Archive for May, 2023

I have been thinking about purpose for a while now. Questions like, “Am I effectively living my calling?” and “Am I helping our church move forward?” have been on my mind and heart.

This reflection has led me to take a fresh look at the mission of the church. This Sunday, we will begin a new series looking at God’s desire for our church and churches in general. The foundational understanding that will ground each sermon in the series is this: God’s church does not have a mission as much as God’s mission has a church.

So many churches get bogged down in trying to define their mission. To be sure, each church is unique in the way God’s purposes are fulfilled. We all need to be clear in what God intends.

But scripture is clear in that God’s desire is the redemption of mankind. Jesus came to earth with the mission of making forgiveness and eternal life possible. His basic purpose was to offer himself as the sacrifice for all sin in order for redemption to be a reality.

That is still God’s heart and desire; saving humanity from itself – from sin. God’s plan in this endeavor is to use the church to bring this mission to completion. So the mission is the redemption of mankind. The church is the plan to fulfill this mission.

The next time you think about the mission of the church – I challenge you to instead consider that God’s mission has a church.

Go be the church today!

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Wrong Turns

Have you ever taken a wrong turn? Now days, GPS and the maps on our phones can help prevent such a thing – when they are accurate. But growing up when I did, those tools were not available. The good thing is, I grew up in west Texas and I learned that towns are typically laid out in a grid pattern with streets going north and south and then cross streets going east and west. If you missed a turn – or turned the wrong way, you simply “made the block” as we would say and come back to the site of the mistake and choose differently.

That served me well in the barren geography of west Texas. But the first time I tried to navigate a town with a river running through it, all common sense went out the window. There was no “making the block”. The next turn might take you in a totally different direction. And without a clear picture of what direction to go, it was easy to get farther and farther from where one needed to be. It finally came to a decision of either continuing to meander around until the destination was found or simply turn around and backtrack.

Our lives are like that. It is so easy to take a wrong turn and continue to get farther and farther away from where we need to be. When we think about turning back, the distance we have come seems insurmountable – too great to make it worth even trying to get back to where we took the wrong turn.

Yesterday, one of my readings was in Acts 11. The chapter recounts Peter’s being called before the leaders in Jerusalem to give an answer for why he went outside the Jewish faith to share the Gospel. I encourage you to read the story and what led Peter to step outside all that he had been raised to believe to take the good news to a Gentile. After giving his reasoning, we are told in verse 18, “When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even the Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

As I have reflected on this idea of repentance being offered to even someone like me, I have thought a lot about what repentance is and what it means. The act of repentance is best understood as turning around – literally a 180 degree turn. If you are going one direction, repentance means turning back and going the complete opposite direction. This is our choice. When we are told that God has granted repentance that leads to life – that means he accepts our turning back. But we have to do the turning!

Here is the beauty and blessing of the repentance that God grants – when we turn back to Him, He is right there. Regardless of how far off track we may have gotten. No matter how far down the road we may have wandered or all the side streets we may have explored, when we decide to turn back, there is no ground to make up to get back to where we need to be.

That is grace!

The psalmist says in Psalm 139 that no matter where we go, God is there. If we go up to the heights or down to the depths, God is already there. When we decide to turn back to him, we don’t have to first correct all the mis-guided steps or wrong turns to get back to Him – He is already there.


So today, if you feel you have taken a wrong turn in life and you need to get back on track, know that God is waiting for you to simply turn around toward Him.

Turn around and find peace today – turn around and find hope!

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We have been talking about moments for quite sometime within our church family. It try to keep in front of our folks how important it is to be sensitive to the little, what might even seem insignificant, moments throughout the day. When we take a moment to spend in reading God’s word or in prayer, we are taking time to focus ourselves on God’s presence in our lives. Should we take extended time to dig into Jesus’ teachings and take them to heart and apply them to our lives? Absolutely! But what I am talking about is the simple act of taking time throughout the day to make sure we are grounded in faith.

We need to have moments in reading, prayer, conversation, community, serving and giving – each week. What I have come to see is that when we string moments together, we begin to form habits. And habits of following Jesus change our lives.

Yesterday, I had one of those chance moments. I have a bad habit of always being in a hurry. I tend to put more things into an hour than I can actually get done. Yesterday, I had a doctor’s appointment at 1:30. So I left the office at 12:45 with the plan of going by a mailbox down the street to mail a letter and then to grab something to eat before heading to my appointment. The mail box I was planning on using was taped up and had a sign on it that said, “Out of order” (who has ever heard of such a thing). So I had to drive a few miles to the actual post office.

