Monday, May 31, 2010


Here's what I think You need to be encouraged to keep the main thing the main thing.'s something for you to ponder today.

Don't you love helping people who don't believe in themselves to believe in the God who believes in them?

Think about it. One of the fun things we get to do is nudge doubters to become effective believers. Believers change the world...for the better.

Get to it!

Friday, May 28, 2010


This one comment was left on my last blog:

Anonymous said...

Come on, Terry; you can speak plainer than that. Give us an example or two of precisely what you mean. It needs to be said and you're the guy to say it.

Well, that's an interesting comment which I at first thought I would let stand.  The more I think about it...why not?  I feel Anon has specifics in mind and I may disappoint him or her....which is part of my point.

I don't know where Anon wanted me to go, but here's what I was thinking in the process of writing it.  First, one of the main points I wrote is, A glaring mistake is when we draw them according to herd-thought. At that point we seem to shift from faith to politics; you like what I believe and I like what you believe so lets stand together against the other herd-parties.  I believe this to be true. 

I'm not sure Anon or others pick up I mean me in the mix.  I do.  I often post my blogs from my failures so that younger guys/gals might recognize themselves and get mistakes stopped sooner than this 62 year old.  I've always been an eager learner; but admittedly a slow one.

We are in kindergarten.  None of us are as capable of church guardianship as we might have once believed.  But if you want examples, okay.  Try these.

Example #1:  When I began preaching I was a pounder and a shouter.  While I may have sounded courageous (to myself), I was not.  I was pretentious of possessing the courage to speak up when, at that time in my life, I was really tickling the ears of friends (the herd) who believed as I. 

We all find boldness in about six or seven texts.  We know baptism and heaven.  Yet we, too, fail to realize our terrible failure in such important zones as repentance, submission, prayer, Bible reading simply to be fed, endurance, and refraining from being judgmental.

We tend to believe our level is the ideal level of spirituality.  For awhile I even thought mine was somewhat superior.  Really, really wrong.  Mine is just getting started.

Example #2:  We in the Church of Christ are far more guilty of the "tickling ears" passage than the herd would ever guess.  I thought that passage was for the Baptists, the Methodists, and the Christian Church.  But we....we are "tickle-my-ears" obsessed.  We love to hear the old time religion of the Church of Christ preached....even if it didn't exactly come from the Word of God.

We are prone to give up; to quit on people and congregations.  We write others off right and left and move on to the next garden of learners testing the soil to see if we can adapt and accept their fine faith.  While I have had a few rough moments and even years at Memorial, I've never been tempted to move.  Why would I?  I either have the answers or the critics do and I feel secure in waiting on God to show which---if either---is His thought pattern. 

It doesn't discourage me to get the work wrong.  It doesn't discourage me to fail to get my way.  It discourages me most to be caught impatient or defensive.  I've had to grow up and am just now getting started. 

Life in the church isn't easy.  It isn't handy.  Too many have blown the gasket of the body by walking away when He had great plans through intentional pressures of the Spirit. 

Okay...there are couple of examples.  First and second on your list?  Maybe not....but it is what I was thinking when I wrote the earlier blog.

Okay...there are two examples.  Nothing outrageous...but enough to bug some.


Stick with our theme; the Bible is God's Word.  It has been, is, and will be so.  We are called to respond in obedience to it.

We have a problem with this approach; as honorable as it may be.  Wires have been crossed and man has gotten mixed up on what it actually says versus what human influence over time says it says.  I belong in this category and should you think do you.

We get such mixed signals from ourselves.  Not only do we find we are to go back to the Bible; but we then begin to learn we are to obey from what it says and from what it doesn't say.  Silence somehow gained authority when, oddly, it never had a voice.  Strange.

Have we forgotten individuals are free to read the scriptures and reach individual conclusions?  In this age we tend to believe in herds as if other herds are hugely mistaken while my herd has it totally figured.  Nothing new; this has been a plague of Christianity as is true of other religions as well.

We each have places we will draw lines.  We want to make these because we studied it out and thought it through; always willing to back up and make monumental adjustments.  We all draw the lines.  A glaring mistake is when we draw them according to herd-thought.  At that point we seem to shift from faith to politics; you like what I believe and I like what you believe so lets stand together against the other herd-parties.

We are growing.  We are growing up.  We are becoming aware that arriving and preserving such arrival is both shallow as well as hollow.  We have a history of the Bible going by us rather than us going by it. 

May we work at being learners first.  The Bible is still the guide.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


One of my favorite people, Art Linkletter, died yesterday at age 97.  I had the privilege of meeting him in Tulsa for maybe 40 seconds at a fund-raiser.  I was in line as all others awaiting our chance to meet this man of tenured fame.

Later I approached him asking if I could have his wife's address.  I explained I wanted to write her thanking her for giving him up to crowds all over the country while she remained at home alone.  His eyes twinkled with delight and offered up the address. 

I wrote her and a few day later a note I still treasure arrived from Mr. Linkletter.  He said in all his years no one ever thought to ask about his wife...and that I had no idea what it did for her.

Later I would get to interview this icon on a little television program I did called CrossView.  In his mid-eighties at the time, the man was a bundle of ambition and business savvy.  Then later I emceed a banquet of which he was the main speaker.  Part of my job was to sit beside him for the evening and keep him entertained.  That wasn't difficult for keeping him entertained was to let him entertain me...and he did.

Arthur Gordon Kelly was abandoned as a baby on the steps of a Baptist preacher's home.  He later wrote, I grew up before the Depression and by 16 was 'riding the rails'.  My adoptive father, John Linkletter, couldn't give me the money to travel in style, but he gave me something a brash young boy didn't appreciate at the time: faith.  And I believe now that it helped take me farther than any first-class ticket.

I'm not particularly proud of the fact that my father embarrassed me, that at times I was ashamed to be seen with him.  Yet, this boy grew from hardship to be a man of faithful influence beyond calculation.

Mr. Linkletter began his young adulthood as a real live hobo hopping from train to train.  He met another young hobo and the two became lifelong friends.  That man was H. L. Hunt.

