Category Archives: Border Journal

Sermon on Human Trafficking: “The Buying and Selling of Souls”

So how much is a soul worth? I mean if you were going to buy and sell people—human beings—how much would they be worth on the free market? If you take the natural elements in your body Datagenetics calculated that your body itself would be worth about $160.00 give or take. However, one the bright side, if you want to sell of the parts of your body piece by piece to the medical industry according to Wired Magazine your body could be worth up to $45 million, but there is one big catch—you need almost all of your body parts to stay alive, so if you go through with this get rich quick scheme your children will actually be the ones who will get rich, so you might want to rethink your plan.

On a much more serious note, it is hard to imagine putting a price on a human being created in the image of God, but during the dark days just before the Civil War slaves were being bought and sold at the slave markets in the South for somewhere around $800-$1,600. Those sounds incredibly cheap, but mark that price up to today’s dollars, the average plantation owner was investing around $130,000 per slave. At those prices, you get a sense of why the South fought so hard to keep control of this market. You see the American slave represented a huge part of the infrastructure of the industrial/agricultural complex of the Deep South. They were the heart and soul of the plantation economy.

To end slavery our nation under the visionary and determined leadership of Abraham Lincoln fought the bloodiest war of our history. On battlefields like Bull Run, Vicksburg, Lookout Mountain, and Gettysburg and countless other encounters Johnny Rebs and the men and boys dressed in Yankee blue fought and died by the hundreds of thousands. During the Civil War 558,000 men and boys gave the full measure of devotion and died for what they believed in. To give some perspective 405,000 G.I. died during World War II.

You would think at that kind of cost, our nation would never allow even a hint of slavery to continue, not only within the borders of our nations, but in the world. Yet today, the ancient price of slavery is alive and well. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, the “Walk Free Foundation” of Australia estimates there are 29.8 million slaves today based on their survey of 162 nations. India leads the way with an estimated 13.9 million, and China ranks a distant second with 2.9 million. This modern-day slavery takes on many forces from human trafficking to force labor.

Sadly, the United States and Mexico find themselves on the list of nations with modern-day slavery. However, the forms in our two countries would be much different, much less obvious, but no less sinister. The U.S. Justice Department estimates 17,000 people may be bought and sold in the United States, most of them women, and sadly a large percentage are children. Many are runaways who find themselves willing to be treated as property for survival, and a large percentage of smuggled into our country illegally especially to be used in the sex trade industry.

Those being smuggled into our country are of special interest to us here on the border since our city in many ways is the “head of the snake” as we sit dead center in the middle of the I-10 Slavery highway. Boys and girls are practically smuggled into the United States for human trafficking each week across one of our international bridges where their “owners” jump on I-10 and head East toward Houston or West toward Los Angeles to deliver their goods.

Sadly some of them even stay here to be exploited. Less than two years ago, a massage parlor just over two blocks from our church was shut down by ICE agents to set free some young women who were being trafficked. I still remember the day of the raid, because the agents staged the raid out of our parking lot. I remember arriving at the office after going to the hospital and seeking several SUV with armed men dressed in black getting ready to make a raid. When I heard the news of what they were up to, it broke my heart to think that young women were being exploited in the shadow of our church.

If you live East Side you may be aware that this kind of criminal activity has been busted a local hotel near Yarbrough where young girls from Juarez were lured with promises of good paying job at fast-food restaurants in El Paso. In another sting, men presenting themselves as music executives lured young girls into the sex industry by promises to make them stars. As you can see the typical trap is a “lie” of a better life for a desperate young woman or boy.

I must admit after researching this topic, I wanted to take a shower. The underbelly of our society haunts me. Yet, as a biblical scholar, it does not surprise me. Sadly, even though we were created in the image of God, through our sinfulness and rebellion, we have created a sad state of depravity. In fact, some Reformed theologians speak of what they call “the total depravity of man.”

Recently I had the opportunity to teach a class for Howard Payne University on the book of Revelation. I must confess I entered this endeavor with a bit of trepidation. I did not then, and to not now consider myself to an expert on the book of Revelation, but I experienced what often happens to a teacher a great learning curve. One of the things that struck me about this amazing and mysterious book was the theology. John did an incredible job of presenting important theological truths in the bold colors of the images of the book.

