Monthly Archives: October 2013

Charlie Price: A Visionary Change Agent for the Kingdom of God

“How the mighty have fallen!
The weapons of war have perished!”–David (2 Samuel 1:27 NIV)

Word has quickly spread across the state that Charlie Price crossed over yesterday to stand with the faithful who have gone on before us. A heaviness rests on my soul for words unspoken. I wish I had one more conversation with him. There was so much left unsaid.

Charlie Price stood out as a man among preachers. His booming voice, his powerful presence, his visionary spirit, his creative mind, and his natural skills in leadership inspire us to be more than we could be. I had the privilege of following Charlie as the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Canyon. He left behind huge footprints in the dust of the Panhandle. “Charlie” stories were legendary. He took an old traditional Baptist church and infused into it new life and fresh vision. He called a remarkable team of leaders to his side, and set the course of the church for decades.

As a change agent, Charlie knew the sting of criticism and opposition, but he handle it with grace and never lost sight of the ultimate goal. His eyes were always fixed on the horizon. This God-given talent of seeing just over the horizon prepared him for his most fruitful days in San Antonio. From San Antonio Charlie touched the world. His big heart and bold courage set the tone for a family of churches ready and willing to think outside the box and do whatever it took to reach their city with the gospel.

Recently I watched a video he and his good friend Roland Lopez produced about their commitment to establish a “house church” movement in San Antonio. His passion to share the gospel by any means came through loud and clear as he broke rank with the traditions of Western Christianity and embraced a movement of the Spirit of God that was sweeping the ends of the earth.

When I served with Charlie on the Executive Director Search Committee for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, I grew to value his deep insight in our Baptist work in Texas. As a commander on the ground, he knew the hearts of the pastors and the people. He knew what we needed and what we absolutely did not need. He spoke clearly and wisely and helped us do our work with great focus.

The love of his life was his devoted wife Sherri and his boys. He lit up when he spoke of family. He was so terribly proud of his boy who will carry on the Price name with great honor.

When news of Jonathan’s death on the battlefield reached David he exclaimed “Oh how the mighty have fallen.” This morning my heart lays low with the same sense of loss and heaviness.

Charlie, I wish I had one last chance to tell you how much you mean to me. Thank you for being my friend.

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Sermon Excerpt: “God Works In YOU”

Paul does not stop there but drives home the point further by saying: 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

As we close our time together, look closely at what Paul reveals about the good work of God in our hearts and lives. He teaches us that “God work in you.” Yes, the fingerprints of God are all over your heart and soul. If you are a child of God, then you can be assured God works IN YOU.

Notice, God works in you “to will and to act.” Paul notes that when God works in our “will” He is at work in our decisions, choices, desires, passions and dreams. You see when God wants to accomplish His purposes in our lives He goes to work in our hearts and minds.

Often when I work with someone who is struggling with what they believe God wants them to do, I ask them a very simple question, “What do you want to do? Where is your passion?” I realize this is not fool-proof, but I also believe this statement that God stirs deep in our hearts and souls what He wants us to do—what He has uniquely designed us to be and do.

However, to create the creative tension of this text, he adds, “God works in you to will and to ACT…” This cause in the text points to our ability or opportunity to carry out the work in our hearts and minds. As a silly example, when I was younger I wanted to be a major league baseball pitcher. I spent hours in the backyard throwing a baseball against the brick wall facing major league batters. The only problem was I could only throw the ball about 60 mph, so I had a change-up, but no fastball, slider or curve. To make the point, I had the “will” to be a major league pitcher, but I did not have the ability therefore, that was NOT God’s will for my life.

Or to look at it another way, years ago, when I was just practically a rookie in ministry a friend of Robyn’s submitted my résumé to be the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas. On this occasion, I thought I had the ability. I was a pastor and a young preacher, but there was one huge problem, they never talked to me, their pulpit committee never came to hear me preach. In fact, I did not even get a “Dear John” letter from them. I wanted to be their pastor, but I did not have the “opportunity” or “open door” to be their pastor.

