Thursday, February 26, 2015


Josh Hamilton, Jesus, and Me

My thoughts as a Texas Ranger baseball fan about Josh Hamilton's latest relapse with drugs and alcohol.  

Great job Rangers.  So glad we do not have him playing for us.  No way to have gotten baseball value for what we would have had to pay.  Angels way overpaid.  Ha, ha to our division rivals.  It was risky health-wise, baseball-wise, and the dangers of an addict were still there.  I have two vivid baseball memories of Josh.  The home run that should have won the world series.  Jogging in to mess a soft liner in a critical game then appearing to not be too upset about it.  Glad he's not a Ranger.

My thoughts as a passionate follower of Jesus.  I am heartbroken for Josh and his family.  He has been a vocal and visual witness for Jesus in our culture.  One of the all-time great public testimonies was the night he won the home run derby.  I also thought his statements after past failings were powerful.  I do not think his sin and struggle invalidates his testimony.  If you have be perfect to be a follower of Jesus, then I don't know any of us that qualify.  We were watching someone try to grow into a disciple right before our eyes.  And he knew everyone was watching him.  And to see God molding him was powerful.

So if you are a Christian, do not condemn, criticize, or be glad for the fall. 

Be critical as a baseball fan... but about baseball.  That's fair.  But not for his spiritual struggle.

My thoughts as someone struggling to live out my faith.  When you have had to battle your demons, and sometimes lost, it is hard to face people.  Especially if you are a public face.  If you are well known.  You are ashamed, guilty, embarrassed, and humiliated.  No one feels worse about your failure than you do.  Well, you and God.  He hurts too.  

I know.  I've been there.  Public figure proclaiming Jesus.  Public failure.  It's been a long time, but I remember.  By God's grace, I am still living out my faith.  Still fighting for my faith.  Letting the Holy Spirit mold me more and more into the image of Jesus.

And now very aware of how horrible it is to fall again.  Maybe I need that reminder.  It is good for me to be reminded of God's grace and God's mercy.  Thankful for people who restored me.  Reminded how important it always is to live in accountability with my family and a handful of close brothers.  I bet Josh would give anything had he still had a strong support system in place.  And then stuck with it.  So I am reminded to be thankful for my group. 

Thanks Josh Hamilton for the baseball memories.  And glad the Angels are handcuffed somewhat by paying you a lot of money for not much production.

But thanks much, much more for trying to live out your faith in a public venue.  So sorry for what Satan led you into.  Praying for your recovery.  Hoping your witness is stronger and more powerful in the future.  And sorry it is so painful, but God has already used you to remind the rest of us how easy it is to give in to our demons.  

So thanks God for your mercy and grace.  Help me to always be your man.  Help me to remember that there are lots of people watching me.  Let them see you and your son thru me.     

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Go into all the world and speak boldly...

I believe that if you are a Christian taking the time to read this, then you want to be a Matthew 28 Christian.  You are a follower of Jesus wanting to go into your world and make more followers.

It is a lifestyle not a plan or a program.

You live forgiven and that gives credibility to Jesus.  You are living proof he gives new life.

You serve intentionally.  That gives credibility to the message you speak.

But we must also speak boldly.

His demons were about to destroy him.  They had robbed him of his family, his dignity, and any chance at happiness.  He was lonely and depressed.  Crying himself to sleep.  Cutting himself just to feel the pain that let him know he was alive.  He even called himself Legion because of the number of demons inside of him.

And then he met Jesus.  And everything changed.  He was healed.  Freed from his demons.  The whole town came out to see if it was true.  There was this demon possessed joke of a man... dressed and carrying on a conversation with Jesus.  And it scared them.  The power.  The new life.  They begged Jesus to leave... and he did.

When Jesus was getting in the boat to leave, Legion begged to go with him.  Great commission Christian ready to go on a mission. Until Jesus told him no.  Instead he told him to go.  Great commission language. But not go to somewhere different and far away.  But to go to his family and tell them what the Lord had done for him.  Speak boldly into his world.