As you may be aware, the book of Revelation came into existence after the Apostle John had an amazing encounter with the Lord Jesus on the island of Patmos. During this vision, Jesus opened his eyes to the future and more importantly to the spiritual struggles in the world around him. John found himself on Patmos as a punishment for his preaching of the gospel, and like many believers of his day was suffering physical persecution for his faith. So in the midst of his suffering, the Lord pulled back the curtain to show him the struggle of the soul of the world on a grand scale. He opened John’s eyes to the “big picture.”

In the book of Revelation, there is a city that represents everything that is wrong with the world today. The Revelation chooses to use the symbolic name “Babylon” to describe this evil city set in direct opposition to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of God.  In a real sense “Babylon” had declared war on God and the Kingdom of Heaven. Babylon also revealed where sin and selfishness would lead any nation at any time in the history of the world, when that nation or city took its eyes off of God.

I suspect for those who read the letter of Revelation in the first century, the natural interpretation of this symbolic city would have had to be Rome and the decadent Roman Empire. In the 18th chapter, you find the great whore of Babylon falling under the judgment of a holy God. No longer would the capitol city of evil incarnate rule and reign. God was going to shut it down. God was doing to put it out of business. The people who loved Babylon, watched in horror, as she melted away right before their eyes.

In a very intriguing passage, John describes this scene, and his description stirred my heart this week as I considered the situation we are facing today. He wrote:

“When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. 10 Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry:

“‘Woe! Woe to you, great city,
    you mighty city of Babylon!
In one hour your doom has come!’

11 “The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes anymore— 12 cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; 13 cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and human beings sold as slaves.

14 “They will say, ‘The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your luxury and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.’ 15 The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn 16 and cry out:

“‘Woe! Woe to you, great city,
    dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet,
    and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls!

 At first glance on the things that strikes you from the images is the fact that the destruction of Babylon will come so suddenly. One moment she appears invincible the next she will be consumed in flames. In other words, a nation or empire may appear to be indestructible, but if that nation or empire lays its foundation on evil and the exploitation of people, it will fall and its fall will be sudden and complete.

However, the point I wanted us to see this morning is the insightful description of Babylon at its best and worst. Babylon lured the kings of the earth into her chambers by offering the riches of the world. As the merchants at the World Trade Center stood and watched in horror, they witnessed the destruction of the riches of the world. What a list you see there. You see everything from the finest of gold and silver, to spices, to valuable wood, to horses and carriages, but don’t miss the end of the list. John points out that Babylon buys and sells “human beings”—men and women, boys and girls.

To paint the picture in even darker colors, he literally wrote they bought and sold the “souls” of human beings. It was not just their bodies, but their souls that were on the block. To drive home the point of the decadence of this dark city, note that the human beings were at the end of the list. Any good Jewish and ancient writer learned to list things from best to worst, most valuable to least valuable. Do you get the picture in Babylon the souls of men and women were at the bottom of the list—practically worthless in comparison to gold and silver.

In Jesus’ day, He confronted the fact that poor desperate people were considered practically disposable. In Matthew 9 as Jesus moves through the towns and villages, Matthew wrote:

 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38  (Matthew 9:36-38 NIV)

 I must confess this is one of my favorite texts because I am deeply moved by Jesus and His compassion. When Matthew wrote the people were “harassed and helpless” the word he used for helpless could practically be translated “disposable.” In other words, the people who moved the heart of Jesus were worthless to practically everyone else. When a nation moves away from God, people become of little value. Much like much of the electronics of today, we don’t repair televisions and dvd players, we just throw them away and get new ones. People today are being disposable.

Over the break I read the book “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine” by Michael Lewis about the recent economic disaster of the subprime mortgage and credit crisis just a few years ago. In the book he pulled back the curtain to reveal how the big Wall Street banks sought to make a huge immediate profit on the backs of the poor by loading them down with debts they could never pay, and selling them houses they could not afford and would eventually lose. These multimillionaires could care less about the lives of the poor and middle class who would suffer the burden of the greed. I could see Babylon all over the story.

We live in a day when the rich keep getting richer, and the poor keep getting poorer. Alarmingly history time and time again warns nations and empires that if you build your empire on the backs of the poor there will be a day of judgment and it will come suddenly just like the crash of the financial markets in 2007-2010.

