Monthly Archives: March 2012

What’s in a Name?: The Challenge Facing Houston Baptist University

The board of directors of Houston Baptist University have taken the action to study the possibility of changing the name of the university. In the Houston Chronicle article on this study the following was reported:

At the town hall meeting, one of two held last week, HBU board member Ray Cox Jr. argued that “the name Houston and the name Baptist are somewhat limiting to a national Christian university. … That’s why we are considering changing the name.”

In recent history the name “Baptist” has come under a great deal of scrutiny and judgment. Many new Baptist churches are not willing to bear the name of the denomination that funds their efforts. Some churches keep the legal name, yet hide it in their publication and advertising.

So what is in a name? How do you make a good name? How quickly one can destroy a good name?

I have served as the pastor of Baptist churches now for over thirty years and most of those years I served the “First Baptist Church” in local Texas communities. When you are the pastor of the “First Baptist Church” it is very difficult to hide your identity, nor have I ever tried. A long time ago I learned that your name reflects the reality of who you are and who you seek to be. If you hide your name to reach others and then they discover you are  “really Baptist”–does this not create a moral dilemma for the new member who must now question why you were so ashamed of your roots and heritage? I think so.

I believe the better and healthiest approach is to strengthen the scope and influence of your name by the scope and influence of your actions.

Houston Baptist University has a good reputation in Houston and within the greater Baptist family. It was founded by men and women of deep personal faith and conviction. The founders established the school to be a distinctively Christian University shaped and directed by Baptist theology and values.

In fairness to HBU–many of their sister schools do not bear the name Baptist in the name. Schools like Howard Payne (where I serve on the board), Hardin Simmons,  Mary Hardin-Baylor and the flagship Baylor University are distinctly Baptist school from their earliest days but Baptist is not in their name. So in fairness it is very possible to be a Baptist school without bear the name Baptist in the name. However, in the process of dropping Baptist from the name the board of trustees must be very careful to make sure they are trustworthy leaders of the heritage placed in their hands.

The HBU board has cut new ground in recent years by adding non-Baptist trustees to its board. I have gone on record as supportive of this Kingdom move, because I am very much aware the Kingdom of God’s scope and reach are much broader than the Baptist family alone. In trailblazing new ground, I would encourage the board to remember that in their efforts to position the school for the future they must also stay true to the historic roots and values entrusted to them. This tension is one every board must wrestle with as they live between yesterday and tomorrow.

Knowing many of the board members I am prayerful that they will make a wise decision about the future of Houston Baptist University. I would strongly encouragement them to continue to make a good name rather than simply trying to find a good name.


Filed under BGCT

A Divine Surprise

The breakfast sandwiches filled the paper sacks. The circle of volunteers from Camino de Luz held hands in prayer not realizing the lessons God had awaiting them on the streets of downtown El Paso. A “divine surprise” awaited the faithful, and grace would welcome them with open arms just around the corner.

The people of Camino de Luz live under the grace of God. They began their journey as beneficiaries of grace, but grace has a way of transforming the giver and the receiver. No longer would they be satisfied with being loved—love had inspired them to care, to give and to go. Prayerfully the street people of downtown El Paso because the focus of their love—so a small handful banded together to gather early on Sunday morning to make sandwiches and to deliver their gifts wrapped in love to the homeless.

In its initial stage, this ministry of the heart resembled a “hit and run” operation. With lunch bags in hand, the volunteers would drive down to the heart of the city and walk the streets handing out breakfast to those who has spent the night under the stars, and hidden in the alleys. In a matter of minutes their mission drew to a close as the last sandwich exchanged hands and back to the church for worship they headed.

Last Sunday everything changed. When the volunteers from Camino de Luz arrived they were greeted by the smell of hot breakfast burritos and steaming Starbucks coffee. They stumbled upon the “Burrito Crew” from Paseo Church, a new congregation rooted in the downtown community. For a couple of years the “Burrito Crew” as they were affectionately referred to by the homeless had been regularly delivering hot burritos and steaming coffee. The “Burrito Crew” had developed a different approach to their act of compassion.

The “Burrito Crew” gave out food, but more importantly they dished out their “presence” in heaping portions. The burritos and coffee cracked the door for a relationship but time spent together made all the difference. Jesus, the master of the streets and the friend of the lonely, had taught them that the greatest hunger is often the hunger of the soul rather than the belly. People—especially the homeless—longed for conversation and presence. They longed for someone to listen and to care enough to see them as real people with real struggles and a real capacity to love and to be loved—someone who knew their names.

