Archive for July, 2016

I have mentioned the Town and Country Restaurant before.  This morning I arrived early to my breakfast gathering with some of the deacons in our church.  I meet with our deacons of the week each Thursday morning at the T & C just to share a meal and a little bit of life with them.  This morning as I read a little scripture and reflected, my eyes wandered around the restaurant.  

I was close enough to an older gentlemen to overhear a phone conversation he was having.  I intentionally did not eavesdrop but it was easy to determine that someone he is close to had made an emergency trip to the hospital last night.

When he got off the phone, I witnessed his waitress stop by the table and based on her facial expression, I could tell he was relaying the story to her.  In just a few moments, I watched the hostess come and sit with the man for several minutes.Sharing Coffee

As I observed all this, last night’s Bible study content from Mark 3 began to make its way through my mind.  Jesus called the twelve with specific intentions.  The point we talked about last night is that God calls each of us for specific reasons – some to minister in business, some to lead companies in a Godly manner, some to serve the sick in the name of Jesus, some to minister in churches – but all are called.

I watched that truth lived out right in front of me.  The early shift hostess of the restaurant did not have to make her way to the older gentleman’s table.  But she did.  She sat with compassion and listened to his story.  Patrons entered the door and seated themselves because she was not there to seat them.  But what she was doing was more important.  God used her to offer comfort to someone she hardly knew.

The verse of the day today on Biblegateway.com is Philippians 3:14. But if you back up and include the two verses just before, it says this:

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

We may not have it all figured out – we may not have “arrived,” but we must press on to what God called us to.  I love the picture that Paul creates for us when he said, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

If you have allowed Jesus to take hold of you, you need to understand, he has done so for a reason.  Define that reason and press on to take hold of it!

That is what the hostess did this morning.  We can too!

Be a blessing today.

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BurglarYesterday, I awoke to discover we had been burglarized – always a great way to start a Monday (or any other day for that matter).  Somehow, our garage door was opened and the burglars made off  with some fishing gear and two sets of golf clubs (they really knew how to hurt a guy).

So the morning was spent making phone calls – to the police, to neighbors and to the insurance company – and the evening was spent visiting local pawn shops.

This is not the first time this has happened to us – and the feelings are the same each time – frustration, anger, vulnerability.  We like to think we are safe and that what we work for is secure.  But then something like this happens and we are reminded that we are always susceptible.  We lose faith in our security.  We lose faith in mankind.

But I was reminded of at least two other things yesterday through this process.  The first is that we will never find security in this world apart from God.  We are aliens in a foreign land – this is not our home.  So we would be foolish to put our trust in things.  All our possessions and even our own physical well being can be taken from us but our relationship with the Father cannot be touched.  As long as our trust is in God we will be secure.

The second thing that I was reminded of is that there are still good people in the world.  From the neighbors to my long time friend and insurance agent to the police officer that was dispatched to our home, God has put good people in our lives.  So even though the temptation would be to give up on the human race, the reality is there are a lot of good people out there.  In fact, I believe there is more good than bad in the world – it is just the bad that gets the press.

Take heart – God is at work!

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It’s Monday and the beginning of a new week – full of possibility and opportunity.  How will you use the next 7 days?  Will it be just another 168 hours or will some of those hours be special?

You have the option to sit back and go through this week, business as usual, numb to the world and let life happen to you.


You could live the next 168 hours intentionally.  This could be the most significant week of the year so far!  What will you do with your time this week that will impact your life and the lives of all you encounter?  Make It Happen

What is the first step?

Your first step should be turning to God and listening to his prompting.  Spending time with him and allowing him to arrange your To Do List will make all the difference.  Then go out and live the next 7 days with intention and passion!

Be a blessing today!

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We are making our way through the Gospel of Mark on Wednesday nights in our chapel Bible study.  It is a formative study in which we are looking directly at what was and is important to Jesus as witnessed by his followers.  So often we read what others have said and thought about what Jesus said – and that is a good thing to do – but it is always important and refreshing to read what Jesus actually said.

Last night we took a close look at Jesus’ lesson on the importance of the Sabbath and the fact that the Sabbath was created for us and not the other way around.  Jesus took several opportunities to teach this lesson to people who did not want to hear it.  We will be talking about Sabbath this Sunday morning.

