Discovering Jesus

Christmas Eve is almost here. I'm ready to light the Christ candle and celebrate Jesus. Advent was great. I'm ready.

Randall Perry will preach a message on the Magi December 26th. Don't miss this chance to celebrate the men that sought Jesus and found him. They inspire me in my life of faith. I'll be preaching a series on Colossians during the month of January. We will rediscover Christ together. Get a good start on the journey by reading the epistle. Have a great holiday!!!

Rev. Miss. Moon the Heavenly Book Visitor

I've had a little fun with the Episcopal Church's treatment of Lottie Moon. They have given December 22 as a day to honor a woman Baptists in the South have called a Saint for years. She really was quite something and worthy of a Google search.

Here are the bible readings for Lottie Moon Day
Psalm 148:1-6
Ruth 1:15-19a
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
John 1:29-33

Prayer (contemporary language)

O God, in Christ Jesus you have brought Good News to those who are far off and to those who are near: We praise you for awakening in your servant Lottie Moon a zeal for your mission and for her faithful witness among the peoples of China. Stir up in us the same desire for your work throughout the world, and give us the grace and means to accomplish it; through the same Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Well done Episcopal friends. Thanks!

The Carpenter's Son

The home town crowd once asked, "Isn't that the carpenter's son?" I affirm all the miracles in the gospels but my answer to that question is yes. God selected Joseph just like he selected Mary. Joseph was a wonderful man of faith and lived an exemplary life. He was: righteous, kind, responsible, and courageous.  If you are in Central Texas this Sunday I'd love for you to join us at FBC Waco as we explore the life of this remarkable man.

Read Matthew 1:18-25

Have a great weekend!

Save The Date: Seminarian Preaching Series @ FBC Waco

First Baptist Church of Waco has a long history of encouraging young men and women who are preparing for ministry. During the early 1870s Pastor B.H. Carroll began to offer instruction to ministerial students. He did this for over 30 years. His class evolved into a Bible and Theological department at Baylor and eventually into Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. One of his students was a young man named George W. Truett.

When George W. Truett Theological Seminary was chartered First Baptist Church Waco offered to house the seminary for the first years of its operation. Classes began at FBC on September 1, 1994. This continued until the seminary dedicated the Baugh-Reynolds Campus in 2002. The “Preaching” window in the new seminary chapel depicts the pulpit at FBC Waco. FBC Waco and George W. Truett Theological Seminary are old friends and partners in ministry. We want to strengthen our relationship.

FBC Waco is creating preaching opportunities for students at Truett. An initial series begins January 16. There is a clear need for a ministry like this and your presence will insure continued and expanded opportunities. Please pray for this ministry and join us as we worship together. The preachers for the first Seminarian Preaching Series are:

Blakely Winslow

Kyndall Renfro

Jonathan Perry

Mary Alice Birdwhistell

Jamie McCallum

Chris Canary

My Stack of Books

A friend and congregant  recently asked me, "What are you reading now?" I have a few books in the stack and I hope to finish them sometime soon. Here's my list. What are you reading?
  1.  Christian Doctrine - Walter Thomas Conner (1937)
  2. Goodbye to a River - John Graves (1959)
  3.  God's Order - John A. Mackay (1953)
  4. The Orchard Keeper - Cormac McCarthy (1965)
  5. Home  - Marilynn Robinson (2008)
  6. Under the Unpredictable Plant - Eugene H. Peterson (1992)
  7. The Expositor's Bible Commentary on Colossians - Todd Still (2006)

Roger Olson talking theology on Assemblies of God TV


We don't really know how to handle Jesus' momma. Some traditions exalt her beyond normal humanity. I think this reduces her in a strange kind of way. My own tradition, being a little reactionary, often presents her as little more than a borrowed womb. This makes her one more Evangelical "just". The Supper is "just" a memorial meal, etc. Mary has been wrapped in neon and pasted on construction paper. What do we do with her?

We follow her example.

Mary was a holy young woman. She loved God and had grit. We are going to talk about her this Sunday morning. Our focus will be her song of praise recorded in Luke 1:46-55. We are also going to climb a few steps on Benedict of Nursia's ladder of humility. Like Mary - we can grow in God exalting humility by:

  1. Revering God
  2. Doing God's Will
  3. Submitting to One Another
  4. Enduring Affliction
Have a great weekend. I hope to see you on Sunday!

Heaven is weird.

"Heaven is weird." Willimon and Hauerwas

This is the strangest church steeple I've ever seen. It's at a Presbyterian church in Port Gibson, Mississippi. Look closely and you will see a gilded finger pointing into the sky. The point - God is different.  I will talk about the phrases, "In heaven" and "Hallowed be your name" tonight during our midweek prayer gathering. Here's a little preview.

"In heaven" is more spiritual than spatial. "Heavenly Father" speaks of God's personal relationship with us and his "otherness." When we approach God we must remember that he is, well, different. God is independent of us and far greater. God has desires. God acts. God is patient but he's not obligated to wait. God is merciful.  Here is some wise guidance for relating to our heavenly Father - "Guard your steps when you go to the house of God; to draw near to listen is better than the sacrifice offered by fools; for they do not know how to keep from doing evil.  Never be rash with your mouth, not let your heart be quick to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few" Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 (NRSV).

"All creation is meant to hallow the name of God. We must learn the melody of adoration." Willimon and Hauerwas

When we hallow the name of God we slow down to worship. We put God in his place and find our true location as well. We worship because God likes it. He takes pleasure in us. Worship glorifies God and is a means of our sanctification. In hallowing the name of God we also appeal to his reputation. Moses did this. Joshua did it. We also affirm our commitment to observing the command not to take the name of Lord in vain.

Jesus' model prayer should impact our prayers in the deepest way. These two little phrases say so much. May we have the grace to apply them in our days.

Go Cats Go!!! -

My old High School is playing for the South State Championship tomorrow night against Oak Grove High (Hattiesburg). Baylor people - Larry Fedora's son plays for Oak Grove. Check out the game on Friday @ 7:00.

