Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday in Retrospect

What a great day this has been!  The Lord smiled upon the pastor and people of Mt. Salem this Lord's Day as we worshipped together around God's Word and in fellowship with God and one another.  

Alas...I continued our study in the Sermon on the Mount, picking up with our exposition of Matthew 5.

Subject: You Are the Light of the World
Text: Matthew 5:14-16

I. THE PRESUPPOSITION OF LIGHT (The Darkness of the World)

a. The Iniquity of Darkness (Proverbs 4:19; John 3:19)

b. The Ignorance of Darkness (John 1:5)

II. THE PLAN OF LIGHT (The Dominion of the Believer)

Verse 16 He says, “Let your light so shine.”  

What is God’s plan to deal with this dark and benighted world?  His plan is US!  

Verses 13-14 that are emphatic: “You and only you are the salt.  You and you only are the light.  If you don’t do it, there is nobody else who can.”  

We have been given the light, and now we are caretakers of the light.  (2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 5:8)

III. THE PROBLEM OF LIGHT (The Danger of Failure)
He gives here in this text two illustrations: one is of a 1) city and the other of a 2) cottage.  

Jesus’ concern in the text is clear and succinct: the light that He entrusts to us must not be covered up!  

IV. THE PURPOSE OF LIGHT (The Dignity of God)

a. Repels Darkness

b. Reveals Danger

c. Recognizes Delusion

d. Rejects Disease

We thank God for the two who came forward today to rededicate their life.  Also, one baptism today.  Before the conclusion. Of our morning Worship, we communed together around the Lord's Table.  

After this, our congregation enjoyed a nice dinner together in our fellowship hall.  Hats off to our kitchen crew.  They did an outstanding job, as usual.  

If The Lord says the same, I hope to continue our teaching series on The Voice: Hearing God's Voice, and continue our exposition of Matthew 5 next Lord's Day.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Shaping Your Life

The media scandals of a few years ago gave us a painful reminder that there's a Grand Canyon of difference between reputation and character, and that popularity isn't always a guarantee of spirituality.  It's possible to get a flowing but not necessarily promote God's work.  You can fool many of the people some of the time, but eventually the truth comes out. 

Life is built on character, but character is built on decisions.  The decisions you make, small or great, do to your life what the sculptor's chisel does to the block or marble.  You are shaping your life by your thoughts, attitudes, and actions and becoming either more or less like Jesus Christ.  The more you are like Christ, the more God can trust you with His blessing.

- Warren Wiersbe, On Being a Servant of God, Pg.41

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Get Out of Your "Own Little World"

When I was a kid growing up in Ohio, I didn't know much about the world.  And that led me to have a rather narrow view of life when I was a young man.  I remember thinking that anyone, regardless of circumstances, could get ahead through hard work.  Then I took a trip to a developing country, and I saw people who worked much harder than I did but were unable to escape poverty.  My thinking began to change as my world enlarged.
To change focus, people need to get out of their own little world.  If you have a narrow view of people, go places you have never gone, meet the kind of people you do not know, and do things you have not done before.  It will change your perspective, as it has done mind.

- John C. Maxwell, Winning With People, Pg.65, Thomas Nelson Publishers, c2004

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday in Retrospect

Today we had a good day in worship on the Lord's Day.

Last Sunday we celebrated our annual Men & Women's Day.  As our theme, we chose Philippians 4:8 and the theme: Men & Women Walking in Love, Wisdom and Integrity.  One of our new members, Derrick Garrett, did a short theme in the morning.  D'Ani did the afternoon theme.  They both did a great job!

After taking a break from Matthew 5 on September 9, preaching on the Philippians 4:8 passage myself, I have somewhat abandoned my preaching schedule.  Today was no different.  I chose a passage out of Mark chapter 5, dealing with Jairus' encounter with Christ, and the interruptive encounter of the nameless woman with the 12-year old issue; and the impact this took on the dilemma, emotions and faith of Jairus.  Admittedly, I preached this passage years ago. Actually, the same sermon, essentially.

