Monday, March 31, 2008

Prayer needed for Luther Ray Doughty

Our dear friend Luther Ray is sick. He was due to have some further testing done today and his lovely wife Lorraine is there with him. Will you take some time to pray for his healing right now? He's been in the hospital almost the entire month and not through yet. He's likely to still be there at the end of the week. Pray for wisdom for the doctors, nurses and caregivers. Pray for his comfort, both physically and mentally. Pray for the Lord's mercy on him during this difficult time.

Welcome Duane, Mary and Taylor NeSmith!

I'm pleased to announce Duane as our new Youth / Education Pastor, effective Wednesday, April 2. By an overwhelming margin of 94%, Duane was called to FBC. Please pray for his family as they begin the transition of bringing him here. Pray for a super beginning to his work among us here. Pray for wisdom to guide our church as we begin this new journey together!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

What I've learned about myself

I've been reviewing the first quarter of the year this week, reviewing goals and plans for the year, measuring where we are and where we'd like to be. It brought to mind something the Lord has really been working with me on - stewardship of MYSELF. What I've learned is my love for working in service to the Lord sometimes overwhelms my body's ability to endure. More rest is needed for me - my wife will tell you that with certainty. We've had the busiest, craziest year of our lives - in a good way, mostly - since Jan 1st. But it's caused to come to terms with how I practice stewardship over myself.
- If I don't practice stewardship over myself, I'll be no good to my beloved church when they need me.
- If I don't practice stewardship over myself, I've got nothing to say when Sunday arrives. Is it just me or do Sundays come really quickly?!
- If I don't practice stewardship over myself, I'll come to a place where I don't love the service to the Lord as much as I endure it. That's NOT who I want to be.

So what's my plan?
(1) Carve out some time daily to do something that creates passion within me - textual criticism. More on that later.
(2) Energize myself with conferences that feed my desire for obedience - I'm headed to New Orleans next Friday and Sat for just such a conference. It's a conference on textual criticism.
(3) Take my day off seriously. I need it to make sure my heart is ready for Sunday.
(4) Take my vacation when it comes time. What I've learned about myself is that I do best when I take two consecutive weeks out and two consecutive Sundays off. It takes me three to four days to sort of "come down". We'll be taking a trip later in the year (I don't normally announce when I'll be gone since people often see that as an invitation to stay home!).
(5) Do more leadership development, training others to step into roles God has designed for them.

There you have it - be assured I'll keep you posted about my progress.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What's for sale?

If you're an FBC member, you'll probably hear this story again in the days to come, but it's too good not to use right now. Would you buy anything from this man? I don't think I would. His name is Mony Vital and he's selling immortality. You read that right - for the right price, he can sell you the ability to live forever. (Click here for the whole story). Hmmmmmmmm. I didn't know it was for sale. Is it any surprise this man lives in Las Vegas?

We're committed now!

As you can clearly see, we're committed to the screens project now! Ryan Bizzell and his father, Dana, began their work on the screens last night. It will take a little longer on the north side than it will on the south (you have to learn somewhere!) but we're on schedule to have the work completed by the middle of April. I hope you'll overlook the gaping holes in the walls for the next couple of week as we deal with the mess progress can make at times.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Financial Peace University

I'd like for you to imagine something - what would it feel like to be debt-free? Having all debts paid, except your home mortgage? Would that be liberating? Would it be freeing? Would it bring peace to your home? If the answer is yes, please make plans to join us for a free preview meeting on April 20th at 5 PM for a brand-new Bible study @ FBC called "Financial Peace University." The meeting that night is a preview with no committment - you can just come and see and then decide.

Written by Christian financial planner Dave Ramsey, FPU is NOT just for people who are in financial distress. Many times, people who are doing great find this Bible study just as helpful. It was born out of desperation - Dave had owned a large and profitable real-estate business in Nashville, TN. in the 1980's. The only problem was it was built on the shifting sands of credit. If one of his many banks had called in his note, it would ruin him. And so it was. He went from the top of the top to the lowest of the bottom. Dave took a long time in getting himself together financially, but when he did, he began to do well once more. This time, however, he built on Biblical principles! Having seen some success with that personally, his church invited him to lead a Bible study for others. That grew to another church and then another and then another. Now, FPU is taught by churches across the country. Prayerfully consider your involvement with FPU.

Easter Sunday

On Sunday, we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, breaking the chains of death and it's powerful dominion over us! Now THAT'S something worth celebrating! And celebrate we did.

