Thursday, December 06, 2007

Life in Church Today

I had a church member who sent me some very humorous cartoons about life in church today and I couldn't resist passing them along. I hope you enjoy them.












Tuesday, December 04, 2007

David Kinnamon's "UnChristian"

I commented on Kevin Bussey’s blog the other day in which he reviewed David Kinnamon’s book, UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity and Why it Matters, that I had already ordered the book before reading his review of it. My copy arrived in the mail today and I’ve been challenged by some of the things Kinnamon reports in the second chapter entitled, “Discovering Unchristian Faith.” He observes for example the radical shift that has taken place in just a decade in terms of “a growing tide of hostility and resentment toward Christianity.” Whereas a 1996 Barna study revealed that 85% of “outsiders” as he describes non-Christians at that time were favorable toward Christianity’s role in society, a decade later in 2006 almost 2 out of 5 (38%) of young outsiders claim to have a bad impression of present-day Christianity. One-third of young outsiders state that Christianity represents a negative image with which they would not choose to be associated.

The statistics on outsiders’ perceptions of “born-again Christians” and “evangelicals” revealed a negative stance as well. While over half of young outsiders were neutral toward “born-again Christians,” 35% had a bad impression and only 10% had a positive impression. The term “evangelical” generated far more negative response. Almost half (49%) had a bad impression of evangelicals, with 48% being neutral, and only 3% viewing them positively. Most associated evangelicals with political activists.

Kinnamon argues that the primary reason outsiders feel hostile toward Christians isn’t based on theology but a negative reaction to our “swagger”—how we go about things and project an image of self-importance. Probing further into the reasons for such hostility, Kinnamon states that “it is clear that Christians are primarily perceived for what they stand against. We have become famous for what we oppose, rather than who we are for.” His words echo those of current SBC President Frank Page shortly after his initial election to office in the 2006 annual meeting in Greensboro, NC. At that time Page said, “I believe in the Word of God. I am just not mad about it. Too long Baptists have been known for what we are against. Please let us tell you what we are for.”

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book but thought I’d give a brief synopsis of Kinnamon’s main argument in the early chapters.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Wonderful Christmas Story

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Mike Ruffin's story of The Advent Calendar. I highly commend it to you for your reading enjoyment as well.

Word & Way article

The Baptist General Convention of Missouri publishes a page in each edition of the Word & Way, one of two Baptist state papers in Missouri. The Word & Way is one of the five institutions being sued by the Missouri Baptist Convention. Those of us on staff with the BGCM alternate in writing articles for the BGCM page in the Word & Way and it was my time to do so again this month. I thought I'd share as a post the article that will be appearing in the upcoming edition of Word & Way.

As residents of the United States, we sometimes mistakenly assume that everyone celebrates Christmas just like we do, but that is far from reality. Allow me to briefly share some Christmas traditions in places we have lived and served as missionaries. In Costa Rica, the traditional Christmas Eve meal has to feature tamales. They’re not the long, thin style tamales that are associated with Mexican food, but large, square tamales wrapped in banana leaves. In Argentina, you could forget about going to bed early on Christmas Eve because the whole neighborhood erupted with fireworks at midnight that carried on for more than an hour usually. The stores would stock mountains of loaves of pan dulce (which translates as sweet bread). It resembled fruitcake, but despite its name, it wasn’t very sweet. In Mexico, families re-enact the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem and their search for suitable lodging once they arrived in the town. They go from house to house singing a song to request lodging. The Mexican children don’t receive their presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but on Dia de los Reyes—Kings Day—which falls on Jan. 6th and commemorates the arrival of the Wise Men bearing their gifts.

One of the challenges for missionaries living south of the equator is that the Christmas season falls in the summertime and not the winter. It took us a while to get used to celebrating Christmas in 90+ degree heat, but we learned to adapt. The fact is that missionaries have to be fairly flexible individuals, for despite the best orientation and preparation one can have before traveling overseas, invariably things are never exactly like you anticipated that they would be. When one’s best laid plans are frustrated by forces beyond anyone’s control, flexibility becomes a great virtue. Just as it would be a mistake to assume that everyone celebrates Christmas as we do, so too we would be wrong to presume that everyone around the world shares the same mindset or worldview that we do as North Americans.

A great way to gain a broader perspective on the rich variety that exists in our world in terms of cultures, languages, traditions, religious beliefs, and so many other variables is to participate in a missions trip. You will not only obtain a more comprehensive understanding and appreciation of other peoples and their cultures, but you can make a difference in someone’s eternal destiny as you allow the Lord to use your giftedness to touch lives with the truths of the gospel. A wonderful place to consider going on a missions trip is the beautiful country of Guatemala. It’s relatively close to the U.S. (just a short three-hour flight from Dallas), and the people are warmly receptive and welcoming. The BGCM’s partnership with the Guatemala Baptist Convention provides us with some wonderful opportunities to minister alongside Baptists in that country to impact their nation for Christ. I hope that you’ll prayerfully consider how you and your church might plug in and become directly involved in a hands-on missions trip with our Central American partners. Please pray for Owen Taylor and me as we travel to Guatemala in January for the third in a series of leadership training events for pastors and leaders in the western region of the country. I’ll also be leading a group from our church in February to work with three Baptist churches in the town of Cantel in that same area.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Reflections on Aging

I received Billy Graham's recent newsletter (Nov. 2007) today and wrote some reflections on it for our monthly Senior Adult newsletter which I thought I'd share in the form of a post.

In a recent newsletter, Billy Graham was reflecting on his wife Ruth’s passing and his own recent health struggles. He also shared some thoughts about aging, saying that while the process is challenging, many have learned that it can be a wonderful part of life. He goes on to quote Calvin Thielman, a pastor of Graham’s family in Montreat, NC for many years prior to his death, who frequently said, “The longer you live, the more like yourself you become.” I found that statement to be rather intriguing. “The longer you live, the more like yourself you become.” I think that means that over time, the habits that we’ve adopted become established patterns in our lives. Our true selves are revealed as we grow older.

There is a popular saying that bears this out. “As the twig is bent, so is the tree inclined.” We become who we are down through the years as we repeatedly think similar thoughts and engage in the same or similar actions. The Scriptures also testify to this same truth when it comes to parenting and raising our children. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). That verse offers hope for those who have sought to raise their children to know and love the Lord and live in obedience to Him.

The great hope we have is that God never ceases to actively work in our lives by His Spirit and through His mercy and grace to conform us to the image of His Son. We’re a work in progress that won’t be finished until God calls us home to be with Him or Christ returns. I was amused by Billy Graham’s remarks about the epitaph on Ruth’s tombstone. She had seen a highway sign years before that caught her attention and requested that its message be inscribed on her grave marker. The marker stone for her tomb bears these words: “End of construction. Thank you for your patience.” Indeed, thank the Lord that He is patient with us as He molds and shapes us into the likeness of Christ.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Miscellaneous musings

I officiated another funeral this past Saturday morning for another church member. This has happened far too frequently of late in our membership. This man's case was particularly hard in that he had been in the hospital the previous week with heart problems; they did a heart catheterization and placed a stent to help with the blockage in one of his arteries. All was progressing well and he had been given his official discharge papers from the hospital. He had called his son to come and take him home and was dressed and waiting in a chair when he slumped over. The doctors could not resuscitate him. They said that a clot had formed and lodged in the stent.

On a brighter note, this past Sunday our church hosted Pastor Euticauls from Nairobi, Kenya. He is a local pastor there and the head of the Kids' Heart Africa project that our church is financially sponsoring to assist children in one of the poorest slum areas of the city to obtain an education, receive at least one good meal per day, and to hear about the love of Christ. He preached a great message, emphasizing the change that takes place when we meet Jesus. He took his text from Luke 24 and the Lord's encounter with the 2 unnamed disciples enroute to Emmaus.

I watched my youngest son perform in his high school musical production of "Little Shop of Horrors" on Friday and again yesterday afternoon. I skipped the Saturday evening performance in order to babysit my two grandchildren while my oldest son and his wife went to see the performance. Grandkids are one of God's greatest inventions.

Plans are progressing for two more trips to Guatemala early next year. I'll be heading back in January for another round of pastoral leadership training classes and a meeting of the Guatemalan Baptist Convention leaders hosted by WorldconneX. Then it's back down there the following month to work with three churches in the town of Cantel, doing a VBS, and providing leadership training for their children's workers. Our minister of children is helping to organize the workshops while I'll be helping with logistics, translation, etc.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Words of Wisdom from an Episcopalian Priest

Thanks to my colleague Brian Kaylor for linking to this outstanding article from an Episcopalian priest. His words constitute a strong rebuke to those whose focus is on denominational politics and infighting rather than meeting the needs of those who come to church on a spiritual quest for God.