Here is the short outline form:
There Are Lessons in Listening

Mark 5:34-43

When you learn to listen...

I. Jesus will transform chance into belief

II. Jesus can teach us to eliminate distractions

III.  Jesus can take the impossible and move beyond schedule

All week long, I have come to several conclusions. preaching has changed since being at Mt. Salem.  Some of this could be my congregational makeup, and how invariably different it is from my previous congregation, or maybe an element of my own life circumstances, to perhaps my own spiritual growth and broadening worldview, and a list of other dynamics.  But...if I am honest, I took one of my previous 'sticks', and it didn't fly as I know it previously has.  Admittedly, I did not immerse myself into preparing as I should have.  In both prayer and preparation, I could have gone 'deeper.'.

All in all, God allowed some to be touched by the message....I trust.

Now...I am hoping to pick up with Matthew 5:14-16.

In other news...the Cowboys and Texans both pulled out a win.  Karter Lowelle, our baby boy, turns 2 tomorrow.  That's a big deal; and I think he knows help to his parents and 2 older brothers.  We love that boy! Happy Birthday Karter!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Be An Original...Well, An Original Copy! (Part Seven)

As last major disappointment came in April of ’97.....

In April of 1997, a letter from Morehouse College, stating that I had NOT been accepted!  I felt as if all of my dreams had been shattered.  By then, I just knew that I would be accepted, especially after being accepted into Baylor College.  This was not the case.  It took me years after to publicly admit that I had not been accepted.  But, yes, I was NOT accepted into Morehouse!  Then I seemed to receive clear direction.  The idea of Dallas Baptist kept popping up.  However, I had no desire to attend such an unpopular, ‘boring’ school; and saw no way how this would fit into God’s ultimate plan for my life and ministry; and how this would even connect to my intended plan of attending Princeton.  Plus…I HATED Dallas!  But along the way, doors began to open at Dallas Baptist.  It was clear to me, if no one else – that is where God wanted me!

Just after graduating high school, and being accepted into Dallas Baptist University, our city (Corpus Christi) hosted a City-Wide revival.  Interestingly, the preachers who were on to share that week just so happened to hail from Dallas.  One of the evangelists was Frederick D. Haynes, III.  When I finally heard him preach, I thought he was good, but different.  After a while, his preaching began to grow on me.  While I didn’t connect with his exposition at first, I was blown away by his linguistic ability, his use of words (which sort of reminded me of A. Louis Patterson) and his seeming ability to touch the heart of the hip hop culture.  One of the things that fascinated me, when it came to the preaching of Frederick Haynes, is that he seemed to get a very enthusiastic response and dialogue from the crowd without ever utilizing the ‘hoop’.  In fact, it seemed to me, the response was even stronger!  It was then, that I began to develop atleast a momentary confidence and comfort in my ability to ‘tell the story’ and use my mind to speak to and capture the hearts and minds of the hearer.  During that season of my life, this is when Haynes became very instrumental in my use of illustration and introductions in my sermon delivery.  For me, Haynes’s preaching never failed to provide me with anecdotes, word pictures and heart-wrenching questions that would help me to build my own sermons and content.  Unfortunately, it somewhat became a crutch along the way.  I began to study less and listen to tapes for insight and enlightenment.  I discovered at the moments when my study would outweigh the listening aspect, my preaching would be more empowering; and when I listened and copied more, studying less…it had the opposite effect. 