You see God works on both sides of the equation. He creates and nurtures the desires, dreams and will in our hearts, and on the other side He gifts and guides us toward His good purposes in our lives. We need to learn to live in this tension by faith. Yes, God’s will and direction in our lives is always a “faith” proposition or as Henry Blackaby put it “a crisis of faith.”

Remember our opening observation, “Be patient with me; God is not finished with me yet.” Yes, God is working in you both to will, dream, and choose his good pleasure, and He is also investing in us skills, abilities and opportunities to do what He has created us to do.

Occasionally when I am driving through the city I will see those big orange or yellow signs which read “Men at Work.” Of course it they were honest it should probably read “Man work others watching!” But the real point I am trying to make. When it comes to your heart and soul, you could place a sign out side of your home, bedroom, locker, cubicle, or office the sign with big bold letters so everyone can see “GOD AT WORK” because God is at work today in you so you will become all He longs for you to be.

Who am I? I am a work in progress…Praise the LORD!

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Sermon Excerpt: “Work Out Your Salvation”

Paul writes:” continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, …”

Don’t miss the profound truth of this statement. Paul did NOT say, “Continue to work for your salvation” he said, “to work out your salvation.” The difference between those two statements is huge. God does not expect us to work our way to heaven or into a right relationship with God.  God expects us to “work out” our salvation as if it was a “spiritual muscle.” When was the last time you “worked out?” I hope it was regularly. The old saying about the body is “use it or lose it.” I believe the same can be said of spiritual strength and vitality.

Sadly many of us, who live under the gift of grace, fail to realize the importance of spiritual disciplines and exercise. Take “love” or “faith” as examples. Some of us have the faulty notion that there is a limited reserve of “love” in our hearts and lives. If we love someone, then we diminish our ability to love someone else. We think our “love capacity” is like our gas tank in our car or SUV. When I love I have reduced my capacity to love. The reality is your capacity to love is more like a muscle—a “love muscle.” Have you been to a gym lately? Have you seen the young men and young women lifting weights in front of the mirrors? On a side note, what is up with the mirrors? That is a question for another time.

As they lift weights, are they reducing their strength or increasing their strength? At the moment they are exerting a great deal of energy, but in reality they are not making themselves weaker, but stronger. You want to make yourself weaker, and then spend a day in bed, and then another day in bed. According to some doctors, you lose 1% of your lean body muscle mass each day you spend in bed, so in ten days you would lose 10% of your strength, why because you did not use it. God designed our bodies to be parables of our spiritual lives. You want to be able to love more then “work out” your love muscle by love others, and if you really want to get strong—love your enemies!

Do you get the point, God wants us to “work out” our salvation. You probably noticed the statement “with fear and trembling.” So what is up with that? Does God want us to serve him out of fear and dread? Does God believe we do our best work when we are scared to death of him as if he was a raging authoritarian father watching over everything we say or do just waiting for us to mess up? I remember years ago my brother Tommy playing on a basketball team under a head coach who pulled his players everything they made a mistake. They played “scared” not good, and his team failed instead of thrived. No, God is not an angry coach, general or dad. The “fear and trembling” relates to the importance and significance of our work. Often as I prepared to baptize someone on a Sunday morning, I can tell from the look in their eyes and even the trembling of their hands that they are nervous and scared. I will often ask them if they are scared or nervous. Most of the time they nod with affirmation, and I will instruct them saying “That’s okay, you are nervous because this is important.” To work out our salvation with fear and trembling means what we are doing is important. I promise you tonight when the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals take the field in the fourth game of the World Series they will be a bit nervous because this is one of the biggest series in their lives—a game they will replay the rest of their lives—it is important, if they are not a bit nervous or scared they either don’t care of don’t understand.

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Aye Chihuahua!