While Art Linkletter and I were not exactly next-door neighbors, he possessed that welcoming warmth that anytime you were around him, you felt that maybe you should draws names for Christmas.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Men and women who resist Jesus may not realize the vast wonder of the one whom they reject. I get it. I understand how this can happen; but it remains a catastrophic mistake.

The world that refuses Jesus seems content to do so because it can point both excusing and accusing fingers at churches...but not Jesus. This is disappointing for all of us in the church are always in kindergarten ourselves trying to grow up. Nonetheless, the masses flatly reject Jesus.

Such nonchalant dismissal of God’s Son is cataclysmic.

Don’t you get it? Jesus is on the rejectioners’ side. He stands for that which they stand for. He, too, hates sinful ways so much he died to do something about it. He is the one who carries a badge for respect for all neighbors. He detests dull, deadening, rote church. Plus, he finds those living on the outskirts of societal acceptance his kind of people.

The Son of God would press for crawling down into the ditch to aid an unknown injured stranger while the church-uprights pass by on their way He would associate with those who lived a darker life. He especially loved all viewed as lower class. Jesus was the ultimate and magnificent rebel.

Jesus has been mistakenly rejected. Those who don't like him basically don't know him. They've given up on Christianity by ignorantly pointing to those flawed who go to church. There are no unflawed who go to church. Everyone is there to praise him for salvation no one could eke it out on our own.

Jesus....that thing he does that catches believers and unbelievers off guard is he identifies with those who despise religion. He didn't come to give us religion. He came to give us life...John 10:10.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I questioned a recent visitor who seemed unsure he was in the right Church of Christ as to what exactly we was looking for. He quickly was able to identify the two most necessary marks; (1) it must not have mechanical instruments, and (2) it must preach the truth.

How interesting. Forty years ago I would have given a similar response. Yet, there is a problem with his (and my) response. It is Jesus-less. While Jesus could be inferred in truth, that name wasn't the main issue.

All of us want to continue to revolve around the Christ. He has wained from being our main icon. Lack of mechanical instruments has been our main trademark to many. The Bible has been another. Orderly worship services another. Jesus comes in somewhere in the top ten; always number one when this is pointed out....but in the top ten until such occurs.

Jesus must become our all. He must become our icon. It is to his name all knees will bow; not memorized verses, not listings of proper and orderly worship, not best award for accurate organization.....simply his name.

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. The Truth is not Jesus, the way, and the life. Jesus is those three....not a part of the three.

What's the main reason you prefer your church? If the answer is anything other than Jesus' presence and activity, it may be a second evaluation is in order.

Monday, May 24, 2010


There is a thing about God which perpetually fascinates me.  I'm talking about being wide-eyed like a little kid on Christmas Eve fascinated!  God's willing talent.  He can do anything.  No, we can't.  But we aren't our issue; He is.  And, He can do anything!

He works and we follow both His direction and His dimension.  Our job is to follow.  Specifically, that means to believe.  Our work, Jesus says, is to believe (Jn. 6:29).

When we believe, we don't target things to happen first.  We target God trusting/believing He can make things happen.  We all want many things.  When we seek God in faith, He is the One who makes things happen.

Fascinating?  Absolutely because all of God's great works came at the faith-beggars call with not much to personally offer.  Gideon's reduced army?  The widow's jar of oil?  The other  widow's mite?  Lazarus dead?  Jesus dead?  Peter, James, and John as uneducated AND untrained?  Mobster Saul of Tarsus?  The Bible won't be shut up.  When people yield their little faith to the Perfect Father, major things begin to work.

So how does this fit us?  100% of needed improvement individually and church-wise can be expected.  When James wrote we don't have because we don't ask, he was telling us a kingdom secret.  So what we want to do is want great things:
  • Our worship to be more than just the Sunday hour.
  • Our efforts to span both country borders and generational boundaries.
  • Our vision to couple with confidence to dream about healing children, rescuing families, drilling wells in lands far away, seeing the Bible spread to all continents, praying for God to show up in a life-giving way in the secular media.  Want things for God....and for people.
It doesn't matter how many hits we take.  We are about imagining wonder....the wonder of God.  We can do what no one else believes.  It isn't up to "them".  It is up to God.  We are to believe more in His skills than our critics. 

Christmas Eve may be a bit away....but Confident Hope is NOW!


Sunday, May 23, 2010


On occasion we would have an exceptionally good Sunday at Memorial.  It would be different; better than previous ones.  And then we'd slip back to an okay gathering; but nothing terrific.  I would continually make efforts to duplicate the exceptional Sundays; but to no avail.

I never did figure out how to cure those dry stretches; although I surely tried.

For years now we have experienced exceptionally good after another after another.  While nothing I intentionally did corrected it, I think I can now determine at least a couple of things that changed us.  Again, it was never by our organizational skill nor our intuitive leadership.  We simply positioned ourselves for God to work.

At least two moves took place which were positive in direction:
  • We began to study the involvement of the Holy Spirit.
  • We formed a group who began to pray at 7:30 a.m. Sunday in the auditorium for an hour for our day.
Both continue.

Regarding the prayer thing, Danny Sidders, Damon Waggoner, and I would meet at 4:30 in the morning on Sunday.  We did it for a bit.  I must tell you that was difficult.  I know that doesn't make me look very committed; but I share it anyway.  That approach eventually burnt out.

Later, we began a new group at 7:30 each Sunday morning and this group thrives.  I believe the reason we have such good days is because God is invited to be among us.  As a result God has opened amazing doors through the worship agenda.  Allen French was later brought on staff and after he left, Shane Coffman has been added. 

We are blessed.  We assume now that every gathering with be filled with the presence and activity of God.  I share this to encourage any who might be struggling with life in the assemblies. 

We didn't design this; but we did position ourselves for His blessings.  I do believe there is a possible link.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


You'll notice a new blogsite to the right of the page, Balanced and Unafraid.

Before you conclude someone is running for congress or possibly marching in protest, let me fill you in. Michael and Vasca Beall are dear friends of mine whom I don't believe I have ever met. They are Cream o' the Crop believers.

I can't recall just exactly how we became friends....but we are. Vasca and I carry on in both email and blogworld as if we were next door neighbors. I guess we are blog-neighbors.

Michael is an M.D. Vasca is his right and left arms! They see God move, work, and shake the kingdom. Their labors reach to China and back.