Here's my favorite quote from the article: "Teach people to pray. Not to fight about prayer, but to sit, stand, kneel, bicycle or skydive in the presence of God."
Here's another great one: "Teach people to study the Bible. Not to take sides in the stale posturing of biblical partisans, but to read ancient words and to build bridges to modern life, and then to be transformed by a God who has never lived in a box."

I hope you'll click on the above link and read the entire article. It's well worth it.

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Lesson from George Foreman

Most of us probably know George Foreman best as the good-natured spokesman for the popular electric grill that bears his name. Foreman was born in Marshall, Texas in 1949 and was a high school dropout. He joined LBJ’s Job Corps program and along the way discovered a talent for boxing. Foreman won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Mexico City in 1968. Five years later, with a professional record of 37 wins and no losses, he knocked out “Smokin’ Joe Frazier” for the heavyweight title. Foreman lost his title the following year to Muhammad Ali in the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” fight in Zaire, Africa. Foreman retired from boxing three years later and became a minister. A decade later, his millions from prize fights gone, he staged a comeback, becoming the oldest heavyweight champion ever when he won back his title on Nov. 5, 1994 at the age of 45.

Foreman’s tenacity in reclaiming a title far past the normal age of a boxer deserves recognition. While some might question his sanity, no one can question his heart. Some Christians as they grow older are content to rest on their laurels and leave the work of ministry to folks younger than themselves. My prayer is that the Lord would give us a passion for serving others and a willing spirit to engage in meeting the needs of others for as long as He sees fit for us to live. “Nobody grows old by living a number of years. People grow old from lack of purpose. Years wrinkle the skin. Lack of purpose wrinkles the soul” (Author unknown). Let’s resolve to live as people with a purpose.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

How does one define single alignment?

Can anyone help me here? I’m struggling to understand the latest action taken by the Missouri Baptist Convention regarding the issue of single alignment. A year ago, the MBC ousted 19 churches because they were “guilty” of supporting a rival state convention in Missouri, either by including them in the church’s budget or by sending messengers to the annual meeting of that convention. Mechanisms were put in place whereby the Credentials Committee (which assumed new powers as a standing committee to meet throughout the year as necessary) could receive reports from concerned Baptists about the dually aligned status of other Missouri Baptist churches and conduct the necessary investigation to ascertain the truth of those charges. It seemed that the state was in for a witch-hunt of sorts as Baptists could denounce another church as failing to comply with the requirements of being singly aligned with the MBC.

I didn’t attend this year’s annual meeting of the MBC as our church was one of the 19 that were ousted last year, but I have read some reports by bloggers on the proceedings as well as reading the PDFs of the daily business reports posted on the MBC’s website. I was fascinated by the report of the Credentials Committee included in the Tuesday morning business report. Not only were there no new churches targeted for dismissal, but it seems that the committee has had a change of heart regarding their policy (if I’m reading this correctly). The first point of their report recommended offering grace to those affiliated churches who had made no contributions to the MBC in the previous year, allowing their messengers to be seated. The second point was that one that left me perplexed. The recommendation reads, That the messengers of the 2007 Annual Meeting of the MBC authorize amending the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Credentials Committee Rules and Procedures to state, “any church which contributes to the work of the Missouri Baptist Convention through the Cooperative Program on at least an annual basis shall be ‘singly aligned’ with the Missouri Baptist Convention.”

My question is whether or not this effectively reverses the earlier position taken by the MBC on single alignment, or if this is simply a wording change to clarify what types of contributions count in terms of financial support, i.e., those given through the Cooperative Program. The wording itself, taken as a stand-alone statement, would indicate that any church (including those supporting another state convention in Missouri) could be considered singly aligned as long as they make a financial contribution at least annually to the MBC through the Cooperative Program. I find it very hard to believe that this is what the Credentials Committee meant to communicate, because it directly contradicts the earlier language that insisted that single alignment prohibited contributions or sending messengers to a rival state convention in Missouri.

Can anyone who attended the annual meeting give some clarification on this? I doubt that the churches that were ousted last year are chomping at the bit to jump back into the fold. The ongoing lawsuits against 5 Missouri Baptist institutions continues to channel millions of Cooperative Program dollars into the hands of lawyers, despite the MBC’s initial claim that no CP funds would be used to finance the lawsuits. There is also the issue of encroaching legalism and the ever-tightening definitions of what it means to be an acceptable Baptist in Missouri. Perhaps the recent elections indicate a positive trend away from that mindset, but the jury is still out on that in my mind.

The Quest for Fame

It seems that our society is increasingly obsessed with those who have obtained celebrity status. Whether it’s the television and print media featuring the latest “news” about the struggles of Paris Hilton or Britney Spears, the legal battles for the custody of Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter, or the latest exploits of O. J. Simpson, people seem fascinated by the lifestyles and antics of the rich and famous. The racks near the checkout stands of any supermarket are filled with magazines that feature the latest gossip about Hollywood stars or those who are prominent in politics or sports. There appears to be an insatiable appetite to keep up with the lives of these individuals.

Jake Halpern, author of the book Fame Junkies, notes that a motivation for the obsession with fame is the basic desire we all have for attention. One of the troubling things Halpern observes in his book is the extent to which young people will go to achieve fame—spending thousands of dollars to modeling agencies and to compete in talent contests, while the great majority of them will never attain the recognition they are seeking. I want to suggest that the drive for acceptance and attention that underlies the search for fame is a basic need we all share. Perhaps the unhealthy extremes that some folks demonstrate in this area are the product of insecurity and not having received the love and support of family members or other significant people in their lives.

While most of us will never experience the fame that comes from being a celebrity, we can all know the love and acceptance that are found in a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The Lord isn’t impressed by our accomplishments, nor does He evaluate us according to our performance on a scale of good behavior. He loves us as we are—unconditionally—and He accepts us into His forever family with all the accompanying rights and privileges. Wouldn’t you agree that that’s a far better deal than the fame that comes from winning a talent contest or having one’s image plastered on the cover of a magazine?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Neville Callam visit

There were a few glitches, chief among them being a missed airline connection, that formed the backdrop for Neville Callam's visit to our church on Tuesday evening, but the end result was a powerful worship service and a great message by Dr. Callam. Dr. Callam and Alan Stanford of the North American Baptist Fellowship were at the airport in time in Washington for the flight but somehow didn't get checked in on time and were told they couldn't board the plane when they arrived at the gate, even though the plane was still there. To make a long story short, they caught a later flight that arrived at the Kansas City airport at 6:50 p.m. The service was scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m. and the drive takes about 45 minutes if there's no traffic. Our minister of education was gracious enough to volunteer to pick them up and shuttle them back to church. Jim Hill, the executive secretary of the BGCM, made a few adjustments to the program on the fly while we awaited their arrival.

Our church's orchestra and choir did an outstanding job with their portion of the music and then we were blessed by the music of an African American choir from Kansas City. They had sung previously at the BGCM's annual meeting last year when Anne Graham Lotz was our keynote speaker and they're absolutely wonderful. We were able to download one of the BWA promotional pieces from the Internet to show before Dr. Callam's arrival, and then were greatly blessed by his message.

He spoke on Jesus' words "Fear not" and related them to the fears he and Alan had experienced through the day with the problem of a missed flight, the anxiety over possibly not arriving in time to speak, etc. He went on to tie that same theme to the BWA's work in the world in the areas of evangelism, humanitarian aid, religious liberty, and support for those being persecuted for their faith. Dr. Callam is a highly articulate man with a winsome nature and displayed a thorough grasp of the Scriptures in the brief message he brought. If you have the opportunity of attending one of the services where he is being introduced during his 2 month tour of the U.S., don't pass up the chance to hear him.

Monday, October 15, 2007

An Emotional Wringer

I spent years 6 through 12 of my boyhood growing up on a ranch in South Texas that was owned by my maternal grandparents. We lived some 200 yards down the lane in our own home, but would spend the afternoons after school visiting with them until my folks got home from work. On the screened in porch of the home was an old-fashioned washing machine that consisted of little more than a tub and a wringer with a hand crank to extract as much water as possible from the clothes before hanging them to dry on the line. Neither they nor we had a clothes dryer at the time. The last month or so has kind of felt like being wrung through that clothes wringer emotionally.

We have a 22-year old in our church who was in a terrible accident a month ago today. He was in ICU until just this past weekend when he was moved to a private room. His car rolled over multiple times and he suffered brain stem damage as a result. He is breathing on his own for longer periods of time than before, but is basically still unresponsive and in a coma. We're praying for a miracle of healing for him. His mom directed our ESL program for many years and his dad is the drummer in our church orchestra and praise band.

Last Monday we had a record since I've been on staff here in terms of the number of members hospitalized on a single day--a total of 8. Many of them have very serious health conditions, though some are improving slowly. One man was recently discovered with an inoperable brain tumor and they are only giving him a couple of weeks to live.

