Thursday, December 28, 2017


The four reasons I am going to listen more this year...

OK.  Let me just get this out of the way.  I am a talker.  I am verbal and I am not shy. But those qualities also make it harder for me to be a good listener. 

So one of my resolutions is to be a better listener this year.  After all, James 1:19 says to be quick to listen, so it is a spiritual discipline. 

I have recently been in four conversations that helped me see why I am a better disciple of Jesus when I really listen.

I occasionally stopped talking long enough to listen to everyone talking around our table at Christmas.  Listening to my Mom and to Marsha.  Hearing my kids and grandkids.  Love expressed.  Joy, faith, encouragement.  I was literally watching one generation lead the next generation to deeper, richer faith in Jesus.  It was a moment of great inspiration and conviction about what God is doing in the lives of my family.

I spent four hours in conversation (yes I spoke a lot but I also listened intently) with our small group talking about what it means to be church.  Six people with great love and passion about living out our faith.  We have done life together for a long time so they all  have great credibility with me.  Every one of them said something that made me understand more about what it is to live as church.  Lots of things said about Jesus, family, faith, love, church, and what that looks like.  I learned. 

I sat at lunch with a close friend and listened as he talked about life with his wife who suffers from Alzhiemers.  I don't think he will ever know how much my faith grows by hearing him.  And yes, he asks and listens to the things going on in my life.  But I hear so much love, faith, and real life from him.  I need his voice in my life.

And I had a short conversation with a couple facing a serious diagnosis of fast growing cancer.  I heard their words of confidence and faith.  I went over to encourage them and I left thinking about how glad I am that this world is not my home and that God has something better than here waiting for me.  I am stronger because of their faith. 

It is really hard for a talker to be a good listener.  But this year I am going to try harder. 

Maybe if I really listen I can even do better when I do speak or give spiritual counsel. 

But most of all, when I really listen, I become a better follower of Jesus. 

So thanks to my friends and family who spoke into my life these past few days. 

I heard, and you blessed me.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


How to celebrate Christmas this year

Here are a few ways to celebrate Christmas this year.

Talk about Jesus.  Tell your family what he means to you.  Get them to share what he has done for them this past year.

Do something to serve your neighbors. 

Eat together.  Have people over.  Go out to eat.  Party lots.  The Bible has lots to say about the fellowship of eating together.

Worship with your family and your people.  Go to a Christmas Eve service.  Have home church.  Do something that draws your family together around the manger that becomes a cross.

Celebrate a baptism.  Call a new convert and tell them that celebrating the birth of Jesus reminded you to celebrate their new birth. 

Tell the people you have been talking to about Jesus that this is a good time to be born again. 

Give gifts. 

Give something that matters to someone less fortunate than yourself.  Share a meal with them.  Take them shopping.  Be there.

Give your time.  Talk, really talk, to the people that matter.

Find the lonely person and include them.  The college kid stuck at school.  The single parent who doesn't have the kids.  The old people whose kids aren't coming in.

Tell the story of Jesus.  Even better if you tell it to someone who doesn't know it.

I love Christmas.  Love, family, food, giving, and Jesus.  I wish I could do Christmas all the time.

And I do.  I'm a Christian. We do this stuff all the time.

Thanks God.

Thursday, December 14, 2017


Do not let baby Jesus become Jesus lite...

Everybody loves a baby and baby Jesus is no exception.  We are coming into that time of year when our culture is actually aware of Jesus.  You will see manger scenes in yards and on mantles.  Buttons are worn announcing “Jesus is the reason for the season.” 
Churches make sure you hear about baby Jesus.  Live nativity scenes.  Christmas plays and programs.  Baby dolls, or live babies, and swaddling clothes all to represent baby Jesus.  Cute, and sweet, and precious. 
Who doesn’t like Christmas and baby Jesus?
And I think we Christians need to very careful about the message we send. 
Because if baby Jesus is all we present, we are showing a “lite” version of Jesus.  After all, babies make no demands.  Babies do not demand that you deny yourself, take up a cross, and follow them. 
But baby Jesus grew up to be the Savior who died on the cross.  And he asks us to die with him.  
Do not leave Jesus in the manger.  

