Thursday, January 29, 2015


I do treat some people and their sins differently than others...

I tend to categorize people.  I do this based on how they act, conversations we have, and how well I know them.  And here is how I treat them differently.

People I know are either Christians or they are not.

Those who are not believers are either interested in Jesus or they are not.

For non-believers who are not interested in Jesus, I am friendly but I am not going to be close friends with them.  I don't condemn how they live, God will do that eventually.  I do not expect them to live by Christian standards.  Why would they?  They do not claim to be a Christian.  But I am friendly because I never know when they may decide there is something to this whole Jesus thing.  And we can talk about him.

Non-believers interested in Jesus are different.  I am friends with them, and I still do not judge their lifestyle.  We might share meals in our home.  I might visit in theirs.  Even if they live differently than I do.  Still do not judge them.  Not my business.  Do not expect them to live like Jesus.  They do not claim to believe in him.  But I intentionally share Jesus with them.  They may respond quickly or slowly.  I may be breaking ground, sowing seed, or watering Jesus seeds.  Some will object to this and say I am just being friends so I can try to convert them.  Not sure how to answer that.  I can't imagine being friends with someone and not sharing Jesus.  And when they quit having interest in Jesus, we are not going to be real close because we really will not have much in common.

Then there are the Christians I know.

Christians who are faithfully living to serve God are those I live life with.  We are close, sharing life together.  We eat together, hang out together.  They are my closest friends.  Different than the non-believers in my life.

And different than Christians living in deliberate sin.  I do treat them different.

If I see a Christian choosing to live in sin, I will not be friendly as if it is OK.  I am "harder" on them than a non-Christian.  Because they said they would be different.  So I will invite them into my home for coffee or a meal.  But there is an agenda.  We are going to talk about sin, confession, repentance, and restoration.  We are not going to just hang out as if everything is OK.  And by the way, when they repent -- and many will -- then we will do what family does... we will help them fix their life.

And for those Christians that do not repent, that live in their sin, and that refuse to let it go.  We will not be friends.  I will not be friendly.  We won't chit-chat.  We will not talk about the weather.  You are not welcome in my home or at my table.  Until you repent.  Because I love you.  I will love you enough to have the hard conversation.  But when you make your intentions clear about choosing sin over Jesus, then we are through.  Not friends.  Not friendly.  

So it is true that I am harder on some Christians than I am on non-Christians.  Because they are different.  I will go to any lengths for the struggler, the battler, the faith fighter.  As long as it takes.  The seeker, the struggler are welcome at my table.  But not the quitter.  And I hope he misses the table enough that he will come back.


God help me see people like your Son sees them.  Help me to treat people the way he did.  Help me to always act out of love.  Even if it is hard.  Even if if it is not easy.  And help me to treat everyone in ways that draw them to your Son.  Because that is what matters.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


I'm was ticked off today...but not anymore

OK.  Today is a day for honesty.  Everything I tried to blog about today came across as harsh, petty, or unkind.  My sarcasm button was working overtime.  I really wanted to "strike back" at some things I have been seeing, hearing, and reading.

So I am not going to talk about any of the things I had planned.

But I do think I will share the things that tick me off today.  Not the who, or even the topic, but the attitude.

Frustrated that people keep quoting God when God is silent.

Tired of the implication that I am not smart enough to understand how clear God is (in their minds) on certain topics.

Not very appreciative of those who let me know I just don't "get it" so I am really not "in the know" spiritually.

Tired of people saying how much they love the church before they rip into it.

Not happy about people taking shots at fellow Christians without talking to them personally.


Poor me.  Feelings hurt.  Can't sit at the big boy table. Nobody likes me so I'm going out in the garden and eat worms.

Boo hoo.  Cry me a river.

Accidentally found my notes on Elijah when he was whining to God.  Wish I hadn't.  Kind of a slap in the face from God's Word.  He does that sometimes.

Changed my prayer.  Now asking God that I not be one of those who frustrates/ticks off/hurts others.

Read Luke 9:23, Galatians 2:20, and Romans 6:3-5.  You know, all those passages about dying to self, being crucified so I no longer live, dying with Christ and raised to new life,...