This afternoon I sat by the bedside of my secretary from church as she finally lost her battle with cancer. Her homegoing was peaceful, and her last breath came right as we finished listening to a recording her daughters had made for her of "Because He Lives." I thought God's timing was impeccable. She's free from the suffering and pain of the last several weeks, and for that we rejoice, knowing she's in the presence of her Savior, but the heartache is still real. I've been asked to preach her funeral message this coming Friday. Jeanne was an outstanding Christian and I hope to honor her memory in an appropriate way as we reflect together on her life lived in the service of God and others.

I share this to say that my absence from the blogging world (at least in terms of posts) is largely due to some of these pastoral responsibilities that have been mine in recent weeks. I trust that if you're reading this, you'll say a prayer for Jeanne's family and for me as I prepare her funeral message.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

WorldconneX announcement

I had mentioned after my recent trip to Dallas that some important decisions and deliberations took place and an announcement would be forthcoming from WorldconneX about those. The latest issue of the Baptist Standard carries an article with information about WorldconneX establishing a fund to facilitate churches sending their own missionaries to the field.

At least one blogger has already mistakenly jumped to the conclusion that WorldconneX is in opposition to the IMB (see comment #15 in the string), but Bill Tinsley in the same Standard article above makes clear that WorldconneX is not a deployment agency. It is seeking to help churches fulfill their calling of sending out their own missionaries.

In a day when many churches are awakening to their potential to directly engage in international missions through the many connections their members already have overseas, this step by WorldconneX is a timely and welcome one.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Time for a New Job

No, not me! I'm very happy with where the Lord has led us. I'm talking about the employees of Florida Power & Light. Check out their working conditions at this link.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Humorous Newspaper Ads

I was working on an introduction for a sermon that I'll be preaching this coming Sunday evening from Matt. 9:35-38 about Jesus seeing the multitudes, viewing them with compassion, and urging His followers to pray for the Lord to send forth workers into His harvest. I've not finalized the title of the message, but had tentatively called it "Help Wanted: Workers for the Harvest." I was looking for some unusual help wanted ads to use in the introduction and stumbled across some very funny ads on a website that purportedly have appeared in print in different media. Here are some of the most humorous of the bunch. I hope you enjoy them.

Dinner Special -- Turkey $2.35; Chicken or Beef $2.25; Children $2.00.

Now is your chance to have your ears pierced and get an extra pair to take home, too.

We do not tear your clothing with machinery. We do it carefully by hand.

Have several very old dresses from grandmother in beautiful condition.

Dog for sale: eats anything and is fond of children.

Mt. Kilimanjaro, the breathtaking backdrop for the Serena Lodge. Swim in the lovely pool while you drink it all in.

Man, honest. Will take anything.

Man wanted to work in dynamite factory. Must be willing to travel.

UsedCars: Why go elsewhere to be cheated? Come here first!

Wanted. Man to take care of cow that does not smoke or drink.

Auto Repair Service. Free pick-up and delivery. Try us once, you'll never go anywhere again.

Illiterate? Write today for free help.

We will oil your sewing machine and adjust tension in your home for $1.00.

Mixing bowl set designed to please a cook with round bottom for efficient beating.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dr. Callam's Visit to our Church

In the summer of 1995, we were making plans to return to the U.S. from Argentina for our second furlough. We had spent our initial furlough in the Dallas-Ft.Worth area as it was near my parents and also where we had lived for ten years during seminary. We opted to come to the Kansas City area for our second furlough to be close to Jason, our oldest son, as he began college at the UMKC Medical School. Before we left though, we had the unique opportunity to spend some time attending the Congress of the Baptist World Alliance that was held in Buenos Aires the week of Aug. 1-6.

The BWA meets once every five years in a different site in a celebration they call a “Congress” that brings together Baptists from around the world. The BWA is an outstanding organization that unites a very diverse group of some 38 million Baptists from more than 200 different unions and conventions worldwide. The week of the meeting in Buenos Aires was one of the coldest we’d ever experienced in that city and the delegates who had come from Africa were woefully unprepared clothing-wise for the bitter cold. Local churches took up collections of coats and blankets to help visitors stay warm during the meetings. The impact of seeing Baptists from around the world worshipping God as they sang praises in their native languages was a bit of a foretaste of what I believe heaven will be like.

Our church has the wonderful opportunity of hosting a meeting on October 16th at 7:00 p.m. in our sanctuary to introduce the new general secretary of the BWA, Dr. Neville Callam. Dr. Callam is from Jamaica, and is a direct descendant of slaves who were taken there from the African country of Ghana. In an interesting twist of history, Dr. Callam was elected to the BWA’s highest office this past summer in Ghana, the very place from which his ancestors had been taken as slaves. If you live in the Kansas City area, I hope you’ll make plans to attend the service on Oct. 16th. Our own choir and orchestra will be leading in worship. The BGCM website has a promotional poster about the event that can be downloaded and printed to share the news with others in your church or faith community.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Previous Week in Review

I apologize for the lack of any posts this past week, but it was a rather busy week for me. I got up in the wee hours of Monday morning (3:30 a.m.) to catch an early flight to Dallas for a meeting of the board of trustees for WorldconneX at a hotel near Love Field. This was my initial meeting with the board and it was a good time, meeting with folks who have a passion for missions and even some who have shared a very similar pilgrimage as mine in terms of service with the IMB and subsequent resignation over the BF&M 2000 issue. It was great to see a former missions professor of mine, Dr. Justice Anderson, and also to get to visit with Dr. Albert Reyes, former president of the Baptist Univ. of the Americas and now working with Buckner. There were some important deliberations and decisions made during the two-day meeting, but I don’t want to preempt the official news release of some of those so I’ll just wait and direct you to the appropriate channels when those become official.

On Tuesday afternoon, I was able to meet with several folks who participate in the Guatemala Affinity Group, a loosely-knit group of churches and institutions who are actively involved in missions work in Guatemala. We met at the WorldconneX offices and shared updates of what our individual ministries were currently engaged in doing in Guatemala. It was a helpful gathering with some good interchange of ideas and networking taking place. I caught an 8:30 flight back that night to Kansas City and got to observe a beautiful lightning display as thunderstorms were active out to the west.

I had planned on working just Wednesday this past week, but wound up going in on Thursday morning as well as most of the other staff were scheduled to be out of the office. My wife invited me to travel with her to the Lake of the Ozarks for a conference for speech teachers that she was attending on Thursday through Saturday. It was held at a very nice resort hotel in the town of Lake Ozark and we enjoyed a nice boat ride on Thursday night on the lake. I’ve never seen such extravagant yachts as those that were moored at the marina there. I glanced through a magazine listing prices of some that were for sale and found prices as high as $700,000 and many in the $200,000 - $300,000 range. That blew me away. I had no idea that folks paid more for a boat than we’re paying for our home.

On Friday evening we skipped out on the banquet and drove the 2 hours to Springfield to be with our 3rd son, Joshua, for an activity that he has been planning for several months. It was a benefit fundraiser for the Children’s Miracle Network. They held a dance marathon from 9:00 p.m. until 9:00 a.m. and had more than 100 university students dancing. Each had raised pledges to support the work with kids who face some very serious medical challenges. Several families were there on Friday night to share their stories about their struggles and progress in combating these health issues. Josh had hoped to raise around $10,000. He was ecstatic when the totals were announced the next morning--$16,742.00. We helped serve pizza, drinks, ice cream, and snacks until about 1:30 when we left to drive back to the resort, getting in around 3:30 a.m. It was a short night, needless to say. Annetta Marie wrapped up her conference and we got home that evening around 6:30 or so. It was a tiring, but enjoyable week with a change in scenery and activities from the normal pace around here.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Do You Know Your Theology?

Do you know your Theology?

Who was the 3rd man in history to walk on water?
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The 1st one was Jesus.

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The 2nd was the apostle Peter.

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Then there was this guy Jose...

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Neville Callam, General Secretary of the BWA, to visit us

In recent days, the topic of the Baptist World Alliance has surfaced a few times as some bloggers have questioned once again why the Southern Baptist Convention voted initially to defund the organization and later to withdraw from it. Some have pointed out the discrepancy and inconsistency between accusing the BWA of theological liberalism based upon its loose ties with some organizations while giving the SBC a free pass when it also partners on specific social issues with a number of groups that could hardly be described as conservative evangelicals. My contention has been from the outset, and I believe the facts undeniably support this, that the SBC’s defunding and withdrawal from the BWA was a direct consequence of the BWA’s decision to admit CBF into its ranks. The supposed charges of liberalism and anti-Americanism leveled against the BWA ring very hollow and cannot be demonstrated to be true.

