Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Why did they ask me to speak on aging... and what do I say?

I'll be at MacArthur Park Church of Christ in San Antonio tomorrow night to speak on the topic of ... AGING.  So you have to wonder if they asked me because I am good preacher, or because I have four aging parents I am dealing with... or is it because someone said get an old preacher to talk about aging?

Well, it really doesn't matter because I am committed to it now.  And here are a couple of thoughts about Christians getting old.

We need old Christians.  We need their wisdom.  They have been there, done that, seen it all.  They don't over-react.  We need prayer warriors.  They know God answers prayer.  They are good at praying.  They have time to pray.  It may be all they can do -- and it really is the best thing anyone can do.  We need to see living witnesses of faithful living.  I love to see couples married for 50, 60, 70 years.  We need to hold them up before our young marrieds and our young people.

We have to take care of them.  God expects us to take care of our family.  If you are consumed with caring for aging parents, understand that you are being a faithful Christian.  That is a valuable ministry that God has called you to.

But here is my real conviction about old Christians -- even this old preacher.  Psalm 71:18.

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.

That was my call when I was a young preacher.  It is still my call and the call of every parent, grandparent, and great-grandparent.  To tell the next generations of God's mighty power.

So when you get a chance to visit with your grands, or with the teens at church, and you tell them of the good old days -- be sure the good old days are the stories of what God did in your life.

And when you worry about the younger generation and you want to know what to do to influence them, here it is.  Tell them of the mighty power of God.

Till the day we die, that is our mission, that is our call, that is our life.

And with my last breath -- whether tomorrow night in San Antonio or 40 years from now -- I will be speaking of the mighty power of God.

That is the legacy I commit to leave to those following behind me:  in my family, in my church, and in my world.

Our God is mighty in power.  To save, to heal, to redeem, to give life, to bring us home to him forever.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


So what do I think about Youth Ministers...

I am not always a fan of youth ministry... but I am a huge fan of most youth ministers.

Most youth ministers I have ever known love Jesus and love teens.  They deeply care about helping create intentional followers of Jesus.  Many of them envisioned getting out of college and going to a church that would bless them with resources to reach youth people with the good news of Jesus.

And we failed them.

I hear what churches say... but I also see what they do.  And we set up youth ministers to be frustrated and to fail.

The reality is that most youth ministers are evaluated on numbers.  How many of the member's children are involved in the youth program.  And if youth ministers do not connect with the right kids (read:  preacher's kids, deacon kids, and elder grandkids), then they are in trouble.

When our young people do not seem engaged in church, we blame the youth program.  We don't blame parents.  In fact, in most churches parents get a free pass.  So youth ministers resort to more and more exciting, fun, flavor of the month programs and projects in order to keep their job.

We really do not want youth evangelists.  If our youth ministers start converting outside kids, then there is less time to spend on our kids.  And these converts are different.  And some of them will have interested parents.  Which means our parents have to be evangelistic.

We may talk about social inequality, racial equality, and changing culture; but in theory, not in our youth groups.  I am sad at how often we do not want "those people" associating with our kids.

And we do not want our youth ministers to make our kids into real disciple makers.  Not really.

I know this is not true everywhere.  But it is in many places.  And I know the youth ministers are sometimes to blame for strained relations.  I have seen lots of youth ministers who assume that they know more than the parents what teens need and how they should be raised.  They don't.

Many youth programs are shallow, entertainment driven ministries.  But that is what is expected at many places.  We would never say this, but the reality gets communicated.  How many youth ministers would get hired who are going to stress learning the Bible?  Or who expect their kids to be able to share the good news  before they are allowed to go on a mission trip?  Or who don't schedule 4 activities weekly because they expect their teens to be involved in a small group with their parents?

And if you are reading this and thinking that I am all wrong and that you really want youth ministers that will challenge our teens, that will be outreach driven, and that will engage the parents and other family members in co-ministry... then let's go.

Start communicating different expectations to your youth minister.  And maybe to the preacher and elders.  Let them know you expect more than a devo where everyone holds up a little light and talks about changing the world.  Let them know you expect them to start doing it.

And then protect your youth minister if he tries to do this.  Because some kids may not like it.  Well, actually some parents may not like it.  Believe me, I know.  Those same parents don't like it when we try to do this kind of thing with them.

So if your youth minister is about gimmicks, entertainment, low expectations, preserving the status quo, pleasing us, focusing on our kids, and doing just enough short-time things to make us all feel good.. . then ask him why he thinks that is what we expect.

And you may not like the answer.  but at least you won't wonder why so many of them get discourage and quit.

But that's a subject for another blog.

So God -- bless our youth ministers that want to change lives thru the power of your son Jesus.  And bless the parents who expect that.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


It's hard for a giver to be a taker...

