Tag Archives: New Mexico

Have You Ever Stepped on a Bindii?

My front yard doesn’t have any grass.  Well, there’s no grass that we have planted.  It is mostly dirt, and I like it that way because it is pretty maintenance free.  In my front yard I have planted some raised beds with fruits and vegetables.  Our family also has some flowers and shrubs and vines. It’s not much, but watering everything in this desert is time spent relaxing each day.

As I water, though, other things tend to sprout in our yard.  We get some grasses and dandelions.  We get some tumbleweeds.  We get some bindii.

Maybe you’ve never heard of bindii.  It’s also know by several other names: bullhead, cat’s head, devil’s eyelashes, devil’s thorn, devil’s weed, and goathead.

People that complain about stepping on legos have never stepped on a goathead.  These plants, once they have formed the thorny seeds, can poke through a flip-flop.  When you step on one barefoot you have to manually remove it from your foot.  They are excruciatingly painful.

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The problem with goatheads is that they pop up randomly throughout the summer – all over the place – and they spread rapidly.  When the plants first appear they seem harmless enough, but by the time they have begun to produce pretty yellow flowers they are already thorny.

I have to admit I’m pretty lax in pulling weeds.  Every day I water the plants and see the goatheads.  Every day I think about how I need to pull them when I’m done.  I think about how easy it is to pull those new plants before they get painful and produce the devilish seeds, but i don’t.

This is what is happening in our churches. It is what is happening in Christianity all across our nation.  We have weeds of sin that sprout up in our lives and in the lives of those we love who share our faith in Jesus, but because of grace we sit back and ignore the consequences of leaving those sins not dealt with.

We are reaping the consequences now as we watch our nation of churches become more and more identical to the world around us.  We revel in our tolerance though we claim outrage when the world continues to spiral toward condemnation.

I believe in grace.  It is the single thing that I have been given that causes me joy beyond joy, but I understand that grace is not meant to be cheapened by my lackadaisical approach to sin in my life or in the lives of those around me.

Paul says, in Romans 6, that sinning because you expect grace is ridiculous and contrary to the nature of the commitment you made when you were baptized into Christ.  “We died to sin.  How can we live in it any longer?”

I am watching as our nation makes decisions that go against the foundation upon which it was established.  I truly am not surprised that a bunch of humanists would make those kinds of decisions.  What I am surprised at is how many faith-professing Christians are endorsing these decisions.  I am surprised at the boldness of Christians to live with blatant sins seemingly without conscience on those matters.  I am surprised that the church is not taking a stronger stand against the invasion of the world into the church.  I am surprised that public repentance is nearly non-existent in most churches.

There is a place and time to be culturally relevant, but a Christian and a church must not compromise morality (emulating Jesus) in order to do so.  We are not even able to condone the lifestyles of those outside the church that contradict the plan and natural order set up by God Most High (Romans 1:32).

The church is supposed to be a place where people can come from every lifestyle and find God, but it is not supposed to be a place that excuses a continuation of sinful behavior in the name of grace.  If you want life change through forgiveness come to Jesus.  If you want your conscience eased while you continue in your sinful ways look elsewhere.

We have watched as weeds of sinfulness have crept into our churches, and we have sat idly by as those weeds became thorns and seeded new growth.  It’s time to call it what it is: sin.  It is time for the church to repent.  It is time to come back to an understanding of the severity of sin and run from it like Joseph ran from Potiphar’s wife.   It is time to get real with one another in love as we help each other be rid of the sins that imprison us.

It is time for the church to stop focusing on the nation coming back to its heritage and come back to our own heritage of emulating the One who lived a sinless life.  We will not achieve sinless perfection in this life, but that should not cause us to stop trying and make excuses for what we do.  Grace is not given where sin is not repented of (Hebrews 10:26).

Wake up church. Quit stepping on the bindii. Repent, so that God can pull the weeds from your life and you can walk fresh in Him again. Forgiveness is available, and grace is given, but repentance is required.


Modern Day Sanhedrin

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Have you ever heard of Passion Play Ministries International? It is an organization that tells the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus to thousands of people in many nations and cities in the US and around the world through a live-action drama. The play is a large production with hundreds of people in the cast and part of the crew. The headquarters for this ministry is in Farmington, NM of all places. Yet, with such a humble headquarters location they are doing great ministry in spreading the gospel of Jesus around the world.

I was privileged to get involved with the Passion Play of the Four Corners last year for the first time. My wife saw an ad somewhere stating that they needed singers, and that is something I love to do, so I decided to join. I was part of the choir last year and sang in the opening song as a trio with a couple other ladies. I was also the host pastor for a night where I got to lead the opening prayer and then invite people to respond to the gospel message at the end.

It was an amazing experience, and I can truly say they are changing lives – not only lives in the audience, but even lives within the cast and crew itself.

This year I went back to audition, and I was told that the choir was going to be practicing on Tuesday evenings. Well, I am solidly booked on Tuesdays with my position as den leader for the local cub scout pack, so I decided to do some reading and see if God wanted to use me for a speaking part this year. Apparently He does. I was told that night I was to report to the Sanhedrin block when rehearsals began.

The Sanhedrin? I was to be one of the bad guys who connived to have Jesus crucified. These were the legalists that had missed the heart of the message of the Messiah and therefore missed Him when He came to them.

Oh well, if that was where God wanted me to be then so be it. I began to read, and after a few nights the director of the Sanhedrin block of the cast informed me that he wanted me to play the part of Caiaphas. Really? Not only was I going to be a bad guy, but I was to be the worst one – the High Priest!!

As I have been learning my lines and preparing for my role it has really weighed on my heart the severity of the role I must play. I have to be angry at Him. I have to accuse Him. I have to reject Him. I have to be all the things I preach against each week as I minister. Sure, this is only a play, but the weight of the things, I must sa,y hang no less heavily on my heart.

The one idea that keeps coming back to me, though, is this: The religious leaders of the day – the Sanhedrin – rejected Jesus and everything He stood for because they didn’t understand Him, and they were threatened by His doctrine as they saw it required a change in their way of life and livelihood.

Don’t we do the same thing?

Don’t we reject Jesus as we decide day after day to give in to our selfishness instead of allowing Jesus to reign in our lives and call the shots? Don’t we ignore Jesus as we get caught up in our lives or even worse, our religion? Don’t we reject Him as we feel that following Him would require a change of lifestyle that will threaten our comfort on every level, even fincially? Are we not just as guilty as the Sanhedrin?

When Peter preached the first sermon about Jesus in Acts 2, he finished by saying, “You, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross…God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:23,36)

That verse is for us too. We crucify Jesus when we put our selfish desires above His. What does Jesus require in response? Repentance and Baptism (Acts 2:38). When you understand what you’ve done and keep on doing to Jesus it should bring about remorse that leads to repentance. When you see what He has done for you by willingly dying for you in spite of your rejection it should inspire a desire for allegiance to Him that leads you to baptism.

Don’t stay like the Sanhedrin. News is that even Caiapha, after the resurrection, became a follower of Jesus. It’s not too late for you to follow Him either.

If you would like to know more about Passion Play Ministries International you can find them on the web at www.passion-play.org.


What is a Church to do?

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It has been a beautiful thing to work with the Aztec church of Christ over the last two years. I have seen many lives change as people grow in their understanding of the bible or even come to Jesus for the first time. As a church our Sunday morning attendance has more than doubled in the last two years and Sunday morning class attendance nearly matches our worship service attendance.

I have enjoyed listening as person after person has spoken of the love they feel in this congregation. People here really try to treat one another like family. We welcome people regardless of their background or flaws, and we treat them with joy. This has created a family atmosphere that I think is one of our greatest draws as a church reaching out into the community. When we follow Jesus’ two primary laws, Love God and Love Your Neighbor, we find that people want to be a part of what we are into.

It is easy to maintain that family dynamic when we are a church of 50-80, but when we grew over 100 we began to see that dynamic change a bit. Well, at least I’ve seen it. Haven’t you?

So how do we keep the small church love in a medium-sized church?

To keep from allowing our growth to hurt rather than bless our gatherings we have to recognize a few things. First we must recognize the dynamic of our congregation. We are a church made primarily of young to middle age families. We have some seniors who we love dearly, but they do not comprise the majority of our attendance. We are also a congregation that comes from all over the region. We aren’t a church entirely made up of people from our neighborhood or town. We have people that come from Aztec, Flora Vista, Crouch Mesa, Bloomfield, Navajo Dam, Cedar Hill, Farmington, La Plata, Bayfield Colorado and points in between. For many people it is difficult for us all to meet together more often than just Sunday mornings.

Second we must realize that more people means more contacts, and more contacts mean fewer meaningful contacts. In a church of 50 the preacher can get to know the few families represented fairly well, but in a church three times that size it is difficult for everyone to know everyone well. You may recognize this as you look around the room on Sunday and see people that you can’t call by name much less recall anything about them.

Third we should note that while not all people here are new Christians, many people are new within the last couple of years. This newness often brings a reluctance to jump in and get involved right off the bat in roles that are traditionally seen as leadership roles.

Church growth is a great thing, but it does bring certain beautiful challenges.

If you want to know what keeps me up at night it is this: how can I help this church continue to grow into mature disciples of Christ and maintain the family dynamic that we all love so dearly?

I know that the Spirit is the One who guides our moves as a church, but He has commissioned me to be a leader in this church. I take that responsibility seriously, and I’m excited to see where He leads.

As such, He has been showing me through the scriptures as well as church growth studies and discussions with other ministers of growing churches the direction He wants us to go to facilitate discipleship growth while maintaining the family dynamic.

This year you are going to hear me talk a lot about small groups. I am going to show you what the church looked like in the first century and how small groups were the key to church growth and health back then. I want to show you how small groups can be a key to helping all of us grow as disciples of Jesus in a much more meaningful way. I’m excited to show you how small groups bring unity and family atmosphere to a church whose numbers don’t support such dynamic.

There are other things that we will be working on as a church this year as well. We aren’t looking to start small groups tomorrow. I want to talk to you about this and help you see the joys of small groups before we ever embark on this journey. Many of you may even begin to realize that you’ve been involved with small groups already but didn’t recognize it as such.

I’m praying for Aztec church of Christ. I’m excited where the Spirit is leading us. Will you join me in prayer for the church as well? If you have questions or concerns, will you come talk with me about them? I’d love to hear what’s on your heart and mind.

May The Lord bring spiritual and physical growth to His church this year as we seek His will and strive to love Him more and love those around us as well. God bless you all.


Zombies for Jesus

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This is the time of year that I love to go shed hunting. If you’re not familiar with what that is, then I’ll explain. Every year elk and deer shed their antlers. No one really knows why, but they grow back even bigger the following year. The antlers they shed are beautiful pieces of creation, and hunting them means hiking – a lot.

I love to be in the wilderness hiking along looking for these unique finds. I’ll admit, I’m not very good at it, but I try anyway.

The other day I was hiking along. There was much on my mind, and I was going through the countryside at a normal pace. I wasn’t tripping over rocks or branches. I avoided all obstacles, but after a while I realized I couldn’t recall any of the terrain I had just covered. I knew enough to retrace my steps, but I couldn’t remember what I had “looked at”. I was using my eyes, but I wasn’t seeing. There could have been 100 antlers in that area, but I couldn’t have seen them even if I had been staring at them because my mind was elsewhere. I was so distracted by my thoughts that I couldn’t see what was right in front of me.

Last week I was gathered with Christians from the four corners region to sing praise to God. I enjoy singing, but as we sang I began to look at the words to the songs. There were songs about those who were condemned that we sang joyfully. Shouldn’t we be sad about that? Shouldn’t that motivate us to get out there and witness more? There were songs about mansions, robes, and crowns that we want and expect to receive when we get to heaven. Isn’t that selfish? I don’t want that. I want to be in the presence of God forever. Everything else is of no consequence if I just get to be in His presence. We were singing songs that have been sung for ages, but so many times I’ve said the words without paying attention to their meaning.

Many people attend Sunday morning services. They even read their bibles, but they are missing the main messages for the tradition of going through the motions. It’s easy to keep doing what we’ve been doing. It’s easy to sing the songs that we’ve always sung. It’s even easy to find the lists of dos and don’ts in scripture because they are more obvious to a people who think in more concrete terms.

What we do when this becomes our habit is dangerous. We sing songs, but the songs are lip service. We like the tunes. We know the way to say the words, but we don’t know or even sense the heart of the songs. We know the Ten Commandments and many of the other lists of sins and laws in the bible, but we miss the greater meanings behind the laws.

Some concepts hold greater weight in the bible than others. Grace is a message found throughout the story even though it is not always maintained directly. Unity is stressed even more than doctrinal correctness. Faith is the bedrock of all we practice. Love is the greatest concept given to Christians. Each of these concepts can be practiced practically, but so many practice the acts without realizing the heart behind the acts.

We love to get grace, but so many who profess Jesus as Lord don’t give grace as much as they like receiving it – me included. We love the concept of unity – as long as you agree with me in order to create unity. That’s not unity. That’s uniformity. They are not the same. We love the concept of love, but we are so selfish that we have a hard time living in that. In fact, it is easier for us to do the “rules” than to love unconditionally. This is why Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 13. They were going through the motions without love or unity or grace.

It’s time to repent. It’s time to begin again. Let us not be zombies for Jesus – just going through the motions. May we be generous with our grace. May we be diverse in our unity. And may we love unconditionally. The world isn’t attracted to what we do ritualistically unless it comes from a well of who we are, and who we are needs to reflect Christ.


A Climber’s Invitation

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I love to climb. You may not have realized it looking at me, but I really love to climb. I love the challenge. I love the scenery. I love the camaraderie of other climbers around encouraging one another. I love the feeling of success at the top of the climb.

I’ve been climbing all my life. When I was a boy I’d climb things that were probably way above my safety level considering I had no harness or ropes. I was always in the tops of trees. One of my favorite things to do as a boy was to climb cliffs up on Bull Shoals Lake in North Arkansas. Then, when I reached a sufficient height I’d jump off into the crystal-clear waters below.

I love climbing mountains. I’ve stood on the summit of several peaks in several different states. There is no feeling like being on the summit of a majestic mountain and seeing the wonder of creation all around below your feet. My favorite mountaintop experience was when I climbed Sawtooth Peak in California at daybreak alone. I watched the sunrise from the summit and cried as God painted a masterpiece just for me on His sky canvas.

I don’t like to fall, though. When I was at Harding I would ride my bicycle out to Bee Rock overlooking the Little Red River just to climb around on that horrible, brittle limestone. One time I was climbing and a friend was there (fortunately). I didn’t have ropes then – I was a poor college student. I got about 15 feet up an area I hadn’t climbed before when my handhold broke off the rock. When I hit the ground I was horizontal and landed in the fork of a tree that split at the ground among the large rocks that had flaked off the cliff through the years. It wasn’t pleasant. Falling is not pleasant.

It’s fun to climb with others. It’s great to encourage one another along as we climb. It’s fun to try hard for something and fail over and over but know that your buddies are going to keep encouraging you until you succeed. Then, when you do succeed, there’s the screams of exaltation as together you celebrate.

It’s also better to fall with others. If you fall when no one is around there is a greater chance of dying. If you have a partner or a group there is encouragement and rescue. A friend can help or get help. They can carry extra loads for you or even carry you through your injury. It’s so much better to fall in company rather than alone.

We are all climbing. We all long to reach the summit of our life. Are you walking alone?

The beauty of the church is that no matter if you’re a great climber in this mountain we call life or if you constantly fall and have to start again you are not alone. The church is there to encourage you and lift you up. It is there to celebrate with you when you reach the summit. The church recognizes that we all are climbing the same mountain. We may not all have the same style, but we are in this together.

The church stands inviting you to climb with them. You get your gear when you give your life to Jesus, and the goal is to look and climb more like Him each day. Then, when you’ve climbed as hard as you can – no matter what height you reach – you achieve the summit, heaven. And there’s a celebration in your honor.

So keep climbing. Climb with me. Lets climb together.


Church is Not a Country Club for Perfect People

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What has been your experience with church? Maybe you are a faithful attendee somewhere, but maybe you aren’t. Most people are familiar with Christian churches on some level. Some people have attended a church or two at various times. Some people have seen churches and church people on the news. Some people merely have family or friends that they know who “go to church”.

So what’s your experience?

The are many different kinds of churches out there, and like all things there are good and bad churches in the mix. Some churches are doing magnificent things to help the people and communities around them and around the world. Some churches have great motivational speakers with enormous campuses and loads of money. Some churches are known because of the hatred they spew on anyone who thinks or acts differently than them.

I want to stop right now and say that if your experience with church has been negative in any way, I’m sorry. I’m sorry if you were shunned or ridiculed. I’m sorry if people hated you. I’m sorry if you weren’t treated with love, grace, and respect. Those “churches” and church people aren’t followers of Jesus. They are merely role-players involved in a country club that calls itself church. That’s not what church is supposed to be.

Church is for everyone. Church is for you.

Jesus said the church was meant to be a hospital for people dealing with the hurts and hang-ups that life throws their way. It is meant to be a place of healing and love. It is to be a place where grace is not merely spoken of and accepted, but it is given freely. Church is a place where those who are alone can find a family.

The church is meant to be a place of joy and fellowship. It is a place where the bible is studied and taught. It is a family that laughs and cries together. It is a home away from home.

Churches that follow Jesus know this. They will welcome you – no matter who you are. They will accept you where you are, as you are, but they will love you enough to encourage you to walk with them as they strive to become more like Jesus.

Jesus died for the church. He rose from the dead for the church, and he opened wide the gate to anyone who wants to be a part of His church. He didn’t set men up to dictate what the church should believe. He sent His word through the bible to tell us His plan for us. People who truly follow Jesus study that word, and not the whim of some sinner.

I hope you have a wonderful church to which you belong. If not, you are welcome to worship with us at the Aztec church of Christ. We are a bunch of people who aren’t blood related but treat each other like family. We don’t dress up and don’t expect you to either. We serve Jesus, and we study His word in the bible to know how to be more like Him.

Come visit sometime. You can find out more about us on our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/AztecChurch or on our website at http://www.aztecchurch.org. You can even call our office and speak to me at (505) 334-6626. We would love to get to know you and welcome you as a family member. God bless you.


Right In Front Of Our Faces

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Yesterday I took a break from office work and meetings to give my son an opportunity he’s never had before. I took him to get a ski lesson at a local ski run. He’s six, and he’s never been on a set of skis before. In fact, until last month, he’d never even seen much skiing.

He did great. In a matter of three hours he could ski down the green runs. He still falls a few times down the hill, but for his first day he was fantastic. I hope that he loves to ski like I do. It is my prayer that he can enjoy this and many other wonderful hobbies that take advantage of the magnificence of God’s creation around us.

A I think about our experience, however, I can’t help but think of the people I’ve met in the various places I’ve lived that have never experienced many of the wonders outside of the town where they live. The are many people in this area that have never skied. When I lived outside Sequoia National Park in California I met several people who had never seen the big trees.

I love taking people to new places and showing them things they have never seen before. To me it is a way to help them experience the love of God in a new way. God made all of creation and then gave it to mankind to take care of and rule over. Some things can only be explained as God giving them to us for us to simply say, “wow”!

These people who don’t explore much outside the comfort zone of their towns or neighborhood remind me of most of the rest of us. We have been given a life to live, and we have been charged with being good stewards of this life, but we seem content to do the same things week after week and never try anything new.

We are called to use our spiritual gifts to serve God. but many people I know can’t even tell me what their spiritual gifts are. Do you know what yours are?

One of the best way to find out what our spiritual gifts are is to try new things. Are you good at visiting the sick? You’ll never know until you try. Are you good at telling strangers the great news of Jesus’ salvation? Practicing this art is a great way to find out. We have a life that we have been given, but many of us are only living a shadow of that life because we are too afraid to try to find out what spiritual gifts we’ve been given.

When you find some way to serve God that brings you great joy then you’ll have found one of your many talents.

I want to encourage you this year to find out what God has created you to do. Maybe you’ll run a company in a way that shares the messages of grace and love with its employees and customers. Maybe you’ll find that giving to the church or other ministries brings you joy. Maybe you’ll take a trip to another country to do mission work only to find that you were ministered to even more. Maybe you’ll teach a class or say a prayer or sing a song. Whatever you do, you’ll be taking steps to finding the purpose God has created you for.

May you find out the life God has purposed for you. May the kingdom of God grow because of your newfound fervor. And may you be blessed richly because you got out of your comfort zone to try something new.

God bless you. If there’s anything you’d like to discuss concerning this or any other topic, feel free to contact me at 505-334-6626 or via email at jddobbs@verizon.net.


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