The Greatest of These

NOTE: Revision of ‘We want to compete on the highest level.’ Published in Belton Journal 5-5-05.

The Chicago Sun-Times ran an interview with U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr. last week.
He talked about U2, the botched up ticket sales and how the band is still not satisfied with just being the “biggest band in the world.”
“We want to do better, we want to compete on the highest level, and that means competing on radio, and competing with people like Britney Spears and all those pop artists who are at the top of their game. The songs that are written for them are pretty spectacular, and we want to compete with that. Why else do this? There’s no other reason. None of us need to do it, we’re all financially secure, and for a lot of bands, that’s a huge turn-off. ‘I’ve got the kids now, I’ve got the money, what do I need this for?’ This is revenge for us.”
Granted, in my opinion U2 is already the greatest band in the world.
But apparently they’re not happy yet.
In my own life there are a number of times that I get complacent and feel like I don’t need to improve.
But what if I woke up everyday with a mindset that I needed to be the greatest editor in the world, or the greatest single’s intern in the world or the son or friend or Christian? How would my life differ?
What would it take for me to be the greatest at all these things?
Scripture tells us that even the disciples wanted to be the greatest in the kingdom in heaven.
In Matthew 18 the disciple ask Jesus “Who will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Jesus tells them, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
That excites me, because I can be childlike all the time.
But that’s probably more a lack of maturity than what Jesus was talking about.
My friend Mike loves to tell me about his two-year old son, Liam.
A few weeks ago Mike was eating dinner with his wife and Liam. And halfway through the meal Liam realized they hadn’t prayed.
He stopped everything, put his hands together and said, “Pray. Pray.”
That childlike faith is what Jesus was looking for. A faith that isn’t distracted from our daily duties. A faith that never questions how big God is, but knows God is bigger than any problem we have.

8.5% version 2 (or 5 votes)

Warning: I’m on another soap box today.

By the time you read this, there will be less than a week left for early voting in the city’s general election.

This is our chance that only comes once a year, to decide who we want to serve us on the city council.
I’m glad that you were a responsible citizen and you’ve already cast your vote and made your voice heard.

Or did you? I know I did.

But what about you? Chances are very high that you didn’t.

Because in last year’s primary election, only 8.5-percent of the registered voters in Bell County voted. That means 128,107 registered voters did not vote. What part of the percentage were you?

Thus far only 404 people have cast their vote in the city election. That’s 404 out of roughly 7,000 registered voters. A mere 5.7-percent.

Do you realize what the vote difference was between third and fourth place last year? Between winner and loser?

Five votes. Five votes made the difference between one woman serving on the council and another man left outside.

Of course, that may have been the way you wanted it, and that’s fine. If you voted, I have no problem with that. But with such a low voter turnout, realize that every single vote counts.

Now you still have until May 3 to vote early and you can also vote May 7, but what happens if your car breaks down between now and then? What if your child gets sick? And why the heck would you want to wait and risk not being able to vote?

It may not seem like a big deal to most people, but it’s very sickening to me.

A nationwide study released on Tuesday showed that only 7.2% of registered voters had voted in the last year’s primaries before Tuesday’s elections in Texas, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana.

So, congratulations Bell County, we beat the national curve last year, but I’m not applauding.

Two of my cousins have spent time in the Middle East protecting my freedom and giving freedom to people who have never had the opportunity to taste it.

Over 1000 young Americans have died in Iraq so that a people they’ve never met can go to their polls and elect a president.

These fine American soldiers fought and died so that a ruthless dictatorship could be overthrown and our country could sleep securely at night.

And the Iraqi people came out with threats of death to the polls.

Over 50-percent of them voted, knowing they could be shot on the spot, or hunted down and killed later.
Yet in the midst of a world war and in the midst of a heated presidential election, as a county we only sent 12,373 people to the polls last year in Bell County. That’s less than the population of Belton.

Now granted, I love Belton. I don’t want to live anywhere else. In fact as you probably know, I bought a house in Belton.

But if I lived in Temple, or Harker Heights or Killeen or anywhere else in Bell County, I wouldn’t like it one bit if the citizens of Belton began making decisions for me and deciding who would represent me and who would stand up for my concerns.

Who are they to decide my representation? Would you let a stranger off the street pick a lawyer to represent you in a major lawsuit?

I want the best possible representation I can get whenever I can get it. I want someone I can trust handling my business. And if they’re not doing a good job, rather than sit around and complain, I’m going to fire them.

I’m not going to walk up to a phone book and play “Ouiji directory” and you shouldn’t either. When it comes to electing our public officials, we each have a choice.

