Thursday, October 18, 2007

My Master and My Money

A great church down the road, Farmer's Branch Church of Christ, is in the middle of a capital gains project. As a part of this effort, they are sending out daily devotionals. I found today's exceptionally challenging. Enjoy!

A ministry called Christian Financial Concepts receives about 150,000 calls per month from people asking for financial advice. The profile of the average caller:

• Age 30-35
• Owes $15-$20 thousand in school loans
• Owes $17-$20 thousand in credit card debt
• Owes $20,000 on two cars
• Owes $120,000 on the average mortgage

In America today:
• 50% of marriages fail
• 60-80% of these cite financial problems as the root cause of strife
• $1.17 is spent for every $1 earned

Many are not managing their money well. Note this information on the giving patterns in our churches:
• Individuals pay 4 times as much in interest as they give the church (10.2% vs. 2.3%)
• $.80 of every dollar is given by those 55+
• 20% of members give 80% of the money contributed
• 30% give the other 20% of contributions
• 50% give nothing at all
• 1 in 5 churches borrow money to keep the doors open

Why do we consider all of these figures? There are several reasons:
• They reveal the tremendous financial burdens that many live with.
• They reveal the major problem so many face when they think of tithing and/or giving to their church.
• They reveal the few who support the work of the church enjoyed by all.
• They reveal the marital problems caused by financial problems.

Whether you fit into this pattern or not, you can profit from analyzing the situation. All of us can handle our finances more effectively and become better stewards. Perhaps a good beginning is a Bible study of one of the miracles of Jesus, The Feeding of the Five Thousand, found in Mark 6.

Admit there is a problem - Mark 6:34-37
You know the story. Great crowds were following Jesus to see and hear Him. Seeing their needs, Jesus "had compassion on them." It was dinner time and they had no food. There was a problem and the disciples recognized it.

So many today when dealing with finances stick their heads in the sand and refuse to see a problem. Note the following:

Lending institutions have a criteria to determine if one is in danger of debt destruction:
• You pay only bare minimum each month on credit and never pay more than that minimum.
• You make partial payments rather than full.
• You start falling behind on payments shortly after opening an account.
• Your account balance always seems to grow and you cannot seem to pay it off.
• You have periodic bouts of late payments.

All of this says, "I have a problem and I need to deal with it." Good money management is important because if you do not master your money, your money will master you. The result of poor management is:

• You have a burden of debt that is back breaking
• You can't get out of the maze of discouragement, disillusionment and despair.
• You have no hope for savings, retirement, education of children - the future is bleak.
• You cannot support the Lord's work as you want to and as God wants you to.

Lord, help me master my money. I want You to be the center of my life - not money, not debt. I will take positive steps now to control my debt.

For more information on Farmers Branch click here. For an archive of other devotionals from the One to Grow On Campaign, click here.

And since we are on the subject of money, I'll close with a link to one of my favorite personal finance websites, the Simple Dollar - just click here.

Friday, October 05, 2007

How Sweet It Is!

Kim is an incredible cook. Some of my favs include, meatloaf (Kim makes a screaming tasty loaf), savory chicken satay, stuffed pasta shells, and some killer Cajun dirty rice shrimp dish! She loves to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner but she really loves to make yummy desserts! I love her chocolate chip cookies, home made sopapillas, and incredible hamburger cakes. I'm not a huge dessert guy to begin with, but in addition to Kim's homemade desserts, I do enjoy some good ice cream. My favorites are Starbucks Coffee, Blue Bell Vanilla, and Häagen-Dazs Dulce de Leche.

Kim and I just got in from the Northwest football game. We stopped by Starbucks and I got a double espresso. It was so delicious. It made me crave some Dulce de Leche ice cream. Really bad. Then I saw the link below in my Google Reader. It only made it worse. You know that you are craving ice cream bad when you blog about it.

Dulce de Leche Recipe | Dairy | Quick, Delicious, Easy Recipes :

Espresso and Dulce de Leche...

Sweet Dreams!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I Second That Emotion

Those of you that know me are fully aware of my accountant-like, analytical nature and my proclivity to constantly contemplate, measure and calculate between stimulus and response thus making me one not driven by emotions.

(insert your own - "yeah right" here)

Okay, so I'm an emotional guy. I'm not like a "let's watch Oprah and then go chat over chi tea" kinda guy, but I'm not your "I just chopped my hand off with a hatchet so let me duct tape it up, kick a few kittens and then have me a Marlborough" kinda guy either.

The emotions I deal with most are on the excitement end of the spectrum and not the depression end. I get way too fired up about something far more often than I get way too bummed about something. I don't get angry often and rarely (like once every 10 years) do I lose my cool. But I do get impatient, frustrated and definitely discouraged. So when I ran across the following article on emotions I just had to pass it on to you. Check it out here.

And if emotionally, you just can't handle trying to get a handle on your emotions right now, I leave you with a few classic "Deep Thoughts" by Jack Handy:

“If I could be a bird, I'd be a Flying Purple People Eater because then people would sing about me and I could fly down and eat them because I hate that song.”

“Once while walking through the mall a guy came up to me and said "Hey, how’s it going?". So I grabbed his arm and twisted it up behind his head and said "Now whose asking the questions?"

“I think a pillow should be the peace symbol, not the dove. The pillow has more feathers than the dove, and it doesn't have a beak to peck you with.”

Monday, October 01, 2007

Blessed Number 13

Luck had nothing to do with it. God has shown me incredible favor!

13 has been my favorite number since I was seven and yet I know many people consider 13 to be an "unlucky" number (and seven to be a "lucky" number). Well regardless of what people may think about 13, today is my 13th wedding anniversary and I'm so excited!!!

My wife Kim is absolutely the most beautiful example of what loving God, following Christ, and being led by the Holy Spirit is supposed to look like in the whole world!

She is:
- Fine (read: smoking hot)
- Funny (read: she fills my days with so much joy)
- Sincere (read: if she says she will pray for you, she will ... a lot)
- Generous (read: "honey, where's my car?" ... "Well I met someone at
Starbucks who needed a
ride ...")
- Godly (read: most every morning the first thing I see is Kim balled up on
the floor on her
knees praying)
- Romantic (read: that. lots of that)
- Compassionate (read: if you hurt and you tell Kim, she hurts)
- Selfless (read: she spoils John, Laura, Emily and most of all me!)

And the list could go on and on and on (read: if you ask me in person why Kim is the most wonderful woman on the planet, you better have packed a lunch!)

On of the coolest parts of our story is that when God gave me a wife He double blessed me with a family at the same time! I will never forget the pure joy I felt as I said, "yes" to Kim and John and Laura on October 1, 1994! Since then, there hasn't been a day that I don't wake up and still can't believe how good God has been to me! And in 2 days, Kim, John, Laura, and I will celebrate God giving Emily to us on October 4, 1996 - yet one more reason to feel so favored!