Speak boldly.  Tell your story.  But do not confuse the message.  Some read the Great Commission and think it should be used to prove the need to be baptized.  That is not the message.  The message is Jesus.  Jesus told us to make disciples.  Disciples following him.  His disciples.  He is the message.  Jesus came.  Jesus died for our sins.  Jesus rose from the dead.  That is the message.  That is why we chose to be his followers.

Do not misunderstand.  I believe in baptism.  After all, Jesus said it.  But baptism is the response to the message, not the message.  If you make baptism the message, you will end up with a lot of baptized people who are not disciples.  Make Jesus the message, and you end up with a lot of baptized disciples.

Live forgiven in your world.  Because if our lives are not changing every day to look more like Jesus, we make our words about Jesus empty and powerless.

Serve intentionally because if we do not care enough to help people in this life, why would they care what we say about life that never ends.

Speak boldly because if we do not, we have not helped anyone.  Not really.  Jesus is the way.  The truth.  The life.  He is the only hope in a dark, dark world.  Speak boldly about the way to God.  Speak truth.  Speak life.

Live forgiven.  Serve intentionally.  Speak boldly.

Be a Jesus follower making other Jesus followers.  Telling the Jesus story by your words and your life.  Calling them to die with him to be born again to a new life (baptized), loving God (living forgiven), and loving our neighbors (serving intently).  And then helping them learn to speak Jesus boldly into their world.

And on and on and on.  Growing churches.  Changing lives.  Making a difference.

Speak the name of Jesus boldly.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Go into all the world and serve intentionally...

Thoughts about another way that we live out the Great Commission.  Followers of Jesus making other followers.  I think this is a lifestyle choice for the Christian.  We live forgiven (see yesterday's post).  I think we must serve intentionally.

One of the marks of a Jesus disciple is they obey what he commanded them.  Sometimes we have let that idea lead to debates over worship and church organization.  And almost all of those debates are not about the commands of Jesus.  But there are two commands he gave that are greater than any others.  His words, not mine.

Love God.  Hence the live forgiven idea.

Love your neighbor.  Serve intentionally.

When Jesus talked about these commands, he told the story we call the Good Samaritan.  When he finished, he said Go and do the same.  Go.  There is that Great Commission language.  So go where?  Everywhere in your world where you see people to serve.  Physical needs.  Emotional needs.
And serve intentionally.

There is a great story in Acts 3 about Peter and John serving (healing) a cripple. A couple of things from that story should help us know how you serve intentionally.

Peter had the man look at him.  Make a personal connection.  They had no money to give.  Sometimes we think money is the only way we need to help people.  Peter even took him by the hand.  Personal connection.

Then Peter said the healing was in the name of Jesus.  Intentional.  Learn to be deliberate in telling people why you serve.  We do ministry in this world in the name of Jesus.

It is intentional because Peter and John used it as a opening to talk about Jesus to all the people who came to see what had happened to the blind man.

When the Jewish leaders questioned them about what was happening, Peter called it an act of kindness.  Intentional service.  He talked about faith and the name of Jesus.  He talked about the Jesus who died for our sins and was resurrected.  He urged them to repent and enjoy new life.

And the leaders were amazed at their courage.  They noted they had been with Jesus.  Followers making followers.  We serve because we love our neighbor.  We look for the open door service offers to share the good news.

Shame on us if we only serve in order to try to convert someone.  And shame on us if we serve and do not try to reach them.

Serve with a purpose.  It gives you credibility to talk about Jesus.  After all, if you don't care about my needs in this life why would I believe you care about my needs for the life to come.

Living forgiven gives credibility to Jesus.  He really changes lives.  Serving intentionally gives credibility to you when you tell that story.

Live forgiven.

Serve intentionally.

