Monday, June 30, 2008


Some speakers are lightning rods. By that I mean to have some men on lectureships, workshops, or invited to speak at local congregations is to cause disruption due to what radical things they might say. Such are known as lightning rods; they will attract criticism and the Lord knows that's one thing we sure don't stand for in the true church. After all, He never was involved in such reckless speakers.

Or was He?

Regardless of how careful leaders of any of the above venues desire to be, they can count on one thing: God will wreck our lives on occasion. Do you really think that Jesus, Peter, James, John, and Paul were not lightning rods? Do you really believe each was tossed into prison for double parking their camels? Do you really believe they were careful not to offend their audience? Do you really believe they never ruffled feathers?

No, theirs was a much different climate than ours. We have so established the true church that we have weeded out the lightning rods. No storms allowed among some. Peaceful like cemeteries....that's our motto. By the way....where are our children going to church once they graduate from high school and get out on their own?

I know....just another blog post from a lightning rod.


How we think feeds our path. Thinking is key. Defending sometimes requires no thinking. One can defend a doctrine because he believes he read a verse which says such, but doesn't bother to think about it. Simon of Luke 7 was passing judgment; but he wasn't thinking. To think does not prove a good day. It's how we think which helps us pass the test.

Philippians 4:4-9 is a passage regarding peace. Peace hinges on how we choose to think. If we let our mind dwell on the things which haven't worked, we will find ourselves possibly consumed with the ability to state facts but not hope. Yet, if we will practice the call of these verses to rehearse in our minds the things in life which are excellent, lovely, and worthy of praise, odd and wonderful life begins to flow from the exact same person. The way we think makes or breaks our lives.

To think well is not insurance against matters going wrong. It is training to see life through the storms arriving at the beauty of the rainbow which would not be there except for the unwanted storm. Lemons really do make lemonade when our thinking keeps from going sour!

Sunday, June 29, 2008


We have had such a tremendous day at Memorial. I just love getting to be a part of a happy and productive group. My day started as always with a few guys at 7:30 to pray for an hour. That's a must for me. If I don't get with Him and them, it won't be as good of a day.

Interacting with the many members is a privilege I always note as special. This morning I sat briefly before class to visit with Amelia May. She is one of Memorial's living angels and everyone would amen me on that. Our conversation was a gift from above. We discussed how to think positively in challenging times and I got so much from our talk.

The assembly was terrific....again! Craig Hicks spent a good amount of time recognizing each of our members who served in the military. Linda Scott had a small gift handed out by the children for each honoree. Then, Brad Scott announced VBS plans including a fashion show of the past ten years' VBS t-shirts and the revelation of this year's!

Our whole morning from greetings to class to worship was a party! We love being together and watching for God to work. Several requested we pray for them at the invitation. Three were baptized with anticipation for a fourth.

Our people are grateful, enthused, and struck with a clear case of joy to the Highest!

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Do you really get it that you are a new man? New woman? New person? You are new! I am new!

The fun part of the kingdom is newness is a major factor. We are raised to walk in newness. We are new every morning. We are new day by day. WE ARE NEW !!!

You are a new employee or you are a new boss. You are a new neighbor. You are the newest member of your family. You are a new Christian.

What does this do in the range of practicality? It allows us to shed the cumbersome mentals of yesterness. It thrusts us into the wonderful zone of….wonder!

The next time someone says to you, “What’s new?” Quickly respond, “I am!”

Friday, June 27, 2008


We live but are we really alive in the process? Iraneus wrote that the glory of God is man fully alive. I bask in the thought. Man alive brings life to whatever he applies himself to: employment, family, exercise, etc. Everything comes alive when an alive person is present. Church is never more alive than when really alive members form the congregation. One needs to know this because general life has suffered erosion and has been reduced to "getting by" or "just getting through the day".

I once believed the main call of God was to get men and women to go to heaven. Now I believe it is to be alive in both places; earth now and heavenly residence later. One must factor that the reason we are so alive on earth now is our citizenship is presently (not just future) in heaven. The reason I believe it is the contrast Jesus makes when he said, "The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly." Abundant life is his call.

How does Thief Life appear? Dismal. Can't see the good in anything. Doubtful. Rigid. Unforgiving. Incessant worry. Convinced if things are going to be done right self must oversee it. And Abundant Life? It is the opposite. Sharp. Visionary. Hopeful. Flexible. Has no interest in keeping track of offenses. Complete trust. Filled with grace that all things will work out even in the presence of attack, confusion, weariness, and death.

What makes the difference? One is of the Thief. The other is of the Christ. "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me." Let it be said of each of us that we possess abundant life and not robbed-by-the-thief life.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Do you ever get tired? I'm not referencing fatigue from physical labor or even busy calendars. I am talking about the weariness which settles upon us due to the many burdens we carry for others. Today I just seem so tired. My attitude feels good, but my heart is weighted. I have the best life on earth. I live a life of ten people...maybe eleven! But today I'm worn and so I write as there's just a great chance some of you are as well.

I'm tired because there is so much need in society and I don't have the creativity to get to it...not a thimble full.

There was a murder in West Tulsa early yesterday. One from OKC called with contact numbers asking me to offer assistance. I am trying to reach the surviving husband. A couple dear to my heart is having severe stress and my heart is frustrated because I have no glue. I'm reaching to Nashville and Abiline to gather help for March's workshop and to St. Louis to continue to build a gigantic golf tournament to benefit Tulsa Public Elementary Schools for 2009.