Great joy creased the faces of the “Burrito Crew” when reinforcements from Camino de Luz unexpectedly showed up bearing lunch bags. For months the Crew prayed for the Lord of the harvest to send forth workers to join them in their work, and to their amazement standing in front of them was the answer of their prayer.

The Spirit of God loves “surprise parties.” He loves to orchestrate the unexpected. He thrills in revealing time and time again we are never really alone. The Kingdom of God shows up in the most unexpected places.

Paul encourages us to follow the urging of the Spirit with these words from Galatians:

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Gal. 5.25 NIV)

The morning closed as it began with a circle of prayer. The “Burrito Crew” joined hands with Camino de Luz who joined hands with the homeless who clasped hands in the “presence of the Lord” to offer thanks and praise to the God of surprises who binds us all together in love!

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

A Good Choice for Children: Eron Green to South Texas Children’s Home

Hallway conversations at church for a pastor come in all kinds of shapes and forms. In the hallway a pastor learns everything from the condition of the restrooms to the quality of his sermon. A few days ago I had one of those conversations that brings a smile to my face.

When I saw Rod walking down the hall I could tell he had a skip in his step. He greeted me with a smile and asked if I read the article. I confessed my ignorance and with a smile on his face Rod informed me his son-in-law Eron Green had just been named the director of the South Texas Children’s Home to fill the shoes left by Todd Roberson. As he spoke my mind raced by to a conversation I had with Eron and his wife Shelley. They were visiting in El Paso, and Eron asked to visit with me about this position and the lay of the land in Texas. Since they would be moving from Florida, they had many questions about the Baptist family in Texas. They had heard rumors but they wanted to talk with someone who they hoped would shoot straight with them.

The hour we spent together inspired me, and I whispered a prayer that God would open the door. Eron and Shelley possess the qualities we long for in young leaders. They love the Lord. They love each other. They love children. They love serving others. I am thrilled that South Texas Children’s Home will have a leader at the helm who embodies the best of what it means to follow Jesus and serve others.

In the Baptist Standard, Eron summarized his vision as follows:

“My heart is to help children and families through the saving message of Christ…”

Too often we make life and ministry far too complicated.  Helping children and families make all the difference in the world. Eron understands he is not the savior of the world–Jesus is! We would all be wise to keep in perspective we are the helpers and Jesus is the Savior.

Jesus observed:

“Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me…” Luke 9:48 NIV

Add Eron and Shelley and their little ones to your prayer list and they become the hands and feet of Jesus for the children of South Texas.

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Filed under BGCT, FBC El Paso

Whatever It Takes:Reaching North America

Can you remember the last time you wrote a hand-written letter? With the advent of email, texts, tweets, and instant messages many of us have lost the art of slowing down and writing a note.

In 1893, Annie Armstrong wrote over 18,000 letters on the behalf of the missionaries of the Southern Baptist Convention. Annie loved the world with the passion of our Lord. Her love for people expressed itself in her “whatever it takes” attitude of getting the word out.

The focus of Southern Baptists across our land has been called to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. The national goal stands at $70 million. The “Whatever It Takes” theme of this year’s offering challenges one and all to do their very best to get the good news of Jesus to North America.

This week my dad and I made a pilgrimage to Phoenix to participate in the annual rite of spring—“Major League Baseball Spring Training.” When we arrived at our first game an afternoon contest between the American League defending champion Texas Rangers and the Milwaukee Brewers I felt like a wide-eyed kid going to his first ballgame.

One of the first things that caught my attention was how far the faithful had traveled to see the favorite team. Having living in Milwaukee, I knew it was another world from Phoenix, yet the Brew crew fans filled the stands and rocked the stadium when the Brewers took the lead for good. It felt like being in Milwaukee all over again.

The following afternoon we followed the Rangers to an afternoon contest at Hohokam stadium the spring home of the Chicago Cubs. I felt like I had been transported to Chicago’s Wrigley Field. The Cub fans swallowed us up in their midst with their Midwestern accents, and thirst for beer.

The next afternoon, we traveled to Goodyear Park the home of the Cleveland Indians to watch the ballgame between the Indians and the San Francisco Giants. When we found our seats behind home plate Giant fans engulfed us and I had the strange sensation that I was sitting at AT&T Park on the Pacific coast line. In the course of three afternoons we witnessed the spring rite of baseball and we transported to three different worlds.