I would appeal to those in the Kansas City or St. Louis area who are interested in receiving firsthand information about the BWA to come and meet Neville Callam, the newly elected General Secretary of the BWA. Our church, First Baptist of Lee’s Summit, has the privilege of hosting a meeting on October 16th to introduce Neville Callam and the vital ministries of the BWA to interested Baptists and other fellow Christians. Callam will be in the St. Louis area the following day at Fee Fee Baptist Church in Bridgeton. I’ll be attending a planning meeting tomorrow afternoon to finalize some of the details of Callam’s visit and will pass those along in a later post. In the meantime, I wanted to share the dates so that hopefully those who happen upon my blog will be aware of this wonderful opportunity to meet and hear from the head of this group that brings together some 38 million Baptists from around the world. It's always the better part of wisdom to form an opinion about someone or an organization based upon firsthand experience rather than hearsay. I hope many will take advantage of the opportunity to do just that with Callam's visit to Missouri.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A Doubting Mother Teresa

Perhaps you’ve heard or read some of the recent commentaries on the release of Mother Teresa’s diaries. In them she describes what other authors have at times called “the dark night of the soul.” It seems that she frequently struggled with doubts and periods of time in which she felt no assurance of God’s presence with her in her labors among the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. Some, predisposed to reject the notion that God could possibly be at work in the life of a Roman Catholic nun, have seized upon her words as evidence that her faith was invalid or worthless. That might make them feel more self-assured about their own brand of faith, but it is more of a commentary on their own smugness and self-righteousness than it is a valid critique of the tireless efforts of Mother Teresa to have a positive impact in the life of the hurting masses in one of the world’s major cities.

While the diaries may well reveal a woman who struggled at times with her faith, that shouldn’t be the basis for doubting her commitment to Christ nor for denigrating the tremendous contributions of her life. Here are just a few quotes from her that are worth pondering.

"I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world."

"I do not pray for success, I ask for faithfulness."

"I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much."

"In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."

"Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work."

"There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in - that we do it to God, to Christ, and that's why we try to do it as beautifully as possible."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Margaret Mead Quotes & Reflection

We publish a monthly newsletter for our senior adults here at church and I always write a column for that. I don't believe I've ever shared the contents of any of those on my blog, but thought I'd pass along the one for September.

I ran across several interesting quotes by Margaret Mead recently and thought I’d pass a few of them along. “Of all the peoples whom I have studied, from city dwellers to cliff dwellers, I always find that at least 50 percent would prefer to have at least one jungle between themselves and their mothers-in-law.” “The solution to adult problems tomorrow depends in large measure upon how our children grow up today.” “What people say, what people do, and what they say they do are entirely different things.” “Women want mediocre men, and men are working hard to be as mediocre as possible.” And here’s my personal favorite of the bunch: “Prayer does not use up artificial energy, doesn't burn up any fossil fuel, doesn't pollute. Neither does song, neither does love, neither does the dance.”

That last statement started me reflecting about the ways in which we express our spirituality and our joy. Prayer clearly is a vital communication link that God has blessed us with that allows us to share our deepest feelings, needs, and desires with Him, as well as interceding for others, confessing our sins and shortcomings, and praising and thanking Him for His goodness and mercy. The gift of song and music inspires us as few other mediums can. There is practically nothing that compares to the power of a song to lift our spirits, give voice to our beliefs, or proclaim our love for God and others. A lullaby can soothe a restless child and help him or her to sleep. A majestic choral anthem can carry us into the very presence of God.

We Baptists probably struggle a bit more with her inclusion of dance in the list. Many of us were raised in an era or a religious climate in which dancing was considered utterly taboo. The Bible though repeatedly describes and exhorts worshippers of God to express their praise to Him with the dance. Other cultures with distinct customs such as those practiced by many African believers would find a worship service without dance to be unthinkable. That might not have been what Margaret Mead had in mind, but it’s a good reminder that God delights in our manifold expressions of worship. Let’s thank Him for the rich diversity of ways that we can praise Him.

Busy Ministry Week

I apologize for the lack of substantive posting this week, but I have a few more things on my plate than normal. I'm officiating at a funeral today for a lady I've been visiting in a local care center for the past two years. Her health was never very good, but her death still came rather quickly and unexpectedly. She and her husband had been married for almost 64 years. He's been a faithful member of our congregation since joining in October 2005 and I consider it a privilege and an honor to conduct his wife's memorial service.

I'm also preaching Sunday a.m. in our pastor's absence. He will be helping his daughter relocate to Denver where she recently has taken a job. Being Labor Day weekend, I'm going to focus on our work ethic as Christians as Paul helps define it in Eph. 4:28 and Col. 3:17, 23-34, before addressing Jesus' words in John 6 as He replies to the crowds who ask Him what good thing they must do to do the work of God. His reply is simply to believe in Him whom God has sent.

In addition to those things and my normal Wednesday evening Bible study preparations, we've also had a number of serious illnesses and major surgeries among our members this week that have kept me running between hospitals. I still wouldn't trade what I do for anything. Part of my introduction Sunday includes reference to a recent survey done over 18 years by the Univ. of Chicago regarding job satisfaction. It found that clergy have the highest reported job satisfaction, with 87.2% stating they are very satisfied with their work. Count me among that number.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Little Girl Recites the 23rd Psalm

This link was provided by Word & Way and is priceless.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

More Insights from Missional Church Conference

As I had indicated earlier, I'd like to share some additional insights gleaned from the conference on Missional Churches. In describing the journey from a traditional, program-based approach to a missional mindset, the conference leader presented a series of contrasts between the two:

From attracting a crowd to seeking the lost
From cultural aversion to cultural immersion
From programming to empowering passion
From competition to collaboration
From institutional preservation to sacrificial servanthood
From friendliness to community
From clergy-driven to people of God
From committees to teams
From slot-filling to gifts releasing
From low tech to high-tech high touch

Each one of these contrasts is loaded with potential to alter the basic DNA of a local church. The challenge clearly is that for most of us, our traditions carry a weight that is so heavy that making the shift from a program-based approach to church to a missional mindset will require lengthy and judicious promotion and education by church leaders to bring about the reality.

One final thought from the conference--

Very few churches will thrive in the 21st century. We are …
Too nice to sweat
Too proud to cry
Too sophisticated to laugh
Too busy to celebrate

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Insights from a conference on the Missional Church

Back in the spring I was privileged to spend a day attending a seminar on the missional church. I was reviewing some of my notes this week from that conference and ran across a few things that I found to be particularly insightful. I toss out these tidbits of information for your reflection.

Challenging us not to be so dogmatic in our approach to ministry, the leader shared a quote from Anne Lamott’s book, Plan B. She writes that, “The opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty! Faith notices the mess and discomfort. … Certainty misses the point entirely!” He then went on to share an interesting prayer: “Lord, help me to remember that all the truth I know is not all the truth.” I couldn’t help but think about some of the comments I read on blogs by those who are absolutely certain that they possess the only possible correct biblical interpretation on some thorny issues that other believers who are equally committed to the truth and authority of the Scriptures see in a quite different light.

Another very sobering statement that the conference leader made was this: “The church is becoming what the church staff is.” Like it or not, I think his affirmation is largely correct. A church will almost invariably take on the personality and priorities of its leadership. If we wish to criticize the church we serve for its many weaknesses and shortcomings, a good place to begin that critique is by looking in the mirror and asking how many of those debilities are a by-product of our own leadership.

In terms of outreach and attracting new visitors, the leader said this: “People go where they’ve been prepared for and are cared for.” Clearly we need to communicate to guests and visitors that we’ve taken into account their needs by doing the advance preparation necessary to make their visit as non-threatening and comfortable as possible. We also must leave no doubt that we love them and will do everything within our power to care for and meet their needs.

I’ve got some more ideas to share about the missional journey—moving from program-based to a missional mindset, but I’m saving those for a future post.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Senior Adult Ministry

One of the joys and challenges of working with senior adults as I do at our church is helping them deal with the struggles of poor health and many times, the need to consider long-term care in a skilled nursing environment. I visited with a good friend yesterday who is approaching 99 at a local care center. His wife is 94. Unfortunately, he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and can no longer live in their apartment. While he does have times when his thought patterns are confused, there are days like yesterday when his thoughts are as lucid as yours or mine (well, maybe they’re more lucid than mine at times). He has been the primary caregiver for his wife for many years as she has struggled with poor health. Now, he can no longer fulfill that role and it is a terribly painful situation for each of them. She is able to visit him occasionally at the care center, but her own health prevents her from doing so frequently. Thankfully, they are at least able to talk on the phone almost every day.

