Thursday, April 30, 2015


Heroes, role models, and brothers...

Over the past couple of months, I have gotten to spend time with the four other full-time ministry team members of Hope for Life (Herald of Truth).  Men who are changing the world every day.

They range in age from 40 - 85.  A Spaniard, a Cuban, a Malawian, and an American.  They have worked for Hope for Life from as long as 50 years to only four months (at least full-time).  They seem so different.

Juan Monroy.  Working out of Spain.  Has served as an elder, local preacher, world-wide evangelist, and writer.  Most of these at the same time.  He is funny, energetic, and there is nothing he would rather do than preach Jesus.

Tony Fernandez.  Works in Cuba.  His father was a preacher before the Revolution.  Tony is a gifted musician and singer.  He wants nothing more than for the nation of Cuba to know Jesus.

Tim Archer.  Based in Abilene, Tim is a talented writer, preacher, and thinker.  He preaches in both English and Spanish (even in the same sermon).  What Tim says about Jesus is literally heard all over the world thru his radio program and writing.

Moses Khombe.  Moses works out of Malawi.  He is creative in devising new ways to present the gospel and has no greater joy than to see new congregations established.

And here are the things that these four men have in common.

They are powerful preachers.  I have heard them all and they call people to Jesus.  People listen and they respond.

They are driven to reach lost people.  Not every preacher is.  These men are.

They all love the local church.  Each of them is deeply involved in their local church:  preaching,teaching, deacons, and elders.

They are courageous.  They will go anywhere to preach Jesus.  Every one of them would die for their faith.  Preaching or talking about Jesus until the end.

They are driven to continue sharing Jesus.  No plans to retire.  Travel anywhere, long hours, constantly teaching, preaching, and writing.

They have all raised, or are raising, faithful children.  Dads and husbands.

They each have wives that bless and support their ministry.  It is not always easy.  They are gone a lot.  So thanks Mercedes, Liudmila, Carolina, and Ida.

They support each other.  Every lectureship or event where any of our team is together, we show up to hear each other.  Pretty special.  They really do love each other as brothers. Or maybe fathers and sons.

Most of all, each of these men passionately loves Jesus.  They are thankful every day for the good news in their life.  It is personal.

So thanks God.  I am blessed to know these men.  I am blessed to work with them.  I am blessed to be part of a group changing the world forever.

And thanks to Juan, Tony, Tim, and Moses.  Your example keeps me fired up to do what God made us to do.  Bring people to Jesus.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Baptism, the Church of Christ, and an apology...

I appreciate my heritage in the Churches of Christ.  One of the things I appreciate is our emphasis on baptism.  But having said that, I feel the need to apologize for what and how we have taught about it.  I know my reflections may not be accurate for all churches of Christ.  And I am aware that some will not agree with me.  So let me say I am apologizing for how I perceive we have been wrong on baptism.  These are my thoughts.

I am sorry that we sometimes rushed past talking about Jesus to focus on baptism.  We really got the cart before the horse.  We baptized almost all the kids raised in our fellowship.  An awful lot of them never found Jesus.  Salvation is about Jesus, not about baptism.  How you respond to a gift is not the same as the gift.

I apologize if we ever communicated that baptism was just one of a series of steps to be checked off of a list.  Baptism is so much more than that.  It is being crucified with Christ and raised to new life.  Sometimes it was not that we thought too much of baptism, it was that we thought too little. It is not a just a step in a checklist.

I wish that we never gave the impression we were the only ones linking baptism, Jesus, and salvation.  The church has doing that since Pentecost.  The idea that baptism is not connected to salvation is a relatively new idea.  It is not as if everyone was wrong for centuries and we suddenly discovered the importance of baptism.  There was no black hole where baptism disappeared between the New Testament and the 1800's.  Baptism, Jesus, and salvation have been linked for a long, long time.

We should never have given the impression that baptism was just about forgiveness of sins.  We sometimes sounded as if baptism was just a cause and effect action.  Baptism is a where we are united with Jesus.  It is a relationship.  That relationship involves forgiveness, the Holy Spirit, and life in the body together.  So much bigger than just forgiveness of sins.

I am sorry if we ever made baptism the basis of judging others.  I believe God is the judge.  If he saves every non-baptized believer I will be thrilled.  But that is his call, not mine.  So I won't tell you that you are going to hell if you are not baptized.