North America stands as a land of contrasts. The people of North America create an amazing tapestry of beauty and wonder. To reach North America with the gospel will take all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people.

The mission strategy emerging from the leadership of the North American Mission Board revolves around and centers on church planting. To make this dream reality we all need to pray for God to called and equip church planters for the task. We need healthy churches will to sponsor these new works. We desperately need the winds of the Spirit to blow afresh over our land. Indeed, we need a “whatever it takes” attitude to win the day.

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Filed under FBC El Paso, First Look, SBC, Southern Baptist Convention

“On the Fence”

Surprise, AZ: This week my dad and I escape for a few days of vacation and baseball. From the earliest days of my life I remember going to baseball games with my dad. He loves baseball, and his dad loved baseball. Baseball has always held a special place in the hearts of Lowrie men.

As a young boy I vividly remember going to a minor league baseball game up in the mountains of East Tennessee with my dad and my granddad. I am confident the level of play fell far short of the Major leagues but for a small boy it was an amazing moment in time. Sitting like a man with my dad and granddad. Taking in all the sights and sounds of the ballpark.

This week my dad and I have made a pilgrimage to Phoenix to participate in the ritual spring–spring training baseball. Baseball fills the air in Phoenix this time of year as baseball fans descend on the city to see the favorite teams ready themselves for the upcoming baseball marathon that leads to heartbreak for all teams but one. (Of course I speak of heart break since I am a Ranger fan with a heart broken two times over by consecutive losses in the World Series, but hope springs eternal in Arizona even for Cub fans!)

Job one of our trip revolves around seeing the Texas Rangers–the team we have followed since the days of their arrival in Arlington from Washington with names like Ted Williams and Frank Howard. For years the Rangers have taken on the mantle of the lovable Cubs and have been “loveable losers” who melt in the heat of the hot Texas summer, but these days the Rangers stand tall among their peers with superstars in their roster like Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Kinsler, Andrus, Cruz, Napoli, Feliz, and Holland to name a few. Not to mention Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan oversees the whole operation bring true Texas grit to the team from top to bottom. These are fun days to proudly wear a Ranger cap with the big T boldly on the front.

Josh Hamilton stands out as one of my personal favorite Rangers. His story of redemption, grace and fighting back inspires me. Even though he stands out as a superstar his personal struggles bring him down into the world we all live in–the world of costly mistakes, compulsive bad habits, controlling sins, and broken humanity. By the grace of the cross, God has restored Hamilton’s life and future. Hamilton openly declares his faith in the Jesus and confesses to one and all that Jesus helped him put his life back together and got him back in center field for His glory. Much like Tebow from the world of football, Hamilton has been a visible witness to the glory of God.

From the stands there are those who doubt his faith and persistence. They wonder if he is for real and expect him to stumble and fall in the future. I wonder what it means about us that we want to bring down our heroes? Recently Hamilton did stumble and fall when he gave into the old dragons within and spent a night drinking and carousing like in days of old. Immediate he recognized his mistake, confessed his sin to those to whom he was accountable and got up off the ground to fight another day his battle with his humanity. When Hamilton slipped and suspect many were not surprised and may have even felt a sense of satisfaction that they were right, but I was sad and whispered a prayer for him. I guess you could say many are “on the fence” about Hamilton.

On Monday as Hamilton entered the ballpark for a spring training outing, boys young and old alike lined the fence calling out for autographs. As the Ranger stars passed by they smiled and waved and went on about their business, that is all but one. Josh Hamilton made his way to the fence with a big smile and walked down the line signing balls, caps, programs and bats for young and old alike for some ten minutes while his teammates prepared for the contest. I must admit I was impressed. On this sunny cool Arizona afternoon the crowd was small, the media was chasing after Yu Darvish, who was to pitch that day, and while practically no one was watching Hamilton created wonderful memories for his fans by a simple action of kindness. I must admit I am not “on the fence” about Hamilton. I believe he is the real deal–a man with his own internal dragons–a man of flesh and blood and passions–a man touched by the grace of God–a man like you and me.

Never forget your heroes are human and flawed, and all your heroes need grace just like you do!

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Filed under Devotion, Rite of Spring


Juarez: Greetings from the dusty streets of Juarez! This spring break I have had the opportunity to be part of a mission trip without spending hours in a van nor catching a flight to a distant land. Granted I did leave the country and the life I am accustom to, but this dramatic change was less than a fifteen minute drive from my home.

