Saturday, September 23, 2017


This week I was afforded an interesting perspective that left me in awe.  As we help our neighbors recover from Hurricane Harvey, one of the things my wife Lori and I have determined to do is to provide lunches and cold drinks to the homeowners, volunteers, and workers in our neighborhood.  Hundreds of homes were damaged by the flood waters so every day there are many working throughout our neighborhood as this community recovers from the hurricane.  We've had an outpouring of donations and volunteers to help us provide supplies, tools, food, and drinks over the course of the last few weeks.

While Lori and I usually ride side-by-side on a golf cart (loaned to us by Conroe Golf Cars), on this particular day we had a large load of donated lunches that could not all fit on the golf cart.  So, I tagged along behind her in our car loaded with hot meals.  As I followed her, I watched.  I watched as she honked the horn and yelled,

"Do you need a cold drink? I've got hot lunches today!"

While there are new volunteer faces everyday, the homeowners she sees everyday are the same.  She knows them all by name.  She knows what they like.  She knows their stories.  She knows what they need.  She listens to them.  She talks with them.  She cries with them.  She prays with them. 

I watched as she waved to them as she drove down the street.  I watched as they smiled as she approached.  I watched as she never just handed out food or drink.  She had to talk to every last one of them.  Some longer than others but all were left with the sense that if they needed to talk or share, they had somebody that was there for them.  At one particular house, a young lady came out to the street to meet her.  While I could not hear the conversation, I could tell the young lady was upset.  She cried a little as she shared what was on her heart.  Lori just listened.  5 minutes went by.  10 minutes went by.  I lost track of time to be honest, but it was a long visit.  A very long visit.  A county worker showed up that needed to talk to the young lady otherwise I'm convinced Lori would have been there much longer.  When she was done, she jumped back in the cart and off she went to the next house. 

I'm not sure how long this trip was but it was quite lengthy for sure.  It was Lori's second trip of the day in that little red golf cart and she was in no big hurry.  For Lori, this is not just about rebuilding structures.  It's about people.  It's about loving people.  It's about encouraging those who need encouraged.  It's about listening to those who need to talk.  It's about praying with those who are overwhelmed by it all.  It's about providing some form of normalcy to those who have very little "normal" right now.  Someone wanted a Coca-Cola, another wanted Cream Soda, so Lori helped make it happen.  

She doesn't try to do everything.  She finds out what people need and she then leans on the many volunteers who are able to meet those needs.  The people volunteering throughout this process have been amazing.  Lori, gets so excited when she connects someone who has a need with someone who can meet that need.  I cannot think of one need that has gone unmet as volunteers step up to meet needs when they are made known.  We've witnessed cars being donated, appliances being donated, lawn services donated, clothes, food, supplies, and on and on the list goes.  For the better part of a month, our house has resembled a Walmart or Lowes more than a house because of all the donations that have poured in.  And with every donation, Lori gets a little choked up because she knows that somebody on her daily route will benefit from the generous gifts of others. 

It's early on Saturday morning as I write this and she is already on her little red golf cart driving throughout the neighborhood.  Somebody donated strawberries and somebody else donated bananna bread.  She is confident that there are neighbors out there who would love to have some delicious cold strawberries this morning along with some home-baked bananna bread.  I'm not sure how long she'll be gone, but when she drives up, she'll be grinning from ear to ear and have some incredible story to tell me. 

I'm thankful for the opportunity I had to drive behind her and just watch this week.  I'm glad I got to just watch her do her thing.  She is definitely love in action.  She is the hands, feet, ears, and mouth of God.  If you are wondering what God the Father is like,  look no further than this lady I am honored to call my wife, driving around in a little red golf cart loving on her neighbors.  She's bringing a ray of hope in the middle of hopelessness.  She's bringing light into an otherwise dark situation.  She's bringing a meal, cold drinks, and a caring heart.  She's my wife, and she is AMAZING!

PS...not only was she grinning when she returned from her morning out serving her neighbors, she burst through the door singing.  And yes, she had some stories to tell!
Tim is the lead pastor at Westlake Fellowship in Montgomery, Texas. If you live in the area, join us Sunday mornings at 10:30 am at 19786 Hwy 105 Suite 120 in Montgomery (beside Magnolia Diner).

If you would like to donate to help us in our efforts to minister to those affected by hurricane Harvey, you can donate here:

Friday, September 8, 2017

The "Hurricane Harvey" Stories

As we've determined to help those affected by hurricane Harvey, we've met so many different types of people.  I've personally walked/driven up and down the streets of my neighborhood connecting with people, listening to their stories. I met a lady yesterday whose house served as a senior care facility for 8 senior citizens.  I met a Filipino family who were actually in the Philippines when Harvey hit and couldn't get back for several days to survey the damage to their home.  I met a military vet who had just moved his family in a month ago.  I met a couple who were renters and had just moved in the week prior to Harvey hitting.  I met a lady who is on the donor list for a liver transplant.  I met a family who had no friends or family in the area to help them start to begin the process of rebuilding.  I met a couple who had been through this process three times and were exhausted and just wanted to walk away.  I met a lady in her driveway with tears flowing down her cheeks overwhelmed by it all.  I met an elderly couple who when I offered them gift cards rejected them asking me to give them to someone else who needed them more.  I met a man whose house was up for sale and had a buyer but is now left with a house that took in nearly 10 feet of water.  I met a young man who had nearly 40 friends and family show up on day one to help him clean out his house so he sent some of those volunteers to his neighbors to help. I met a man who smiled and laughed the entire time I talked to him who was just happy his family was ok.  I met a single elderly man who was considering whether or not he was going to mess with rebuilding or just walk away.

