Monthly Archives: February 2012

Encounter

Do you remember your first encounter with Jesus? Do you recall the feelings and emotions you felt when you realized Jesus knew everything about you and still loved you? Do you recollect how your life changed when you put your faith and trust in Jesus to be your Savior and Lord?

For me personally it was a night I will never forget. I can still feel the doubts and fears that gripped my soul that evening. I shudder to think what my life would have been like if I turned over and tried to go back to sleep rather than getting up and seeking help.

When I prayed and asked Jesus into my heart and life, I did not see an angel, nor did I have chill bumps run up my spine. Tears did not come to my eyes, nor did I have a rush of emotion. For me, there was a peace—a peace that passes understanding—that washed over my heart and soul. When I crawled back in bed I slept securely knowing my life rested snuggly in His nail-scarred hand.

I long for others to know this peace in their day to day lives.  I fear that too many of our friends and neighbors stumble around the darkness of their own creation trying to find their way. They run into walls and trip over unseen obstacles within and without. What better gift could we give those we love than the gift of an encounter with Jesus?

Jesus encountered Philip one day early in His earthly ministry. He invited Philip to follow. After a day with Jesus, Philip knew without doubt that he had discovered someone who would change his life forever.

Bearing this amazing news, Philip found Nathaniel, and declared:

 “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:44 NIV).

 

Nathaniel was a bit skeptical and questioned how anyone from the backwoods village of Nazareth could change the world much less one life. In response Philip simply said:

 “Come and see…”

When Nathaniel encountered Jesus for himself he quickly realized that what Philip had testified to was absolutely true. As you can see one encounter leads to another that leads to another. This simple pattern is the genius of the movement of the Christian faith. Christianity spreads from person to person to person.

 

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Filed under El Paso Journal, FBC El Paso, First Look

Time and Time Again

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”—Jesus (Luke 19:10 NIV)

Charles grew up on a ranch out in the country. His weekends after school were filled with chores and working with horses. Every Sunday morning Charles would get up early and go out to the corral to break and exercise the horses. The main road into town ran right by the corral and every Sunday numbers of families on their way to church passed by Charles working the horses.

One Sunday as Charles rode horse back a car slowed and one of his neighbors stop and shouted. “Hey, Charles come go to church with us today!” Charles shook his head and thanked them for their kindness but he was busy as they could see. So slowly the car pulled away.

The next Sunday once again this same car slowed down and his neighbor again invited Charles to church, but once again he declined graciously. You see Charles was not a bad boy and he really did not have anything against church, it just that he was busy and didn’t really have time. So he thought.

The next Sunday again like clockwork the neighbor’s car stopped and another invitation was offered with the added incentive of dinner on the grounds with fried chicken and homemade pie. Charles admitted later he was intrigued, what teenage boy isn’t intrigued by food, but once again he politely declined.

The next Sunday again the car stopped with another invitation. By this point Charles had the sneaking suspicion that his neighbors were not going to give up until he went to church with them, so he promised he would go next week.

When the next Sunday rolled around the car stopped. Charles climbed in like one of the family and went to the little Baptist church at the end of the road. That first Sunday was the first day of the rest of his life.

Soon going to church became as natural as getting up and going to school. Not long after he began attending, Charles opened his heart to Jesus and gave Him his life completely.

Today Charles is a retired coach and grandfather. He is the patriarch of a large Christian family, and is an active deacon in his local church. I had the honor of being his pastor, and count him as one of the finest men I know.

I cannot wait until I get to heaven to meet Charles’ neighbor who loved him enough to stop time and time again to say “Charles, come with me to church today.”

It dawned on me today that every one of us could be that kind of friend and neighbor. Who could you invite to go to church with you this Sunday? Don’t underestimate what God can do with one simple invitation!

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Filed under Devotion, El Paso Journal, FBC El Paso, First Look

Early Morning Psychic Surprise

San Angelo: A few days my wife and I traveled to San Angelo, a small West Texas city, to watch my daughter play in a golf tournament. I got up early on the day of the tournament to go jogging. I really enjoy jogging in new places because I get to experience the community in ways you cannot from the front seat of a car staring out through the windshield.

I ran along one of the rivers that cut across this city. These rivers probably explain why San Angelo came to be in the first place. As I was running along a fairly major street I passed by a small frame house with a “shingle” hanging out announcing the services of a “Palm Reader.” To be frank, I never really expected to find a psychic at work on the plains of West Texas. West Texans tend to be hard working stoic people. They make good Baptists because they don’t let their emotions get away from them. Their faith is very earthy and traditional, but low and behold a psychic was hard a work in their midst.