Balanced and Unafraid is a newly established site. At the moment it has no words; but oh it will.

You see Michael has just been diagnosed with a rare tumor which could rapidly move to a stage of great threat. He nor Vasca know what is ahead. But due to their using every crumb of life to give glory to God, they are planning to journal this new evangelistic journey.


This couple behaves as if their God is alive in all settings! Yeah!

So I urge all readers to be in prayer for those this couple touches along the way. Who knows what doctor or nurse or technician or one simply awaiting their turn in the lobby needs to meet either Michael or Vasca....or both.

This circumstance will not be wasted. Let us pray for a new contagious disease of love and hope to spread throughout the upcoming days and months and years as this couple enters their new mission field.


I think there are two basic kinds of Christians; (1) those who look back and live to keep the church (regardless of brand) as it always has been and (2) those who believe the things of the past were imparted to cause us to look ahead for more development.  These two create a significant rub.

I fit in the latter. 

Because I fit there, this causes personal grief for many whom I dearly love remain in the former.  For one, it causes me great stress that I cause them such consternation.  They are lovely people.  And, I still want to be liked.

May I introduce a strange twist?

I don't think either group has enough grasp of God's truth to be deeply divided.  When I take inventory of my faith coupled with action, it misses the mark of Jesus (his death, burial, and resurrection) by a mile x 1000.  I am a failing believer.


Jesus' style remains so different from yours/mine/ours.  He spent days with the Father while I talk about the keenness of such an approach.  He lived with nothing in a world that offered a lot.  Yet, we make donations and contributions to good causes while keeping much of the good stuff for ourselves.  He gave it all and ask us to give it all....and the early church did. 

We (both 1 and 2) come along and teach we are the original New Testament church but practice very little of what they did.  We have Americanized the church to the extent we don't have to give it all, including our lives, but we basically want to keep a healthy step ahead of the dark world.

America, let alone the rest of the world, is in deep trouble.  Jesus is the answer.  Our old patterns are only developing dying churches whose saving word is developing a faith that they are on the narrow road; thus "few" is the operative word.  Our newer patterns are shedding a few of the traditions except those which serve us well; keeping our church buildings, our houses, and all the contents of both.

The world of Jesus was incredibly unique.  He gave his life while he lived; nowhere to lay his head.  Then he actually shed flesh and blood.  Few of us do.

So what shall we do brethren?  Well...we think we've responded to that question in being baptized.  However, the rest of Acts 2 leaves groups 1 and 2 in the identical boat.  Neither has anything to brag about from 2:41-47, do we?

Here's the clinker.  Each group (1 & 2) pats themselves on the back for not being like the other.  Big mistake.  We have mistakenly lived comparing ourselves to ourselves instead of the Christ who desires to reign.  When we class ourselves by ourselves or compare ourselves to ourselves, God says we are without understanding (II Cor. 10:12). 

The point?  I've got more growing to do.....onward and upward.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Is there an invisible and unspoken rule out there?  Don't bump me?  The truth seems to be that few will stick around long if feelings get hurt.  Oh, we'll survive an offense or two. 

This kingdom life we promote and engage has a very strange twist.  Suffering is of the essence.  Take the cross for example.  No.  Just take the cross.  Is not Isaiah 53 all about the Injured Servant?

I came to town in 1977.  One of the things my elders harped at me most was about how thin-skinned I was.  Not surprisingly....that hurt my feelings.  I didn't like it.  I don't like suffering to this day; but I've learned its monumental, often unnoticed, value.

Offense is a vital part of the Lord's way.  It is Him.  Past or present, evaluate any of the good shepherds among us and you'll always find the lineage of suffering throughout their years.  Some want to lead from book knowledge; others from simple ego.  But real leaders are the highly pained ones? 

Why is that?  Pain identifies and sympathizes with the pained.  And guess what?  God is ramping up His glorious efforts to reach a pained world. 

The Injured Servant called us to follow him.  We cannot spend our days pouting (as I did), getting even (as I tried), or running (as I wanted to).  We must use pain as one of our great and beneficial instructors.  I know of no greater teacher.  The root word for endurance is to speak.

In nearly every Bible text using the word purpose the context will be one of suffering.  Injury insists it is the style of the believer.  We must not run from.....but to the cross-likeness of His personal ministry.

Recall Peter impulsively urging Jesus to rescind his comment about dying?  Jesus' response was abrupt, Get behind me Satan.  Very harsh...meaningful...important words.  So listen to the embarrassed one, the injured one named Peter when in his first book he wrote,

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

The only way to bring healing to a people is to suffer; leaders' wounds heal others.  Injury's insistent way is that all leaders' effectiveness is directly tied to their willingness to suffer in the midst of their ministry. 

This IS the nature of the Wounded Healer.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Have you ever wondered why it is such an ultimatum that we fix our eyes on Jesus? The text of Hebrews 12:1-3 is clearly one of endurance; endure the race set before you...endured the cross...endured such hostility. It is my conclusion that fixing our eyes on Jesus directly ties to sticking with the faith system.

Why Jesus?  Why is he to receive our focus?

Jesus is the only person who was both God and man. When one looks at him, both God and man are seen.

If we should look upon God without the prism of Jesus as our lens, we are likely to conclude we cannot do enough to please Him. Jesus, however, assures us of our acceptance by the Father. After all, he is the way.

If we should look upon the community without peering through the prism of Jesus, we are quite likely to reach the end of our frustration rope. Husbands disappoint. Wives misunderstand. Businesses can be unfair. And, society has an ability to be biased. Jesus, however, calls us to never give up on one another since he endured the cross for

Jesus holds the heart together because he is both the fulfillment and completion of God and man. When we look at life through him we see hope, possibility, and creative ideas. He grants an exciting new reflection of potential. The prism of Jesus gives us such a vast array from the Prodigal Son to the Prodigal's Father.

The brother on the back porch is precisely a picture of one viewing life without the prism of Jesus. He was doing all the right things but unhappy with the two main elements of life: God and humanity.  That brother griped and complained his way into giving up. Wrong move. Unnecessary move.