We had an exceptionally full house Sunday morning and added two families to our fellowship. If you haven't met the McCurly's, they are fine folks - you'll be blessed by getting to know them. Stan works for a company in Tyler. Stacy is a stay-home mom. Their daughters, Mericlaire (nearly 12) and Mollie (newly 4 - her birthday, in case she missed telling you on Sunday, was last week!).

Brandon and Amber Crawley also joined us. Amber is a longtime member here and an alumnus of FHS. Brandon is from Alabama and, after serving 6 years in the military, works at CVS Pharmacy in Whitehouse. They've got one son, Drew, and another one on the way.

Please do all you can to make our new members feel welcome. We'll celebrate Easter again this week!

Passion Week: Good Friday

Sorry for the lateness of this post - I'll comment later on the holdup.

A question I get consistently at this time of year is why we call Good Friday "good". Jesus died and that's good? For Jesus, no. But for us, yes! It was through his death on the cross that we have life. We're bought with the shed blood of Jesus, giving his life for ours at the cross.

While we slept Thursday night, the events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion took place. He was arrested (Luke 22-23) although he made it clear he was no ordinary man. He identified himself as "I AM" (John 18:6) causing these hardened soldiers to fall to the ground in fear. By identifying himself that way, Jesus linked his identity with that of God himself as drawn from Exodus 3:14.

Jesus was taken before Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas the high priest, in an illegal trial (Jewish trials were not allowed at night). After enduring Annas, Jesus was delivered to
Caiaphas the high priest where he was formally charged with blasphemy and treason and sent on to Pilate since the Jews had no authority to carry out the death penalty (John 18:19-24). After Peter had denied Jesus a third time (John 18:25-27), Pilate interviewed Jesus. Although he recognized the real root behind this charge was envy, he didn't have the courage to step up and deny their desire for Jesus' execution (Luke 23).

Trying to engender pity for Jesus, Pilate had him flogged (John 19:1). Flogging was a severe punishment, labeled cruel and unusual centuries ago. A cat-o-nine tails whip was used to beat the victim as they were either laid over a stump or pulled up by their arms from above. The tails of the whip had shards of glass, iron or bone. According to Josephus, a famous Jewish historian from that time, many times, people did not survive such a beating. Pilate had Jesus brought back out before the people, hoping people would be sickened by their own blood-lust. The rabble had been so inflammed with jealousy, it only aroused a desire for more. On cue, they cried out for the release of Barrabas, a treasonous murder with a checkered past, and called for death of Jesus (John 19:4-16). Finally, Pilate relented, trying to wash his hands of the matter (Matthew 27:24).

Jesus was compelled to carry his cross to Golgatha, an Aramaic term meaning "The place of the skull." (Perhaps you can observe the "face" of the man in the hillside. Google the term and you'll find it much easier in larger images) Unable to do so, the soldiers forced Simon, a man from Cyrene and thereby likely an African, to take the cross of Jesus and carry it for him (Luke 23:26). When they arrived at Golgotha, they drove nails through his wrists, right below his hands and through his feet, pinning them together. Many times, people didn't die from blood loss but from suffocation as the upper body was unable to bear the weight of the rest of the body and continue to breathe properly. His sinless death was pre-figured by the death of sinless lambs and goats. When lambs died, however, it was only a partial payment. When Jesus died, he uttered the phrase "It is finished" (John 19:30). In Greek, this is all one word: tetelestai. It's an accounting term, used when one has completely paid back a debt or a note has been cleared. In my translation, I've got it "Paid in full."

The earth was dark for three full hours that day, from 9 AM until 12 Noon. Some have said it was an eclipse and perhaps they're right. Regardless, it's symbolic of Jesus Christ, the light of the world, in the deepest of darkness - for us.

After Jesus died, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin (the rulers of the Jews, just below the Romans), asked Pilate for permission to bury Jesus. They laid Jesus in a new tomb - but not for long!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Passion Week: Thursday

Today is known as "Maunday" Thursday. Maunday is a Latin phrase meaning "mandated" or "commandment." It's drawn from John 13:34 - " A new command I give to you. Love one another." On this date, we remember Jesus' instruction to his disicples, his commemoration of the Last Supper memorialized in Da Vinci's painting, his prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane and his arrest. One thing that often gets overlooked is Jesus' extended discussion in John 14-17, one of the most powerful and compelling elements in the Gospels. Overwhelming in it's passion, Jesus expresses the very depths of his heart and, simultaneously, his own humanity. Take time today to read this powerful passage.