Every year of the past 13 has been wonderful. I'm sure there have been some tough times and yet I can't remember one completely bad day. We don't have a perfect marriage and we are always praying to grow together and closer to God every day. But we have an incredible marriage! One that has defied the odds and been sweeter than either of us could ever imagined! We are still crazy in love with one another, deeply committed to one another, and forever grateful for one another.

I love you Kim! Always have. Always will. Forever. Thank you for 13 blessed years of marital bliss! I'm praying for a minimum of 37 more!

And God, I love you too! I know that a gift this excellent could only come from you! Thank you for being the Author of our story, the Savior of our lives, and the King of this world!

You have shown me incredible favor. Luck had nothing to do with it!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Don Astronaut, Good Blogging, and Halo 3

One of my favorite stories ever - here.

A good article about blogging - here.

And for those who wonder about the violence of video games - here.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I don't know about you, but I get my fair share of email. Many of the emails that I receive each day contain links. I've decided to share a select variety of today's offerings in the form of a Top Ten List.

Top Ten Links I Received Today

10. Ministry to Older Adults

9. Stephen Colbert From a Rubik's Cube

8. 30 Great Firefox Add Ons

7. Obama and Hilary Go To Church

6. Sex and the Bible (My head is still spinning from this one)

5. Church Free Christianity

4. Rudy Gets a Call From His Wife (the not his cousin one)

3. Coolest Video Ever (Kim actually sent me this a few days back but I did think it was cool)

2. Conserve Water (I read the simple dollar daily)

1. Ron Paul (this guy really makes sense to me)

Monday, September 24, 2007


1. I got to golf today. To be brutally honest, I wasn't really looking forward to it. It was an afternoon tournament that I was invited to as a last minute replacement. The tourney raised money for Royal Family Kids Camp. My buddy Stephen Bailey has led worship at that camp the past two summers and has nothing but great things to say about it. I was invited by my former roommate and forever friend, Ty Lovell. Ty is a grand mix of Godly and goofy and is as genuine as they come. Anyway, we had a blast! I hit my usual mix of terrible and tour-ready shots. One of the coolest parts of the experience was that the course was next to Carswell Air Force Base and fighter jets were taking off all day long and doing some crazy maneuvers. All in all, it was a great way to spend an afternoon.

2. My friend Alan Phillips (who is also the leader of our missions ministry at Lake Cities) sent me a great article on church planting. I have such a heart for church planting and pray to see the day when Lake Cities births new faith communities. Check out the article here.

3. I am beginning a new series this Sunday called, Fracture. We will spend our time looking at both the repercussions and rescuing in the story of the Fall in Genesis 2 & 3. Specifically, we will be looking at how sin has effected our relationship with God, one another and ourselves. The part that I'm most excited about is the good news that God can, has, and is restoring those relationships! Sin separates but there is hope! If you have any thoughts, ideas, stories, or other input for me as I seek God's heart and message, please feel free to email me. As always, I covet your prayers.

4. And finally, on the 18th hole today I heard someone yell, "FORE!" I didn't really think much about it until I got in the car for the 45 minute, traffic laden drive. And then it consumed me: "Why do we yell 'fore!' when we hit a shot that might hit someone?" So I did what anybody would do, I rushed in, showered, kissed the family
, went to a shepherds meeting, packed up, came home, grubbed some killer cajun dirty rice, talked with the family, and then Google'd the answer. If you want to know, click here.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


I've always been a "streaky" guy. Probably has a lot to do with playing baseball all those years. Whatever the reason, I just tend to be either hot or cold. Over the years, I've tried to develop more of a turtle approach to life as opposed to the hare. I've experienced some success in many areas of life. However one area that I still tend to be really streaky ... you're looking at it: The blog.

But tonight a new streak begins. We will see how it goes. I'm not making any promises.

Today was a wonderful day in so many ways. Our Sunday morning gathering was really encouraging to me for several reasons. I had a brief but beneficial conversation with one of our shepherds, Steve McMindes who was really encouraging. I walked away thinking to myself, "Man, I've got to have more of those." Just seeing everyone is an encouragement to me. I fall deeper in love with my church family every day. Obviously, as a pastor, so much of how I feel about our time together on Sunday mornings is tied up with my self evaluation of my message. That is rarely a good thing, but usually a reality nonetheless. Today was a good message. Wasn't my best and it wasn't my worst. I know Lou Cullum loved it. The reality is that I prayed and prayed that it would be God's words for God's people for God's glory so I just have to trust that I did my part and He did his.

There was one regret I have from my message today and that was forgetting to share the lyrics of a powerful song. I would have loved to play the song but that is not where we are right now. That is the subject of another post for another day. Anyway, the song is called "Madly In Love With You" and is on the Passion CD

Check these lyrics out:

And I'm madly in love with you
And I'm madly in love with you
And I'm madly in love with you
And I'm madly in love with you

Let what we do in here
fill the streets out there
let us dance for you
let us dance for you
let what we do in here
fill the streets out there
let us dance for you
let us dance for you

And I'm madly in love with you
And I'm madly in love with you
And I'm madly in love with you
Yeah I'm madly in love with you

And all of my life and nothing less i offer to you my righteousness
And all of my life and nothing less i offer to you my righteousness
And all of my life and nothing less i offer to you my righteousness
Yeah all of my life and nothing less i offer to you my righteousness

And I'm madly in love with you
Yeah I'm madly in love with you
And I'm madly in love with you
Yeah I'm madly in love with you

Since I was speaking about reaching the lost with our entire lives,
this song was especially appropriate. My favorite part of the song is:

"Let what we do in here
fill the streets out there"

That is my prayer for Lake Cities.

I closed with a challenge and a story.

The challenge was to pray the following prayer every day this week:

"I'm Yours.
Change Me.
Send Me."

And the story:

On July 4, 1854, Charlie Peace, a well-known criminal in London, was hung.
The Anglican Church, which had a ceremony for everything, even had a
ceremony for hanging people. So when Charlie Peace was marched to the gallows, a priest read these words from the Prayer Book: "Those who die without Christ experience hell, which is the pain of forever dying without the release which death itself can bring."

When these chilling words were read, Charlie Peace stopped in his tracks, turned to the priest, and shouted in his face, "Do you believe that? Do you believe that?"

The priest, taken aback by this verbal assault, stammered for a moment then said, "Well…I…suppose I do."

"Well, I don't," said Charlie. "But if I did, I'd get down on my hands and knees and crawl all over Great Britain, even if it were paved with pieces of broken glass, if I could rescue one person from what you just told me."

Tony Campolo, Let Me Tell You a Story (Word, 2000)

There were many other blessings from today including a nap, time at the driving range, time in the kitchen with Kim, and a delicious homemade Cajun feast (dirty rice, red beans and rice, and shrimp with garlic butter) to name a few. We also had a great parent meeting for our youth group. Matt did a really good job and even debuted the new Refuge website. Check it out here.

