Saturday, November 29, 2008

an ongoing conversation

Alejandro, Nikolas, Herman, Hector, Fernando, Cesar, Mattias... We have connected with some incredible students at the Sefovan Seminary in Madrid. I have completed my conference, we have served our American Thanksgiving meal and my family has visited the beautiful cities of Toledo and Segovia. We have enjoyed a fantastic introduction to the ministry of our friends. I am looking forward to the continuing conversation for many years to come. Thanks for praying for us!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

not lost in translation

We arrived in Madrid on Saturday--15 hours in flight and layovers and very little sleep. I preached this morning from Luke 18 and Manny did a great job translating my sermon on prayer. Of course, that's only from my perspective. I'd have no way of know for certain. We're the minorities, subject to our hosts and the rules of a different culture.

Tonight, we toured downtown, sipped an over-priced Starbucks, watched two street performers play dueling Hammer Dolcimers, stopped by the oldest restaurant on the planet [1725], stood in the plaza where Christians were burned at the stake during the Inquisition, gawked at architecture fit for kings...literally. Madrid is a beautifully bustling city that begins its nightlife after 9 p.m., right when we were getting in our minivan to return home. 

The most exciting part of our trip is the opportunity to connect with a handful of present and future church planters in a conference setting starting Tuesday. Less than 10% of the Spanish population is Christian with less than 1/2 of 1% proclaiming evangelical Christianity. The harvest field is very white, but reaping is difficult business. To make an impact, our missionaries and all who partner with them will need to stay committed to the task. Please continue to pray for the work ahead. 

give thanks always

A mystery-lover take his place in the theater for opening night, but his seat is way back in the theater, far from the stage. The man calls an usher over and whispers, "I just love a good mystery, and I have been anxiously anticipating the opening of this play. However, in order to carefully follow the clues and fully enjoy the play, I have to watch a mystery close up. Look how far away I am! If you can get me a better seat, I'll give you a handsome tip."

The usher nods and says he will be back shortly. Looking forward to a large tip, the usher speaks with his co-workers in the box office, hoping to find some closer tickets. With just three minutes left until curtain, he finds an unused ticket at the Will Call window and snatches it up. Returning to the man in the back of the theater, he whispers, "Follow me." The usher leads the man down to the second row, and proudly points out the empty seat right in the middle.

"Thanks so much," says the theatergoer, "This seat is perfect." He then hands the usher a quarter.

The usher looks down at the quarter, leans over and whispers, "The butler did it in the parlor with the candlestick."

Give thanks always for everything [1 Corinthians 1:4].

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

no bull

Before you can say Ole!, the family and I will set sail (actually fly) to the other side of the world to spend Thanksgiving in Spain. I have been invited by our good friends and missionaries, Manny and Jamie Fernandez to teach a conference at the Sefovan Seminary in Madrid. I'm honored to teach church planters my "3B" spiritual lifeway and give them some tools to disciple those in their churches. God willing, I will also have opportunity to preach at two churches represented by leaders who have previously studied at the school.

During the week, Tiffany and the kids will be helping to shop, prepare and serve a special Thanksgiving meal at the school for students, faculty and their families. In addition, we'll have the privilege of joining students in open street evangelism. We're also looking forward to learning more about the rich history of the country.

Remarkably, Spain is an extremely unreached place. The opportunities for church planting and other ministry abound and we are exploring future possibilities of sending others from Pantego Bible Church to join the movement there. Please check out the Fernandez' web site and consider supporting the Kingdom commitment they have made. Like the apostle Paul in Acts 20:24 (my favorite Bible verse), they consider their calling "no bull."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

24,000 pieces

The front page of the Fort Worth Star Telegram noted the story of a young girl who just completed the largest jigsaw puzzle in the world--24,000 pieces! It took her more than 4 months and, I'm guessing, a lot of patience. The creator of the 14 foot by 5 foot puzzle titled it "Life"--a panorama of our planet fitting together.

The news article reminded me that the church of Jesus Christ is the largest, interlocking wonder of the world. The church isn't simply a local congregation, but the universal collection of all Believers everywhere. No two "pieces" are the same; Each member is unique [1 Corinthians 12:12]. Each piece has something to contribute to others around it and, likewise, each piece has a "gap" to receive the blessing of others. Each piece is indispensable, necessary for the whole composition [1 Corinthians 12:21-26]. And, when all the pieces come together, each in its proper place, a picture of the "life" of Christ is revealed to the world around us.

My in-laws typically have a jigsaw puzzle in process at their home during the Christmas season. A card table is set up in the living room, two chairs, and a floor lamp moved closer to the workspace. The table is an open invitation for anyone to contribute to the final piece. Sometimes, we work for 15 minutes. I can remember years where I sat for several hours until the puzzle was finished.

The church is an open invitation to anyone to come, sit for a while, search and connect. As we linger with the pieces, we begin to see where we fit into God's greater picture. And, we discover the incredible blessing called "Life."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

now the work begins

Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons;
he sets up kings and deposes them.
[Daniel 2:20-21]

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. [1 Timothy 2:1-2]

Sunday, November 2, 2008


In less than 48 hours, the next President of the United States will be elected by the people. Whichever candidate claims the victory, enormous change is in store for our country. The truth is, the whole world is changing around us, whether we notice it or not. In just 20 short years, music transitioned from clumsy 8-track tapes to cassette to compact discs to MP3s. Today, my son’s matchbox-size audio player holds 1500 songs. I expect and embrace the changes in my world that benefit me.

However, I despise the changes that are difficult and unexpected. Several weeks ago, the Stock Market plummeted more than 800 points, Hurricane Ike landed on the Gulf shore of Texas sending thousands of evacuees fleeing from their homes and the fuel pump went out on my SUV. These unexpected events are like a discordant note struck in the melody of life. It’s the change nobody likes.

How do we stay focused and balanced in the midst of so much change? What can we cling to when our world seems to be turning upside down and inside out? When life is topsy-turvy, we need an anchor. We must hold tight to what never changes in an ever-changing world.

The subtitle description of Psalm 102 is “The prayer of an afflicted man.” While it’s impossible to determine the writer or the circumstances behind the verses, it’s clear that he was in the crisis of change. He was anxious, frustrated, weak and beat up. He suffered sleepless nights and wasted days. Depending on the day of the week, I can probably identify with one or more of the emotions expressed in verses 1-11.

However, the author comes to a conclusion that climaxes in verses 23-28:

In the course of my life [God] broke my strength; he cut short my days.
So I said:
“Do not take me away, O my God, in the midst of my days;
your years go on through all generations.
In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.
But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.
The children of your servants will live in your presence;
their descendants will be established before you.”

I notice a repeating confidence in these lines. In the midst of my fleeting days, God’s years go on (v. 24). God was in the beginning before time even began (v. 25) and, when everything is done, God will remain (v. 26). People and life change like old t-shirts that tatter and are thrown away, but God is unchanging.

He’s indelible.

I watch my daughter write on the sidewalk with oversized chalk sticks. She’ll spend half an hour creating a giant masterpiece in front of the house and, in a moment, her creation can be washed or swept away. But God is immutable and immovable. God is like a Sharpie marker: waterproof and permanent. He’s the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). God is the only thing that never changes in an ever-changing world. When life gets unpredictable, I cling to three aspects of our indelible God: His perfections, His precepts and His purposes.

If you're wrestling with the imminent change in our world, check out my sermon "Indelible" [Psalm 102] from January 13, 2008. You can find it here.