How will the prism of Jesus impact your walk? You may strain and struggle or hope and celebrate....but you'll never give up! The magnificent prism….is a secret to loving life right now.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Attention Deficit Disorder is a most stifling dilemma among us these days. It is tough for some to stay with the program...whatever the program is due to short attention spans.

Randy Harris made an astute comment during his third class at Pepperdine. He referenced a section of a book by Shane Claiborne and John Perkins (Follow Me to Freedom) in which young Claiborne was discussing the need to get on with an urgent social project. Perkins, an aged Civil Rights leader, responded with the estimate it will first take ten years to engage such a pertinent move. Randy's point was we suffer from ADD to the extent we really struggle to give anything ten years.

I believe Perkins' ten years is the light side of the guestimate. It would seem twenty to thirty would be more in opinion, of course.

Back in my beginning days of preaching, the exhortation in school was to try to last two years; three would be better. If you can make it five, you may then want to move to your next congregation. In a local work it takes about ten years to pull the weeds and remove the stumps from the congregation. It takes an additional ten years (twenty in all) to do the same with the preacher. After twenty years, elders-preachers-members alike begin to catch on that except for the grace of God we are all toast.

The church suffers from it past practice of PIPO (Preacher In/Preacher Out) as well as MIMO (MembersIn/MembersOut) over brief periods of time. One of the reasons this has been nearly our destiny is because we have refused the Holy Spirit among us which bears the fruit of what? Love, joy, patience, etc; the very things needed to pull off decades of effective and opportunistic ministries.

Without Him we cannot bear such fruit on our own. Thus, we are instead compelled to rid ourselves of each other for the next impatient idea-mongers.

It takes ten years, young leader, to discover where both of your feet are. Settle down. Chill out. Open up. There is a great solution to the church growth question and you/we aren't it. He is. It took me about twenty years to run out of my great ideas. After that, so much wonder began to happen.

God really is amazing. What fascinates me is how willing He is to engage in His own work. We are far too pressed by our hurry-upness to pull off the kind of seed-sowing, kingdom-resulting work our communities truly need.

The work will get Jesus. It is our job to believe him....John 6:29. Learn to wait. It won't kill you; but it might kill off a bunch of your own nasty weeds.


Have you ever read a book or watched a movie and you felt you were reading/watching yourself?  That has happened to me on occasion and it's happening right now.

I am reading Kingdom Come (Hicks/Valentine).  It is absolutely thrilling.  If you want to read a book that looks back at you and says, I've put into words what you believe precisely about the Holy Spirit, you will love this book.

I love what God has done for, with, and through these two authors.  We believe that Scripture is Spirit-breathed.  We believe that the word should be read more not less.  But if Churches of Christ are to take the Bible seriously then we must take what it say about the Spirit seriously.  Perhaps we have been asking the wrong question.  Perhaps the question is not, "Does the Spirit operate separate and apart from the word?" but "Does the word work separate and apart from the Spirit?" (cf. 2:Cor.3:6).  The word is an implement of the Spirit not the other way around.

If the Churches of Christ are going to be in step with the Holy God we will never find any avenue other than the path of the Spirit to walk upon.

"KINGDOM COME".....get the book!  It is least through page 79!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Ministry can be discouraging.  At times preaching colleagues at other churches would say to me from envy, I wish I could preach for a church that wanted to grow. 

A couple of things confused me regarding such a statement.  When the comments were made, I was just beginning at MD.  Such a location wasn't as easy as the commentors assumed.  Too, I pondered that surely their congregations did want to grow.

I'm not naive.  I know somewhat their intent when saying such.  Yet truth be known, all churches want to grow.  Basically, none of us know how to go about it.  We think by organizationally connecting the right dots increase is bound to happen.  May be.

Here's how I see it.  From front to back and top to bottom we are clueless.  Count on it.  From Richland Hills' success to Po Dunks' misery we are all fundamentally the same; if God doesn't cause it and do it, it ain't gonna happen.

I should know.  I tried hundreds of ideas and concepts.  I read books and attended seminars.  I went to Christian and secular meetings trying to find the secrets to this and the keys to that.  I remained well as frustrated. 

I spent about 18 years at Memorial wishing I was somebody else and wishing Memorial was like some other church.  I spent about five years wondering why we existed as a church or if we should divvy up the members and move off into other congregations.

When I reached the conclusion I was clueless and God was not, things began to dramatically change.  The church wanted to grow; it hadn't known how.  As one of her leaders I was too self-conscious, too judgmental, and too brash to contribute.  This had to go....and it didn't/wouldn't go without a fight within myself for I was also highly defensive.

Yet by the grace of God it seemed cluelessness was a valuable admissional tool.  Once He heard me confess it there seemed to be a snow-balling effect where others in leadership reached a similar personal conclusion simultaneously.

All churches want to grow.  Many are clueless as to how this could be.  A secret for others may be what is now the theme of our elders as well as the staff.  It is not Lead, follow, or get out of the we once paraded.  No.  Our goal now is more fine-tuned.  We now know for the church to grow we as leaders must get out of the way.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Unrest isn't new in the church.  On one hand, that's a very good thing.  Believers are still ambitious.  However, it can be a bad thing if zeal is not garnished in patience of the Holy Spirit.  Patience, vision, contentment, hunger....all are kingdom traits.  We are constantly challenged from pedal to brake as to the correct speed of the Spirit at any given moment.

We are experiencing increase of church productivity when we couple need with opportunity.  Consider the lack in the church.  Then consider those who feel the disappointment of not being involved deeply enough.  Perhaps we are staring at a leadership opportunity instead of a crisis when we introduce the two to one another. 

Memorial has been fairly inefficient with ministry for the college/young professional age.  It isn't that we haven't tried.  Nor is it that we have always failed.  We don't seem to come up with a long-term solution.  We continue to weigh this work for there is continued interest from many of us.  Somewhere buried within our network of unfulfillment and frustration lies the secret combination to unlock this ministry puzzle. 

Self-ambition on the part of any is never even a short-term solution.  No, we want to strike at the Spirit leadership of this very good unrest in the church.  It is a good thing that members of the body want more.  When we temper desire with patience, we often see God invest Himself with us in strong efforts.

