Fear the Frog

Carley No Comments »

We spent one of Carley’s official college visit days today at TCU. I’m not certain why TCU is at the top of her list of choices for her higher education — she does have a lot of purple clothes. But we spent a good four to five hours there this morning touring the campus, listening to the spiel, taking pictures, visiting with recruiters, and buying a discounted Horned Frogs T-shirt.

I think she loves the history of TCU, the beautiful old buildings, the sprawling trees and colorful flowers that highlight the landscaping, and the uniqueness of the school mascot. I think having a football team in the Top 25 also adds to the allure. And being in a big city also seems to be a plus.

Either way, we met some nice people today and ate good Mexican food at Los Vaqueros on West Berry. Pretty good day.



Leadership: Integrity

1 Thessalonians, Leadership No Comments »

“…does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you… We never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed.” ~1 Thess. 2:3-5

With Paul, Silas, and Timothy, what you see is what you get. Nobody had to try to figure them out. They hid nothing. They held nothing back. You always knew where Paul stood and you always knew where you stood with Paul (just ask Barnabas).

Integrity. Character. Living right. Doing right. Even when you know nobody’s watching. It’s what’s inside a person that causes her to act the way she does, and the things she does reveal what’s inside.

The manager of a Target store would never shop at Wal-Mart. No way. He doesn’t step inside a Wal-Mart no matter who’s watching — not if he believes in his company and he’s committed to doing everything in his power to help his company and grow his company and make his company better.

When we go to a restaurant, I’ll order a Dr Pepper. If they don’t carry Dr Pepper, I’ll ask for water. I want that waitress to know that if they carried Dr Pepper, I’d pay the $2.89 for it and probably pay more for refills. But since they don’t carry Dr Pepper, she can bring me water. For free. See, I think that’s going to make a difference. I figure if I consistently do that in every restaurant for twenty or thirty years, the restaurants will eventually see the light and change their purchasing strategies. Carrie-Anne will sometimes settle for a Mr. Pibb in those situations. I tell her that’s a lack of integrity.

We all know there’s an integrity void in our society. A character crisis. A lack of integrity causes people to tell lies, to say one thing and mean another, to break commitments to a spouse. Without integrity, you can’t believe what a person’s saying or if they’ll do what they say. Their word begins to mean nothing.

Jesus taught the law that our “yes” should be “yes” and our “no” should be “no.” We tell the truth even when it’ll cost us. We do the right thing even when it’s not the easy thing.

“You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous, and blameless we were.” ~1 Thess. 2:10

Blameless has to do with their public reputation. Righteous is about their relationship with the people. Holy refers to their relationship with God. Paul, Silas, and Timothy deliberately avoided behavior and actions that might lead people to doubt the integrity of the message or to suspect the sincerity of their preaching. Their own personal integrity is so important because you can’t separate the message from the messenger. In many ways, the medium is the message.

You’ve heard this before: What you’re doing is so loud I can’t hear what you’re saying.

You can’t raise money to stamp out the exploitation of women by hosting a car wash at Hooter’s. A dentist can’t publish a brochure about dental health and hygiene with a Snicker’s ad in the back. And we can’t spread the good news of the Kingdom of God if we’re not living lives of integrity.



Leadership: Pleasing God First

1 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, Acts, Church, Galatians, Leadership No Comments »

“We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.” ~1 Thessalonians 2:4

“We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else.” ~1 Thess. 2:6

Paul and Silas and Timothy tell the church in Thessalonica that they all ought to follow their model of Christian leadership: We “make ourselves a model for you to follow (2 Thess. 3:7, 9). A critical component of their leadership style is their commitment to pleasing God instead of people. Paul’s ministry — his whole life! — is characterized by this attitude.

“Am I trying to win the approval of people, or of God? Am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” ~Galatians 1:10

Paul is not one to take a vote or check the opinion polls before doing what he knows needs to be done in his capacity as a Christian leader. President Harry Truman had a similar disdain toward catering to the whims of the people:

“I wonder how far Moses would have gone if he’d taken a poll in Egypt? What would Jesus Christ have preached if he’d taken a poll in Israel? Where would the Reformation have gone if Martin Luther had taken a poll? It isn’t the polls or public opinion of the moment that counts. It’s right and wrong and leadership, men and women with fortitude, honesty, and a belief in what’s right that makes epochs in the history of the world.”

We’ve been entrusted with the Gospel (1 Thess. 2:4) as stewards of God’s Good News. So we are responsible to God, not people. We seek to please God first, not people. This was Peter’s leadership style, too. In Acts 5, Peter tells the Sanhedrin in the face of Jewish persecution, “We must obey God rather than people!”

But there’s such a strong temptation to please people. It’s human nature. We want to please people, not just to be popular, but because we don’t want to make anybody mad. We don’t want to make enemies. We don’t want to come across as mean. We want to keep the peace. Elders want to keep their members. Preachers want to keep their jobs.

Well, hold on. We don’t want to offend or upset our weaker brother. We’re responsible for our weaker brother.