Thanksiving and Advent

       American Christians have a unique opportunity. We celebrate a time of “thanksgiving” just prior to joining our brothers and sisters from around the globe in the season of Advent. I love it. Giving thanks really should precede the beginning of the church year. The Christ story is worthy of deep gratitude. We talked about Gratitude and Giving last week at FBC Waco. We will explore Gratitude and Forgiving this week. Please read Matthew 18:21-35 before Sunday.
      For years I’ve been talking about Jesus’ three advents. I was happy to see a piece in Christian Reflection that talked about this. Each advent is beautiful. Jesus came to all humankind. We celebrate this at Christmas. Jesus comes to us now. The Spirit of Jesus Christ is moving in the earth. This advent is the reason we can speak of a relationship with God. Jesus will come to judge and make right. We know the end from the beginning.
      I have great expectation about the next few weeks. We’ll feast and fast. We’ll praise and long. We’ll sing and remain silent. God will be present for it all. Hallelujah.

Gratitude and Giving

“Gratitude and Giving” - 2 Corinthians 9:7

“Each one of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

We will talk about the spiritual practice of giving this Sunday. Don’t worry about guilt or gloom. They won’t be present. We will simple focus on two things God loves – you and cheerful giving. I believe that all believers want to be part of things God loves. Cheerful giving is one of those things. 2 Corinthians 8-9 gives us plenty of help in developing this attitude and corresponding action. We can study the example of the Macedonians and Paul’s relief offering for some helpful guidance. Here’s a list of observations:

1. Giving is evidence of God’s grace. 2 Cor. 8:1

2. Everyone can give. 2 Cor. 8:2

3. We can give generously. 2 Cor. 8:3

4. Giving should be voluntary. 2 Cor. 8:4

5. Giving demonstrates a commitment to Christ. 2 Cor. 8:5

6. Jesus exemplified giving. 2 Cor. 8:9; I Peter 2:21

7. Giving is a spiritual practice that can be revived. 2 Cor. 8:6-7

8. Giving should be planned. 8:10-12

9. God is the source. 2 Cor. 9:6-12

10. Giving attacks materialism. (G.W. Peterman)

• Christians should know contentment in every state.

• Money is a commodity that should be used in the service of others, not something to display one’s virtue publicly, to gain honor, or to bring others into one’s orbit of power.

• Reward can only be expected from God, not from others.

• God bestows the material wealth we share with others, and consequently God, not the giver, is the one who is to be blessed and thanked.

• Sharing with other Christians is identified as koinonia.

• Giving to others proves that one’s confession of Christ as Lord is true.

The Disciple's Prayer

Jack Hayford once wrote that the key to everything is giving and forgiving. I read that bold assertion when I was a very young minister and have often observed how true it is. I shared with our church that I will be preaching on giving and forgiving the next two Sunday mornings. I also told them that I would be teaching on The Lord’s Prayer during our Wednesday night gatherings. I’ve discovered a really wonderful correlation between the two themes.

Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Matthew 6:1-18 is interwoven with the call to give and forgive. The themes are overlaid and pressed like a piece of papyrus to form a single unit. Here’s is how it looks –

Giving (1-4)

Prayer (5-13)

Forgiving (14-15)

Fasting (16-18)

Jesus wants to openly bless the secret piety of his disciples. We need his blessing more than oxygen. We do well to linger over these verses. They just may hold the key to everything.


I've had people ask about the book I mentioned in church this morning. Here it is. I think Paul J. Wadell's book deserves a wide reading. Get it and enjoy.

Set your clocks back and then come to church @ FBC Waco

This is Rev. Roy Dabbs. I'm going to tell a story about him tomorrow. Set your clocks back. Enjoy the extra hour of sleep. Go to church tomorrow.

Liturgy of Life

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life – and place it before God as an offering… I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me…

Eugene Peterson captures the spirit of Romans 12:1-3 in The Message. We are called to create a liturgy of life – to stand in the offering basket and sing, “I surrender all.” This lived worship is a response to the kindness of God not a ploy to garner it. We cannot make God love us any more than he already does. We can respond with lavish devotion. Some speak of sanctification as the doctrine of gratitude. I want us to focus our attention on this cherished doctrine during the upcoming weeks. We will look at Romans 12:1-3 this week and them build from there.  Here’s a look ahead:

November 14 “Gratitude and Giving” 2 Corinthians 9:7

November 21 “Gratitude and Forgiving” Matthew 18:23-35

Reaching Hands

I had a wonderful conversation with a friend and congregant today. This friend gave me a beautiful image of God's kingdom. We were talking about ministy, poverty, leadership, and God's grace. She began to talk about our church's Pumpkin Patch party. We are both parents and had our children there.  She said, "The Pumpkin Patch reminded me of why I love our church. At one point I looked and saw little white, black, and hispanic hands reaching into the same bucket for treasure. They were so happy. It was awesome." I think it was gospel. The message of the kingdom is treasure. We need to continue pointing others to the treasure! Just a thought.

Songs We Sing

Running With Ancestors

This Sunday is Halloween. The Christian community has dealt with the day in different ways over the years. Some view it as a totally evil event fit only for real witches and their supporters. Others see the day as a totally secular happening. It's a good reason to hang out with neighbors and eat candy. A third response is to emphasize the All Saints and Reformation Day themes. I blend the last two and claim it as mine.

The Snowden family likes that candy party stuff.  Our church had a wonderful Pumpkin Patch party. We shared a night of happiness with our friends and neighbors. That can't be wrong.

I also appreciate the opportunity this time of year offers to focus on our faithful spiritual ancestors. We are truly surrounded by a cloud of faithful witnesses. This is a good time to stop and think about the impact they continue to make. I love the "record art" photo I took last night. You can see two aged arms standing behind the old record player. Those arms helped my little girl create something beautiful with magic marker, an old turn table, and a paper plate. That's what church is - different generations working to make something special.