Now I don't need some wise-cracker to pull up one of my own blogs and refresh me on having a faithful attitude! I know what to do and I know how it goes and I won't be giving up. But I take this moment of feeling overwhelmed, to say to those reading this who feel likewise, that sometimes it just hits. Certainly hundreds of thousands are out there feeling similarly. I'm not down; just tired. I don't need sympathy. I just desire to figure how to get more mileage out of this one life.

So dear reader, all I can offer for the moment is you are not alone. Our God is huge. Society's burdens are numerous. We are thread-bare and little. The Holy Spirit must do His magificent work among us....oh please, Dear God, do.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


When I was a kid I thought Christmas would n-e-v-e-r get here. The last half of my life I have viewed the big holiday with “Already?” Time simply flies. Does it bother you that many of those you watch on television and old movies are dead? New announcements of another celeb’s death continue to march. Point? Life truly is as the Bible states…a vapor. It seems so big; and then so quickly gone.

Why won’t some invest seriously in God before their death? It’s coming upon each so rapidly. Jesus broke the chains of death and yet multitudes refuse to give him a look. Why is that? I suggest one reason: it’s embarrassing to be a grown person and enter a zone one knows nothing about. Therefore it’s easier to act like we could care less about God when in actuality; the older one gets the heavier the concern.

Saving face or saving your soul? Which is more important? Would you rather live eternally without God than to humble yourself by saying to someone, “I don’t have a clue what the Bible says or means. Would you help me?” Isn’t such a stark and foolish trade-off? Preserving your standing in front of your colleagues rather than your God when one will wilt like the striking of a match and the other will be forever?

My friend, don’t act like you could care less about God when in reality you mean you simply don’t know where to start. Every preacher I know and every believer I know has more questions than we do answers. We don’t go to church because we know everything. Such is our confession we can’t help ourselves and God must. I spend too many hours standing with the grieving. At times it’s torturous as the heartbreak is radical. So I ask any who aren’t into this God-thing, would you reconsider? You can only last so long before yours is the next coffin. If you must, ask someone in secret but ask a friend to help you with this eternity issue. It’s the most important decision of your life. Ironically, you already know it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Several factors intimidate the best of hearts from reaching to their relatives or neighbors with the delightful news of Jesus. I've probably experienced and endured nearly all of them personally. My Christian walk began with enormous desire to share the gospel, but was overwhelmed with the sheer burden of the task. At first and as a gospel preacher, I just couldn't do it.

Therefore, I'm sympathetic to the many reasons any hesitate. One in particular is most concerning: the church has made it too hard to remember how the good news actually goes. Loaded down with multiple and conflicting proof-texts while being well-warned of all those many false prophets, our people have become convinced we will not remember how it goes and most likely will get it wrong if we dare try. Therefore, the general population of the church lives frozen and mute; unable to move with confidence to extend their faith to another. We have concluded that refusing to share the life in Christ with others is a better option than taking a stab at sharing and getting it fouled up.

This is most tragic, indeed. Shame on the Barney Fife's among us who, with whistle and badge, sound their warnings when a teaching fails to tickle their ears. Yes, there are those who relay the Word with devious intention. But such isn't true for the majority of us. We are simple believers with grateful hearts who have been talked out of approaching other very good people because we cannot, for the life of us, remember the coordinates as to what it is we are supposed to say we believe! Shame on the loud critics; especially those who could not teach their own neighbor either. Our people gave up because they got the message that most likely our message is wrong.

Tell the world Jesus saves. Advise all concerned to hide in Jesus by being buried in him. Disregard the tinkerers, judgers, and spinners of "best faith". Find out for yourself what you believe and share what little you know with others....with great confidence! Most likely the recipients will be happy to add your kind gesture to the mix as they search for God. You know way too many wonderful things to keep such treasures buried in respectable, acceptable, comfortable fear.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Have we ever lived just one week of life where we discovered we didn’t need to make personal adjustments? Isn’t there always something in the education or new in the awareness which requires we bid farewell to a trait and hello to a new concept? We no more than get used to the new us and, ta da, there is the call for the additionally new, restructured us.

Not only do we desire to improve, grow up, and keep current on our education/information, we desperately want to fit in. This self-at-the-center desire is a buried land mine of trouble. As we grow to be like Jesus we will find we fit in with some we would have never guessed. Too, we will as quickly discover we have new found disapproval ratings off the charts.

Jesus warned us of being liked by everyone; yet such a hunger tends to rule so many. How we want to prove him wrong. He was clear that his followers would find extreme opposition in the world; yet we try to defy such rationale and hold hands with everyone. This won’t work. Popularity was not a fruit of Jesus. Look at his earthly walk.

We have many wonderful things going among, within, and about us. Being courageous may not be one of our best. Exactly as in Jesus day, the religious-leading, proof-texting, error-branding loudest are a nuisance to the body of Christ today….always in the name of truth. If you are a young leader and you think you are going to serve God by keeping everybody happy you may have already surrendered your commitment to truth. Which of the prophets did they not kill? Jesus was not an exception, either.

I like people. And, I like being liked. As a matter of fact, being disliked hurts my heart more than most things. But such is a must in the kingdom of the King. We cannot and will not avoid this issue. Being prideful and haughty about doctrinal stances or envisioning work for the Christ is very wrong. Being cowardly and self-preserving in the presence of the religiously boisterous or the worldly raucous is equally tragic. Take heed, good leader; you will not escape the need to be thoroughly courageous against the desire to be liked by everyone in camp. It just won’t and can’t happen.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I wasn't in the church long until I found myself in conversations which expressed much disgruntlement over the smallness and faithlessness of "them". It was never about those within the discussion circle. It was pretty much "their" fault as to why the church was in irreparable disarray.