Spirit of unrest in the church where you are?  When we love each other we will be diligent to seek His will among us.  In the meantime, our search will include plenty of praise for Him.  If not, we have an unrest that comes from darkness rather than doses of meaningful spirituality.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Young Josh Patrick asked me at Pepperdine last week, So what should I try to do in my first five years of my new work?  My first response was to learn to turn criticism into fuel.

Criticism is a vital nerve of the Jesus body.  Few accept it.  We usually fight it.  We are blessed by it.

Yesterday's post drew this comment; Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "TEACHING AND PREACHING: WHERE WE GET THE CONTENT": Interesting post today. Especially after I was listening to the podcast last week of your sermon. I felt like it was more about Terry's book and problems of me, my and I than on God. May I suggest you listen to your own sermon. Preachers should not use that many examples of self because it appears they are before the cross.

I screen every comment and held the option to reject this one.  I chose not to for it is a very significant part of ministry life.  What do we do with this?  How do we handle it?  I give you my opinion and you keep what part serves your ministry best.

First, never take seriously a note from "Anonymous".  Just don't. 

Anonymous has to be a good person; but such is a cowardly and immature behavior.  Disregard all information of "They said" or letters and notes which arrived "unsigned".  Don't take it personally or seriously.  You have someone who has an axe to grind; but if that person doesn't have the courage to put his or her name to it, we are not to respect such weakness....period.

When criticism comes with a name to it, pay attention.  It takes courage for such a one to approach you.  Yes, some will still be off-base.  Others, though, will be carrying information we would do well to heed.  We need criticism; yet it is the least favorite part of our work. 

Second, do realize criticism is not an attack; but is a vital help.  It is God's anvil where He hammers the impurities out of us.  One of those will be ego.  Paul expressed in II Cor. 12 that he had received a message from Satan to keep himself from exalting himself.  He regarded that message as a thorn in the flesh.  That thorn was criticism; Paul was being questioned at several turns as to his authentic apostleship. He needed such clamor to keep him from beginning to believe the wonder going on with and around him was his doing.  It never was.  It was always God's.

Third, criticism will be in your lap for more than just learning to stay humble.  It will be a constant part of your life to test whether you will love those whom you will naturally be tempted to believe are your enemies.  Keep in mind that even anonymouses are not our enemies.  Until you pass this test, you will be perpetually confronted.  While we are to realize that many of our critics have a deeper agenda, they are desperately loved by God....and us. 

The "C" word is not your enemy.  It is your blessing; another backward trait of God's system.  No, no one loves this time of being ripped.  Those who guide children's homes, write many books, preach for churches, and serve in the secular world.....all face the tough stuff of criticism.  We will not escape it.  If we do we are aborting the discipleship process. 

Jesus went through it and cautioned us when all men approve of us.  We are in a serious position which insists we will be disliked.  This is tough for us for, of all things, we want people to like us. 

Finally, enough cannot be said regarding the value of the "C" word.  It is an essential element of developing into an effective leader.  It is called "Suffering 101" and this course cannot be regarded as an elective.  Many good men and women have faded into the averageness of getting by because they refused to take the hammering kingdom life will provide. 

The "C" is for our benefit.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


As we begin to fill the role of verbal communication, I imagine many sense the same call as your best to fill up the time.  Yes, we have adequate instruction in homiletics, hermeneutics, and volleyball.  Still, our main fear is we won't have enough stuff to fill up the time.

This battle for something to say creates bad habits because our most urgent mission is to hunt, as in Easter eggs, those quotes and ideas which will....fill up the time.  Due to such a self-salvaging process we forget a couple of significant items; God and the hearers.  Both desire to participate. 

Unintentionally the preaching/teaching process can drift from people hearing from God to all about us and our classy delivery.  Thus, the people and God suffer....and so do we.  In this age of elaborate media tools at our disposal, the threat is even greater.  God may be left out and the hearers dulled by endless chatter which basically says nothing other than we have given it our best shot to fill up the time.  Still?

So what do we do about it?  First, we simply realize this is going on.  I fervently struggled with this for my first couple of decades of preaching.  That's a long time to grapple; a very frustrating time.  Maybe now I can share a slight crack of hope upon our dilemma; the church's dilemma whenever this scenario would be a part of the teaching scene.

This isn't about how many notes we use.  It is about how much we listen for God in our preparation.  Our busyness and scramble for the Saturday night deadline can exempt God from participation.  We want to know root words, Hebrew and Greek identities, and check out what Barclay and Rick Warren have said.

An important question is, What is God saying now?  I can't wait for tomorrow's sermon.  Study?  Yes, every day I study.  I read God and I read authors.  I love it.  A difference now is I wait on God to participate in my preparation.  I listen for His input. 

This morning I was pondering Jesus' temptation to turn the stones into bread.  It occurred to me (that's all I know to describe God talking to me....He gives me His ideas for I don't possess them) that Jesus refused to turn stones into bread and yet as 5000 sat in need of food he turned bread into bread.  He turned a little bit into a lot (of which second graders know).  Yet, how it fits the sermon excites me.  My contagion will build contagion because God mixes in with the teacher/preacher as well as the hearers. 

From our presentations more than English words are heard.  Do you get that?  We hear heaven coming to earth and landing in the caverns of our very own eardrums.  Enormous and abundant translation takes place from the time our ears move the product of God's system from our ears to our lips.  By the time that split-second Word reaches a new set of eardrums (by our preaching and teaching) which causes ignition of their lips....the word multiplies.  Yet another set of ears hear the perpetuated and vibrant message which began by us listening for God.

And the Word of God kept on spreading; and the number of disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem.  The Word continues to spread as we intentionally leave room for God to participate in all of our learning procedures.

Where do we get the content for our classes and our sermons?  From the Living Word and from the Living God as both interact with all of our other preparatory processes.  Don't block Him out.  He causes the messages to live.

Friday, May 14, 2010


You are looking at my new chair.  It is an old rocker my brother bought for a $1 at a garage sale for Mary and me 42 years ago.  For 42 years it sat as an old, worn, and dingy darkly varnished piece of furniture.  I recovered it a total of seven times. 

Recently I took it apart, sanded it, stained it, varnished it, and had it reupholstered.  Ah, Jana Fowler and her sister did a great job installing the fabric.