All in all, it was a wonderful day. They usually all are. I'm so blessed!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Couch Me?

I guess by the very definition of the word "best" you should only have one best friend. I have three best friends. Three people who have brought blessing to my life by the dump truck. Kim is first and "bestest" by far. She knows me more, loves me more, and puts up with more than the other two combined. A lot of guys wouldn't count their wives as a best friend. Two thoughts on that: They're not married to Kim and I'm not a lot of guys.

The other two "best" friends of my trinity of community are Mitch Wilburn and Grant Boone. These two brothers have a permanent place in my heart and I am confident that I wouldn't have ever met Kim if it wasn't for them. I wouldn't be half the man I am today without the encouragement, equipping, and example of Mitch and Grant. I talk with them both at least 3 times a week and 99.9% of those conversations include some serious laughter. Mitch is the Preaching Minister for the Park Plaza Church of Christ. Grant is a sports writer and broadcaster for and the Golf Channel. Both are borderline nuts.

To offer even a hint of my friendship with these two (even more so with Kim) and the impact they've had on my life is the stuff of future posts. I could write a book on each. Today I just want to share a quick story about my buddy Grant. (note to non Lake Cities members: this post is basically a microcosm of how I preach - long intro to get to the point!)

Grant and his 8 year old son Nicholas flew from Abilene to DFW yesterday and arrived shortly after 10am. At 10pm (12 hours later for the chronologically challenged) I heard the words that I love to hear, "Couch Me?" which is Boone for, "Can I crash at your house?" As with last night, the "Couch Me?" usually involves travel to or from DFW airport, although we've couched the entire Boone family on their way to or from Nashville as well.

Last night I had just walked in the door from some pick up basketball when the text arrived. I was looking forward to a hot shower and a cold ice pack. But when I get the "Couch Me?" call, time stops momentarily and I become giddy with excitement! I headed out the door and down the road on the short 15 minute trip to the airport. As I pulled to curb in terminal B, I expected to see a frustrated father and sad son (they were supposed to catch an Indians game as a part of this father-son trip, but missed it due to the weather related flight delays). Instead, I was greeted by two truly joyful and Jesus filled people! Grant immediately began bragging on how incredible Nicholas' attitude had been all day (including both the three hours they sat in the plane on the tarmac and the three hours they stood in line to try and get on another flight) and I didn't have any trouble believing him. Nicholas was in great spirits and full of tales from the day's travel.

When I hear, "Couch Me?", it is always a good thing. Yesterday, it was even more special.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Good Sermon

One of my favorite church bulletin bloopers is, "During the absence of our Pastor, we enjoyed the rare privilege of hearing a good sermon when J.F. Stubbs supplied our pulpit." Ouch!

Every Sunday I hear "That was a good sermon!" or "That was one of your best!" or "You hit the ball out of the park on that one!". Yet I am not naive enough to believe that everyone feels the same way. In fact, most Sundays, I don't feel like that so I know that at least one person thought it wasn't all that great.

Yesterday, I ran across the following article on "What Makes a Good Sermon" which is a question with which, I'm constantly wrestling. I pray consistently to be used by God, filled by the Spirit, and poured out like wine every time I step up to the pulpit. I have a burning desire to passionately communicate God's message to God's people with God's power. This article assisted my quest. I've included it below and invite anyone to comment with their own input on the subject. What points do you agree with and are there some with which you disagree? What would you add? Who are some preachers that you believe consistently communicate God's story dynamically? What is the best sermon you've ever heard? (Sermon on the Mount doesn't count) I'm anxious to hear!!!

Lessons from Preaching Today Screeners
Ten criteria used by our experts to choose the best sermons

I have the privilege of being one of the sermon screeners who review about 250 sermon recordings sent to Preaching Today Audio each year. It is a rare opportunity to hear a wide variety of the best (usually) of American preaching. What follows are the 10 questions by which we evaluate all the sermons received by Preaching Today, and some of the lessons we've learned from listening.

Is this sermon grounded in Scripture?

Most sermons we hear are Scriptural, but many do not " keep their finger on the text. " Listeners are not taken to Scripture frequently through the sermon. The effect is subtle — the source of authority seems to shift quietly from the Bible to the preacher. Too few sermons actually try to follow the reasoning — the logic — of a text.

I carry a PDA — one of those little hand-held computers. The screen is bright and colorful, but if I don't touch the screen the light goes off after about a minute. The words are still there, but there's no light. It is hard to read. Sermons are like that. We need to keep tapping the Scripture as we preach — reading the next sentence in the text, pointing to a phrase explicitly, asking them to look at a certain verse — if we hope to keep the light on the Bible and not ourselves.

Is the exegesis and theology sound?

My most frequent reaction to this question after hearing a sermon is: Sound? Yes. Deep? No. A few sermons unload so much exegesis that you'd think this was an oral final exam in seminary. But most sermons, while true, do not display well the surprises, ingenuity, or depth of Scripture. I suspect the preacher didn't study well.

When it seems the preacher and the original writer are in sync with each other, that is a unique work of the Holy Spirit, and upon that sermon there is unction.

To the natural mind (versus the spiritual mind), the Bible is always counterintuitive. Good sermons reveal how the text teaches us to think differently, showing us how God's truth and logic challenge our " old man " way of thinking.

Screener Jeffrey Arthurs, associate professor of preaching and communication at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, noted another issue: " I am sometimes concerned with 'how-to' sermons typical in the seeker sensitive movement. These often take verses out of context and elevate other sources of authority (especially ethos) on a par with Scripture. "

As to the theology in a sermon, preachers are sometimes surprisingly careless in their choice of words, belying fuzzy theology. But more often, I have the feeling the preacher didn't realize the rich nuances of theology in the text before him, like someone looking at the Grand Canyon and preaching, " Boy, is that big! " We shortchange God's people when we shade their eyes from the glory of theology.

Would you describe the sermon as having unction/anointing?

This is the most difficult question to answer. Screener Scott Wenig, associate professor of applied theology, Denver Seminary, says, " If the sermon really 'connects,' then I'll answer yes. I would guess that less than 15 percent of the sermons I screen meet this specific criteria. "

A sense of passion is a possible tip-off to unction, but sometimes that is more a matter of personality and style than the work of the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, the most sure sign to me is if Scripture speaks loud and clear; if not only the full sense of a passage is made clear, but also the passion of the biblical writer. When it seems the preacher and the original writer are in sync with each other, that is a unique work of the Holy Spirit, and upon that sermon there is unction.

Did it engage your mind from beginning to end?

Scott Wenig says, " Most sermons I listen to don't do this. The sermon must move and hum to keep attention. " One of the benefits to manuscript preachers is that their sermons tend to be tighter, better edited. But most preachers are more extemporaneous. Their sermons tend to bog down somewhere. A stale illustration will do it, or belaboring a point that is already clear, or trying to milk some humor from a story.