Likely we have all been guilty of such talk.

I urge you, yea remind you, to speak so as to give grace to those who hear. We shall not deny we have much need to grow up and to grow into wonderful new zones of God's fortune. However, He is looking for a few good men (and women) who will express their stance by faith and not by doubt.

If He led the church to begin with awe He can do it again. If He urged the church to be enthused by His riches, and power, and glory He can do it again. God knows how to make mole hills out of mountains. Furthermore, we believe He can.

So, let us scratch our negative views of the church regarding where it is not and begin to put our faith where our mouth is to speak great, robust life into the very grand scheme of kingdom things. With God all things are possible; including converting nay-sayers into yea-sayers!

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Earth is such a earthlings. We are more educated than ever; yet society doesn't seem to be improving. We have much bigger selections; but satisfaction doesn't keep pace. Opportunities should be greater; however so much of the populace can't function responsibly or independently. We are emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually challenged in very many areas. Read the front page of any newspaper on any day and deny this is true.

There is one thing which seems to offer sure-fire blessing every time: death.

Death is valuable. It works. II Cor. 4:12 says so. Beyond the scriptural fact, one can simply look at life around and it reaches its pinnacle at death. I just watched an hour long re-run of a talk show discussing Tim Russert's funeral. Death did it again. It brought out the best in those remaining.

Due to the death of their endearing colleague and friend, each guest abandoned senses of sarcasm, brashness, and indifference. Smugness yielded to kindness. Closedness sought openness. Rudeness was replaced by tenderness. Death strikes a blow to selfishness and opens all of the windows for the fresh air of love to be both seen and sensed.....and harvested.

How blessed we are that God saw ahead of time that to lose ourselves would be to find the real us. To let go would be the route to find life worth possessing. God is a Genius!

Friday, June 20, 2008


Last Sunday I preached that three descriptions Paul labeled upon himself are the exact three titled above. Paul is convinced of something absolutely pertinent as a leader in God's outrageous kingdom. All of His servants who should be so fortunate to find themselves in a leading role in the church are to be certain each is absolutely, undeniably a zero.

This is most challenging to a society as America's. We thrive on the opposite: spectacular, somebody, and better-than-the-other saints. I believe it's true we would ever so carefully try to cover such blatant obnoxivity with humility. Yet, we are sneaky little creatures and we have a way of showing back up for more "praise-be-to-me" air.

I have a host of friends who would die for, well would at least tell me they are sorry if I really needed help. I do have a multitude of dear and treasured friends. They are everywhere. And the other side of the coin is I have a few who don't like me. Each has their favorite reason and several have selected such a stance because of me: I, as Paul, am purely a wretched nobody who is to be labeled the chiefest among all sinners. This is the only area of spirituality I out do Paul.

Strangely and sadly, my enemies have a better perception of me than my adoring associates. I am a zero. Encouragingly, this is my secret: I know it. I'm not sure if others ought to feel the same extreme way. Paul didn't say. But I get him. I get what he was saying. I love, love, love being a part of God's system. My only ticket in is the name of Jesus as any other credentials I might think worthy have long fallen in the sewer.

God is to be glorified....every moment of every day! His patience cannot be measured! His love cannot be fathomed!

Thursday, June 19, 2008


This has been a rougher trip than anticipated. We drove to Conway yesterday (on my birthday) so I could speak at the University Church of Christ Summer Series. The trip went well, the talk went good, and I felt that everything seemed to be decent and in order.

But I was wrong.

After the evening assembly was over and I met with several very nice people at the church where Dusty preaches, we returned to their house to celebrate my birthday with cake and ice cream. It was to be one of those normal events; you know, lighting of candles, singing of "the song", etc. However, it contained one great surprise.

Crystal baked me a chocolate cake with white icing. However, in looking through her cupboards for a 6 and a 1, she didn't have the 6. Therefore, she presented me with a cake highlighted by the numbers 81. She did have an 8. Great. We celebrated me being 81.

So I did what any man who had aged 20 years in one evening would do. I had my cake and ice cream, breathed from my oxygen tank and went directly to bed. For those who are wondering, I think I'm doing all right. Yes, it has been a shock. But the good news is.....well, I can't exactly recall what I was getting ready to say....but I'm pretty sure it is a "yes".

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


It could be that sometimes we refer to Mt. 7:1-5 in order to keep accusers at bay. No one has trouble realizing such misapplication. Yet, I do believe we tend to forget his clear admonition. We are to refrain from judging others. The way we choose to administer such is precisely how we will be judged. That's a scary thought to any of us who pass judgment on others without really knowing the case.....our own case.

One area where our judgment goes awry is we might not realize our selectivity. Much is said about objective truth versus subjective truth. Little is said about selective truth. Selective truth is found in one focusing on "a zone" he or she doesn't agree with while living oblivious to personal failure to adhere to the hundreds of "other zones" equally important to God.

Some are devoted to what version of the Bible to read voicing immense criticism of any not in their camp. Yet, they may be devoid of any effort to be a soul winner. Some may believe the Holy Spirit works in one's life, but fails ever so blatantly to bear such fruit. Others, still, may be soberly focused on family while stifling their own children from growing through the risks of Christ. Peter thought no one loved Jesus like he did. Shockingly to himself, he denied him three times in just a short span.