In these vivid verses in Revelation, Jesus reveals to John that heaven will not sit back and watch this kind of treatment of human being with indifference. God will get involved, and ultimately the great city of Babylon will fall and will be consumed by fire. In the days of John, Rome for all practical purposes appeared to be invincible, but it fell. It died from the inside out. Every great empire that took its eyes off God fell. You want to know the mark of a nation that has sold out to the lie of Babylon—what how that nation treats the people on the margins. If it uses people like property and buys and sells the souls of men and women, boys and girls, that nation or empire will burn one day. You can write it down.

Clearly if you are in this room this morning you stand in direct opposition to the values of the great whore of Babylon. You, like your Father in heaven, treasure every man, woman, boy and girl created in the image of God, but what can we do about the plight of the people—especially the desperate people.

It starts by caring enough to get involved. Pay attention, if you see a young girl who is dress provocatively and seems to be under the control of an older man make not of where she lives, and pass the word on the authorities. Most victims of human trafficking live where they work. They rarely if ever travel alone. They rarely speak for themselves. They live in fear. Here on the border, probably their “owners” or “pimps” have threatened them with turning them over to the authorities, or worse their families to the cartels. They have drugged them and abused them. They need people who care enough to get involved. Open your eyes, and pay attention.

On a more practical level let’s slam the front door to the problem by helping those around us who need help. Get involved with our children’s and youth ministries. Participate in Upward’s basketball. Be a volunteer at the after school programs in cooperation with our Downtown Church Connection or go out the Machuca Apartments and join our apartment ministry team. You may not be able to stop this dark reality but you can make a difference in the life of a child. As you get involved, please be sure to share Jesus.  I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only real hope for our society and for those trapped on the margins. When someone is born again, nothing is ever the same. Get your hands dirty, be prepared to get your heart broken, but get involved and share Jesus. We can change the world.

You have probably heard the classic story about the man who was taking a walk along the beach one early evening and in the distance he saw a boy stooping down, picking up something, and hurling it back into the ocean. He imagined the boy was chucking rocks into the ocean, but as he neared the boy he realized he was actually tossing starfish back into the ocean that had washed ashore.

The older man thought he would teach the boy a lesson since the beach was littered with hundreds of starfish by saying, “Son, look around there are hundreds of starfish on the beach and if you could imagine that this beach represents hundreds of other beaches along the seashore. There is no possible way you can save all these starfish.”

The boy frowned and reflected on the wisdom of the old man for a moment, and then bent down picked up a starfish and tossed it in the ocean. He then turned and smiled saying: “I made a huge difference to that one!”

 I love the way Mother Teresa the champion of the poorest of the poor used to say it:

“If you can’t do great things do little things with great love. If you can’t do them with great love, do them with a little love. If you can’t do them with a little love, do them anyway. Love grows when people serve.” 

 I don’t know about you I don’t want to live in Babylon, I want to live in El Paso. Let’s get busy loving—love can change the world.

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Keep on Giving

A young mother stands in a long line at Wal-mart around four p.m. on Christmas Eve. Her basket bears a number of small toys and gifts obviously for toddlers and small children. In addition, she has loaded in a few luxury items like a quart of eggnog and Christmas cookies, but as she waits she appears to be counting her cash against her purchases to make sure she has enough.

At one point, she reaches into the basket and takes out a small toy and places it on the rack of magazines and candy. There just isn’t enough money to go around. As she counts her currency again to finalize her count, and older gentleman steps up and smiles. He leans over and whispers, “I hope this helps your family have a merry Christmas” while he slips a one-hundred dollar bill into her hand. As quickly as he appeared he disappears into the crowded store.

The young mother stands there speechless. A tear creases her cheek as she looks around to say thank you, but her “Christmas angel” is gone. Her lips turn up with a smile and she reaches out and takes the “lost” toy back from the magazine rack and places it back in the basket. Christmas came early, even before Santa Claus had time to make it from the North Pole to her apartment.

God, our Father in heaven, gave the first and best Christmas gift of all wrapped up in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. The wise men traveled from afar and after worshipping at the feet of the toddler Jesus opened their treasures of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Who knows maybe the little drummer boy really did play a concert for the infant king? Christmas equals giving.

In the book of Acts, Paul shares his heart with his dear friends in Ephesus before his departure for Jerusalem. He sensed deep down in his soul that this would probably be his last time to talk to his companions.

