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I am the clay…

Sometimes we need to reflect on who we are and where we would like to be. It is easy at times to fall into a comfortable state of existence and routine. We actually develop a tunnel vision and can only focus on one thing, one direction. Those directions aren’t always bad, but they can be self-serving or very introspective.

This week I participated in my first staff retreat on a church staff. It was a blessing to sit, to be a part and to hear the passion of the other pastors. I learned a lot about the wonderful staff that God called me to join. They are an incredible group of people who are passionate about serving the body of the Christ and sharing Christ with all that they encounter. I am grateful for His call and very excited about His plans to use me at First Woodway. I am certain God will be shaping me through these people.

I also learned and realized at this retreat that I must be open to something new and different for me. I have not ever been afraid of changes or challenges. I have always tried to be available to God using me however He wants to use me. I don’t feel like I have any amazing talents, just ordinary talents that I am asking God to use. Like a piece of clay ready to be molded and shaped by the Creator, no matter how old I am or how different the task maybe, He is just asking me to be available and open to His will and direction.
Those moments we slow down or stop and look at ourselves are important and needed. I believe God uses those times to remind us of His mission in our lives. He created us to be in relationship with Him, not to ourselves, and not focused inward. We are to be available and ready to go as well as ready to bring others to Him. Ready to share the love He has given us with others. Ready to step out of our comfort zone, out of self and routine, into a new and exciting place.

When we are ready to take that step out, where is that place? Where does God want to use you, where does He want you to go? Keep looking up and out. God has great things in store for you.

Isaiah 64:8 (NIV) Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.

New Identity

I had the privilege of speaking and singing at the annual Widows Luncheon this week and it was a joy to be with them.  I thoroughly enjoyed the time with these ladies.  They reminded me of my mom, strong, enduring, and faithful in their walk with Jesus Christ.  I shared a little of my testimony with them through words and song.  The first song I sang was by Nat King Cole:

L is for the way you look at me
O is for the only one I see
V is very, very extraordinary
E is even more than anyone that you adore…

I sang a couple of secular love songs and shared how my family was very loving and caring as a child, but my home and family did not know Christ.  Then I sang a couple of Christian songs and began to tell them how my dad and family were transformed by the love and grace of God.  I explained to them that my dad’s identity was once in his family.  When he came to know Christ, he was no longer identified by his family and culture, but by a new life in Jesus Christ.

The first scripture my dad memorized was Galatians 2:20 (NIV), “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  The old man was gone and the new one was born.  It wasn’t long that until our whole family had a new identity.

I wanted the ladies to know that God’s intentions for them has always been to be His children, holy and righteous, daughters of God.  He did not intend for us be identified by others and circumstances in life.  Yet we all do it.  We let life and death hold us back from be being all that God has called us to be: sons and daughters, adopted into the wonderful inheritance of God’s love.

The theme of the luncheon was “Sing unto the Lord a New Song.”  We can sing a new song and live a new life because we belong to Him.

Now your burden’s lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain
So sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live  (Chris Rice)


Praying for more chocolate…

I love the season around Valentine’s Day.  It gives me an easy time to let my wife and my daughters know how much I love them.  They are a gift of love from God to me and to others.  Plus, I also love chocolate, and this season brings the chocolate out.  One survey showed that consumers will purchase more than $448 million and 58 million pounds in chocolate during Valentine’s week. I am one of those consumers who usually buys it and I always end up buying some for myself.  Chocolates are a great gift and way to share your love.  They seem to say the right thing even when you can’t.

Thinking about Valentine’s Day makes me consider questions about my life. What message am I  saying to others around me?  Is my life saying the right things? Am I sharing the love that God has given me?  I think He gives us opportunities daily to share the love.  I don’t always do it, but I pray that I will be aware of those moments to share His love.  It doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day or Christmas or any other holiday, God ordains those moments when we become like chocolate, a kind and satisfying gift.  A flavor and taste of life and goodness.  Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”  This world sometimes seems like the opposite: bitter, cold, and without care.  I am so thankful that God blesses us with moments to be light, to be hope and to share the love of God.

This morning I was going to stop in to Starbucks for some tea and to do a little bit of reading.  God had other plans.  He wanted me to be there to talk with a lady who was struggling to find a job, just became a mother again to a grandson, and feels very overwhelmed by it all.  As I began to listen to her tell me her story, I realized God wanted me there to share His love and comfort.  It was only a few moments, but she began to weep as I explain that God wants to be her focus even in her struggles.  He wants to be her love and her passion for living.  He wants to be her hope…and I just so happened to be there to share the love, His love.

By the way…chocolate comes from the cacao tree that produces a fruit that hold the cocoa beans.  My prayer is that my life would produce fruit through the moments that God gives me to share the love.

Lord, I am praying for more chocolate.

God loves you

God loves you

What a great time I had this week preaching in chapel at Baylor University. I worked at Baylor for over 13 years, my wife and I received degrees from Baylor, and I have had many cousins, nieces and nephews also attend and receive degrees. My mom and dad also attended and my dad graduated in 1952 then later in 1990 he became the first Hispanic regent at Baylor. Since I was a child coming to Waco to see my grandparents, I have always had a great fondness for Baylor.
“That Good Old Baylor Line…We’ll fling our green and gold afar…to light the ways of time…and guide us as we onward go…That Good Old Baylor Line.”

So as I preached to 4000 students my prayer was that God would guide and direct my words, and that He would also guide the hearts of those students to a greater understanding of God’s amazing love for them. I was actually surprised at the number students who were very engaged and listening, thankful. Then as I looked across the audience, there were also many who were checked out, asleep, or just apathetic to the message and time of worship.

My heart and my attention was drawn to them, those who for whatever reason had no interest in hearing about God’s passion for them. I understand it could have been the messenger, but my spirit still was burdened for them. They are studying at such a wonderful place of learning and guidance. How could they miss the true guidance and light in that environment? How could they miss a God who deeply, stubbornly, and eternally insists on loving each and every one of them? I am grateful for the number of students who listened with their ears and hearts, and I pray for those students who need to understand that God has a passionate and enduring love for them.
Thank you Lord for allowing me to share with the students at Baylor University and for reminding me that even when I fall asleep on you or when I am distant with you, you still love me dearly.


Community is good. I had a chance to attend a chamber of commerce banquet recently and really enjoyed the time, the networking, and the speaker. It was great seeing many people I knew as well as meeting several community leaders for the first time. The banquet was the annual time to recognize outstanding businesses, individuals who have excelled this past year and volunteers who have gone above and beyond the call of duty. The community recognized them all for their great work in building community. They had all given themselves to their work and community.

The definition of community is a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage. Look at how the early church began in Acts 2, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” Sounds like the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce. They met together, ate together, sold and purchased to support each other and just enjoyed being together…networking.

What a great example and reminder of how important community is for nurturing relationships. How important it is for us to be in the community of friends and believers. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, “Christian community means community through and in Jesus Christ.” There is something to say about community. We need it, it is healthy for us, it brings conversations, closeness, connection, and most importantly it unites us as followers of Jesus. I believe it is difficult to grow in your faith without community. We need each other.

Hebrews 10:24-25, “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.”

The church is a place to connect, be encouraged, and to be together in community. “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” Psalm 133:1

Men of hope…

This morning I sat down with eight other men who were studying the Bible together. They were in Romans. They were engaged, passionate, and seeking to discern God’s truths. It was an early morning group that has been meeting for years. These men were older than me, some even 30 years older. Many of their Bibles were well worn, well read, marked up, and beloved. They invited me to join them and I am glad they had coffee. What a blessing for me to be in the room with them. I wasn’t there so they could teach me a thing or two or for me to show them a thing or two. They just wanted me to join in…join in on the reading, the conversation, the discussion and camaraderie of being with men. Men who have hope. Men who understand where their hope comes from, from the Maker of heaven and earth.

They didn’t claim to have all the answers, in fact, these older men were sometimes hard on themselves to living up to the truth. I am so glad I decided to get up and join them this morning. It was an invitation from these men, but I knew God really was the one who invited me to see, hear, and be around men who hold on to hope. It was evident in their worn out Bibles that their hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
My prayer is I will also hold on to my hope in Jesus Christ. There is a great need in our country and in the  world for more men to know and live this hope. I’m inviting you to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”

Lord I need you

Lord I need you…

I am not amazed that daily someone calls to ask for spiritual guidance.  Most of the time the words they speak are “I need help, I am at the end of my rope, I am lost, I need to talk to someone.”  More and more people of all walks of life are looking for a word, a thought, a way, something to help them through their difficult situation.  In life it is all kinds of things: cancer found in a loved one; trouble in a marriage; financial problems; loneliness; insecurities and anxiousness; and many more struggles.

Scripture says, “in this world you will have many troubles.”  These troubles will come, you can’t stop them, they are a part of life and they will come.  So many people try to find their own solutions or quick fixes to some of the problems.  They live and act independently of a Creator.  They believe that they just need to believe and have confidence in themselves to pull up their boot straps and press on.  Others take on the weight of the situation and crumble to the point depression and defeat.

If you are looking for help for whatever reason, the place to look is nearer than you think.  Psalm 121 says, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”  The Creator, the one who made the heavens and the earth.  Would He not be the answer, would He not be the solution to your problem?  When my dad was living I leaned on him and called to him to be my help.   God became man that He may experience the flesh and its struggles and understand our needs.  He, God the Father, became our help.

You need help?  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Not wanted…

He wasn’t a purebred, he was just one of many.  He was a nuisance and was not desirable.  Reminds me of me.  The scriptures says “there is none righteous”.  I have faults and I am broken and sinful.  Why would God want me?  Yet, God in His infinite love demonstrated it by sending His one and only Son for us; to have a relationship with us, to bring us close to His side, to transform us into new people, to provide an eternal home.
I am so grateful for God’s love and compassion.  He has taught me how to do the same even with a dog from the pound.  This dog was a puppy looking for someone to take him home, love him, and give him a chance; and we took that chance and took him home.  Over the last 11 years we have loved him, cared for him, and even learned lessons from Him.
We could have easily called him “Fruits” because this dog exemplified the “fruits of the Spirit.”  He loved us, that was easy to see.  He was happy and joyful always, (especially around meal time).  He was peaceful and calm even when children were in his face.  He was patient with us even when we weren’t patient with him.  He was as kind and good as a dog could be and as faithful as a purebred dog.  This dog was gentle and mild with every person he encountered, (not so much with other male dogs).  Finally he was under control because his master and home changed him.  Like the Master changes us, his master and home changed him from undesirable to a new creation, a beloved pet and a part of the family.
I learned a lot from him, but most of all God used this pet to teach me about God’s great love for me.  I will miss Cocoa, the purebred dog who had a  home, who had a family, and was dearly loved.
January 1, 2006-January 3, 2017

A dear friend

He was a dear friend, a friend, and a shepherd to many. He was a tremendous influence in my life. I did not know him that long but we developed a strong bond as I worked alongside him for six years. He believed in me, and because of his faith in me, he gave me a lot of responsibility while I was serving as the assistant dean at Truett Seminary. We talked often in his office, we laughed together, cried together, prayed together, shared meals together, played a lot of golf together, and traveled down the road together. I learned so much from him.

He taught me how to love people and to love the church. He brought pastors to the seminary and trained them to preach and lead. While we were together we started the Black Preaching Conference and the Hispanic Preaching Conference. We also hosted the Bi-Vocational Small Church Conference and the Cowboy Church Conference. He showed me the value of connecting to Texas Baptist pastors and churches, and of course he taught me how to ask people for money. He would always say, “We want you to do two things for us – pray for us and give to us. If you can only do one, give to us. We will find someone else to pray.”

He befriended my dad and my dad loved him and always wanted every book Paul would write. I also have many, if not all, of his 50 books. Books about how to be a pastor and preacher – that was his passion and that passion definitely rubbed off on me. I cherish the time I served along side of him, even when he asked me to blow the leaves from the porches of Truett each morning. At times he we would ask me to sit with him and Dr. Reynolds, the Pipers and the Baughs, and others who loved and believed in his leadership. I learned so much from him and will always be grateful for his influence in my life.

More than anything, he believed I could lead a university. Not just any university, the most strategic Texas Baptist university. So he called and recommended me to the BUA trustees. I was proud to serve there and to have his support and to office in the Paul Powell Presidential Suite.

I talked to him often and most recently in early December. I thanked him for his new book and told him about my new work at First Woodway and he said he was proud of me. He was a dear friend and I will miss him. Thank you Paul Powell for believing in me.

I love this quote: Dances with Wolves! I am Wind In His Hair. Do you see that I am your friend? Can you see that you will always be my friend?

Home for the holidays…

“Oh there’s no place like home for the holidays.” “I’ll be home for Christmas.” These are wonderful songs of the season and I have always loved Christmas music; it just draws me into the time of the year, family, and a deeper appreciation of home. I know that home is different for everyone. Several years ago I worked at a children’s home and cared for children who came from difficult homes and environments. Many of the children were glad to be removed from their situations and seemed to do well at the children’s home, but it was not home. Even with all that we gave to them, with all the care and attention they were given, with a bed, a roof, food to eat and clothes to wear, even with houseparents…it was not home.
A few years ago my dad was in the hospital for several days and was not doing well and he began to tell us that he wanted to go home. The whole time we were thinking that he was talking about his physical home and we knew he was not well enough to go home, but I am convinced now that he wasn’t completely talking about that home.
I still love going home to see my mom. She is 92 and she still cares for me as her child; I am grateful that I still have her. But as I am home, there is just a special feeling that invades my life. A definition of home is “a place that is native or most common.” Home is where I am from, that is who I am, that is where my affections lie.
Maybe home was so special to me because the affection of home was developed by my family knowing God. My home taught me about knowing Him personally and relationally. When someone comes to know Christ they discover that they were created to be His child. In Ecclesiastes 3 it says “he has put eternity into man’s heart.” They fall in love with the one who created home, and in turn we feel that embrace, that closeness, that right place; we come home, a place where we are from.
Oh there’s no place like home for the holidays…or any other day.

John 14:23(NIV)

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.