The point is this: we aren't really cut out to be all we at times envision ourselves to be. Jesus told us not to judge for a reason. We have not the skill set it takes to do it well. While we might feel ourselves strong in an area we can be sure we aren't. For us to complain about another is to revert to the old meanderings near the Jordan basin.

It is our task to responsibly cheer everyone on to love and good deeds. Being a self-appointed Private Eye or Court Judge can't be it. Giving ourselves away for the sake of others is. We will do well to avoid the dead-end alley of Selective Truth. When we live in that zone we are oblivious to our own fallen nature which blinds the eyes of our neighbors with our glare. Instead, we are called to let our light shine in such a careful way it directs attention to the glory of God.

Each of our urgings will be better made as long as we can remember that each time we speak we do so with egg on our face. Then we won't be so self-assured.

(I'm headed out of town a couple of days. I intend to be back with you soon!)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I wish to inspire thinking. What do you think about? What are we to think about?

I simply want to urge you to ponder God working inside the box and out. It seems it is true that much of our travels (in the thinking processes) keep circling where we've been. This is neither unusual nor sinful. Yet, God is one who blows the cobs out of imagination.

I encourage you to imagine what isn't yet but could be. To be certain the concept isn't new. However, new thinking is always new. I don't think I'm off base to say our efforts to apply greater imagination is God's way of getting us to talk grown up talk to Him. Rather than our ritualism of help me here and bless me there (which is certainly legal), we too can leap into the vast world of mystery and wonder and get lost in imagining what could be.

George Pepperdine did it to begin a college and someone along the way imagined setting up shop out on a cliff along the Pacific Ocean which is today simply breathtaking. Someone did it to begin Oklahoma Christian. Someone else envisioned various children's homes. Alan Bryan saw the possibility of establishing a Tulsa Soul Winning Workshop when there had not been one.

The days of discovery are not over. Take inventory of where people hurt, what they need, where it could go, and develop thinking God-style which will capture another generation of believers. Days of complete fulfillment are wide open to entrepreneurialship of radical faith. We can be sure that anything we can imagine being accomplished, God can trump such imagination...Ephesians 3:20.

Walt Disney? Colonel Sanders? Bill Gates? Oprah? Ah, nice guys and gal. But they didn't reduce "imagination power" one degree. They haven't drained the imagination pool. Go crazy thinking about God's creation and what you might instigate to open His purse strings a bit more!

Monday, June 16, 2008


Is it possible we don't know how good we have it 'til we lose it?

Just a few summers ago I preached a sermon which included the call to appreciate the gas prices at that time. They had escalated drastically and the nation was in a stew of agreeable complaint. I told the church to try not to complain for the day would come that such a seemingly exorbitant price would one day seem as a gas war. The price per gallon? $1.75.

It is possible we don't know how good we have it 'til we lose it.

I often thank God that I still have the health to drive my own car by myself to pay $3.76per gallon of gasoline. Last week when I filled up I stood there at the pump as meters raced by at a flying clip totalling $73.00. As I filled up I said in repeated and very loud voice, "God I praise you for this! I praise you for this!" Why? The day might come when if I could but pay $3.76 per gallon it would seem like a gas war!

We must keep pointing one another to the blessings. We must help see the Wow of Now! Yes, there are always matters going wrong and even more fear looms of other things which will foul. However, we must note the glories of God....NOW! I see His glory in so many things. Here are but a few:
  1. The door handle on the inside of my back-seat driver's side doesn't work....but the outside one does NOW.
  2. It just keeps raining and raining. But August is coming and I will thirst to soak in what I have everyday NOW.
  3. I'm ten pound overweight, but I'm also ten pounds lighter than being twenty pounds overweight NOW.
  4. I turn 61 this week and the word "retirement" concerns me more than it once did. I had high school friends who died in Viet Nam. They would have so enjoyed living long enough to face retirement NOW.
  5. I have many projects which fatigue my mind and leave me wondering if I can fulfill their goal. How many of my friends would love to have my job just one day....and I have it NOW.

Let's build the WOW OF NOW list. You would add.......................?


Man, life is really hard sometimes. I was talking to one of our elders months ago about the enormous amount of pain our people carry/endure. Sometimes I feel I am collapsing due to air leaving me. Oddly, it is seldom because of personal pain; except it is exactly that. My deepest pain is the pain I see in others.

Recently I did a wedding and among those attending were a couple I had performed a similar ceremony for their child. That marriage ended in divorce. For them to go through similar replay more than tugged at their hearts. My heart grieves for theirs.

On Father’s Day I called John Dobbs at 6:40 a.m. to see that he had a message waiting with thoughts of John Robert. I shared with him I knew John Robert would wish someone would think to tell his dad “Happy Father’s Day” and thank him for being one of the best dad’s. Although I was talking into a recording, it broke my heart at the thought of how painfully John will endure this special day. I did share the words I intended, but I had hoped there would be fewer background tears which forced there way into my words.

Another friend saw me yesterday. She was so hurt over the sudden loss of her best friend’s husband. He had been diagnosed with cancer six weeks earlier and died last week. My friend could hardly speak of the sudden anguish she felt for her dear friend.

There is great pain in being a person. We need to keep such information close to the vest as surely moods and actions are affected. We need tender and compassionate understanding as we move from one day to the next often loaded with a hefty pressure which personal grief can lay upon us. We need help. We need each other.

