy the rest of my life.

And maybe that's the point.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013


Happy birthday Jake...

Tomorrow my Grandson Jake, Julie's boy,  turns 7.  It's true there is something special about being the maternal grandfather.  Not sure why but it is a special relationship.  So, as is my tradition, are the reasons I love Jake.

He loves hanging out with Pops.  He enjoys getting to come over, going to the zoo, fishing, and going to ballgames.  He calls me to tell me things.  He loves to take me on long exploring walks in the woods.

He is 100% all boy.  He loves the outdoors.  He likes to take things apart and fix them.  And he is pretty good at it.  Loves baseball.  Already has a better arm than I ever did.

He is protective of his sister.  I pity the guy who does not treat Avery with respect.  In many ways she is his best friend.

He loves his cousins.  He and Anna are good friends and he thinks one of his jobs is to teach Andrew and Austin how to be big boys.  He prays for them every day.

He is a genuinely nice guy.  He treats everyone well.  He will not let anyone be bullied.  He is friendly to everyone and seems to know everybody.

He likes church. He enjoys going around with me and greeting people.  He will sometimes go off on his own to say hi to someone or to meet someone.

Loves to sing praise songs.

Loves God and Jesus.

So Jake,  I believe that when you are 17, or 27, or even 77... this will still describe the person you will be.  And you will do amazing things for God in this world.

I love you.  So happy God gave you to us.  You are a special blessing and Pops loves you so much.  


Wednesday, January 02, 2013


My Resolutions for me, my family, and my church...

I have only three resolutions for this year.  Pretty much the same as last year, but just want to be more intense and intentional about them.  Here are my three personal resolutions.

Be more like Jesus.  do what he would do.  Don't do what he wouldn't do.  Treat people the way he would.

Talk to everybody about Jesus.  I want to spend my time talking about God and his son.  I want to talk about him to my friends and neighbors that don't know him.  I want to preach about him more.  I want people to see me coming and say "here comes more Jesus talk".

Give God the glory.  I want to be sure and give God credit for everything good in my life this year.  I want to make sure I am not ever trying for co-billing with God and Jesus as the star of my life.  And not just personally give him the glory, but publicly proclaim the credit.

Now here are the resolutions for my parents, wife, kids, and grandkids.  See above.  I would be thrilled if this is what my family does this year. And they will.  I know because they do.

Here are the resolutions for my church.  See above.  If every member of my church committed to these resolutions, we could change Abilene.  We could change this country.  We could even change the world.

Maybe we will.

So every day I am going to wake up and commit to these three actions for each day:  Be like Jesus, talk about him, give God the glory.

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