But this morning, what is fresh on my mind is something we see in Mark 3:5.  As Jesus was preparing to heal a man with a withered hand, he was confronted with the disapproval of the Pharisees that were in the synagogue.  Those who were against the healing never said a word but Jesus saw it in their faces and based on previous experience, he knew what they were thinking.  They were caught up in keeping the law to the point they had lost sight of the intent behind the law.

Listening to GodThe description of Jesus’ approach should not be glossed over.  The text says Jesus was “angry” and “deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts.”  I have not been able to shake that sentence in 3:5.  What I see here is that stubborn, unwilling hearts do not please Jesus.  Now it is easy to look at the description of the teachers of the law and the Pharisees and cast judgement – to look down on them as ignorant and think to ourselves, “How could they have been so blind!”  But before we rush to judgement, how pliable are our hearts?

Am I ever guilty of stubbornness or being closed-minded?  Are you?

We learn many things about Jesus and what is important to him in this story.  He had compassion on the hurting.  He wanted to guide people into a better understanding of God and God’s desires for us.  He used common everyday opportunities to teach.  But don’t miss the fact that we also learn that Jesus had little patience for those who were not willing to be taught.

May our hearts be teachable today!

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Worship BWWe talk a lot about praising God.  In any given church around the world on the weekends, you most likely will encounter an effort to praise God.

Praise, by definition, is the act of expressing admiration or thanks to someone.  When we think about God and all that he has done, we are moved to express our thanks and admiration.

But as I have been pondering this most important element of worship, I have wrestled with this question:  Is praise just an intellectual assent or does it require action?

Psalm 148 calls all beings (even inanimate objects – mountains and hills) to praise the name of the Lord.   How can a mountain praise God?  How can a bird or snow or the moon praise God?

Granted,  the Psalms are given in poetic form, but I think there is more going on in this Psalm than poetic license.  What we learn here is that praise has as much to do with being God’s best version of ourselves for his glory as it does with giving verbal acknowledgement or intellectual tipping of the hat to his grandeur.

God created us with gifts, passions and talents with the sole purpose of living out those gifts, passions and talents in a way that honors God and points those around us to him.

Maybe praise has a lot to do with living in such a way that God can cross his arms and say with a smile, “Yeah, that’s my kid.”

Just something to ponder today.

Be blessed.

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Our mission team made it home for the Dominican Republic safely last week and then we spent the rest of the week recovering and catching up on all the things that went undone while we were gone.  It was a wonderful trip and as I process the experience in the coming days, I will share more with you about what God did and is doing.

But one thought has stayed with me as I have reintegrated back into my schedule and that is the importance of the church being the church outside the walls of our buildings.  I saw a group of people who left the comforts of air conditioning and television and went to minister in another country.  I saw the impact of the church truly being the church and I saw the difference it has made in the lives of those serving as well.

Moving forward, we must continue to look for ways to BE the church to a world who needs to see believers living out their faith.  This coming Sunday afternoon our church is having “First Baptist Day at the Hooks.”  The Hooks is a double A ball club here in Corpus Christi (that is doing very well this season by the way).  Our church is going to have a presence at the game this coming Sunday afternoon.  Those among us that are musically gifted will be singing the national anthem to begin the game.

HooksAnd our Recreation Minister has orchestrated an invitation for me to throw out the first pitch.  Do you know how long it has been since I threw a baseball – let alone 60 plus feet in front of thousands of people.  To answer the first half of that question – a very long time.  To answer the second half of that question – NEVER.

So – OK – I may be a bit nervous, but here is the point, this will be just one simple way for the church to be visible in the world.  We will be supporting our local team, enjoying wonderful fellowship and showing all those present that our church family loves being together and loves Jesus.  Being the church in the community does not always have to involve back breaking service (although that is often a key component) – it also takes the form of the church being real and showing love and community.

Now where did I put my ball glove – I think I need to practice!

Be a blessing today!

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It is hard to believe that we are headed back home today after almost seven days in the Republica Dominicana. I apologize that I have not posted daily as I had hoped. Between the internet being down most of the time and our busy schedule, I have not been able to keep up.

We had an amazing week! Our team pulled together and pushed each other beyond what any one individual thought they could do. We built ten desks and two book cases for teachers in one of the schools we have worked with in the past and then delivered them. We had three ladies from our team offer teacher training to teachers in a school in Villa Alta Gracia. We had ladies from our team help with the sewing ministry here at Iglesia Bautista Quisqueyana (IBQ), making costumes for a huge city wide production the church put on this past week. We did VBS and sports camps with kids in two different areas. We had a part in a pastor and wife conference and a three of our ladies helped almost daily with meals for our team – pitching in with the local cooks.

