Category Archives: FBC El Paso

Color Outside the Lines

As an oldest child I learned and loved to color inside the lines. Following the rules always made perfectly good sense to me, let’s face it you do what mom and dad say and you will not spend much time with the “board of education” if you know what I mean. For the younger generation, the “board of education” would be the equivalent of “time out” on steroids, plus it hurt.

Following the rules has its place, especially if you are in charge of a preschool class, but I have also learned that at times coloring outside the lines makes for a much more vivid and beautiful world.

Let me introduce you to a very unlikely hero. When she was in school she told her friends that the D. in her name stood for “devil” and some of them believed. She would often attend church services to poke fun at the preacher and his sermon while her friends giggled. While attending a Christian school she skipped chapel twenty-six times (at least) and as a child would often sneak out of church and go home to read Shakespeare instead of Psalms. Let’s face it at Christmas time, good old Saint Nick would put her name on the “naughty not nice” list. So who is the young lady who loved to color outside the lines? You will probably be surprised? This little “devil” grew up to become one of the great names of the Christian faith. You know her as Lottie Moon, her parents named her Charlotte Diggs Moon. Yes, little Lottie Moon who only stood 4’3’’ tall casts a shadow that still shapes the world today.

The fact that even after Lottie Moon put her faith and trust in Jesus as her Lord she continued to color outside the lines inspires me to this day. She followed hard after Christ with a passion and abandonment that rocked the world she sought to change. Her passion for adventure and her courageous spirit changed the face of China and has a lasting influence today some two hundred years after she died aboard a ship in the harbor of Kobe, Japan on her way home on Christmas Eve 1912.

So how did this little missionary cast such a big shadow? I suspect she took to heart the admonition of Jesus which states:

“Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:17 ESV)

Yes, even Jesus our Lord recognized the value of coloring outside the lines.

Let me share with you a couple revolutionary changes little Lottie inspired and pursued. First, she believed the daughters of God could change the world. She believed girls could make a big difference in the world and not just in the kitchen. Lottie Moon was born into a world where too often women were seen but not heard, but God had given her a voice and she used that voice to glorify God and to preach His gospel. Yes, I used the word preach, but I have to be honest, one of the reasons Lottie loved China revolved around the freedom she found there to preach and share Jesus. From baking cookies to start conversations to going door to door talking about Jesus, Lottie could not be kept silent. I hope my girls grow up like her!

Second, Lottie realized that to enter the Kingdom of God you did not have to become an American, or take on the styles and customs of Western civilization but rather one must follow Jesus. Upon arriving in China, she began to dress like the Chinese, eat like the Chinese, and live like her friends and neighbors so they would soon come to realize Jesus came for all the nations of the world. Her methods were controversial, revolutionary, and powerful. It is little wonder after her death, the Woman’s Missionary Union named its Christmas Offering for International Missions after her.

This year when you give to the Lottie Moon offering realize you make it possible for another generation of missionaries to color outside the lines for the glory of God.

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Daily Affirmation: Psalm 37:4

Teenagers enjoy such an interesting and at times inspiring perception of life. Of course, they are just old enough to think they get it, and too young to realize they know far less than they think. During my teenage years I began my spiritual quest in earnest. I longed to silence the secret struggles of my soul with passions that seemed to be strong than my will, and to find a peace that could sustain me in the relentless pressure to mold myself into the image designed for me by others so I could fit in and be “happy” like everyone appeared to be.

One day in my devotional time or “quiet time” as Larry Sims, my youth minister called it, I stumbled across a verse in Psalm that appeared at first glance to like finding a credit card with an unlimited balance to be used to satisfy my wants and whims.

The Psalmist wrote:

Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4 ESV)

At first glance through the depth of the eyes of a teenager, it appears the LORD had just promised me anything I wanted if I long to delight in Him. Immediately I had visions of a new car to replace my 1967 American Rambler that did not even have a radio, and a beautiful girlfriend on my arm who laughed at my jokes and thought I was truly amazing as she hung on my every word with a glow on her face. I could already see her beautiful long hair blowing in the wind as we drove to school in my bright red Mustang convertible. I even looked good in my new preppy clothes like the guys in the magazines besides my voice lowered and I actually had stubble on my baby face. At least for a few minutes I enjoyed the fantasy, but down deep inside it seems to be a bit shallow and out of step with the Jesus I had come to know who called me saying, “Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow me.” Where was I going to put my cross in my new convertible?

At this point, I suspect the Holy Spirit nudged me back to reality and I look a bit closer at the text, and found treasure beneath the surface. If I delight in the LORD with all my heart and soul how in the world would I be satisfied with play things when I could have the real deal a close, personal intimate relationship with my creator and God–my Savior and LORD. Yes, it dawned on me that those who delight in the more receive more and more of His presence, power, and glory in their lives. They see His fingers prints all around them, and the long for His voice and the guiding touch of His Spirit.