Making disciples.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Go into all the world and make disciples by living forgiven

It is the great call for Christians to fulfill their purpose in this world.  We are followers of Jesus going into our world to make other followers.  We want people in our world to join us in following Jesus.  One way we live the great commission is to go into our world and live forgiven.

She was caught in the act.  I don't know her name and I do not know anything about the man she was involved with.  But it was adultery.  And they brought her Jesus ready to stone her.  Exactly how Satan still handles sin.  Condemnation.  Guilt.  Shame.  Humiliation.  Wounds that will never heal.

But she met Jesus.  By the time the encounter is over, there is no more condemnation.  That is what happens when you meet Jesus.  Free from condemnation.

And Jesus told her to go.  Great commission language.  Go.  But go where?  Back into her life.  Back to her friends and family. Back into her world.  But with one difference.  Stop sinning.

That is why we live forgiven in this world.  Because Jesus has taken away our sin.  We believe Jesus makes the alcoholic sober, the angry man sweet, the greedy person generous, and the sexually immoral pure.  We not only believe it, we are living proof.  We may not be perfect, but we are becoming more like Jesus every day.

And we become the living proof that the Jesus story works.  We give credibility to his message.

Peter got it.  Remember his reaction when Jesus filled his boat with fish.  Fish from waters that did not have fish the night before.  More fish than Peter ever imagined.

He fell on his knees and told Jesus to get away from him because he was a sinful man.

But Jesus told him to not be afraid, to follow him, and they were going to fish/catch men.

Which is how you end up with a bunch of people like us going into our world, our neighborhoods, our schools, our ball fields, and testifying with our lives that Jesus really is good news.

Making disciples, catching men, saving souls.

It starts with going into our world and living forgiven.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015


What do you do when you cannot take it anymore?

If it has not happened to you yet, it will.  Maybe it happened to you in the past and you pray it never gets to that point again.  If you look closely in your community of faith, I can almost guarantee it is happening to one or more families right now.  Certainly, there are any number of individuals that you know going thru it right now.

It is that overwhelming, "I can't take anymore", "what else can go wrong", "I just want to quit, or cry, or scream" season of life.

You know what it looks like.

Sickness.  One kid gets over it just in time to see the next one throw up.  You do need surgery.  The test results are not good.  You are not getting out of the hospital today.  Your Mom needs surgery.  Your Dad fell again.  You can't afford another sick day.

Finances.  Your hours got cut back.  Your position is being eliminated.  Your kid needs braces.  The car won't start.  The washer is out.  The claim got denied.  The roof leaks.

A fallen world full of sin.  Someone cheated you out of a sale.  Another one lied about you.  A bully is picking on one of your kids.  Or on you.

Or you did it again.  You watched a movie you should not have.  Or visited a site that should be off limits.  Or drank too much again.  Or snapped at your kids.  Ignored your mate.  Skipped church.  

You can't feel the joy of your salvation.  Abundant life seems a cruel joke.  God may be there but you cannot see him or feel him.  Everybody at church has it together except you.  Or they are all a bunch of hypocrites.  Or...

So what do you do when Satan is dog-piling you and yours?

Been there.  My family is there.  Right now.  Ours right now are family health issues.  And people who need a lot of shepherding right now.  And we are getting stretched a little thin.

So here is what I do. What Marsha and I do.  Maybe it will help you.

Cling to God because I believe he is there whether I feel it or not.  I may have questions, be mad, even pout at Him.  But I believe.  If God will not see me thru, where in the world is any hope?

Listen to stories of those who made it thru dark times.  Scripture has lots of those:  Job, Noah, Moses, Paul, Peter.  David.  The list goes on and on.  And we are not the first in our church to be overwhelmed.  That is why it is so important to tell our stories.  Our old people have lived thru hard times and made it thru. They are an example and inspiration to me to remember that I can too.