It now is a new chair....same chair just new!  It has a new personality and a new presence...still a chair...but really new in its world.

This is what we get to do as the body of Christ.  Together we find old broken-down people and we take them to the Refinisher.  They just never get over how He changes their presence.

An amazing thing about the Refinisher is He paid more than $1.  He gave His life that we might one day have the authentic hope of experiencing newness.  I encourage you to live as if you have been born again...brand new...ready for a new life in a tired world.

If you haven't been reborn, remade, and restarted, don't be discouraged.  This is something everyone start life over.  You can do it.  You don't have to become someone else.  You as yourself are just fine.  You will (as we all do) need the Refinisher to sand you down and dress you up for you have many years of great life ahead of you.

We will make a difference because we are now different ourselves!  Hats off to the Refinisher!


Faith causes a slight problem with knowledge.  It causes it to begin a slow leak.  Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies, Paul asserted.  Strangely, we have to know this about knowledge.

Knowledge absolutely fits in the kingdom.  A factor of importance is to beware it is not the apex of Christianity; love is.  Therefore faith becomes a most necessary, as well as tricky, element of kingdom life.  Some knowledge tends to want to know facts when faith will lead us to know Christ.  When knowledge desires to be the chairman of spirituality, it will eventually begin a slow leak for it does not belong in such a position.

John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine wrote in KINGDOM COME this important concept.  Trust is the key word.  Our response to God's sovereignty is faith rather than pride; dependence rather than self-reliance.  This child-like trust does not understand everything. (Notice the leak beginning?)  Quite the contrary, faith seeks understanding rather than understanding grounding faith.  We live by faith, not by sight.....The more we understand, the more we know we don't know.  We live by faith, not by sight. (The leak in knowledge increases.)

The more we understand, the more we "know" we don't "know".  Why?  Knowledge has a necessary leak in it.  It cannot grasp the faith world in its fullness.  It surely participates for we are to know God, know mercy, know our Bibles, etc.  Yet, knowing will not/cannot serve as our complete formula to experience God's mysterious style.  Faith will.  We will see by faith; not by explainable terminology. 

The more we understand, the more we "know" we don't "know".  Do you "know" what this does for us?  It lets us touch a freedom to explore the rich universe of God's vineyard!  It sets us alaunch for tasting actual nuances of His glory that no man has thought to even wonder about...let alone know about!  The more we understand, the more we know we don't know. 

Knowledge has a slow leak.  Eventually we will admit we don't know as much as we had once assumed.  Then.....then maybe we will seek to know Jesus over knowing rules and regulations about religion.  Possibly then we will awaken to His incomprehensible, fuller-than-full creation. 

Abundance of God.  By faith we seek it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Before one would conclude I am about to brag or complain, I write of neither. 

Rather I address leaders of every tenure (some just beginning/others who have been at it a long time) about what it is like to be in ministry 35 years and at one place for well over 32.  Why?  Because I believe some of you may want to consider a perplexing mood we each may encounter along the way.

I'm going through a very curious time.  I feel awkward; as in nearly out of touch.  People are too good to me, so I'm not feeling neglected.  I love God, so I'm not sensing doubt.  My problem is I don't know what I'm doing....still.

While this feeling isn't negative, it is confusing to my spirit.  As I grow in Jesus, I find myself literally decreasing to the point I just feel flat weird.  I seem to have no plans.  I am crazy about my job but I seem nearly directionless....yet I don't desire cumbersome direction as a cure.

I work.  I love the work.  I don't feel out of touch.....but I don't feel like I know what's going on.  Wonderful, delightful things go on all around me;even with me.  I keep thinking, Huh?

The reason I say this is that many who begin ministry feel the day is coming when you will turn some designated corner and sense somewhat of a grip on your work.  I say to you that it won't get better.  You'll love ministry; but you won't reach a day where you grasp the kingdom labor, for God works so oppositely of our assumed approach.

I say we are wonderfully learning that the work we thought was ours is turning out to be mistaken; it really has been His all along.  I have waged inner war with my need to control, to direct, to manage, and to perform.  God continues to unravel this self-centered appetite.  While this is all is really different than how I thought ministry would go.

Perfect?  Complete?  Far from both.  But the process is what I alert you to.  You will not find yourself becoming more; more effective, more affluent, nor more in control.  Your experience...if in Jesus...will likely be the opposite.  Don't be surprised.  And, don't think there is something wrong with you.  There isn't.  There is something right going on. 

God is moving in and about your ministry.  He remains bursting with surprise and mystery.  For us to connect to His work, this procedure will hopefully leave us hungering for more instead of dispensing platitudes of grand self-accomplishment. a good thing.

In essence this post is really about what it may be like to be you.

I remain in kindergarten in the kingdom.....and I absolutely enjoy the challenge of being clueless.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Time does what, church?  Flies...we say.  In the what of an eye?  A blink.  In the blink of an eye our kids are grown or our time is up...whatever the discussion.  We live in a grand-scaled, race-paced society that is so tricky we often don't know what we now believe for moments ago we just absorbed new and crucial information.  We live at hub-bub speed. 

When one is six or seven is seems like Christmas will never arrive.  Remember?  Can't sleep? Can't wait?  Somewhere we turn an adult corner and life's engines rev and we begin to race in a constant blur.

What is it all about?

I think it is about distraction.  We dart from one meeting place to another.  This concept and dilemma is nothing new and we don't need extensive explanation.  We do need to be aware that frantic movement is dangerous in that it does not provide connecting with the breath nor breadth of God.

God has much to say.  He didn't deliver it all in the Word; although that in itself can be disconnected due to our racetrack pace.  God also speaks to us; especially regarding wisdom exchanges for which He invited us to make requests and promising He would send it in.

Do what you can to stand against the free-fall of hub-bubilism.  Its nature is harmful.  Its intent is to rob you of noticing God.  He is in our world.  Let us praise Him....let us take the time to praise Him....often.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I love imagination.  I'm even a better imaginer as an adult and I was pretty good at it as a kid!

God challenges us in Ephesians chapter three to think tall, think high, and think far, and He will exceed the bar.

How much is that?  Well....take a good look at Genesis, finish in Revelation, and tell me how many times the impossible just happened.  Count the ways.  Count the impossible ways!

