Monday, April 23, 2007
We'll Miss You Pastor Burt

On the weekend of April 15, 2007, we started a sermon series on Elijah and while describing Elijah’s ability to allow God to move him in his life, Pastor Burt closed his sermon with this:

“If you want to be where God wants you to go, you’ve got to be willing to go where God leads.

Now I know this in a very personal way, and I share with you this day a very…difficult thing. I’ve never been so complexed as far as having both a sense of honor and a sense of sorrow. But as some of you have read in your First Edition Newsletter, I will be appointed as a senior pastor in June of this year; something that I did not anticipate and really was not looking for. It was one of those moments when we really do inherit the gift of the itinerant system, where we are sent as United Methodist Ministers. And so this June, I will be appointed as the senior pastor, at Bear Creek United Methodist Church. And it’s an incredible and extraordinary joy for me. It’s an incredible honor. And while I know that to be something that is in God’s work, and will, I couldn’t see it coming. It wasn’t necessarily in my plans, I mean, we’ve got things to do here. We’ve rolled up our sleeves. We’re wrestling with issues, and we’re about God’s kingdom work, but you know, I’ve learned, God doesn’t always work on my timeline, His wonders to perform. And I cannot always anticipate that He will work inside my own imagination, because He never has. And what I hear is the summons of the church in a very humbling way saying, ‘This is where we need you to serve.’

So it’s my honor to move from your midst to be a senior pastor of a 3,500 member congregation, seeking to build disciples for Jesus Christ in the Houston area. And as I go from this place, what I hope that you will say is not that I am leaving you. What my hope is that what you’ll say…is you’ll look north up on Highway 6 to Bear Creek and say, ‘That boy started at First Church.’ Because what I view this as is a very humbling honor to stand in the great line and lineage of associate pastors who have preached in this pulpit, and then moved on to senior pastor leadership positions within United Methodist Churches in the state of Texas, and in many cases, not just limited to Ft. Worth, or to Dallas, or Lover’s Lane, but places like Boston Ave.

It’s my honor to serve the church. And quite frankly, if I were to shed the robe, I will tell you, I am scared to death…because I know the expectations. And while I don’t know what the future holds, of this I am certain, I know who holds my future. His name is Yahweh. He is the God who has always led His people. And if we really say what we believe, that we serve a risen savior, and we will go wherever He leads, then how could I say anything other to the bishop than, ‘I am honored to go where I am sent.’

And when I go to Bear Creek, I will go with a part of your life in mine because I have learned so much about the value of ministry and how to lead because of the privilege that you have given me here. I know that I can’t get to where God eventually leads me until I am willing to go where He leads me one destination at a time. I didn’t know where I was first gonna be when it was in Louisville. It was a call on April the 1st when I move to Nocona, TX. It was a prize to me that I was asked to start a church, yet we were blessed to move to you here at First Methodist from a church in Paris, TX. In each place that we have been, God has held surprises.

In the midst of our departure, here is what I dream for the both of us. I dream that together, we will realize that if God can speak to and use a chicken hearted prophet in one moment, and he is by the way. He’s not all the time brave and bold. This is not some sort of Mel Gibson, Braveheart character with a face painted blue, riding then on a horse yelling, ‘They can take our FREEDOM!’ This is the kind of guy who slays hundreds of prophets of Baal and the goes and hides in a cave, and God seeks him out and says, ‘Elijah, what are you doing here?’ He sometimes, dimwitted as he steps out of the edge of the cave, and you will here in this magnificent work, the earth, the wind, the earthquake, and the fire, but God was not in the fire.

You see, Elijah is just an ordinary individual like you and me, like Jackie Robinson…like Sunny Brown. The question is this: Will you this day choose to begin the work of excavation in your own heart, in your own faith? Will you make room for God to go to work, so He can build in your heart what He wants?

It is with sadness in leaving you, but also with a sense of honor and joy that I say God has said to me through the bishop, ‘Burt, get thee hence. We’ve got kingdom building work to do.’ It’s been my joy to be with you, and I pray, that together, this is just the beginning of what God’s going to do together through us.”

His comments about his calling and the end of his sermon are one of the main reasons that I enjoyed working with Burt at various times while he has been associate pastor at FUMC. In his time here, his enthusiasm, energy, stories, and love of God seemed inexhaustible.

