August 13, 2008

a mirror, not a window

How often I read the scriptures as though they were a window. I am reading along looking for insight into the world and people around me. Now, I’m not suggesting that the Word of God doesn’t give us insight into the world and people around us. It certainly does. The mind of God sees all things, all people, all of time as though at once.

Nevertheless, the scriptures are always first to be a mirror into our own hearts. The Word of God is a sword that pierces the heart and deflates human ego. I confess in my own mind, I often as not see the sword as I would hope it pierces the other – rather than as I would hope it pierces me.

In my daily reading on August 8, I read: 1 Corinthians 4.5: “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

I first read this passage as though it were a window, not a mirror. “Yes,” I thought, “God is going to expose the motives of people and reveal the secrets of their shadowy hearts!”

I then realized that this was a mirror, not a window. “Uh, oh,” I thought, “God is going to expose my motives and reveal the secrets of my shadowy heart!”

A disturbing thought to be sure. As I processed this word of truth, I became thankful for two things. 1) Jesus Christ has died for the shadows in my heart. The light he shines into my soul isn’t to convict me of sin, but to free me from it. I should fear staying in darkness where death is my only reward. Though painful, the exposing light of Christ ultimately frees me for life eternal. 2) I can trust God. I can trust him to shine light into my life and reveal the intent of my heart. I can trust him to judge me at the appointed time for when payment comes due, I will find it has already been paid. When the sentence on my soul for my sin is delivered, I will find it has already been served.

August 11, 2008

new thoughts for me

I am the chair of the Conference Council on Youth Ministry – arguably the most fun conference council in South Texas! It is populated by students and adults who love young people and who work tirelessly to bring the Gospel of Christ to teens. I spent the last couple of days with my council in Marble Falls. We played together, worshiped, and did our annual planning.

During our morning worship, we were singing our praise to God. I was looking around the room at all the sweet faces of youth and adults who had just spent four exhausting weeks leading summer camps for all the kids in Southwest Texas. They had given of themselves to serve the Lord. We were in a spectacular spot on Lake LBJ. The sun was streaming in, the open water all around us, and the communion elements were on the table.

We had to improvise a little bit with the bread and juice. Somehow we had forgotten the elements. So, we found a grape Capri-sun – though it must have been white grape since the liquid looked more like apple juice. For the bread, we had a plain bagel.

The singing came to a close and painfully I shared what was on my heart:

We are here in a beautiful place and you are all such beautiful people. We are of one mind and one accord. The unity of the Spirit is among us. Our worship of God is easy in this place – and it should be. And it is real. But, it is not the only place we are called to serve. In truth, much of our work and worship is to be done in the sewers of the human spirit. And that is being generous. Most of the world – often even the church exists in the selfish sewer of human depravity. We spew filth on ourselves, on each other, on our God, and on his servants.

Worship and service to God is more often not in a place of beauty, but instead in a place of desolation and waste. Jesus didn’t come to save pretty people, he came to save those in the sewers. Jesus offered more than words – I confess that I often only offer words. Jesus told us the greatest love is the love that lays down his life for his friends, then he called us friends. More than just offering words, Jesus laid down his life for all people. By his sacrifice he made us – he made me – who are enemies of God by our sin – his friends. He mopped up our sewer stained lives and made us gleam as though brilliantly white.

Our faith is messy. Consider that the great symbol, the great memorial, the great mystery that binds us together with God comes in the form of a broken body and shed blood. Blood that pours from hands and head and side is the enabling agent of a new covenant of peace.

In my daily scripture readings this week, I read the following and was mightily convicted. I know I don’t live this as I should, but pray God I am learning and growing in it.

1 Corinthians 4:11-13: (Paul describing the apostles) “To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.”

And 1 Corinthians 4.20: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.”

August 4, 2008

State of the U

The following was originally published in the most recent edition of The Encourager, the monthly magazine of the U. The uzine may be found on line at:

Another new school year is quickly approaching. Children will be entering new classes, new grade levels, and new schools. Families will say goodbye to the madness of summer and prepare to settle into a more normal routine. As the page is turned on another summer and we head headlong into the fall, I am preparing to deliver a “State of the U” address in our contemporary worship services. Coming hard on the heels of a seven week study on the book of Ecclesiastes and serving as a transition into our church-wide “University for Life” sermon series, I will seek to celebrate some of the past year’s accomplishments, examine some of the work yet undone, and share some prayerful hopes about our years ahead.

In an effort to prepare for this address, I asked our ministry leaders to share with me some of the things they celebrate about the past year. I was overwhelmed by the response. There has been so much in the last year for which to be thankful. God has truly and richly blessed our church. At the end of his Gospel, John said that there is simply no way to record everything Jesus said and did in his lifetime – there wouldn’t be enough parchment to contain it all. As I compile a list of celebrations, I completely understand! There has been simply too many wonderful Christ moment to record them all, but by way of previewing my pending State of the U address, I offer these celebrations.

In Sanctuary Music:

The Chancel Choir was invited to sing at Carnegie Hall in March of 2008 and will be taking 48 members of the group to perform.

Over 1,100 people attended the Christmas 2007 community outreach concert

Music Camp had 98 campers!

In usk8:

The kick off event led to 55 people accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior!

In the first 12 weeks of the ministry, the Gospel has been preached to 204 different skaters
6 people have been given their first Bible.

In Food Ministry:

A program was launched that has recycled 12,000 plastic bottles in the last six months.

In Foundation:

Over $18,000 in Scholarships Awarded – four college scholarships and two music scholarships

Over 200 people participated in Stewardship Development Events (Good $ense, Debt Reduction workshops, Financial Peace University, Putting Your House in Order Seminars)

In Magdalena House:

Successfully opened the U’s Woman's and Children's shelter – a home for domestic violence and human trafficking victims

In Outreach:

126 people joined the church through Pastor’s Welcoming Luncheons.

Non-University children were bussed from local apartment complexes to participate in Vacation Bible School.

Ongoing mission work on the Gulf Coast (Disaster Recovery Trips for Hurricane Rita), on the border, in Uspantan, Camanchaj, Antigua, Rwanda, Memphis, Corpus Christi, Under the Bridge, and places around the city.

Held three “Amigo Dinners”

Provided leadership and team members for Epiphany #3 and #4

Angel Tree –bought presents for 50+ families .

Hosted the Blue Sunday & Teen Conference

Provided Samaritan assistance for over 300 people (rental assistances, gas, CPS, and/or food).

I would invite all of our contemporary worshipers to make plans to attend services on August 17 to hear the complete State of the U address.