Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

You Are a Masterpiece

Today is a big day for our family! In just a few hours, our daughter (in-law) will head to the hospital with our oldest son to begin the process of welcoming their first child into the world (yes – our first grandchild). We can’t wait to meet her!

Over the last several months, we have prayed and waited with anticipation but now, the reality is setting in. This morning as I reflect on what God is doing in this little life, I am also thinking about the text for the sermon this week. We are working through Ephesians 2. This week, the text will be verse 10, For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He prepared in advance for us to do.

The word translated as “workmanship” is the Greek word poema. Obviously, we see our word poem in this word. But a closer look reveals the nuance and idea of a “masterpiece.” Paul tells us that each of us is a unique, one-of-a-kind masterpiece. The psalmist said we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” in Psalm 139:14.

I have not even met Harper yet (that is our granddaughter) but I already know she is a work of art – a masterpiece.

And so are you! God created you completely and utterly unique, just like everyone else! He loves you and has a plan for you.

So, go live like the masterpiece that you are today! I’ll just be here getting ready to meet the most beautiful little girl in the world!

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A Life-Giving Truth

This past Sunday, we started a new series looking at our lives as pilgrims in The Way and who we are as Jesus followers. The series, titled Life In Christ, will run for several weeks as we work, verse by verse, through Ephesians chapter 2. As we began this important look at living with Jesus, we focused on who we were before we committed to this lifestyle and who we are now.

Ephesians 2:1-3 gives us a vivid picture of how helpless and hopeless we were without Jesus in our lives. All humanity is lost and spiritually dead without a trusting faith in Jesus. No matter how hard we try or how good we think we are, apart from Jesus’ saving work in us, we are spiritually dead. Paul tells us in Romans 3:23 that each and every human to ever walk the planet has sinned and fallen short of God’s plan for them – His glory.

But then verses 4 through 8 remind us that we have been given the opportunity to be rescued – that Jesus came to pay the price for our sins and make a way for us to be alive in Him.

The point I really want to highlight from all of this comes in verse 4, but because of His great love for us. Eight words that make all the difference. Eight words that give us hope and a future. Eight words that make the difference between a helpless and hopeless life and a life of hope and joy – but because of His great love for us.

Someone reading this today needs to be reminded that nothing you have ever done (good or bad), nor nothing you will ever do (good or bad) could make God love you any more or any less than He always has.

God LOVES You!!

Regardless of where you are today remember that life-giving truth.

Be blessed.

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Are You Anchored

When my wife and I made the move to Corpus Christi in 2015, people told us that the wind blows here every day. My typical response has been, “It blows in west Texas everyday too, the difference is – in west Texas, there is typically dirt in it!” I have to say, they were right. The wind does blow here regularly, and most days I am grateful. With our humidity, if there was no breeze, I am not sure I could handle it.

I am blessed to have an office with a window that looks out over the bay of Corpus Christi. For a boy from the sand dunes of west Texas, it is quite a sight. As I sit here this morning, I notice the waves, driven by the wind. The waves are moving toward the south – meaning, of course, that the wind is blowing from the north. Many days, the waves are moving toward the north or west.

The point is that the waves move different directions because the wind changes directions. The ships, anchored in the Gulf awaiting their turn to make it through the ship channel and into port must deal with these conditions. Without a firm anchor, the ships would drift to who knows where. But a solid hold keeps the ships in place until it is their turn to move.

There is a similarity here to our spiritual journey. Life comes at us from all directions. Things happen on a daily basis that can throw us off course. Like the ships, not only are we pushed by the wind, but also by the currents of our culture.

This Sunday, I will begin a new series titled, Life In Christ, taking a look at Ephesians chapter 2. In the first verse of this chapter, Paul says that prior to surrendering to Jesus, we were “dead” in our sins. He goes on to say in verse three that when that was the case, we were driven by “gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.” The original language here gives the picture of going back and forth and being driven from one thing to another with no direction or purpose – like a ship without an anchor.

But Paul goes on to say, in chapter 2, that we have been spiritually resurrected from the dead through the grace offered by God. Our being brought back to life happens through faith in Jesus. Grace is God’s part and faith is ours. Faith is trusting that Jesus is who he says he is and that he will do what he says he will do. Faith is our anchor and Jesus is the rock to which our anchor holds.

So know this today. If the wind of life is gusting and the currents of culture are pulling, Jesus is the rock you can hold on to.

He alone can hold you firm.

