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Family Matters

Family Matters

When I preach I like to speak about topics that will relate to most of the people in the room. That’s why I don’t speak about family issues very much. We have so many different kinds of families. We have married couples, divorced people, single folks, people who lost their spouse, and students who are not yet ready for marriage. We have some adults who do not have children, some who have kids, some have grandchildren, great-grandchildren, or even great-great-grandchildren. We are a diverse community, which is a sign of a healthy church.

If I speak about parenting, some will feel left out. If I speak about marriage, some might feel the message is not for them. So I usually don’t speak about family issues that much because I know I can’t address everyone at once.

However, I feel very strongly that the church must address the family. The Bible is full of valuable instruction for families, and the church should teach the Bible. Furthermore, some in our society are working hard at redefining “family” and teaching their version of “family values.” Since there are so many other voices out there talking about family, the church cannot, and must not remain silent!

For these reasons, I feel led to talk about family for the next few weeks. Our new series, “Family Matters” will begin on Mother’s Day and conclude on Father’s Day. During those six weeks, we will talk about healthy families, marriage, and parenting.

If the topic for a certain Sunday does not seem to apply to you, I encourage you come and worship with us anyway. You may hear something that you can pass down to future generations or pass along to friends and neighbors. You also may hear something that prepares you for the future or allows you to express gratitude for blessings in your past. I assure you, we will all grow through this experience, and it will strengthen us as a church family if we learn and grow together! Join us each Sunday at 10:15, because “Family Matters!”

He loved us too much to stay

He loved us too much to stay on His throne in heaven, so they laid Him in a manger in Bethlehem instead.

He loved us too much to stay at the parade on Palm Sunday, so they laid Him on a cross on Good Friday instead.

He loved us too much to stay on the cross of Calvary, so they laid Him in a rich man’s tomb instead.

He loved us too much to stay in the tomb, so He came back to life instead!

He loved us too much to stay here confined in a human body, so He returned His throne in heaven!

 

Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”  Romans 8:34b

What I Have Not Lost

We say that our disaster happened on April 17, but that’s not completely accurate. Yes, our disaster happened in an instant, but it feels like it just keeps coming in waves. There is just one challenge after another. Over these past few months we have all lost a great deal. Last night I was thinking about what I have lost and what I haven’t lost.

I have lost my house.
I have lost some furniture, some clothes, some personal belongings.
I have lost some friends.
I have lost my appetite, and the ability to sleep at night.
I have lost my patience and I have lost my temper.
I have lost my routine and the comfort that came with that routine.
I have lost my ability to focus at times.
I have lost the chance to get my injured knee fixed any time soon.
I have lost some of my pride when people said negative things about me.
I have lost a lot of tears and a little more hair.
I have lost a lot. Some of what I lost I will get back, and some will be lost forever.

But there is a lot that I have not lost.
I never lost sight of what’s really important, and how blessed I am to have my family.
I never lost my faith in God or the confidence that God is good and West is blessed.
I never lost hope that someday we will rebuild and be stronger and better than ever.
I never lost my integrity or my commitment to this church and this community.
I never lost trust in our deacons or staff.
I never lost my gratitude or the ability to rejoice in the Lord.
And through it all, I never lost the love of my Heavenly Father – and neither have you!

Organized Religion

A few months ago I started this blog.  Less than a week after I posted my first article, an explosion rocked my town and changed my life forever. On April 17, 2013 the fertilizer plant in West blew up. 15 people were killed, half the town was torn apart, and our world was turned upside down. Since that day, I have been so busy that I have had no time for blogging. Now, almost 3 months later, things are beginning to slow down a little and I finally have time to think and to process what we have been through.

In the next few posts, I hope to share some of the life-changing lessons I have learned and some of the amazing things that God has done. For now, I just want to share with you a quick observation.

I was in a meeting last week that included representatives from the various charities and service groups who were working in West to help us with our recovery. As each person reported on their work over the past ten weeks or so, I noticed something very interesting. We heard reports from a Methodist group, a Catholic group, a Baptist group, a Lutheran group, a Mennonite group, a Church of Christ, and the Salvation Army. No civic groups, no clubs, no private companies, no individuals. The people who came quickly and stayed long enough to really help the people of West were churches and denominational groups. Think about that the next time someone tells you they have a problem with “organized religion”.

The people who talk about “organized religion” usually do so with a snarl and great disdain. It’s popular to bash organized religion and some even consider themselves too spiritual for it. Please remember, if it were not for organized religion we would not have most of our hospitals, universities, orphanages or children’s homes. We also would not have most of the help that we desperately need after disasters. Almost all of that work is done by groups who represent “organized religion”.

The day after the explosion, leaders from my state convention and my association were in West taking care of me and helping me figure out what to do next. They have walked through this whole experience with my church family and me. I cannot imagine how we would have gotten through this without them. For that matter, ask my town how we would have gotten through this disaster without the hard work of the Texas Baptist Men or the Southern Baptists of Texas Disaster Relief Team.

The next time someone complains about “organized religion”, remember how important organized religion is to our health, our education, our families, and our communities. I hope you never go through a disaster, but if you do – I pray that organized religion shows up!

A View From the Vine

What is “A View From The Vine?” Glad you asked.  Based on John 15:5, I am a branch that is connected to the Vine, and this is my view of life from that vantage point.

Jesus said, “I am the Vine and you are the branches (John 15:5).” The Vine and the branches make up a beautiful and powerful image of Christ and his church. While not generally considered one of Christianity’s most beloved images, don’t underestimate the power of the Vine and the branches.

As the Vine, Christ has placed the branches within Himself.  Like a grapevine gives life to the branches that grow from it, Christ gives abundant life and eternal life to believers who are connected to Him.  The key to life is that relationship with Christ.

The grapevine also unites the branches.  It is the vine that holds them all together.  In Christ, individual believers are united.  Each of us is unique and created with our own personality, interests, and gifts.  But in Christ, we are brought together in a marvelous and mysterious way.  “We are one in the bonds of love.”

The vine also provides direction for the branches.  They must go where the vine leads them.  As the Vine, Christ directs His branches and we go where He leads us.

What a great picture of the church!  Christ is the Vine and we are His branches.  He gives us life, unites us, and directs us.  He is in charge.  Only by being rightly related to Him can we hope to bear fruit.  Only in Him, through Him, and by Him can the church be the church!

I have been blessed to be the pastor of First Baptist Church of West, TX for almost 20 years.  For over a decade now, John 15:5 has been our theme verse at FBC West.  We use it all the time to keep us on track.  It summarizes well how we relate to Christ, to each other, and to the world around us.