It is not a secret that our family is way over on the giver side of the spectrum.  Marsha is constantly helping her parents, my parents, the kids, and the grands.  We learned it from our parents.  Our kids learned it from us.  I think their kids will learn it from them.

But we are not good at taking.  We don't ask for help.  We say "nothing" when people ask what they can do for us.

And I think we are wrong.

I am learning to appreciate people who give to us.  I learned that lesson over the past few days.

I am watching my Mom learn to take help that is available for my Dad.  He has Alzhiemers.  Her church family has been great at visiting, bringing food, and offering to help.  She doesn't want it, thinks she doesn't need it, but she is learning to accept it and be thankful.  I keep telling her that people are doing for them what they did for others for years and years.

I should listen to what I am am telling her.

Marsha's folks are letting us take care of them.  Still don't want to admit they need it.  Still don't like it.  But they let us.  They thank us over and over again for working at the farm, taking them to the Doctor, doing their yard, and running all their errands.

I need to file that away because I will be there soon.

And then Jake got sick.  Our 7 year old grandson.  And he is sick and I can't fix it.  He has Kawasaki disease and are starting treatment today.  I believe he will get well, but I / we have been overwhelm by the people who are praying for him, for Julie and Bobby, and for Mimi.  They know Jake needs healing, so they pray.

They know the two year battle Julie has had with her health and they pray for her strength deal with this.

They know this is horrible for Bobby and they pray for him.

They know Mimi is an exhausted care giver and the pray for her.

They even pray for me, tho mostly I stand around and take credit for what my family does.  :)

So as hard as this is, I am learning to accept gifts of love from God's people.

So keep praying that the treatment works for Jake and that his heart is not damaged.  And pray for his parents to have strength. And for Avery not to be forgotten in this (special thanks to Aunt Jamie for coming down and making her part of your crew this week).

Keep visiting our folks.

Keep bringing meals to the Herttenbergers and Gilbreths.  They have freezers so bring it.  It helps.

Not sure we will ever learn to ask for help, not sure we will ever admit we need it.  But we are sure learning to be thankful.

So thanks to pray-ers, cookers, visitors, huggers, writers, and workers.  It is appreciated.

From one giver to a bunch of other givers.

Love you.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


What do our young people really get from us?

I am convinced faithful young people are produced by real, genuine, authentic experiences that show Jesus.

Too often what we give them are isolated, contrived, structured, well produced experiences that are more image than reality.

Here are some potential ways I think that happens.

Service projects.  We ask our young people to be part of a one day, or even a one week, project.  If this is all they see, they never understand that service is a lifestyle attitude.  If not careful, the project is more about the youth group experience than about the people we are serving.

Youth worship.  When these are done in ways that really relate to the perceived needs and desires of young people, it becomes easy for them to think that worship is really all about them.  So worship that does not cater to them is seen as dull and not meaningful.

Youth fellowship.  Spending the majority of time together has the potential to develop young people that are very narrow in their thinking and very selfish in their expectations of what fellowship really is.

I am not against Christian young people having some of these experiences together.  I am concerned about their only church experiences being primarily with only other teens.

I think families that are part of a smaller fellowship group (formal or informal) that includes the entire family is very effective.  By the way, I think this even extends to younger children than our teenagers.  This is a wonderful way to experience deeper fellowship that is ongoing.  It is an excellent way to experience real worship and communion.  And maybe that is why smaller churches sometimes produce a higher percentage of healthy, faithful disciples.  And why larger congregations may have to be more intentional about this.

So as you can tell from my last post and this one, I am suggesting that our teens be integrated into congregational life in real ways.  And I don't think the obvious place to do this is in the main worship assembly and in a targeted program.

I think it happens in homes, in families, and in smaller groups.  That is where our teens can be involved in real Bible study.  They can see what sharing Jesus means.  They can learn how to help each other thru struggles.

Because I think our teens need guidance.  I think they need teaching.  I think they need help.  I am not sure they can get it by themselves.  Or just thru a youth minister just out of college.  I think they need parents.  And grandparents.  And each other.  And young family role models.

So let's connect them to all these influences.

They will experience real, honest, authentic Christianity.  And when they do, they will stick with it.

That is what they are looking for.  Not entertainment.  Not things geared to them.  But things that matter, that make a difference... things that are real.

I think that is what they are looking for.

And they will see that in church. Not just youth church, but in all the church.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013


I think multi-generational church may be better for our youth...

This is not what we have been doing.  It started with youth ministry as the way to "keep" our kids engaged in church.  Youth programs, youth devos, youth mission trips, and youth service projects.  Some even went so far as to have youth worship services.  And after years of youth ministry, we still have a lot of young people who leave home and are not faithful to Jesus.

I think we were wrong.