And I apologize if we ever gave the impression it does not matter if you are baptized or not. As if baptism was a Church of Christ requirement but it is fine if your church has a different requirement to respond to Jesus. Baptism does matter.  To all of us.  Not just the Church of Christ.

So am I apologizing for that whole "only members of the Church of Christ going to heaven" thing?  I apologize for that attitude.  I am sorry somehow we acted as if no one but us connected baptism and salvation.  But if you asking me to be judgmental and assure non-baptized people they are saved, then I won't go there.  I will not give assurances that I do not hear God giving.  But of course there have been lots of groups baptizing people into a relationship with Christ.  Not just us.  Body of Christ only?  Yes.  church of Christ?  Yes.  Church of Christ?  No.  

But I am sorry if we ever gave the impression that baptism is on the same level with how the church is organized or how it worships.  (As if the Church of Christ had organization and worship exactly right.  We don't.  Never have.)  Responding to Jesus is much more important than how believers fellowship or worship.  Getting into a relationship with Jesus is much different than how that relationship functions.

And I am sorry about those inane arguments about the person who dies on the way to the baptistery, who can't get in the water, who can't find water, who are just about to decide but die first, who never hear about baptism, etc.  God will handle every situation you can conjure up in a way that is right and just.  My opinion is not binding on God.  Yours is not either.  He will handle every one of those.


I will tell people that Jesus died for our sins so we can be in relationship with God.

If they want that life, they will die with Jesus and be raised to new life with him.

The Bible calls that baptism.

Sorry if we did not make both of those clear.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Bob Allen made a difference...

Bob Allen died last Friday and was buried Monday afternoon.  A lot of people said a lot of nice things about Bob over the past few days.  He was an elder at the Highland church of Christ in Abilene.  He was active in the Abilene civic scene.  And he was my boss during the time I sold ads for the Area-wide Phone Book.

His funeral reflected Bob's life.  His three boys spoke.  Family was a big deal to Bob.  He made them a priority.  The funeral was at his church.  And church involvement was an important part of Bob's life.  Bible study group, eldering, worship.  These were central to his life.  Lots of Abilene civic leaders in attendance.  They appreciated what Bob did to make Abilene a better place to live.  Strong mention of Christian Homes, an organization that is committed to helping young Moms and babies.  Bob served as a Board member for years.  Lots of people there from his days as President of Associated Publishing.  People who respected him, who loved him, who admired the way his Christianity impacted his business life.

I always appreciated Bob.  He gave me a job while I figured out what God wanted me to do.  When I went back in full-time ministry, Bob was one of the people I asked for advice and guidance.  Yes, I asked my boss his advice about leaving to do something else.

Bob believed in me.  He encouraged to follow God's calling.

But here's the thing about Bob.  He was not perfect.  He had his own struggles because he was human.  But he did believe.  And he tried every day to live out his faith.  He made a difference.

His funeral reflected that.

I have preached a lot of funerals.  Attended a lot of funerals.  Sometimes I wonder if the funeral reflects reality.  Bob's did.

So thanks to a man who worked at living out his faith.  Thanks for believing in what God could do in my life.  Thanks for being real.

And thanks for reminding all of us that we want our funerals to reflect the reality of our lives.

So enjoy heaven.  We'll be along shortly.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Nettie Blaisdell is 100 years old...

I think she is the only person I know who is 100 years old.  In fact, I have only known one other person in my whole life who was 100.  My wife's maternal grandfather lived to be almost 103.  I think that is an incredible milestone.  But turning 100 is not what makes Nettie Blaisdell amazing.  Here are some things that do.

She has an amazing family heritage of faith.  She and Walter raised two faithful children.  Nettie has a host of faithful grandkids and even great-grandkids.  She has a right to be proud of her legacy.

I have known her for 63 years.  Yep... all of my life.  Her son Richard has been one of my best friends for as long as I can remember.  Which means she helped raise me too.  I can't count the number of meals eaten, nights spent, and fun times at the Blaisdell house.  Football games, baseball cards, church... she was there through it all.

She still teaches the Cradle Roll at church.  Awesome.  Those babies are loved and inoculated with the love of Jesus because of her.

She is quiet, humble, and would never think she has, or is, doing anything special.

She is wrong.  Her example of faithfulness is an incredible witness.  Her family is her testimony.  The number of lives changed for Jesus by her son Richard cannot be counted.

And there is a piece of Nettie Blaisdell in my ministry.  Because she loved me.   She treated me just like another one of her kids.  She believed in me.

