Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Interpreting -- or changing -- Scripture

The more I listen to churches -- all types of churches -- the more I hear a common theme about church divisions, splits, and general lack of unity.  People will say churches divide over worship issues, women's roles, church organization, even how to be saved.  But I am convinced these are not the real issue.

I believe the major cause of church division is how we view Scripture.  I know we use Scripture to argue all sides of the above issue but most of the time I think it really is a matter of different views of Scripture:  rule book, general guidebook, every word inspired, written by good men but just men, inspired but only for then and there not here and now.

Well, you get the picture.  It would really be helpful if we would learn how to talk about our view of Scripture.  For example, I often hear the phrase "we just interpret that differently."  We use that phrase to explain why we believe differently on certain issues.  I get the need for God's people to use scholarship, prayer, the Holy Spirit, community of faith, church history, etc. to interpret Scripture.

But interpreting Scripture is to ask what it means for us.  It does not mean changing what Scripture says.

One example.  I Timothy where Paul says elders are to be the husband of one wife.

Interpretation:  Only married once.  Or widowed and remarried.  Or divorced and remarried.  Or widowed but not remarried.  All these are ways in which husband of one wife can be interpreted.  All versions of elders are married men.

Not Interpretation: if they are married -- or woman of one husband -- or husband of one husband.
These all fundamentally change the meaning of husband of one wife.  You may believe these positions but not because you interpret that Scripture differently.  It is because you do not believe that Scripture applies to the current situation.  You may have any number of reasons for believing that, but it is not a matter of interpretation.  No one reads husband of one wife and says "oh, that means single men, or married women, or same sex relationships.

Let's just be honest with each other about what we mean when we are talking about what God meant.

God, help us to know and understand your word.  Help us to grant each other grace and peace as we work thru what the Bible means.  But Father, I do not believe you were careless with however your Spirit inspired the writers of Scripture.  So help me, and all those who seek you, to be careful with your message to us.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Jesus is not buying into the American dream

You know the American dream.  Come to America and find freedom.  Anyone can grow up to become President.  Lift yourself to a better life by working hard.  Pick yourself up by your bootstraps and become healthy, wealthy, and wise.  You are the master of your own destiny.  Every generation in your family can have it better than the generation before.

Jesus talks about dying to self, taking up the cross, and following him.  Baptism is even described as dying with Jesus.  He said that we would have trouble in this world.  He said we would be persecuted for his sake.  He said the world would hate us because it hates him.

Jesus said ask and he would give.  But if we do not receive, it is because we are asking for ourselves.  He emphasizes selfless living, never selfish.  He talks about his followers as people who are not at home in this world.  

The American dream is rooted in some idealistic version of fair play and equality.  May the best man (or woman) win.  If you have read much American history at all, you will realize how untrue the American dream really is, but many cling to that idealized version of what it is to be an American.

The Jesus way is rooted in the idea that life is not fair.  Jesus and the cross.  Not fair.  

The American dream says you have certain rights.  Even claim these rights are from our Creator. 

Jesus says to give up our rights to follow him.  Give up our rights so we can live in community together as believers.  

American dream is to be a self-made man.  Independent.  Free.

Jesus says real freedom is found in becoming his slave.  Surrendering everything to follow him.  He is the source of every good thing we have.  God gets the glory.  

Jesus says life is found in him.  Real liberty is found in surrender to him.  Happiness is found in being faithful to him.

America says you can find hope, peace, and joy by what you do.

Jesus says you can find hope, peace, and joy by giving up self to follow him.  He is the source of life.

If you pursue the American dream, you may be sorely disappointed and left wanting more.  

Pursue Jesus and find life.  Forever.

God I was raised in America and I know there are things I have because of that.  Things the world values.  But thank you for parents that taught me where to find the things that are really valuable.  Jesus things.  I promise to help others find true freedom in your son.     

Thursday, February 09, 2017


No I can't -- and won't -- try to help you anymore

I think every Christian wrestles with how to help our brothers and sisters who are living with sin.  Of course, I do not mean that we are all expected to lead sinless lives.  Impossible.  But I am talking about the member of our church family who is entangled in sin to the point it will destroy them.  Sinful relationships, sinful addictions, lifestyle choices.

As an elder, I am especially convicted to help those in my flock who are in spiritual trouble.  It may be someone convicted of their sin who seeks me out.  Or someone who was caught in their sin and that has brought them to their senses.

My regular readers know that I believe Marsha and I are gifted as the "triage" elder couple.  Addictions, shattered marriages, public humiliation.  I frequently state publicly that there is no sin for which our flock cannot come to us and seek help.  And that God is the great fixer of our messes.  We stress forgiveness, managing consequences, and changing lives.

We will get down in the mud, blood, and mess of lives for as long as it takes.  And have.  Sometimes for years.


There are some people I will not help.

I will not spend time with the person who will not admit what they have done (or are doing) is wrong.  I do not have the time or energy to try and convince Christians why certain actions are not acceptable for the Jesus follower.  I need to hear them say it was -- or is -- wrong.

I do not have time for the person who admits they are wrong, but just want to explain how their mess is really everyone else's fault.  Their mate, God, financial pressure, the church, and on and on.  I am interested in helping the one who confesses they have sinned.

I don't want to spend time on the person who does not want to be there.  Parents, mate, boss, another elder, or someone told them to talk to me.  Only if they repent -- and by that I mean acknowledge that they need, and want, to change am I willing to invest in their lives.