As I prepared to go off the school in the fall of ’97, I was very excited about attending some of the churches of the preachers I had grown to admire.  Unfortunately….my parents didn’t allow me to take my car that fall.  Incidentally, the only church within walking distance of our aloof campus was The Potter’s House of Dallas, where Bishop T.D. Jakes served as the founding pastor.  At that time, Jakes was somewhat of a stigma, seen as highly charismatic and highly misunderstood.  For many, he was very new; and had yet to gain the crossover title of ‘The next Billy Graham’, friends with presidents, renowned publisher, Dr. Phil consultant, Oprah friend, etc.  To say the least, I had to sneak over to his church.  This was during a time when Saturday services were quite new.  I left my dorm room at about 5:30pm, and walked over to The Potter’s House.  Whatever I had seen regarding a ‘church crowd’ paled in comparison to what I saw that night.  Of course, this would be the beginning of what I would encounter in Dallas, but this was ‘epic’.  Imagine coming from Corpus Christi, where things were a little ‘simpler’, entering into a church with thousands of people there, on a Saturday night, with screens, music that could rival a Michael Jackson or Madonna concert, and ball players within you eyeview.  I guess you can say that it was ‘culture shock’.  Interestingly, this was my first experience seeing an epilogue leading up to the worship, and an actual countdown to the opening of the worship experience.  What seems so commonplace now was quite astonishing to me then.  During this first-class worship experience, Jakes comes out!  I don’t know how I remember what the people wear; but I actually know he had on a mauve suit with a curved lapel jacket.  I noticed that, as he stood in the pulpit, he seemed to be in a modus operandi of CEO; checking out the staff, musicians, crowd, etc.  Then he stepped to the podium and welcomed everyone to worship.  After his welcome, he actually came down and shook hands.  Somehow, he and I shook hands.  Tough I would come to know his children in the coming years, that was really the only encounter I’ve had with him personally.  One thing is clear….he preached!  Though different from most of the preaching I’d grown accustomed to; I vividly remember being a little shocked that he preached a solid message.  Don't ask me why I was shocked...I guess during that time many only knew of Jakes as a Pentecostal preacher who hollered and screamed.  Somehow, I played into the hype.  But there was and is not doubt in my mind that, even in listening to the sermon today (I somehow managed to purchase the sermon), the quality and content of his sermon was solid and strong.  He preached, ‘Christ in Crisis’, from an obscure passage in Colossians, dealing with the all-sufficiency of Christ, along with the familiar story of Christ in the boat with his disciples.  I remember walking back, as all of those nice cars left the building…uplifted by the message; while also saying to myself, ‘I can’t do that!’?.....

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sharing in Suffering increase your knowledge of this Mystery of Redemption. - This knowledge will lead you to love - and love will make you share through your sacrifices in the Passion of Christ.

...Without suffering, our work would just be social work, very good and helpful, but it would not be the work of Jesus Christ, not part of the redemption. - Jesus wanted to help us by sharing our life, our loneliness, our agony and death.  All that He has taken upon Himself, and has caqrried it in the darkest night.  Only by being one with us He has redeemed us.  We are allowed to do the same: All the desolation of the poor people, not only their material poverty, but their spiritual destitution must be redeemed, and we must have our share in it. - Pray thus when you find it hard - "I wish to live in this world which is so far from God, which has turned so much from the light of Jesus, to help them - to take upon me something of their suffering." - Yes...let us share the sufferings...for only be being one with them - we can redeem them, that is, bringing God into their lives and bringing them to God.

- Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light, The Private Writings of the "Saint of Calcutta", Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., Doubleday Broadway Publishing Group, c2007, pg.220

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Life & Language

To speak of the person as a living human document is to acknowledge this connection between life and language.  It is to acknowledge that to understand what Boisen calls the inner world is dependent upon understanding the language by which that inner world of experience is connected to external events.  To understand the inner world of another is therefore a task of interpretation—interpretation of a world of experience that is itself an interpretation of the myriad events and relationships that make up a life.  Said another way, the task of understanding another in the depth of that other’s inner world is a hermeneutical task.  It is therefore subject to all the problems and possibilities that the interpretation of an ancient document, such as a New Testament Gospel or Epistle, involves.  The difference is that this document is living and continues to disclose itself in new language and behavior that expresses its inner world.  – The Living Human Document, Charles V. Gerkin, Abingdon Press, c1984

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Sunday in Retrospect

What a wonderful, yet challenging day, it has been!

