Monthly Archives: September 2010

Ascension: Mob rule or Kingdom Rule

As the violence in Mexico continues to escalate the sense of urgency, desperation and helplessness among the people rises. This helplessness in the face of evil for many has turn into rage and a deep thirst for revenge.

This week in the small farming town of Ascension about 120 miles southwest of Juarez a gang of kidnappers met their match. These young men, who had terrorized the town for weeks, attack a small diner at breakfast time and snatched a young teenage girl as a hostage.

Immediately a frantic chase ensued as the townspeople pursued the kidnappers on horse back and in trucks and cars. Meanwhile the federal and local police also responded. The kidnappers were in three cars. In the heat of the moment one of the vehicles turned over which caused a second escape vehicle to crash in a ditch. Two of the kidnappers took off on foot only to be apprehended by the townspeople.

When the police arrived and sought to take the young men into custody the townspeople demand that they participate in the transport of the suspected criminals.

The El Paso Times reported what happened next as follows:

Thirty minutes after the crash, about 9:30 a.m., people found two alleged kidnappers a mile from the crash scene. The people attacked them.

Ignacio Ramírez said he paused to observe what was going on.

“Everywhere I looked, I saw people whose family members had been kidnapped in the past,” he said. “The hate had been accumulating from months before.”

Finally, he said, the military and the federal police separated the alleged kidnappers from the mob.

But the crowd would not drop the matter so easily.

The crowd made federal police take the alleged kidnappers in a civilian truck supervised by residents.

Many more followed the truck carrying the two boys back to the military barracks.

At the barracks, one of the boys told the mob, “See you here in 15 days,” witnesses said.

The crowd, now grown to nearly 2,000 people, exploded again. Crowd members broke into the barracks with trucks, took the two boys outside and beat them, witnesses said.

Federal police agents tried to separate the disorderly crowd from the alleged kidnappers by putting the boys inside a police vehicle for several hours. The windows were closed.

People obstructed police from helping the two boys inside the vehicle and also blocked the area where a federal police helicopter was trying to land.

About 3 p.m., a man informed the crowds that the boys were dead.

As I read this story I must admit I was deeply disturbed by what unfolded. What alarmed me as a follower of Jesus was how the evil and violence had transformed good hard-working people into the very image of what they hated. The deep desire for revenge and vengeance poisons the soul and clouds one’s judgment. In the high emotion of the moment good people can be transformed into an angry mob lusting for blood.

If justice is to prevail–the rule of law must be upheld. God issued the sword to civil servants sworn to defend innocent life not to angry mobs. I commend the townspeople for risking their lives in pursuit of the innocent girl and rescuing her but when a mob of people beat to death two young men before justice can be rightfully and legally served–evil has won the day.

In a violent world like our own Paul wrote to Romans saying:

17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d]says the Lord. 20On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e] 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:17-21

We must not be overcome by evil if we are to be the salt and the light of the world. We must determine to overcome evil with good. In the face of senseless violence and intimidation we cannot give in and become like the very evil we hate–if we do evil has won.

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A Big Inconsistent Brave Man–Lincoln

This week I was listening to a lecture about Abraham Lincoln by Yale Professor David Blight. During his lecture he referred to the following quote by W.E.B. Du Bois on his view of Lincoln–a figure in American history who is bigger than life. Du Bois wrote in the Crisis Magazine in 1922:

‘he was big enough to be inconsistent — cruel, merciful; peace-loving, a fighter; despising Negroes and letting them fight and vote; protecting slavery and freeing slaves. He was a man — a big, inconsistent, brave man.’..

As I reflected on this quote and my struggles of leadership in a complex complicated world which often offers the leader hard decisions among the various shades of gray rather than clear decisions between black and white. I could identify deeply with the man Lincoln–a man of passion, courage, self-doubt, insecurities, anger, compassion, humor and tears.