Screener John Koessler, chairman, pastoral studies department, Moody Bible Institute, puts another factor very simply: " Are the ideas interesting? " One thing that will certainly engage our minds and hearts are great biblical ideas, expressed well. It takes work and time to hone an idea to vivid expression.

Is the sermon fresh?

Think garden-fresh. The sermon doesn't have to be something you've never heard before, but it needs to come across as crisp, tasty, and newly-harvested. It seems that sometimes preachers are telling their folks things they surely already know and believe, and doing so in terms the congregation would probably find overly familiar.

Koessler identifies one key test of freshness: " I want the speaker to avoid cliches. " Cliches come when a preacher hasn't thought too much about how he will say something and so naturally reverts to road-weary words and phrases. I listened to a fine sermon recently and found myself thinking again and again, That man thought hard about how to say that well. As a result, a familiar theme was fresh.

Is the sermon well-structured and clear?

John Koessler explains that he wants to " be able to discern the major movements within the sermon. I prefer to have the outline points stated and emphasized. I think it is clearer if they are stated as complete sentences rather than phrases. In a narrative I want to be able to follow the plot clearly and have a smooth transition to application. "

Jeffrey Arthurs adds, " The key to clarity is restatement, review, and repetition. The key moments in sermons where those techniques are needed are the transitions. "

Is the sermon well-illustrated?

Koessler responds, " My first question is whether it is illustrated at all. " Many sermons are not well-illustrated, and I think the reason is that illustrating takes time and work, added to all the other elements of sermon preparation. Many of the illustrations we hear are easy; they came quickly to the preacher's mind and are not sharpened particularly well. Quite often it seems that the illustration isn't quite focused enough — a little too general. It fits the sermon like those baggy jeans on a teenage boy. Increasingly, we're hearing video clips as illustrations. Some work very well, but they tend to be general, and sometimes I wonder what a pastor was doing watching that film.

It is rare to hear metaphors used well. They take time and imagination, but they are such wonderful windows. The Puritan John Owen was a past-master from whom we can learn. For example, he said in one sermon, " The world is but a great inn where we are to stay a night or two and be gone. What madness it is to set our heart upon our inn as to forget our home! "

Analogies work well for giving a fresh understanding of an idea. For example, I recently filed away a news story about a whale carcass exploding on a city street under " life gets messy. " That is an illustration by analogy. It will bring smiles and nods of understanding.

Examples, on the other hand, are stories of people actually working out the sermon's principle — how God provided for a generous giver, for example, or a quote from someone who feels life crashing in on her. Koessler adds, " I want to hear the speaker apply the illustration — tell me its significance. "

Did the message challenge you?

Sermons that challenge listeners as tough as we screeners are pretty special! Again, a rule of thumb is, the more biblical it is, the more challenging. Good sermons have a kind of time-delay medicine pushed into my subconscious mind that keeps treating my soul, keeps dosing me hours and days after I've finished listening.

I often wonder how well a sermon I'm hearing was prayed for. Though I don't know how to gauge it, I think a sermon that has been prayed well carries a long-term potency. Prayer is a means of unction.

For a sermon to challenge us, it has to have a great-heartedness, a grand idea about it. Some sermons feel lightweight.

Is the delivery effective?

All the screeners note something most preachers don't usually think about — the sound of our voices. Scott Wenig says, " Most sermons I listen to for PT leave much to be desired here. " He points to " a lack of variety in terms of voice, inflection, and pacing. "

I listen for a good command of language and emotion. Some preachers are so casual that they undersell weighty subjects. In an effort to " put the cookies on the bottom shelf, " they drop them on the floor. A sermon about sin that is funny, for example, is missing something. Sermons can be warm and human without sacrificing dignity.

Underneath our listening is the subconscious question, " Is this a godly person? Do I discern a Christlike heart and mind? " Somehow we discern that in a preacher's delivery.

Is the application true to Scripture and to life?

Many preachers work hard at this, but John Koessler warns, " Do not tell me the obvious. If it is something that I already know that I should do, help me to understand why I am not doing it. I especially want the preacher to help me explore the nature of the problems I face in implementing the application. "

We usually think of application in terms of what we should do, but much of Scripture addresses how we should think.Romans 12:1 says we will be " transformed by the renewing of our minds. " Show people how their typical thinking is contrary to the truth of Scripture, and then bring sanctified tools of rhetoric to persuade them to think with the mind of Christ. That is application even if we do not speak of doing something.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


We just returned from a 30 hour whirlwind trip to Abilene. Laura took the ACT for the first time. She did well enough to be accepted to ACU, but plans to take it several more times in an effort to secure some scholarship money. We left last night around seven and arrived at the Jensen's (some dear friends from Abilene) around 10. It was great to see the Jensen's and wish it could have been longer.

After a some time at Starbucks, I ate some of the best BBQ on the planet (Harold's) with one of the coolest guys on the planet (Cope). Then it was off to the hill (what the locals call the ACU campus - but it's not much of a hill) to meet Kim, Laura, and Emily prior to test time to give Laura her calculator and pray with her. I ran into ACU legends Bob, Jan, K-Ro, and several other friends. I also got to spend time with Phil Schubert which is always a treat.

Emily ended up staying the weekend with Lenda Jensen and going to Highland's Break-Through Retreat (Lenda is a group leader) and will come home on Monday when the Jensen's take Mendy to the airport.

All and all, it was a great trip.

On a side (and sadder) note, please continue to pray for the Brown and Bailey families. For the most up to date information about those wonderful families click here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Please Pray for My Friend

My good friend and Associate Minister, Stephen Bailey is walking in the valley of the shadow of death right now. Please pray for him and his entire family. I've copied the email I sent to our church family this morning below.

Stephen Bailey’s sister Leann’s family has suffered a tragic loss. Her family (Todd – Father, Leann – Mother, and children, Bailey 18, Hutton 16, Connor 13, and Regan 10) was in an automobile accident yesterday while traveling from Midland (their home) to Brownwood. Details are still coming in but we know this much so far – Stephen’s niece Bailey Brown broke her leg, pelvis and lost a lot of blood due to a compound fracture of the femur. She was care flighted to San Angelo and has undergone surgery and is in stable condition. Stephen’s nephew Connor Brown (13) did not survive. No one else in the family suffered major injuries but prayers are requested for Hutton who was driving at the time. The emotional recovery will be long for him and for all involved.

Stephen is flying home (they were in Idaho visiting family) and Stephanie and the girls will return home on Thursday. At this time, please do not call him but email is okay ( Please be in prayer for the Brown’s and the Bailey’s.

Thanks for praying for my friend.