Do not let baby Jesus become Jesus lite.  

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Should we celebrate Advent or do advent

Many churches are in the midst of Advent during the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.  Some churches formally announce Advent and some just preach on the themes of Advent:  joy, peace, hope, love.  

And yes I know Advent is not in the Bible.  And I know it was heavily driven by the Catholic church.  But you see more and more churches celebrating Advent.  Here is what I am most commonly told when I ask people what Advent is.  It is the celebration of the announcement (advent) of Jesus coming into our world. So we celebrate the Incarnation -- baby Jesus coming into our world to save us from our sins.

But here is the interesting thing about Advent.  It is actually about two comings.  One is the announcement that Jesus came into our world.  The second is the announcement that he is coming back.

Whether it is formal Advent (with trees and wreaths and candles and colors) or whether it is advent (let's remember that Jesus came into our world), it is a time of celebration of that wonderful announcement from long ago that "unto us a Savior is born."

So here is my question.  Should Advent (or advent) be a celebration of an announcement or should it be the announcement.  Maybe this is the time of year to celebrate the good news announcement we heard and believe.  But maybe advent is more.  Should this season be a time not just to celebrate but to announce.

Our world needs to hear the good news of  advent.  Proclaim to your friends and family the good news that a Savior has been born for them.  Every church should be announcing to their community and neighborhood that Jesus came to save us from our sins.

I get the celebration.  Good for us.  But maybe if we did more announcing of the coming... good for them.  

And if you really want to celebrate Advent, celebrate the second coming of Jesus.  In a hard world where believers are persecuted and living as aliens in our culture, it is good news that Jesus is coming back so we can live with the Lord forever.

Our world needs to know the announcement that Jesus arrived to save us.

Church needs to know the announcement that he is coming back to take us to our real home.

Maybe we need not so much attention on the celebrating of Advent for four Sundays for an hour or so.

Maybe we need a whole lot more attention on doing advent. 

And that is the advent I can do all year long. 

Thursday, December 07, 2017


Well Done Tony Ash...

There were Bible professors that I learned a lot from, and there were professors that I liked.  Tony Ash was the rare teacher that both taught me a lot and that I really liked.  Everybody has great Tony stories, but here are two of my favorites.

I was in his office one day when the phone rang.  He told me it was his wife calling to thank him for the flowers.  He then told me to answer the phone.  I did and identified myself.  Barbara never missed a beat.  She just told me to tell Tony thanks for the flowers and hung up.  I thought that was pretty cool.  They were well suited.

I played a lot of basketball with Tony.  He told me one day that my jump shot was like a frog.  Great jumping ability but I had to squat too low to get it started.  So for the next forty or so years every time Tony saw me -- even if I was in the audience listening to him preach -- he would ask if my jump shot still looked like a frog. Kinda cool ... and kinda embarrassing.  But always said in a way that made me feel good.

So here a few things I learned from Tony.  Take care of your body.  Love your wife.  Read C.S. Lewis.  Read Scripture out loud.  Really good Bible students can be pretty cool.  Don't quit.  Don't give up.  Preaching is fun.  Never get old.

He was a good man who loved talking about Jesus.  He was always good to me.  He made a difference. 

Well done Tony.  Well done.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017


No longer an elder, still your shepherd

For those that do not know, I did resign as an elder at Southern Hills.  This is the letter I submitted for the congregation.

Steve Resignation Statement

I am resigning today as an elder of Southern Hills.
However, just because I am no longer an elder does not mean that Marsha and I are not available to you.

If you still want to consider me as “your” shepherd, please know Marsha and I are available to pray with you, speak truth into your life, give spiritual advice and counsel, and walk with you through the hard times.  Just as we always have.

And above all, if you want to know more about Jesus, please let us know.  We love to share the story of the one who gives life.

We love you.

I think this is pretty much who we were before I was an elder, who we were while I was an elder, and who we still are now that I am not an elder.

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