Cling more tightly to family and friends that matter.  I hold Marsha tighter.  Watch parents more closely.  Touch base with the kids more.  Connect with the grandkids.  Its' remembering what matters.  God, Jesus, family.  And if family relationships are part of what is overwhelming you then be proactive to heal them.  Pray, serve, love the people that matter.  Because you need them.  I can't imagine how we would make it without each other.  Parents, wife, kids, grands.  We get thru it by hanging on to each other.

Connect with your real friends.  Have coffee or lunch.  Go out with another couple.  Someone that cares.  Make a phone call.  They may not do anything but listen. But I learned that sometimes it's just being with someone that cares.  Brothers that love me.  

Take help.  I know that there are people that can exhaust you with their neediness.  We don't want to be like that, or be a bother.  We are givers not takers.  I get all that. Trust me, I am preaching to the choir here.  Because I really have to work at sharing.  I am great at taking your burdens and helping.  Not so great at sharing mine.  Neither is Marsha.  We are open, warm, caring, and the people you want when you need to vent, cry, dump, or vomit up your trouble.  And we are closed, careful, and non-sharing about ours.  At least in ways that matter.  I'll preach about everything publicly... and share almost nothing privately.  But i do know how much it helps to even hear someone make the offer to help.

Know that this too shall pass.  People really do get well eventually.  Or they get to go home to God.  Somehow critical needs get met.  Unexpected check or gift or help.  You do get around go again.  You can live forgiven.  Lives change.  Yours and others.  Really.  Relationships get healed.  You survive another day.  And another.  And another.  

We have survived a lot of hard times in our family.  And in our church family.  God has always seen us thru.  Always.  Not always like we thought we wanted, but always.  Always he has been faithful.  

So those are some of the ways we survive.  In the past, right now, and when it comes again in the future.  And trust me, it will.

So thanks for listening and maybe this will help you survive when you are overwhelmed by life.

Help us all God.  Like you always have.  And like you always will.


Friday, February 06, 2015


What you want your marriage to look like...

If they make it a few more weeks, they will have been married 70 years.  I'll have more to say about them then, but I wanted to say a couple of words about Marsha's folks, Don and Jean Herttenberger.  Grandpa just got out of the hospital after having a pacemaker installed.  Granny is battling bed sore issues.  He had to stay a couple of nights more than planned.

So when we got him home, I had to roll him over to Granny so they could share a kiss.

It hasn't always been easy, but I think I have figured out how they made it.

They go to church.  Raised their kids in church.

They pray.  They read their Bible.

They don't quit.  I think they probably could have several times.  But they didn't.

They say "I love you" lots.

They still kiss.

I love them.

So glad Marsha and I have their example.  And my kids.  And now their kids.

Thank you God for Granny and Grandpa.  And for their love for you and each other.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015


Men, baseball, hospitals, preaching.. and lessons learned

Random thoughts from the past two weeks.

I went to a Men's Conference at The Hills church of Christ a couple of weeks ago.  Then got to see my grandson Andrew try out for baseball.  Spent last weekend down in Del Rio talking about sharing Jesus.  And last night stayed with my father-in-law in the hospital after he had a Pacemaker/Defibrillator put in.

Here are things that are sticking with me from these events.

I love generational Christianity.  Fathers and sons at conferences, father/son elders, older men teaching the younger, mentoring.  Gives great hope for the future.

It may be that the best thing you can do to stay faithful to Jesus is to surround yourself with close friends who are also passionate disciples.  Band of brothers.

Churches that share the Jesus story will grow.  Churches that focus on keeping their own will die.

Why does everyone think I am Grandpa's son and not his son-in-law.  He is short, bald, talks to everyone, and never met a stranger.  I don't get it.  :)

I love it when hospital staff join your prayer circle.

You never go wrong praying for someone.

There is something amazing about watching grown kids interact with their grandparents.  Special bonds.  Family.

Watching my son play catch with his son makes my heart happy.

Taking care of your parents is ministry.  Real ministry born out of love for God and love for them.

I married really, really, well.

Thanks God for lessons learned in the middle of life, ministry, and worship.

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