 This I have had the honor of being part of a Casa por Cristo build for a young mother and their three small children in Anapara—a small suburb of Juarez. Yesterday I work with an international team of “part-time” construction workers from as far away as China and as near as El Paso.

 This team met each other for the first time in the early morning darkness of a March morning on the parking lot of First Baptist Church while they had their hands in the pockets and a few bounced around to stay warm.

 As the volunteer team leader I had assembled a team of many good and close friends. I invited a number of dear friends from Canyon, Texas to travel from the grasslands of the Panhandle of Texas to join us on this project in the desert. These friends once called me their pastor, and the bond between us runs deeper than blood.

 Joining them were a handful of veteran Casa por Cristo builders from First Baptist Church of El Paso. You had A.J., the former Navy Seal who lead by example. You had Dick who used his saw to craft the lumber with masterful skill for the final product. You had Jackson whose smile and positive attitude made any job great or small enjoyable, and in addition he invited his close friend Bill to add an extra pair of hands to the job site. Finally you had “Yupper Bob” who left his home in the upper Michigan to live the life of a Casa por Cristo missionary who blended skill, experience, and a tearful story to inspire the team to work together for the glory of God.

By my side most of the day were my beautiful daughters Kalie and Jamie. Neither one had ever really been on a job site but they pitched in like they knew what they were doing.

 Leading our team was David, volunteer foreman from Minnesota, and his assistant Rachel, all the way from the rolling hills of Indiana. Our team was rounded out by a graduate student from UTEP who made his way to our fair city from mainland China.

 This time of “family” strangers worked together like a well oiled machine. Guys who barely knew each other worked together like brothers who had known each other their whole lives. It was a miracle of sorts. But really it was an answer to prayer—not my prayer but the prayer of Jesus. Jesus prayed in John 17:

  “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

 This week the world saw a glimpse of the glory of Jesus by watching a team working together as “one.”

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Spring Forward

You can thank or curse Benjamin Franklin when you lose an hour of sleep this Saturday night because of “Daylight savings” time. Thinking ahead way back in 1784, Ben Franklin conceived of this idea of capturing the “sunlight” by changing the clocks while staying in Paris. It took decades for his idea to take root, but now all across our land people submit to the rite of springtime.

 Since the implementation of “daylight savings” time millions of dollars may have been saved through the reduced use of electricity and interestingly enough the crime rate drops during this time of the year. The extra hour of sunlight in the evening makes for long summer nights and extra time of family fun and enjoyment. There is nothing quite like having an extra hour of sunlight after work for a long walk in the Franklin mountains or catching a few holes of golf.

 Remember these benefits this Sunday morning when you struggled to get out of bed to make it to church on time. (If you need to, feel free to catch up on your sleep during my sermon. Whenever I see someone doze off during my message I am at least thankful they are getting something out of the message…a few moments of sleep.) Even God said the Sabbath was to be a “day of rest.”

 I love the way God created the rhythms of our world—“winter, spring, summer, and fall” tells the story of life year after year. Spring unveils the wonderful mystery of life all around us. The sights and sounds of springtime bring joy to the heart—the chirping of birds and the budding of flowers teach us that the winter of death does not have the last word.

 Is it any wonder Jesus emerged from the grave in the springtime holding in His nail-scarred hands the keys of death and hell. As we begin the adventure of springtime I pray it will remind us, young and old alike, that life wins—light drives out the darkness—love conquers hate.

 Let me close with one of my favorite “springtime” text. I treasure the words of Paul who wrote:


Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV)

 The next time you take a good long look in the mirror remind yourself that you are a “new creation” in Christ. If you look close at your heart and soul you can see His fingerprints all over you. Where there had been fear and doubt, He has created within you a “peace that passes all understanding” and a “faith” that can move mountains.

 Where your soul bore the wounds of guilt and shame, His mercy and forgiveness have transformed your deep wounds into the “scars of grace”—the marks of wounds that have healed. Where despair grips your soul to drag you under, His hope has placed your feet on the “rock” and He has placed on your lips the sweet song of salvation.

 So this Saturday night when you begin the ritual of “springing forward” smile and enjoy the reminder of the power of love and life!

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Look in the Drawer

The last time you stayed in a hotel and needed a Bible for the quiet time or for a safe place to turn in your moment of crisis, did you look in the lamp stand drawer? For over 100 years Gideons International has been placing Bibles in the hands of people, and it all started by placing them in hotel rooms.