If today you encounter one too rude or seemingly distant, it just could be they are deeply pained. Too, the same person may be trying to be courteous by simply keeping their pain to themselves. Basically, my friend, don’t forget to root for us. Each needs a crop of cheer to endure the pain we encounter simply because each is a quite susceptible-to-anguish person.

Jesus, give us air to breath. Keep the one set of footprints going.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


I want to congratulate myself on being me! Ah, you might have expected such. I am the father of Wendy Chapel, Dusty Rush and Tim Rush. What a threesome! (When they were in grade school I always teased them that they had yet another brother, Dennis, but I traded him off for a free tank of gasoline.)

Those kids were the cutest things I ever saw. At family reunions I always felt sorry for the relatives as we left because Mary and I took the best/cutest/funnest three kids home with us. When in preaching school in Dallas we lived on the second floor of an apartment complex. Money was fiercely tight. Being new in the church and knowing very little Bible while living in a huge and strange city, I was flying through life by the seat of my pants.

I would take those three little kids down to the apartment playground and swing them ‘til their hearts were content. My grandmother had sown homemade clothes for them and they looked homemade. We could have been mistaken for Amish. But the kids were so doggone cute and I loved carrying them around.

Wendy was clearly Daddy’s girl. I was always proud of how she could be both outgoing and quiet. She started out compassionately and has never stopped. One day I came home to find a strange elderly couple sitting in my living room as she found them with their broken down car along the road. Today she is the perfect daughter. She and Chris have three of the cutest kids (one now residing in heaven) of their own.

Dusty started out most talented to stand on his head for great lengths of time. Everyone drew to the orange-headed, dark-eyed boy. When he first started talking (and talking and talking) he couldn’t say “shoes”. He brought much laughter to the relatives when he pointed out someone didn’t have their shuce on. Today, a dad of four, Dusty with Crystal get to work as remarkable leaders in the Kingdom of God working with a church in Conway….and (I’m proud to say) his entire congregation wears shuce.

Tim was just a dandy. When little he would ride the canister vacuum cleaner as Mary swept. He laughed a lot. Tim was wild with adventure and had a heart matching in the range of compassion. Tim was both smart and tender. He could hardly get through college for simply having to go to various foreign mission fields during a few weeks' break. I was most proud of him when he went to Sunset’s School of Preaching, served as an AIM assistant and got a double major at Texas Tech all at the same time. Today he and Kim have three kids and serve God devotedly in Guadalajara, Mexico.

So this weekend I say….Happy Father’s Day Me!!!!

Friday, June 13, 2008


Death is beyond strange. It wishes to be quite imposing. Yet, Jesus came to free us from its wishful bossiness. Death serves mankind. Nothing arouses the tenderness of every heart like the harsh reality of death. The more brutal it presents itself, the tenderer and more compassionate the heart gets.

Tim Russert died today at age 58 of a sudden heart attack. Major networks have dropped Obama and McCain from the front burner. Death has sharpened their senses; has brought them to their senses. Barbara Walters said this makes one question how much importance truly is to be given to issues most believe to be the main thing....something to that effect.

Death brings out the best in the fractured relationships; even the worst of enemies. Death would like to ruin, but Jesus so ruined death that it cannot help but bow to the goodness of men and women. Death motivates goodness. It cannot help but salute when it intended to condemn. Because of Jesus, death lost its zest for its own life. It just can't cut it anymore.

Give us death....and God will raise up glory and wonder and awe in the center of its wishful stump. Jesus lives and death doesn't. It lost and can no longer hold its once boisterous claims of keeping its victims. Mankind? It is so done with death it simply uses it as a step in yet another improved direction.


Most ministers desire to be people-pleasers. Strangely, we sometimes don’t. If you are anything like me, this is terribly disturbing. My first set of Memorial elders kept saying, “You are so thin-skinned!” Well, need I tell you this really rubbed me the wrong way?!?! Clue: if someone is thin-skinned you don’t go around telling them that!

Or, do you? The elders’ statements were true and I’ve had to overcome a lot of self-inflicted misery due to the habit of taking things the wrong way because I was, in reality, far too thin-skinned. They were right and a part of my improving in this area was their continued truthful (and painful) remarks.

Becoming calloused isn’t the answer. Being more Christ-centered instead of self is. I was well-trained from the time I was a kid to believe I possessed incredible, immeasurable lack. Therefore, I learned two things quickly: (1) I learned to cover failure with instant humor, or (2) I immediately withdrew into a shell of self-pity. There was no debate. Each insult proved what I already knew; I was dumb. I carried this flaw into manhood. Bad deal, I’m telling you.

I can tell you I’ve improved and it feels a whole lot better. Breakdowns occur, but I practice doing better. This brings me to the main point: some in our circles remain as I once experienced. They seemingly are looking to be offended. You know what I mean. They are in the church simply waiting to get their feelings hurt. Don’t become bogged down in this zone. May I say it a little firmer: give it no attention. Childishness from adults deserves none of our attention.

For me? I needed to grow up. I am making progress. Thin-skinned is a silly trait when the Master had his pierced on the cross. Disregard the cries of immature members with hurt feelings. Love them; but disregard their enslavement to needing consoled. Give them something to cry about….needy and wounded souls.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


This morning I sent a birthday card off to Logan, Iowa. Jean Davis turns 100 next week. I haven't seen her in over 45 years. You most likely wouldn’t know Jean. She was the postmaster at my grandparent’s little town of Arbela, Missouri. Population? 95.