Rarely is inconsistency a hall mark of greatness, but when it comes to leadership one must navigate the changing tides with courage and flexibility to adapt and change. Clearly great leaders must have core values that do not waver even in the face of strong opposition and sacrifice, but many of the decisions of leadership demand the ability to be “big” enough to change, compromise at times, and to look for “win/win” solutions.

I think most of us could learn a great deal from Lincoln–with all of his weaknesses and inconsistencies. Greatness can often be found in surprising places.

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A “Life” Choice

During the Pregnancy Help Center fund-raising banquet in El Paso, I was sitting next to my wife Robyn and my youngest daughter Madison. One of the reasons I believe so strongly in the “pro-life” movement revolves around my wife and her story.

Robyn was conceived out of wedlock in the womb of a young single professional woman in Dallas. Robyn’s biological mom found herself struggling with a huge decision to make since she was having an affair with a married man.

Out of desperation she made an appointment for an abortion and showed up a little early. As she sat in the waiting room a voice deep inside of her told her to “leave.” At first she fought this urge, but then she made the fateful decision to leave and to give birth to a little baby girl who she would give up for adoption on the day of her birth.

During the program, the director shared about how incredibly important it is for young mothers to choose life. At this point, Robyn whispered to Madison “that is why I am here” and Madison whispered back “that is why I am here too!” With these words tears welled up in Robyn’s eyes as the weight of this truth hit home.

Over the years we have lost track with Robyn’s biological mother–but I am eternally indebted to her for choosing life and giving me my bride and the mother of my four beautiful daughters.

Psalm 139

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

Praise be to the Giver of Life!

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Real Men Need to Step Up!

This week I attended a fund-raising banquet for the Pregnancy Help Center of El Paso. This pro-life ministry reaches out to young women and men who find themselves in the midst of a crisis caused by an “unplanned” pregnancy.

The director of the ministry shared a disturbing fact, she shared that the #1 reason women choose abortions is pressure from the father of the baby. When I heard this statistic I was deeply disturbed, especially as a father. God created men to protect and  to provide for their children. How could a man–a real man–pressure the mother of his son or daughter to abort the baby.

The sad reality about abortion is that on the dark day an abortion is performed there are really two deaths. The life of the baby ends, but also the mother begins to die a slow death of shame and sorrow within. Often this cycle of shame culminates with deep dark depression as the young woman ages and has future children.

In this battle for life men need to step up and be real men. Men need to stay sexually pure until marriage. When a child is conceive men need to be fathers and care for the mothers and their babies.

If our nation is going to change–it will start when men stop being boys, and grow up and stand up.

In Psalm 78, the Psalmist described a nation in rebellion against God as follows:

56 But they put God to the test
and rebelled against the Most High;
they did not keep his statutes.

57 Like their fathers they were disloyal and faithless,
as unreliable as a faulty bow.

I pray we will rewrite this charge in our day. I pray our fathers will be loyal, true, trustworthy, and faithful to God and to their children.

It is high time for men to be men.

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Ezell and the Complicated World of Missions Giving

El Paso: The trustees of the North American Mission Board elected Kevin Ezell, pastor of Highview Baptist Church of Louisville to be its new leader. Ezell brings to the job an incredible record of leadership and innovation. However, after his nomination many found fault with the giving record of his church to the Cooperative Program and to the Annie Armstrong Offering for North American Missions.

In days gone by, those marks would be the benchmarks of record to determine a church’s priorities and passion for missions, but we live in a new, much more complex day. In defense against his critics and more importantly the critics of his church Ezell in a published report shared the following facts:

Highview’s “Million to Missions” campaign sets aside $582,000 for local missions, including $145,000 for a mentoring/intern program at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and $340,000 for campus ministry at nearby colleges and universities.

Nearly half of $150,000 for national causes goes to church plants in New York City, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Atlanta, Indianapolis and Boise, Idaho. Another $24,000 is set aside for mission trip supplements and $25,000 for a student mission trip, compared to $10,000 for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering that supports work of the NAMB.

