Monthly Archives: January 2013

Suzii Painter: The Right Choice for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

When I heard the news Suzii Painter had been named by the search committee of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship to be selected as the next Executive Coordinator, I must admit I was saddened for Texas Baptists but thrilled for our brothers and sisters in the CBF. In recent years the CBF has struggled on many fronts in their attempts to find the “Kingdom assignment” and their place within within what God is doing around the world.

Clearly I am not a CBF insider by any stretch, but what I do not about Suzii Painter gives me great joy about the future of this important fellowship of Baptists. I had the honor of getting to know Mrs. Painter when I served as president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Even though I had been a Texas Baptist my whole life, I knew little about the inner workings and vital work of the Christian Life Commission in Austin.

During my days as president I came to realize how vitally important it was for Texas Baptists to have a prophetic voice in Austin to keep before our lawmakers the claims of the gospel and the values of a Christian worldview. Suzii and her team were amazing at their work. They took on lobbyists groups that outnumbered them and could outspend them by the millions and won battle after battle like David against Goliath.

The CLC under Painter’s leadership also served as a conscious for our Texas Baptist family. She kept before us the needs of the “least of these.” Under her visionary leadership the Texas Hunger Initiative took wings and countless Texas families moved out of the world of food insecurity and fewer and fewer children in Texas went to bed hungry.

I don’t know where Suzii Painter will lead the CBF in the future, but because I know her and have confidence in her walk with the LORD, I am excited to see. The search committee needs to be affirmed for making a bold visionary choice. I pray God will use Suzii to continue to make the world a better place by living out the claims of Christ.

Suzii we will miss you!

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A “New” Thing: El Paso Style

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.

(Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV)

 

When the name of your church is First Baptist Church of El Paso it is inevitable that you have a tendency to look back to the past. As a First Baptist Church we feel the obligation to honor our founders and to stand on the mantle of being the “first Baptists” to settle on the Wild West streets of El Paso back in 1882.

 

You cannot claim tomorrow looking back over your shoulder. One must learn to have the same tenacity of our founders as they risked it all to establish a church in “Sin City.” Our church found its life in the hearts of those who dreamed of tomorrow, and we would be wise to follow their example.

 

The prophet Isaiah challenged the people of God to “forget the former things—do not dwell on the past.” He knew all too well the last words of dying organization are “we have never done it that way before!”

 

Don’t get me wrong I know the lessons of history are expensive and even more expensive if you don’t learn from the past. I believe the driver’s seat of a car can be a telling parable about how to embrace the future and to deal with the past. When you sit in the driver’s seat in front of you is the wide view of the windshield and just to your right nestled just above your sight line is the small rear view mirror. The windshield opens before you the “big picture” of where you are going, and the “rear view mirror” reminds you to occasionally to check out where you have been.

 

The LORD declared to His people. “See, I am doing a new thing!” We worship and serve a creative, innovative God. True He is the same yesterday, today and forever, but one of the things that is always true about Him is His creativity—if you doubt it just take a long look around you the next time you are in church!

Embracing tomorrow begins by discovering what God is up to today. What new thing is He doing within us and around us.

The LORD challenges His people to open their eyes by saying: “Now it springs up—do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”

In other words, “I am bringing life to the most unexpected places. It is bubbling up all around you if you will only open your eyes and see my fingerprints!”

So what is God up to in El Paso? In the valley we call home over 2 million people live. 665,568 people call El Paso home. 48% of the residents of El Paso are under the age of 30 years old. In other words we live in a very young city. 43% of the adults in El Paso are single, and 25% of our friends and neighbors were born outside of the United States. In addition, 80% of our population claims a Latino family heritage.

So assuming God is shaping us to embrace the El Paso of tomorrow and we are serious about reaching 1% of the population then our church will get increasing younger. We will intentionally reach more singles, and the face our church will become more ethnically diverse just like heaven. Can you see it? God can and does!