Nestled at the end of a sweeping highway curve amidst several trees, random buildings, and only one adjoining T in the road, Arbela was a Norman Rockwell sort of place. A Baptist church, plus a Methodist one, sat on knolls a block from one another. Each had sidewalks of crooked, some sunken, mismatched slabs leading to their doorways. Down the alley was a one-room school house hosting the first eight grades. My retired-from-the-farm grandpa was the custodian. He built the fires using coal or wood (mixed with occasional corncobs) in the early winter mornings to see that the students and the one teacher had a chance of enduring the howling and bitter winds.

It could be said the town was light on monuments. Really, the townspeople were it. Skinny Shinburger ran the only gas station. Yoder operated the tiny, dimly lit grocery store. And, Jean managed the post office. Marvin and Elsie lived on the edge of town. They went to church with Ed and Beulah (my grandparents) and the four played a whole lot of Rook. The local blacksmith would make an impression on any little kid. He was always covered in black soot and his arms protruded from his sleeveless shirt like Oscar-Meyer hams. I bet he was the strongest man around.

Jean turns one hundred next week. She would never guess that back when I was 8 or 9 she impressed me as to being a very nice and special Christian lady. I hope she likes the card. I hope it surprises her to open it from one she barely knew four decades past. My guess is it will make her smile.

Maybe there is someone in your world who made a good impression on you. Maybe you should call them or write. Let them know they are still important. It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to brighten another’s day.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I've been asking God lately to open doors which one would never guess could happen. I love to watch Him work in ways we could never imagine.

This morning I ran into a friend who attends a Methodist church. She expressed her delight in working as a member of this 1000 member congregation. An idea hit me as we talked. I shared with her that Methodists are searching biblical baptism and I had done a sermon three weeks earlier explaining why we are to be buried into Jesus' death.

She said she surely did know of such renewed interest in the topic as in the recent remodel of their sanctuary they have installed a baptistery, but (she went on to explain) the church basically doesn't know what to do with it. I asked if she would look a the DVD I did a couple of weeks ago and consider showing it at her church or letting me come teach a series on it. She was ecstatic and I think it could become something special. It's in the mail.

Two hours later a woman called from Louisiana; a member of another Methodist church. She wanted to talk about how our recent DVD of 100% Natural Evangelism is thrilling their congregation. She rehearsed how Christ-like it was and how the contagion is spreading at her church.

I am just sowing seed. Here and there it sprouts. I'm not wishing to make these or any others Churches of Christ. I want to stay out of the way and let Him build His church as He desires. I simply want to be a part of leading people closer to the Christ and this may be one way I can do it. Churches are adjusting and improving everywhere. The denominational walls are falling....including our own. The Word of God is arising. May we, together, increase in becoming more like Him.

If this helps you to weigh possibilities where you live, work, or worship.....awesome! Keep praying!


When Jesus taught that we are to do more than greet those we already love, he hit one of the deepest of church nerves. By human nature, like gathers with like. Jesus is the clear exception to the rule. He targeted sparrows so to speak. In general we love this trait about him; but may struggle to make it a part of us. Getting our members who know better to greet strangers remains one of the greatest tasks for our congregations. Add the need to cross the threshold to engage with the people during ministry is yet another very tall order.

It is easier to be task oriented. It is a far greater challenge to carry on a conversation with interest in those to whom we minister. This call is nothing new. For as long as I’ve been in the church it seems some have worked hard to keep people at a distance by burying ourselves in meaningful church events. These labors, to be sure, count. Yet, there remains a growing need for person to person community engagement.

I’m not down on church. We are terrific. I am up on people we don’t know and will continue to urge the church to do as Jesus; touch people. I still have to work on this myself. I began ministry as a man basically secure behind a wooden barricade called a pulpit. I could shout all kinds of daring charges and rail on occasion about our sorry weaknesses. To personally connect with just anyone who walked in was basically out of the question. But I’ve been blessed to see some around me move right into meaningful relationships with strangers. The life they give to others is both what I see them do and what I saw Jesus did. I want to get better at doing that.

Especially if you are a leader, I urge you to consider how aggressive you are at connecting with those outside of your friendship circle. Being deeply involved in work of the church while avoiding interaction with people may merely be a mask to ministry. Instead we additionally must look for opportunity to brighten someone’s day….with a personal greeting.

Monday, June 09, 2008


We are in the battle of our lives and such isn’t over politics or economy. It’s over the right to read the Bible on our own and develop a course of responsible and fruitful direction. The voice of doing and saying Bible things in Bible ways has long been the charge of the churches of Christ. It was such from the day I was introduced to us. Nothing has changed….except that the Bible produces much change….and this doesn’t set well with those who cannot discern Bible teachings from men’s traditions.

Other Christian-like believers were referenced while I was in school as those who read their Bibles with “Denominational Glasses”. How I joined in on the undertones of mocking our religious (and assumed poor and ignorant) neighbors. Most likely I alienated most of my family with such smart-alecky talk…as if I had a grasp on Truth. After all, didn’t we own it?

The good news is generation following generation continues to hunger for God’s revealed Truth. The thirst for it has not waned. Division and confusion resides among us as liberals deny parts of the Word while the conservatives add their critical desires to it. Oddly, we assume we are never either.

Our days are permeated with big questions. We must guard against the very smugness we disdain found in some of the earlier church leaders as we move to connect more closely in a relationship with God. We want to know why such zeal for the spiritual leaves so many of our people untransformed. We want to know why and who shelved the influences and activities of God in the modern church. Why does the church body seem to be a head (Jesus) with skin for arms, legs, and torso without bones to make it stand erect with mobility? Why have we accentuated form while accepting ourselves powerless as if such is biblical? And, why do we seem to feel safer to keep His phenomenal powers at bay?