Remember to join us tomorrow, Good Friday, for our Mid-day service, 12 Noon. It's a short service, so you'll still have plenty of time to get lunch before you're due back at work.

Passion Week: Wednesday

Some of you thought I forgot to write yesterday - you'd be wrong. According to the Gospels, nothing is recorded as having occurred on Wednesday. Thus, we've dubbed it as "Silent Wednesday." In honor of such, I purposely choose not to write yesterday.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Passion Week: Tuesday

As Jesus returned to the city, the Pharisees are waiting for him. In Luke 20, they greet him with questions about taxation and how God feels about that: "Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" Either answer works for them equally well since they can easily turn either one into a bully pulpit to bludgeon Jesus with. If he says "no", they'll brand him with treason and have him charged with being a traitor. If he says "yes", the people will turn on him as siding with the state and thus his influence will end. Wow. Talk about a tough spot.

Jesus powerful response demonstrates the depth of his divinity. "Show me the denarius - whose inscription is on it?" The Pharisees correctly answered it was Caesar's inscription. Jesus answered their challenge with: "Then give to Caesar what belongs to him and give to God what belongs to him." To say it another way, give to Caesar that which has his image (the coin) and give to God what belongs to Him (your very self!).
Jesus still calls us to commit ourselves to himself. He invites us to give ourselves fully without holding back, to a passionate relationship with Him and His kingdom. How will you respond to that invitation?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Dr Larry Lummus on MISSION

Many of you are aware one of our deacons, Dr. Larry Lummus, DDS, went on a mission trip to Belize (Central America) last week. He's returned home now, having been a part of the Tejas Medical Missions Team based out of Tyler. Their team of about 15 saw more than 750 cases in medicine and dental work in their seven days in Belize. Wow. That's absolutely fantastic! Click here for a link to the entire library of more than 550 pictures.

Monday of Passion Week

Throughout this week, we'll commemorate the events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, marking each day with the events corresponding to that day.

MONDAY: On this day of Passion Week, we commemorate Jesus' work in the city. According to Matthew 21, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem (at right) on Sunday to a celebratory crowd, all of them crying out "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" People honored his arrival and celebrated Him as a messenger of the Lord.

When Jesus returned on Monday, he found the Temple filled with money changers. Because standard money was considered too "dirty" for use in the Temple, you had to change it for "pure" money - at an exorbitant exchange rate, of course. Furthermore, if you desired to make an offering of an animal, you would be required to trade your animal for one of the Temple animals, at a fee, of course. Jesus saw the injustice of this and, in Matthew 21:10-17, he drove the money changers out of the Temple grounds with a whip!

Jesus encountered a fruitless fig tree on his way with the disciples. According to Mark 11: 12-14, he cursed the fig tree and it withered.

In John 12, Jesus is accosted by the Pharisees. In the midst of the dispute, one his disciples, Phillip, had a some Greeks come to him with simple but powerful request: "Sir, we would like to see Jesus." Wow. The simple power of a request can reshape lives.

Meet Duane, Mary and Taylor NeSmith

Meet Duane, Mary and their daughter Taylor. (I promise I had nothing to with this picture!) You'll remember Duane and his family will join us in view of a call as our Youth / Education Pastor on Sunday, March 30. If you're an FBC member, you'll get a flier in the mail this week with some biographical information on Duane as well as a schedule of events for the weekend they'll spend with us. Please pray fervently for that important week in the life of our church.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Something new

It's been a crazy week with some unusual hours so, at the encouragement of my lovely wife, I took off after lunch and went with her to Tyler. You see, someone who loves me gave me a little bit of money recently and I decided to get crazy and purchase something.

I've needed a new golf bag for sometime. My present one doesn't do well with the oversized grips I've put on my clubs (to fit my big stupid hands!). After looking all over creation and finally finding one I liked, I picked Julie up from the beauty shop and went to Edwin Watts Golf Shop. I bought a new Nike bag that fits my clubs beautifully. Although it's not exactly it in the picture below, you get the idea. It appears that I'll get to christen it tomorrow (Friday) with my dear friends Stile Denton and Mike Henderson!

A big step

Last night in our montly business meeting, our church vote overwhelming to install the much-anticipated and oft-discussed video projection screens for our auditorium. We'll begin work on them shortly after Easter on March 23 and have them ready for the Spring Musical in early May.

I got home and reflected on the evening and realized what a great fellowship we have at FBC. Not all in attendance voted for the proposal and not all of us agreed that we even needed them, but at the end of the meeting, at least from where I was, everyone went away with love for the Lord, our church and one another. That's far more important to me than anything else. If we lose that, we've lost everything. We've lost our mooring as connected to Christ. We've lost our focus on Christ's commands to love one another as we've been loved. This is EXACTLY the kind of thing Satan would love to use to drive a wedge between people. Pray with me that it doesn't happen!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Random Fact about Duane NeSmith

Random Fact: Duane is on the board of directors for Highland Lakes Baptist Encampment near Austin.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

An odd encounter

Most every week, our music pastor Kern and I get together for lunch. Generally speaking, we get to catch up with each other and talk about the unique challenges of serving in ministry. I've come to appreciate Kern both as our music pastor, my friend and my brother in Christ. We talk "shop" and kick around ideas and frustrations we encounter. Like getting bumped from the youth camp we'd planned to attend. I was quite unimpressed with the organization who bungled our registration, but I was kind to them about.

So we're sitting there in a near empty restaurant in Athens talking while I observed a lady eavesdropping on our conversation. I started to say something really bizarre just to see what kind of reaction I'd draw but I didn't do it - and now I'm glad I didn't.

When she finished her meal, she came to our table and said "Obviously, you gentleman are ministers. May I ask what church you lead?" I told her. Her response sent us both reeling: "I just wanted to know (Voice rising in her "righteous" indignation tone) where I NEVER PLAN TO COME! You should be ashamed of yourselves! It wasn't the camp's fault you got bumped! You should be ashamed of speaking so judgmentally about them! And you shouldn't ever use the word 'crap' (a word I'm working on dropping, but haven't yet succeeded)."

At that point, I stopped her and said "Ma'am, the Bible also speaks of judgment of hearts such as you're doing now. Thanks for your input." She tried to jump back on us, but I said "THANKS!" and she left.

She took part of an overheard conversation and judged both Kern and myself in one fell swoop. Wow! It must be nice to be that righteous, to be so very wise you can judge the hearts of two men based on a 10 minute eavesdropped conversation.

On the other hand, as we talked after the weird lady left, it's a powerful reminder that people are listening, even when we don't want them to or would rather they didn't. Pray with me for this lady, whoever she is, and pray for me, your pastor, that I become more the man God calls me to be less the man I don't want to be.

BREAKING NEWS: Duane NeSmith coming in view of a call as our Youth / Education Pastor!

As faithful readers, I thought I'd let you be the first to know the good news! Duane NeSmith will be joining us in view of a call as our Youth / Education Pastor on Sunday March 30. Presently, Duane is Youth Minister / Associate Pastor at Bedias Baptist Church in Bedias (near Madisonville, TX). Duane, his lovely wife Mary and their (nearly) 15 yr old daughter Taylor have visited with our search committee twice in the past month and last night our committee extended to them an invitation to come and meet the church. To a person, our committee unanimously agreed Duane is a good fit for the church and a good man for the job.
Duane grew up in Angleton, TX and drew an associates degree from Brazosport College in Lake, Jackson, TX. He completed a bachelors degree at the University of Houston in Clear Lake, TX and earned as Masters of Arts in Religious Education from Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Ft. Worth in 1988. With more than twenty years experience in youth ministry (and nearly 18 of it at Bedias Baptist Church), Duane brings with him a passion for students and desire to see them changed for Christ. His educational background and ability to organize make him a unique fit for our position and church.
On a personal note, I've known Duane since at least 1991 and have partnered with him at numerous events such as Super Summer (a summer youth leadership camp held at our Texas Baptist college campuses). I don't believe we could do any better than Duane as one of our leaders.
Please begin now to pray for Duane and his family regarding March 30!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

A solid article on one of my favorite topics

The Dallas Morning News was kind enough to run an article on Dr. Dan Wallace and the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. Here's a link to the article. I got to meet Dr. Wallace his hand when I was in Washington D.C. for a meeting in 2006. He is passionate about the word of God, founding the Center for the Study of the New Testament Manuscripts. That's him, seated at the desk, photographing manuscripts in a library in Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey). (Incidentally, take special note of what brand computer he's using - you'll notice it's a MAC! :-)) He'll be on sabbatical next school year photographing manuscripts in Europe and Asia Minor. Incidentally, he's going to be in New Orleans at that lecture I spoke to you about last week.