International giving of $700,000 includes $400,000 in Cooperative Program and $100,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering that supports work of the SBC International Mission Board. Other funds include $100,000 in mission-trip supplements, $5,000 for a missionary house and $10,000 for an international adoption ministry.

As you can see from this glimpse into Highview’s world of missions, Ezell led his church to be hands on in ministry and to be very intentional in the use of their mission dollars. Without doubt these qualities played a significant role in his selection as the new NAMB president.

As Ezell enters his new world as a denominational leader he must face the fact that fewer and fewer churches are giving to missions and to the Cooperative Program as they had in years past.  More and more churches of all sizes are tackling the call to the Great Commission by going themselves and keeping the money under local control. Since this is a pattern Ezell followed, he is in position to find ways for NAMB to capture the imagination and commitment of these churches and to call them to sacrificial giving to NAMB and its work.

The future of NAMB and other denominational entities rests in their ability to create new partnerships and networks with churches and creative dynamic leaders. Using old benchmarks of loyalty will not restore what has been lost. SBC leaders must grapple with the fact we are doing Kingdom in a new world with new paradigms. We sail together into a “sea change” that has called into question the traditional methods of missionary support.

As a leader in the BGCT, and as a pastor of a church on the cutting edge of missions, I feel the pressure, and wish I had the answers we need for tomorrow. Personally I am more inclined to hold to the old patterns, but I realize I am a dying bred. The future will not be captured by looking backwards to our glory days, but rather living with abandonment and creativity as we engage the future.

God has placed Kevin Ezell in a position to help us claim tomorrow. I pray he will bring the same creativity and passion to his role as NAMB president as he did to leading Highview to be beacon of light and hope to the city of Louisville.

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Deadly Silence

Last week in Juarez two young reporters for El Diario de Juarez were gunned down outside of a mall on their lunch break. This attack cast a dark shadow over the largest newspaper in one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

In response the editors of the newspaper ran the following statement on the front page of the paper:

“Leaders of the different organizations that are fighting for control of Ciudad Juarez: The loss of two reporters from this publishing house in less than two years represents an irreparable sorrow for all of us who work here, and, in particular, for their families,” the editorial said. “We ask you to explain what you want from us, what we should try to publish or not publish, so we know what to expect.”

As I read this statement I sense the helplessness and fear of the editors. Living under constant threats of violence and intimidation has taken its toll. The press appears to be giving in and acknowledging who really controls the streets of Juarez.

The violence along the border of Texas has opened my eyes to the pleas of the Psalmist in Psalm 10. Earlier in my life I would have seen his cries as symbolic of the struggle between good and evil. Now I read them as if I was reading a statement in the morning paper.

The Psalmist wrote:

Psalm 10

1 [a]Why, O LORD, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he devises.

3 He boasts of the cravings of his heart;
he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD.

4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

5 His ways are always prosperous;
he is haughty and your laws are far from him;
he sneers at all his enemies.

6 He says to himself, “Nothing will shake me;
I’ll always be happy and never have trouble.”

7 His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats;
trouble and evil are under his tongue.

8 He lies in wait near the villages;
from ambush he murders the innocent,
watching in secret for his victims.

9 He lies in wait like a lion in cover;
he lies in wait to catch the helpless;
he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.

10 His victims are crushed, they collapse;
they fall under his strength.

11 He says to himself, “God has forgotten;
he covers his face and never sees.”

12 Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God.
Do not forget the helpless.

13 Why does the wicked man revile God?
Why does he say to himself,
“He won’t call me to account”?

14 But you, O God, do see trouble and grief;
you consider it to take it in hand.
The victim commits himself to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless.

15 Break the arm of the wicked and evil man;
call him to account for his wickedness
that would not be found out.

16 The LORD is King for ever and ever;
the nations will perish from his land.

17 You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,

18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.

As we pray for no more violence along the border, call upon the LORD our King to defend the fatherless and the oppressed so that “man may terrify no more!”