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Resolutions for a New Year 2013

In just a matter of hours, we will welcome in the year of our Lord two-thousand and thirteen. As we cross the threshold of this New Year with the opportunity to write a new chapter in the story of our lives I suspect many of us have already begun making our resolutions for tomorrow.

I wonder if the saints of old made such resolutions in their day. Let me suggest a few resolutions that may have cross the minds of our forefathers.

 

For instance:

“I resolve to start carrying an umbrella to the office”—Noah

 

“I resolve to not lose my head when I get into an argument with David”—Goliath

 

“I resolve to complain less and listen more”—Job

 

“I resolve to stay in touch with all of my grandkids”—Abraham

 

“I resolve to get along with my brother”—Jacob

 

“I resolve to get a new barber”–Samson

 

“I resolve to follow my GPS system or at least ask for directions”—Moses

 

“I resolve to clean up my house more so it doesn’t look like a zoo!”—Noah’s wife

So what about you? Have you made your list? I must confess I am not much into resolutions. I did consider gaining more weight this year or watching more sports on television, but I am afraid of what would happen if I actually kept a resolution for the first time.

Yogi Berra, the sage old Baseball philosopher noted:

 

“If you don’t know where you are going—you will end up somewhere else.”

Zig Ziglar, the motivational speaker, added his insights to this philosophy by observing:

“If you aim at nothing—you will hit it every time!”

 

So what are you aiming at as you enter this New Year? For me, I like to keep things simple and basic.

 

In the Book of Micah, you find the prophet boiling down life and our relationship with God to a handful of clear and concise insights. He wrote:

 

“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)

 

Can you imagine how your life would gain greater focus and direction by putting these truths to work?

Do the right thing. Embrace grace in every relationship. Worship God.

Maybe a good start for this year would be to keep it simple, and to get back to the basics—“Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.” ( Micah 6:8 The Message)

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Running toward Evil: A Christmas Story

Christmas took on the dark hues of death and despair as reports swept across our land about another senseless evil attack on innocence. This time evil reared its ugly head in the first grade class rooms of the Sandy Hook School in the sleepy little Connecticut village of Newtown.

When the ten-minutes of insanity had ceased teachers and children alike lay motionless on the floor as death made an unwelcomed appearance in the hallways of a school that had been the home of smiles, laughter and happiness just days before Christmas.

In practically every tragedy evil rarely has the final word. As the accounts of the horror spread there were glimmers of light in the midst of the foreboding darkness. Principal Dawn Hocksprung and school counselor Mary Sherlach let their lights shine instinctively when their little ones found themselves in danger.

According to those nearest to the scene, Dawn and Mary came out of a meeting and hear the sounds of gunfire down the hallway. Instead of running for the lives or racing to safety, they ran toward the shooting—they ran straight into the face of evil. There is no way to estimate how many lives their actions saved as they laid down their own lives for the sake of the children.

These two courageous educators captured in a instant of time the very essence of Christmas. When Jesus stepped on the stage of history He too was racing toward the evil. He too could not stand idly by while children found themselves hanging in the balance.

For Dawn and Mary their love for the children led them into the line of fire. For Jesus: His love for us led Him from Christmas morn to Good Friday on the cross.

Jesus captured the essence of Christmas and love when He said:

“Greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends…”

Like always, Jesus lived out the reality of what He taught. Jesus loved us, and still loves us more than we could ever know and imagine.

Never forget the words of the angel to Joseph.

“And you will give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sin.”

Jesus came to save us from the dark realities of sin that reside deep in the human soul. He came to save us from ourselves. He came to forgive and to set us free from the chains that bind us heart and soul.

I must confess the tragedy in Connecticut will linger on my soul for a while, but I pray I will remember that Christmas never was a fairy tale with a “promise of happily ever after.” Christmas tells the story of a Savior who entered a world filled with darkness and death to save and rescue His creation.

Jesus ran toward the evil, so we could run forgiven and free. He stared down sin and death so we could freely embrace love and live. Christmas shines brightest in the dark.

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