I've just received the following email from Stephen:

I'm home from Idaho and will be going to San Angelo in the morning. Thank you for your calls, messages and offers of help. We are so blessed to have friends and family like you. Keep us all in your prayers.

Please go to for information and updates.

Received @ 5:41pm on Tuesday, May 29

Thursday, May 03, 2007


I remember listening to Warriors games past my bedtime on my little orange am radio under my pillow as a 7 year old in 1975. I've always been a Warrior fan and still am. I'm not going to pile on tonight. I am simply going to share with everyone a revelation I had during tonight's game.

Is it just me or does Dirk remind anyone else of one of those Geico Caveman Dudes?

Okay, maybe I am piling on...

Go Warriors!

Surviving Spiritually Dry Tmes




I know I'm not the only person on earth who experiences these "f" words. Today, I am feeling especially futile. So when I ran across the article below (after an hour of trying to get my email - which is still down due to a problem with the host's server) I felt that one feeling that every man and woman on the planet needs to feel: hope.


...and let down those nets one more time! I am.

Who knows? Today might be the day we experience "the catch of a lifetime"!!!

Surviving spiritually dry times
by Joni Eareckson Tada

Every pastor and every lay person has experienced them – dry times. Times when the Bible seems as inspiring as the Los Angeles phone book. Times when prayer feels like an exercise in futility. I had one of those dry times not long ago, and it seemed as though my prayers couldn’t even reach the ceiling, let alone Heaven.

I listened to my Christian friends talk about how they were learning and growing and what God was telling them and wasn’t the Lord wonderful!? I tried to listen hard, but faking it made me feel even more guilty.

The hardest part was that I could not trace the dry spell to anything specific. No besetting sin that had entangled me. No fights with my husband. No root of bitterness over my disability. No great lapses in my prayer life or Bible study. And certainly not a lack of fellowship. Yet my spirit felt as arid as July in the Mojave Desert. Maybe you can identify. Your smile loses its shine, your soul becomes dim, and your countenance tells you and everyone around you that something’s not quite right.

Strange as it sounds, the closest biblical analogy I can find for those dry days takes place in the middle of a lake. Let’s pick up the story in Luke 5.

[Jesus] got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and I haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:3-8 NIV)

That’s a story for dry times. It’s a story for when you feel tired of trying … when you’re weary of praying prayers that don’t seem to get answered … when the pages of the Bible might as well be written in hieroglyphics.

Simon, too, was weary. He was tired of trying. His back ached and his eyelids drooped. Yes, he had heard the Master preach to the people just moments before, but still he lacked faith and confidence in Jesus’ words. Besides, he had been up all night long without so much as a sardine to show for it. Yet at the command of Christ, he was able to summon what little energy he had left and let down his net. One more time.

As a pastor, perhaps all of your nets are empty today. You’ve been wrestling over decisions with your board of elders, but you’ve come up with no solutions. You feel dry and deflated, and you wonder if God has misplaced your file somewhere on his desk.

He hasn’t! God has been actively engaged moment-by-moment, every step of the way. He has been working behind the scenes, shifting hearts and pushing souls and prodding unwilling spirits. He has been laboring specifically and intentionally with a clear goal in mind for your life, your family’s and the lives of all those around you – including your elder board. Just be encouraged; it has been those petitions you offered in the dry times that have pleased him best.

Your heavy heart is no secret to the God who loves you. As David wrote: “All my longings lie open before you, oh Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.” (Psalm 38:9 NIV)

He is asking you today to let down your net. One more time. Even though you haven’t seen amazing results in recent weeks. Even though your emotions say, “What’s the use?” Even though running an uphill marathon seems more appealing than seeking the Lord right now. Nevertheless, obey the word of Christ and let down your net. Keep in the Word. Hit your knees and return to prayer. Confess your sins of unbelief (not to mention, a sour, skeptical attitude). Get into a closer relationship of accountability with a trusted Christian friend. Do some little, special thing for your wife and kids. Worship your God this coming Sunday morning with a hands-down, slam-dunk amazement over his grace to you and every other sinner in your congregation.

Because sooner or later, he’ll surprise you just like he surprised Simon Peter. He’s going to bring you out of that long night – out of that dryness. You’re going to experience his joy … more joy than you can handle. So be faithful, friend. Trust him. Wait on him.

Jesus can still fill an empty net.

This article has been adapted from a chapter in Joni’s new book, 31 Days Toward Passionate Faith (Multnomah, 2007).

Monday, April 23, 2007

Attendance Books

About a month ago, our church made the switch from "visitor cards" to "attendance books" We used to put a visitor card inside of the bulletin and ask everyone (the members filled out one side and the visitors fill out the other side). That had been our method of tracking who was at church and who wasn't for the past three years (or longer). But on Sunday, March 25th, we made the switch! Following the lead of churches like Otter Creek and Richardson East, we made the move to begin using attendance books. The result has been absolutely incredible! We've seen a 800% increase in the amount of guests who fill out the book over the card! We've seen a 2000% increase in the amount of members who use the books! It is incredible. Now this tracking this simple data does not take the place of shepherding, community in life groups, or discipleship, but it does provide us with some information about patterns. For example, if the week before Easter is consistently poorly attended and the week after is well attended, then maybe we shouldn't make the big announcement or kick off the new series on the week before Easter. Or maybe the young families all leave town on Presidents weekend, or perhaps someone says, "have you seen the Smith family? I haven't seen them in weeks..." We now have the ability to that information thanks to this simple change.

I decided that this change would best be communicated via a video. So I came up with an idea and commissioned my two ministerial homies, Stephen Bailey and Matt McBryde to run with it.

This is the first video we presented to the church on Sunday, March 25th. Matt did a great job acting! (it was his idea to play all three parts and it worked out awesome!) Stephen's voice over was perfect too.

Check it out here.

Then of course we had to top that one so I offered up the idea of a Mac/PC parody. Again, the guys nailed it and the church loved it.

Check it out here.

I'm hoping we can do 1 to 2 more in the future. I'm working on an idea of a play on those Sonic Commercials with the two guys in the car. Those crack me up.

If anyone else has ideas, I'd love to hear them.

Friday, April 20, 2007

My Center Child

My 17 year old beautiful daughter Laura told me a while back that she no longer will referred to as the "middle" child (Emily 10, John 21) but rather the "center" child. This has less to do with her age as it relates to her siblings and much more to do with her incredible* personality. (*by incredible I mean gregarious, compassionate, non-low maintenance, not-given-to-consistent-moods, sweet, funny, friendly, 'non inside voices', perky, and Christlike) So it is only fitting that Laura is going to be one of the stars of her high school (Faith Christian School - the best Christian School I've ever experienced!) musical, Fiddler on the Roof! I am so proud of her and excited to see her shine! I've included a poster below and tickets can be purchased by clicking here or calling the school (see below)

Laura has a sizable role. She is the (get this) middle/"center" daughter. It is kind of a stretch for her as Hodel is the daughter of a strict, religious father! Ha! I'm sure she'll do fine! I invite anyone in the area (or out of the area for that matter!) to come watch my lovely Laura!