After seeing him yesterday I went by to visit with her in the couple’s apartment. We had a good visit together—sharing some tears, hugs, words of comfort, and of course, prayer. Visits like these are part of what I do each week as a minister to senior adults at our church. It can be very emotionally demanding at times, but also extremely fulfilling as prayerfully those encounters bring a touch of God’s grace and encouragement into the lives of some who have little contact anymore with the outside world as their health has restricted their mobility. I’m grateful for the opportunity of ministering to some of God’s choice saints in their golden years.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Back Home, A/C Woes

My blogging has been non-existent for the past 2 weeks. Let me briefly explain my absence from the blogosphere. The week before last we headed to Waynesboro, MS to celebrate our second son’s wedding. Joel married April Smith, who also grew up as an MK in Argentina, so they share a great deal of common experiences. The Smith family lived about an hour and a half north of us in the city of San Juan during our first term of service in Mendoza. They moved to the southern part of the country in Neuquen about the same time that we relocated to Buenos Aires. Eventually, their family also transferred in to Buenos Aires for a while before they moved on to Peru. The Smiths are a wonderful family and we couldn’t have wished for a sweeter girl than April as a daughter-in-law. We were blessed by some great southern hospitality as members of the FBC of Waynesboro where April’s dad (Steve) pastors made a beautiful home out in the country available to us to stay in for the week. One of the deacons of the church loaned us his canoes for an enjoyable float trip on Tuesday, followed by a fabulous meal at his home that evening. The ceremony was on Wednesday evening out at the home where we were staying and Steve and I each shared a few words before Joel and April exchanged their vows. It was a simple ceremony, attended by family members only.

We left Mississippi late Thursday afternoon after helping Steve’s wife, Vidonia, set up the preschool area for an open house at church that afternoon. We drove to Marshall, TX where we spent the night and then drove on to Granbury, TX on Friday where we spent the rest of the day and Saturday with my Mom. We had an enjoyable visit together and also got to see my brother.

We drove back to Lee’s Summit on Sunday and then had to tackle for the rest of the week the task of replacing our air conditioning unit that gave up the ghost while we were gone. It was the hottest week of the summer here in Missouri, and the inside temperatures reached 95. Luckily we survived by using the attic fan to extract the hot air during the evening. We did get a refreshing thunderstorm about 1:30 a.m. on Thursday morning that dropped the temperatures considerably. We finally made a decision about who to go with for a replacement system and got that installed on Friday. We’re relishing the cool temperatures inside today (Saturday) after having endured the high heat and humidity of this past week. I have to confess that having A/C again is a tremendous relief.

I’m going to try and get back in the swing of posting a bit more regularly now that we’re home and the A/C crisis has been resolved. The start of school is just around the corner and there are several exciting things that are being planned in the life of our church this fall. I look forward to sharing some of these on this blog.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Guatemala Follow-up

I had promised to write a follow-up report about the trip to Guatemala, so here’s another brief word about the experience. One of the things I was very encouraged about this time, beyond the 7 new churches that were represented, was the fact that several of the pastors and leaders had obviously been working on some of the things that Jim Hill and I shared with them at our initial meeting back in January. Jim has a great deal of expertise in leading people through strategic planning and had shared some steps with the pastors to help them do that with their congregations. One younger pastor came up to me and shared with me a printout of a 5 or 6 page document that he had been working on to apply the insights he had gained from Jim’s conference in January. Others also made comments that reflected they had been working through the concepts of what we shared last time. That kind of response really encourages me to know that the pastors and leaders are seeking to implement the teachings we’re sharing with them.

Another thing that strongly impresses me after 4 trips to Guatemala in the last 2 years is the gracious nature of Guatemalan Christians. I haven’t had extensive contact with the general population as such, so I’d be a bit premature to comment on whether that is also true of the people as a whole, but the believers with whom I’ve associated during these trips have all be extremely caring and loving people. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me as it has also been my experience in Argentina, Mexico, and other places where I’ve either lived for an extended period or been privileged to serve and minister. The Guatemalan Baptists in particular are doing some great things as a convention and have a real passion for living and sharing the gospel. If you’re looking for a place to become involved in some international missions work that isn’t half a world away, Guatemala is a great choice.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Ministry is .....

Ministry is...

Giving when you feel like keeping
Praying for others when you need prayer
Feeding others when your soul is hungry
Hurting with others when your own hurt can't be spoken
Keeping your word when it is not convenient
Being faithful when your soul wants to run away

I suspect that each of us have found ourselves from time to time wishing to be on the receiving end of ministry instead of on the giving side. Our natural human tendency is to focus on those things that we desire and which we believe will bring joy and satisfaction to our lives. While that is our natural inclination, it is rarely the most Christ-like approach to living. Each of the contrasts spelled out in the description of ministry above depicts something God calls us to do despite what our own selfish hearts are whispering is most convenient for us.

Paul reminds us of Jesus’ words that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Our Lord was the supreme example of unselfishness as He emptied Himself of His divine privileges and status to become a man. He taught His disciples that the one who would be greatest in the Kingdom of God must be the servant of all, and He offered Himself as the best illustration of that principle, telling us that “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). May His example inspire and encourage us to faithfully minister to those He brings into our lives who need to know His touch through our hands, and to hear His voice through our mouths.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Fellow Traveler's Post

I haven't had a chance to sit down yet and write a follow-up post about our trip to Guatemala this past week, but until I do, I thought you might enjoy the reflections of one of the guys who was a part of our team. By far the youngest of the 6 of us, JR is a youth minister in Columbia, MO. He has posted some of his thoughts and impressions about the trip on his Xanga site.

I think you'll enjoy reading his insights.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Safely Home

We arrived back in Missouri today, all feeling a bit exhausted from a whirlwind 5-day trip to Guatemala, but very grateful to God for the experience of serving Him there. I think I’ll probably write a couple of posts about our trip, but right now it feels like my body is running out of gas. We got up around 5:00 this morning and had a long day of travel with some delays in DFW due to weather and having to await the plane that would fly us up to Kansas City. Let me just say that the week was a tremendous blessing for each of us who went and those pastors and leaders who participated were very gracious in expressing their appreciation for the efforts of our team. There were 62 pastors and leaders present from a total of 25 churches scattered across 4 departments (we’d call them states) in western Guatemala. That figure represents an increase of 7 new churches that participated this time beyond those who were present for the initial training event back in January of this year. Each of the conference leaders was well prepared and did a very good job of relating his presentation to the needs that had been expressed to us previously. Thanks for all of those who prayed for us, and I appreciate Brian Kaylor’s mention of our trip and request for prayer on his blog.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Arrived safely in Guatemala

We had a great flight down today from Missouri and arrived here safely this evening. Several of us decided to check email and contact home using the computers here in the seminary´s library. The BGCM helped purchase both the computers and provided the internet service for two years for the seminary here in Guatemala City. The two guys who are a part of our team of 6 that I hadn´t previously met are both really nice. One is a youth minister at a church in Columbia, MO and the other is a layman from Imperial, MO. It looks like we´re going to have a great time together.

We leave at 7:00 in the morning for the 5 hour or so drive out to Quetzaltenango. We´d appreciate your prayers as we travel the winding, mountainous roads and kick off the training session after lunch tomorrow. I´m hoping the hotel there will have internet access. When we were last down in January, they were supposed to be getting it soon. We´ll see.

Blogger is interesting in Spanish. This is the first time I´ve seen the home page and log-in stuff written in Spanish.

A Joke to Pass Along

I heard this from a friend at church who shared it at our recent Adult VBS and wanted to pass it along. It's really funny.

A Montana rancher was overseeing his herd in a remote mountainous pasture when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of a cloud of dust towards him.

The driver, a young man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses and YSL tie, leans out the window and asks the rancher, “If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, will you give me a calf?”

The rancher looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, “Sure, why not?”

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connect it to his Cingular Razr V3 cell phone, and surfs to a NASA page on the internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high resolution photo.

The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany.

Within seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses a MS SQL database through an ODBC-connected Excel spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response.

Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150 page report on his hi-tech miniaturized HP Laserjet printer and finally turns to the rancher and says, “You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves.”

That’s right. Well I guess you can take one of my calves,” says the rancher.

He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on amused as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of his car.

Then the rancher says to the young man, “Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?” The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, “Okay, why not?”

You’re a congressman for the U.S. Government,” says the rancher.

“Wow! That’s correct,” says the yuppie, “but how did you guess that?”

“No guessing required,” answered the rancher. “You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You tried to show how much smarter than me you are; and you don’t know a thing about cows…. This is a herd of sheep…. Now give me back my dog.”

Friday, July 13, 2007

Great Article about the New Baptist Covenant

David Emmanuel Goatley, Executive-Secretary Treasurer of the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention, has written an outstanding article expressing his enthusiastic anticipation of next year's New Baptist Covenant gathering in Atlanta. The article can be found here at the Baptist Studies Bulletin for July, which is a monthly publication of The Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer University. If you don't receive this already by email, it's normally well worth the read.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Guatemala Bound Again

This coming week I'll be making my fourth trip to Guatemala in the past two years. The main purpose of the trip will be to conduct the second of a total of 6 projected training sessions with pastors and leaders living in 4 western states near the border with Mexico. We'll be meeting as we did this past January at a hotel on the outskirts of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala's second largest city. There are a total of 6 of us going on this trip--3 pastors, 2 laymen, and myself. We'll be leading in a series of seminars on themes that this same group identified back in January as areas in which they see the need for additional training. Some of the topics we'll be focusing on include the pastor and his devotional life; stewardship of time, talents, and resources; youth ministry; and the pastor dealing with conflict in the family, the church, and the community. Unlike last time when just two of us went and I shared the teaching load and handled translation duties for our convention's executive director, this time the other guys will be doing all of the teaching and my role will be that of translating their presentations. I've translated the outlines of those already so they could be included in a notebook that each seminar participant will be receiving.

