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God has allowed me to pray in some unusual places and with some wonderfully interesting and lovely people, but I don’t know that I had ever seen mouths drop open in shock during a time of prayer until I told someone that I could not pray for their request. We were trying to share Christ and our prayer needs with each other, so I know that I seemed to be out of line.
We must be careful to remember the powerful doctrine of the imago Dei --the fact that all people are created in the image of their Maker. I choose the word "are" since it’s particularly important to understand that the Fall didn’t cancel our image-bearing status. Yes, sin severely distorted our once perfect reflection of God, but the Fall did not totally cancel our divine reflection. Consequently, one of the strange truths of the doctrine of the imago Dei states: “How you treat any person is the same as how you treat God.” The inverse is also valid, because of the impact of imago Dei: “How we treat God is how we treat others.”
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. - Matthew 6:24
A frequent theme in Jesus’ teaching is that God requires complete devotion. Anything less is idolatry, and it is destructive. Complete devotion, however, is hard . . . very hard. We all want a purpose larger than ourselves; we want to live for something significant. But we also want to live for something tangible. Many times God seems invisible. His purpose is often concealed and mysterious. It is much easier to let our hearts drift back to the visible and tangible; possessions, power, others, and most often ourselves. Our heart’s purpose and passion whether tangible or intangible, visible or invisible, is where our treasure lies.
Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “When the Romans erected the statue of Christ and put it up in their Pantheon, saying that He should be one among their gods, their homage was worthless. When they turned their heads first to Jupiter, then to Venus, then to Jesus, they did no honor to our Lord; they did but dishonor Him. Their service was not acceptable. And so if you imagine in your heart that you can sometimes serve God and sometimes serve self and be your own master, you have made a mistake.”
Every moment, every word, every choice is a deposit either heavenly or earthly. Our deposits are our treasure: our affections and efforts to honor God or our efforts to live by the world’s standards. Never both, only one or the other. Jesus’ statement about “treasures in heaven” refers to the rewards we will get at the Judgment when we stand before Him. On that day, every word we have said and deed we have done for selfish reasons will burn up, and everything we have said and done for Christ will be rewarded by God.
Jesus said in Mathew 6:21, “ For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” What we value the most, hold on to the tightest, have the most passion and love for – this is our treasure.
We can serve only one master: us or God. We are devoted to one, and our choices show that we don’t value one as highly as the other. No matter how much we say we value Christ, we can look at our attitudes, energy, schedules, and finances to find out what we really value. They tell the real story.
Does this mean that we can’t be involved in anything but ministry? Can a devoted disciple of Christ go into business or nursing or teaching or any other profession to which God leads us? Certainly, but with a different goal in mind. Our goal will be to seek to please God and not ourselves. Our goal in any profession should be to glorify God. Work “as unto the Lord,” and daily live out obedience to Him. This will show up in what we talk about, what we get excited about, and how we handle difficulties. If we honor Christ and above all else, value Him in all these things, we’ll stand out like a lighthouse to those around us. Pastors, deacons, teachers, and ministry leaders are not exempt from this either. We must constantly check our motives and focus on who we serve – not on our ministries.
The hottest topic in churches around Houston is the subpoenas that were served upon Houston pastor’s by the mayor. Naturally, this ignites fiery conversations about our first amendment right to free speech, as well as the separation of church and state. But rather than simply grow angry over this situation, let’s do something about it.
I was a fairly regular church attendee as a kid and a youth thanks to the efforts of my mother, but I can say that I got very little from any of it. I am not blaming the church, they may have been doing everything that they were supposed to do. What I am sure of, is that I was empty.
At 17, I was a straight A student, a three year letterman in golf, a partial scholarship to SMU for golf, a car, both parents who loved me, a brother that I loved, and most importantly for a 17 year old boy: a fine looking girlfriend. From the outside all was very good. From my point of view, it was so empty. I was 17 and concerned that this was supposed to be the good life and that when I turned 40, everything would simply be an adult upgrade of all of this.
True to the word of God, I did not seek Him even in my emptiness. I did what so many lost persons do. I tried to get more of what I already had. I tried more friends, new sports, new classes and a group called YoungLife. I tried YoungLIfe because the girl I was dating went to YoungLife. Remember, I was a 17 year old boy I figured that this was another opportunity to be with her.
The girlfriend didn’t last but YoungLIfe did. I heard the gospel for the first time. It may not have been the first time that someone shared the gospel with me, but it was the first time that I heard it. I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior in June 1978 at a YoungLife camp. I told my parents what God had done in me and that I wanted to be baptized the next weekend at church. I would continue to look for direction in life and God would guide my steps and direct my ways. But the emptiness did not remain because I was now filled with God’s presence in my life.
In college, God surrounded me with very strong Christians and the University of Texas. I know some people think it impossible to find Christians at the University of Texas. May I remind you that our alma mater has a Biblical reference? Back to the matter at hand. God gave me a roommate that was an amazing Christian who was a YoungLife leader at an Austin high school, two strong churches that I attended every Sunday morning and night and a very strong Christian girlfriend.
After graduating God provided me with a job in the banking industry, but most importantly he gave me a wonderful Christian lady to be my wife. She is one of the most powerful examples of Christlike living. She prayed hard and long when we decided to leave our jobs in Florida and enter the seminary.
We moved to Florida after we married and bought our first home, had our first child, and were very active in a local church. Donna worked with the children and I served as a deacon. It was here that I realized that I was supposed to leave what I knew, banking and go to seminary to do something. I had no idea what that something was. We shared the news with stunned parents who could not understand why at 29 and a senior vice president of a bank and a lobbyist for the banking industry I would simply quit. But we were sure that is what God wanted so we did just that.
We arrived in Houston and I went to work waiting on tables, driving a truck for Federal Express and going to seminary. Donna was on staff at Tallowood Baptist church in the children’s department. We lived on small checks, and tips. Our bank was a Tupperware container in the kitchen. God provided enough and “enough is as good as a feast.” God also gave us a second daughter. Another prayer answered.
God used connections in the seminary to direct me to Rice Temple Baptist Church and eventually He called me there. It has been a great 17 years. I know for a fact that many times the church was sure I was nuts. Sometimes I have wondered myself. God has called me to care for this great and diverse body of believers and to care for the forgotten as well. I am so thankful that the church allowed to grow up here as both a pastor and minister.
My testimony has no exciting moments, only many moments of great love from the Creator and Lover of the Universe.