So putting on happy heart (just putting on happy face is just faking it).  Happy heart.  Really.

Remembering what matters.  For me today, that is God, family, and telling lost people about Jesus.

Focus on God and lost people.  Quit reading brotherhood/preacher ... stuff (had other words here but deleted them -- and I should have).

By the way, these other things may be worth talking about.  But not for me.  Not today.

OK.  This was too real.  Thought about not posting.

But maybe it's OK.  I feel better.  Back to the real me.  Happy and taking about Jesus.

And I am guessing that is the Holy Spirit, not a blog post.

So I'm sorry God.  Thanks for letting me vent.  Thanks for answering me.  Getting back into your Kingdom business now.

:)  :)  :)  

Thursday, January 22, 2015


There are things that matter more than others...

I had quite a bit of good feedback and comments from my blog on things to consider when Christians disagree.  The following question really caught my attention.  

What about being worried when people who disagree with the official line are publicly condemned to hell?

I do believe churches should have a clear understanding of what their core convictions are.  These are those beliefs that are not to be compromised.  They need to be clearly communicated.  I suppose that is the "official" line.  We have them at Southern Hills.  

Where I am an elder we welcome people to engage us over our core beliefs.  We love having that discussion.  But we are clear.  If you do not subscribe to our core convictions, you will not be considered part of our fellowship.  You are certainly welcome to attend, but you will be allowed to teach or do ministry.

If you disagree with our core convictions, we are probably not the church for you.  If you feel the need to try and change our core convictions, you will be asked to leave.  We do not tolerate false teachers.

Which is why churches better be sure their core convictions are easily shown in Scripture.  If you cannot defend your core convictions, something is wrong.  When God uses terms like "first importance", "greatest", "saved," etc., we believe those are terms that reflect beliefs that cannot be compromised.   

But we do not condemn people to hell.  Not our job.  God is the judge.  We are willing to stand on our convictions.  At the same time, we do not believe that we decide who is saved.  Again, God's business.  So when we talk about heaven or hell we want to be standing solidly on what God says.  

So what if you do not agree with the core convictions of your church?

If I attend a church that has core convictions I cannot support, that is not the church for me.  It may be that a church does not teach what I believe to be core.  It may be that they bind things as core that I do believe are core in Scripture.

So in practical terms where I worship, we have a small set of core convictions that we all believe and practice.  And we have a wide variety of opinions on other things involving church life, worship, and organization that are not core.  

So we study lots.  We have elders (spiritual shepherds) that decide the practices of our local fellowship.  We don't worry about the church down the street.  Not our job.  And everyone in our flock does not agree on every decision.  

But we stick together because we stake our lives on the truth that Jesus died, was buried, and was raised from the dead.  We all shared in that gospel by being baptized.  We participate together in that gospel by sharing communion meals, reminding us and the world of what we believe about Jesus.  And we commit that our highest calling is to love God and to love our neighbor.  This unites us above all else.

Our core.  

For us, that puts everything else in perspective.

Remove these and we are not being true to what we believe God clearly says matters most.  Add a bunch to these and we are making things matter more than God said.  

These are a few thoughts sparked by a good question.

So God help us to unite on what you say matters.  Help us to not shatter that unity over anything else. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Seven things that worry me when we disagree...

There has been a lot of discussion in the church recently about what God expects us to believe, what about when Christians do not agree about Scripture, and how to exist in fellowship when we do not agree.

As I listen to people with various views, there are a few things that bother me.  So here are seven things to be wary of when talking about what Scripture means.

Be careful about anyone who insists that Scripture is clear about every issue.  That is simply not true.  Divorce, worship, women's role, church organization, end times theology,..well, you get the point.  I doubt I can find two Christians anywhere who will completely agree on every aspect just of these issues.  Much less all the others I could mention.

But also be wary of those who think we cannot agree on anything.  Not true.  There are things absolutely clear in Scripture.  There are many things about Jesus, salvation, Christian lifestyle, and living in community that are spelled out in ways that are not open to interpretation.

Be very concerned about people who claim to speak for God in areas He did not speak.  People who insist they know what God wants, or means, or condemns -- you better be able to show where God said it clearly.  Implications, applications, and interpretation are not the basis for absolute statements about what God means and wants.

I am never comfortable with proof texts.  You know how that works.  You explain or define the position, then use verses to prove your position.  That is why I like textual study much more than topical study.

Watch out for one verse wonders.  These are positions that take one verse and use it as a trump card over all other verses.  Unless God says this is the most important, or greatest, be careful.  And God does say that about some things.  But be careful prioritizing verses in ways God did not.

Stop the conversation when anyone implies -- or says -- that you would agree with them if you just cared enough about what God says.  If we study together and still don't agree, don't judge.  God will sort it out.  But do not judge someone by implying they do not care about God's Word.  At the same time, don't insult God's people by implying only professional preachers and teachers can understand what God means.  I love people that give their lives to study. I have gained great insight into Scripture from teachers and preachers.  But I sometimes feel like I am in discussions with people who want to chain my Bible to the pulpit so simple people like me will not get confused.  Paul was a great theologian and scholar.  He did amazing work in Acts.  So did Peter.  He was a fisherman.

Never judge someone's heart by saying they do not love God or his people if they do not agree with you.  Some of the most passionate, committed Christians I know do not agree with me on any number of things.  Not loving God will show up in how people live.  I am not sure it shows up in doctrine or theology.  So again, do not judge someone by saying they do not love God or his people when they do not see things your way.

Finally, I do not think all doctrine has equal weight.  Salvation theology is more critical than worship theology.  What Scripture says about how to live as a Christian is more important that how your church is organized.  What you believe about becoming a Christian would seem to have much greater consequences than what you believe about music in worship.  There are things I believe are so important that we cannot be in fellowship if we do not agree.  There are other things that I am convicted enough about that they influence where I worship.  And there are things that we just disagree on and still are able to live in community.

Salvation issues, fellowship issues, agree to disagree issues.  Draw your lines where God draws them.

You may disagree with everything i have said in this blog.  That's your prerogative.    These are just a few things that I have thought about as I listen to Christians discuss (or argue) over their differences, and I am just thinking thru them.  But I do know that we better be very careful about destroying the unity of the body of Christ.

So God help me understand what matters to you.  Give us all wisdom.  Thank you for being patient with us.  Especially me.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


When elders make disappointing decisions...

Sometimes elders make decisions that disappoint people.  Maybe you have been terribly disappointed by your elders.  It might be a personnel issue.  Elders hire and fire ministers and staff.  It may be a lack of support for a program you cherish.  Or a decision about worship matters that is not the decision you think best.

I too have been disappointed by elder decisions at various times.  I think anyone who has been very involved in church has been disappointed by their elders.  I am an elder.  I have participated in making decisions that I knew some would be hurt by.  Certainly I have helped make decisions that I knew when we made them there would be some people hurt and even angry.  Our eldership has had to decide things that no matter what was done... somebody was going to be hurt or think we were wrong.  We even know at times that what we decided would cause some people to leave.  Sometimes we knew there would be people that would react in inappropriate ways.

So here a few things to think about when your elders make decisions that disappoint you.

Elders have one agenda:  get as many of their flock to heaven as possible.  We are very aware that we are going to answer for the souls in our care.  That factors into every decision.

You are not the only member of our flock.  We have a whole church to think about.  We cannot think about just what the older members want.  Or just what the youth want.  Or any other group.  Or just what works best for you.  

We know things you do not.  And we are not going to tell you.  It is so tempting to tell the things we know in order to justify our decisions.  Sometimes these things come out later.  Maybe they never do.  But yes we do bite our lips sometimes.
So sometimes you need to trust us.  I understand that may be hard at times.  But you selected us for our spiritual maturity.  So trust that we have thought thru the decision and that we are doing what we think best for our flock.

Sometimes some of us are disappointed too.  At Southern Hills, our elder decisions are unanimous.  Our votes may not be.  But I can tell you that no major decision is made at Southern Hills that at least 2/3 of the elders agree with.  And most of the time, the major decisions are remarkably close to unanimous.  But when we do not agree, we do exactly what we ask you to do:  submit to the decision of our fellow elders.

We may be wrong.  Sometimes we make the wrong decision.  When we do, we correct it as soon as we can.  After all, we are just human.  We are not perfect.

One elder really cannot impose his will on everyone else.  Of course we have certain elders that have incredible influence.  But one man dictatorship just does not happen at Southern Hills.  Hasn't for decades now.  And the way we work, one man can't.  But some of us need shepherding also.  And we get it from our fellow elders.  So yes some have more credibility because they have helped us or our families.  Some have more Bible knowledge.  Some have more experience.  But not one of us runs things.

We have feelings too.  Of course it hurts when one of our sheep attacks us.  But it comes with the territory.  Just because we do not respond to those attacks do not mean that we do not feel them.  And yes our wives feel them also.  As do our children, even the grown ones.  And at Southern Hills, most of our elders have grown kids with families as part of our flock.

Remember that decision making is a small part of what we do as shepherds.  Think about the prayers for you sickness.  The blessings for your babies.  For your baptisms.  Showing up at the hospitals.  And the funeral home.   Helping heal your broken relationships.  Fighting with you for your faith.  Being with you as you fought against your addictions.  Sending you out to talk about Jesus.  Giving you spiritual counsel.  That is really who we are and what we do.  Wearing out our knees in prayer and our Bibles in study.  Giving our time to help you on your Jesus journey.

So here is what I can promise you as an elder.  And I think this is true for all of my fellow elders.  Actually, this is true for most of the elders I know well.

I am going to heaven.  I am going to lead my family there.  And I am giving my life to getting all my flock there.  I am not perfect.  But follow me -- us -- and I promise you will get home safely.

God thank you for the men I know around the world who are committed to leading your people.  Thank you for men I serve with at Southern Hills.  They love you.  Bless them and protect their families.  Give us wisdom.  And thank you for my flock.  For their trust and for their faith.  We will follow your son all the way home.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015


College Football and Jesus

Because I like college football...

Florida State did not belong in the Final Four.  Undefeated conference champion.  Looked a lot better on paper than in reality.

TCU did belong.  Everyone knows it now.  They handled the disappointment just like you should.  Play the game you are in, not the one you wish you were in.  I suspect they would be the #2 seed today.

Finish strong.  Ohio State got better as the year went on.  Paid off.

Strong programs matter.  Alabama did not win it all, but they were in the play-off.  They will be in contention next year too.

Conference affiliation does make a difference.  SEC strong.  ACC weak.  It showed.  Big 12(ten?) had no conference championship.  Oops. And would not even declare a champion between TCU and Baylor.  Not a good plan.

Big players make big plays in big games.  When the chips are down...

...and because I am always thinking about Jesus I am reminded:

to finish strong.

heart matters.

don't be fooled by appearances.

who I hang out with matters.

life is not always fair.

so don't give up.

keep my eye on the goal.  Heaven.

reputation matters.

but not as much as results.

When the chips are down in life, make the right choice.

Just random thoughts on football and the Jesus life.

Oh yeah, 100 years from now no one reading this will care about the football decisions.

But every one of you will care about the Jesus decision..


Thursday, January 08, 2015


Jake turns 9 tomorrow

Tomorrow my oldest grandson, Jake Ryder Gilbreth, turns 9.  So here are the reasons I love Jake and am so proud of him.

Love having another sports fanatic in the family.  Jake loves baseball and football cards.  He likes watching sports on TV.  He reads about his favorite teams.  He can talk sports.  Loves going to games.  Loves playing baseball and basketball.

Loves the outdoors.  Likes sitting in the stand to see deer, turkey, and hogs.  Loves fishing.  Wants to stay outside as long as he can.  Likes going to the farm.  He is all boy.

Those things make it fun to hang out together and make it easy to be his Pops.

But I am proud of Jake because he protects others.  He takes care of his little sister Avery -- more than she probably wants sometimes.  He stands up to bullies.  He will not let girls, younger kids, or smaller kids be picked on or hurt.

He hurts when other people hurt.

He is sensitive to the feelings of others.

He is friendly and nice to everyone.

Love that when he was the only boy in the Christmas pageant, he stuck it out.  Played a fine Joseph.

He behaves in school.  Well, occasionally he has an issue with talking.  Cannot imagine where that comes from (it is possible Pops and Uncle Joe Don might have had that issue from time to time too).

Jake loves to go to church.  He walks around with me sometimes meeting people and talking to them.  People skills already.

He is a good role model for his younger cousins.

But here is the big one:  Jake loves his family, his God, and Jesus.  I love to hear him pray.

I sometimes look at Jake and just thank God.  Thank him for healing him when he had Kawasaki disease a couple of years ago.  Thank him for making a special and unique boy.  Thankful because I know God will do amazing things thru him for the Kingdom.

Thanks God for letting me be Pops to Jake.  I am blessed.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015


Thanks to Ken, Mitch, Sadie, Hunter, and Darlene

I have prayed hard for six people and their families the past few days.  There have been others on my list of course, but these six were firmly on my "God heal them" list.  He hasn't answered my prayers the way I wanted on all of them.  At least not yet.  But I have learned something from these families this week.  And I am grateful.

Ken has prostate cancer.  It's difficult for his wife.  It would be for any wife, but really hard for Carla.  Ken was God's gift to Carla.  Life has been hard for her.  Lost both her parents on the same day a few years ago..  Lost a marriage when her husband chose someone else over her and Jesus.  But Ken was God's grace, God's gift.  They found happiness together.  They were, and are, serving God.  And now they have to face an uncertain future.  They pray for healing.  They commit to faith whatever the answer.

Mitch is one of my preaching heroes.  They just removed a mass from his chest.  Any time now they will find out the results of the biopsy.  Mitch buried his Dad not too long ago.  Now he prays and waits for God to answer.  And he is at peace.  My favorite Mitch saying thru this:  "God has got this."  And Mitch means more than just that God will heal.  He means God has this whatever the outcome.

I don't guess baby Sadie can process any of this.  She is still fighting for life in NICU.  Her twin is already with Jesus.  But Princess Sadie is a fighter.  Progress, then problems.  Her parents are people of faith.  They cry, they laugh, they hope, they pray.  And they have given Sadie to God.  Our prayer is that she grow into a mighty woman of faith.  And her parents will raise her that way.  But her  life is a faith testimony even now.

Hunter is her uncle.  He is fighting for his life and health too.  I've watched Sadie's parents love their brother.  I've seen Mark and Jana (parents/grandparents) serve, love, and cry.  I've watched the faith of Jennifer, Hunter's wife.  I've prayed with their little boy that Daddy (and baby cousin Sadie) will be healed.

And I pray for Darlene.  She survived congestive heart failure 25 years ago, and a heart transplant almost 20 years ago.  Now she is in ICU battling cancer.  She and Ronny have been at Southern Hills almost since we started.  He served as an elder, Bible class coordinator, spiritual adviser.  Great family.

So why am I saying thank-you to all these people?

Thanks for reminding me of what is really true.

Life is hard.  It is a fallen world.  Pain and sorrow.  Sickness.  Reality of death.  Hope of heaven.

So thanks for pointing to heaven.  Someday when there is no more pain, sorrow,or tears.  Forever life together.

Family matters.  Blood family by birth, and blood family by faith.  Love, prayers, and shared joy and tears.  Service.  Meals, rides, visits, and countless acts of love.

Thanks for living outside of yourselves.  You all ask about others.  You pray for others.  You care too.

Thanks for holding on to God.  Love your faith.  Love that no matter what... God has each of you in his hand.

You remind me what I believe, what I preach, what I live, and someday... what I will die.

All for God's glory.  No matter what.

So God... I ask you to heal Ken.  And Mitch.  And Sadie and Hunter.  And Darlene.  Thank you for the faith witness from them and their families.  And thank you that we all know this life is not our real home.

So see us thru.

We believe.    

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