We will talk about this type of faithful living Sunday morning. The focal text will be Hebrews 12:1-3. Read it and join us for worship. Have a safe weekend y'all!

At Home With God

Songs We Sing

We will gather Sunday and celebrate the goodness of God. Many will be in town this weekend for Baylor's homecoming. I think of Sunday mornings as a homecoming of sorts. We return week after week and it feels like home. This week we will open the bible and read the 23rd Psalm. We will also be reminded of why we sing. My prayer is that this will help prepare us for a special night of worship this Sunday evening at 7:00. We will open new hymnals to worship God as a family. He's given us a new song to sing. Let's sing.

Saved by Hope - Romans 8

I'm catching up on the sermon podcasts

My first sermon at FBC Waco

Singing Together

We will sing new songs Sunday night. Our church family will gather at 7:00 to sing from our new Celebrating Grace hymnals. I can’t think of a better way to mark a new season in our congregational journey and I am excited.

Christians are singing people. We have expressed our heart through music for thousands of years. Singing together is a powerful experience. Singing is one of the chief ways we praise our God and King. Psalm 22:3 reads, “Yet you, the Holy One, who make your home in the praises of Israel,” What a thought! God is at home in our praise. When we sing together we set a place and invite the tender Presence. God comes and settles in with us. That is why we sing.

We also sing because singing draws us closer to each other. It takes a degree of humility to open up and sing in public. Humility is the rock of godly community. When we sing together we sing different parts but the same song. I cannot think of a better picture of community life. We are very different. We have different gifts and talents. We come from different backgrounds. We have different perspectives. We definitely have different personalities. Living with each other takes a truck load of grace and strong unifiers. Thank God we have both. He provides grace for the shared life and gives us a common song to sing. We need to sing. For our sake and the Kingdom’s we need to sing!

I am glad that I serve as the pastor of FBC Waco. The church is my family’s community – our people. We look forward to singing together for years to come.

For God So Love the World

We will celebrate The Supper at FBC Waco this Sunday. We will also gather around the hopeful promise found in John 3:16-17 -

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (KJV).

We'll see you Sunday!

She that was a princess...

Waco is filled with some wonderful theologians and only a handful of them cash checks from Baylor and Truett. The rest mostly go on living their vital faith without notice. I just hung up the phone after a wonderful conversation with one of these gonzo theologians.

She asked that I not use her name in a sermon or in print so I won't. She is letting my tell you a little about her. My theological lesson today came from a 93 year old woman. She moved to Waco in 1934 to attend Baylor University.  She was happily married for over sixty years. She was separated from her love for three years during WWII. He died a few years ago and that pierced her heart. She is also dealing with illness and the challenge of aging. She shared her favorite scripture with me - Lamentations 2:22-24. When I asked her about it she said, "I know that the mercies of God are new every morning - great is his faithfulness." She has walked with God for almost a century. She has seen great sorrow and joy.  She knows God. We can learn from her confession.

This Sunday we will explore the book of Lamentations, giving special emphasis to 3:19-24. Please read the book over the weekend and join us for worship. We hope to have the message available online next week so check back in. Have a great weekend!

Will the Lord be pleased...

I went to a pastor's conference in Jackson, Mississippi a few years ago and experienced a really weird sacrament. The preacher closed his message with an invitation to come to the altar and receive a smiley face sticker. We were grown-ups and ministers of the gospel. What did we do? We ambled down like sheep to get our sticky trinket. The funny thing is the goofy little act stuck with me. I've still got the grinning little dot in the front of my bible. What was the point?

He wanted all of us give ourselves to living for the pleasure of God. There are many ways to live but the wised and most vibrant way to live is for the pleasure and glory of God. This is what the prophet Micah was after in the 8th century.

This Sunday morning I will explore Micah's answer to the question, "Will the Lord be pleased?" If you are in Central Texas then we'd love for you to join us at FBC Waco for our 10:30 worship experience.  FBC family - please prepare your hearts by reading to book of Micah. Have a great weekend y'all!


   Home is a powerful word. It summons deep emotion. I don't know a single person that is moderate about it. That's power. Jesus talked about spiritual home in John 14. God is our dwelling place and we are the dwelling place of God. He promised not the leave us orphaned.

The gifts of home are guidance, peace, and courage. I need all three and so do you. Please read John 14 and join us for worship at FBC Waco this Sunday @ 10:30. I'm praying that many people will come home. Have a great weekend y'all!

Saved by Hope

I was a cradle roll Baptist. I was a Sunday School kid. I grew up having  really wonderful people tell me that Jesus loved me and I believed them. They also taught me about sin and salvation. My childhood teachers taught me that salvation had past, present, and future dimensions. They used words like regeneration, sanctification, and glorification.  I remember hearing these repeated for years. I'm pretty sure that they were influenced by the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message.  I still have a copy my dad got in 1971.

The '63 BF&M still serves FBC Waco as a helpful guide.  It's ours. When I look out over the congregation Sunday I will see Aaron Ogburn. His dad Tom sits at Hershel Hobbs desk at FBC Oklahoma City. I'll see Dr. Ruth Pitts.  Her father, James H. Landes, served on the committee. Curt Kruschwitz' grandfather, V.C. Kruschwitz, also helped craft the document. These folks worked and their words trickled down to children like me.

 I'll preach from Romans 8 this Sunday morning. This magnificent passage of scripture explores the riches of salvation. It calls us to embrace the past, present, and future aspects of it. Read Romans 8 before Sunday and revisit the '63 statement on salvation. Both will give you plenty of reason to celebrate God's goodness. Have a good weekend.


I’m sitting in my office at First Baptist Waco reading an old collection of revival sermons. They were preached by B.H. Carroll. I found the book when I unpacked an ugly stack of boxes last week. When I looked at the cover I realized that Carroll had once served this congregation. He paved the way. I decided that I would revisit the old pastor’s messages and pray for revival in our generation.