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An Adventurous Journey

Following Jesus is a life-long commitment and a daily decision. When we commit to following Jesus, we are committing to the journey of a lifetime. There will be ups and downs, adventure and hardships, good days and bad. But the journey is so worth it! The joy, peace and hope that come from living a life in following Jesus make all the difference.

This journey is a life-long commitment but we have to choose each day to actually take steps toward becoming more like Jesus. It is one thing to say we follow Jesus – it is quite another to actually do it – each day!

So today, decide that you are going to make a little progress on this journey. We don’t become like Jesus in a day – it is an adventurous journey of taking steps and creating moments in the course of a day that move us a little farther down the path.

Be intentional today.

Be the light of Jesus’ love to someone.

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Today Is The Day

Our Proyecto Fortaleza team all arrived safely yesterday and we made our way south to McAllen, Texas. Today, we will welcome over 20 couples to a retreat here at Casa de Palmas. The theme of the retreat is Regaining Joy. As I went through my presentation again last night, I reflected on the joy God provides when we gather together. Some of the couples attending this weekend will be servants we know – and some will become new friends through this weekend together. But whether they have been with us before or are here for the first time, there will be joy in being together because of the love of the Father.

Each morning, one of the readings that shows up in my inbox comes from the writings of Dallas Willard. I thought the message I received today was very fitting. It comes from his Renewing the Christian Mind essays. He said, We trace him (Jesus) through those uncomprehending encounters on the first Easter morning, and on through the amazingly different historical periods of the church. But we also find him now active among his disciples. Who he is, is revealed in an essential way in his people.

The thought that who Jesus is, is revealed in his people is at the same time, both exciting and convicting. When we are at our best in community, we see glimpses of Jesus. So we need to make sure we strive to be at our best.

Today, I ask for your prayer for our team and for the pastors and their spouses who will gather to see Jesus. Pray that his love will fill the room and the joy of his salvation will be renewed.

Psalm 51:12 – Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Thanks for your partnership in prayer!

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An Important Work

Who pastors the pastor?

That is a question that has driven a ministry I participate in, and have for well over a decade. The need to offer a respite and encouragement to pastors has not gotten smaller with time. In fact, with the pandemic, this need has become more acute and urgent. In 2021, Catapult published results of a survey of over 3,100 pastors in America. One of the most staggering findings of that survey was that 55.7% of the pastors surveyed had actively sought to leave the pastorate in the previous year.

Proyecto Fortaleza (or The Strengthening Project) began in 2006, as an effort to encourage pastors and their spouses in Juarez, Mexico. Over the next few years, this ministry became more focused to encourage pastors and their spouses in the areas of spiritual progression and marriage enrichment. Now, one of the biggest things we do is offer an overnight retreat (at no cost to the couples) as a way of giving pastors and their spouses an opportunity to rest and renew.

This weekend, our Proyecto Fortaleza team will be offering a retreat for pastors and their spouses in McAllen, Texas, serving couples from the valley. Proverbs 27:17 says, As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. On Friday, over twenty couples will gather to be rest, to recuperate, to recover their joy and to sharpen one another.

I ask for your prayers for these faithful servants. Pray that God will use this time and our team to bring rest and renewal to those in attendance. There is truth to the statement – As the pastor goes, so goes the church. Renewed and passionate pastors make a huge difference in the churches the serve. So pray that God will work in the hearts and lives of these servants.

If you would like more information about this ministry, you can find it here.

Thank you for your prayers!

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In my last post, I talked about how the pandemic forced our church – and most churches – to move to an online presence. Prior to the pandemic, gathering in person was the primary experience of most church attenders. To say that the disruption changed the way we worship would be a gross understatement. The change definitely affected our worship but it had additional, possibly even more damaging effects as well.

Humans are, by nature, relational beings. The isolation forced by the pandemic resulted in many unhealthy outcomes – increased depression and other mental health issues, anger, frustration, loneliness and crime rates. As it pertains to the church, the unhealthy outcome continues to linger. Instead of returning to the family, connecting online has become the norm for many.

We live in such a consumer driven culture that having access to “church on my terms” has just been easier. We can connect with thousands of churches while at the gym or on a break. We can listen to sermons and worship music while we drive. We can tune in to a Bible study any time we want. We can even watch a service in our pajamas on the sofa with a cup of coffee.