God's entire charter is one of man can't but God can...and does.  This is thrilling!  We are never at a loss because loss only creeps us closer to victory.  Romans 8:37....we overwhelmingly conquer in "all these things".  The "up" things and the "down" things.  The "life" things and the "death" things.  The "past" things, "present" things, and "future" things.  Folks...God just about has life covered!

So wake up and smell the coffee.  We are winners everywhere we turn.  Romans 5:1-5: if it goes right it goes right and if it goes wrong it goes right because of the Holy Spirit poured out upon us.  God has life covered!

How much more is "more than we can imagine"?  Well....try as we will, we just can't imagine that high.  As good of a hand as we hold, God can always trump us. 

Hurray for us....and thank you God!


Mark this new website:

Spread the word on the theme and dates.  Get ready for the March reunion!

           March 23-26, 2011

Monday, May 10, 2010


Consider Joseph in the pit. Marvel ensued.

Note the Israelites fleeing from the armies. The Red Sea marched to God's drum.

Ponder the 5000 unannounced for dinner. Leftovers were invented.

Look into the imposing grave. Jesus is missing.

God seems to be so strong....abundantly strong....if not for two areas; really two desperate areas. We seem to suspect His ability when it comes to equipping us and when it comes to saving us.

We are wowed by His superior style....until it gets to us. In that zone we tend to let confidence slip. However, we will do well to realize the first four examples are built into the story to give us courage regarding the latter two questions.

God is not weak....ever. Our faith is.

Let God do for us what we can't ever do on our own. Let Him provide His suit of armor for our work and believe Him that we are thoroughly saved.

Sunday, May 09, 2010


I wrote Wednesday that when something goes badly, I would write it in honor of Rick Atchley for he kids me about being so encouraging it discourages him.  How funny.

But already something negative has hit.  So I write to let you in on it.  Just last Sunday I told Memorial Drive and then in a class at Pepperdine the same marvelous story of God working. 

Basically, I've been trying to get a book published over the past three years that I can't seem launch.  Ten days ago...and with quite odd circumstances, coordinations, and connections...I learned a publishing company in Chicago had picked up my manuscript (MVP; Why You Are Most Valuable in God's Eyes) with enthusiastic plans to publish it.  Yippee!

When I returned home from Pepperdine I had an email awaiting from the publishing company explaining that due to finances they would not be doing the book.  Sorry.

So could I tell you this bit of information is significantly discouraging?  It is.

However, this is only a step in the waiting and enduring process.  I have no idea what God is up to; yet such is the key to our hope!  When we have no idea we also have no restrictive framework from which we opt to work under.  We are open to God's talent.

Abram made a big mistake when he thought God's promise was an assignment.  Hagar was not Abram's assignment.  We do what Abraham eventually did.  We wait on God and when He is ready the actuality will be bigger than our intention.

Now.....that's pretty encouraging and I'm not really having a bad day.  I just said it to get your attention.

Saturday, May 08, 2010


I am back from the Pepperdine Lectures.  Thrilling!  Amazing!  Marvelous moves of God!  I loved it all.

Jerry Rushford and his ant-farm team did a profound job of putting together one of the most complete packages of "encouraging experiences" I have ever encountered.  From the early morning moments of being greeted by the ocean's breeze on my way to breakfast to the last bit of pie and coffee waaay past bedtime (CDT)...what a boost to my spirit!  What a boost!

The keynoters were right on.  Randy Harris broke open the Word for me in a way I am still reeling as I try to grow up to the level of his absolute revelation from Acts 2, 8, and 10.  So good.

One of my favorite things about the past week was something not on the program.  It really caught me off guard to the extent I didn't realize what was going on until about the third day.  I had so many young men and women seek me out privately to weigh problems and approaches to their ministry. 

It became apparent that lunches, dinners, and Coke breaks were much more than friends being with friends.  Constant counsel...ongoing....there is so much wonder to ponder in His vineyard!  We were highly engaged in kingdom concepts and opportunities.  How fun is that?

We have a brilliant group of young, committed, faithful leaders coming over the horizon.  A thing I love about God is that because He is faithful we are all the same age in the kingdom....brand new every day (II Cor. 4:18)!  I may look older than them.....but I am in kindergarten beside them.  What a privilege for me.

It was special, too, to room with one of my sons, Dusty.  I have such admiration for his insight and connection to the God of creation.  Plus...we did get the giggles maybe too many times.  That boy is funny!

Jerry Rushford.....job so well done it will carry us on to greater faith as we learn to continue to speak of The Hero of the Story.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


You know how some people are name-droppers?  They met Brad Pitt or they talked with the President of the United States or some great moment like those?  Well...I one-upped name-dropping today.  I name-stood.

Name-standing is a new concept I created just for me.  I saw Randy Harris, Randy Lowry, and Rubel Shelly standing together outside in a mall area of the Pepperdine campus mid-morning..  I thought, "how neat."  What a great group of I walked over and stood with them.  I didn't know the topic and was never drawn in.  But as people passed by they could not help but notice the "four" of us standing having a mutual (?) chat of some sort about a world matter that I feel sure impressed the many passers-by.

After awhile they moved on.  I did mention to Rubel my apology for not being able to accept the position of being President of Rochester Christian College.  I hope he understands....I have this blog to write...and other important matters.

Pepperdine?  My favorite one so far!  No joke!  Really awesome!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


Ah, what a day!  I heard a new young couple from Littleton, CO in one of the classes this morning.  I've heard about Colin Packer for awhile...and he and his wife are impressive.  I enjoyed listening to someone different from my usual favorites.

My class went really well.  I spoke opposite Walling and Rubel and 4900 other classes and managed to siphon off somewhere under 6000 attendees for my small place!

Tonight was Jonathan Storment's introduction to the spotlight.  He wowed the packed Firestone Fieldhouse.  I'm glad I got to watch his entrance onto the stage of meaningful stirring and proclamation. He makes all of us a bit richer because he is connected to the Resurrected One!  Ya dun good, son!

Early this morning Dusty and I were joined by Rick Atchley and Chris Seidman for breakfast.  Rick ask how I was doing and I responded that I was doing super good.  He immediately quipped he reads my blog daily and would just one time like to know I wasn't doing so good. 