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A New “Starr” Rises Over Baylor University

Waco: Baylor University inaugurated Judge Kenneth Winston Starr as its fourteenth president. The largest Baptist university in the world will be lead into the future by a Christian servant leader who has demonstrated his devotion to higher Christian education in the courtroom, classroom and in the halls of power and politics.

The ceremony was a deeply moving and historic day for the Baylor family, and a day of significance for all Christian institutions of higher education because Baylor is the flagship of the Christian armada waging war in the spiritual struggle for the hearts and souls of the next generation of young leaders.

With Judge Starr at the helm of Baylor those of us who value distinctively Christian scholarship have a new champion. Judge Starr lived and exemplifies the very values he seeks to instill into the hearts and minds of the young men and women who come to Baylor to be equipped for world-wide servant leadership.

During the ceremony, Judge Starr’s daughter Carolyn Starr Doolittle stepped forward to read a text from the Old Testament prophet Micah. As she glanced over her shoulder at her dad she read with passion and heartfelt commitment:

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8 (NIV)

With these words the LORD reminded Judge Starr of His path to greatness and significance.

After Judge Starr took on the robes and mantle of leadership over the Baylor he stepped to the podium affirming his vision of the future and linking his vision to the hallowed past.

Pro Ecclesia

Pro Texana

These words from the crest of Baylor University will be his guiding principles—for the Church—for Texas. Under his watch Baylor will serve in the tension between these two realities. Baylor will champion of the cause of Christ and church by advancing the Kingdom through the lives of wave after golden wave of young leaders.

Baylor will continue to inform our greater society how the claims of Christ speak into the injustice and deceptions of our secular world. Starr noted in his address how the “Free Church” movement puts Baylor in a position to seek truth without fear by inquiry, study, and research because as “the truth will set us free.” He also stressed the importance of the individual conscience in one’s spiritual and intellectual journey.

Baylor was founded during the days of the Republic of Texas by Judge R.E. M. Baylor back in 1845 with a vision to be a “city on the hill” that would be “for all ages to come!” I believe under Judge Starr’s watch the light on the hill will shine brighter.

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Baylor Blunder Parable

This morning as I was reflecting on my Baylor blunder of “overdressing” for the presidential inaugural dinner, It dawned on me that one of the reasons I felt uncomfortable was that I was dressed like a “servant.” You see every man in the room dressed in a tuxedo was waiting on tables. Here I sat dressed up but in the moment I was dressed down—like a waiter.

Lessons impact our lives in an amazing ways. On a night when I was hoping to mix and mingle among the Baylor elite, I learned a lesson about humility.  Jesus is relentless in his pursuit of our souls. I can hear in my soul his whisper saying “the greatest of all is the servant of all.”

Once again I learned a life lesson at Baylor!

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My Baylor Blunder: Presidential Style

Waco: September 16, 2010

Tonight I attended the inaugural dinner on the campus of Baylor University for its new president Kenneth Winston Starr. My wife and I are alumni and looked forward to this homecoming with great anticipation. Frankly during our days at Baylor we would have never dreamed we would have been part of such an historic gathering.

When the invitation arrived several weeks ago, I read closely the instructions about when and where the dinner would be held. In addition, the invitation stressed the dinner would be a “dressy affair.” I must admit in the circles I run in “dressy” typically means “Sunday–go to meeting” clothes, but since it was Baylor I assumed it meant “black tie”–so in an effort to blend in, I brought my bow tie and formal wear.

When we arrived on campus and parked I began to scout out the crowd entering the dinner. I noticed that most of the men were in suits and ties, but I hoped they were the ones under dressed. As we entered the Barfield drawing room we were greeted by young Baylor students dressed in tuxedos, so at first I felt relieved until I entered the room and realized I was the only guest dressed in formal wear.