For more information:, or phone: 817-442-9144

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Planet Why

Planet Why... a strange globe on which I don’t spend near enough time. I'm too busy spending my waking hours walking the more common worlds:

Planet What
Planet Who
Planet Where
Planet When
and my personal favorite...or at least the one I spend the most time on...
Planet How

But every now and then (when the stars align?) I find myself on Planet Why doing what (apparently you can do What on Why … I don’t know How…) you’re supposed to do on that specific sphere – asking “Why?”

Today it was an email from a dear brother who took the time to find out the “Why” of a particular event at our church. I had sent a couple of emails to the church that included all the other niceties of the cosmos that is the church calendar – What, Who, Where, When & How, but had neglected to include anything that pertained to the all powerful Planet Why. (Maybe I spaced out!) I thanked him genuinely for probing the purpose of my plans, for in doing so I had to ask “Why” we were doing the event in the first place. Now in this particular instance I clearly knew the “Why” and even more important – it made sense. However, I had failed (fairly miserably I might add) to cast the vision of that purpose to those I was trying to inspire to participate.

Immediately after I had I read and replied to (Thanks again BR) his email I opened another email from a leadership website with a link to this blog that contained the following quote:

“Momentum is fed by vision. It takes more than a solution. Solutions may meet a temporary need. Vision is what constantly supplies the fuel of going from where you are to where God wants you to be.”

Vision is the “Why”!!!

Is God trying to tell me something?

I believe He is.

Now if I could just figure out why…

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Still Messy

Good old Leviticus ... where many a "Read Through the Bible in a Year" dreams go to die.

I just powered my way through the following verses in Leviticus. I offer my humble insights at the end of this bloody post.

1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 "Say to the Israelites: 'When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands-

3 " 'If the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, he must bring to the LORD a young bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed. 4 He is to present the bull at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting before the LORD. He is to lay his hand on its head and slaughter it before the LORD. 5 Then the anointed priest shall take some of the bull's blood and carry it into the Tent of Meeting. 6 He is to dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle some of it seven times before the LORD, in front of the curtain of the sanctuary. 7 The priest shall then put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense that is before the LORD in the Tent of Meeting. The rest of the bull's blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 8 He shall remove all the fat from the bull of the sin offering—the fat that covers the inner parts or is connected to them, 9 both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the covering of the liver, which he will remove with the kidneys- 10 just as the fat is removed from the ox [a] sacrificed as a fellowship offering. [b] Then the priest shall burn them on the altar of burnt offering. 11 But the hide of the bull and all its flesh, as well as the head and legs, the inner parts and offal- 12 that is, all the rest of the bull—he must take outside the camp to a place ceremonially clean, where the ashes are thrown, and burn it in a wood fire on the ash heap.

Three simple insights:

1. The job of the Old Testament priest was a bloody, messy, nasty, brutal, painful job.

2. The job of today's pastor/priest/leader is often equally as bloody, messy, nasty, brutal, painful job. Different, but messy nonetheless.

3. Praise God for grace!

Monday, February 26, 2007

a REAL Inconvenient Truth

I ran across the following article today:

Al Gore’s Personal Energy Use Is His Own “Inconvenient Truth”
Gore’s home uses more than 20 times the national average
Last night, Al Gore’s global-warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, collected an Oscar for best documentary feature, but the Tennessee Center for Policy Research has found that Gore deserves a gold statue for hypocrisy.
Gore’s mansion, located in the posh Belle Meade area of Nashville, consumes more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year, according to the Nashville Electric Service (NES).
In his documentary, the former Vice President calls on Americans to conserve energy by reducing electricity consumption at home.
The average household in America consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, according to the Department of Energy. In 2006, Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kWh—more than 20 times the national average.
Last August alone, Gore burned through 22,619 kWh—guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year. As a result of his energy consumption, Gore’s average monthly electric bill topped $1,359.
Since the release of An Inconvenient Truth, Gore’s energy consumption has increased from an average of 16,200 kWh per month in 2005, to 18,400 kWh per month in 2006.
Gore’s extravagant energy use does not stop at his electric bill. Natural gas bills for Gore’s mansion and guest house averaged $1,080 per month last year.
“As the spokesman of choice for the global warming movement, Al Gore has to be willing to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, when it comes to home energy use,” said Tennessee Center for Policy Research President Drew Johnson.
In total, Gore paid nearly $30,000 in combined electricity and natural gas bills for his Nashville estate in 2006.


I wonder how many Christians (myself definitely included!) would fall short when it comes to "be willing to walk the walk, not just talk the talk" when it comes to living out our faith.

If someone got all up in our business like they did Al Gore's energy usage, how would we feel about the results being posted on the internet?

Just food for thought...

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Pursuit of Happyness

Just came in from seeing the Pursuit of Happyness (yes, I know that "happiness" is spelled with an "i" and not a "y" but this is how the movie spells it) with my son John. We actually began the father-son outing by seeing an absolutely horrible movie - Epic Movie. We were in the mood for a movie and it fit our time schedule - so we picked it. In a word: pathetic!. In two words: not good!

We made it through the first 30 minutes of it and then got up and walked out. I wish I could say that it was solely on the film's sinful content, but I can't. It was as raunchy of a PG-13 movie as I've ever seen, but there were other contributing factors:

- It wasn't funny
- The person who sat behind us had a doctorate in obnoxious behavior with a minor in annoying laugh.
- It made us uncomfortable.

So, we kindly excused ourselves (the 8 million other teens in the theater were nice enough to let us go) and headed to ask the manager if we could see another movie. We would've paid, but he was courteous enough to exchange our tickets for two to see, The Pursuit of Happyness" Because it started a while later, we grabbed some dinner and then sat down to enjoy the show.

It wasn't a "show" ... it was a story. A sad, brilliant, inspiring, joyful, brutal, and powerful story.

And we didn't "enjoy" it ... we engaged it. Or it engaged us. It was an emotional, mental, and spiritual experience.

I cannot tell you how highly I recommend this movie. Put it this way: I will be taking Kim tomorrow and seeing it for the second time within 24 hours. It is that good.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the movie:

Christopher Gardner (Will Smith's character) : "It was right then that I started thinking about Thomas Jefferson, the declaration of independence, and our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and I remember thinking; how did he know to put the pursuit part in there. That maybe happiness is something we can only pursue, and maybe actually we can never have it, no matter what. How did he know that?

Christopher Gardner (Will Smith's character): "Don't ever let someone tell you, you can't do something. Not even me. All right?"
Christopher ( - Jr. - His son in the movie ) : "All right."

Martin Frohm (CEO of company Christopher is trying to get a job at> "What would you say if man walked in here with no shirt, and I gave him a job?"