Carroll once called the church to bring men and women to Jesus and stop. Our job is to invite and introduce. We must trust God to do his great work of redemption. Here’s an example of his thought –

“If you have been found of Jesus, then your chief mission is to be a finder for Jesus, and your chief argument in bringing people to Jesus is the fact that you have found Jesus yourself, that is, your Christian experience; and as a remedy against any objection in the way of preconceived opinion on the part of the one you are trying to lead to Jesus, you are to use no argument, no scolding, but simply, ‘Come and see.’”

We must nurture a church culture that values four simple actions. We must invest in our friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and the stranger in our midst. We must invite them to join us in worship. We must include them in the life our community. We must introduce them to the Jesus that searched and found us.

We have a story of hope to share. Let’s share it together. I believe that there are great days of ministry in our future. Thank you for calling me to serve as your pastor.

Mission Venture

I promised my friends Ward and Kristen that I would run in a 5k this year. I try to keep my word so I've been pounding the pavement early in the mornings. You may now call me Thunder. My route takes me through a quiet park and neighborhood.  I pass the Westwood Baptist Church every day.  I stopped this  morning to read the church sign.  It gives a brief history of the congregation's long history.  You can read the lead paragraph in the photo. I was struck by the fact that faculty and students worked together to do something for the glory of God. It made me think of the great Baylor faculty and students we have at FBC Waco.  It made me think of the rest of us. We don't just share pews one day a week. We share in a mission venture! The Westwood Church still has a ministy in this world. The day we moved in a teenage member of the congregation invited my family to worship. The efforts of faculty and students so many years ago touched my family the day of our arrival in the community. Faithful ministry is enduring. We may not see all that God wants to do through our acts of  service but we can rest in the hope that he is working. Don't go to church. Take part in the venture!

Glad Generations

I will be preaching a message from Psalm 100 this Sunday morning.  My friend Leigh Moseman shared that Psalm 100 was one of her favorite passages of scripture. She said this about it, "I say Psalm 100 every morning when I get out of bed. It is my prayer to 'make a joyful noise unto the Lord' and to 'serve Him with gladness.' I want to live a life of thanksgiving, of praise, and a life that is glorifying to God." Don't you just love that. I want that for me, my family, and FBC Waco!

Psalm 100 commands us to live a life of adoration. It also gives us reasons for this kind of lifestyle. The Psalm calls us to recall the simple truths of our childhood table blessing - God is great. God is good. We find our gladness and strength from these rock solid realities. Psalm 100 asserts that God's faithfulness and stubborn love is for all generations. That gives us plenty to be glad about and Godly gladness is our strength.

Read Psalm 100 a few times before Sunday and then join us for worship at FBC Waco - 10:30. I'm praying that God will put his gladness in our hearts (see Psalm 4). See y'all there

FBC Waco

I just wanted y'all to have my new FBC Waco contact information:


I love this time of year.  Baseball overlaps football. The leaves on the trees start to get cranky. Yellow school buses fill the morning and afternoon streets.  I saw a few of them on the way to the office this morning.  I thought of Eleanor and bus 493. They were both something!

Late August always gives me butterflies.  Ever years it makes me think back on the twelve "first days" I had as a public school student in Meridian, Mississippi. Those new days still stick with me. The first day of something new is filled with excitement, hope, and fear. What a gift. 

We serve the God of new things.  He is working his good pleasure in all of our lives and we need to celebrate it.  New seasons are still occasions for hope, excitement, and a dose of healthy fear.Well maybe not fear but at the very least some focused sobriety.

Here's my challenge for you today.  Get a few #2 Ticonderoga pencils and sharpen them yourself. Breath in a good smell of the tip. Find some wide ruled loose leaf paper. You may have to buy some or borrow it from a kid. Write out a prayer of gratitude for the new things God is doing in your life. You may need to ask him to show you the way.

"So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new" 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NRSV).

Mavis' Trump Card

I preached at First Baptist Church Waco, Texas this past Sunday. Those wonderful people took a vote and asked me to be their pastor. We were humbled to tears and are excited about serving God with them.

We are also grateful for the prayers of our friends in Meridian, MS. The gracious spirit of our church family is a testimony to their unshakable faith in Jesus. Their encouragement was bread for our journey and I'll always be grateful.  I also took courage from a strange place as I approached our weekend in Texas. I said a prayer of gratitude this morning for Mavis Staples, Wilco, and Lollapalooza. Let me explain.

We spent the first night of our trip in Bossier City, Louisiana. We hunkered down in a budget motel just off the interstate.  One of the perks of our stay was a free USA Today.  They ran a great article about Mavis Staples, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco and Lollapalooza. I've always loved Sister Mavis and Wilco is incredible. I keep up with them trough Mr. Tony Sansone. Mr. Tony is a member of FBC Meridian and one of my favorite people. His son Patrick is in the band and Mr. Tony is proud.

Mavis and Jeff Tweedy have started working together and that opened a door for her to play the big show in Chicago.  She's not the normal fare and was a bit concerned about what to wear and how to act. Mavis leaned on a lesson from her father Pops. He would say, "You're singing God's music. You be sincere. What comes from the heart reaches the heart." She reflected, "So whatever audience it is, that's my trump card." Great advice!

Every congregation has a voice. Let's sing God's songs from the heart. It's the only hope we have of touching the hearts of others.

Where is your church?

I normally have a few books going. I just finished two that dealt with some important aspects of missional Christianity. Stetzer and Rainer’s, Transformational Church, was really good. I also enjoyed a book by a Foursquare pastor named Jerry Cook titled, The Monday Morning Church: Out of the Sanctuary and Into the Streets. Each one these asked a version of the question, “Where is your church?”