He said I am so encouraging that it discourages him.

The next time I have a rotten day I'm going to write all about it in detail and honor Rick with it!  I dearly love what Rick does for God among us.  We need him.  I need him.

Finally, I sure am really helping out Jerry Rushford.  I've alsready signed several speakers up for Pepperdine next year.  He's so busy he has no idea....I've almost got next year's program completed. 

Boy!  Will he ever be surprised!


Ken Young and Hallal ripped open the Pepperdine Lectures with their usual stirrings of the worshipful spirit. They were so good they reminded me of what it is like to have that sort of worshipful leadership from Shane Coffman and the Memorial Singers Sunday after Sunday. I am most blessed to get to be around true worshippers.

And then...oh my goodness...and then lanky Shon Smith strode to the pulpit and pleaded for life to be allowed back into the church...the life of the Holy Spirit. He wasn't arrogant nor was he belligerent. He simply stated the Holy Spirit isn't dead, we have the same Holy Spirit the apostles did, and He is really very active in our walk. It was such a simple delivery and yet so needed.

Needless to say....I was impressed.

I've got three classes to deliver and the first one is up this morning. I can't wait. The Spirit is among us...and He is working!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


Last week I received one of those brotherhood sheets that firmly stands for their concept of truth.  It was touting their integrity and high standard while hammering once again all the change agents among us.  Criticism of anyone not like them was hell bound.  Just the day before I had received a shiny new magazine with similar urgencies....but I'm not sure the two papers would accept one another except for the strong stances against us.

Here's my observation.  All of us who write are a group of very plain men and women often overestimating our assumed wisdom and underestimating our energetic God. 

Here's an oddity; the intricate God makes life simple and the ignorant us causes life to be wearyingly difficult.  Go figure.  We still tend to place heavy loads upon the shoulders of each generation without noticing God seems to be letting us continue our frantic pace.  Our underwear gets tangled in a knot over some of the silliest stuff. 

As we edge into the waters of God's operation, the tempest seems to smooth out.  Because we are humans, the kingdom challenge is ever before us....but we seem to be more relaxed as we seek His ways and not the frantic paces of pages and leaders of our past.

I encourage you to be still and know that He is God...Ps. 46:10.  It is not up to our franticism nor our never will be.  It is always up to Him....Rom. 9:16. 


Let go. 

Really....let God.

Monday, May 03, 2010


I've made ministry too difficult it would appear.  In the names of position and responsibility, I have failed more than succeeded because I stood in the way; in the way of progress, in the way of God.

God doesn't need my input as much as my faith that He has the input.  While His labors are marvelously mysterious, God has them designed for work among and for His children. 

The longer I get to work in the kingdom I especially notice one consistent trait; God takes care.  He did it with Moses, Abraham, Peter and Paul.  He does it with Rick, with Randy, with Liz, and with Lisa.  God takes care.

The less I organize; but the more I trust...He seems to provide.  The less I plot and fret, the more God seems to deliver.  The less I strain, the more He ushers results.  The more I credit Him, the more God gives me to credit Him.

I now know He is working....even when I can't see it or prove it....He is!  I know it.  I'm sure of it.

Whether opportunity or dream or dilemma or discouragement, you can take it to the bank.  God already has the solution enacted.  Because you can't necessarily touch it or see it, bring into focus your heart-eyes of Eph. 1:18.  You'll see everything from a new perspective....and it will cause you to have security, stability, and peaceful leadership.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


I lived in perpetual discouragement during my first church work of one year, my second church work of two years and maybe my first eighteen years here.  I know being down.

God showed me something in the Word that changed my pattern.  He showed me my thinking was displaced.  I was operating on conditions; conditions of others' responses or non-responses to me, how circumstances evolved, and of course, results of efforts.

I was a terrible friend to anyone because my mood depended on what I got from them.  I was a lousy leader for my enthusiasm depended on whether I was getting my way. 

But God showed me a better way.  Philippians 4:4-9 changed my world.  I could choose to think of what I didn't like if I wanted to, but those thoughts would not bring me peace.  Or, I could live thankfully for every thing I could think about....and peace would begin to blend into my daily routine.

God was right.  No surprise.  When I practiced (:9) thinking about the good things going on, my world bloomed like garden flowers.  Everything shifted.  I learned about everything--EVERYTHING--being a "Yes"....II Cor. 1:18-20.

It wasn't a seminar that upset my world for good.  I shifted from being a moody, pouty grown man by rehearsing everything in life which has or is or will gone/go right!  Guess what!  God knows His people.  Our hope is not dependent upon what the elders permit or what the contributions allow.  It is dependent upon what goes on between our ears. 

When we decide Jesus' resurrection can afford us the same power....II Cor. 13:4....we begin to experience a new world order.  Discouraged?  People nor circumstances are the real issue.  They can surely cause an edginess to our walk.  But the ultimate fact is we can select a host of matters gone right...and find perfect peace.

I must share that to begin this wasn't easy for I simply wanted others to change their ways.  They didn't.  I had a choice; be happy or be depressed.  He has a way for us to experience His wonder!  Think on it!

Saturday, May 01, 2010


He said it.  We are to be a perched people.  We aren't called to hide under a bushel basket.  We aren't designed to be camouflaged by the thick under-brush of minding-our-own-business so no one will notice.  We are called to live out front and up high.

Therefore, my friends, I encourage you to move out from the shadows of doubt, timidity, and fear.  He has not given us such a spirit.  No longer hide in confusion.  Drop the nagging nuisance of worry.  Step up!  Step out!

We tend to withhold our presence in the name of humility.  If it were authentic humility, that would be one thing.  But more often it is pride; a pride of self-protection so we don't risk looking bad....or even failing.

Stand tall!  Stand bright!  Communities are growing dim and it isn't because of the failing world economy; but rather the ailing church economy.  Too many of God's children have elected to go underground with their belief system.

I really believe America and all other countries are not in need of better leadership management as much as they are poised first for the body of Christ to actively and visually continue to roam the earth.  He arose.  Don't be a part of returning him to the grave for hiding.

Live in the light....from the top of the hill!