And Sunday was a beautiful experience. We had the opportunity to worship in the morning with IBQ and then with a church in La Romana on Sunday night. Chris, our Student Pastor, and leader of this trip spoke at IBQ on Sunday night at the youth service and I had the blessing of preaching Sunday morning at IBQ and then Sunday night at La Romana. There is something special about worshipping with brothers and sisters of another country. We have been guests in their country and they have welcomed us in. I was reminded as we worshipped together that when our focus is on praising God, our differences fade away and what we have in common takes center stage – one God, one faith, one body (Ephesians 4).

Bryson, one of our team members (and my son) said, “I am ready to go home, but I don’t want to leave.” I think that sums up the feelings of each of our team members!

God is at work in the Dominican and we are blessed to have even a minute part in it.

Please pray for IBQ, our Dominican brothers and sisters and for safe travel for our team as we travel home today.

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As the sun comes up over Santo Domingo, our group is beginning to stir.  The first two days have been amazing but today, the fatigue will begin to set in.  The first day of a mission trip is filled with the excitement and adrenaline of being in a new place and a person runs off of the energy that is created by the thought of doing something significant.

By day two, reality begins to creep in and one realizes this is hard work and the heat is nearly unbearable – but – we are doing good work and making a difference.  But in my experience, day three is a turning point for most people.  By day three, the glamour of spiritual tourism has worn off and one is faced with a decision.  It is at this point in the trip that one must decide – “am I here to serve or be served.”

Ultimately, most decide to die to self and give all they have to serve God and others.  God gives us that choice.  But really, is it any different at home?

Our group is doing well.  The unity has grown immensely over the first two work days (as well as the day of travel).  In fact, last night we had a game night.  The evening is designed to give the missionaries some downtime but also bring in local kids to play games.  As I watched the interaction, I was reminded of how we aren’t so different – Dominicans and Americans.  It was a beautiful picture of heaven – except for the noise – my vision of heaven is less loud.

Continue to pray for our group.  Pray that today they will fully die to self and commit to live for others this day.  That could be the prayer for each of us each day.

Be blessed.

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Day 2

The devotion today for our group here in the DR dealt with flexibility.  I find it a bit ironic that I wrote that devotion a couple of weeks ago to be published in a booklet for our group to use on this trip and then when I arrived, I found no internet connection.  So today is the first time I have been able to post – God is teaching me to be flexible.

It has been an amazing journey so far.  God’s timing is humbling.  Our partner church here in the DR has been working for several months on a musical presentation to be presented at the National Theatre.  It is an evangelistic musical telling the story of early Christian persecution and how God guided people of faith.  Last night was the only presentation they will make of this wonderful musical and we were here to attend and experience it.  What a blessing.

We have been blessed with great attitudes as we have begun to learn to work together.  God is teaching us to be humble and flexible, and he is blessing us as he blesses our work.  Construction is ahead of schedule and our first day of VBS was great.

I am always amazed how God can take a group of 20 individuals – some of whom did not know each other 3 days ago and make a beautiful team!

Thank you for your prayers.

Now that I have found “secret” wifi, I will be able to post more frequently.

Follow along!


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Front of mission shirtAnd we are off!  20 people from our church are on the way to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  We will be working with churches and schools in and around that city serving in a multitude of ways from construction to Vacation Bible Schools and sports camps to sewing projects and school teacher training.

It is an awesome group made up of folks ranging in age from 17 to . . . well, more experienced than me.  It was pointed out this morning that the millennials made it through security fine – it was the seniors that were the trouble makers.  It is going to be a fun and exciting journey.  One of the things I really love about trips like this is the way God grows relationships between those on the trip through the week.  I am excited to see how God is going to work through us AND among us over the coming seven days.

Once in country, I should have internet service in the mornings and so I plan on trying to journal some of our experiences here.  So be sure to check back each day to fBack of Missions shirtollow along.  You can also follow us on Twitter (@jbrianhill) and on Instagram – watch for the hashtag #fbc2dominican to stay up to date.
One request I have is to ask for prayer for safe travels and for God to grow our group in compassion, flexibility and service.

Stay tuned!

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