Friday, September 26, 2008

The Road To Perdition

When the Barnett Shale was discovered under Johnson County, we all scrambled for our paperwork to see if we had mineral rights. For some people it meant that their lives would never be the same again. Most of us know one or two people like that.

For the rest of us it would mean seeing our roads destroyed by people who just got their CDL long enough to drive a water truck for a gas company. I could handle the terrible roads if I didn’t get behind one ever day driving 35 in a 50 that ought to be a 70 anyway.

I’m not a landowner. I have always wanted to be but just haven’t been able to put it together. My house is on half an acre and the church is on rented property so I wouldn’t be a good guy to play monopoly with. However I was blown away when a wealthy man asked me to come speak to him one day in his office. He sat me down across from him and explained how there would be wells soon on his property and that he wanted to give some of the profits to our ministry.

That got my attention. He is somebody that really has a heart for the poor and had always loved how we serve the community through the food bank warehouse. So in 2003, he took me out to the spot where they would one day dig the first of many wells and we called it blessed land. He had his lawyers draw up paperwork to give me a percentage of the gas money and make me a stockholder in his company should he sell the business and the land. For the next three years I made it my business to hope and pray for the day the well went up.

Every time a missionary would come from overseas I would take them out to the spot and tell them the amazing story of what this benevolent man was doing for us. The well finally came and after some months they hit gas and hit it big. I announced to the church that our well had hit gas and we all celebrated. The problem we would find out several months later was that they hadn’t dug the lines to the well and it would be another disappointing year before the gas was flowing.

We prayed against the terrible delay. We had several nighttime services at the very well site where we prayed and believed God for the day it would all finally happen. Having a steady income stream into an outreach church like ours would change everything. After an entire year the line came through and then after another six-month delay he finally got his first check.

Did you notice I said “he” and not “we?” Tragically for us, the very month we expected to see our first profit from the wells, he left the church and discontinued contact with any of us. I eventually got a certified letter from his lawyers telling me to forget about the last certified letter from the lawyers. I no longer would have any part in gas profits and to have a nice day. It was difficult advice to follow, that day. I couldn’t believe it.

So here I am, two years later, driving thirty-five miles an hour in a 50 mile an hour zone that should be a 70 in the first place. The inexperienced driver of the gas company water truck in front of me apparently got his license in a Cracker Jack box. What used to be a road is more like a lunar landscape, ruined beneath the weight of the profit from all those gas wells. It was difficult to get to my destination and do you want to know where I was going? Back to the gas well site. You wanna know why? To pray for it.

You see, me and the guys on my team never stopped praying for that gas money to reach that man. We still are committed to pray for his prosperity. He might of broke his promise to us but we never broke our promise to pray and believe God that those wells produce and produce and produce. The bottom line is that this man never owed us any of that money. What he promised was out of his generosity and certainly not out of obligation. He’s a good man and does a lot of good things for a lot of people. Just because he doesn’t help us doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy.

It was a terrible disappointment for me to be sure, but that’s all it was. Disappointment is not the same as betrayal. A real grown up attitude I wish a lot more of us Christians had is that disappointment does not give us the right to be any less committed as Christians.

As I slowly hit another huge hole in the torn up asphalt behind that water truck, I considered my own life. For me, any other way of thinking is a road I’m not interested in traveling down.

Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: Job 5:17

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Music City Miracle.

Nashville is a really neat town. Music City has always got my attention. I drove out there for the first time when I was 19 years old with nothing but my guitar. I left on a Friday, arrived on Saturday, played on the street for about an hour and came back home to tell my friends I had played in Nashville. I used to do crazy things like that. I love music and I love history so how could I not love the land of David Crockett.

The Ryman Auditorium is the former home of the Grand Ole Opry and it’s still right in the middle of town. If you stick your head in the door you’re bound to hear a Howdy from Minnie Pearl. It doesn’t house the Opry any more but they still have concerts and shows out there.

My good friend John Ledbetter and I decided to take the road less traveled and see if we could get into the back door. To our dismay they had put up an iron fence to keep out bad people like us. Just looking up the staircase gave us a thrill. Legend has it that before Hank Williams got kicked out for hiding whiskey in his boot; he would sneak out that same back door and head across that same alley to a honky-tonk called Tootsies.

It was originally called Mom's but a lady named Tootsie Bess bought the bar in 1960. Many of her first customers were Willie Nelson, Mel Tillis, Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline, Roger Miller and Kris Kristopherson. In fact, (or at least I think its fact) Willie Nelson got his first songwriting job after singing at Tootsies.