On May 7 we have the opportunity to select our representation for city council and vote to approve a new city charter. Don’t let some stranger come and steal your right to choose our city’s leadership.

Five minutes (and five votes) can change the course of history.

What me worry?

I was told my good bud Chris Allman was quite deep this morning when coming into the office. And no, its not the normal “Chris is in deep trouble.”
Chris actually said something deep.
At least we can be certain that he didn’t write it in his column.
Anyways, when asked how his day was going, Chris responded, “Everyday you come to work and you have things you worry about. And everyday you have things you just don’t worry about anymore.”
Things have been quite hectic all around me and I see people running around with their heads cut off. But why? Don’t they realize that at any moment something else can come along and will change everything?
What was so important yesterday has lost all it’s relevance today.
This past weekend I took part in a Disciple Now in Murphy, Texas.
My friend, the youth pastor, began to describe the group to us before the weekend began — I thought I was listening to the latest WWE storyline or daytime Emmy nominee.
So many hurts and frustrations over losing a boyfriend or a girlfriend in Jr. High. Who cares?!
OK. Maybe that wasn’t the best way to minister to a group of lost and confused Jr. Highers and High Schoolers, but seriously, how many of us are still dating our Jr. High sweetheart?
What was important to me in college really doesn’t even matter today. The things that I worried about yesterday, are really not a concern for me today either.
A computer crash at 2 in the morning, a server crash at 3. Today that’s all history. What good did worrying and stressing out about it do me yesterday?
Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these… So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’… Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

My King

A few weeks ago I wrote about church marketing and how it’s really quite ineffective for today’s audience.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been blessed over and abundantly by my church, my parent’s church and my sister Amy’s church and more importantly by God.
If there was only some way to bottle up those blessings and sell them on the open market — we would make a fortune.
We do have the greatest message and product known to man, but I still don’t know how to share it with the rest of the world.
This past weekend I heard a sermon again for the first time.
It thrilled me to hear it again and thought, ‘This is how we should market Christianity. If people get this, they’ll get the greatest message ever told.”
It’s a simple message that needs to be shared with the entire world.
So, while reading the transcript is no where near as powerful as actually hearing it read by its author, I hope that you will begin to understand how great a message Christians really have.
My King
My King was born King. The Bible says He’s a Seven Way King.
He’s the King of the Jews – that’s a racial King.
He’s the King of Israel – that’s a National King.
He’s the King of righteousness.
He’s the King of the ages.
He’s the King of Heaven.
He’s the King of glory.
He’s the King of kings and He is the Lord of lords.
Now that’s my King. Well I wonder if you know Him. Do you know Him? Don’t try to mislead me. Do you know my King?
David said the Heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork.
My King is the only one whom there are no means of measure can define His limitless love.
No far seeing telescope can bring into visibility the coastline of His shore of supplies.
No barriers can hinder Him from pouring out His blessing.
Well, well, He’s enduringly strong.
He’s entirely sincere.
He’s eternally steadfast. He’s immortally graceful.
He’s imperially powerful. He’s impartially merciful. That’s my King.
He’s God’s Son. He’s the sinner’s savior. He’s the centerpiece of civilization.
He stands alone in Himself. He’s honest. He’s unique. He’s unparalleled. He’s unprecedented. He’s supreme. He’s pre-eminent.
Well, He’s the grandest idea in literature.
He’s the highest personality in philosophy.
He’s the supreme problem in high criticism.
He’s the fundamental doctrine of proved theology.
He’s the carnal necessity of spiritual religion. That’s my King.
He’s the miracle of the age. He’s the superlative of everything good that you choose to call Him.
Well, He’s the only one able to supply all of our needs simultaneously.
He supplies strength for the weak.
He’s available for the tempted and the tried.
He sympathizes and He saves.
He’s strong God and He guides. He heals the sick. He cleanses the lepers.
He forgives sinners. He discharged debtors.
He delivers the captives. He defends the feeble.
He blesses the young. He serves the unfortunate. He regards the aged.
He rewards the diligent and He beautifies the meek. Do you know Him?
Well, my King is a King of knowledge. He’s the wellspring of wisdom. He’s the doorway of deliverance. He’s the pathway of peace. He’s the roadway of righteousness.
He’s the highway of holiness. He’s the gateway of glory. He’s the master of the mighty. He’s the captain of the conquerors.
He’s the head of the heroes. He’s the leader of the legislatures. He’s the overseer of the overcomers.
He’s the governor of governors. He’s the prince of princes. He’s the King of kings and He’s the Lord of lords. That’s my King.
Yeah. Yeah. That’s my King. My King, yeah.
His office is manifold. His promise is sure. His light is matchless.
His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting.
His love never changes. His Word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
Well. I wish I could describe Him to you, but He’s indescribable.
He’s indescribable. Yes. He’s incomprehensible. He’s invincible. He’s irresistible. I’m coming to tell you, the heavens of heavens cannot contain Him, let alone a man explaining Him.
You can’t get Him out of your mind. You can’t get Him off of your hands. You can’t outlive Him and you can’t live without Him.
Well, Pharisees couldn’t stand Him, but they found out they couldn’t stop Him. Pilot couldn’t find any fault in Him. The witnesses couldn’t get their testimonies to agree.
Herod couldn’t kill Him. Death couldn’t handle Him and the grave couldn’t hold Him. That’s my King. Yeah.
He always has been and He always will be. I’m talking about He had no predecessor and He’ll have no successor.
There’s nobody before Him and there’ll be nobody after Him. You can’t impeach Him and He’s not going to resign. That’s my King! That’s my King!
Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory. Well, all the power belongs to my King.
We’re around here talking about black power and white power and green power, but it’s God’s power.
Thine is the power. Yeah. And the glory. We try to get prestige and honor and glory for ourselves, but the glory is all His. Yes.
Thine is the Kingdom and the power and glory, forever and ever and ever and ever. How long is that? And ever and ever and ever and ever. And when you get through with all of the forevers, then, Amen.
—Dr. S. M. Lockridge
Dr. Lockridge was the Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, San Diego from 1953 – 1993. He entered heaven in 2000.
For an audio version of this transcript visit:

When the Rains Come

This past Sunday I shared a video with my Sunday school class about a father and son caught in a rain storm.
The father told the story of a hike he took with his young 16-month old son riding in a pack on his back.
As they neared the half-way-point of the hike the skies opened up and a soaking rain poured down on them.
The father mentioned that for his son, the storm became his reality.
He knew nothing else – and it scared him.
How often do storms in our life become our reality?
How often do we feel like there is nothing else left but the soaking rain that is drenching us at that very moment?
I’ve been in that situation too many times.
It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and forget that “This too will pass.”
It’s easy to think all hope is lost.
Think about Jesus’ disciples on the Sea of Galilee. They were certain of their pending death.
But luckily they remembered who was sound asleep in the boat with them.
The same man who said, “Cry out to me and I will hear your cry and will answer you,” was laying in the boat with them.
So what did they do? The only thing left for them to do. They cried out to Jesus.
And like any other time people cry out to Jesus – He hears and responds.
He calms the storm. He protects us from the waves and holds us close.
The father in the story said that as his son screamed in stereo, he pulled his son off of his back and held him close in his arms.
He leaned over as he held him and whispered to him, “I love you buddy. It’s OK. We’re gonna make it. I know the way home.”
He continued holding his son and whispering the same thing to him as they continued the on the way home.
Whatever your cry is, Jesus is reaching out and saying, “I love you buddy. It’s OK. We’re gonna make it. I know the way home.”

Church Marketing Sucks

I must tell you — I love technology.

As I write this, I’m sitting on my back porch, enjoying a gorgeous first night of spring, while listening to a radio station beamed directly to me via a satellite from New York City and surfing the Internet via a wireless hub one of my neighbors apparently set up.


Now if I could just get my dogs to quit trying to lick my face, life would be grand.

And what’s even better, with Belton’s new Wi-Fi network sprouting up, I could be sitting anywhere in the city doing this same thing in the near future.

As I was surfing the web last week I came across a website that has captivated my attention:

If the name doesn’t catch your attention, many of the entries or blogs should.

I think I’ve spent three or four hours over the last several days reading through the site.

Now there’s probably many of you who are immediately turned off by the title of the site, and for you there’s the alternative,

And there may be more of you who are offended by the subject matter, for you — sorry, but I think the site developers are on to something.

The writers on the site raise some very interesting questions.

Why is it that Christianity has the greatest message ever, but we have the hardest time sharing it with the masses, or even our neighbors?

“We love the Church,” said Brad Abare, founder and regular contributor to the site. “But when it comes to communicating with an increasingly savvy world, the church is being left behind.”

I think the church in America has had a spark lit under it recently with The Passion of the Christ, but how many people are still sitting in a theater wondering about Christianity because no one has stepped up to explain their faith in a real way?

“This is a conversation, an idea — not a business,” said writer Kevin Hendricks. “We’re in this to see the Church become more authentic and effective, to see not simply butts in pews, but Christ in hearts.”