Cook talked about his seminary days at Fuller. He said that Richard Halverson, a longtime Presbyterian minister in Washington D.C., would visit the campus yearly. One day a student asked him, “Dr. Halverson, where is your church?” This was his response - “Well, it’s three o’clock in Washington, D.C. The church I pastor is all over the city. It’s driving buses, serving meals in restaurants, sitting in board meetings, having discussions in the Pentagon, deliberating in congress.”
Stetzer and Rainer concluded their book with a comparison of two types of churches. The fictional missional church was named Riverview. Here how they characterized the congregation. “The ministry with Riverview is not based on the location of the church campus but the location of the church members.”
Were is your church?
It is at least partially present where you are right now. The life you live and the ministry you pursue are as important as anything that goes on in a collectively owned building somewhere in your town. We ARE the church. We’ll gather later but we’re scattered now.

Let get in on God’s mission in the world!

Hills of Copper

Sermon Preview: "Hills Of Copper" Deuteronomy 8:1-10

Copper is valuable. It has been important and pricey for thousands of years. In Deuteronomy 8 Moses paints a vivid picture of the land of promise. He includes hills of copper in the description of God's good work. He wanted the people the envision the collective future God planned for them so that they would order their lives accordingly. He was making the future present and using it to motivate.

God has prepared good things for us as well. He wants us to grow and increase in our love for him and others. He wants our lives to be more fruitful. As we live and increase there are important realities that we need to keep in mind. Between here and the hills of copper we will experience: God's discipline - the Enemy's confrontation - the Work's challenge. When we experience these "slowing" realities we need to deal with them according to wisdom and remember that there are hills of copper in our future.

Read Deuteronomy 8
Spend some time remembering the way God has led you to this point in your life.

Join us at FBC Meridian this Sunday. Have a great weekend y'all!

Preach on Mr. T

I went to see the A Team with some friends a few weeks ago. It was fun. The movie was more crass than the old tv show so I wouldn't recommend it for all ages but it did bring back some great memories. What child of the 80s doesn't remember Mr. T's line, "I pity the fool." Fools should be pitied for sure but we also need a strategy for dealing with them. If you shake a magnolia tree ten of them will fall out so we need to learn how to live wisely among them.

I will lead a bible study tonight on 1 Samuel 25. It's a great story with interesting characters. David, Nabal, and Abigail's interactions give us some great principles for living wisely among the foolish.  This is how I've distilled them:
1. Do not become a fool dealing with a fool.
2. Remember God.
3. Remember your purpose and identity.
4. Value a clean conscience.
5. Refuse personal vengeance.
Lagniappe - Pity the fool.

Read 1 Samuel 25 and see if you can identify these principles. Come to The Gathering @ FBC Meridian tonight if you can. 6:30. Have a great day y'all.

Trouble Viewing Broken Steeple Using Internet Explorer?

Many readers have reported trouble viewing Broken Steeple in Internet Explorer 8.  The problem is in IE8's "compatability view."  "Compatability view" is designed to help you view older websites with a newer web browser like IE8.  The problem arises when "compability view" is on and you are viewing a newer designed website like Borken Steeple.  Don't worry though, it can be turned off with the click of a button.  Heres how...

(Remember you can click any of the images below to view them larger!)

Steps 1-2:  Make sure you have the "Compatability View Button" turned on.  You can check this by right clicking in the blank area on the toolbar as seen in the picture below.  If the "Compatability View Button" is not checked, click it to put a check beside it. 
3.  Locate the "Compatability View Button" next to the referesh button at the top of the brower as seen in the picture below.  Click the icon. 

4.  Broken Steeple should now look like the picture below.

If you are still having trouble viewing the site, you can leave a comment to this post or let Matt know via Facebook! 

This post is brought to you by Matt's personal webmaster, Will.

Ships That Will Not Sail

Ships That Would Not Sail

I was baptized when I was eleven years old by a wonderful man named C.C. Randall. He was professor of evangelism at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and the interim pastor of Highland Baptist Church in Meridian, MS.  I found a copy of the order of worship from that day a few months ago and was taken by the title of his message. His sermon was, "Ships That Would Not Sail." The text was 2 Chronicles 20:31-37.  I have not been able to find a copy of his message but being a preacher myself have decided to write my own and steal his title. I will have the honor of baptizing a bright little girl named Madison this Sunday. I'll be preaching for her and in memory of Dr. Randall.

I invite you to come and participate in worship at FBC Meridian. If you can't be here and are in East Mississippi /West Alabama catch the 10:30 service on WTOK. You can also watch it online next week. The text is really pretty cool. It is about King Jehoshaphat. I love saying that name. He was a good guy that made a few bad decisions.  This Sunday we will see that a good man's "howevers" often lead to wasted work. I don't think many people want to waste their labor so this message is probably for you. 

To prepare:
Read 2 Chronicles 17-20:37

Have a great weekend y'all. See ya Sunday!


I wake up early almost everyday. I had a visitor break the quiet this morning. Wes got out of his bed and came into the living room. He climbed up in my chair and we both dropped back to sleep. It was nice. It also reminded me of this quote from Jurgen Moltmann -

"With every new beginning of life the hope for the fullness of the life we call eternal acquires a new chance and a new assurance.  Every child is also a new occasion for hope for the home of life in this unredeemed world. If this were not so we could expect nothing new of beginnings. But his 'mercies are new every morning', we are told (Lam.3.23). The small and daily renewals of time point beyond themselves to the morning of the new creation of all things."

Live this day for God's sake! Amen.

Learning Jack

The last post on this blog was about the Jack Reeds. That little scribble led to one of the best lunch dates I've ever had. Here's what happened -

I emailed Mayor Reed telling him how much I enjoyed the Clarion Ledger interview and expressed my admiration for his dad. I included a link. He read the little thing. He was scheduled to speak in Meridian on Wednesday and invited me to be his guest at the event. I once overheard someone at the Neshoba County Fair say, "Mississippi is more a club than a state." I'd have to agree. Social media and  the Mississippi Club got me to lunch with Jack Sr. I hadn't seen him since 1987. It was great.