I attend a pastor’s appreciation luncheon today sponsored by the El Paso Camp of Gideons International. This dedicated group of business and professional men have made it their life’s work to get the Word of God into the hands of people. My history with Gideons goes back to my high school years. I was invited to Texarkana camp’s meeting early on Saturday morning for breakfast. Following breakfast these men took me to the city jail to minister to the guys who ended up spending the night in jail after a bit too much to drink the night before. Needless to say this opened my eyes to a whole new world of life and ministry. I will never forget the feeling in my stomach with the sheriff’s deputy slammed the door behind us and locked us in with the inmates.

Last year the Gideons distributed over 79 million copies of the Bible worldwide. In a time of worldwide economy crisis, these men of God dug deep so men and women, boys and girls could hold a Bible in their hands.  During the luncheon we were informed that in the first 89 years of the work of the Gideons they distributed 800 million copies of the Scriptures and in the last thirteen years they have given away 800 million copies of the Scriptures. What an amazing feat of faith and obedience in the lives of these men and women.

The Lord spoke of the power of His Word through the prophet Isaiah saying in chapter 55:

 8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

I thank God for the work of the Gideons in El Paso and around the world. I pray their tribe will increase as God uses them to touch and change the world.

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Filed under Border Journal, El Paso Journal, FBC El Paso


Historically Baptists believe in numbers. I remember from my earliest days the Sunday School board posted proudly on the wall of the sanctuary that declared to one and all how many were in Sunday School this week and last week. Often times these numbers told the story of the success or the struggles of the church.

 Over the years I have noticed that when a church is struggling it rarely reports its numbers. I suspect this is due to the fact that the leadership does not want to deal with the backlash from “falling numbers.”

 This fascination with numbers in some ways can be traced back to the pages of the Bible itself. Let’s face it there is actually a book in the Bible named “Numbers.” The gospel writers were known for reporting the numbers of those Jesus feed and the number of basketfuls left over.

 Over the past few days First Baptist Church El Paso has been on an amazing ride. For an instant just let the numbers tell the story:

 40—“Days of Prayer”

96—“Commitments to Intercede for Four friends”

300—Friends prayed for by name

3000—Invitation cards distributed

52—people trained in evangelism

38—leaders trained to be an encourager during “Encounter”

8-people joined the church on Sunday

1000—pieces of pizza purchased

Over 900—in worship on Sunday in the two services

Over 600—in Sunday School

Over 200—returned for Sunday evening

Over 60—college students attending the Encounter service on Tuesday

Over 300—students attending the Encounter service on Wednesday

Over 12—FCA, churches, Young Life groups attended the Encounter service on Wednesday

Over 60—leaders served as an encourager during the Encounter services

Over 70—professions of faith during Encounter

Over 40—Bibles given out to those who did not own a Bible

Over 125—rededications and commitments to the Lordship of Christ


One word: “Overwhelmed”


Words cannot express my emotions as I reflect on what God did among us this week.


I close with the words of Paul:

 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)

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Five Bibles

El Paso: On Tuesday evening our church hosted a special event for college students. We invited the “Sweet 180” band from San Antonio to lead the worship and Jon Randles to challenge the students. The college ministry of First Baptist Church has truly taken life over the past nine months. Today it is one of the most vibrant ministries in our church. It has grown from a handful of students to an emerging movement in El Paso. On Tuesday evening to our amazement we had over sixty college students in attendance.

Randles challenged the students to make their spiritual lives like a “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup”–in other words to grow spiritually one must have a personal relationship with Jesus by faith and one must submit his or her life to the authority of Jesus on a day to day basis. He chose as his biblical text these words of Jesus:

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (John 15:7 KJV)

At the close of his message he challenged the students to make a commitment to follow Jesus–to boldly step out in faith. At the count of three, he asked the students to walk toward a group of pastors in the back of the room. To my amazement over twelve students stood up and moved our way. I was stunned. I expected some to respond but I never dreamed that nearly one-fourth of the room would be making a public commitment to follow Jesus. In response to this great out pouring we scrambled to get enough leaders to talk to the students to help them make this life-changing decision.

As the discussions came to an end I went from group to group asking if anyone needed a Bible. To my amazement five of the young ladies who came forward did not own a Bible. I was stunned. For too many years I lived under the assumption that most people still owned and respected the Word of God. It was joy to place a Bible in their hands, and to pray under my breathe that the words of the Bible would soon abide in their hearts.


Filed under El Paso Journal, FBC El Paso