There is so much "work" to be done here.  So much tearing out and rebuilding to be done.  It's not a quick fix.  This is going to take a long time.  I assume that some of these homes will not be rebuilt and some of these people will relocate permanently. While I can lift a hammer and carry out debris in a wheelbarrow, my demo skills and construction skills are limited.  I will definitely continue to do what I can do to help my neighbors rebuild their homes.  But in all my doing, I want to make sure that I take the time to pause for a moment to listen.  To listen to their story.  To take some time out to speak a word of hope and encouragement.  To slow down and pray with them, cry with them, and hug them.  I long to find out what they really need and do what I can to meet those needs.

I've heard several estimates as to how many homes have been damaged here in my neighborhood alone.  Anywhere from 350 to 450.  I'm not certain as to how many homes have been damaged but I can say for certain that hundreds of people have been affected.  Men, women, children, young and old have been affected by this. And each one has a story.  Our mission is not simply about rebuilding structures for our neighbors to live in.  Its much more personal than that.  It's about helping them pick up the pieces and begin again.  It's about meeting their overwhelming tragedy with an overwhelming love.  It's about helping them rebuild their lives!

Tim is the lead pastor at Westlake Fellowship in Montgomery, Texas. If you live in the area, join us Sunday mornings at 10:30 am at 19786 Hwy 105 Suite 120 in Montgomery (beside Magnolia Diner).

If you would like to donate to help us in our efforts to minister to those affected by hurricane Harvey, you can donate here:

Thursday, September 7, 2017

I Was Embarrassed

They had come all the way from Eagle Pass to help our neighbors here in Conroe clean up after hurricane Harvey.  These two Hispanic men had driven over 5 hours to help people they did not know.  Although they had been here since Monday, I just met them today (Thursday).  I worked all day along side of them tearing down sheet rock, shoveling up wet debris, and hauling it out to the curb.  Throughout the course of the day I found out a lot about this father and son team.

The father has spent most of his life as a missionary.  While he is currently involved with a shelter for homeless people in a border town, responding to crisis like Harvey is his thing.   For decades he's responded to tragic events like this.  While he and his son were here doing work this week, their mission was not to come for a few days and then go back home.  They were here to assess things then to return home in order to mobilize a team of people to come back.

I was amazed as the father shared stories of how he had spent his life responding to the needs of people in crisis situations.  I'm not sure how old the gentleman was but I'm thinking well into his 60s pushing 70.  I know I only got a small sampling of his life's work, but that small bit was incredible.  I asked his son if this had been the only life he had known to which he smiled and responded, "Yes.  It's been great though."

Most of what I discovered about them was during a short meal break.  Someone had come by offering jambalaya to the volunteers working in our neighborhood.  It was their first experience eating jambalaya but I'm thinking they're hooked.  They actually took one order for the road.

One of the things we've discovered is that in cleaning out houses after a flood, there isn't really anywhere to sit down.  All the chairs end up in the trash heap along with everything else.  Wanting to sit down and eat after being on their feet all day, these two men grabbed a couple of chairs from a neighboring garbage pile.  They were filthy chairs that had been covered in flood waters and sitting in a pile of trash for several days.  But, that didn't matter, they needed a place to sit for a moment and these chairs would do the job.

We went back to work for another hour or so before we were all wiped out.  As we were loading up our tools my two co-workers for the day were approached by a neighbor.  There was no, "Hello."  No, "Where are you guys from?"  No, "Thank you so much for serving our neighborhood."  Instead they were greeted with an accusation.  "You aren't stealing stuff from any of these piles are you?"

I was floored.  I couldn't believe it.  I was embarrassed.  I was completely embarrassed.  I quickly jumped into the conversation to defend them.  I couldn't help but notice that she didn't approach me.  She approached two men who looked different.  Two men who spoke a little different.  I took it a bit personal.  Though I had not known these men very long, I felt connected with them.  We had served together working side by side for a few hours.  They felt like family.  The accusation stung a bit and I wanted to set things right.  When I approached the older man and tried to apologize for the whole thing, he waved his hand and said it was no problem.  He came to serve because it was in his heart to do so. God had put compassion in his heart for our community and that's why he came.  He was not going to let this one little thing affect him.

I understand that emotions are high right now.  This community was hit with a major blow.  People have lost so much and they are trying to start again.  And I know there are those out there that would love to take advantage of those who are hurting.  What is abundantly evident though is that for every one of them there are thousands of others who have determined to help those in our communities who are in need.  In our assuming we would all do good to assume the best of people.

Juan and Mizrael were two of thousands that have hit our neighborhood this week to help us pick up the pieces that Harvey left behind.  They along with so many others didn't show up to take but to give.  If this lady had taken the time to get to know them, she would have discovered they would have been willing to do anything to give of themselves to her neighbors instead of take from them. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Batman and Robin?

I'm not sure but I think Batman and Robin might have stayed at our house last night.  It's hard to be certain because they weren't dressed in their typical superhero outfits.  They didn't even drive up in the famous batmobile.  It was dark when they arrived but I could clearly see that they drove up in a pickup truck hauling a boat behind them.

About an hour earlier I had received a phone call that two guys needed a place to shower and rest for the night.  They were out-of-towners who had spent the entire day from sun up to sun down rescuing people from the flood waters of hurricane Harvey.  They weren't kidding as taking a shower and resting is exactly what they did.  They shared a few stories with us but I discovered quickly that they hadn't come to town to chat and tell stories of their adventures.  They had come to town for one help those in need.  So after a brief chat they hurried off to bed and before the sun came up they were pulling out of the driveway.  They mentioned they had to get back home tonight so they only had the daylight hours of today to finish up what they came to do.

They claimed to be from Cleburne, Tx and talked with a bit of an accent to try and convince me but deep down something told me these guys might have been from a bit further away. Gotham City perhaps?  I don't know, maybe I'm wrong.  One thing I know for sure is that they were indeed superheroes.  The kind of superhero you would never recognize in passing.  They had no capes, or masks, or super-suits.  They looked like ordinary country boys from Texas.  They needed no fanfare and were perfectly content with nobody knowing who they were.  They were on a mission to rescue as many people as they could in the limited time they had.

Growing up I always thought superheroes were fictional characters.  But after last night I know they are real.  I know they are real because I saw them and talked to them.  Sure, maybe it wasn't Batman and Robin, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that two superheroes slept upstairs at my house last night.

Tim is the lead pastor at Westlake Fellowship in Montgomery, Texas.  If you live in the area, join us Sunday mornings at 10:30 am at 19786 Hwy 105 Suite 120 in Montgomery (beside Magnolia Diner).

If you would like to donate to help us in our efforts to minister to those affected by hurricane Harvey, you can donate here:

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Who Is The Greatest?

As I watched the finals of the NBA playoffs, I couldn't help but admire the skill level of some of those on the court.  These guys were a collection of amazing athletes.  Some of the best in the game today.  As it is in our world, players like these always give fuel to the debate of who is the greatest to every play the game.  Naturally, every year one team is crowned as the best in the league.  However, that status as the best becomes a bit more difficult to determine on an individual basis.  It is really a moot argument because every great athlete has his own strengths in weaknesses.  They all have different skill sets, physical attributes, and mental abilities.  One may have better court vision or speed.  Another may be a better shooter or rebounder.  One may be a better closer or clutch player.  It is impossible to definitively crown one man as the greatest.  We can all have our opinions but in the end, it is just that - an opinion.

Still, that debate will go on for all of time regardless of how futile the debate is.  Humanity is obsessed with the comparison game.  We learn it at an early age and we carry it to our grave.  It is a trap and we will all do good to recognize it as such. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we shouldn't work to improve our skills, talents, and abilities.  I'm just indicating that when we assess our value based on how we measure up to others, we are approaching life in a way we were never meant to approach life.

Comparing ourself to others can indeed lead to a perverted value system. We will often end up seeing ourself as not measuring up to some while at the same time looking down at others.  That can lead to a inflated opinion of ourself or a feeling of inadequacy.  The basis for judgment will always be based on our values.  If we value education, we'll view those who have less than us as less than us.  If we value athletics, we'll value ourselves as better than those who aren't as athletic.  If we value money, then our basis of judgment will be the car we drive, the house we live in, and the clothes we wear.  If we value career, we'll compare ourselves to others based on our paycheck and benefit package.  If we value physical appearance we'll judge ourselves and others based on looks and amount of body fat.  If we value popularity, we'll become obsessed with how many Facebook friends we have compared to others.

So, who wins in those comparison games?  I can tell you this, that the one who loses is us.  Why is it not enough to simply be who we were created to be?  Why isn't it enough to live our lives determined to be the best at being who God created us to be?  When it all comes down to it, we were all created from the dust of the ground.  From the dust we came and from the dust we will go.  The thing that sets us apart from the dirt that lies below our feet is the breath of God that flows through our lungs.  Apart from that, we are nothing.  Apart from the life of God that was breathed into us, we all are nothing but a pathetic pile of dirt.  To think of ourselves as anything beyond that is to have an elevated opinion of ourselves.

Scripture declares that "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). There is no such thing as a "self-made" man.  We are "His workmanship!"  We were created by a Master Designer.  II Corinthians 4:7, tells us that "we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us." Don't miss this!  The treasure is not the earthen vessel.  The treasure is what God has put inside of this earthen vessel.  We are all vessels created by Him.  Vessels with imperfections and inabilities.  We are vessels with different weaknesses and strengths.  Vessels with frailties and shortcomings.  We are vessels with chips and brokenness. Unfortunately, we spend our lives comparing this vessel, which is us, with those around us.  In doing so, we have failed to realize that our value is not determined in how we measure up to others.  Our true value is determined by the One who created us and by the treasure He has placed in us.  He has placed a treasure inside of us.  God, has poured Himself inside of these imperfect vessels.  So, instead of comparing the imperfections of our individual vessels, we would all do good to focus on the treasure that God has placed inside of us.

It is this "treasure" that took a man named Abraham from an idolatrous culture, who was incapable of having a son, and made him the "father of many nations."  It is this treasure that took an insecure, stuttering murderer named Moses and made him a deliver of a nation.  It is this treasure that took an insignificant shepherd boy named David and empowered him to be a king.  It is this treasure that took an orphaned girl named Esther and made her queen over a foreign nation.  It is this treasure that took an ordinary young lady named Mary and made her capable of giving birth to the Messiah.  It is this treasure that took a simple carpenter named Joseph and entrusted him the raise God's only Son.  It is this treasure that empowered Peter, a man who always stuck his foot in his mouth, to speak one day and thousands were added to the family of God.  It is this treasure that took a man possessed by a legion of demons and transformed him into an evangelist.  It is this treasure that empowered a persecutor of the church named Paul to become one of the greatest leaders of the early church.

I don't know who the greatest player to ever play in the NBA is.  Was it Jordan?  Is it LeBron?  Is it now Durant? I have my opinion, but in the end it is completely irrelevant.  What I do know is that while they can run, jump, shoot and dunk a basketball, they can't make a pile of dirt breath. They can't speak and a universe come into being.  They can't pull off their own resurrection.  So, while the world sits around debating who the greatest player in the NBA is, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt who the "Greatest" truly is.  We know Who it is that has been given the "Name above all Names."  So, since we've established that, perhaps we can turn our attention to something more important.  Something like trying desperately to discover the treasure that God has hidden inside of these earthen vessels.  A treasure that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary.

For more on how God uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary, watch "Out of the Ordinary" below:

You can also join us live on Facebook, this Sunday at 10:30am.

If you live in or near Montgomery, TX, we would love to have you join us on Sunday mornings at 10:30. Westlake Fellowship is located at 19786 Suite 120, Hwy 105 in Montgomery. (beside Magnolia Diner)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Need A Miracle?

She was a lady who was in dire straits.  She needed a miracle and she needed it quick.  This was a matter of life and death.  If she does not get her miracle, death is certain.  She, along with her son, will die.  Other than her desperate need for heavenly intervention, we do not know a great deal about this woman.  As a matter of fact, we do not even know her name.  She is known only as the widow from Zarephath.

This woman is just an ordinary woman with a massive need.  There has been a drought in the land resulting in famine.  Her current condition is such that she has enough food for one more meal.  Her plan is to fix this final meal for her son and herself.  After which they will simply wait for the inevitable - death by starvation.

While her story, found in I Kings 17, does not go into much detail regarding her relationship with God, we are told that God commanded her to provide for Elijah the prophet of God (v. 9).  Now, I'm not sure how all of this played out exactly, but I've got to believe that this woman is praying and hoping that God will perform a miracle for her and her son.  However, the answer she gets from heaven is not the miracle she is expecting.  Rather than God sending someone to her front door with bags of groceries, a hungry man shows up. She's hoping for provision but instead she's got another mouth to feed.

I'm not sure about you, but if I'm in this widow's shoes, I might be just a little miffed at this point.  Her need is real.  It's as real as Elijah's.  She needs somebody to provide for her just as bad as Elijah needs somebody to provide for him.  Yet, in the middle of her need, God has instructed her to meet somebody else's need.  She seems to be struggling a bit with God on this matter.  From the text, we see that prior to God sending Elijah to her, God has already commanded her to provide for him.  That's important to note because when Elijah arrives, she's had a few days to ponder this request of the Lord.  Their initial conversation seems to indicate she has a bit of an attitude concerning the idea of providing him with food.  

So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.” And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” So she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”  (I Kings 17:10-12 NKJV)

I'm thinking her response sounds much like mine would have been.  "I've been praying for a miracle of provision and instead of a miracle, you show up asking me for provision! I thought you were a mighty man of God!  Is it just me, or is this backwards???  Shouldn't you, as a might man of God, be supernaturally providing for me?"  

One of the biggest issues when it comes to our needs is that we often can't see past them.  We become oblivious to the world around us.  We become self absorbed.  Our needs become paramount, while the needs of others become trivial. While we want the world to know how desperate our needs are, we do not really care to know about the plight of others.   

Much of our prayer life is little more than a one-sided conversation.  A monologue if you will.  While we are quick to present God with our petitions, we aren't always willing to hear what His are for the day. We are great talkers, but not so great at listening.  God was well aware of this widow's need and was willing to perform a miracle on her behalf.  The process was not a practical one though. And therein lies the problem.

God doesn't always do things the way we want Him to do them.  Much of the time our miracle lies on the the other side of obedience.  Naaman the leper wasn't healed until he dipped in the Jordan 7 times.  Healing didn't come after the 3rd dip, or the 5th dip.  It came after the 7th dip.  The Red Sea did not split open until Moses stretched his hands out over it.  The flood didn't come until Noah built the ark.  The walls of Jericho did not fall until Joshua and the people marched around the city and shouted.  Peter did not walk on water until he stepped out of the boat.  Lazarus was not raised from the dead until they rolled the stone away.  There was no resurrection until Jesus was "obedient" to death on a cross.  

This widow's miracle was dependent on her obedience.  Obedience that made no sense.  Obedience to something that would stretch her.  She and her son would be provided for supernaturally only when she was willing to provide for someone else.  When assured by the prophet that God would provide for her, she stepped out and obeyed.  She took of the little she had and gave to Elijah as the Lord had instructed her to.  As a result, a miracle came to her house.  For the entire duration of the drought/famine, her household had plenty of food. Not only would her obedience provide a miracle of provision for her and her son, but Elijah would be provided for as well as he stayed there for an extended period of time.  

Perhaps you are in need of a miracle.  Perhaps you have prayed and prayed and prayed and it seems like God is not listening.  Perhaps the reason your miracle isn't coming is because you aren't listening to Him.  I want to challenge you to take some time and listen to what God is saying.  When you hear from Him, then determine to obey.  Who knows, maybe your miracle is waiting on your obedience.   

For more on how God uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary, watch "Out of the Ordinary - Part Three" below:

You can also join us live on Facebook, this Sunday at 10:30am.

If you live in or near Montgomery, TX, we would love to have you join us on Sunday mornings at 10:30. Westlake Fellowship is located at 19786 Suite 120, Hwy 105 in Montgomery. (beside Magnolia Diner)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Have You Ever Lost A Family Member?

Have you ever lost a family member?  Regardless of whether you expected it or it came as a complete shock, losing someone is never an easy thing to deal with.  I know.  I've been there.  On several occasions I've had family members that I love very dearly pass away.  They were here one moment and gone the next.

Last week I awakened to the headlines that a group of Egyptian Christians were killed.  They were on their way to a prayer meeting when they were attacked.  Men, women, and children all died because they believe in Jesus.  I sat there staring at that headline and I hurt inside.  I thought to myself how often I read of tragedies like that and waste little time thinking about it.  Most of the time, I feel sad for a few moments but hey, life goes on.  I've got things to do, people to see.  So, I just dive into the everyday madness and go on with life.

This day, however it was different.  I thought to myself, as believers, these are family members.  Nevermind, the theological or doctrinal differences, these are fellow followers of Christ who were murdered because they believe in the same Jesus that I do.  There is a bond that we should have because we've all been adopted into the same family.  On this particular day, I couldn't just move on with life.  As a matter of fact, much of what my life is filled with disgusted me in that moment.  Things I value, things I hold as important, things I worry or stress about, seemed to pale in comparison to just being alive. I woke up on that day not even considering being hated so much for my faith that I would be killed for it.  I woke up on that day, not at all worried about the possibility of my kids growing up without their dad or my wife living without her totally amazing, hunk of a husband.  No, I woke up complaining about the aches in my back.  I awakened concerned about the bills I have to pay, the yard I need to mow, my ever increasing to-do list, and how hot it was going to be.

Somehow my problems didn't matter for the next few minutes.  As I read the story, I was reminded of how good my life is.  I was reminded that I can preach something on Sunday morning and not worry about my head still being attached on Monday.  I was reminded that the petty problems I face in a given day can't compare to the horrors that believers face all over this world.  I was reminded that death is not stalking me every waking moment because of my faith.  I was reminded how much I take my freedom for granted.  And I was reminded how disconnected I can become to the plight of my fellow believers throughout the world.

I watched over the course of the next few days as some posted this story as a political statement.  I thought to myself how that cheapens the real story here.  These murdered Christians didn't set out to give us fuel for some pathetic political debate.  They weren't trying to make the headlines on that particular day.  They spent their lives not ashamed of the Jesus they served even though it meant risking their very lives.  They woke up on that day, no different than any other.  They weren't trying to be martyrs, heroes, or famous.  They were determined to live; to truly live.  To live the kind of life, God designed for us to live. They did not need the comforts we have in America to live for Christ.  They did not need a smokin' worship band, cushioned seats, a/c, and a great preacher in order to show up to worship the God they served.  The very fact that they were associated with Christ brought the reality that tomorrow was not promised to them.  Yet, they served Him anyway.  They woke up on that day, not ashamed of Jesus and they would lay down their lives because it.  I'm thinking the headlines should be less about the tragedy of their death and more about their incredible faith and how they lived it day in and day out.

I know that I'll go on with life.  Here, in America, we all will.  We'll order our next $3.00 latte, kick back and watch the next big movie to come out, and argue about who is the greatest basketball player to ever play the game.  We'll argue about politics, complain about the weather, and be offended by something petty in church. And, on the other side of the world, there will be a believer who will not make it through the day because somebody hates them so much because they are a member of our family. I pray that in our "getting back" to life, we will not get back to life as normal.  I'm praying that we'll stop and think about what we've got and how great we've got it.  I'm praying that we'll complain a little less, be thankful a great deal more, and take advantage of the freedom we've been afforded.  But most of all, I'm praying that we'll be more aware of our family members who are being persecuted daily.  

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

If God Can Use A Stick...

My youngest son collects sticks.  Not, little bitty twigs, but big sticks.  Everywhere I look, there seems to be a bundle of Josiah's sticks.  While I often see nothing more than a bundle of sticks that I want to get out of my way, Josiah sees a spear, or a bow and arrow, or a machine gun, or some other kind of weapon.  He never wants to throw any of them away because each and every one of them has the potential to be used for something.  So, I'm left to navigate around his collection of sticks.

Now, perhaps you have never really thought about sticks very much.  But a stick is nothing more than a branch that has broken off of a tree.  It is dead.  It is no longer connected to its source of life, so it is dead.  While it may still be green for a short period of time, it will not remain that way for long.  it has no life flowing through it anymore.  It cannot grow or produce more branches.  It is an inanimate object.

I say all of that because I want you to get a sense of the lowly, worthless state of a stick.  There isn't much you can use them for.  Perhaps, if it is large enough, one could use it as a walking stick or it could be fashioned into some type of primitive tool.  Most of us would simply burn them or put them out for the trash collectors to pick up.  Unless you are like my son, these common everyday sticks that you find laying around in your yard are pretty much worthless.

As lowly and worthless as a stick may be, there is an account in Scripture where God uses a stick to do mighty things.  Moses is in the desert wilderness when He has an encounter with God.  He is tending sheep when he sees a burning bush.  This, of course, gets his attention and he goes to take a closer look.  It is here that Moses encounters God.  In this encounter, God shares with Moses his desire to send him to Egypt to bring God's people out of slavery.  Moses is a bit hesitant, feeling completely incapable of the job God is asking him to do.  Following is a short bit of the conversation between the two ...

"Then Moses answered and said, “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.’”So the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A rod.” (Exodus 4:1-2  NKJV)

Moses sees a bit of a dilemma.  He is being asked by God to go to probably the most powerful man in the world at that time and tell him to "Let God's people go!"  Not only does he need Pharaoh to believe him, he needs God's people to believe him.  Put yourself in Moses' shoes for a second.  He is in the wilderness because he is a fugitive on the run.  Forty years prior, he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave.  As a result, Moses runs for his life fearing the wrath of Pharaoh.  Now, God wants this fugitive to return to Egypt, a powerful nation, and demand that Pharaoh release all the Hebrew slaves.  No wonder Moses is a little hesitant!  Moses poses a question to God that I think every one of us would ask - "But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice?"

I don't know about you, but I am confident that I would want all the details laid out for me.  I would be asking God the same thing.  I would be asking God, "Ummm ... so, do we have a plan just in case they laugh and mock at me when I try to convince them that I saw a burning bush in the desert and God spoke to me out of the burning bush?"  "We've got a plan when I show up to confront the Egyptian Empire without an army, right?"

God reveals to Moses part of his plan.  "What is that in your hand?"  Moses says, "A rod."  Moses has a stick!  Not machine guns, not chariots, not armored tanks, not a massive army.  Moses has a stick! He's got a simple tool used in taking care of sheep.  It's not a magic stick.  It is a dead piece of a tree.  There is absolutely nothing special about the stick.  It is an ordinary stick.  Moses is going to confront the leader of a powerful nation armed with a stick.  Pharaoh has a massive army and Moses has a stick.

 If you'll read the entire account in Exodus, you'll discover that this stick would be used to do miraculous things.  It turned into a serpent and ate Pharaoh's serpents.  It was used to strike the river and turn the water into blood.  God used it to bring the plague of frogs, and hail, and other plagues on Egypt. When Moses and the children of Israel were standing at the Red Sea and Pharaoh's army was coming to kill them, God instructed Moses to stretch it over the Red Sea.  That resulted in the Red Sea splitting, providing God's people with a way of escape while providing the Egyptian soldiers with a watery grave.

God used a simple, ordinary stick.  Let me be clear.  There was nothing extraordinary about the stick.  God does not need something extraordinary, for He is the One who is extraordinary.  The miracle worker wasn't a magic wand.  The Miracle Worker was an all powerful God.  God was not impressed, nor did He shrink in fear when it came to this mighty Pharaoh and his military might.  God did not need an army to deliver His people.  He used an insecure fugitive with a speech problem, who came armed with only a stick.  God is in the habit of taking the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.  He takes the weak things of the world to display His strength.

When you look in the mirror, if what you see staring back at you is just an ordinary man or woman, then you are perfect for the Master's use!  God's not searching high and low for those who believe they are all that.  He is looking for those who are humble before Him and available for His use. He is looking for those who will simply say, "I may not be much, but here I am, send me." It is in willing vessels such as these that God will work mightily.  It is through the ordinary that God does the extraordinary.

At some point today, I will see a bundle of my son Josiah's sticks.  And while at first glance, they seem only good for the trash pile, I can't help but think that at one time in history, God used an ordinary stick much like one of Josiah's to bring an entire nation of people to freedom.  I'm convinced if God can use a lousy, worthless stick to accomplish something like that, then certainly He can use me.  To all the ordinary people out there - if God can empower a dead, dry, lifeless, stick what extraordinary things can he do through you?

For more on how God uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary, watch "Out of the Ordinary - Part One" below:

You can also join us live on Facebook, this Sunday at 10:30am.

If you live in or near Montgomery, TX, we would love to have you join us on Sunday mornings at 10:30.  Westlake Fellowship is located at 19786 Suite 120, Hwy 105 in Montgomery.  (beside Magnolia Diner)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

I Wish We Could Send All The Muslims Back Home

"I wish we could send all the Muslims back home."  I know that is a really bold statement but don't judge me, just yet.  Some of you are about to unfriend me, while others are about to befriend me.  So, regardless of where you stand on an issue like this, just don't be so quick to cast judgment.  I know you want to, but hear me out before you do. I was sitting in a room listening to a conversation between several individuals when I heard this statement blurted out.  That's correct, I didn't say it.  Those who know me well, know that I would never say something like that.  This statement came at the tail end of a conversation that I had been quietly listening to on the topic of our country and religion.  The gist of the conversation was about our country and how it had been founded on Christian tenets.  Then from out of nowhere came this statement from a lady well up in years. As she continued it was easy to see that her statement was the result of a heart that had been tainted by life's experiences.

I get it.  I really do.  I understand how someone can despise a person or people group.  No, I didn't say I agree with it, but I do understand.  There is a constant battle that each of us finds ourselves in. It's an ongoing challenge to love those we do not understand, those we disagree with, and those who oppose us.  None of us are immune to this ongoing challenge.  While our culture preaches a concept of tolerance, the reality is that most only tolerate those who tolerate them.  For instance, there a many who, like this lady in this conversation, have no tolerance when it comes to this very same people group.  On the other hand, there are those who do not tolerate this lady or those who think like her.  So, this politically correct idea of tolerance really just allows us to justify our prejudices while condemning others.  Besides, is tolerating someone truly loving them?  I don't think so.  For instance, I tolerate taxes but I sure don't love them.

The way I see it, there will probably be a few different responses to reading the title of this BLOG.  There will be those who read it and immediately cast judgment without bothering to dig a bit deeper to hear the real truth.  They'll move on assuming that one statement is enough with which to judge the entirety of my heart even though I never truly made that statement.  Then there will be those who will immediately judge me and will read on in order to find more fuel with which to condemn me. Still, others will read the title and be happy to think they've found someone with whom they can agree.  They'll read on convinced they've found justification for their disdain of a people group, since a "man of God," agrees with their position.  Then there will be those who really know me who know there has to be some type of twist because I would never hold that position.

Although we were all taught at a young age to not judge a book by its cover, our culture is one that does just that.  We are quick to pass judgment.  We hear a sound bite, read an opinionated editorial, or hear something through the "grapevine" and immediately we make up our mind regarding an individual.  We are quick to condemn without hearing the whole story.  We judge the book by the cover without taking the time to read through all the pages.

As I sat there listening to this conversation on this day, I said nothing.  I just listened.  As I listened I discovered some things I could have never discovered had I been quick to interject.  I discovered that the heart that was spewing this hatred was one that was wounded.  A heart that was full of fear.  The miles that this one had journeyed had bumps along the way that my journey did not. While I did not agree with what she said, I understood where she was coming from.  I understood where she was coming from because I cared enough to want to know where she was coming from.

I'm a much better talker than I am a listener.  Sometimes it is extremely hard for me to keep my mouth shut. My first impulse on this day was to say something.  To jump into preacher mode and put people in their place.  Condemning someone's behavior is so much easier than helping them find healing for their heart and that's why our default is to condemn.  Leading people toward freedom and healing requires so much more from us than preaching or standing on a soapbox.  In order to rescue us, our Heavenly Father didn't stand at arm's length from us and spew condemnation.  Scripture tells us that, "God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:17).  God sent His Son into our world for the purpose of rescuing us.  He cared enough to come into our world!  He cared enough to understand the depth of our brokenness and rather than condemn us, He reached out to rescue us.  He gave us the answer, not a lecture. Our salvation was not secured by someone telling us how messed up we were but by someone who dove into the middle of our mess determined to pull us out of it.

While I did not make the statement that this lady did, I can assure you that judgment and condemnation has proceeded from my mouth more times than I care to admit.  As a matter of fact, it took everything within me on that day to put a lid on condemning words that wanted to make their way across my lips.  I'm desperately trying to get this "loving my neighbor" thing down.  I'm trying to navigate through our culture determined to love those who are difficult for me to love.  Will you join me?  In the same way, that God sent His Son into the world, Jesus sent His followers into the world.  If Jesus wasn't sent into the world to condemn it, then I'm thinking neither were we.

For more on loving those you struggle to love, you can get a copy of my e-book: Yep, Even That One - a believer's guide to loving your neighbor.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

We Need To Get Together

"We need to get together."  How many times have you said that to someone and you never seem to get together?  Perhaps your intentions truly are to get together but life is so busy it just never happens.  Then, you see them again a few weeks later and say the same thing but you know when you say it that chances are this time it will be no different.

I do this all the time.  It's not that I don't want to make it happen, it's just that there are so many things screaming for my attention and most of my time is spent responding to those screams.  Rarely do I have time to sit and do nothing.  My schedule is as full as a freeway in Houston during rush hour.  There is little time to fit something extra in.  As a result, if I don't make time for someone or something, it's not likely I'll be able to squeeze them in somewhere.  I rarely do life on the fly or take a spontaneous approach when it comes to my day to day living.  If I am going to do something specific, or get together with someone, I have to plan it.  I have to get out my calendar and pencil it in.  I've learned in life that just having the desire to do something, rarely ensures that it happens.  However, If I'll set a time and place for it, then it's more likely to happen.

Take me and my wife, Lori, for example.  I love spending time with her.  In fact, I love spending time with her more than anyone else.  Yet weeks can go by without us having a date if we aren't careful.  The person I love to spend time with more than anyone can actually become neglected if I am not intentional about spending time with her.  It doesn't just happen.  If we are going to have a date night, then we have to plan it.  We have to put it on the calendar and make it happen.  We have to set a time and a place.

I find this to be true regarding my time with the Lord.  It doesn't just happen.  I know what you're thinking, "You're a preacher!  That's your job, isn't it?" First of all let me say that if my relationship with Jesus ever digresses to a place where it becomes a job, I need to reevaluate what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.   While my job description does require me to prepare messages each week, if the totality of my interaction with the Lord is for the purpose of getting a message to preach then I've lost my way.  I have a personal relationship with Jesus.  I need to hear from Him for me.  I need alone time with Him.  We all need that.  But it doesn't just happen because we want it or need it.  It only happens when we are intentional about it.  It only happens when we plan it; when we put it on the calendar.  We need to set a time and a place.