We worked out a simple deal. It was an unspoken contract and we all know those exist. I'd fetch his coffee and desert and he'd answer questions about public speaking and leadership. I wanted to drink from the well and he seemed pretty happy about dipping the water. Jack Reed has a body that moves slower than it once did but his hearing aide and cane don't hide the light in his eyes and the mischief in his good humored voice.  He made a deposit in my life this Wednesday and here are the lessons I'm going to try to apply in my life as a leader and speaker. This is not a list of quotes but the wisdom I distilled from our conversation.

1. Be a man of integrity. He quoted Aristotle which was fun to watch. I left with an appreciation for a communicator that truly values ethos.

2. Be funny if you can. Mr. Reed believes that the greatest tool a communicator has is a healthy sense of humor. We both agreed, however, that people who are not funny should not try to be. It's painful to watch.

3. Work to keep the speech/sermon short. A disciplined use of words is a powerful thing. I thought of E.B. White's guidance, "Eliminate useless words."

4. Remember that people remember more than they think they do. Mr. Reed said, "They always remember the punch lines but that doesn't mean the rest isn't in there subliminally."

5. Be moderate. Learn to listen and be humble enough to learn from others.

6. Take control of your emotional health. He cited William James' theory saying, "It's not happiness that creates the smile but the smile that creates the happiness." Being a calm presence is one of the best traits of a leader. Joy really is strength.

7. Be a teacher/mentor. John Wooden, St. Paul and others used the image of parent to describe healthy leadership. You can see the imprint of his life  stamped on his son. The man lived what he taught. He also spoke of other's that, "think they are my son." He wasn't bragging but speaking with affection about persons he had invested in. That's huge.

8. Be passionate. You may remember I met Mr. Reed in 1987. I played him in our elementary school's mock election. The last question he had for me was, "Did we win?" He was delighted that we smoked 'em at Poplar Springs Elementary School. Wisdom and moderation is not antithetical to passion and drive. Great leaders nurture both.

God splashes blessings on us at unexpected times. My lunch with Mr. Reed fits into this category. I'm truly grateful for God's absurd grace and I'm thankful to Mr. Reed for once again taking some time for this boy.

Jack Reed Jr. on Leadership or "I'll Have an Arnold Palmer; Please."

Jack Jr. on Leadership or "I'll Have an Arnold Palmer; Please."

Summer is here y’all and it’s getting deep. I’m not sure where you live but it’s hot in Mississippi. Most good Southerners have a strategy for staying cool and as a good Southerner I’ve been working on mine for years. The Arnold Palmer is part of my master plan. An Arnold Palmer is a drink. It is one part iced tea one part lemonade. I’ve been sipping them for years. I haven’t paused to think of their social importance until yesterday.

The Clarion Ledger ran a piece on Jack Reed Jr. the mayor of Tupelo. I immediately read it because Jack Sr. is one of my favorite Mississippians. When I was in the 5th grade at Poplar Springs Elementary School I played the part of Jack Reed in our school’s mock gubernatorial election. It was a little civics lesson that introduced me to the world of Southern politics. I got to meet Mr. Reed during the course of the deal and even stumped for him at a rally. It was my first and last political speech. Jack Reed Sr. is a class act and I think he embodies the best of Mississippi. Reading his son’s piece brought back some good memories.

At the end of the interview Reed said, “I’m working on a speech entitled, “The Courage to Be Moderate” or “I’ll have and Arnold Palmer; Please.” After a year as an elected public servant, I am more convinced than ever that Tupelo, and Mississippi, need men and women who have the wisdom to consider both sides of public debates; who have the strength to acknowledge that the other side has a good point; and who recognize that the most productive answers are generally ‘both/and’ not ‘either/or.’ In battle, ‘the center must hold.’”

As a moderate in things political and ecclesiastical I say, “May his tribe increase!”

God and the Big Ole Goofy World

Molly Katherine and I like to dance around the house with each other singing a few lines from John Prine’s song, Goofy World. “There’s a big ole goofy man dancing with a big ole goofy girl – ah baby – it’s a big ole goofy world.” It truly is. Life is hard and unpredictable. Sure things blow up and the rain falls on the just and unjust. As Christ’s followers we can dance our way through by humbly clinging to the kindness of God.
I’ll preach a message tonight based on Hannah’s story in 1 Samuel. We can learn many lessons from her experience and the way God dealt with her. She was mistreated and misunderstood but she presented herself before God and poured out her heart in prayer. God listened and blessed. She’s a good model for us.

If you are in Meridian tonight come to FBC Meridian @ 6:30. I think you’ll be encouraged. We hope to see you!

“The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength.” 1 Samuel 2:4
“…I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:p

Coach Wooden, the Apostle Paul, Dad and Mamma: On Leadership

I got my copy of, Wooden on Leadership, off my shelves not long after the brilliant old coach passed away. I’m re-reading the underlined and dog-eared parts and that’s most of the book. One of my favorite passages in the book is found on page 80. Here is what he said:

“At some point, later than I’d care to admit, it became clear to me that the most productive model for good leadership is a good parent. A coach, teacher, and leader, in my view, are all basic variations of being a parent. And while parenting is the most important job in the world, leadership isn’t far behind. I revere the opportunity and obligation it confers, namely the power to change lives and make a difference. For me, leadership is a sacred trust.”

Paul wrote about his own apostolic leadership is a strangely similar way. In I Thessalonians he spoke of his leadership in parental terms. “But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:7b-8). “As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:11-12). Spiritual leadership is a Dad/Mom kind of thing.

I am grateful for the example of Tim and Sherry Snowden. The lives they live for my brothers and me was/is a living text on servant leadership. I pray for God to supply the grace necessary to live like them for the sake of our children and the work God has called us to do.

Walking 2010 Begins Tomorrow

Walking 2010 begins tomorrow.  Groups from FBC Meridian will serve Meridian in the name of Jesus. We will go into many different parts of our community to live as the presence of Christ. Please pray for God to pour out his Holy Spirit in power. Pray for hearts to be touched and the gospel to be shared clearly. We don't simply go to church. We are the church. Let's get after it y'all!

