Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Billie Jones

Kayci and I drove to Dallas Monday evening. My bro-in-law, Korey, and I were supposed to fly out to California yesterday for the Pepperdine Lectures. Kayci and Truitt were planning on staying with my sis-in-law, Amy, and her two kids.
I received a call from my dad yesterday morning around 9:30 informing me that my grandpa, Papa, passed away early in the morning at the age of 80.
After cancelling my speaking commitments at Pepperdine, we drove over to Decatur where we spent a few hours with my grandmother. I was amazed by the people of the Decatur Church. They brought enough food to feed the entire town. They came and cried, laughed, hugged, and prayed with us. They are a church that knows how to enter into the sufferings of people.

The moment that made me cry was a when a little girl named Ainsley came into the home. She walked over to my mother and said in her little voice, "I'm sorry about your daddy dying." I witnessed the faith of a child.

Papa was a mighty man of God. Though I wasn't alive, the stories of his compassion during the Civil Rights movement makes me proud to be his grandson. He stood up for what was right--not just because he was a good man, but because he was a good man who had been touched by God.
He served as an elder for over 2 decades, always working to move elders from a "board-of-trustees mentality" to embrace the essence of shepherding.
We will miss his humor, his smile, his wisdom, and his presence. But days like this are made okay because we believe that the power of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is still at work today.

My dad and I will perform the celebratory ceremony tomorrow.

Monday, April 28, 2008

You Heard It Here First

I'm off to Pepperdine today. I hope to see some of you out there. I'll be back in blogging land on Sunday. Until then...
1) Bye-bye Brooke. You should have gone home last week, but you will definitely go home this week. We all love you, but it is time for you go. Syesha will be the last girl standing. All of Hannah Montana's fans will continue to vote for 9-year-old David, but David Cooke is the one who will be a multi-millionaire in a few months.
2) The Mavs will finish up their season tomorrow evening. I hope Cube's keeps Avery. He is a good coach.
3) Obama and Clinton are killing each other and the Democratic party. I think they should play "paper, rock, scissors." Best of 3. Winner becomes president.
4) Miley Cirus is in the news, but I think she will learn from her mistake. A lot of people have high hopes for her.
5) The Texas Rangers will still be in last place when I get back.
6) Jerry Taylor is one of the best preachers around. God used him mightily at SWC yesterday. I am honored to call him a good friend.

Have a great week!

Sunday, April 27, 2008


A few thoughts from "Countdown to Sunday" by Chris Erdman:

It’s one thing to express your own foibles, personal dilemmas, and humanness to the people to whom you belong as their preacher. It is another thing to express your doubts, your flirtations with heresy, your downright anger at God, your distaste for parts of the Bible that make your head spin. The truth is, many of us dare not go into these places—at least consciously…But there are many of us who don’t or won’t allow ourselves to doubt, to fight with God, rage with God, disapprove of God’s way or words. There are lines we are as afraid to cross as our people are. And frankly, we’re greatly responsible for their unwillingness to do so.
Stupid pastors, unaware of the effect of their bewilderment, pain, or arrogance—pastors who are selfish and narcissistic—can do a lot of damage, while saints can put things in just the right way, preaching their darkness, “opening a vein” in such a way that folks are saved and made saints themselves, precisely because of their darkness.

Is there a need for us to create a safe atmosphere for doubts to be expressed?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Baptized into Arms of a Mother

These are pictures from Easter Sunday. On a day when people around the world celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, we gathered in the water with Ashley Gibbs (on the right) to join in a declaration that Jesus Christ lives to breathe life into people.

Ashley is one of the most mature teenagers I've ever been around. She is already a loyal Christ-follower who has an understanding of the cost of following Jesus.