We will all miss you Burt, even if we don't know it yet. Bear Creek is a lucky congregation!


  posted at 4:51 PM

Thursday, April 19, 2007
The Beast, a poem by Kent Bevers
While rummaging through my daily/weekly blog reads, I came across the following poem posted by Armando. It so eloquently portrays the struggle that an addict goes through on their journey to find or re-discover their relationship with Christ. I know that it really nailed it for me.

The Beast

The beast came a calling on a cold and lonely day.
He wanted to come inside so that we could play.
His voice was small and friendly, and he was lonely too.
I let him come inside with me, what else was I to do?
I learned so much from him as we started having fun.
I soon lost sight of trees and birds, of flowers in the sun.

It didn't matter, I did not care; the beast was my best friend.
I laughed with him and played with him, not looking at the end.
Little did I notice there in my bedroom
The beast had grown much larger, and light had turned to gloom.
We continued on into the night despite my weary fare.
I did not eat, I did not sleep; I simply did not care.

It felt so good to have this friend in the deep and dark midnight.
There was no one there to tell me this simply was not right.
Morning came, some friends stopped by; I had no time for them.
The beast was here, how little I knew - I was now in prison.
There were no bars; there were no gates, no locked doors to see.
But sure enough, I was trapped by one much stronger than me.

Time moved on, I continued to play; the beast continued to grow.
There still were no trees or birds for me, no sun on pure white snow.
There was only the beast and I, and the lust which filled my heart.
I never stopped to question the beast within my heart.
More days passed, and many nights, and I took another look.
When I reached out for the beast, on the floor I saw a Book.

It was old and it was worn, I had forgotten it was there.
There were whispers from its pages, a voice of love and care.
So quickly did the beast shut the Book up tight –
I had no time to read it and day turned back to night.
Morning gloom came slowly to my private room again.
Misty memories reminded me I had another Friend.
I told the beast to leave me alone, just for this one day.

I wanted to ask my other Friend if He would like to play.
The beast left without a word, he didn't even fight.
I spent the day with other Friend, He made me feel all right.
When day was done and I returned, beast was there for me.
It would take more than just one day to set this captive free.
More time passed, the beast grew large, and my life was filled with dark.

I was blinded to the fact this beast now filled my heart.
The Voice of Love I heard before called for me one more time
Reminding me the Book was there, and that the Book was mine.
I found it there upon the floor, the pages all torn up.
The beast had done its best to keep me from its touch.
There still were words that I could read, words of peace and life.

I told the beast I wanted to read; he hit with words that lie.
“All you ever need or ever want I have right here for you.
What need of words from a battered book that claims to speak the truth?”
“Still,” I said, “I want this Book, that’s what I’m reading for.
I can not let you stay with me to steal from me some more.
So let me read or go away, just be quiet now.”

With a roar, the walls came down; I knew not why or how.
I yelled and screamed, fought the beast, all to no avail.
The beast was stronger than I; he held me in this jail.
This beast I thought was my good friend, now held me in his arms.
If only I had known before I would have made alarm.
Now I knew it was much too late, I was captive all alone.
The beast began to squeeze me tight, crushing all my bones.

Then I remembered from the Book words which spoke of grace.
I called out to my other Friend; I began to see His face.
He told me I could never win against this mighty beast.
Hope quickly left my heart as I became a feast.
My other Friend spoke more words that filled my heart with Love.
“To beat this beast, you need all help from heaven up above.
I will ever fight for you if you confess your need of me.
If you try to fight alone - victory will flee.
Grace is all that’s needed and deep humility.
Choose now, my friend, the ugly beast or love and purity.
Count the cost, deny yourself, or choose a life of death.
You can be free right now, today, if you take this Breath.”

I ceased my struggles as tears of shame rolled down my burning face.
I don’t know why I forgot, or forsook this grace.
Scarcely had my heart subdued than the beast was gone -
And I was shown how deeply my heart was twisted and wrong.
I confessed it all, asked forgiveness of my Friend.
He held me gently in His arms, this love will never end.
Now I know it’s always choice, and life is filled with pain.

The pain of love I ever choose - never beastly pain again.
The beast comes knocking, now and then, to ask if I can play.
I tell him no, shut the door, and quickly run away.
And there on a table in my room sits an old and weary Book.
Its pages are ripped and taped together, better it never looked.

And my Friend is ever there, always by my side
To remind me beast will strike at the sight of pride.
He reminds me, too, of the price He paid to simply be with me.
The price I pay is small - compared to Calvary.