I'm also excited that a layman from our church is going because a further purpose of this trip is to explore the possibilities of some church-to-church partnerships among the BGCM churches and their counterparts in Guatemala. I'm glad that Paul is going with me for that reason to sit down with some of the pastors and explore together some ministries where our church might be able to offer some assistance. We'll be gone from July 16-20 and so my blogging might be slim or even non-existent next week. I appreciate the prayers of any who happen to stumble upon this post and would be willing to pray for our group's efforts.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Good News in the Midst of Tragedy

I thought I’d pass along a great story that appeared in our association’s monthly newsletter. You can click on the link to see the PDF of the newsletter, but I’m also including the complete story below.

Gary Jones, pastor of the U-Church in Kansas City (www.theuchurch.org), recently preached the funeral for 3-year old Robert Lee Jackson, who was shot and killed by a stray bullet while playing near his home. He met the mother and grandmother of the child two days after the shooting, and reached out to the family by volunteering his services and his church for the child’s funeral.

Rev. Jones explained, “I went to get a hair cut at a different barbershop; my barber was out of town. While waiting and speaking to a friend, a young woman came in to get her hair done. About two minutes later she got up and said, ‘I can’t do this,’ and the hair stylist asked her why. She said, ‘I just lost my son three days ago.’ I got up to go offer her prayer when she left out of the shop.”

“I asked where the funeral was going to be, to show support. She said at a funeral home, and that she didn’t know who was going to do the eulogy. I offered our church, and said I would do the eulogy if she wanted me too.”

“The family went into tears after I offered them the church for the funeral. They said it was an answer to prayers.”

As a result, Robert Lee’s mother, Santana Jackson, and his grandmother have become Christians and will be baptized at the church once they go through new members class.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A Wonderful Weekend in South Texas

The trip home for the football reunion was wonderful. It turned out to be much more than just a reunion of the football teams on which I played. As a matter of fact, hardly anyone took the time to watch the DVD’s of the games that were playing on 4 different televisions. We mostly sat around a got caught up on old times. It was really a class reunion of multiple classes. They had tables set up for folks to group around according to the decade in which they graduated. The oldest grad was from 1937. There were 14 out of my 1971 graduating class of 54 present, as well as several from the year ahead and the year following our class that I knew very well.

I had a number of very interesting extended conversations with folks. One was with a guy who was one year behind me in school. He was a standout actor in high school, performing the lead role in a play that won 1st place in state in the University Interscholastic League competition. He went on to major in theater at Texas Tech and later attended Dallas Theological Seminary. I knew that much about him from conversations with others. What I learned from him was that he stayed on at DTS and has been teaching there for 25 years in the area of ministry through the performing arts. He frequently accompanies Chuck Swindoll on trips, cruises, etc. and shares dramatic monologues in conjunction with Swindoll’s teachings. Kind of interesting for a guy from a South Texas town of 2,000 people. His wife helps manage the finances for a Christian missionary group, Central American Mission (CAM), which has extensive work in Guatemala. We talked about ministry there in light of my multiple trips there in recent years.

I also enjoyed visiting with my former college roommate from my freshman year at UT-Austin. We were the only 2 from our school to head to UT that year so opted to room together. We had known each other forever, both attending FBC in George West. He stayed on in Austin after getting his civil engineering degree and worked for the city up until recently when he took early retirement. He still works a couple of days a week for them on a contract basis. One other guy is doing well as a vet, a couple are CPAs, but the large majority of the guys I spoke with are involved in some way in the oil and gas industry. That’s still pretty big business in South Texas.

One of the highlights of the trip was getting to visit with my former high school English teacher who was also our youth Sunday School teacher when I was growing up. She asked if I’d be willing to preach if she could clear it with the pastor and to make a long story short, I ended up preaching on Sunday morning in the church I attended from first grade through high school graduation. That brought back lots of wonderful memories. Several of the people I knew then are still around and it was delightful to see them and visit after the service.

I also thoroughly enjoyed getting to spend some quality time with my mom on the trip down and back. Her younger sister still lives in George West so she went with me and it was really good to have some extended time to talk. All in all, it was an outstanding time of strolling down memory lane for a bit and getting caught up with folks whom I hadn’t seen in 30+ years.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Going Home

The old adage is that you can never go home again. There is of course a very real sense in which that is true. Especially if you’ve been away from that place you identify as “home” for quite some time, in all likelihood both you and the location will have changed so much that nothing will be exactly as it was, as you remember it. Fully aware of those facts, I’m still excitedly looking forward to a trip to what was home for me during my formative years.

I grew up in the small south Texas town of George West, about 90 miles south of San Antonio and some 60 miles from Corpus Christi. Though we had moved around several times before I turned six, we stayed in George West and I attended school there all the way from first grade through graduation from high school. It was one of those small towns (population about 2000) where you know everyone. My folks moved from there shortly after I finished high school to be closer to their work in Alice, 40 miles further south in Highway 281. They had commuted back and forth all those years because they liked the atmosphere of George West and the great school system this small town offered.

Other than attending one high school reunion (the only one I was aware of for my class was a five-year reunion back in 1976) and going back for a funeral, I’ve not really spent any time in George West since graduating from there in 1971. I was pleasantly surprised about a month ago when I got a phone call out of the blue from one of my former football teammates who informed me that someone had taken the initiative to gather all the old films from our games and compile them on DVDs—a separate one for each season that we played. He also told me that those who played in those years were going to gather on June 30th out at the fair grounds coliseum to watch highlights of those games and to eat and spend some time together.

I wasn’t sure initially that I could clear my calendar to make the trip, but decided that it was too important of an opportunity to pass up to renew acquaintances with the guys that I shared a lot of hours with on the practice field and on Friday nights. Yes, Friday Night Lights is a Texas reality. The whole town turned out for our games. We compiled a pretty good record the two years I played on the varsity. We went 18-2-1, including shutting out 8 teams my junior year. Our one loss that year, 36-22, cost us the district title. We had given up just one touchdown all year prior to that game and it was on a punt return. We won the district championship my senior year, only to be annihilated in the bi-district game against the eventual state champ in Division 2A.

I’m excited about seeing these long-lost friends and catching up on old times a bit. My high school class voted me as Most Likely to Succeed. I’m certain that by the world’s standards and in comparison with what some of them have achieved in terms of financial wealth, I won’t appear very successful. Still, I’m looking forward to sharing my story, relating how the Lord has led in the life of my family during these years. I trust that I’ll have opportunities to share a word about God’s faithfulness along the way and just maybe to help point some to the Savior.

Monday, June 25, 2007

First Night of Adult VBS Report

We got off to a great start with our Adult VBS this evening. I’d estimate the crowd at between 90 and 100. We had two of our adults who had gone to Bay St. Louis, MS back in April share about their experiences in helping to rebuild homes for those affected by Katrina. Then we enjoyed some great homemade cakes and pies. We have some great cooks and everything looked really tasty. The study in 2nd Timothy was well received tonight. We looked at some of the background issues regarding authorship, Paul’s purpose in writing the letter, etc., before moving on to a verse-by-verse exposition of the first chapter. The last couple of years I’ve deliberately chosen a short book (4 chapters) so as to be able to cover one chapter per evening.

I’d been praying about the personal application of this first chapter to our lives and was impressed to focus on the proper names Paul mentions in this chapter and encouraged our folks to consider who might be a modern-day equivalent in their life today. For example, who is the Timothy that we are mentoring or discipling? Who is our Lois or Eunice—a family member who helped nurture us in the faith? Is there a Phygelus or Hermogenes in our past who has betrayed or deserted us in a time of great need? What is our attitude toward them? Finally, is there an Onesiphorus in our life who has blessed us and ministered to our needs, or on a more personal note, are we being an Onesiphorus in the life of another?

Tomorrow night we'll hear reports from several of our adults who've been participating in a wide variety of Summer of Service activities. Ice cream is on the menu, followed by chapter 2. It should be a great week.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Adult Vacation Bible School - Year 4

I’m really looking forward to this next week in the life of our church. This will be our 4th annual Adult Vacation Bible School and this year we’re focusing on Paul’s second letter to Timothy. I absolutely love to teach the Scriptures and the Lord has confirmed repeatedly that this is my main spiritual gift, so rather than being a burden or something that is exhausting, I find myself re-energized by a week like this. We’ll meet each evening from about 6:30 until 8:00 p.m. and in the past have had a wonderful attendance for a mid-summer activity—usually around 100-120 people. In past years I’ve enlisted special speakers for the first part of the evening to address some timely issues or provide musical entertainment. We follow that up with some delicious desserts that our own people bake and bring, and then wrap up the evening with a teaching time of 45 minutes or so.