One of the questions I get when I discuss this with people is "Darin, what do these pictures look like and what do you do with them?" Below, you'll find a couple of pictures giving you an idea of what kind of photos we're using, both taken by Dr Wallace's group. The first one is a general shot, giving conceptualization of the size of the documentation and identifying characteristics. In other words, this is a codex (Latin term we use meaning "book") not a scroll and not papyrus. Second, it appears to be paper as opposed to parchment. The drawings at the top of the page and the illustrations provided in it are occassionally interesting so it's never a bad idea to check those out. The real finds are in the text itself, obviously.

In the text close, up, we notice the text is from Paul (the large letter on the far left is a "P" followed by the "AW" which is actually "au" - you get the idea. I won't bore you with a full breakdown but let's just say this is a page from Romans 1. Dr. Wallace dates this in the 12th century, sort of mid-range date-wise. Not early, but not terribly late either. There you have it! A primer on New Testament Greek Textual Criticism!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

My parents

After hanging out with Julie's parents all weekend, I realized I'd never introduced you to my parents, two of the most amazing people you'll ever hope to meet! They live in Joshua in the house I grew up in (although with all of their recent renovations it hardly looks like the same place!). My mom, Judy, works at a construction company in Burleson. My dad, Robert, is a retired auto body repairman (no, he won't fix your most recent accident!). They've got a dog, Patches and a cat who's name escapes me at the moment.

Big News coming!

As faithful readers of this diatribe, I've got a reward for you - a sneak preview! Our technology committee is about to announce a proposal to install video screens in our auditorium! We've already received a designated gift for that purpose! I will confess that it won't be free - we'll have the final amounts for you on Wednesday of this next week at monthly business meeting - but I see it as investment in connecting with our visually stimulated society. We'll use it for annoncements before and after the services, for the broadcast of the words of our songs (both hymns and choruses) and to provide visual aids for our messages, both Sunday morning and Sunday night. Be watching for it next Wednesday at our business meeting!

Monday, March 03, 2008

A difficult morning

"You never fully get over the loss of a child." Spoken by one who has lost a child, I felt this pain in a starkly personal way today. I stood today with a family stricken with the loss of their son.
I stood with a family who has lost a brother, a cousin, an uncle - a beloved member of their family who will not be with them at family gatherings, homecomings, weddings. I stood there, grieiving with them. There are no words to soothe a hurt that deep. There are no words to assuage a grief such as this. So I stood with them as the rain fell down and the cold wind blew, grieving at the loss of one so young. As I did so, I asked the Lord over and over, "why in Heaven's name did this have to happen?" (I don't think it's sin to ask God the hard questions - if God's afraid of our honesty, then is he really God?) When I got back to my office, there was an email waiting for me with a reminder of the passionate character of God. In Isaiah 55:8-9, the prophet asked the same question of why. The Lord responded with this:

“‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”

While that doesn't stop the pain and doesn't eliminate the heart-wrenching grief, it' s a reminder that the same God who proclaims himself the "resurrection and the Life" is also the same God who has ways and plans higher than myself. He's also the same God who asssured me of his continued presence in my life and his passionate love to guide me through the darkest of days - like this one. Pray for our friends the Smiths. They'll need us more in the days to come than perhaps ever before.

You stick to politics, I'll take care of theology

Okay - I'm through saying what I normally don't do since apparently there's no rhyme
or reason to what I
do do. But usually, I leave politics alone. This one, however,
could not be avoided. When politicians begin to engage Scripture abusing it to meet
their own ends, I'm bound by my calling to speak out against it. Read the quote below
and you'll understand.

Barack Obama made these comments during a question-and-answer session with voters
in Nelsonville, Ohio. A local pastor asked Obama how he plans to win the votes of
evangelical voters when they disagree with him on moral issues.

"I believe in civil unions that allow a same-sex couple to visit each other in a
hospital or transfer property to each other," he said, referring to unions that
grant all the legal benefits of marriage, minus the name. "I don't think it should
be called marriage, but I think that it is a legal right that they should have that
is recognized by the state. If people find that controversial, then I would just
refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith,
more central than an obscure passage in Romans. That's my view. But we can have
a respectful disagreement on that."

The Sermon on the Mount is found in Matthew 5-7, the passage in Romans is found
in chapter 1, verses 26-32.

For Mr. Obama, that "obscure" passage in Romans is just as authoritative and
binding as the Gospel of Matthew. When you begin to divide it up, picking and
choosing what you'd like to believe and what you don't want to believe, it
demeans the entire corpus of Scripture. I'll not tell you how to think
politically - don't let a politician tell you how to read the Bible!