The weekend started off great.  Kaden, our five-year old, has been under the weather.  As a consequence, D'Ani and Karter stayed behind with him in Houston as Kai and I journeyed to Victoria on Saturday for a Christian gospel concert being help at the Victoria Fine Arts Center.  I must admit, I was quite impressed by the venue, attendance, the flow of the service, etc.  An up and coming gospel artist, Chester D.T. Baldwin did a phenomenal job taking the crowd to 'church.'.

While my mind and thoughts were in Pearland, and on the recovery of my 5-year old, my short time with Kai and being at Saturday's event were quite enriching and rewarding.

Sunday morning came fast!  Little did I know that Saturday's enrichment would empower me to deal with varying personalities on Sunday.  In my 34 years of life, I have learned continually that life is a  journey, not a destination; pastoring isn't for the faint of heart; sheep are dumb and they bite; it's important to love God's people irrespective of their stations in life; worship is not a spectator sport! All in all, God is faithful; and those personalities will be dealt with during the course of the week.  I paused from my study in Matthew 5 from the Sermon on the Mount and took a text from Phillippians 4:8-9.  This is our theme for next week's observance of our Men and Women Annial Day.  

Here is the simple outline:

I. The admonishment of Godly Attributes.

II. The attainment of Godly Associations

III.  The acceptance of Godly Actions

All in all, I am excited about what God is doing in my life and ministry.  Oh, how He stretches us by stretching our faith and experiences.  Even my commitment to continually blog and chronicle my walks of faith have served as a strengthening of my own discipline and spiritual formation.  

Ironically, my day concluded with a dear pastor friend of mine calling in his moment of disappointment and disillusionment regarding his pastoral experience.  This was quite disheartening after knowing of his moving his young family to another area of the country for this particular ministry venture, only to encounter difficulty and seeming hardship in the move, a few years later.  I had to remind him of our charge to go where God sends us, bloom where He plants us, remain where God places us, and stand still until God speaks.  Comfort is not always a sign of God's presence any more than inconvenience is an indicator of God's conspicuous absence.  God is in every detail, every adversity and in every obstacle that seems insurmountable.  Often, God is trying to stretch you!

I thank GOD for stretching!!!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


Can a man be a pastor of a church without meddling in everything in the town, or without policing every den in the community, or without becoming a storm-center in politics, in the schools' situation, or in civic affairs?  The pastor must bear his share of the community load; yet if he is new to the community, he must remember that it would be better for him to wait until he is asked for his advice or his services.  He must be smart, but not too smart; he must be quiet, but not too quiet.  He must be nice; but not too nice.  The place of a new minister is a hard place to fill.  -The Making of a Preacher, W. W. Melton, Pg56, Zondervan Publishing House, c1953

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Holy Habits & Spiritual Formation

Max Lucado tells the story of a little boy who fell out of bed early one morning. When his mother asked him what happened, he answered, 'I don't know. I guess I stayed too close to where I got in.' Too often, it is easy to do the same in and with our faith and spiritual formation. There becomes an inner temptation that pressures us to stay where we got in and never move.  Quickly, without warning or awareness, we can become stagnant and immobile in our growth walk with God, self and others.  This often comes as a result of the 'time crunch' we find ourselves potentially falling prey to our schedules and Rolodex.  Living in Pearland with an active family that includes a wife and three boys, serving as  chaplain of one of two level one trauma hospitals in Houston, and pastoring a growing congregation in Victoria...can easily heighten an already typical Christian challenge.
So often I can feel as if I am in the daily and weekly crunch all by my virtual self, asking this proverbial question to a listening audience of one.  It can often seem like you are the only one with deadlines to meet, obligations to fulfill, children who want you undivided attention, a spouse who needs QT and a myriad of other strings and people pulling on you like a puppet master on a stage.  This can, no doubt, lead to feelings of despair, frustration, inadequacy and even fatigue.  As a Pastor and Chaplain, I am often confronted with this daily 'crunching' challenge.  How can I as a pastor give my all on a Sunday, serve in a growing congregation, minister to countless patients at a level one trauma hospital in Houston, be a supportive dad to a 4th-grader, a kinder student and a 2 year old who all have collective and individual needs, love and support my wife, and also prepare a lesson before Wednesday, and a fresh sermon before Sunday?  Umm....exactly.  In the midst of all of the aforementioned, I am also a vessel who needs to be filled by my Maker through private devotion and spiritual formation.  As with the little boy in Lucado's story, all of us must face the challenge of what the late E.K. Bailey terms going ‘farther in and deeper down’ in our growth walk with God.  This requires that we develop some 'Holy Habits' that become a part of our regular routine, in our pursuit of personal spiritual formation.

I choose to refrain from the more exhaustive approach here.  There are many tools in discovering how to read through the scripture in 60 days, etc.  I simply think that this may be a place to start, in cultivating habits that are holy and beneficial.
I call these the ABC's for building Holy Habits:

First, Accept the reality of your limitations. Helen Keller is noted to have said, "Face your deficiencies and acknowledge them, but do not let them master you."

Second, Build a library that is universal. One of my favorite scriptures is 2nd Timothy 2:15 which says, in the ESV, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

Third, Commit to renewing your spiritual focus.  Colossians 3:2 exhorts us to, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”  Dr. Ari Kiev of Cornell University observed that from the moment people decided to concentrate all their energies on a specific objective, they began to surmount the most difficult odds. He concluded, "The establishment of a goal is the key to successful living." 

Fourth, Devote to personal worship. First Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” William Barclay quotes William Temple, the renowned archbishop of Canterbury, as defining worship as quickening the conscience by the holiness of God, feeding the mind with the truth of God, purging the imagination by the beauty of God, opening the heart to the love of God, and devoting the will to the purpose of God.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Sunday in Retrospect

We had a great day of worship at the Mt. Salem Church!

This was not the typical first Sunday, in that we postponed communion to a later time this month.  Sunday School today also went well.  Unfortunately, for me, I felt I struggled with the sermon for the morning.  At somewhat the last minute, I made the decision to continue our quest in Matthew 5 and, as a consequence, moved to an entire universe of preparation and diligence. 
Here is my outline:
Title: Out of the Saltshaker
Scripture: Matthew 5:13
Theme: Kingdom Citizens are people of influence and flavor.

I. The Meaning of Salt

a. Salt Repels Decay

b. Salt Rouses Thirst

c. Salt Renders Flavor

II. The Ministry of Salt

III. The Method of Salt

a. Useful Salt must Make Contact

b. Wasted Salt is Useless
c. Consecrated Salt makes the Environment Taste Better
In other news, I got some "complicated" news today.  A potentially great opportunity I’ve been praying about has come to me.  However, the pursuit of that opportunity would cause me to abandon my pastoral responsibilities at Mt. Salem.  What a bummer! If any pastor reads this, lets be very clear....from my perspective, God honors a man or woman who has integrity, and treats their assignment with the same resolve and respect as they would any assignment.  I remember having a wonderful teaching opportunity at a college in the area.  However, it required me to sign a 6-month contract to teach on Wednesdays on trial, and then they would look into hiring me as tenured teaching staff.  I turned it down.  What a great opportunity it was, but with ministerial integrity, God will always honor and reward, in His own time!  That being said, this does not mean that a believer or even a pastor should abandon the dynamic of faith.  There comes a time when we must step out on faith and get out of the boat.  But wisdom and the Word have taught me that the pursuit of one's faith (or any opportunity to enhance one's ministry) will never come at the behest or assassination of ministerial ethic and pastoral integrity.  

Here’s to hoping the Cowboys have a great season!
The RNC met last week in Tampa, Florida.  Clint Eastwood...  
The DNC meets this coming week in Charlotte, North Carolina. Let's see if they have a Clint Eastwood moment.

Excited about continuing the Beatitude teaching this Wednesday at Mt. Salem.  I plan to continue in Matthew 5:14 this coming Lord's day.