At that point, I really didn’t have time to get food so I ended up at the Walmart gas station down the street from the doctor’s office. I ran in to get a fountain drink and some chips. As I made my way to the soda fountain, I noticed a man on his knees reaching up into an ATM machine. The two employees were standing there watching. Nothing gets by me, so I thought, “Well that’s odd.”

Just about the time I finished putting the lid on my drink – success – he retrieved his money. As I was standing at the counter to make my purchase, I heard the man from the ATM machine say from behind me, “You are Dr. Brian Hillman!” Well of course that is not my name but given that he had part of it right and the fact that I was the only person standing there, I had to respond.

I turned to him and he said, “My wife and I have watched you on TV for years. I have been telling her I was going to meet you someday.” (As if that is something anyone would really aspire to do). So for the next 15 minutes, we stood in the store and I listened to his story. A story of a wayward past but redemption that only Jesus can offer. I listened as he told me the sacrifices he and his wife have made to make sure she got the cancer treatments she needs. I saw the anxiety in his eyes as he told me of the upcoming appointment with the oncologist. And I teared up a bit when he asked, “Do you think you could pray for us?”

The two of us grabbed hands and, ignoring the sounds of customers coming in and business continuing on as usual around us, we joined hearts together and prayed for God’s blessing and healing and peace. When we finished praying, we hugged and I told him I hoped they would make it to our church soon. He said he would as I pushed open the door. Before the door closed behind me, I heard him say to the employee, “That was a trip man!”

As I climbed into my Jeep, I realized how much I agreed – that WAS a trip. There was no reason for us to meet other than God putting us together. I was in my own little world trying to get too much done in too little time but God had other plans. What a moment to pause and see how God works in our lives! What a moment to connect with a fellow believer I had never met! What a moment to encourage one another in the faith!

Isn’t it humbling when we see God move?

“What a trip man!”

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What a Ride!

When it comes to ministry, and serving a local congregation particularly, there is rarely a routine day. That may have been the biggest learning curve I had to deal with almost 25 years ago. I have heard multiple pastors use the same comment through the years – “One of these days I am going to write a book . . .” This statement is normally made after encountering things that make us scratch our heads in amazement. Some of those experiences happen when God moves in amazing ways. And sometimes the statement follows times when people are just being people.

Several years ago, one of the churches I served decided to bring on a person from within the church to be the Children’s Minister. This particular lady had been a member of the church for many years. We were in a small enough town that everyone knew each other. So she knew the church and the people in the church (as well as those outside the church). For the first year, every week she would come to my office shaking her head and say, “I had no idea, I just had no idea.”

Ministry can be a challenge. We have the privilege of walking with individuals and families through some of the best days of their lives and in the same week, have the responsibility of walking with others through some of the darkest of days. As ministry leaders, we see the side of people that no one else sees.

The truth is, ministry is a calling. I do not know of anyone who survives ministry apart from the divine calling God places on our lives. It is a calling.

This week Kristi and I celebrate eight years of serving along side the First Baptist Church of Corpus Christi family! It has been quite an adventure to date! We have walked through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows together. And through all the joy and pain and growth and tears, God has been and continues to be faithful!

I am so grateful for this calling. The last few years have been exceptionally difficult because of all the things going on in the world. But ministry is never easy. However, it is always an adventure with new challenges weekly – sometimes daily. The calling to ministry is one in which we hear God say, “Hold on and enjoy the ride.”

What a ride indeed!

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I am not much of a bread eater. I like bread and will eat it, but I don’t have to have it with every meal. In fact, it is unusual for us to even have it in our pantry. So when I arrived at Christ In the Desert on April 10th, I was not overly excited to find bread to be a primary staple. In fact, the first couple of days I did not indulge.

But on Wednesday, after my Shredded Mini-Wheats, I thought I would have a piece of buttered toast. I have mentioned in other posts, that the experience of time at this particular monastery is one of solitude and silence. No one is supposed to talk. So sitting at meals offers time to think and pray and be fully present with what is happening.

As I took my first bite of toast, I was taken back by how good it tasted. Granted it had been a long time since I had eaten toast, but I could not get past the thought that this was the best toast I had ever eaten. As I sat there slowly enjoying each buttery bite, I prayed, thanking God for His goodness and His provision. I thanked him for how good the toast tasted.