And we end our time together when they do not accept my counsel.  Not because I am always right, but because all I know to do is offer advice based on Scripture, my life experience, and years of helping others battle -- and overcome -- their demons.  So if they say they do have to talk one more time with the other woman, or they can't just quit their job, or there is no way they are going to a professional counselor, or there is no way they are going to tell someone where they are every second of the day ... well, then I am out.  My advice may be wrong and I always tell them that if they think my advice is poor then go to someone else.  All I can do is give what I believe to be sound spiritual advice.  If they don't buy it, then we are both wasting our time.

So there are times when I say "sorry but I can't help you."  It took me a long time to learn that.

Maybe this will help some of you decide when it is time to cut people loose.  Doesn't mean you don't love them.  Just means you are not the one to help them.  And if they really want help, God will connect them with those who will help them.  It just may not be me.  Or you.

so God help me to always be there for those in trouble.  I have seen you do amazing things in my life and in the lives of others.  Help me to always give strong spiritual counsel.  But help me have the wisdom and courage to know when it is time to move on. 

Tuesday, February 07, 2017


I Don't Want to Write and Talk More than I Live

Those of you who regularly read my blog (and I really appreciate both of you) know that I am a huge fan of doers, not just talkers -- or writers.  I am drawn to preachers and writers who are doing what they talk about.  It is easy for those of us who write, preach, or shepherd (or teach or parent) to fall into the trap of telling people what to do without also showing them how to do.  It becomes easy to tell others to do what I am not doing in my own life.

I go all over the world talking to non-believers about Jesus.  And I spend the rest of my time talking to Christians in an effort to equip and motivate them to talk about Jesus.  But that is what Marsha and I do right here in Abilene.  We share Jesus.  That is not part of my job.  My church does not pay me to do this.  It is what we believe and who we are.  And it has to be.  If not, I am missing the point.

So let me encourage those of you who talk -- in whatever capacity -- or who write (including your facebook posts) to be sure you are doing first.

And I am big on local, not just away from home ministry.  If the only time I talk about Jesus is when I am on the road and on the job -- then I am missing the point.  I am not against short-term missions to care for orphans or serve the needy (or even talk about Jesus).  Unless that is the only time you do it.  There are poor, hungry, needy, and lost people where you live.

And I believe in individual and family action much more than church programs (and certainly more than legislative action).  Writing about the failure of your country, or your political leader, to act the way you believe Jesus would is misplaced anyway.  America is not God's nation and most of our leaders are not Jesus people.

And even talking and writing about how your church (note to self:  my church) is not doing the things you think it should might you feel better, but it probably changes nothing.  But what you do in the lives of people changes everything.

So be careful about you write and say.  Live it first.

So put your life where your mouth is.  Start where you live. Stop using all your energy and emotion on getting programs changed, started, or stopped.  You change.  You start.  You stop.

Until we do more than we speak or write, I am not sure we really have much to say.

I do realize that speaking and writing about how to be in people's lives is much easier and less risky than actually being in people's lives.

My righteousness needs to be from God and not from self.  And it is awful easy to be self-righteous when just writing or speaking.  

And yes, I realize I preach and write a lot.  But I am more committed to living it.  I always want my words to flow out of my life.

And believe me, I do know how much easier it is to post or talk than it is to live.  But if we are going to lead in our families, our churches, and in our world ... then live it first.

So God help me look at my life first.  Help me to live before -- and more than -- I speak or write.    

Thursday, February 02, 2017


Declaring war on death

I have been thinking quite a bit about death lately.  Not because I am morbid -- and no, I did not get bad news from the Doctor.

But we did just put Marsha's Dad on hospice.  Just buried her Mom a couple of months ago.

In the past weeks, two young families I know lost babies.

Another family buried their 15 year old daughter.

Close friends had a memorial service for their grown son.

So, yeah, I have been thinking about death.

And I hate death.  Death is the enemy.

Death is one of Satan's weapons.  He lied about it to Adam and Eve.  He lies about it to us.  He uses death, and the fear of death, to rob us of health, joy, peace, hope, and, well... life.

It happens to all of us.  Sooner.  Or later.

But Jesus has defeated death.  He was raised from the dead never to die again.

Because I believe in Jesus, I too will overcome death.  The grave will not hold me.  Jesus is coming back and will raise me from the dead never to die again.  I will live forever.

The people I mentioned above believe in Jesus.  So parents will hold those babies.  And their teenager.  And their grown son.  They will be raised.  They will live.

So I am going to fight death (and Satan) with the one thing that truly frightens them.  Jesus.

I am going to tell people about Jesus.  And every time that someone decides to follow Jesus then death is defeated.

The power of death is taken away by Jesus.  No fear because we will be raised from the dead.  Observe how Christians die.  It is amazing how many do not fear it, but even embrace it.

Because of Jesus.

So take that death.  We will sing thru tears of grief, we will overcome fear, we will win.  Because of Jesus.

And if you don't like it, what's the worst you can do me?  Take my life?  Then the joke is on you.

Jesus beat you, and because of him ... so do I.

We win.  You lose.  We live.  Because of Jesus.

So God, in a week where I have had to think about death a lot... thank you.  Thank you for life thru your son and for the promise of the resurrection.  I will keep telling people the good news that thru Jesus we live.  Forever.

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