The early part of the evening will be a bit different this year as our church is engaged in what we’ve promoted as a Summer of Service. The idea is to get folks out into the community and engage in some hands-on ministries. I’ve lined up several to share testimonies about their experiences in that regard, as well as our handbell choir that is presenting some concerts in area churches. In some ways it’s a spin-off of the January Bible study emphasis that so many Baptist churches used to observe, but our people seem to respond better to this format. I’ll try to follow up with a report on how things go toward the end of the week.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Is the SBC exporting its controversies overseas?

I would like to direct your attention to an insightful editorial by Jim White of Virginia’s Religious Herald. In it he reacts to Bobby Welch’s new job assignment by the Southern Baptist Convention as “strategist for global evangelical relations.” White raises the question as to whether or not Welch’s task, all disclaimers notwithstanding, will be to convince Baptists around the world to withdraw from the BWA in order to affiliate with this new conservative group. The questions White raises are extremely valid. Do Baptists around the world need for the SBC to export its own political infighting into their local settings? Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17 and His words that all men would know that we are His disciples by our love would be appear to be undermined by Welch’s mission. Just because the SBC couldn’t dissuade the BWA from accepting CBF into its ranks doesn’t give the U. S. convention the right or moral authority to project upon Baptist bodies overseas its own internal struggles. Jim White's editorial is definitely worth the read!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant

Part of my excitement regarding next year’s Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant in Atlanta stems from the line-up of speakers who have agreed to participate in this gathering. I’m particularly excited that Tony Campolo will be addressing the meeting, as I have a deep respect for his ministry “to the least of these.” I was privileged to hear Dr. Campolo during the course of an entire week many years ago when he was invited as the guest lecturer at the annual conferences of the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Buenos Aires where I served on the faculty. It was a tremendous week of hearing Dr. Campolo share stories in his own unique style, each one with a powerful message about our need as Christians to address the pressing issues that the church has far too often neglected. My wife and I were honored to host Dr. Campolo for breakfast in our home one morning, and found him to be a gracious Christian gentleman. I’ve often heard that good preaching ought to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Dr. Campolo has a gift of doing the latter, and his message deserves a broad hearing. I trust that many will make plans to be a part of the Celebration of the New Baptist Covenant next year and hear Tony Campolo and many other outstanding speakers.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Reflections on SBC Annual Meeting #2

I was sitting here this evening following the conclusion of the SBC's meeting in San Antonio and decided to go back and listen to Morris Chapman's address. I'll have to confess I haven't gotten to the point yet where he speaks to the issues of narrowing parameters as has been reported that he does. I would welcome that emphasis, but my attention was drawn to his remarks about the BWA and the fact that the SBC is not an isolationist body. That was greeted with a round of applause. He went on to argue that an illustration of this was the EC's naming Bobby Welch as a global ambassador to seek to establish relationships with like-minded conservative evangelicals in other countries. I heard the reference that my friend Brian Kaylor has alluded to on his blog about Welch's plans to evangelize Antarctica (Chapman says he will visit all 7 continents) and got a good chuckle out of that. What wasn't so funny to me was the implication once again that some 200 Baptist conventions and unions comprising a membership of more than 36 million baptized believers and a community of over 110 million Baptists worldwide aren't conservative evangelicals and thus not candidates for partnering together in missions. Oh yeah, I forgot, they're part of the liberal, America-hating BWA.

For all the efforts of the young conservatives (and I do consider them such) who are opposed to the efforts of the Old Guard Fundamentalists who continue narrowing the parameters for cooperation within the SBC, and though I strongly support the efforts of the former group, I fear that they don't grasp the determination of the fundamentalists to retain control at all costs. The language of holy war that was utilized during the Conservative Resurgence to marshal the troops can still be trotted out as Paige Patterson did to accuse the dissidents of being liberals. That language still appeals to many.

I'm not sure what to make of the low numbers of messengers and the even smaller number of them who actually cast a vote in the "big issues" that were of concern to so many in the blogosphere--the election for 1st VP of the SBC, and the resolution of the EC regarding the BF&M 2000. Only 8500 messengers in the state of Texas, and fewer than 4000 of them who actually voted? Do we chalk it up to apathy, the disenchantment and disenfranchisement of younger Baptists with the political machinery of the SBC, or have many chosen to focus their attention on Kingdom issues rather than Convention politics?

I don't have a clear answer for the last series of questions, but as I've read the conflicting opinions and arguments of bloggers the last couple of days on the significance of the votes cast and the wording of the EC resolution on the BF&M, I couldn't help but think about Paul's words to Timothy in 2 Tim. 2:14 where he urges him to instruct those he is discipling not to wrangle about words. In 2:16 he goes on to instruct him to avoid worldy and empty chatter, and in 2:23 to refuse foolish and ignorant speculations that produce quarrels, because the Lord's bond-servant is not to be quarrelsome (2:24). I suppose some could accuse me of being hypocritical in pointing out these passages in a post that some might consider to be argumentative.

I probably will not completely avoid SBC politics in future posts, as I continue to have a certain fascination with where the denomination of my youth is heading, but as I suspect some fellow bloggers will be doing after the SBC, I think I'll focus more on the things our church and the BGCM are doing in the area of missions and outreach. I'll also post occasionally on the New Baptist Covenant which I'm very excited about.

Reflections on the SBC annual meeting

In light of the current meeting of the SBC in San Antonio this week, I found Joel Gregory’s reflections about his sermon there 19 years ago very insightful. His message, entitled "The Castle and the Wall," sought to find a middle ground between 2 extremes. Most telling in his reflections are his statements about seeking a middle that was not there, and the deep regrets for not having stood with those whom he now considers heroes who denounced the threats of the fundamentalists. It is well worth reading, as are all of the articles today in Ethics Daily that deal with the SBC.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pathway Reports on Save our Convention Meeting

I have to confess that I was shocked that MBC's Pathway gave an extensive report on the recent Save our Convention meeting that was held at the FBC Harvester in St. Charles. I reported in a previous post that it appeared that Roger Moran's political coalition appears to be unraveling in Missouri. The fact that some major conservative churches have entertained the thought of either withdrawing from the MBC or bypassing it with their giving and designating CP gifts instead to local associations and the SBC underscores the serious divisions that exist within the MBC. The Pathway article can be read here.

The most shocking quote in the article was the one from Jim Breeden, DOM for the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association that referred to the Pathway's own complicity in the mess that is Missouri Baptist Convention politics. Concerning The Pathway, Breeden said the official newsjournal of the MBC has been no friend of inclusiveness and tolerance.

“There is a loss of trust in The Pathway newspaper,” he said. “A large number of Missouri Baptists believe The Pathway has fueled the current conflict by focusing on controversy, reporting events in a very biased manner and writing with inflammatory tone. The vast majority across the state believe The Pathway should work with, and not against, MBC staff. It is a sad day when Missouri Baptists trust secular papers and the Word & Way more than the official state paper.” Reporters for both The Pathway and Word & Way covered the meeting.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Missouri Baptist Politics

It would seem that even some very prominent, conservative Missouri Baptists have had their fill of Roger Moran's political tactics. At least that appears to be the gist of this article in Associated Baptist Press. I would hope that this signals a new day for Missouri Baptists and that they will recognize that not all of the fruit of the Conservative Resurgence and particularly of its Missouri expression in Project 1000 has been Christ-honoring or Kingdom-advancing. Word & Way also has a more extensive article about this gathering.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Time to Slow Down

On May 21, 1901, Connecticut became the first U.S. state to enact a speed limit for motor vehicles. The speed limit for rural highways was set at 12 mph, while the maximum speed within city limits was fixed at 8 mph. Modern vehicles would exceed that velocity by merely shifting the gear selector from park to drive and taking one’s foot off the brake. The field has been set for the annual Memorial Day Indianapolis 500 race this coming weekend and the fastest qualifiers averaged almost 223 mph in their time trials. When life comes rushing at us with an apparently never-ending accelerating velocity, it’s important to carve out some time and space for quiet reflection on our relationship with God. While the hectic pace of modern living presses us to hurry up and do something productive with our lives, the words of the psalmist merit our attention and obedience as he quotes these words from our Heavenly Father, “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). It’s not easy to find a place of quiet stillness to focus our thoughts on the Lord, but the rewards for doing so are beyond measure. Meditating on God’s attributes and His love for us will enable us to cope effectively with this world’s frenzied pace. Make it a priority each day to spend time in God’s presence and you’ll discover resources to handle whatever challenges life throws your way.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