Long time minor league slugger Brandon Allen woke up to the news that he would soon become a “Chihuahua”. Brandon has played for the Chicago White Sox, the Oakland A’s and the Arizona Diamondbacks and now the El Paso Chihuahuas. Without doubt chasing a baseball career can lead a player on a strange adventure.

When Mountain Star Sports announced this week the new mascot for El Paso’s new baseball team I must confessed I was a bit surprised, but as a Baptist minister the change from the “Diablo” to “Chihuahua” at least is moving in the right direction! The reactions from the city were mixed from smiles, excitement, and laughter and yes a possible law suit. You have to love living in El Paso.

I like the spin General Manager Brad Taylor put on the name saying of a Chihuahua saying they “represent fun and fiercely loyal.” Can you picture a pack of snarling Chihuahua barking and running straight at you? I think I am starting to get the point I just hope the Isotopes, 51’s, Zephyrs, Express and Red Hawks get the points. However in the big scheme of things it’s not the name of the jersey but the quality on the field that counts. Go Chihuahuas!

In a strange twist of fate the followers of Jesus were tagged with a name by the people of Antioch. Jesus called His earliest followers “disciples.” Other spoke of the early followers as “people of the Way.” The people of Antioch called the followers of Jesus “Christians.” Soon the name took and now it is the most common name for those who follow Jesus.

In a real sense the name could be taken as a complement because it suggests that the early followers of Jesus lived like their Lord, thus they were “Christians” or “Christ-like.” I hope this could be said about all of us. However, the name Christian does not capture the essence of our spiritual journeys. The name “disciple” does a much better job, and Jesus chose well.

A “disciple” is a learner, student, and apprentice. In a real sense we are called to be “lifelong learners.” In addition, the name indicated the vital relationship between rabbi and disciple, teacher and pupil, and master and apprentice. A disciple without a rabbi is a lost soul. We are nothing without Jesus.

“Disciple” also submits to and acknowledges the need for a teacher. Disciples are not self made men and women. No, disciples have the finger prints and marks of their masters all over them. Could this be way the people of Antioch called the disciples “Christians”?

During my days in Canyon, we spoke of “fully devoted followers of Jesus.” In many ways this statement captures the essence of discipleship. Discipleship starts in the heart and demands obedience. Jesus simply said to his earliest disciples “Come, follow me.”

Os Guinness, in his classic book “The Call” posed this penetrating question:

“Do you want to accept a challenge that will be the integrating dynamic of your whole life? One that will engage your loftiest thoughts, your most dedicated exertions, your deepest emotions, all your abilities and resources, to the last step you take and the last breath you breathe? Listen to Jesus of Nazareth; answer his call.”

My answer is YES!

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Walking with a Limp

The North Side Coliseum in Fort Worth rocked to the shouts of hundreds of rabid professional wrestling fans. Right smack in the middle of this madness was my fourth grade Sunday School Class. Our Sunday School teacher took us on an outing to witness the exploits of Fritz von Erich renowned for his “Iron Claw” and the Freebirds. Looking back on that night now some forty years later, I realize this stands out as one of the most unorthodox outings for a group of Baptist boys, but it was a night I can still vividly recall to this day.

As we exited the coliseum, we put each other in head locks and arm bars. Our heads will filled with the thrills of watching grown men throw each other around the ring as rag dolls. We even witnessed the class fighting outside the ring complete with smashing each other with metal folding chairs less than twenty feet from our seats. It matters very little us that it was more “show” than reality. To us it was a real as it gets.

One dark night Jacob found himself alone awaiting an encounter with his older brother Esau coming to meet with four hundred fighting men. Jacob had good reason to be afraid he had swindled his brother out of his birth right and his father’s blessing before running for the hills.