Interestingly, his final comments revolved around a statement of Jesus uttered only from the lips of Paul and not found in the four gospels. Paul declared:

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” (Acts 20:35 NIV)

 Jesus nailed it. Giving beats getting any day of the week, and twice on Tuesday! Several years ago I overheard a press conference with Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church in Orange County California. He spoke about the addiction of “greed” in our American culture. At that point, Warren pointed out to the secular media that the only antidote for greed is “generosity.”

Let me encourage you to be generous this Christmas. Generosity appears at Christmas in all kinds of shapes and sizes. For some of us who have far more than we need, we need to give freely and widely. For others of us who struggle to make ends meet, our gift may be time, a listening ear, a hug, a smile, or a whispered prayer. All of us can give this Christmas, so let’s get caught up in the spirit of Christmas by giving just like our Heavenly Father does.


Giving will cost you something of value, but what you will receive in return will be priceless. Merry Christmas!

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Lee Moor Stampede

On your mark, get set, go, and the runners were off. The first wave took off like deer scampering across the open plains while the rest of the runners followed like a slow moving winding river. After the first mile of the” Lee & Beulah Moor 11th Annual Run/Walk for Families in Crisis” at Sunland Park on Saturday, June 1st the ranks began to thin. At the two mile mark a few of the faithful slowed to a jog and even a handful began to walk with labored breathing.

At the finish line bands played, cheerleaders shouted encouragement for the runners to finish, and the finish line loomed huge in the distance. There is nothing like the feeling of finishing the race no matter where you in the standings—because it is finally over. For the First Baptist Church team the finish line crowned seven winners among a team of winners.

Last Saturday, the First Baptist Church team of runners and walkers fifty-six strong under the leadership and organization of our team captains Chuck and Priscilla Myers won a huge trophy for being the largest team at the fund raising event that helps to undergird and support the ministry of the Lee & Beulah Moor Children’s Home.

In addition to being the largest team, Team FBC was also the most decorated with seven members winning metals for their age groups. Since my wife Robyn was one of the winners, I will reframe from revealing the ages, but the winners were Chuck Myers, David Vidales, Rebecca Page, Dana Davis, Shawn Kelley, David Valle, and Robyn Lowrie.

I want to congratulate one and all for their involvement. Those of us who participated on this beautiful June morning had a great time for a great cause.

The Lee & Beulah Moor Children’s Home has always held a special place in the heart of First Baptist Church because our own Madge Watson served as the director of the home for many years. In recent years this relationship has been renewed by the visionary ministry of Dan McGlasson and our student ministry team that has reached out intentionally to the children of the home week in and week out.

Twice a month somewhere between twenty-five to forty of the children, youth and house parents of the home attend our Sunday morning worship services. Many of the youth from the home participate in practically every aspect of the life of our youth ministry from camps to mission trips. This relationship with the children and youth of the children’s home is one of the most important partnerships of our church in El Paso. I was thrilled to see our church turn out in force to show how much we love and care for these children, besides it was a lot of fun!

Making a difference in the life of a child means the world to Jesus. In fact He said:

“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me…” (Matthew 18:5 NIV)

The Team FBC made us all proud at the Lee & Beulah Moor Run/Walk not so much for all the metals won, nor the trophy. No, they made us proud because they took the love of Jesus outside the stained glass windows of our church and gave of their time and treasures for a great cause—touching the lives of children in the name of Jesus!

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We Blew Up City Hall! Reflections about Change

Many residents of El Paso will mark down Sunday, April 17, 2013 as a historic day in the life of their fair city. With all the fanfare of a circus coming to town and the contrasting mourning of a grieving family the people of El Paso will witness the implosion of City Hall to make way for a new professional baseball stadium.

It just so happens that just about the time Jim Cleaveland our minister of music strikes up our praise band for praise and worship the ground beneath our feet will tremble and City Hall will crumbles to a pile of rubble. If the city council had only asked Jim could have had our praise team march around City Hall seven times and bring it down with the sounds of electric guitar, drums and the shouts of the praise team just like the walls of Jericho.

If I could time my message perfectly to the blast, can you imagine how powerful an impact my preaching would have if I shouted, “God is trying to get your attention…do you feel it?” Then just as my words settled over the crowd a resounding blast exploded in the distance and the ground beneath our feet rumbled?

Needless to say, Sunday will be an exciting time to be downtown. Hundreds and probably thousands of people will make their way into the heart of our city to see the spectacle. The Interstate will become a parking lot, and vantage points for the historic blast will be prime spots.

For instance the Doubletree Hotel just blocks from City Hall will be offering a getaway weekend package that includes dinner and breakfast with a breathtaking view of the demotion. Their marketing team entitled the weekend festivities “Dreams to Reality” package.

Of course their dreams make up the nightmares of those who fought tooth and nail to save City Hall. Sal Gomez, leader of the Coalition for Responsive Government, told the El Paso Times: “I consider it a funeral. I feel like I have to say some parting words and bid farewell.”

Whether you embrace it or fight it change will be in the air Sunday just as thick as the cloud of dust that will blow over our city.
In many ways, the demotion of City Hall stands out as a vivid parable about life. There are times when remodeling and renovation just will not do. In fact, life often demands paradigm shifts of seismic proportions. The old must give way to the new.

Jesus confronted the traditionalists of his day who could not embrace the fresh winds of the Spirit blowing by saying:

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” ( Matthew 9:16-17 NIV)

Old wineskins get hard and brittle with age. New wineskins stay soft and pliable ready to swell and change. Hard brittle hearts shatter while pliable hearts expand. How is your heart? Are you ready to grow and change? I hope God does not have to use dynamite to get us ready to change!

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A Smile through a “Cardboard Window”

Juarez: God surprises you with joy from the most unexpected places. A few days ago I found myself holding up a wall being nailed into place on a Casa por Cristo house build. Holding things up and carrying things fell squarely in the middle of my skill set as a carpenter and builder.

Since it does not take a great deal of mental energy to hold up a wall, I began to look around at my surroundings. I found myself standing in a small neighborhood that was less than thirty minutes from my home on the Westside of El Paso yet I was in a community that looked like a “third world” country. Even the home we were building would not have running water nor indoor plumbing. It would be a simple secure two-room home what would be closer to camping than what we consider a normal standard of living.

Way too often we fail to appreciate the amazing wonders of life in the United States. Our poor would be the rich just across the river in some neighborhoods in Juarez.

However, God reminded me that Jesus nailed it when He declared: “Blessed are the poor for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” Happiness or blessedness bubbles up in the most expected places. As I was holding up the wall I noticed I was being watched through a peephole torn in a piece of cardboard serving as the window of the neighbor’s home. At first I saw the dark brown eyes peering out. Then as she lifted her face and realized that I had spotted her I saw a big toothy smile, and finally a small hand reached out of the peephole and waved at me. I waved back, but made sure I kept one hand in place lest the wall fall down!

A simple smile and a happy wave reminded me the priceless treasure of joy. In this neighborhood that most would consider poverty I found friendly smiles radiating from the faces of the little ones. Whether it was the children who sat and watched us work in wonder or the young boys who pitched in and helped us stucco the walls of the little house.

A few years ago I found myself wandering the streets of the Magic Kingdom in Orlando trying to reconnect with my girls. As I scared the sea of faces looking for the familiar faces of my children I was stunned to see so many frowns. I saw frustrated parents arguing with the children over soveniers. I saw teenagers with arms crossed tired of waiting in line for their minute and a half of thrill on a roller coaster. I saw workers’ whose minds had checked out while they went about their mininal tasks. So much for a “Magic Kingdom”–Disney World sadly reflected the emptiness of our pursuit of happiness in all the wrong places.

In a simple yet powerful way, God taught me to smile and enjoy the simple pleasures of life because it is there that I gain a glimpse of His face in a child.

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“B Strong”: Braden Aboud Memorial Foundation

Sunday morning the streets of the upper valley of El Paso swelled with runners and walkers, young and old alike, on a quest to finish the course and make a difference in the lives of others. Over 7,300 runners participated in the “B Strong: Branden Aboud Run Walk.” The money raised by this event this year will put new shoes on the feet of needy children, will provide scholarships for graduates of El Paso high schools, and will provide grants to touch and to change lives.

Gary and Cindi Aboud turned their own personal tragedy into opportunity to be a blessing to others. Their son Braden died in a tragic skiing accident when he was twelve years old. His untimely death broke their hearts in a way that only a parent can know. Yet they discovered that often times God uses broken hearts as channels of blessings to others. Healing of a broken hearts comes by helping others.

Braden’s classmates decided to honor his memory with a run/walk to raise funds for others, and soon the Aboud’s took over this event and transformed it into one of the most significant foundations in the nation targeted at meeting the needs of children. With my own eyes I have seen the smile on the face of a Franklin High graduate who held in her hands a scholarship provide by the vision of the Aboud’s. I have also seen in the paper Gary’s smiling face as he tied the laces of a brand new pair of tennis shoes on the feet of a student who probably could not remember the last time he had a new pair of shoes.

Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and glorify your faith that is in heaven.” Too often I fear that the followers of Jesus do most of their work behind the safety and isolation of stained glass windows. Gary and Cindi demonstrate that we can often do our best work out in the community as we collaborate and cooperate with boys and girls, men and women who are willing to give of themselves for others.

The Psalmist sang:

“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning..”

The children of El Paso thank God for a family that transformed their weeping into joy by loving others. A family that turned their sorrow into an opportunity to touch and change the world.

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Andy Stanley: Separate of Church and Hate

This week at the pastors luncheon of the El Paso Baptist Association, we viewed a sermon by Andy Stanley entitled aptly “Separation of Church and Hate.” Stanley waded into the complicated world of religion and politics with courage, insight and a light of hope for those of us who have struggles with how to be good citizens of both the United States and the Kingdom of heaven.

From my perspective the church loses it prophetic voice when it gets too entangled in the political systems. When the church begins to be colored by the politics and platforms of one political party or another the church is the big loser.

I resonated with Stanley’s observation that for too long church leaders have been more interested in “making a point rather than making a difference.” When we get drawn into the debate by one side or the other for their political gain we cheapen the “grace” we offer, and we lose our ability to say “thus saith the Lord.” Besides, we are not going to win America by winning debates or having better sound bites.  As Stanley observed about Jesus:

“Jesus refused to be dragged into debates that took away from the primary issue…”

We will change America when we embody the gospel and let our light shine into the darkness.

Jesus lived in a highly charged political world. He was a revolutionary but not within the halls of apparent power, but rather in the hearts and lives of common ordinary people who began to live less than ordinary lives by following Him with absolute abandonment. Along these lines Stanley quoted an old African American preacher who said of Jesus:

“I am not here to take sides…I am here to take over.”

Yes, Jesus came to take over but not the halls of power, but in the hearts of people. We would be wise to follow His example at the local, state, national and international level. Never underestimate the power of the gospel, the reach of the local church, and the scope of the Kingdom of God. Real change marches on. Don’t settle for making a point–let’s sell out to making a difference one life at a time, one neighborhood at a time, one city at a time.

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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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To Stand Before God

Leonard Ravenhill said:

“To stand before men on behalf of God is one thing”

“To stand before God on behalf of men is something entirely different.”

These statements by Ravenhill shook me to my foundation as a pastor and leader. I fear that after many years behind the pulpit that I have forgotten the holy calling to stand before men on behalf of the Lord, but my greater fear is that I have underestimated the vital importance of standing in the gap for those I love and serve.

One cannot take lightly the critical importance of intercession on behalf of the people. The words of Ezekiel haunt me. He wrote:

“I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.” Ezekiel 22:30 NIV

I pray the Lord will find us faithful on our knees in the gap for our land.


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Only 1904?

This week the El Paso Times reported that there had been ONLY 1904 homicides in Juarez in 2011. Simply put that means ONLY five people a day died on the bloody streets of Juarez last year. This statistic only reminds me how dark the reality is along the border. Sadly, in 2010 there were 3117 homicides so over 1,000 less people lost their lives last year, but we still have so far to go.

As I read this report I was reminded of the words of Habakkuk the prophet to Judah. He cried out to the LORD saying:

2 How long, O LORD, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
4 Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted. (Habakkuk 1.2-4 NIV)

Often the name of a prophet gave a glimpse into his life and message. The name Habakkuk in Hebrew means “to embrace.” For many scholars this appeared to have nothing to do with his situation, but as I listen to the cry of this godly man, I hear a man “embracing” the reality of the world he lived in.

Probably in his day he wrestled with the unlikely and tragic death of Josiah on the battlefield pierced by the flying Egyptian arrows. Habakkuk tried to make sense of why God would allow the wicked king Jehoiakim to reign on the throne after Josiah had called the nation back to God.

We continue to pray for God to bring justice and righteousness to our valley. I am thankful the violence has slowed, but I will not be satisfied until children can walk the streets without fear, and parents no longer hide at night behind steel bars.

Of course one lesson from the prophet we all must embrace is God does not always work in the ways we expect him to work.  We all must learn to trust His ways and His timing!




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