Even as a doubt teenager enslaved by hormones I decided I wanted more than the toys, and I wanted the treasure hidden in the field. I wanted more and more of Jesus in my life. This desire though often distracted by the glitter has not wavered. I still long to experience life as it was meant to be by delighting in the LORD.

So today, choose to delight in the LORD and open your heart and eyes to witness Him filling you with more and more of His presence and power. Don’t settle for the toys when you can enjoy the lasting treasure of His smile.

 

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I Do

This week as I struggled to go to sleep at night I kept hearing wedding bells. You may ask how did I know they were wedding bells…they sounded just like all my money being drained out of my bank account! Yes, the bells sound like the old cash register bells for those of us who carry AARP cards.

This year I gave up reading scary statistics especially after I read the average wedding in America last year cost $29,858. (Just in case you are wondering…no, we will not be spending that much money on Jamie’s wedding…if I can help it…and yes, you are going to get the Baptist special at the reception…cake and peanuts).

On a more serious note, I am having a hard time believing my little girl Jamie Leigh is all grown up and getting married. I am having an even harder time realizing she is marrying Jordan Villanueva…a young man I helped hire to be an intern at our church. If I had known what was going to happen when I met him…I would have interrogated him hooked up to a lie-detector, but you have to hand it to him. He loved Jamie enough to risk his job and his life to date her!

I must confess I have officiated at least one hundred weddings over the years, and weddings still scare me just a bit. Everyone shows up at the ceremony excited and nervous. The bride has dreamed of her perfect wedding since she was a little girl reading fairy tales. But what really scares me is the mother of the bride, and this time I am married to her!

Many years ago, Groucho Marx quipped: “I was married by a judge…I should have asked for a jury!” After the wedding Jordan may feel the same.

Jamie and Jordan have decided to write the own vows. I think that is so romantic. I can hardly wait to hear their vows of love to each other, but to be frank I had been working on a special set of vows for Jordan. After thirty-three years of marriage and twenty-five years of protecting little Jamie from boys, I had a few things I wanted to say to him.

Shortly after I became the father of girls, I considered joining the D.A.D.D.—“Dads against Daughters Dating.” I loved their slogan. “Shoot the first one and the word will spread.” However, since I do not own a gun, I decided that black leather King James Version Bible would be my sword of choice!

So back to Jordan’s vows, as I reflected on them I remember the only advice my father-in-law gave me when Robyn and I got married. He looked me deep in the eyes peering into my trembling soul and said, “David, just don’t ever buy a black and white television set without talking to your wife.” You know what? I never have– his advice continues to be priceless.

So what would I ask of Jordan. I want him to love her with all his heart. I want him to realize his responsibility will never be to fully understand her, but to love and cherish her all the days of his life. I want him to fall in love with her over and over again. I want him to put her needs above his.

I want him to keep lighting up her face like he does now. I want him to keep on sharing his heart and life with her and talking to her long into the night while listening closely to her dreams and fears. I just want him to keep on loving her like he did to capture her heart. Obviously I may be asking just a bit too much, but don’t forget Jordan will have help from above.  Jesus is the greatest “love doctor” of all.

A number of years ago, YouTube captured a father of the bride giving his final word of advice to the groom right before the ceremony. He spoke of how time and time again God had answered his prayers for his little girl. I loved and identify with his closing remarks. He said, “Me and God’s worked hard—so don’t screw it up!”  See you Saturday at the church at 2:00 p.m. Do you hear the bells too!

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Sounds of Heaven

Do you think there will electric harps and drums in heaven? For centuries one of the classic views of life in heaven sadly revolved around sitting on clouds and playing harps. (If asked I would prefer playing golf…like Jordan Spieth if possible).

This classic idea of harps in heaven can be traced back to Revelation 14 when John witnessed the 144,000. He reported what he saw as follows: “ And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps,  and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders.” (Revelation 14:2-3 ESV)

John Bunyan captured this idea and portrayed Christian and Hopeful entering the Heavenly City and greeted with harps and crowns in his classic allegory Pilgrim’s Progress.

“Practicing heaven on earth” remains as one of my favorite mottos when I speak of the life and mission of our church. Much of the time when I think in these terms, I think about the wonderful diversity of life within our family. Just as in heaven every nation, language, and tongue will gather around the throne. When our church family gathers we increasingly reflect the glory of heaven in the faces of our people. A few weeks ago on International Sunday, we had over eighty (80) people stand acknowledging their births in other homelands like Mexico, China, Kenya, Japan, Korea,  Taiwan, Columbia, Lebanon, and Arkansas! (I was just kidding about Arkansas—sooie pig).

Let’s be honest, we may not all be playing harps or singing in a heavenly choir, but I cannot imagine heaven without music. Will you dream with me about the glorious sounds and harmonies that will resound in glory? That being said, there have been moments when I have felt caught up to glory but never during a sermon. It has always been through music. I can close my eyes right now and feel the music washing over my heart and soul like a wave of ecstatic joy.

If we seriously intent to “practice heaven on earth” we need to pull out the hymnal, the guitar, the piano and yes, the organ and sing—or at least make a joyful noise.

Over the past ten years, Jim Cleaveland has invited us week in and week out into the throne room of God through worship and music. God has used him to pull back the veil, and to usher in the glory of God among us. As you know, Jim will be retiring August 9 of this year, so our Personnel Committee began a search to find the one uniquely gifted to take on this mantle.

This Sunday morning, Elvin Porflit will be coming in view of a call to be our new minister of worship and media. Many of you may already know and love Elvin, Julie and their children since they have been part of our family for years. Elvin accepted our invitation to be considered after seventeen years as the choral director of Jefferson High School where he has led some of the most outstanding choirs in our region. In addition, Elvin has had the opportunity to lead worship and participate in many of the great congregations of our city like Del Sol and Coronado Baptist Church.

As I stand back I marvel at the process, it has amazed me how God uniquely prepared Elvin to step into this role of leadership having served under Ron Bowles and Jim Cleaveland and grown up among us. He knows and loves our church. He knows and loves our city.

We will be hosting a time of questions and answers with Elvin and Julie on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. in the Wolf Conference Center, and we will be voting on his call at the end of each of our morning services. I hope you will join us as we “practice heaven on earth” and sing until heaven comes down!

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Go Enjoy the Adventure

We arrived just after dawn, which can be incredibly early for a teenager, to make the trek from Fort Worth to El Paso for our annual River ministry mission trip. I must admit I did not sleep very well the night before being kept up by the excitement of going on a mission trip as a fifteen year old preacher boy. This would be my first mission adventure and I could hardly wait, but we all had to wait because as usual one of our team arrived just a bit late because he oversleep which was clearly evident by the state of his hair!

After a quick prayer for travel mercies, we hit the road to the sounds of Bachman Turner Overdrive blaring “Taking Care of Business.” Remember this was the ‘70’s and contemporary Christian music was still in diapers, and it was far too early in the morning to sing hymns.

I will never forget that first trip to El Paso. I remember we drove, and drove, and drove. I distinctly remember stopping for lunch in Midland convinced El Paso rested just over the horizon, but to our shock we had many more miles ahead of us across what appeared to be a lunar landscape. Upon arriving, we checked into our hotel. Unfortunately our reservations had been messed up by clerical error since computers barely existed, so our youth minister had to assign me along with two buddies to the “honeymoon suite” with a heart-shaped tube, and yes, a mirror on the ceiling above the bed. You can’t make this stuff up!

Early the next morning, we easily crossed the border into Juarez, and as I remember we made our way into a poor neighborhood complete with tiny frame homes made with shipping pallets. After a series of twists and turns we arrived at a small frame Baptist church building that would be our base of operation for the week. I remember wondering how we would connect with the children for our Vacation Bible School, but God answered that question rather quickly. As we unloaded, the children started appearing, and soon after we started kicking the soccer ball the yard of the church was filled with smiling happy faces. I did not know what they were saying, but I quickly discovered a smile and a hug can be translated into any language.

Over the course of the week, I witnessed the power of God and felt the sweet winds of the Holy Spirit at work. In the evening when we gathered for worship and preaching of the gospel, I witnessed boys and girls, and moms and dads giving their hearts to Jesus. I can still close my eyes, and relive the moment.

At times I wonder about those children, who today would probably be between 45-55 years old, how their lives were changed because of a band of teenagers who spent a week with them. I suspect only in heaven will I truly ever know the impact on their lives, but to this day I remember the impact on my life. I learned to love God more deeply, to trust Him more fully, to share His love in simple ways, and to trust the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives.

This week, our church once again has been given the privilege to take the “GO” from the Great Commission and to make it our marching orders. Eighty-eight (88) of our students and sponsors traveled to Moore, Oklahoma to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the people of “tornado alley” who saw their lives twisted by the devastating impact of tornadoes. Through actions of compassion and kindness—and hard work—our students reminded those around them Jesus loves and cares for them deeply.

Meanwhile, University Baptist Church of Fort Worth sent twenty-three (23) friends to the border to join volunteers from our church to take the good news to the streets our valley. Much like my experiences from years ago, little boys and girls learned that Jesus really does love them, and so do we.

If you want to follow Jesus, let’s face it, “GO” will need to be part of your vocabulary and more importantly your lifestyle. Go and enjoy the adventure of following Jesus!

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The Child in Me

The sentry at the door must have fallen asleep, because on Monday morning I turned around and realized our church facilities had been invaded by a band of little human beings with small hands, small feet, short arms, big smiles, quick tears, hungry minds and open hearts. At first the sensation overwhelmed your senses especially your hearing, but once you realized the little ones meant you no harm their joy was contagious.

If you have not read between the lines yet, I am describing a week of Vacation Bible School at your local neighborhood church. For decades VBS has breathed life into churches old and young, big and small, because children have a God-given ability to bring back wonder and mystery into old dusty places in our hearts and minds. That is why I believe Jesus loved to hang out with children, and children always seemed to be nearby offering their sack lunches, crawling up in his arms, or responding to his healing touch.

One day Jesus’ band of followers quizzed him with what they considered a deep theological question. Sensing a bit of their own superiority and begging for a complement from their Master they asked:

“Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

I can see them sitting back waiting for the applause of heaven because of their courageous wisdom in choosing to follow Jesus at all cost, Jesus surprised them. To their shock and amazement instead of calling one of their number to his side, he motioned for a child—a young boy—to stand sheepishly in their midst.

Looking deep into their hearts and souls Jesus uttered the most stunning words saying: “Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3 NIV)

Don’t miss the obvious point, Jesus warned them about their assumptions of greatness when they were in danger of missing heaven altogether. True greatness starts by simply getting into the Kingdom first, and entrance starts with taking on the trust and innocent devotion of children.

This week I have enjoyed a crash course in the joys and wonders of the Kingdom of God in the faces of children. Children, big and small, share an incredible openness to the Spirit of God. They embrace wonder and mystery with innocent abandonment.

Let me share a couple of glimpses of this abandonment to God. Marsha, who led them in worship which consisted in a wonderful blend of aerobics, joy, singing and rhythmic choreography, shared with me that her heart swelled watching the children sing with all their hearts and souls. There was no looking around to see who was watching, they sang, moved, and experienced worship in the moment.

Fast forward, I am walking by a pew, and a little hand reaches out and grabs mine. I look down into bright eyes framed by little glasses. As she peered into my heart, she smiled and whispered, “I want to be baptized” with the innocent boldness of a child. I wish my “wanting” was so pure.

A frazzled teacher shared with me about her struggle to tame a herd of little boys. I reminded her little boys need a firm loving hand to guide them. You see children learn best with love wrapped in firm boundaries. In fact we all do. Jesus sees the child in all of us— so smile, sing, dance, and believe your way into His Kingdom.

 

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Heroes

Growing up as a typical boy I must confess I had my share of heroes. Of course many of them emerged from the world of sports like Baltimore Oriole Brook Robinson with his golden glove, and Jerry West of the LA Lakers with his sweet jump shoot, and Dallas Cowboy fullback Walt Garrison with his grit and determination.

 
Like most boys of my era I was drawn to the heroes of the black and white television in the living room or on the silver screen like the Lone Ranger, the Rifle-man, Daniel Boone, and my favorite, Sheriff Andy Taylor, who could keep Mayberry safe and secure with wit and wisdom and no need for a firearm on his hip. Needless to say these were actually imaginary heroes. I could look up to them, and immulate them but it was not likely I was ever going to become a foot-ball star or crime fighter.

 
No, my real hero, the one I knew better than any other was my dad. Like almost every child I know, my dad started out as my hero and remains my hero to this day. The truth is dads have the corner on the market for being heroes in the eyes of their children. It is a place God gives us at birth without earning it. In fact, it is ours to keep until we prove time and time again we cannot carry the burden of being looked up to by our children.

 
I fear we underestimate the significance and importance of fathers in the lives of children both young and old. When there is a dad in the house, children are less likely to drop out of school, get in trouble, end up in poverty or worse, in prison. Little girls wait for the right man and don’t give themselves to the wrong boys who would use them and toss them aside and little boys grow up to be responsible, hard-working and trustworthy.

 
Put a dad in a house, and God has a good chance at living in the hearts of his children and mom does not have to take on the role of Wonder Woman. Yes, a dad in the house can make all the difference in the world.

 
In my case, my dad had all the qualities of being a hero but not because he was the best preacher I ever heard, nor because he was respected and admired in circles far and wide. No, my dad was my hero because of how he loved me and my brothers. His in-vestment in my life followed by his consistency at church and at home.

 
One of my fondest memories was as an older teenager hiking up Lowrie mountain deep in the back woods of the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee and looking at the rumble of my dad’s childhood home, that was none other than a log cabin with no electricity or running water. Yes, my dad actually was born in a log cabin on the side of a mountain. Needless to say, we had very little opportunity to complain about the trials and tribulations of suburban life !
The writer of Proverbs got it right when he observed :
Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers. (Proverbs 17 :6 ESV)

Father’s Day waits just over the horizon, so to the dads out there—THANK YOU—you really are heroes in your own way. I cannot imagine where we would be today without your strong steady influence for good. Keep up the good work. We need you.

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