So what did the next day hold for him a glad reunion with his long lost brother or war? Sleep escaped him that long night as Jacob wrestled all night with a man sent from above to struggle with him. As the new day dawned, the man fought for freedom, but Jacob would not relent demanding “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

The wrestler asked a strange question. “What is your name?” Jacob gave his name. In response the wrestler declared: “You will no longer be called Jacob but Israel because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

In response Jacob inquired, “What is your name?” To which, the night wrestler replied: “Why do you ask me my name” and he blessed him there. In my mind’s eye the night wrestler knew Jacob should have recognized him.

The next morning, Jacob named the place of his wrestling match, “Peniel” saying “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” Yes, the night wrestler was none other than God himself.

In a strange twist of fate, the next morning Jacob stumbled away from his long night of struggling with a distinctive limp and a new name Israel—which literally means “he who struggles with God” or “God prevails.” Either way it is clear this new name reflected Jacob’s relationship with the LORD.

I suspect all of us from time to time have spend a long night wrestling with the LORD over circumstances, tragedies, or decisions in our path. During these “dark nights of the soul” we often learn things about yourselves, but more importantly things about our relationship with God. Jacob was wise to hold on for dear life with his night wrestler. Often, the most significant blessings of life come our way when we wrestle with God, even if we walk away with a limp.

 

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Preacher and the Presidents

In 2007, a classic book about the life and ministry of Billy Graham was released entitled “The Preacher and the Presidents.” The book brings to life the significant relationship that this great evangelist and spiritual statesman had on the public and private lives of the most powerful men on earth.

First Baptist Church of El Paso has a very similar tale, but its roots run much closer to home. Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th president of the United States has direct ties to the history and family of this historic church. For those who know the story of the birth of the church back in 1882, you would probably recognized the name “Baines” because the founding pastor of the church was none other than George W. Baines, Jr., a young courageous preacher to determined to found a church in the wild, wild West.

George Baines’ father was the bigger than life character George Washington Baines, who was a pastor, publisher, and Baptist statesman who at one point served as president of Baylor University. He took this post at a time of great controversy as the school struggled with the issue of whether or not to educate women back in 1861. Baines stood out as a great advocate of women’s education and served well as the president during the dark days of the Civil War.

George Washington Baines also played a huge role in the spiritual conversion of Sam Houston and his famous baptism by Rufus Burleson. Margaret Lea Houston had pleaded with her husband for years to choose to follow Christ, and finally one evening he agreed and opened his heart to Jesus, yet he still had serious reservations about being baptized. Just as Houston expressed those concerns his wife spotted Baines riding by their home on a horse. She ran out the door, begged the preacher to spend the night with them, and the next morning after a long talk Sam Houston agreed to be baptized.

The famous story goes that when Houston was baptized Burleson noticed the old general still had his billfold in his pocket and encouraged him to give it to a friend for safe keeping. Houston rejected the offer saying “No, I’m afraid not pastor, I believe it needs baptizing too!” George Washington Baines stood on the banks of Rocky Creek to witness this historic moment in Texas history.

 

As you can see Lyndon Baines Johnson, the president thrust into power by the deadly wounds suffered by the beloved John F. Kennedy in Dallas, became a great statesman and champion of freedom. Under his administration the dark evil of segregation began to lose its grip in the South with the passing of Civil Rights legislation. In addition, he led the nation to make significant changes in the immigration laws of the land. You can practically see the blood line of those Baptist preachers running through his veins and decisions.

This Saturday the Tom Lea Institute under the direction of Adair Margo, a long time active member of First Baptist Church, will present this story with the help of Dr. Patricia Witherspoon, Dean of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas El Paso. The title of the presentation will be “Master Persuaders, the Preacher and the President: George Baines and Lyndon Baines Johnson.”   I will be speaking on how George W. Baines influenced LBJ.

This event will begin at 11:15 a.m. on Saturday, October 12th downtown at the El Paso Community Foundation at 333 N. Oregon. This event and all the other ones this weekend are open to the public. For more information you should check out www.tomlea.net.

 

Never underestimate the power and the reach of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Its influence turns up in places you might never expect. As you can see it can move from the church house to the White House.

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