Saturday, December 3, 2016

Astronaut James Irwin had it right!

As a young pastor I invited Colonel Irwin to visit our city and share his testimony with our church and nearby John Brown University.  Before leaving Colonel Irwin presented me with a photograph which reflected his perspective on life.

The photo (see below) showed him standing on the moon saluting the American flag with the lunar module in the background.  Beneath the picture he wrote these words:

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Patriotic Thanksgiving

Lincoln, in his Gettysburg address, declared in America we enjoy government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”  More than simply a well-balanced phrase or a politician’s applause line, this is truly a reason for us to give thanks in the fall of 2016.

I need to be clear.  I am writing this well before the election so this is not a statement on who was or was not elected president.  Rather, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, it is a reflection on our system of governance.  Paul said government is ordained by God for specific purposes, but not all systems of governance are the same.   What's so special about ours?  For what can we be grateful?  Here are just a few of my thoughts.  (Feel free to add your own in the comments section.)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

A Donkey, an Elephant and a Lamb

In November we have the privilege and responsibility of electing the next president of the United States. Many are enthusiastic about the election and heartily favor one candidate over the other. Not everyone. In fact, I cannot recall an election in my lifetime when people have been more conflicted and less enthusiastic about a presidential election. Many do not like any party’s candidate and wonder why they should even vote.
So I asked a number of pastors what they thought. What, I asked, are you saying to your folks about voting? Many graciously shared their thoughts and gave me permission to quote them. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

A Different Sort of Hero

I have a new hero and his name is Desmond Doss.

Mel Gibson was recently in town for a preview showing of his latest movie Hacksaw Ridge.  Hacksaw Ridge recounts the story of Medal of Honor recipient Desmond Doss. You probably don’t know his story, but his story is one Christians need to know. His example is one we need to emulate. 
Desmond Doss was twenty-three when he enlisted in the Army in April 1942. Patriotic to the core and anxious to help America win the war over the Axis powers, Doss enlisted … as a conscientious objector. 
Doss was willing to go to war, but he was unwilling to kill an enemy soldier or carry a weapon into combat because of his beliefs as a Christian.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Church in Black and White

Earlier this spring I invited a number of African American UBA pastors to meet with me for a candid conversation on black-white relationships. This was long before the events of recent days. Our conversation was honest, candid and forthright. I will be forever grateful to each of these men for the time we spent together.

As they shared their stories there were times when I was heartbroken. I heard what it was like to grow up in a sharecropper's home.  I heard stories of bias, discrimination and violence perpetrated on these men and/or their families just because of their race.  No one should live through the things they lived through. 

We talked about white privilege, systemic racism, implicit racial bias, profiling, prejudice, discrimination and a host of other issues.  We touched on some larger issues--black on black violence, the imbalance in incarceration, the breakdown of the family.

I'll be candid.  There were also times when I felt defensive, like I was doing something wrong just being white just as I'm sure they must feel for being black.  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Will UBA survive as our denomination changes?

In a recent Christianity Today blog Ed Stetzer asked whether local associations would have a future in Baptist life since associations, emerging networks, state and national conventions often provide overlapping services.  Churches will not want to fund multiple ministries that do essentially the same thing, he argued, so who will survive?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Seeing something special in an ordinary day

The year 2000 may mark the zenith of film photography.  That year Kodak announced that consumers around the world had taken 80 billion photos (setting a new all-time record).

Fast forward to today’s world of digital photography and that number seems quaint by comparison.  Estimates are that 1.3 trillion photos will be taken in 2017!

Photos give us a moment in time, but a good photo tells a story.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Racism in the first degree

I knew what the outcome would be even before the jury foreman read the verdict.  So did practically everyone who watched.  “Not guilty,” the foreman read.  With that simple pronouncement the case of the People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson was over.

What troubled me wasn’t the verdict.  I knew what was going to happen.  I wasn't watching Court TV in the 90s.  I was watching FX's recent dramatization of the O.J. trial in the miniseries "The People v. O.J. Simpson:  American Crime Story.”  The verdict was handed down over 30 years ago.  

What troubled me was this — by finding O.J. "not guilty" the jury found us guilty of racism in the first degree.

Monday, February 29, 2016

A Happy Ending for a Dying Church

Last year I received a telephone call from a long-time friend.  The church he'd grown up in was about to close its doors.

The church was once a strong vibrant witness in the community.  Hundreds of folks attended weekly.  Gradually, though, the community began to change.  The folks moving into the community were not like the folks in the congregation.  The church tried to reach them, but the differences were too great.  Eventually members began to move.  Attendance declined.  Those who remained realized if they didn't do something soon they would have to close the church.   They took affirmative action.

Church leaders invited a hispanic congregation to meet in their building with the hope the hispanic congregation would one day be able to take over the property.  For many reasons that never happened.

"There's only a handful of folks left.  If something doesn't happen soon," he said, "I'm afraid they'll have to close their doors for good. Any chance UBA could help?"

At the time, there wasn't, but that was about to change.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Christians and the Democratic Process

The presidential election is not until November, but aside from terrorist attacks and disruptive weather events, the election has dominated the news cycle for almost a year now.  As the primary season progresses moving toward the national conventions the political campaigns will be in the forefront of our thoughts until election day in November.

As Americans we have an opportunity not afforded many people in the world.  We have the opportunity to shape our own futures by electing men and women to public office who share our values and principles.  

As Christians, we have both the right and responsibility to be engaged in the political process.  But how?  How can we be engaged?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Second Thoughts About Associations

I’ve served Union Baptist Association in an executive leadership capacity for twenty-five years, and now I’m beginning to have second thoughts about the value of the association.
There was a time when Baptist churches recognized the value of the association. When Baptist churches started forming in Texas in the early 1800’s one of the first things they did was form a Union Baptist Association. For almost a century and a half the value of the association for local churches was undisputed, but that was primarily because churches were smaller and was easier to see the value of cooperation and working together through the association.

The trend now is toward larger, better-resourced churches.  In Houston, 19% of the people who attend church every weekend attend a megachurch (see Barna).  (As late as the 1960s there were no UBA churches that qualified as a megachurch by today’s standards.)  Today, with larger, better-resourced churches who are capable of doing many things for themselves, many are wondering if associations are outdated. If not outdated, is their usefulness limited to smaller churches? Hard as these questions are to consider, they deserve an answer.