When I passed back by on my way back to the hotel, I took a closer look at the “Palm reading” operation and notice to my amazement a statue of the Virgin Mary also in the front yard.  Talk about a collision of world views in a front yard. How in the world could a “Palm reader” also be a devote follower of the Virgin Mary. Sadly this front yard tells the story of the spiritual migration of our nation. In our search of spirituality, we have come to the conviction that all roads lead to heaven.

Upon my return to El Paso, I decided to check out this psychic reader in San Angelo. I was not able to find the address from the Palm Reader whose operation I passed, but I did discover Zara Angel who reports that she can channel the “Archangel Michael” to help seekers to find their way.

What a strange mix: a Palm reader, the virgin Mary, and the Archangel Michael all at work in San Angelo.  As a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, I have chosen to stand firm on His declaration in John 14:6.

Jesus said:

” I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes unto the Father except by me.”

In our world of religious tolerance this statement of our Lord bites and offends, but I suspect it was meant to. Not all roads lead to God. In fact, according to Jesus, the highways lead to death and destruction while the narrow footpaths lead to life everlasting.

People are searching for help and hope. We need to point them to Jesus before it is too late.

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Filed under Devotion, FBC El Paso, Spiritual Warfare: The Battle for His Glory

Change of Command

“Not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock”–Peter (I Peter 5:3 NIV)

Fort Bliss–This week I had the distinct honor to be invited to the change of command ceremony of the Attack Company, 4th BN 17th Infantry. Captain Joe Gonzales took command of this company of young soldiers from the able steady hands of Captain Kip Remsburg.

This was my first experience of this kind of history transfer of power and authority. I must admit I was deeply moved by the moment. As I scanned the line of young men and women standing at attention as their commander relinquished his command to another officer.

This particular attack company is preparing to go to war. They are scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan as the “point of the spear” in the efforts to turn back the Taliban. As the colors of the company were passed into the hands of Captain Gonzales, I sensed the great weight of responsibility now resting on his shoulders. It will be his duty to lead these young men and women into battle knowing that he may not bring them all home alive.

Pray for Captain Gonzales and the many other leaders who find themselves in these trying assignments. As a strong Christian leader, Captain Gonzales looks to the Lord for his courage, strength and resolve. These men and women are honored to serve under a man who will lead with courage and will lead by example.

As a spiritual leader I was moved by the significance of the moment. It dawned on me that I too have been entrusted people–the Lord’s people purchased at great price. Peter wrote to the elders of yesterday and today challenging us to “not lord over those entrusted to us…” Every spiritual leader must remember that those under his or her watch have been “entrusted” to them. The people are not theirs to do with as they please. No, the people are the Lord’s people. We must give an account to him for how we love and lead his people.

Since God’s people have been “entrusted” to us, we must heed Peter’s advice–“lead by example.” Pastors are not called to bark orders, but to lead the way by laying down their lives as Jesus laid down His life. Sermons may inspire but examples move people to action.

Ever leader regardless of rank or calling would be wise to remember that those under their watch have been “entrusted” to them. So lead wisely. Lead with courage. Honor the One who “entrusted” them to your care in all you do.

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Filed under FBC El Paso, Fort Bliss, Leadership

Open Door for Texas Baptists

Yesterday Dr. David Hardage began his work as the Executive Director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Under David’s leadership I believe great days lie ahead.

As Marv Knox noted in his article about Hardage, David does not come into this post with all the answers, but he will tackle this assignment like every other opportunity God has placed before him. He will pray, listen, work hard, and will seek to lead us from His heart for our Lord and for the great state of Texas.

In his address to the troops, David called on the Executive Board staff to open their doors and open their hearts to all Texas Baptists. David wants the Baptist building to be a place where every Texas Baptist pastor and layperson feels welcome and invited. His door is open, but I don’t believe David is going to sit and wait on people to make their way to Dallas. No, David will be out knocking on your door, and sitting down over a cup of coffee in your hometown to listen to your heart about how we can and will reach this state for Christ.

Great leaders don’t have all the answers, but they help their organizations discover the answers together. We need leaders who listen to those on the front lines before making strategic moves rather than sending out orders from some lofty perch in relative safety.

Pray for David. Talk to David. Give him time to get his feet under him and learn the lay of the land, but most of all be busy in the work God has called you to. The BGCT is not a building in Dallas, it is you and me working together for the glory of God. So let’s get to work.

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