Kent Bevers

Hat tip: Armando

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  posted at 11:08 PM

Sunday, April 08, 2007
As we celebrate Easter, the anniversary of our Lord Jesus Christ's triumph over death, I want to share my favorite account of the Resurrection.

"Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

But the angel answered and said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.'

So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, 'Rejoice!' So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.'

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' Amen." Matthew 28:1-10,16-20 (NKJV)

As I read this account yet again, and review the Great Commission, I pray the following:

"Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You." Psalm 51:10-13 (NKJV)

As we go forth from this Lenten season into the Easter season full of the life of Christ, I pray that we all have the strength to preach the Gospel and show others the way of Christ. When we are confronted by Satan, as we will be, and feel unworthy to share our stories, Christ's love, and the Gospel, let us remember always the words a wise man once told me:
"I know that I may not be perfect, but I serve a PERFECT Savior."
(Picture courtesy of The Christian Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt website.)


  posted at 10:49 AM

Thursday, April 05, 2007
If Only I'd Known
The past few weeks I have started quoting from Oswald Chambers, and probably will the rest of the year. His devotions are poignant and challenging every day that I read them.

My latest quote deals with a Christian understanding that we struggle each day in our walk when we do not surrender. Jesus said:

"If thou hadst known . . . in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes." Luke 19:42

Oswald Chambers discusses in his devotion titled If Thou Hadst Known!, April 3rd, that there are times in our life in which we have as gods that which takes our sight from Christ and we do not even know it, yet are still held accountable for it. (Sorry that I am quoting most of this, but it is that good.)

"...I am blind to the things which belong to my peace. It is an appalling thing that we can be in the place where the Spirit of God should be getting at us unhinderedly, and yet increase our condemnation in God's sight."

He finishes out with the following:

"'If thou hadst known' - God goes direct to the heart, with the tears of Jesus behind. These words imply culpable responsibility; God holds us responsible for what we do not see. 'Now they are hid from thine eyes' - because the disposition has never been yielded. The unfathomable sadness of the 'might have been!' God never opens doors that have been closed. He opens other doors, but He reminds us that there are doors which we have shut, doors which need never have been shut, imaginations which need never have been sullied. Never be afraid when God brings back the past. Let memory have its way. It is a minister of God with its rebuke and chastisement and sorrow. God will turn the 'might have been' into a wonderful culture for the future."

I believe our daily battles are best described by Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6...

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled." (NKJV)

We may think of the past, and at times it hurts, but if we are fighting these strongholds in the name of the Lord, and exalting the Lord, we become obedient to Christ and have our focus on Him. The fear and frustration we have about remembering past experiences, past sins is not the real issue. They will come, whether as a tool for Satan to get us to fall, or a tool for Christ to help recognize His prevenient grace. The challenge is how we respond to the memories and thoughts. Do we use them as a bridge to travel closer to Christ, or do they become a weight, keeping us from fully realizing our relationship with Christ?

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  posted at 6:19 AM

Sunday, April 01, 2007
Oswald Chambers on Abandonment
As I continue to read through Oswald Chambers "My Utmost for His Highest," I find these random nuggets that truly speak to me. God does use many things in our lives to touch us with His love, and most often, when we least expect it.

On March 13th, the following really spoke to me:

"...but salvation means that the Spirit of God has brought me into touch with God's personality, and I am thrilled with something infinitely greater than myself, I am caught up into the abandonment of God.... Abandonment never produces the consciousness of its own effort, because the whole life is taken up with the One to Whom we abandon. Beware of talking about abandonment if you know nothing about it, and you will never know anything about it until you have realized that John 3:16 means that God gave Himself absolutely. In our abandonment we give ourselves over to God just as God gave Himself for us, without any calculation. The consequence of abandonment never enters into our outlook because our life is taken up with Him." The Abandonment of God, March 13th

One of the biggest things that I struggle with daily is complete abandonment to God. The times that I wake up in the morning and "abandon" myself to Him, I live my day in a peace and comfort because I know that the Lord is guiding me and in all that I do, I am pleasing Him. When I do not "abandon" myself body, spirit, strength, and mind to the Lord, I struggle to understand the complexities of all that occurs around me. I struggle, because I am trying to have some control and decision over a life that is no longer my own, but my Lord Jesus Christ's. The problem, I am not acting like I am His.

You may take your walk with Christ each and every day, yet still seem to struggle, asking yourself, "I thought I was a Christian and gave my life to the Lord. Why is this so hard?" The answer may surprise you. Have you really abandoned yourself to God as He abandoned Himself to you?

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  posted at 10:30 PM

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