She is a quiet, unsung woman who is one of God's great heroes.

100.  Amazing.

Her faith life.  Even more amazing.

Thank you God for servants like Nettie Blaisdell.  Thanks for men like Richard who make a difference for your Kingdom.  And thanks for letting me be part of their family.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Where was God when Nick died?

I first met Nick when he, his Mom, and his sister started visiting Southern Hills.  They came because their next door neighbors asked them to church.  Nick's girlfriend and her family were visiting Southern Hills while looking for a church home, so Nick got a little more interested in coming to church.

It was Saturday night before Easter.  Nick and his Mom were planning on coming to church the next morning.  Nick even had a new Easter suit he was going to wear.  He was a Junior in high school, an honor roll student, and a gifted musician.

And that night he was killed in automobile accident.  His Mom was injured in the wreck and was in the hospital for almost a week.  Our preacher, Jarrod Robinson, and I did the funeral yesterday.  Buried him in the suit he was going to wear to church.

It always happens in a tragedy you never see coming... questions, questions, and more questions.

But most of them center around this one question:  where was God when Nick died?

So I want to tell you where I saw God this week.

I saw God in the mom's hospital room.  Visits from so many of our members.  Mary, the next door neighbor, and Cherisse, the girlfriend's Mom, were amazing in crying with, taking care of, and just being with her.  Lots of prayers said in that room.  Lots of hugs and tears too.  Lots of God words spoken into her life.

God was there when we gathered to celebrate the life of Nick.  He was there when His Word was spoken.  He was there when words of comfort were shared.  He was there in the memories shared.  He was there when the Wylie band played It Is Well.

He was there at the graveside when Scripture, prayers, memories, hugs, and love were being shared by people who love Nick, his family, and his friends.

I saw God when precious sisters prepared and served a meal for the family afterwards.  I saw it when one of them shared her story of losing a teenage daughter.

So where was God when Nick was killed?  Where is always is... right in the middle of our lives.  In our hugs.  In our service.  In our tears.  He is among us in our prayers, our words, our meals, our songs, and our sharing.

He is where He always is... among us.  Seen thru his people following Him.  Letting our lives of love point to Him.

So God thanks for being among us when Nick died.  Thanks for your people seeing with your eyes and serving as your hands.  Thank you for people who reflect your heart.  Thank you for being there.  May we all see you more clearly.

Thursday, April 09, 2015


Mission creep is going to kill the church...

Every church wants to grow.  And, if they are honest, a whole of churches worry about not being around in the future.  There is one absolute certain way to ensure that your church does not die:  make new disciples.  If you are constantly reaching new people for Jesus, you will grow.  Followers making followers is the mission of the church.  Almost every church I speak at will say that is their mission, or it is vitally important, or that they really want to reach the lost.  But the reality does not match the rhetoric.

By the way, if your church does not see evangelism as critical, then you do not have to read the rest of this. Your church is not going to make it anyway.

Mission creep is killing the church.  Mission creep is when you think you are on point with the purpose.  It is when you lose focus without even realizing it.  It is when you talk about the mission without noticing that talk is all you do about the mission.  Or you assume everyone is on point with what really matters, yet no one is talking about it or doing it.

So here are some signs that a church has mission creep.

When leadership discussions about the future are primarily about how to keep our young people from leaving.

Your big worry is about losing members, not making new ones.

You deceive yourself into thinking that troop transfer (having Christians leave their current church to come to yours) is actually growth.

Most of your talk about mission is about "over there" and not right here.

Your young people can go on mission trips year after year and never have to talk about Jesus.

Your ministry staff is more about doing for the flock than sharing Jesus in your community.

Your hire pastors, not evangelists.

Your people can argue about worship activities and women's roles, but not share their faith with a non-believer.

Most of your members are at least third generation Christians.

You never give an public invitation to non-Christians to engage in conversation about Jesus.

You never celebrate/announce/bless new converts.

When every baptism you can remember was one of your own children.

When you do talk about reaching lost people, it is about what you need to do to be ready to reach them.  Never about actually talking to them.

Mission creep.  It will kill your church.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015


Why I love my wife and am proud of her

Yesterday Marsha turned 62.  Yeah I told her age.  She doesn't care -- and I love that about her.  Of course, when you do not look your age it is nice to announce it so everyone is amazed.  So here is my birthday tribute.  why I love her and am proud of her.