While moving to that platform was crucial to keeping our family together, it does not take the place of the relationships that make the church what it is – the family of God. The writer of Hebrews warned his readers that becoming distracted and wandering from the faith is a real danger. Therefore we are to encourage each other daily. He went on to say in Hebrews 10:24-25,  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

I know that online church has become the norm for many. But when we forsake the gathering we not only deprive ourselves of needed relationships and the encouragement those relationships offer, we do the same to others in the family.

It’s time to come back to church.

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How Is Your Bandwidth?

One of the things the pandemic brought about in church life is the move to an online presence. As things shut down and everyone was forced into isolation, groups could not gather. Prior to the pandemic, gathering as a group was somewhat of a big deal! The weekly gathering of the family was the primary focus of the church – most every church.

I will address the importance of the gathering in my next post, but today, I want to follow the thought from my last post of being stretched.

Each pastor in America had to quickly become a “televangelist.” Our church was no different. Overnight, I went from preaching to faces and bodies in the room to preaching to a camera! For a communicator, that is not an easy transition – or at least it was not for someone of my competency level. But apart from the difference in how I communicated, there were other issues that arose quickly – the most crucial was the internet connection. All of the sudden, bandwidth became an important word in our conversations.

Because our services had been on local television for years, we had the equipment in place to stream our services. But what we did not have was the bandwidth to actually stream. Steps were taken to increase our internet service to take care of that issue. Once the bandwidth was increased, one of our issues was resolved.

There is a similarity in our journey in The Way. We encounter opportunities each day for us to be light and love – to live as Jesus would live. But we are always pushed and pulled by other pressures in our lives – pressures that distract and take up bandwidth that could otherwise be used to serve Jesus better.

I have lived long enough to realize that the pressures of this life are not going away. We can learn to minimize them occasionally, but we will never be free from them. So we have two choices. We can do nothing and simply allow the pressures of life to minimize our effectiveness or we can increase our bandwidth.

When we spend time with Jesus, in his word and in prayer, in silence and reflection, his Spirit goes to work on us increasing our ability to follow him effectively. Jesus expressed the idea of connection in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” It is all about the connection!

When our church was forced to stream our services, we discovered quickly that the connection was vital to success. It is the same with our spiritual walk – our connection to Jesus is key!

So today, put space in your day to spend time with Jesus and allow him to increase your bandwidth.

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Willing To Stretch

In my last post, I mentioned that I led our Bible study group on Sunday night through the spiritual practice of prayerful reading. I also mentioned that the process was a stretch for many of those gathered there. Since that time, I have continued to reflect on the importance of stretching. Athletes know that muscles have to be stretched and ready before they perform. Real damage can be done when things are attempted before the body is ready.

This is true of our spiritual lives as well. We are called to grow to be more like Jesus each day. This requires real commitment and dedication. Discipline is key in spending time with Jesus in His word and in prayer. But just spending time each day in reading and prayer falls short if we do not follow through with what we hear from God in this process. More times than not, this follow through requires us to get out of our comfort zone – to stretch to meet the calling.

As we are stretched to be more like Jesus, our capacity grows. Our ability to see things from His perspective grows more sharp. Our sensitivity to His moving is heightened. Our willingness to make a difference grows.

With our expanded capacity comes more growth and the cycle continues.

Are you willing to stretch?

How will Jesus use you today that may stretch you from your comfort zone?

Be a blessing this day – while it is still called Today!

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Last night in our Bible study, I stretched our group beyond what was probably the comfort zone for some. I walked them through a Christian practice called Prayerful Reading or Lectio Divina. With this practice, we try to settle ourselves and our minds and intently listen to a short passage of scripture. The passage is read two or three times with space between to reflect and meditate on words or ideas that stand out from the passage. Our group was a participatory bunch so it went fairly well.

When we had walked through the practice together, I asked for response. There were varied comments about how hard it is to settle our minds and become still. We talked about the importance of listening. And then I asked about specific things that individuals heard as they listened.

The passage we used included three verses from Psalm 119. Verses 103 through 105 say this, How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

One of the gentlemen in the group spoke up and said what stood out to him in listening to the passage was the importance of spending time in God’s word which brings greater understanding of what is right in God’s eyes so that we have the wisdom to see what is not right. That led to discussion about how easy it is to accept what culture says is true if we do not know what is actually true.

God has given us His word to help us understand what is true and right. We don’t use that truth as a weapon but rather a guide to help us live lives that please the Father.

May we hold fast to His truth today as we walk this path to becoming more like Jesus.

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