According to a biography called Patsy Cline, Willie met Cline's husband, Charlie Dick, at that same bar one evening and pitched the song to him. Charlie took the track home and played it for his wife, who absolutely hated it at first because of how Willie sang. Patsy Cline's producer loved the song and arranged it as the ballad as she would record it. Still recovering from a recent car wreck that nearly took her life, Patsy had problems reaching the high notes of the song because of broken ribs, so she came back the next day to record, which she did in one take. The rest fades into history.

So there we were, in the alley between the Ryman and Tootsies on a Saturday night. Isn’t that what every preacher does? I love to be where things have happened.

Music and skid row

Last week I was in Nashville, Tennessee to visit a ministry called Provision International. Like my own ministry they champion the cause of hurting and hungry people. Their food outreach makes a tremendous difference and their church is situated in one of the worst parts of the entire city. But you wouldn’t necessarily know it if you visited because of the amazing transformation that has happened there.

Since 1991 Scott and Sarah McLeod have been working in the projects near Watkins Park and what has happened is nothing short of miraculous. They have been feeding people, helping people and praying for transformation in that area all this time. Clinton Street is known for a stronghold of prostitution drugs and violence. That is of course where they built their church and they call it The Fortress.

After what must have seemed like a lifetime they began to see God move in an awesome way. One day the building that everyone sold drugs out of just collapsed for no reason. On another day all the gang members that sat on the wall outside the park were arrested and herded off by federal agents. Then the city decided to just completely demolish the old projects there and build beautiful, colorful, landscaped neighborhoods. They planted trees everywhere and built community centers.

The transformation, they believe is a direct result of God’s people getting involved and crying out upon their behalf.

I have seen the same thing happen. Ten years ago we started doing outreaches in downtown Cleburne at the old Piggly Wiggly parking lot. The hotel next to us was a filthy nest of witchcraft, prostitution and drug abuse. We even had some guy come out and put a hex or something on us. We had local Pastors come out and tell us it was too dangerous. We called that terrible place holy ground and prosperous when there was nothing to show for it but a bunch of Jesus freaks out there feeding people.

Today it’s the nicest and one of the most prosperous parts of down town Cleburne. Situated exactly where we made our stand is the Caddo Street Steakhouse. It wasn’t very long ago that it was a mess. Now it’s just beautiful.

That’s what God wants to do with everything and that’s what happens when His people get off of their blessed assurance and do something within the community. He is a master at transformation. If He can do that with a neighborhood, imagine what He can do with you.

So the Lord will comfort Jerusalem; He will show mercy to those who live in her ruins.

He will change her deserts into a garden like Eden; He will make her empty lands like the garden of the Lord. People there will be very happy; they will give thanks and sing songs. Isaiah 51:3 (NCV)

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Why I Like Ike

When Pioneer 11 swept by the planet Jupiter in December 1974, the little spacecraft did something amazing for all of us. Like a kid running past a playground with a low-tech cell phone, the little metal gadget took a dozen close-up pictures on it’s way to parts unknown.

It took a long time for NASA to download and clear up those photos, six months as a matter of fact, (and you think your computer is slow) but in May of 75, NASA released part of its planetary portfolio. People threw babies in the air.

The photographs stunned the world with the most detailed view yet of Jupiter's great red spot. A hurricane-like storm as big as our planet with components beyond comprehension. It turns out the lethal mixture of things like ammonia, methane and even liquid metals flying around at speeds of 400 miles an hour make for really cool pictures.

It’s scary but you can’t help but look at it. It’s something really ugly that’s amazingly photogenic. Reminds me of Keith Richards and the Rolling Stones.

Hurricane Ike is nothing like the Great Red Spot but it’s a terrible storm nevertheless. As it barrels down upon our beloved Texas, folks down south batten the hatches and buy stock in Home Depot.

I was recently in Brownsville after Hurricane Wilma made land fall on July 23rd. I saw the aftermath of what a weak category 2 hurricane does. Man what a mess. Now twice in the same season, the Texas coastline suffers a headache at best and a killer at worst. It’s a good time for prayer warriors to sharpen their swords on behalf of those overwhelmed by Ike’s devastating destruction.

One of the cities that have been affected greatly by both hurricanes is the stunningly beautiful Corpus Christi. The name Corpus Christi means the Body of Christ. The Brewer does not believe this is a coincidence. I think God is speaking to us Christians.

Ladies and gentlemen, buckle your seatbelts.

There are all kinds of thought on the voice of the Lord but I think God talks through anything and everything. Romans 1:20 says that the hidden things of God are clearly seen through the things around us or the things that are made. Some of the deepest truths I have ever received from God have been through life messages. Some of the greatest revelations have been through things my little kids have said or in every day situations.

We preachers have very little influence in reaching the masses. I don’t think God is scared one bit to use the headlines to get a point across. I even believe Hollywood is the Jackass; God will use most to speak to this generation. That’s another story.

Jesus himself went around pointing at common events in people’s lives and revealed deep spiritual truths saying, “The Kingdom of heaven is just like that!”

Psalms 29 says that the voice of God is not limited to any one way of delivering His word.
The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the LORD is upon many waters.
In this case, I think the voice of God might literally be upon these waters.

Now you probably think I’m going to tell you this is word of judgment because of the disaster involved. I don’t think God is fixated on judgment like a lot of my friends in the Christian community are. I think that’s what the cross was for. It seems to me, many times the greatest of the goodness of God is revealed in the biggest of messes. That’s the Jesus I know.

The name Ike is a Hebrew word associated with the understanding of laughter. Could it be that God would have an encouraging word of laughter in the midst of such hardship? You bet He does. The idea of Biblical laughter is not so much about getting the jollies as much as it is about having confidence in an overwhelming circumstance. In the book of Job, the Bible says God will make us to laugh at our enemies. It’s a word of confidence. Now is not the time for you to back up or shut down. Ike has changed your weather.

It’s also worth noting that Ike is remembered in America is a war hero and the 34th President of the United States. 34 is the Biblical number for miracles. From turning the water into wine to healing the ear of Malchus, the Bible records 34 pre-resurrection miracles of Jesus.

The point is that there is a very real change in the season for Corpus Christi and it’s got Ike and 34 all over. If you want to see God speaking in this I think you can and if you want to receive it, I think you can. The body of Christ needs real war heroes to rise up and believe God for his manifest power in these difficult days. Hurricane Dolly blew through Corpus and Padre Island six weeks ago. Dolly is a feminine form of the word sorrow. Dolly means Sorrow, Ike means Laughter. The body of Christ has a choice to make in the midst of our storms. I like Ike.

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Friday, September 5, 2008


In a day where men are expected to get in touch with their feminine side let me say in all my hairy-leggedness, I am glad to be a man. I celebrate my masculinity and think that it’s cool to be a guy. In spite of what the Feminazis you have worked for have to say, its ok to be a man.

I believe with all my heart that men and women are supposed to be equal but I don’t believe they are supposed to be the same. Most men today have women for mentors and are pressured to act in a politically correct way that denies their identity and insures everyone in office can get along. Meanwhile TV, movies and advertisements increasingly portray men as simple-minded buffoons and as pawns to female strength and competence. Whatever!

It’s produced a bunch of limp wristed wimps that can’t get anything done. May God save us from men that won’t work and can’t feel secure unless their wife is holding their hand. May God also save us from a political agenda that appoints Lorena Bobbitt for Surgeon General.

Men, let me encourage you to fire up your man gene and be an independent visionary. Go outside and spit in the yard and quit shaving the hair off your chest. It’s ridiculous.

Seriously, when it comes to being a Godly man, there are Ten Commandments I teach at men’s meetings. I encourage you guys to read through them between oiling your gun and flexing your muscles.

(1) Be a prayer warrior
Get on your knees and fight like a man. Pray in a loving way for your family and at times when they can hear you praying for them. I actually have a prayer sword that I hold while praying for my house and when the kids wake up and see the sword is out they know I was up fighting for them last night.

(2) Impact your family before you attempt to impact the world.
I am a Pastor of a church that I love greatly. But if I have to choose between my church and my family the church is not only out of luck but also out of a Pastor. It’s not that our family doesn’t often have to make severe sacrifices, men that wont make sacrifices are wimps. It’s that my first priority in ministry is to my wife and kids. I think a lot of Pastors have really messed up on that and I’ve decided to man-up instead.

(3) Impress your children, not your buddies.
Your friends in life will come and go but your family is forever. Don’t always be expecting them to think and be relational on your level. For you to make an impact in your kids you have to think and be relational on their level. That’s why you’re the dad.

(4) Do something good in your community
Get off the couch and make a difference. The most dangerous thing in your house is not the gun in your closet but the EZ chair in your living room. Help somebody, feed somebody, clothe somebody, clean something up, and help make somebody’s life better in some tangible way. Demonstrate making a difference in other people’s lives and include your family in it.

(5) Be a God chaser
The Kingdom is progressive and Godly men should get better and better at their pursuit of God, godliness and Kingdom of God living. If you’re not progressing, you are not walking the walk.

(6) Take ownership of your mistakes
If you want to be the hero to your house, sit them all down some day and tell them what you’ve done, how it was wrong and how it has hurt the house. Apologize for what you said, did or how you acted and ask them to forgive you.

(7) Make necessary corrections
Don’t let any chick in a suit (or a man who acts like one) tell you not to discipline your kids. Have strict guidelines and outright confront things that need to be dealt with. Part of being a man of God is ending ongoing issues and finding solutions to destructive patterns within your family. Your going to have to constantly adjust and make changes throughout your life. Get over it.

(8) Be a motivator
Be hope oriented. Be a visionary. Be big picture minded. Be positive. Get out of your box and do things adventurous. Don’t be a whining sad sack that moans about how you’ve been victimized.

(9) Value integrity
Be somebody that doesn’t have to have an amen corner to do the right thing. Make good choices and don’t abide anybody that won’t. Remember God chooses character before charisma.

(10) Intercede daily for your family
While being a prayer warrior demonstrates strength through prayer, there are things that should never be heard by anyone other than the Lord. Your fears, frustrations and disappointments over your family should be between you and God and that’s it. If they know or never know it, you should be somebody they can count on to be their most able advocate in heavens court.

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Monday, September 1, 2008

Risky Business

Last week I got some great mail. Lots of people asking questions and looking for advice. This week’s sip from the Master’s cup is perking with fresh brewed reflections on the risks of reaching out.

In one letter, Denise wrote she had been slapped in the face for trying to help an old woman by moving an air-conditioner for her. It’s a long story, but the elderly woman didn’t like the window Denise put it in so she made her move it back several days later. What’s worse is the recipient of Denise’s charity told several people bad things about her. Her friends made it worse by saying she was too gullible. Here’s my response…

Good morning, Denise.

So what's a girl supposed to do when she tries to live out love in a hateful world? These are the perils of being selfless on a selfish planet. It’s the ongoing challenge of being a resident of Heaven, while living here on earth.

The problem is not that you are too nice or that you shouldn’t be helping people and making a difference. The problem is not even that this crazy woman is hatefully using you and accusing you while she is doing it. The problem is that it affects you in a way where you think you are the one messed up and actually pondering drawing back and not getting so involved.

Denise, you are awesome! I don’t know very many moms who would take time out of their busy day, and take their kids to an old woman’s house to see how they could make her more comfortable. Thank you for being like that. Im just sorry it didn’t turn out like it should of.

There are some simple guidelines you can go by that will keep some of this from happening again, but what's real is there's nothing you can do to keep it from ever happening again.

Welcome to the Kingdom School of Christianity.

Reaching out, believing God for the best, living a supernatural life and making a difference in peoples lives, all involves an ugly four-letter word. R-I-S-K.

If you give your opinion, you risk being criticized, so that’s why I don’t get bothered with hate mail.

If you offer to pray for somebody, you risk not seeing that prayer answered immediately. Ive decided to pray for people anyway because living a powerless life is not an option for me.

If you go overseas on missions’ trips, you risk untold number of things. My wife Leanna picked up a parasite in Uganda in 1998, which was not properly diagnosed until 2002. It nearly killed her but she has been back to East Africa 5 other times since then. Not only does she risk getting sick but there have been people close to her who told her she's stupid and reckless and even irresponsible for going again.

Those people don’t tell me, because I would firmly plant my first metatarsal upside their Gluteus Maximus. (In the most Christian kind of way, of course.) The prize for taking the risk is Leanna is the one that gets to tell the stories of saving children’s lives and not just hearing about it. The complainers get to be the ones complaining.

And then there is speaking the truth. Not only do you risk making people mad but also you risk really looking stupid. If you look stupid like I do from time to time, its might not be because people are being mean but because you actually said something stupid in the midst of your brilliant recital. If you talk enough and passionately enough your bound to say something less than brilliant. Ive decided to be a Preacher anyway.

Ive also decided that if people don’t like it, they can get over their bad self until they can preach better than I can. Ha!

I happen to think God thinks my mess-ups are funny. When my kids were little, if they fell down while learning to step, I ran to them, picked them up, left a red place on their belly from blowing on them and let them walk again. I celebrated the fact they were moving forward. My babies might not of had the approval of other toddlers but they had mine!

I would love to have the approval of people around me but I understand it’s just not going to always happen. However, I am convinced I have my Fathers approval and so do you. When people don’t appreciate your selflessness Denise, I believe God does.

The Book of Hebrews says you are surrounded by a great a cloud of witnesses. You are standing center stage in Heavens Olympic stadium. I encourage you to listen for Heavens cheers over hurtful jeers. Remain a risk taker, a selfless world changer. Be somebody who is convinced you are the good guy and appreciate those who see it. Most of the time, our Father’s business is a risky one.

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