I tell my grands all the time there are four things they want in a husband or wife.  their Mimi is a good example of why.

She loves God and Jesus.  Loves them more than she loves me.  That love is what drives her to take care of her parents. It is why we have stayed married for almost 42 years.  It is why I am an elder (in fact, having her as an elder's wife is probably the main reason I'm an elder).  She buys in to giving our lives to people.  Loving God is why we have people in our home, why we share our time and resources with those in need.  It is why people seek her out for advice and a loving ear.  Loving ear, not just listening ear.  Loving God is why she teaches Bible class and why we serve as mentoring couples.  It is why we share Jesus.

She loves me.  I am thankful for that every day.  She is a stay-er.  And a keeper.  When times get hard, she is someone to count on.  Even when I am not always lovable, she loves me.

She loves babies and kids.  At this stage of her life, that means her grands.  They are so blessed to have a Mimi that loves them, supports them, hugs them, does an incredible cousin camp, and that makes the best Easter/birthday/back to school, July 4, well... just about any special day... baskets and goody sacks.  They know that she unconditionally loves them.  And of course that love spills over onto lots of other kids.

She loves dogs.  Some people wonder about this one, but I believe that dog lovers are good people.  And Mimi is.  She is just of those genuinely sweet, good people.  She prays for people.  She checks on people.  She serves people.  That is because she is a good person.  I know that when I saw she loved dogs.  Still does by the way.

Loves God, loves me, loves babies, loves dogs.  That is the kind of person I want my grands to marry.  I guess that is because that is the kind of person I married.

Second best decision I ever made.  Picking Jesus was the best.  Picking Marsha was the second.

And making those two decisions has made everything else OK.

So thanks God for the wife, daughter, Mom, Mimi and friend that Marsha is to so many.

Love her and am so proud she is mine.

I am a happy man.

Thursday, April 02, 2015


The secret sin we do not talk about...

I do not think I have ever heard a sermon on it.  I never hear it confessed.  No one asked for prayers to do better with it.  Yet I know many people who commit this sin.  I hear it casually discussed with a whole list of excuses.

The Bible says if you commit this sin you have denied the faith.  That is strong language.  Denied the faith.  If you are guilty of this, your actions announce that you do not believe in Christianity.

Scripture also says that committing this sin makes you worse than a non-believer.  This is serious sin we are talking about.

And it is not something you do.  It is something you fail to do.

So what is this horrible sin that we fail to identify or confront?

Failure to take care of your relatives, especially your immediate family.

If your parents, your spouse, or your kids have needs, as a Christian you have to take care of them.  If not, you are not living as a Christian.

Physical needs.  So bathe your elderly parents.  Wipe their butt.  Haul them to the Doctor.  Cook.  Clean.  Mow the yard.  If you live to far away to do this, then ensure that it gets done.  Hire someone to clean the house.  Set up home health.  Spend what it takes.

Emotional needs.  Talk to your parents.  .  Pick up the phone.  Go by the house.  Listen to their stories.  Go visit.

Take care of your kids emotional needs.  Make sure your kids are emotionally secure.  Listen to them.  Be the parent.  Wipe the tears.  Hug lots.  

Spiritual needs.  Do not make sure your children have everything they need -- or even want -- in terms of physical things (clothes, big house, car, etc, etc) and then not equip them spiritually.  Talk to them about Jesus, read Scripture, pray for them and with them.  Get everyone to church.  Serve together.  Have Christians over for meals.

Take care of your parents spiritual needs also.  Let them talk to you about dying.  Help them get to church.  Sing, pray, read to them.  Do communion.  If you live away, make your visits count.  Check in with their church home and make sure someone is seeing them.

And if your mate gets sick, take care of them.  If they get Alzheimer's, care for them as long as possible.

Taking care of your family will consume your time, energy, and money.  You may feel like there is no time left over for you.

Yes, and that is called being a faithful follower of Jesus.

If you do not care for your family, you are worse than the non-believers and you have renounced your faith.

So here is a salute to all of you doing real ministry in your families.  Thanks to my sister and to my sister-in-law.  Special thanks to my wife.  And to my daughter.

And thanks to the kids, spouses, and parents who are carrying an enormous burden caring for their loved ones.  They do it because it is ministry.  They do it because they follow Jesus.  They do it because it is right.

You testify to the truth of the Jesus story.  Your life witness is powerful.  God is honored.

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