Below is how our Easter Service unfolded:
Intro Song--I Stand in Awe
Family Matters--Steve Sandifer
Song--Be Still and Know
Message #1 (I preached for about 10 minutes exploding the image of Jesus becoming a lamb. He chose the path of descending.)
VIDEO--The Crowd or the Cross
Song--When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Song--Lamb of God
The Lord's Prayer
VIDEO--It's Friday, but Sunday's Coming
(As soon as the video ended, the screen lifted, and I was standing in the water between Ashley and her mother Debra)
Baptism of Ashley Gibbs
Song--What the Lord has Done in Me
Song--Christ the Lord has Risen Today
Song--Shout to the Lord
Song--All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name
Message #2 (I preached for a few minutes on what it means to live a resurrected life)
The Lord's Table (We ended by inviting all of Ashley's family around a table to participate in the Table of the Lord)


This was the 2nd time that I have baptized a teenage girl in which I have invited the mother to join us in the water. Here's the idea--parents are present when a baby is born into the world, why should they not be in the water when their child is born into Christ? As one who has baptized a few teens over the past decade, these are two of the baptisms that will always be fresh in my mind. I get to lift a child of God out of the water into the open arms of a parent. (Now that makes tears come to my eyes.)

Monday, April 21, 2008


I love it. I crave it. I feel gifted and called. There is nothing else I want to do with my life. When I am standing in front of people talking about Jesus, I feel most alive. I love the prep work. I love wrestling with Scripture. I love delivering.

Last week, I was listening to a speaker named Paul Washer, and there were two statements he made that stuck with me. (I don't remember them word for word)
1) I want to preach as if I will never preach again. Not in a way of quitting the pulpit, but rather in a way that I feel compelled by God to declare the daring message of the good news of Jesus as if this might be my last chance to declare it.
2) Preaching is a dangerous thing. It is dangerous, because I have been entrusted as a person who stands before God on a regular basis—to wrestle with Scripture, to pray, to be silent in order to listen, and to speak only after I have been spoken to. I have a job in which I am entrusted with Truth. This is dangerous. For if I fail to speak truth, I fail both God and my fellow human beings.

This is my passion!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Momma Teresa & NBA predictions

My brain is fried today, so how about a quote from Mother Teresa:
"It is more difficult to fight poverty in a rich country than in a poor one."


1st Round Predictions
Lakers over Nuggets in 6 games
Mavs over Hornets in 6 games
Spurs over Suns in 7 games
Jazz over Rockets in 5 games

MINOR LEAGUES (a few warm up games until the Celtics and Pistons battle it out)
Celtics over Hawks in 4
Pistons over 76ers in 5
Magic over Raptors in 6
Cavs over Wizards in 7

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Discerning God's Will

These 3 words can cause sleepless nights, a lose of appetite, seasons of depression and/or days of stress. Discerning God's Will isn't supposed to be easy. If it is are probably succumbing to your own will while labeling it "God's Will." (We do this more than we think. But that isn't the point of this post.)
I want to offer a few suggestions to those of you who are faced with tough decisions in your life--maybe it is a job, thoughts of adoption, a career move, what college to attend, or the attempt to truly find a ministry to invest your life in.
DO NOT attempt to discern on your own. Instead, surrender to communal discernment. This principle is rooted theologically and biblically. Community is at the very heart of God. We live in a world that values independence and individualism, but to choose to walk the path-of-discerning indepentently is not the path to God's Will. I suggest that you have 6 to 10 faithful, loyal, dependent Christ-Followers who will join you on this journey. They need to be people who have been in the trenches, people who aren't afraid to tell you what you don't want to hear, people who will ask the hard questions, and people who are going to love you to the very end. The concept of "communal discernment" is not that you surround yourself with people who will make a decision for you, but rather that these people will be ears more than mouths, and question-askers more than advisors.
Once you have formed a community, your prayer life will be filled with more assurance because you know that you are not alone. There are moments throughout the discernment process when we become too tired to pray. This is where the power of the Triune God comforts us by affirming us that others are praying us through. You know that you are in a season of discernment when "prayer time" consists of more silence than words. You know that you are in a season of discernment when prayer struggles with you, wrestles with you, and pokes and prods at your heart, motives, and intentions.
--(hold your breath)--Fasting
This is one of the long lost spiritual disciplines. We live in America--aka--the fattest country in the world. We don't just crave meals; we crave snacks. The thought of skipping a meal is appalling. However, this is a discipline that we find weaving its way throughout all of Scripture. Jesus practiced it, and in Matthew 6 he assumes that his followers will fast, just like he assumes that they will pray and give. In fact, in Matthew 6, assumptions carry greater weight than a command. There is no way around it. When it comes to seeking God, fasting is mandatory.
I can speak from my own experience that fasting with other people is always the most meaningful. For instance, when Kayci and I were wrestling with the decision to move to Memphis or not, we invited our discerning community to fast and pray on a specific Thursday. A few of us broke the fast together. Fasting isn't about mourning over a growling stomach; it is about offering up our appetite to God for a purpose.
--Make a decision based on "principles" not "pros and cons"
The temptation is to make a list of pros and cons and then look to see which list weighs more. David Wray urged me years ago to make decisions based on principles. For example, what do we value? If one of your principles is that you need to have a job in which you can work hands-on with people, don't take a job sitting behind a desk, even if it pays more. If a principle in your life is to have adequate family time; don't take a job that will send you all over the country on a weekly basis. (I don't have the time to flesh this out here. If this doesn't make sense, email me at and we can talk more.)