SBC Bloggers & the New Baptist Covenant

I was thrilled to read Ben Cole's account of his meeting with President Carter and Bill Underwood regarding the plans for next year's Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant. The BGCM is also actively participating in planning for this event as part of its involvement in the North American Baptist Fellowship. This event will bring together a broad spectrum of Baptists in North America to focus on the issues which Jesus highlighted as the focus of His earthly ministry when He read from Isaiah's scroll in the synagogue at Nazareth. I trust that it will be a dramatic step toward unity among some very diverse groups of Baptists. The visit of these very prominent Southern Baptist bloggers with President Carter and Bill Underwood of Mercer is a significant and encouraging step. May their tribe increase!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Mystery Revealed

Perhaps you've always wondered how it is that the arrow pointer of your computer mouse responds to your hand's movements and accurately tracks them. Thanks to this link, the mystery has finally been resolved. It will take a little bit to load, even with a high-speed connection, but it's worth the wait. Position your mouse over the gray circle and discover the key to your pointer's movements.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Video streaming of BGCM Convention

I shared in my last post that the recent 5th Annual BGCM Convention was outstanding. I thought that some might be interested in some of the messages that were shared at the convention. They are now available on the BGCM website at the following link. I would especially encourage those who have the time and the interest to listen to Molly Marshall's Bible study, and Keith Parks' and Daniel Carro's messages. Those are all found in the Friday evening session link. To save you from having to listen through various reports and music (unless you want to of course), here are the start times for their respect messages in the order listed above--
26:15, 1:11:30, and 2:07:10. You can simply position the slider button on the bottom of the screen if you're using Windows Media Player to those times and listen to their messages.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Convention Update

The recent 5th annual meeting of the BGCM was a wonderful event. The speakers were all outstanding and each did a superb job of relating to the overall theme of this year’s meeting--On Mission: For the Least of These. It was a blessing to get to hear Dr. Keith Parks again and to visit with him for a few minutes following his message. He continues to be one of the finest thinkers of our day in the area of missions. Dr. Molly Marshall shared two very powerful Bible studies with the group. She provoked a lot of laughter when following her introduction as they only female president of a Baptist seminary, she gently corrected her presenter and pointed out that there is a female president of a Baptist seminary in Singapore. She then jokingly remarked, “The world can only stand one per hemisphere.”

I particularly enjoyed hearing from and later visiting with Dr. Daniel Carro from John Leland University. Daniel also is ambassador for the Hispanic work of the Baptist General Association of Virginia. We used to have adjoining offices at the seminary in Buenos Aires and it was a delightful experience to get caught up a bit on each other’s lives. I hadn’t seen him for almost 7 years I guess.

Finally, Carlos Cerna, the executive secretary of the Guatemala Baptist Convention, did an outstanding job during the missions banquet of sharing about the partnership between our conventions. He outlined what had been accomplished to date and encouraged those present to become involved in church-to-church partnerships with the western region where we are focusing our efforts. I was thrilled to have at least 4 additional pastors and staff members to commit to join me for the next training event in Guatemala that will take place July 16-20. I’m still hoping that 3 or 4 more will sign up to participate.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Guatemalan Visitor

The annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Missouri takes place this Friday and Saturday at the First Baptist Church of Jefferson City. Information about the annual gathering is available on the BGCM's website. I'm really looking forward to the event for many reasons. It's a great opportunity for the BGCM to tell its story and focus on the exciting ministries in which it is engaged. We have an outstanding line-up of speakers who will be addressing the convention in its worship and Bible study times. I eagerly anticipate hearing Dr. Parks again as well as Dr. Daniel Carro, a former colleague at the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I'll be hosting in these days a visitor from Guatemala as well--the Guatemala Baptist Convention executive secretary, Carlos Cerna. I warned Carlos in an email this morning to bring some warm clothes. Guatemala is called the country of eternal spring and temperatures are usually mild to warm year-round. I checked the forecast for Saturday in Jeff City and snow is predicted. I'm guessing if that happens it will be the first time Carlos has ever seen snow.

If you are looking for some good news out of Missouri in these days of negative news about Missouri Baptists, the 5th annual meeting of the BGCM promises to offer a lot. I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Purpose as it Relates to Aging

One of my major responsibilities as associate pastor of our church is senior adult ministry. I absolutely love our senior adults and we have a lot of them. I ran across an anonymous quote not long ago that I included in my column in our church's newsletter this week. Here is the column and the quote:

There can be no doubt that one of the questions that men and women ask with the greatest frequency is that of ultimate purpose. “What am I here for?” is the cry of many people who are seeking to discover some sense of meaning for their existence. It’s no wonder then that more than 25 million copies of Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life had been sold by 2005. I ran across this piece sometime back that addresses the issue of living with a purpose as it relates to the question of aging. The anonymous author writes:

Nobody grows old by living a number of years.
People grow old from lack of purpose.
Years wrinkle the skin.
Lack of purpose wrinkles the soul.

The best antidote for a “wrinkled soul” consists of welcoming each new day of life that God grants us as an opportunity to serve Him and to serve others in His name. Loving God and loving others is a purpose that will consume a lifetime.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Grace Displayed

Our staff at church received a neat blessing today as we were invited to eat a Filipino lunch prepared by an IMB missionary who has been living in one of our mission residences this past year. She has sensed God’s leadership to leave the Philippines and move to Richmond, VA where she will play a major role in helping MKs prepare for cross-cultural living as they and their parents attend the IMB’s 8-week training course at the International Learning Center. We had a wonderful time visiting with this missionary who grew up in the Kansas City area. She has been pursuing a master’s degree during her stateside assignment, so she wasn’t always able to attend services as often as she would have liked, but in my brief conversations with her I’ve sensed a real sensitivity to the Lord’s leadership in her life. She invited all of the ministers and secretarial staff over for lunch as a way of saying “thank you” for our church providing a mission residence for her needs this past year. The food was delicious and the fellowship was even richer. Our prayers go with her as she relocates and begins her new assignment on May 1st.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Responding to Needs in Nairobi

I hadn't actually intended to participate in a blogging fast, but it just turned out that I managed to go almost a month without posting anything. I did want to share an update on our church's involvement with the KidsHeart Africa project in the Korogocho slum of Nairobi. I had mentioned previously that our pastor and children's minister were traveling there to do an assessment of the needs and the possibilities of our church's involvement in helping to meet those. They had an outstanding experience and came back excited about some ways we could make a significant difference in the lives of the children through providing them with expanded, more permanent school facilities.

Word & Way ran an article about our churches involvement in their most recent issue, written by Janis Mansker, our children's minister. I'd encourage you to take a few minutes to look at it.

Pastor Euticals who heads up the school was won to Christ through the efforts of some FMB missionaries when he was a teenager. He felt called into the ministry and has chosen to continue ministering to the children of this slum area, many of whom are AIDS orphans. Our church has responded with overwhelming generosity to this project. We had been challenged to give at least $10,000 by the end of the summer to receive a matching gift in that amount from an anonymous donor in our congregation. On the first Sunday of the offering for the project, we received more than $33,000 with pledges over a 3 year period of more than $165,000. God has blessed our congregation with folks who respond generously to needs as they are shared.

We're also gearing up for a Summer of Service where we are planning to engage in all kinds of different service projects in the greater Kansas City area. We've been busily compiling and fine tuning a list of 208 ideas that were generated in a church-wide listening session we held on a Sunday evening about 3 weeks ago. It's exciting to see the enthusiasm that is growing among our members as we step out of our comfort zone a bit and seek to meet the needs of others around us.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Hinkle's Defense of Moran

I submitted the gist of the following post as a comment on Marty Duren's SBC Outpost blog and it might appear later, as he has enabled comment moderation at this time. I was checking out the latest issue of The Pathway online (I wouldn't pay for the print issue) and found a couple of very interesting articles.

The Pathway (Missouri Baptist Convention state paper) has weighed in on Roger Moran’s comments at the Executive Committee regarding the Emerging Church. Don Hinkle’s editorial is an impassioned defense of Moran and includes the statement that Hinkle has examined Moran’s research and finds it compelling.

Staff writer Allen Palmeri also comes to the defense of Moran’s position and approvingly reproduces the full text of Moran’s comments.

Hinkle in particular berates the bloggers who have dared to criticize his buddy Moran in such an unchristian manner. I almost gagged when I read the following quote by him: “It is the most shocking public display of personal attacks that I have ever witnessed in SBC life (though I have read how some leaders in the conservative resurgence have been subjected to similar treatment by moderates since 1979).” Hinkle has consistently attacked moderates in Missouri from the time he assumed his role as editor of the Pathway and has done so with what can only be described as yellow journalism. It is not surprising therefore that he totally ignores Moran's history of attacking all moderates with his guilt-by-association tactics. The fact of the matter is that both of these guys appear to feed off of and encourage one another in these kind of attacks. Thus Hinkle finds Moran's "research" compelling. If you haven't read the comments on Marty Duren's blog regarding Moran's presentation, it would be well worth you time.