You know, that passage in 1 Corinthians 8 is one of the most grossly misapplied passages in all of Scripture. The weaker brother Paul’s talking about is a brand new Christian. He’s just been baptized. He’s still wet behind the ears, figuratively and literally. He’s from a pagan, idol-worshiping, bacon-loving background. He doesn’t know anything. He hasn’t had time. He’s just a baby. That’s the weaker brother of the Bible. But I’m afraid sometimes it’s the men and women who were born and raised in the faith, baptized 20, 30, or 40 years ago, who are using weaker brother arguments to thwart Christian leadership.

When I was interviewing here at Central almost six years ago, the leadership told me, “We’re a Church of Christ. We’re always going to be a Church of Christ. We’re proud of our Church of Christ heritage and we uphold our Church of Christ traditions. But when those traditions come into conflict with the Gospel, we’re going to go with the Gospel every time.”

Sold! I love that!

Strong Christian leaders keep their eyes on the goal, they’re focused on the big picture. They lead with courage in the will of God, to please him. What’s going to challenge us and mature us? What’s going to lead to Christ-likeness? What’s going to move us toward more sacrifice and service? What’s going to make us more accountable to God and one another?

Well, that makes me uncomfortable. I’m not comfortable with that.

Who said anything about comfortable? That’s why they put crosses up in church buildings, to give you a clue that this is not about being comfortable!

Leaders worth following don’t pay much attention to the polls or public opinion. Pleasing God, not people. Remember, Jesus was OK with letting the rich young ruler walk away.



Ignite for Bivins Elementary

Central Church Family, Ministry No Comments »

Four weeks now into our Ignite Initiative here at Central and I am so proud of and so grateful for our church’s great generosity and faith in what our God is doing in us and through us for his Kingdom. The early response has been almost overwhelming — the Lord has blessed us with a ton of money up front! And that has allowed us to start immediately with our top priority ministry partnerships.

This week we are spending a little more than $20,000 to purchase some much needed equipment and supplies for Bivins Elementary School. We are providing twenty desks for special needs students, replacing worn out or missing equipment for the Music and P.E. departments, upgrading the school’s computer lab, and creating a “Maker Space” for interactive learning.

In addition, we’re looking for a few volunteers to commit to spending one or two hours per week at Bivins from now through the end of the school year in May. If you can help kids cross the street, open up a juice box, or supervise a game of freeze-tag, we need you.

That volunteer component is really the most important part of what we’re doing with Ignite. It’s much easier to write checks than to commit the time and energy necessary to do incarnational ministry — we need both. All five of these local ministry organizations are telling us they need people to be a Gospel presence for the people they’re serving. They need our members to be part of the fabric of their support. The kids at Bivins, those ladies at Martha’s home and Gratitude House, the families at CareNet, and the men and women at The PARC — most of them have never experienced the love and encouragement and support that you and I probably take for granted. That’s what they need the most.

This is exciting! Bivins Elementary is giving us access to their kids and families we’ve never had before. It may be unprecedented for a school to give a church this kind of leeway. It might be illegal! How fun is this?!?

If you want more details on what we’re doing together with Bivins Elementary, click here.

The idea is to change lives in the name and manner of Jesus, to make a deep and significant impact on the families all around us, to change the trajectory of generations of men and women in our city. If they think buying a glockenspiel will positively impact the children at Bivins, then we’re going to buy four! Two large and two small glockenspiels! Done!



Sermon Illustration

Central Church Family 1 Comment »

Someone in our community discarded these three items next to our church dumpster. They placed them just like you see them here, organized in this neat little row, in plain view of everybody who parks on the south side of our building. Linda Purdy asked me if I was starting a new sermon series on First, Second, and Third John. Funny.



Romo Remembered

Cowboys No Comments »

According to my research — I’ve spent about 15-minutes on this — there’s only one quarterback in the history of the NFL who started for the same team for as many consecutive seasons as Tony Romo without winning a single divisional playoff game.

Romo has been in Dallas for 13 seasons, the starting quarterback for the Cowboys the last eleven of those seasons — ten if you don’t count 2016 because he actually never played a down. Regardless of how you count this past year for him, he stands with only one other quarterback in league history in the category of longevity-plus-playoff-failure.

Danny White was the starter for eight years in Dallas and led the Cowboys to three straight NFC Championship Games. By the way, only five of those years was full time  — he split starts with Gary Hogeboom and Steve Pelluer his last three seasons — because White couldn’t get the team to the Super Bowl. Don Meredith was under center for seven consecutive seasons and took Dallas to two NFL league championship games. But he was run out of town because he couldn’t win the big one. Romo hasn’t even won a medium-sized one! But, as we figured out a long time ago, Jerry Wayne is making plenty of money and seems to be perfectly fine with a mediocre team.

Jim Hart played nine years for the Cardinals and never won a playoff game. Matt Stafford just completed his eighth year in Detroit without a playoff victory. Philip Rivers has been in San Diego for eleven years, but he’s taken the Chargers to an AFC Championship Game.

Archie Manning is the only guy I can find who played for the same team as long as Romo played for Dallas without a divisional playoff victory. Manning started for ten seasons in New Orleans, never once qualifying for the playoffs.

Help me. Is there somebody I’m missing? Is Romo’s situation truly this rare?

I’m not blaming Tony Romo exclusively. It’s not all his fault that he’s the first quarterback in the past thirty-one years and only the second in NFL history to play ten years for one team and never win a divisional playoff game. A lot of this is on Jerry.