One last thing, if you think Calvinistically--meaning that you believe that God only has one plan for each person: one job he wants you to have, one person he wants you to marry, one place he wants you to live--then the idea of communal discernment probably isn't for you.
BUT, if you believe that God has given us freewill--meaning that we have the God-given ability to make decisions: that sometimes we could choose between 2-3 different jobs or cities and it would still be within God's will--then hopefully the suggestions in this blog will urge you on in your discerning process.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Day of Mixed Emotions

In a few minutes, I will walk into our worship service at SWC, preach from Acts 9, and then read this letter at the very end of worship.

Through prayer, fasting, and after talking and praying with several mentors and friends, Kayci and I have decided to take the Preaching Ministry position at Sycamore View Church in Memphis, Tennessee.

It is with pain and heartache that we have made this decision. After days of seeking God for clarity, we are coming to peace with our decision, and we are confident, but it came with turmoil because of our love for you. We took this job, not because of our dissatisfaction or frustration at Southwest Central, but because of calling and giftedness. At no point over the past 2 years have we been looking for another job, but this opportunity came to us, and we felt it is a good move for our ministry and our family.

In some ways it feels like we have been here for 10 years; in other ways—6 months. What we do know is that our 2 years here at SWC have been full of grace, opportunity, and countless Kingdom-moments in which we saw the hand of Jesus at work in the people of this church and throughout this community.

We’ve cried tears over loved ones we have lost.
We’ve rejoiced over baptisms.
You were there to greet us with cards and meals after the arrival of Little Truitt.

I hope and pray that God has used me to move this church into a healthier existence.
I hope and pray that God has used me to help this church to dream new dreams.
I hope and pray that God has used me to give you fresh ways to think and talk about Jesus.

My prayer for you is:
1) That God will protect you. I pray for him to protect your hearts this day. You are loved by God. You are needed in this place.
2) That God will heal the pain in anyone’s heart that has been caused by our decision.
3) That God will continue to breathe life in you and through you.
4) That God will give you energy to embrace the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God.

I urge you:
1) To love one another.
2) To rally around the leaders of this church. They are godly men with vision, passion, loyalty, integrity, and they have within their hearts an undying love for each of you.

I’m confident that the vision of this church will continue…the mission of this church will ignite…and the leaders here will continue to lead you on to higher ground in Christ our Lord.

Today is filled with many emotions. We are excited about our future at Sycamore View, but it is also hard to leave the people we have grown to love at SWC. Today, please pray for the Ross family, the Southwest Central Church, and the Sycamore View Church.

Idol, Dirk, and Wrestling

Peace out to Michael Johns. I still think Kristi Lee should have gone. I can't believe she wasn't in the bottom 3. However, I'm not a country fan and that is her style.
I did think that their version of Shout to the Lord last night was extraordinary.
Dirk is playing like the MVP again.
I get paid to wrestle. Actually, I get paid to get wrestled with. Most weeks, Scripture (specifically the Jesus-story) pokes and prods at my heart. A preacher who forgets and fails to wrestle will end up in the same predicament as a marriage with no communication.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Christianity in America, American Idol, & The Biggest Loser

From John Marks Reasons to Believe: One Man's Journey among the Evangelicals and the Faith He Left Behind:
Demographics suggest that, in the future, more Americans will be Catholics and Muslims and Hindus. There will be plenty of Protestants, but they will be Protestants in a land shared by a majority that isn’t. Attempts to turn back the clock in such an environment don’t smack of faith-based politics. They smack of politics masquerading as faith.