Memorial Stones and Idols

Here is my message from Sunday. It's special for me on our tenth anniversary.
Memorial Stones and Idols (Snowden)

The Unfettered God of Pentecost

I got to lead a group of young adults on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic last week. I could not have asked for a better team to work with. They served graciously and exhibited the kind of grit necessary to roll with the punches. We will share our stories during our church’s midweek service tonight at 6:30.

Someone asked me what the highlight of the trip was for me. There were many high points. The ministry in Sabaneta is maturing and it’s good to see growth in the work. God is doing great things with our friends in the city. The prayer walking is bearing fruit. Other evangelical groups are just now starting to come to Sabaneta. We met a couple with the Alliance churches that had been in the country just a few weeks. Greg Massey and I believe that the prayer saturation is making a difference. The peak of my experience this year was the new influx of Haitians. Sabaneta is very near the border and many Haitians came over after the calamity in their country. Jose and the church are working hard to connect with them.

We had a tri-lingual service on Sunday evening. We worshipped in English, Spanish, and Creole. The language complexity did a number of things for us. Three stand out.:

1. It humbled us. There are few things more frustrating than not being able to communicate.
2. It made us dependent on each other. We were forced to wait on one another. I’m not sure I’ve ever paid that much attention to fellow worshipers.
3. It magnified God. The God of Pentecost is just not restrained by the some local bonds that we are restrained by. God is the God of the whole Earth.

Please pray with me that the Dominican Republic trip continues to bear fruit in the lives of our team. Most were college students and this was their first international mission experience. I want this experience to change them forever. They glorified God and I sense they will continue to as they live for their neighbors and the nations!

The Jesus Manifesto

Several weeks ago Philip Nation sent me an email asking if I would be willing to help Ed Stetzer review a book. I feel like this invite went out to a truck load of people but it came with a free book so I was game. I also appreciate Stetzer and the work he does.

I really did like the book. It was by Leanard Sweet and Frank Viola. Both of these guys are challenging writers and this book was no exception. I encourage you to buy it and read it slowly if you can. Life really is about Jesus and this book will help you see that fundamental truth again.

Here are the quick scribbles that I sent to Ed Stetzer:

Ed Stetzer,

Thank you for this opportunity. I really like books and free ones are the best. Your ministry has been a blessing to me and I appreciate what you do for our churches. I hope this small review helps.

Should I endorse this?
I believe that you should. I have read a number of your books and I have heard you speak on a few occasions. My perception of you is that you are both orthodox and irenic. I truly think you would accept this work with gladness. The lordship of Christ is the core of true missional renewal and it’s the heart of this book. This book exalts Christ and stirs a desire to love and serve him more.

Flag theological concerns
This book has a very high view of Christ. I found the affirmations orthodox. There is one element that I think may be problematic for some Southern Baptists. There is a section in chapter one that deals with the Old Testament. The writers state, “Jesus Christ makes Scripture intelligible. He is the key that unlocks the entire biblical canon” (p.8) .They conclude this section by saying, “We, therefore, should understand the Old Testament Scriptures in light of Jesus Christ. He is the Rosetta Stone of the Bible” (p.11). I do not have a problem with these statements. I agree with them. I do, however, remember many conversations when the Baptist Faith and Message was revised. The language of this book more closely resembles the “old” BF and M. It may fire up some unfriendly blogger types. I flag another concern later in this work.

What are the big themes?
The theme of this book is Jesus. It calls the church to our fundamental concern. The writers state their hope this way, “…we hope to bring your vision and understanding of Jesus Christ into sharper focus” (p.25). They don’t try to introduce a Jesus we have never known. They don’t dress him as a cynic sage, a Marxist, or the father of French royalty. There is absolutely no novelty in this book. I found this to be the most refreshing part of the work. So many books about Jesus try to introduce the reader to the hidden, lost or stolen Jesus. These writers simply want to highlight the big ole Jesus of the bible. They seem to really believe the stuff as well. They also believe that a confrontation with the biblical Christ holds out hope for real spiritual renewal. Listen to them, “…we hope it will birth in your life a new burst of wonder and insight into the earthly, the exalted, and the indwelling Jesus. But even more, we hope that you will be compelled to respond to the love He has so graciously poured out upon you-and become a Jesus Manifesto in your own community” (p.27). This book is a call to non-saccharin devotion and a mission compelled by love.

What are the key ideas of the book?

Chapter 1: The Occupation of All Things
The opening chapter starts with this huge affirmation, “Indeed, Jesus is not just the Lord of the middle and the margins; He’s the God of the whole show” (Chapter 1 page 1). Knowing this God becomes, “…the chief pursuit of the Christian life” (p.2). The writers assert that knowing and loving Jesus is the heart of holiness and mission. They write, “If the heart is occupied with Christ, Jesus will pour forth from the lips and the pen. He will ooze out of every pore”(p.15). They later affirm, “…Christ will be on the lips of every person and church who is walking in the Spirit, and He will leap out from their lifestyle” (p.17). The problem, they believe, is that Jesus is not the core of large amounts of Christian activity. They write, “The tragedy of our time is that countless preachers, teachers, even healers are giving dozens of sermons, lectures, and messages, relegating Jesus to little more than a footnote or a flourish to some other subject. At best, He gets honorable mention”(p.17). I think you agree.

Chapter 2: A Bottle in the Ocean
This chapter explores the book of Colossians. They see in Paul’s letter the high theme of biblical revelation. “…the message of the Bible is Christ”(p.38). All other messages are to be addressed in light of Christ.

Chapter 3: If God Wrote Your Biography
I had some trouble with the first part of this chapter. I think it possesses one of the weaknesses of the book. It begins with a long section that invites the reader to listen as they assume the voice of God the Father. I found this to be distracting. It may be my personality but I do not believe that I would ever be at home with this type of spiritual exercise. It moves from this, however, to explore a truly Christ-centered concept of sanctification. Sanctification is the fuel of mission. I think you will be particularly interested in this quote, “As we write these words, there’s a lot of talk about being ‘missional.’ But to be truly missional means constructing one’s life and ministry on Christ. He is both the heart and bloodstream of God’s plan. To miss this is to miss the plot. Indeed, it is to miss everything” (p.57). They go on to say, “The engine of being ‘missional,’ therefore, ought never to be religious duty. Neither should it be guilt, condemnation, or ambition. The engine should be blindly and singularly a revelation of Jesus Christ” (p.58). I think this could have been said in Sent or Compelled by Love.

Chapter 4: A Violin Called Messiah
This chapter introduces a “relational Christ ethic.” The indwelling Christ motivates and empowers a life of holiness.

Chapter 5: A Ditch on Either Side
This chapter holds up two popular approaches to Christianity and argues for a third way. They quote Barth, “Indeed, the road to truth is surrounded by a ditch on either side” (p.79). The writers argue that theological rationalism and theological ethics alone are not sufficient guides for the follower of Christ. They state, “According to Scripture, Jesus Christ (and not a doctrine about Him) is the truth. In addition, Jesus Christ (and not an ethic derived from His teaching) is the way. In other words, both God’s truth and God’s way are embodied in a living, breathing person-Christ” (p. 80).

Chapter 6: His Face on Your Face
Chapter 6 challenges the reader not to make Jesus a “cause.” They state, “Focusing on His cause or mission doesn’t equate with focusing on or following Him” (p.94).

Chapter 7: A Collision of Two Empires
This chapter focuses on the Kingdom. I love this quote, “The only battering ram that can storm the gates of hell is not the cry of justice, but the name of Jesus” (p.105). They define the kingdom of God as, “the manifestation of God’s ruling presence” (p.107). They do a good job of placing justice and mercy issues in a “relationship with Jesus” category. I think that this is a fruitful course.

Chapter 8: The Forgotten Tree
Chapter eight explores the question, “How did Jesus do what he did?” The response they give is, “The glory of the gospel is that we who are fallen, tarnished, and marred have been invited to live our lives in the exact same way that Jesus lived His life: by an indwelling Lord” (p.127). This concept leans hard on the old evangelical spirituality of “yielding.” There is no novelty here. It’s a good reminder.

I have a problem with a part of this chapter. They write of scripture, “The fundamentalist idea that the text has only one meaning is of relatively recent invention (it was spawned from Enlightenment rationalism)” (p.139). Footnote 28 reads, “This line of thinking corrals atheists and Christians together into a unison choir to sing from the same epistemological song sheet. For most of Christian history, it was thought that every passage of Scripture had at least four meaning” (p.197). If they were going to drop these bombs then they needed to hash it out a little more. I understand their line of thought but many of us still affirm authorial intent and are far from fundamentalist. I think. This was a flaw from my perspective but I don’t that it was a damning flaw.

Chapter 9: A House of Figs
This chapter deals with the church. They write, “The authentic Christian life, therefore, is not an individual pursuit. It’s a corporate journey” (p.142). I believe that this is a really important observation and sadly it must be stated again and again to American Christians. They speak of the functions of the church this way, “The occupation of every local assembly can be summed up in two words: discovering and displaying – that is, discovering and displaying Christ” (p.144). They use the city of Bethany to explore vital church functions. I think that this was a beautiful chapter and it encouraged me greatly.

Chapter 10: Who Is This Lord of Yours?
Chapter ten sums up the book by affirming, “Genuine Christianity is learning to live by an indwelling Christ.” Again, this is an ancient truth and a solid evangelical affirmation. Many older Baptists will recall Jack Taylor’s call to live by the indwelling Christ. That sparked a season of renewal in many churches. It’s warm hearted Christian devotion. It is rooted in scripture.

I think Ed should endorse this book. He would probably disagree with a few points. I have highlighted a couple of the places I differ. It was written well and the overall emphasis is solid. My love for Jesus was nurtured while I read this and I was motivated to serve in his name. I think that marks a truly good piece of Christian writing. This work was a thoughtful piece of devotional literature. It had a pietistic aroma to it. I would recommend it.

1 paragraph endorsement

Leanard Sweet and Frank Viola fulfilled the aspiration of all truly Christian writers. They exalted Jesus. Sweet and Viola spark a renewed love for Christ by unfolding the deep mystery of His person. You will not agree with every statement in this book but you will be compelled to whisper prayers of gratitude for our beautiful savior. You will also be motivated to love his church and serve as sisters and brothers in his name.

Practicing Hospitality

We at FBC Meridian have the opportunity to house two missionary families beginning this summer. We pay for and furnish appartments for them. The Missions Committee has the furnishings for one of the families in storage. We need church members and friends to loan or donate items for the second family. It is rare that we house two families at once but feel like this challenge is worth it. If you chose to donate an item know that we will donate it to a Christian compassion agency after it is used by our missionaries. Here is the list of needed items:

3 chairs
coffee table
end table
floor lamp
tv stand
breakfast table with chairs
set of dishes (8 piece place setting, 8 glasses, set of silverware)
queen bed
2 twin beds
end table
new shower curtain
bath mat
toilet brush
bathroom garbage can
toilet paper
hand soap
bath soap

The family is scheduled to be here by early July. Please contact Matt @ 601-484-4600 if you have questions or can help with this ministry. Thanks.


Here is my sermon from yesterday. I hope it encourages you.


Workin' With Earl (for Jesus)

We have a great local ministry opportunity coming up Saturday May 1. We will be reparing a roof for an elderly woman and her family in the East End community. This project is funded by the 1 John 3:17 Ministry. We need volunteers to help get the work done. Chuck Braddock and the legendary Earl Laird will be leading the project so your skill is not required. Your back and willingness to work IS needed. Bring a hammer, some gloves, and a nail apron (if you have one) and come to 1909 12th Ave. Meridian, MS. We will start working at 8:00.

If you can come please contact Matt:
wk - 601-484-4600
cl - 601-616-5413
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