Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Around four years ago, on March 27, 2005, the church where I serve as Founding Pastor, Cornerstone Baptist Church, held our first public worship gathering at Silverlake Elementary School in Pearland, TX. The fact that we are still meeting together on a weekly basis, growing spiritually, winning souls to Christ, and continuing to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ - is nothing short of a miracle! Our four-year anniversary celebration was held during our morning worship service. This is the first year I have literally entrusted the anniversary to a committee of people who undergirded the entire event and simply stood back and let them work. I was pleasantly surprised to see the level of superior excellence, attention to detail, apparant teamwork, harmony and excitement amongst our members. This past year we have seen both decline in membership numbers but a growth in both maturity and consistent giving. Pastor Z.T. Davis of Houston, TX shared a powerful word from the Lord from John 5:1-9 with the message entitled, 'This is Your Moment'. What a timely, substantive and practical exposition of scripture it was! As Cornerstone moves into her fourth year of ministry, I solicit your prayers as we strive to do the will of our Father. Happy Birthday Cornerstone!!!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

My Favorite Poem

During my years at Dallas Baptist University, I was a watchcare member at Concord Baptist Church where Dr. E.K. Bailey was the then Senior Pastor. I worked in the tape ministry! For years Rev. Ralph D. West was and is one of my favorites. I had the opportunity to get a hold of two messages he preached when he was only 27-years of age entitled, 'What Has Christianity Done for You?' another entitled, 'God With Us'. This young minister, full of promise and potential, in one of these messages, shared a poem that has become a favorite of mine. The poem is originally writted by William Stidger, a 19th Century Christian author and poet, who I later found had several volumes of sermonic anecdotes and illustrations in print. I cherish these works even now in my library.

I saw God wash the world last night
With His sweet showers on high;
And then when morning came
I saw him hang it out to dry.
He washed each slender blade of grass
And every trembling tree;
He flung his showers against the hills
And swept the rolling sea.
The white rose is a deeper white;
The red, a richer red
Since God washed every fragrant face
And put them all to bed.
There's not a bird, there's not a bee
That wings along the way,
But is a cleaner bird and bee
Than it was yesterday.
I saw God wash the world last night;
Ah, would He had washed me
As clean of all my dust and dirt
As that old white birch tree!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

I have been blessed by one of my recent reads entitled 'Sacred Marriage' by Gary Thomas. This book is more than a how-to manual on marital improvement. Moreover, it displays the gift of marriage as the overflow of one’s love relationship with God and intimacy toward Him. In the opening chapter, Thomas uses various life situations and marriages to confront the reader’s view of marriage and its intent altogether. From the opening lines it is clear that the author seeks to show how the struggles, challenges, joys and celebrations of marriage are the very things that God will use as instruments of grace to draw us closer to Himself and grow in the character of Jesus Christ. He asserts that we—in order to spiritually benefit from marriage—must confront our selfish tendencies and self-centered ways, own up to our ugly attitudes and look at our disappointments in a different way. It is clear from God’s Word that God is interested in our holiness and not our happiness. On page 13, Thomas asks a heart-wrenching question: What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy? Thomas asserts that a marriage must ‘stretch’ in order to fulfill its God-given purpose and potential. He suggests that strengthening one’s view of the institution of marriage itself is in gaining an understanding of the purpose and intent of marriage. He also shares how the marriage relationship often brings to surface many of the dormant attitudes that we as individuals may not even know exist, in and of themselves.
Another important aspect in Sacred Marriage is how Thomas parallels love within marriage to God’s divine love toward humanity and humanity’s love toward God. In a real sense, Thomas shows how our marital partnerships express and convey some important truths about God to us. Even seeing God as the Creator of the universe; and His making all things new – point to just one analogy of God’s divine love and our relationship with Him. I like how Thomas uses the analogy of Hosea and Gomer in describing another aspect of God’s divine love toward humanity. He expresses that God’s love for us is both forgiving and supernatural. That God delights in us. What I take from just this one analogy is that, amid the imperfections we may view in our spouse, that God wants our love for Him to be fueled by an endless passionate pursuit that will not let us go.
One important component and facet in Thomas’ writing is showing how the world definition of love stands in contrast to the Bible’s definition of love. Thomas asserts that marriage is uniquely crafted and designed to teach us how to love. The implication is that the average person should be able to describe our love for God in how we love our spouse. Of course, we come into the marital relationship with our own prejudices, preferences and poor attitudes. Thomas points out that it is important for partners in marriage to confront these stereotypes and handle them effectively before they handle your marriage. It is important for us to love our spouse despite their imperfections and their flaws. God loves us in spite of our flaws; we should, in turn, love our spouses in spite of the things we aren’t so crazy about. Thomas affirms that there are differences between two marital partners; but that we should grow to accept, appreciate and esteem these differences. There should not be a spirit of judgment within the marital relationship; but harmony, love and the willingness to love amid each and every flaw, failure and fallacy. We must thank God for our spouse; and appreciate the obvious differences. Thomas says that marriage can draw us into the intense act of reconciliation.
Thomas asserts that marriage can serve as our cleansing. He footnotes that our marriage serve as a tool to expose us of our sins, imperfections, frailties and prideful ways. It is when we see these very sins come to light, we are then apt to confront them and grow beyond these sins and purify ourselves and our marriages. This will ultimately strengthen and grow our relationship with God, according to Thomas. He also says that we must become more open, transparent, and vulnerable to our spouses. We must allow our partner the opportunity to both see our human inadequacies; and also the minister to us in their own way. We should become our spouse’s ministry endeavor, and they should be ours. We should never uses our spouse’s vulnerabilities as a time to shame or belittle them. This is an opportunity to minister to them and further their journey on the road toward full maturity and Christ-like character.
I love how Thomas illustrates God’s love to us through the history of Israel. He says that our culture has a tendency to quit on God and God’s way. But one of the constant themes throughout Thomas’ work is that we are called to persevere and endure through the struggles we may encounter in our marriages; and even in life.
One of the things that helped me most in this book is how Thomas suggests that partners in marriages use the failures to strengthen and propel them forward. He asserts that fellowship within marriage is fostered by the spiritual practices of learning not to run from conflict, which most in marriage tend to do. He also says that it comes from learning how to compromise, which is difficult in this self-centered culture in which we live. He says that it also comes from accepting your mate’s weaknesses. Ultimately, we are to give our mate the gift of ourselves. Thomas says that our ultimate goal should be self-surrender; and the ability to serve even when your sinful humanity feels a sense of ultimate and abrasive entitlement.
I agree with Thomas when he says throughout the book that our satisfaction in marriage has more to do with our relationship with God than it does with our relationship with our spouse. This ultimately is reflected in how we serve God and serve our spouse. It is also seen in knowing that the mission of your marriage is intricately connected to the mission and purpose God has for you as an individual.
Sacred Marriage is definitely a new favorite of mine when it comes to writings on Christianity living, love and marriage relationships. It is filled with rich stories, insights and analogies. It also gives real-life examples and illustrations. I plan to reference this book for many years to come. Additionally, I plan to recommend this book to anyone seeking counsel on growing closer to God and one another.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Intoxicated with Unbroken Success

"Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us." -Abraham Lincoln