Christopher Gardner: "He must have had on some really nice pants."

The movie stirred a question in my soul that I want so share with you:

"What is the 'one thing' that you would work so hard to accomplish/attain and let nothing stand in your way?"

Answer that and then pursue it with all you got.

You just might find "happyness"

Friday, January 12, 2007

Gone. And Yes...Forgoten!

Our dear sweet friend, Carolyn Shook passed this morning from earth to heaven. She was one of Kim's closest friends throughout our time in California and they grew even closer as God moved us from Redwood City to Abilene to Trophy Club. Her death will be painful for Kim in so many real ways. For her faithful husband, Jim and beautiful children, Laurie and Dan, this will be a valley that is surrounded by more than a shadow, but by death itself. Carolyn's life on this earth was claimed by cancer but her life in eternity was claimed long before by Christ. While we knew this day was close (Jim called me on Monday and asked if I would officiate her funeral), it does not ease death's sting.

However, we are certain of the one truth that does remove the sting from death: Christ.

Jim called me a few minutes ago and shared the sweet/bitter/sweet news. The conversation began like this:

Joel: "Hello"

Jim: "It's me, Jim Shook."

Joel: "Hey brother."

Jim: "You probably already know by now (I did, Kim had just called me) but...that...

(at this point there was a brief pause as his heart searched for the right words)

that...Carolyn is in heaven."

Joel: "She's with Jesus."

We spoke of life and death. We talked of love and even some logistics. And the phone call eventually ended like this:

Joel: "I love you brother. If you need anything..."

Jim: "I know Joel. I love you too. And so did Carolyn. Well...Carolyn is in heaven."

Joel: "She's with Jesus."

I proceeded to get off the phone and bow and pray. However, it wasn't long until I got back to what I was doing before the phone call which was reading about a plane crash in Los Angeles (and other bad news - see screen shot below)

Then it hit me!

Carolyn doesn't have to deal with any of this junk anymore. Gone is the day of plane crashes, cancer and wars. Gone is the promise of pain, tumors and tears. Gone is everything that Jesus meant when he said, "in this world you will have trouble." Gone is the Goliath of grief, goodbye and the grave.

And yes - forgotten!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Tools of the Trade

As I prayed this morning to be used by God, my mind kept thinking of how I am nothing more than a simple hammer - a tool in God's hands. I felt God wanting to use me - to put me to work. He has a message for my brothers and sisters this morning and He's going to use me to share it.

As I continued my conversation with God, I kept arriving at a beautiful truth: when God became human He chose to become a carpenter. How amazingly appropriate - the Creator spending his sun-ups to sun-downs creating...building.

Then suddenly, I remembered a wonderful little chapter I had read about the Creator-Carpenter back as a freshman in college. The book: On the Anvil. The author: Max Lucado. The message: on and find out!

Out of the Carpentry Shop
Written by Max Lucado

The heavy door creaked on its hinges as He pushed it open. With a few strides He crossed the silent shop and opened the wooden shutters to a square shaft of sunshine that pierced the darkness, painting a box of daylight on the dirt floor.

He looked around the carpentry shop. He stood for a moment in the refuge of the little room that housed so many sweet memories. He balanced the hammer in His hand. He ran his fingers across the sharp teeth of the saw. He stroked the smoothly worn wood of the sawhorse. He had come to say good-bye.

It was time for Him to leave. He had heard something that made Him know it was time to go. So He came one last time to smell the sawdust and lumber.

Life was peaceful here. Life was so . . . safe. Here He had spent countless hours of contentment. On this dirt floor He had played as a toddler while His father worked. Here Joseph had taught Him how to grip a hammer. And on this workbench He had built His first chair.

I wonder what He thought as He took one last look around the room. Perhaps He stood for a moment at the workbench looking at the tiny shadows cast by the chisel and shavings. Perhaps He listened as voices from the past filled the air.

"Good job, Jesus."

"Joseph, Jesus - come and eat!"

"Don't worry, sir, we'll get it finished on time. I'll get Jesus to help me."

I wonder if He hesitated. I wonder if His heart was torn. I wonder if He rolled a nail between His thumb and fingers, anticipating the pain. It was in the carpentry shop that He must have given birth to His thoughts. Here concepts and convictions were woven together to form the fabric of His ministry.

You can almost see the tools of His trade in His words as He spoke. You can see the trueness of a plumb line as He called for moral standards. You can hear the whistle of the plane as He pleads for religion to shave away unnecessary traditions. You can picture the snugness of a dovetail as He demands loyalty in relationships. You can imagine Him with a pencil and a ledger as He urges honesty.

It was here that His human hands shaped the wood His divine hands had created. And it was here that His body matured while His Spirit waited for the right moment, the right day.

And now that day had arrived. It must have been difficult to leave. After all, life as a carpenter hadn't been bad. It wasn't bad at all. Business was good. The future was bright and His work was enjoyable. In Nazareth He was known only as Jesus, the son of Joseph. You can be sure He was respected in the community. He was good with His hands. He had many friends. He was a favorite among the children. He could tell a good joke and had a habit of filling the air with contagious laughter.

I wonder if He wanted to stay. "I could do a good job here in Nazareth. Settle down. Raise a family. Be a civic leader." I wonder because I know He had already read the last chapter. He knew that the feet that step out of the safe shadow of the carpentry shop would not rest until they had been pierced and placed on a Roman cross.

You see, He didn't have to go. He had a choice. He could have stayed. He could have kept his mouth shut. He could have ignored the call or at least postponed it. And had He chosen to stay, who would've known? Who would have blamed Him?

He could have come back as a man in another era when society was not so volatile, when religion wasn't so stale, when people would listen better. He could have come back when crosses were out of style, but His heart wouldn't let Him.

If there was hesitation on His part of humanity, it was overcome by the compassion of His divinity. His divinity heard the voices. His divinity heard the hopeless cries of the poor, the bitter accusations of the abandoned, the dangling despair of those who are trying to save themselves.

And His divinity saw the faces. Some wrinkled. Some weeping. Some hidden behind veils. Some obscured by fear. Some earnest with searching. Some blank with boredom. From the face of Adam to the face of the infant born somewhere in the world as you read these words, He saw them all.

And you can be sure of one thing. Among the voices that found their way into that carpentry shop in Nazareth was your voice. Your silent prayers uttered on tear-stained pillows were heard before they were said. Your deepest questions about death and eternity were answered before they were asked. And your direst need, your need for a Savior, was met before you ever sinned.

And not only did He hear you, He saw you. He saw your face aglow the hour you first knew Him. He saw your face in shame the hour you first fell. The same face that looked back at you from this mornings mirror, looked at Him. And it was enough to kill Him.

He left because of you. He laid his security down with His hammer. He hung tranquility on the peg with His nail apron. He closed the window shutters on the sunshine of His youth and locked the door on the comfort and ease of anonymity.

Since He could bear your sins more easily than He could bear the thought of your hopelessness, He chose to leave. It wasn't easy. Leaving the carpentry shop never has been.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

My Celebrity Look-alikes

Surfing at Starbucks and ran across this gem.

I've often thought of myself as a light P.Diddy.

Enjoy and keep your comments kind.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Peace of the Pie

Lawrence Welk, The Wonderful World of Disney, George and Wheezy Jefferson fighting...these are the TV memories of my childhood.

Last night, Kim and I joined about twenty other families (10 from our church and 10 from the community!) and experienced our first class session of Financial Peace University. So far today, I've paid off all our debt (including our mortgage), saved enough money for our girls to attend Harvard, and given a sizable check to the local homeless shelter. Well...actually...I've not spent any money at Starbucks (notice I didn't say - I've not drank anything from Starbucks...), I went home and ate lunch instead of going out to eat, and I decided not to play golf today (despite the fact I only have to pay $15 cart fee) in an effort to tighten our financial belt. (My physical belt needs no tightening.)

Anyway, all this to say I'm so excited about this class and the way I'm confident that God will use it to liberate my family and so many others in the area of finances. The borrower is a slave to the lender and I must confess that despite making more than ever, Kim and I have borrowed more than ever. This will change! Although the changes won't be easy, they will be right. Although they won't come quickly, they will come! Although we might be eating beans, they won't burn on the grill!

We're moving on up!
Sing with me:

We're a movin' on up,
(We're a movin on up.)
To the east side.
(Mo-vin on up.)
To a de-luxe apartment,
In the sky-.
Mo-vin' on up
(Mo-vin on up.)
To the east side,
(Mo-vin on up.)
We finally got a piece of the pie.

Fish don't fry in the kitchen,
A beans don't burn on the grill.
Took a whole lot of trying
Just to get up that hill.
Now we're up in the big leagues,
Gettin our turn at bat.
As long as we live
It's you and me baby.
There ain't nothing wrong with that.

We're a moving on up
(Mo-vin on up.)
To the east side,
(Mo-vin on up.)
To a de-luxe apartment
In the sky-.
Mo-vin on up
(Mo-vin on up.)
To the east side.
(Mo-vin on up.)
We finally got a piece of the pie!

One final thought: If George and Wheezy made so much money, why couldn't Wheezy afford a throat lozenge?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Caught in the Act

I’ve heard a couple more stories recently of preachers “caught in the act.”

No — not THAT act. Not adultery, but plagiarism.

Just recently I heard the sad story of a beloved minister who, perhaps in his exhaustion, began lifting sermons in whole from a great Christian Church preacher. Word-for-word. He even told the man’s personal stories as if they were his own personal stories. Even more sadly, once he was confronted about it, he continued to do it.

There is no excuse for that. It’s wrong.

We all borrow from others. I’ve been impacted by the books of Wright, Brueggemann, Crabb, Willard, and Peterson — books that have seeped into my bones. I’m sure there are times that their words come out — not verbatim, but in essence — without my even knowing it. We’ve heard good stories and illustrations that we’ve retold. We’ve retold humorous quips. We’ve gotten sermon thoughts that proved fruitful later in our own planning.

There’s nothing wrong with that. Who, after all, has a truly original thought?

But that must not be an excuse for the stealing involved in lifting sermons. When you cut-and-paste someone else’s message while pretending it’s yours, that’s wrong. When you tell another’s story as if it happened to you, that’s wrong.

I remember as a young man hearing about an older minister in the South who was confronted because he was just buying Swindoll books and preaching his sermons — without even bothering to disguise it. His sermon series carried the title of the book and the individual sermons had the titles of the chapters. When challenged about it, he simply replied: “I bought the book. It’s my material.”

That is grounds for dismissal.

Here’s the thing: a story doesn’t lose any power by giving the source. It doesn’t have to be YOUR story. It never diminishes the impact to say that you were deeply impacted by a book you read or a sermon you heard.

When we were first married, I went through my Jim McGuiggan stage. (I’m still sort of in that stage — I just don’t get to hear him often enough.) I listened to his tapes . . . until KIM cut me off. She said I was developing an Irish accent.

Some need to be cut off from sermons. They need to quit listening to the tapes, quit downloading the MP3s, and unsubscribe to the podcasts. They’re not wrong in themselves; but if they become your shortcut that takes the place of arduous, prayerful preparation, then drop them!

Perhaps part of the blame lies with the pressure that some churches put on their ministers. They expect them to be pastoral, to be witty, to be insightful, to be humorous, and to be deep. Part David Letterman, part N. T. Wright.

If you’re a church leader, affirm the leadership and teaching of your ministers that is solid, biblical, and congregationally pastoral. Make sure the ones preaching and teaching are given time to prepare. Consider giving them an allowance so they have resources to buy good books and journals. Think about offering them sabbatical time each year just for study and prayer–time that is added to their regular vacation time. These resources and this time are not only for the benefit of the minister; they’re also for the good of the church! (By the way, these are things I’m generously offered at LAKE CITIES. I’d just like to see others follow that practice.)

But, having said that, the blame can’t be placed primarily at the feet of the church. What I’m talking about is unethical. It is a red flag — just as an affair is — that something is deeply wrong.

If I hear you preach, I don’t want to hear a Bob Russell sermon. I’m sure it would be solid and biblical. But if I want to hear a BR sermon, I’ll listen to BR. If I hear you preach, I want to hear YOU. Maybe it’ll include a point or an illustration you first heard from Bob Russell. But the sermon — the heart of what you’re saying — is what you’ve agonized over. It’s what the good news of Christ has said to you on behalf of the church that week. It is passionate, prayerful, and gospel-formed. That’s what I want — and need! — to hear. For me it doesn’t have to be funny; it doesn’t have to be a home run.

In reality, it may include a LOT of things you’ve heard and read from others. But it is YOUR message. It bears your sweat; it is birthed from your confrontation with text and gospel; it is geared toward your community of faith. It is God pouring through you the gift of preaching.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Losing It!

I received an email yesterday from my good buddy and close friend, Rick Warren. Yeah, he sends me an email every week to mentor me and encourage me. Me and about 763,459 other friends I think get an email. So I find out that Rick has left the "fold" and joined the "dark side" and of course, I immediately email my other good buddy and close (best) friend, Mitch Wilburn and let him know of Rick's betrayal. You can read of what transpired below:

From: Joel G.Quile []
Sent: Wednesday, January 03, 2007 9:35 PM
To: Mitch Wilburn
Subject: We're Jacked!

Our hero has betrayed us.


Joel G. Quilé
Senior Minister
Lake Cities Church of Christ

to which Mitch replied:

Ah yes, but has he considered the biblical truth in it's totality. Proverbs 9:17 - "Food eaten in secret is delicious".

To which I say: