About Me

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Bedford, Texas, United States
Pastor of Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Bedford, Texas and former Professor of Old Testament. But mostly I am a husband of an amazing wife, father of gifted children, and servant of an AWESOME God.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Waiting on the Lord

There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven. (Ecc. 3:1, NLT).

I have often related to my students in class the importance and power of timing in all that we do in ministry. Now that I am in a pastorate, I find myself having to learn that lesson in practice that I already knew though my intellect. I see things that I would like to do, places I would like to go, and activities that I would like to implement - but I know that for most of those things, the time is not right yet.

One reason for waiting is that people are often not ready for change, and even when they are, you have to take it slowly and methodically. No one wants to be jostled too much, too quickly (including myself). But a bigger reason for waiting is the need to hear the voice of God in the route He would have us go. Sometimes the plans that we have in mind are more about us than they are about Him. Sometimes the plans are His, but the timing isn't right.

I am not one that believes that we need to walk on eggshells about the future and the routes we take. I believe that if we are doing what God desires of all of His people on a day to day basis (prayer, Bible study, evangelism, worship), our very desires will be shaped by that contact and so we can operate with confidence; both in ourselves and the fact that God will be with us. On the other hand, I also know that the Bible is clear that it is God who orders the universe and sets things in their proper time. On one level that is extremely liberating, but on another it calls for a certain degree of sensitivity to God's leading and a willingness to wait on the Lord.

I have no doubt that I will make mistakes. I have no doubt there will be times of resistance. What I hope is that in the midst of those moments, one of the things I can fall back on is the realization that I am doing things as God would have them done and in a Spirit of trusting Him for the outcome, and not my own skillful planning. God is good and His timing is perfect. I just have to stop every once in a while and remind myself of that!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Am I Worthy? Developing a proper view of the good God does.

Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. (James 1:17, HCSB)

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about being a place that I had never been before. I wondered what the future would hold and the impact that the uncertainty would have on my Christian walk and faith. I concluded by observing. "I know God has prepared me for this journey and that He is with me through it all. I just hope that like Saul, when I come out on the other side, I will continue to "grow more capable ([Acts] 9:22)" in His power and under the leadership of the Holy Spirit."

Tomorrow I start a weekend process of introduction with the members of Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Bedford - a process that will hopefully culminate with a call to be their pastor. I am excited about the situation, I am amazed at the opportunity, and I feel unworthy of the responsibility (which of course I am). From where I am sitting, this is a totally positive set of circumstances. Almost, too positive.

Yep, you guessed it. My analytical nature has kicked in and instead of reveling in the wonder of God's goodness, I find myself asking questions. Questions like, am I worthy? Not "Am I worthy" in the sense of do I deserve these blessings from God - the answer to that is clearly "NO!" But, does the fact that there has been no break, no blips, no concerns, and no problems in this whole process indicative of the fact that I couldn't handle such hardships? I mean we read that He will not give us a temptation that is more than we can handle (1 Cor 10:13), so does that then mean if a situation arises in which there would have been temptation, but then passes without the temptation manifesting itself, does that mean we couldn't have handled it so God kept us from it?

I'm just having fun here! I hear logic like that all the time from students and others - taking texts and statements in directions they were never meant to go. And, truthfully, my mind wanders in those directions all the time and has briefly taken the trip described above - not to the degree described, but enough to cause me to not be thankful for the good going on in my life. But then I realize how foolish that is, I praise God that He has blessed me in ways beyond my expectations and I find myself once again in awe of a truly awesome God. (Besides, even if I didn't have to go through it because He actually was protecting - that in itself would be cause for praise of Him, not disparagement of myself).

James tells us that the Father of Light is the source of all blessing. I believe blessing is everywhere. Our very existence is an act of grace and the sustenance of God is a blessing beyond description. The speed at which this process has occurred didn't really allow for the type of uncertainty I was expecting (uncertainty is present, but of a different sort), but I do believe that through this process I have certainly grown in the Lord and in my knowledge of Him. Among other things, I have learned to be more vigilant in preserving a thankful heart. My tendency is to doubt the good, but when I stop to realize that all the good comes from God, I soon realize as well that doubting the good is in fact an expression of doubting His goodness - and that my friends, is sin.

Though this part of the journey was not full of the stresses I expected, I know there will be difficult times ahead. I pray that the lessons already learned will allow me to see the good in all that comes and to praise God who is indeed the only one who is worthy!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Tale of Two Roads - Being Clear About Who We Are

“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket,a but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shinea before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven." (Matt. 5:14-16)

During our visit to Washington DC this week, we took two trips out of the city. For the first trip, we left Washington to visit some friends in Maryland. Though we attempted to follow the Google directions, few of the streets in Washington go in a straight path and they also change names frequently. As a result we ended up getting onto the thoroughfare to Maryland at a different place than the instructions assumed we would. Normally this wouldn't be that big of an issue, but this particular road is marked only sparsely and when it is marked it is only named by its common name, not its official name - not being from the area, we were never really certain we were on the right road. In fact, it wasn't until we had traveled for sometime that we finally saw the official highway name and could relax that we were in fact on the right path.

This road reminded a lot of the how the Church often functions. We too often lose clarity. Sometimes it happens when we assume people will know what we are about. We use the language of the culture, but we rarely speak about who we are and what we believe. As a result, strangers come in contact with us and the road seems beautiful and well traveled, but there is always an uncertainty as to exactly who we are, what we are about, and where we are going - we have exchanged "relevance" for the Truth that Christ has called us to and that the world needs to see. At other times we put up the signs, but we do so in a language that only the initiated and informed can read. When this happens, we might be able to say that we have been proclaiming who we are, but if those traveling our path can't make sense of our signs - what good are they?

A few days after our first trip we took a second. For this trip we were heading into Virginia. Interestingly, like the first route, the highway we were on changed names/numbers numerous times along the way, but this time, we never once doubted that we were on the right path. The reason for the difference is simply that every 10th of a mile there was a marker telling us exactly which road we were on.

This is how the Church ought to function. Time, culture and circumstance sometimes causes us to change paths methodologically - maybe to go by different names (like our brothers and sisters in countries where the Church is outlawed), or going in different directions (like some of the healthier cultural shifts that have occurred in the American Church over the last few decades). But in the midst of the changes we have to be clear in who we are - we can't assume people know what the Church is and become an group committed to entertainment with clarity or identity. But neither can we speak a language only we understand. Along the shifts and changes that we go through we have to clearly, and often, say who we are so that strangers who cross our paths know where they are and what (or rather Who) we are leading them too.

Jesus used the images of light, a city on a hill, and a lamp in a house to express the nature of His followers. Each of these images speak about clarity, faithfulness, and strength of position. The images are not about glory or fame - something the Church has often forgotten. As individuals and as a corporate body, let us all seek to be clear about who we are.

"And how is clarity to be achieved? Mainly by taking trouble and by writing [or existing] to serve people rather than to impress them." F. L. Lucas