In December Wired Magazine reported a story about a high school computer teacher who made a complete advertisement on his computer for Apple’s iPod.

The commercial made by high school teacher George Masters has all the makings of a prime-time quality advertisement.

And his 60-second commercial has been getting a lot of attention from bloggers, e-mail, advertising reps and now Wired Magazine.

Gary Stein, an online advertising analyst with Jupiter Research, was struck by the quality of the ad.

“It shows great advertising principles,” Stein told Wired Magazine. “He’s computer-literate, but he’s also literate in the language of advertising…. You could take this thing and put it on MTV this afternoon. It’s not only good, it’s good advertising. People go to college to learn this. He just gets it.”

“Why would a school teacher spend a good chunk of his free time, for five months, crafting a really slick ad for no money? For no real recognition other than a, ‘Hey, that’s cool,’ from a few friends? Because he really, really likes his iPod,” wrote Andy Havens. “Masters frankly admits that he partly worked on the project as a way of teaching himself some computer animation basics, and to be part of a portfolio. That being said, why pick the iPod mini as his subject? Because he’s a huge fan. And let’s remember that ‘fan’ is short for ‘fanatic.'”

I think every pastor or lay-leader would love members of their congregation to be that fanatical about church events or activities.

I know I would be.

Why is it that people will spend hours creating a commercial for a small music gadget, paint their entire bodies and lose their voice while screaming for their favorite football team, but can’t spend an extra hour volunteering at their church?

The Church Marketing Sucks staff would say it’s all about marketing.

We haven’t marketed our message properly to our own members, yet alone the rest of the world.

Have you ever witnessed the excitement a new convert has? They’re willing to do anything and tell everyone about what Christ has done for them.

When I met with WWE Superstar Shawn Michaels last week, he said that when he came to know Christ, he told his pastor he wanted to do anything needed at the church, including janitor work, if that’s what was needed.

But somewhere along the road the message gets lost.

Christ just isn’t as cool as the first day we met him.

We lose track of what He’s really done for us.

My dad’s told me several times, “It’s just easy for me to talk about everything God has done for me.”

We get so caught up in our daily rituals that we don’t really realize the cost Christ paid on Calvary 2000 years ago. It takes a holy day like Easter to get us back on track — for at least one Sunday out of the year.

Marketing is way more than just advertising.

Marketing is finding ways to make things run smoother and making people feel apart of your company, organization or group.

Apple Computer owners are some of the most loyal customers in the world, I know because I work for one of them.

It’s because Apple makes each customer feel apart of the company.

They make products that customers can truly take ownership in and work in their lives.

McDonald’s is another marketing giant.

It doesn’t matter what country you’re in, when you see those golden arches, you think Big Mac or Quarter-Pounder with Cheese.

Both companies are have strongly branded their message to their audience.

But think about the church, we’re sending one giant mixed signal to the world.

Don’t do this, you can do this, but not that. Don’t attend that church, our church is better.

And I’ll pick on my own church for a moment; we’ve been advertising an event coming up with two different times.

How confusing is that for our members, let alone someone driving by or surfing on the web.

Our website says one thing and our marquee says something different. I have no idea what our bulletin says, because quite frankly I don’t read it. I use the internet to get my information.

But according to the church marquee, I’d be showing up 30 minutes late if I went by the time posted on the internet.

Even last week I had posted the time for one of the events in our singles department on the internet, but someone else gave a later time to be published in the bulletin.

I’m still trying to figure out where the church’s phone number, address, service times or even a statement of what we believe are posted on our website.
We need better communication within our churches — not only between our members, but to those outside our doors.

Why don’t we come together as a body of Christ — for our common goal — to bring people to Christ and show His love to them all?

Why can’t First Baptist, First Methodist, First Pentecostal, First Whoever, join together and say, “Hey, we’re were all a bunch of lost people, just like you, before we met Christ?”

Quit fighting for the largest congregations, quit arguing over theological issues in public that the world will never understand — it’s foolishness to them.

It’s amazing that a number of churches continue to grow, but yet they’re not growing from new converts, they’re simply stealing from other churches.

We must first recognize the power of Christ in our lives and then market it to everyone around us.

We need to each become fanatics in our faith. Live a life that Christ lived and share His love with everyone.

Well it’s getting chilly and I’m sure my neighbors are getting tired of my great rock music blaring into the night air.

So, while I could go on for several more pages, I’ll end with this quote: “The church exists for mission, and — a church that is only inward looking is not truly the church.” -Samuel Escobar, The New Global Mission (via CT)

Watch the full ad now on YouTube: