Friday, July 29, 2011


It's been awhile since I posted. Almost a month! It has been a crazy month, so you will forgive me. We have been moving off of the ranch and into our home in town. It has take a lot of work. We've laid flooring, painted, put down baseboard and quarter round. My back hasn't been too happy, but I've lost 10 pounds and we are starting to really feel at home. Today was a breakthrough, we got closer to normal - I mowed my new lawn (almost a quarter acre!) and smoked a brisket. Tomorrow I will install some bookshelves, take a hike up the butte with Hannah and Catherine, then settle in for some more sermon preparation.

I am taking this break not to share with you all about my personal life, but to share an amazing insight with you.

It is when we confess our own inability and act in simple obedience
that God reveals Himself in strength.

Now I have amassed quite a bit of education in my 47 years, but I realize now more than ever that my education at times hampers ministry more than facilitating it. I have seen the power of God at work here in Bozeman like never anywhere else I have lived. God has doubled the attendance of our church in six months. People have attended worship and given more in the last 8 months than in the last 8 years. Spiritual strongholds have been broken, psychological and spiritual oppression has been lifted, young men and women are coming to know Christ. God is bringing together the personnel for Montana College in a fashion that only God can.

And guess what else? As much as I would like to take credit I can't. It's all God. I just preach, teach, pray and love people. It's absolutely not me. A congregation and a community is looking towards God in humility and finding Him. I am humbled and invigorated all in the same moment.

So what's my role? I am just being obedient. I am equipping people for ministry and encouraging them to engage their community. I am preaching what God has given me. I have never been a great preacher; I pray that I am a clear communicator; but if God has shown me anything, it is that the love, beauty and kindness of the gospel will go places that my education and skill cannot.

This has been a hard move. I've left dearly loved friends and family in Texas. My back has caused me severe pain at times. It took a long time to get into this house and off the ranch. Melissa is still looking for a job and the list goes on. Yet in my weakness He is made strong. Paul, another highly educated man, says this in 2 Corinthians 12:19, a passage that has put this all together for me:

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

I get it.

I love God. I love God with my mind and my heart. As I get older and am less able to do the things I once easily did, I am reminded over and over again, that truly - it is Him; not me. Amen.

Monday, July 4, 2011

An Update for All My Friends… July 3, 2011

Although this is is a break from my regular theological reflections, it is about my journey, so I hope you will forgive my brief repose!

It is July 3rd, 2011 at about 11:00pm Mountain Standard Time. I am sitting in a rocking swing outside of my unit at the Copper Spring Ranch bunkhouse. My new friend, "Franchesco" - a young male ginger cat is tired from chasing gophers and is at my feet. It was a warm day in the Gallatin Valley - about 94º at its peak. Now, close to midnight, it's a lovely 64º with an ever so slight breeze. Hannah, my daughter, is fast asleep and Melissa is reading.

From my vantage point at the foot of Pine Butte, in Gallatin County Montana, I am situated perfectly to the southwest of the city of Bozeman and to the southeast of the city of Belgrade. I know the picture to the left isn't great, but I am located just to the left of the picture. The butte is located on the ranch. Anyway, my elevation allows me to see the lights of both cities. The scene at 9:00pm was incredible. The Bridger Mountains to the north were like huge shadows, that provided an almost eery backdrop for the Independence Day festivities that had begun two nights ago.

Tonight, I sit here in the swing, listening to the flow of the Gallatin river and the occasional 'whump', 'crack' and 'fizz' of the fire works. The breeze is nice. It has given me an occasion to think and reflect just about me and my last 24 months. It has been a whirlwind. Two years ago, the summer of 2009, I was in Bellingham, Washington on a mission trip with the First Baptist Church of Brownwood. Last year, I was in Bellingham, but this time with Coggin Avenue Baptist Church of Brownwood. This year I am on a new adventure - not with a church from Brownwood, but as pastor of a church here in the valley - Bozeman First Baptist Church - now a part of Bridger Community Ministries. BCM has as its component ministries First Baptist Church, The Rock Youth Center, and, eventually, The Montana Center for Faith, Adventure and the Arts. As I think about it, all I can muster is, 'wow'....

The hard part for me has been missing my friends. As I get older, I realize more and more how dear my relationships are. I miss my close friends. I miss my afternoon talks with my good friend and mentor Wallace. I miss my friends, the McCutchen's. I miss my colleagues in the School of Christian studies. I miss my friends in Bangs and in De Leon. I miss my students - I found out today that one of my favorite students this past year is leaving HPU to go to nursing school at a university in San Antonio. I know that this is life though.

As I sit here, I realize that although I miss my friends, this was absolutely the right move. God's finger prints have been all over it! I have connected with the people here in a way I could have never imagined. The church is growing. We literally add new people every week. I am able to mentor students here and I have intellectual colleagues that satisfy my thirst for dialog. My time in Brownwood and in Bellingham have been preparing me for this stage in my life.

I think the hard part for me is realizing that this may be my last real challenge. I love the challenge, I love this place of incredible beauty. I miss my friends and my daughter Catherine - tremendously. But I realize that I am closer now to 50 than 40. I am the mentor. Although I have many projects, I can only tackle them one day at a time. I love each and every person that comes into my sphere of influence. I pray that God continues to lead me and to open doors in this ministry.

I miss all of you though. Rob, Monte, Corey, Wallace, Carol and the rest. Keep me in your prayers as I seek to follow Christ in this challenge. Oh, and visit when you can!