In praise of assistants

We honored some of the most important people on the BGCT Executive Board staff Wednesday — our ministry assistants. For those of us who grew up in an earlier time we used the equally honored term of “secretary” to designate these wonderful servants, and many churches still do.

Where would our Kingdom work be without them? They literally make it possible for many of us “reverends” to have the time to touch personal needs and they keep us pointed in the right direction. They truly are ministers of the gospel because they assist in making the proclamation of that gospel possible.

The ministry assistants who work for the BGCT are an amazing group. They have great organizational and communications skills, as well as other abilities. They bring a high level of competence to their work, but they also bring a passion for service to our Lord Jesus Christ and His Baptist churches in Texas. And after hours, they are committed servants in their local churches.

I’m dying to give praise to my own assistant, but if I lift up Kathryn Lay for praise then I would leave out so many others. Oh, I slipped and mentioned her name. Secret’s out, but I assure you Kathryn is not alone.

If you call or visit the Baptist Building in Dallas this week or anytime, please say a hardy thank you to our assistants, our fellow ministers of the gospel.

(Originally published by me on the We Are Texas Baptists blog on this date.)

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A glorious day

This is the beginning of a glorious day in American history. Barack Obama will be sworn in today as the first African-American president in our history.

I am so proud to experience this day. I remember the racism of childhood growing up in Dallas, so this is just an amazing day.

I’m in a hurry to go to an appointment, but I just had to start the day with a post. I pray God’s blessings on Mr. Obama, his family, our nation and our world.

The importance of compassion

This weekend I’ve been going through magazines that have stacked up the past few years in a desire to get them to the recycle bin. One of those mags is the March-April 2005 edition of Utne.

In an article titled “God Alert: Karen Armstrong Wants to Warn the World of a Looming Religious Storm” author Michael Valpy reflects an interview he had with Armstrong regarding religious fundamentalism. One quote from Armstrong especially caught my attention.

“Compassion is the key to religion, the key to spirituality. … It is the litmus test of religiosity in all the major world religions. It is the key to the experience of what we call God–that when you dethrone yourself from the center of your world and put another there, you achieve extasis, you go beyond yourself.”

Valpy then said Armstrong quoted the Buddha, who said, “First, live in a compassionate way, and then you will know.”

I really did not grow up being taught that compassion is the key to my religion–Christian of the Southern Baptist variety–but I do think this is right if you genuinely seek to follow Christ. And the good thing about compassion is that it inoculates you against the hideous effects of religious fundamentalism, which Jesus battled and which Southern Baptists followed.

But in saying that, maybe I’m not being compassionate toward Southern Baptists. Compassion, in seems, is not an easy thing.

Serving people in the name of Christ

Yesterday, I asked my Sunday School class to join me in prayer. I’ve been teaching this wonderful class for almost eight years. I have a sense that it’s time for me to say goodbye to this responsibility, that our current study of the Gospel of Matthew should be my last.

I really haven’t finally made up my mind, and I really do value prayer. I did a similar thing in Virden, Illinois, when I thought my time as co-pastor was coming to an end. I just believe that decision regarding church service should be participated in by the community involved.

We stand alone before God in ultimate responsibility for the lives we live, but we stand together as community in seeking to live this life faithfully.

‘Redemption machines’ for Texas?

I received the following e-mail from Weston Ware, of Texans Against Gambling, yesterday [his bold]:

“It’s Day One [of the legislative session], and so far, at least <strong>11 gambling bills have been filed in the Texas Legislature</strong>, including Senate Bill 309 and House Bill 75, to legalize slot machines (or, as the bill calls them “Amusement Redemption Machines”). They are joined by House Bill 73 and Senate Bill 311, which clear the way for video slots or video lottery terminals (VLTs) by redefining what’s currently legal or allowed in Texas.”

What really caught my attention was the ridiculous euphemism, “Amusement Redemption Machines.” The gambling industry wants to make a killing in Texas, and they’ll do just about anything, including spend a fortune in lobbying, to get the chance to reach deeper into Texas pockets.

Why keep fighting these big-monied interests? 1) It’s bad for the people of Texas and tears at the moral fiber that holds a society together, and 2) We’ve been winning this battle against the spread of gambling and these are still winnable fights if we stay aware and communicate with our representatives.

(Originally published by me on the We Are Texas Baptists blog on this date.)

Beyond the work

The past few days I have written things of a different nature. They’ve been more about living life for Christ and not just about the things of our work together. I did this for two reasons.

First, I was away from work recovering from knee surgery, and it gave me time to think about other things.

Second, I think it’s important that while we talk about our work, we also talk about the reason for our work.

We Baptists have become guilty at times of becoming too busy for our own spiritual good. Jesus knew better. He only had a three-year ministry; and while He worked hard to teach and prepare people for life in a truly new world, He always took time to pray and rekindle His own relationship with the Father.

Let’s keep alive His work and His way of working, with our spirits ever turned to the Spirit behind all things.

(Originally published by me on the We Are Texas Baptists blog on this date.)

Recalling the call

I’ve been away from work for a week now; well, at least I’ve been out of the office. I’ve found through the years it takes about a week away for me to get re-centered. Yes, all ministers know that “the ministry,” while uplifting, can be draining.

When I’ve been away from “the work” for a bit I tend to remember the things that God did inside of me to move me in such a direction. Through others, the Bible and my own thoughts God moved me to make this crazy, youthful commitment to “do whatever He wanted with my life.”

It’s been an interesting¬† ride that took me out of Texas, beyond my family’s wishes, and involved using a strange ministry career called journalism, at least for most of the time.

When I get tired, I start wondering about the plans I had, the things I wanted to do before the call. But then, when my body has time to rest and my spirit has time to reconnect with my Lord, I remember the calling. I realize the great blessing of service to our Savior and His church.

The Christmas holidays are a busy time of ministry, but I hope our vocational ministers will take some time alone to recall their calling, to rejoice in the joy of that service.

And maybe we can pray more fervently that God will call out others, including our own children. Isn’t it great to live life with a greater purpose than one’s own success.

(Originally published by me on the We Are Texas Baptists blog on this date.)