At this point, it was too late to turn back. Once again I had made a freshman blunder at good ole Baylor. So I painted on my smile and tried to look like wearing a tux was natural to me as a worn pair of jeans. Of course one of my biggest fears was that someone was going to hand me a tray and ask me to serve drinks or bus tables.

Finally, I was able to sneak into the room hoping and praying that I could sit in the back of the room. Of course, the room was full of the “rich and famous” of Baylor circles. Things were going well until the chairman of the board made his way to our table to greet us. When he came to me he mistook me for a musician who would be performing later in the gala. When I introduced myself to him I wish you could have seen the look on his face. It was embarrassing for both of us.

In many ways my return to Baylor reminded me so much of my freshman year when I so wanted to fit in only to stick out. As the evening closed, we said our goodbyes to our table guests, and quickly made our way for the door only to be greeted by two lines of Baylor students dressed in black tuxedos. It gave a whole new definition of the good ole Baylor line to me on this special evening.

It is funny how clothes can create so many different emotions. I dressed up to try to make myself blend into a crowd I was intimidated by–I think on this evening the LORD used my social blunder to teach me a simple lesson. I learned clothes do not make a man–Jesus does. I need to stop trying to be someone I am not, and I need to start simply being the person I was created to be.

In closing I want to thank President Ken Starr for inviting me to this very special event–I can promise you it will be a night I will laugh about for years to come. Sic’em Bears!!

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Response to Broadway Baptist Church Decision to Step Away

The historic Broadway Baptist Church in the heart of Fort Worth has chosen to step away from its historic relationship with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. I believe this decision came after much prayer, discussion and reflection.

Over the past two years I have worked hard at building a relationship with the leadership of Broadway and its pastor Brent Beasley. My first initial contact with its leaders was in Nashville as I joined with them in discussions with the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. This was a very stressful day of questions and responses. During the day the Broadway delegation handled themselves with much grace, and the Executive Committee worked hard at seeking to find common ground.

Following this meeting I had numerous conversations with Charlie Johnson, the interim pastor of Broadway about practical steps that could be taken to restore the relationship with the SBC. Unfortunately, this partnership was not able to be salvaged and the SBC voted to end the partnership. By this time Brent Beasley had been called as pastor of Broadway. Brent stepped into a very trying situation, and rightfully the focus of his ministry needed to be on addressing the needs of the church family  not convention politics.

Due to the actions of the SBC, the BGCT’s relationship with Broadway immediately became an issue. As president I decided to be proactive in my response so I reached out to Brent and had a number of face to face open conversations with him. I have found Brent to be good honorable man. He has been very open and genuine in my dealings with him. I consider him a friend in ministry. In the course of discussions we talked frankly about our understandings of ministry today and how the Word of God addresses many of the challenges we face.  We agreed on most fronts, but we also had differences on how the gospel applies to the complex challenges of dealing with our culture.

Over the course of time it became clear that it was going to be difficult for Broadway to continue to cooperative with the churches of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and continue to do ministry by in line with the core values.

This summer my wife and I traveled to Fort Worth and worshiped with the people of Broadway. It was a moving time of worship, and we were warmly received. I sensed I was among family, so this makes their decision more difficult to swallow. After the service we had lunch with Brent and talked about the future. It was at this point I realize our relationship was going to change. I respect their decision, and I also believe the BGCT and its leadership has done all that could be done to maintain the partnership without compromising our historic values and commitments.

From my perspective Broadway has moved from its positions of the past to where the stand today. I believe they believe they have matured and followed God’s leadership. However, I believe the BGCT must stay true to its commitment to the sanctity of marriage and our understanding of the Biblical teachings on human sexuality and the gospel.

The pressure are great upon the church to find ways to be welcoming to all people while at the same time preaching a gospel of repentance and transformation. From the earliest days of this journey I have been committed to the conviction that our hope is not drawing lines in the sands, but in preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the answer for our sick society. Our society will not be transformed by pointing our fingers at those who are struggling in sin and making them the scapegoats.

I pray as a Baptist family we will double our efforts to live and to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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