May we pursue the kingdom of God and His righteousness in both brave and humble manner. Such blessings from the Word have never been experienced without a price. Why would we expect it be different today? But this I believe: a few of those who believe the modern church is leaving the Bible would do well to be quiet and listen. I might be this generation is saying we want more of it.

Saturday, June 07, 2008


One of the segments of Memorial Drive's assemblies I view with great anticipation is response time at the invitation. About three out of every four Sundays we find several in need of prayers or requesting to be baptized. Being one of the preachers at this place I can say I don't think it's the sermon which induces the public responses. Rather, I believe it to be a combination of those seeking God's heart and the true connecting to the Memorial body.

Our people really believe two major truths: God cares and prayer makes a difference. No one ever responds alone; one or three or seven may walk down front to sit with them. Some will need support while others come to share a reason for celebration. All sense the partnership from within our wonderfully close family.

Yes, we take a lot of time at the invitation segment. It's an antsy time for some as they've done their stuff and want to get going....but we don't. All ages, various needs, and multiple requests insist we treat each response with diligent attention. While an elder (jokingly known as the UFE [UpFrontElder]) handles the reading of each response, volunteers are already poised to pray with the individuals.

If I were to list the things which make our Sundays extremely special it would be: (1) the Holy Spirit's presence, (2) the music arranged by Shane Coffman, and (3) the freedom with which our members capitalize on the opportunity to ask for prayers. This last one ties the morning together as a result of the influencial and convincing build-up of the first two.

Sunday's coming.....and I can't wait!!!


What causes most trouble for Christians of all ages is not legalism or lack of faith or theological controversies; it is Jesus Himself, who bestows freedom so openhandedly and dangerously on those who do not know what to do with it. The church always gets panic-stricken for fear of the turmoil that Christ creates when he comes on the scene; and so it takes His freedom under its own management for the protection of the souls entrusted to it, in order to dispense it in homeopathic doses when it seems necessary. The church claims to represent Jesus on earth, but in fact it often supplants him. It must tremble in all its joints when confronted with His portrait. Ecclesiastical traditions and laws have domesticated Jesus, and today all the churches are living off the success of the attempt.

Ernst Kasemann
German Scripture Scholar

Friday, June 06, 2008


This note is to cheer those who may be a little down on the church. My word? Don't be.

Good night nurse, who are any of us to get down on the church. We are the church. While we have light years to go to become as Jesus would have it, reason to be in awe remains. If we are down on the church we are confessing our faith eyes have gone blind. Such is not the case with seeing believers. We see potential and possibility and power.

The original trainees got down on the system when Jesus was executed. Yet, they had simply and momentarily forgotten the handiwork yet to be displayed up God's sleeve. How silly to be upset over church circumstances when the Resurrection-Power-God always prevails.

Bitter? Annoyed? Disgruntled? Tell me one sin of another in front of you which cannot be forgiven. Frustrated? Discouraged? Disillusioned? Name me one situation God cannot conquer. Yes, if we should focus negatively, unfaithfully upon people we could find reason to be down. But with eyes like Jesus on the cross and Stephen at his stoning, we can find it deep within our reserve to forgive even our enemies and assume the posture of a believing/seeing disciple.

Feeling rather poopy lately? Get over it. We have reason to be up on the church.


Co-laboring with God is a daunting task! He’s serious about it and we want to be. That the two of us would be yoked for any particular task surely seems to be unequal, wouldn’t you agree? Wouldn’t one of us (the one being the human) simply melt or fry standing beside the Mighty One? Yet, He seems to chart the course and extend His clear partnership invitation.

I find delight in observing our people (His body) work the kingdom halls. There is one special kind of servant which seems to exemplify what I would regard as entering our greatest moments of service. Again, such is not law; simply observation. We seem to be the most like Christ when we serve in the areas we don’t want. The reason I believe this to be important is because I know so many very nice, beautiful, intelligent Christians who feel like zeroes and they can’t figure why. One of the reasons may be they never cross the line to serve in the dangerous or the dirty zones. They remain self-preserving in the name of safety and good logic.

Yet it is this factor which made Jesus who he is. He went where the religiously clean would not dare and touched those the pristine law abiders would not. In other words, he actually crossed the road and went into the ditch. This is daring, risky, and hyper-meaningful to the servant heart. Many of our people are stuck believing the world is passing them by when, in reality, it is. It’s passing them by because their greater concern is over bargains at the mall and not seeing the janitors there. It’s passing them by because they want to do God-sized work, but they want it equipped with a well-lit bathroom, a respectable income, and clean fingernails.

Our greatest moments of service are those which we serve scared; those where we find ourselves in over our head and out of our league. I’ve experienced a few and find myself not wanting to enter those zones again. Yet, we must. I understand the resistance. However, it is both the example of Jesus and the call of God. We are to lose our lives. He said when we do we will find life. The reason this generation can’t find their lives is they refuse (in quite orderly and acceptable fashion) to lose them. In self-preservation the only thing left at the end of the day is frustration that life is opening for others but not for me.

I’ve told you something very valuable today which is likely the answer to someone you know depressed. Our greatest moments of service are entering the zones of dirty and unsafe. There we will find our God….like in a smelly old manger.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


I wonder just how much division assumed to be in our brotherhood is based on the real understanding of the judged injury. Assessment would seem accurate to believe there are multiple gullies and caverns which separate us. Yet, I wonder. I meet too many who wouldn’t agree with me on some things as they seem to wear certain hats (depending on which elders and preachers are around), but are most kind and hospitable when we can visit in private. Could it be division’s roar doesn’t have as many teeth as it would prefer assumed?

I wonder if our biggest threat to unity might be inferences made unnecessarily simply due to reckless chattering winds in the air. Is it not true we have members in diverse camps that will bristle at the drop of a certain name or doctrinal stance as if against them, but don’t know enough about scripture to teach their neighbor how to know Jesus… the last forty years? Is it true, then, that much of our division might be based on inference without actual knowledge; hearsay without definite testimony; rumor without the courage to confirm?

Due to the roaring warnings of a few who seem to enjoy personal attention as leaders of random packs, could it be that much of our division is because some of those who claim the loudest to go by the Bible eventually went deaf to God’s Word which pleads for hope, possibility, and brotherly love? Is there a chance God’s people have split the sheets because unfair bias ruled…in print….repeatedly?

At first look, it appears standing against has surpassed standing for? But, now I wonder. You know, we just can’t help it if we disagree. Such goes on inter-congregationally as well as intra-congregationally. But there is something like Christ about it when we can do so with respect and love for one another in the process. Regarding our reasons for division? I don’t believe us. I think we are insincere with a touch of dishonesty for a lot that our fellowship won’t allow to go on between us. It could be it feels safer to counter our brothers whom we seem not to fear rather than encounter our God-seeking neighbors.

Strong division among us? Yes, there is an element. However, much of it may be unnecessarily inferred.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


While my intent is to encourage deeper and greater worship, by no means do I want to imply my thoughts are law. They are not. From experience, therefore I will point out, our worship assemblies have become more meaningful due to one matter of progress. Worship teams have enhanced our praise and new songs fill my heart. Yet the fact that we have begun to sing a series of songs without interruption has done more to let me engage my mind and keep it there than any of our other useful moves.

Something good has happened to me/us. We are progressing from worshipping right to worshipping God. There is a difference. This difference shows in the spirit of the flock. We've been taught to praise God....I mean really, robustly cut loose and get lost in His wonder. We do stand in awe! We do mean it when we say, "Thank you, Lord."

For Memorial Drive Allen French moved us through a veil and into His presence. When he moved on, Shane Coffman entered the Memorial scene and continues meaningful progression. We have shifted from worshipping and wondering who is upset "over that move" to wondering if God is loving our gifts of vocal/mindful worship of Him.

We enter His presence.....really. Was it not being done before? I can't answer that for anyone but myself. For me? It wasn't being done. I was too focused on who did or didn't like what was sung, prayed, or preached. I was too interrupted by singing a song and hearing comments regarding observing this note and that chorus. It seems to me the more the church learns to voice the praises of God, whether through song or testimony, the more God unleashes His grand grace upon our gatherings.

Baseball? Fun!

Grandkids? More fun!

Worshipping God? Heavenly on earth!


Bad reports stymied those freed from Egyptian bondage first thing out of the shoot. Words carry weight. God is the Creative Word speaker and man follows in those steps. What we say goes.

Tell the congregation you serve how good they are. Point out to your elders their strengths. Explain to your staff what you notice of them doing just the right things. Bless your congregation by pointing out what good givers they are or what amazing servers they have been.

Media leans toward the negative. So can pulpits. We must bend our people toward the joy and peace found in Christ. One of the ways to do it successfully is to build a contagion of enthusiasm for kingdom work. Tell about God working. Use words to build hope. Share how God works within the congregation by publically noting awesome timing and participation among flock efforts.

Encouragement goes a long ways and we can know it is of God. After all, He sent sixty-six notes to give us a heads-up!

Monday, June 02, 2008


In January I was attending my 25th year (at age 60) with the St. Louis Cardinals old-timers. The older I get the jitterier I get when the ball is coming at me on defense. My reflexes have simply atrophied. So, for several years it's a running joke among the former big-leaguers when they see a fly ball headed my way to ask one another if I have on a batting helmet out there.

Our team was up to bat as Bobby Ross of the Christian Chronicle was interviewing me for a story which came out in March. As he was asking me a question a foul ball came our way. Without missing a word (and without my glove on my hand) I took both hands, held the glove out, caught the foul ball, and kept talking to Bobby. The pros howled in protest that I must be somebody else!

What made the difference? Relaxed. It didn't matter whether I caught the ball. It was foul. Yet, I DID CATCH THE BALL!!!! One of my bigger mistakes in my role during the first thirty years at Memorial is being up tight. Such tension has caused me not to hear well. I've been found to be too defensive over matters which didn't need much defense. It just needed communication. I've noted lately how much I enjoy not knowing what to do and not having a clear direction in areas while, simultaneously, trusting God and my colleagues.

So many times I get hit with challenges or dilemmas which I simply don't know the proper course. Relaxing helps me anticipate His response either in circumstances or ministry partners. I don't have to be Mr. Answer Man. I don't know what to do. Being up tight only makes the ligaments of the body tighten up and as a result we are less agile and more prone to injury.

Regardless of age, should you be one as me found expected to perform in ministerial ways where you find yourself repeatedly in over your head, calm down. God is working when you can't imagine how. The mystery of the kingdom is all around. Worry not. Fear not. Trust Him.

Psalm 46:10; Mt. 11:28-30; Rom. 9:16; Phil. 4:11-13