I am not even sure I like Bible school segregated so much by age/grade.  Or our adult classes being so segregated:  young marrieds, young families, youth parents, empty nesters, 39ers.

I do understand the value of having some special activities for specific age groups.  I just think it is dangerous to convey a message that says to young people that they are too special to be with everyone else.  If not careful, they never grow out of the "cater to me in church" mentality.

Here are some of the things that got me to wondering if we were wrong.

In spite of decades of youth ministers/ministry, youth rallies, youth this and that... we didn't do very well instilling faith in our kids.

Some of the most active, faithful, and engaged college students I have ever worked with came from small churches that really didn't have a youth program.  In fact, I think the % of faithful young people from small churches is higher than from our large congregations.  

There just isn't much about youth ministry in the Scripture.

There is a lot about family ministry in Scripture.

Multi-generational learning is all thru Scripture.  Passover, Timothy.  Read Deuteronomy 6.

So I think we need to re-think how we engage multiple generations together in church life and ministry.

I think small groups that emphasize family involvement is one way.

I like the current thinking that emphasizes family ministry, involving parents with their teens.

I like multi-generational service projects and mission trips.

But this has to be intentional.

And better minds than mine will have to figure out how we reverse almost 50 years of the wrong model.

One other thing.  I know that many churches have youth programs that are Biblical, evangelistic, and produce faithful young people.  But my question is this: is it because of the youth programs, or because they simply supplemented strong families and healthy churches?

Well, my kids are grown so I guess this is not as front burner in my life as it could be.  And all my grandkids are being intentionally raised in faith by their parents.  But I do think about the ramifications of this for them.  And I am still an elder at a large church with lots and lots and lots of babies thru teenagers.

So let's figure this out.

God give us wisdom.

Thursday, June 06, 2013


Bobby, baseball, and birthdays...

My son-in-law Bobby has a birthday tomorrow.  There are lots of reasons I love him, but this time I am talking about baseball.

He built an infield on the vacant lot next to their house.  Home plate, pitcher's mound, and base paths.  So he and Jake can practice.  How cool is that?

He coaches Jake's team so I get to watch him in action. He spends time with every kid on that team.  He encourages every one of them to do their best.  He gets down at eye level and talks to them.

He is very patient with them.  They are mostly 1st and 2nd graders so it takes a lot of patience at that age.

They pray before every game.  He lets one of the boys lead the prayer.  That's neat.

He writes a Bible verse in every team member's cap.

Most of his team will not play past little league.  A few might play in High School.  Not sure any of them will play in college.

But the prayer and the Bible verse... they make a difference forever.

So thanks Bobby for remembering you are doing more than coaching baseball.  You are molding boys into men.

And you are planting Jesus seeds.

Good for you.

And good for the kingdom that really matters.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013


My little girl Julie is 37!

Every Daddy gets this.  Your little girl is always your little girl.  It starts the first moment you hold her in your arms and it never really changes.  So last Saturday my little girl turned 37.  She's been married to Bobby for 8 years now.  Her Jake is already 7 and Avery is 5.

But she is still my little girl and here is why I love her.

She is a faith fighter.  Life has been tough on Jules. The last two years have been horrible in terms of her health.  But she still loves God.  She clings to Jesus.  She never quits.  She never gives up. When she falls, she gets up.  Always has.  Always will. I think that is the definition of being a faithful Christian.  No matter what happens, no matter how tough this life gets... never give up on Jesus.

Even as I write this, she is down at Scott and White clinic for more treatment and evaluation.  The elders anointed her with oil and prayed over her a while back.  Last night she told me she was all packed, including her vial of oil from her anointing.  She carries it to remind her of how God is restoring her health.

She is a great Mom.  Loves those kids.  Prays for them and with them.  Studies the Bible with them.

She honors her family heritage and legacy.  Loves her grandparents.  Talks to her Granny often.  Goes to see her lots.  Talks to Mimi every day.  Raising Avery to be just like her in that way.

She is a great school nurse because she really loves her students.  Takes care of them medically, but they know she cares.

She has a heart for hurting people and for introducing them to Jesus.  Love it when she calls to get advice on helping someone.  Or when she says she has invited a student or co-worker come to church and sit with us.  Or when she has shared her story with someone and they now want to know more about the Jesus that fixes lives.

So I get Marsha's Dad still thinking Marsha is his little girl.  Just like I do Julie.  And to all you Dads reading this whose little girl seems to be growing up too fast... it's all OK.

She will always be your little girl.  Even when they grow up, get married, and have kids of their own.

I am still just as proud of Jules as I was the first time I held her.  Still love her so much my heart could burst.  She still makes me so happy when we get to hang out.

I am blessed.  My life is better and richer because of my special little girl -- even tho she is 37.

Thanks God.  Keep taking care of her.

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