What is your response to this?

From Lee Camp's Mere Discipleship:
Consequently, the God whom we are supposedly serving by whatever means necessary turns out to be a god who serves the power-wielding empire rather than the God revealed in the Suffering Servant Jesus...The powers find it useful to fashion a god in their own image, a god that supports their own agenda, that rallies around their own imperialistic purposes...Christians become convinced that they are pursuing the purposes of God by pursuing the purposes of the empire.


The dance between Christianity and Politics has been a dicey subject for centuries. People will choose sides between "pacifism" and "war in which the end justifies the means". Some will vote Democratic because of their biblical convictions while others vote Republic because of their theological convictions. Some will fight for a marriage between politics and Christianity while others will fight for a separation between the two.

While convictions are good, we must be careful to not adopt a mindset that says, "My convictions are right. Your convictions are wrong. And I'm not even going to give you a voice because I'm right."


The Biggest Loser is one of the best shows on television. It is truly a redemptive, inspiring show. I started watching it because Kayci loves it. I love my wife--especially watching her cry through the entire show. :)

American Idol:
-David Archuleta (however, mark my word--he will not win)
-David Cook (this guy is going to sell millions of records)

My Favorites:
-David Cook
-Syesha Mercado (she was awesome last night)

Going home tonight:
-Kristy Lee Cook

Back in Texas

I'm worn out, people. I returned from Detroit last night after a few days in the Motor City. I spoke at a young adult retreat last Saturday, and my buddy Josh Graves and I shared the pulpit at Rochester Church of Christ for all 3 services on Sunday morning. Here's a recap of the last two weeks:
1) My time in Connecticut and Detroit were Spirit-filled. However, I will do my best to never book back-to-back weekend speaking engagements ever again. 11 messages in 8 days did me in.
2) I spoke 3 times this past Saturday to a group of young adults. It was a very eclectic group--we had people from all walks of life. I hope that I was able to speak into hearts, but I know that I was touched by being surrounded by such a great group of Christ-followers.
3) These crazy Detroit people were full of Dallas Maverick jokes. They let me have it the entire weekend. The words of Jesus compelled me, "Love your enemies." I tried! But they really hurt my feelings. :)
4) I saw 2 Detroit Tiger's games. Though they lost them both, it is a great ballpark, and I had a blast hanging out with Ashley Harrison--a guy who knows and loves baseball, and the Graves'.
5) I got to see Cass Park. If you have ever heard Josh Graves preach or have read anything that he has written, you have heard about Cass Park. You name it, it is there--drugs, prostitution, homelessness, brokenness, etc. I now have a picture of a place of ministry. Here is what I know--Jesus is there!
6) The Rochester Church of Christ is a place that is passionately striving to live into all of the teachings of Jesus. I loved getting to know the people there.
7) It was inspiring to see Josh Graves ministering on his home turf.

There is not a word in the English language to describe the excitement I had when I saw Kayci and Truitt last night. Truitt won't take his eyes off me.

On another note, the game last night was one for the ages. WOW!!!

Props to Dirk. He is carrying the Mavs.

Now, I'm off to empty my inbox. Wish me luck.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Weeping Neighborhoods

Here's a question for your church to ponder--"If you your church vanishes would your community weep?"


My boy Dirk had a gutty performance last night. I'm honored to call him a friend (even though we've never met).

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


I picked up Kayci and Truitt from the airport yesterday around 3:00. Truitt was sleeping on Kayci's shoulder. I met them at baggage claim and kissed Kayci for a good 2-3 minutes. Yes, we were one of those sick couples, but I don't care! :) Then, Truitt woke up staring at me. He laughed and lunged at me. He and I played for a good 2-3 hours last night while Kayci napped. Life is good!


Props to the Mavs last night. They beat another losing team.