I did not hear an audible voice but I definitely sensed God’s response. God impressed on me that what I was experiencing with the flavor of the toast was how toast should taste all the time. And what’s more, all of life’s goodness should be experienced the same way. As I thought about what God said, and took another bite of toast, I realized that the only reason I rarely have such an experience with things is that I am always moving too fast.

In the last few posts, I have talked about being still so that things become more clear. Another benefit of slowing down is really being present and able to take in the beauty (and flavor) of God’s creation.

God does not always communicate something so profound in something as simple as buttered bread, but occasionally He does if we are paying attention. God created life to be experienced and enjoyed for it’s goodness. We know that sin takes what God meant for good and twists and distorts it. But this lesson about toast reminded me that there is still so much good in life to be enjoyed, we just have to slow down and experience it.

So today, slow down and savor the toast.

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I haven’t really written much about my experience a few weeks ago (in fact, I haven’t really written much at all in the last few weeks). I am the type of person that needs time to process things – especially big, life changing experiences. And so, I think I am still in the processing phase.

The week after Easter, I spent the better part of a week at a remote location in New Mexico. I had read about Christ In the Desert Monastery almost 20 years ago during my doctoral work and thought to myself, “some day I want to go and experience time in solitude and silence there.” Through the pandemic, I began to realize that not only did I want to give it a try, I actually needed to do so.

On Monday after Easter, I made my way to the Chama river in northern New Mexico. I did not realize, until I arrived, that the location is the most remote monastery in North America. After driving over an hour north of Santa Fe, I turned onto a dirt road and drove another 40 minutes into the desert to finally arrive at a monastery that was built in 1964.

Turning off of the pavement also meant leaving civilization – cell service ended within the first quarter mile. I have to say, I was intimidated to be doing something so out of my comfort zone. I am a very “connected all the time” person. My To Do list is current minute by minute through the day. I watch email incessantly. And any little red dot on my phone notifying me of some, most likely trivial information, steals my attention nearly every time they appear on my screen.

Being disconnected for four days with no work to do was one of the hardest things I have done in a long time. But I must say, it was life-giving. I arrived on Monday afternoon late, but it wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon that I began to notice my mind had slowed down and I could focus more clearly on God’s word and hearing His voice.

I intentionally took only a notepad and my Bible – no work, no computer – nada! I spent time in the Psalms and just listened for God’s voice. I also read through most of Romans, taking time to really think about what I read there and to listen for what God would have me take in.

I’ll be writing more of my experience in the days ahead, but the point of me sharing this today is that it is so important for us to take time to put ourselves into situations where we can be still and simply be. I challenge you to find 10 minutes today to “turn off of the pavement.” Find time to completely disconnect and just be present to Jesus. It will certainly make it easier to recognize His voice.

You will not regret it.

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Since October, our church has been focused on creating moments – sacred moments. We continue to challenge one another to take time to have moments in God’s word, moments in prayer, moments in community and moments in giving and serving. The idea is that when we string moments together, they create habits and those habits lead to changed lives.

Yesterday, I challenged our family to grow spiritually. Each one of us needs to take seriously our responsibility to strengthen our faith. To be clear, God does the strengthening but we must do our part to be open and receive that transformation. A crucial aspect of sensing God’s movement in our lives is simply being still and listening for His voice. It is extremely hard to discern what God is saying if we cannot hear his voice over the chaotic roar that is our lives.

A passage that has my attention today is John 10. In this passage we find two different “I Am” statements of Jesus. He uses the illustration of sheep and a sheep pen and says “I am the gate” – the protector. He also says, “I am the Good Shepherd.” He is not the hired hand that neither knows the sheep nor even cares for them, but rather, He is the true shepherd that knows the sheep by name and truly loves them. Verses 3 and 4 say, “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

As I have read these verses over and over, the question I keep asking myself is, “how well do I know His voice?” Can I hear His voice over all the others? My experience has been that He rarely shouts. So it is imperative of me to do my part to listen and grow accustomed to his voice so that I recognize it when I hear it.

Do you know His voice?

Each of us must train our ears to hear His voice. One of the best ways to do that is to spend moments just being still and listening for His voice as we read His word and as we pray. Prayer is a conversation but we rarely wait around to hear the other side.

Take a minute to make a moment right now – just being still and listening.

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