We set appointments to get our hair done, to see a doctor, to make sales calls, etc.  Yet most of us approach our alone time with the Lord as something we'll try to fit in somewhere during the day or week.  As a result, we get our hair cut, we see our doctor, and we make that sale but at the end of the week, we are still trying to fit God in somewhere.  We were created in such a way as to "need" to connect with our Creator.  Not every now and then.  Not whenever we can fit Him in.  Our relationship with Him requires time with Him.

If you find yourself constantly trying to fit time with the Lord in somewhere, I want to challenge you to change your approach.  Stop trying to find time for Him and determine to make time for Him.  Get out your calendar and make an appointment.  Set it in stone and make it happen.  I don't know about you, but I make appointments for all the important things in my life.  Why would I not do the same when it comes to the most important thing in my life? Quit saying, "We need to get together," to Jesus and determine to get together with Him.

For more on setting time apart to hear God's voice, check out Wavelength - Part 3 below:

Be sure to join us live on Facebook each Sunday at 10:30am

If you live in or near Montgomery, TX, we would love to have you join us on Sunday mornings at 10:30.  Westlake Fellowship is located at 19786 Suite 120, Hwy 105 in Montgomery, TX.  (beside Magnolia Diner)

Friday, May 5, 2017

Then God Said ...

"Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light (Genesis 1:3 NKJV).  Have you ever thought about that event?  God spoke, something happened.  God declared a thing, and it was.  God didn't walk over to a light switch and turn it on, He spoke and light became.  Light went from a word that was spoken to something tangible; something real.  God spoke into the darkness and what was, changed into what was declared.  God spoke and the word that He spoke contained the power to become what He declared.

As you continue through the narrative of Genesis 1, God speaks time and time again and the results are always the same.  Whatever He declares becomes the very thing He declares.  The universe is the result of God speaking and those words becoming alive.  "So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please" (Isaiah 55:11 NKJV).

When God speaks, things change, worlds are created, atmospheres are altered.  When God speaks, His word brings forth light in the middle of darkness, order in the middle of chaos, and peace in the middle of storms.  His word creates hope where there is hopelessness, healing where there is brokeness, and life where there is death.  He speaks and lives are restored, captives are set free, and broken hearts are put back together.  When He utters a word, He's not simply shootin' the breeze, He's altering the world in which we live.

There are a lot of other voices out there speaking.  Each one of them demanding our attention yet none of them capable of producing what is uttered from the lips of our Creator.  Tweeters are tweeting, writers are writing, speakers are speaking, broadcasters are broadcasting, and posters are posting.  Yet, none of this world's noise contains the life-giving, universe-creating power found only in the spoken word of God.

Is it just me or does it seem absolutely insane to walk through life with our ears tuned to the noise rather than the words that bring us life? God's longing to speak to you and His words contain just as much power today as they did on that day He said, "Let there be light."  He spoke and the universe came into existence. I'm just wondering how much your world would be affected by you taking the time to slow down and listen to His voice.

For more on hearing the voice of God, watch "Wavelength - Part Two" below:

You can also join us live on Facebook, this Sunday 5/7/2017 at 10:30am.

If you live in or near Montgomery, TX, we would love to have you join us on Sunday mornings at 10:30.  Westlake Fellowship is located at 19786 Suite 120, Hwy 105 in Montgomery.  (beside Magnolia Diner)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

I'm Starving

"I'm starving!"  That's a statement I often hear from one of my boys.  No, they have never gone without food for days at a time.  This statement is usually made when they have not eaten within 30 minutes or so of their normal meal time.  If food doesn't arrive soon, that plea becomes a bit more dramatic and sounds like this, "I'm starving to death!" Fortunately, my kids have always received food in time and have escaped the horrible terror of death by starvation.

The truth is I was the same way when I was younger.  In fact, I'm sure there are times more recently when I've said the same thing.  Regardless of how long it has been since we've eaten, all of us need food.  We cannot live without it.  And while we will not die of starvation having missed one meal or two, if we go without food for a very long period of time, we will eventually starve to death.  We were created in such a way that our body needs food.  We need it regularly.  Our physical bodies are sustained by physical food. We cannot live without it.

In the same way, we were created to need another type of food ... spiritual food. Scripture tells us that "man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Deut. 8:3, Luke 4:4).  Both times this statement is made in Scripture, it is speaking to our built-in need for  "ingesting" or "absorbing" the Word of God.  While physical food brings life to our physical body, the substance that brings life to our spirit is the Word of the Lord.  Jesus declared that the words that He speaks "are spirit and they are life" (John 6:63).  While we indeed need physical food to sustain us, we need this spiritual food as well.  Knowing this truth puts a whole new spin on the concept of a balanced diet.  A truly "balanced diet" must include spiritual nutrition.  We need to hear from God and not just every once and a while.  God created us to need a daily infusion of His Word.  Hearing His voice is not an option, it is a necessity.  We cannot truly live without hearing His voice.

Back to my boys for just a moment.  I can assure you that they have never truly been on the brink of starvation.  I am pretty confident that over the course of their lifetime, they have never missed a meal.  However, if for some reason their next meal is delayed a bit, I am confident I will hear those words ... "I'm starving."  Oh, how I long for the day when that is the case when it comes to me personally regarding spiritual meals.  In the same way, my boys crave their next meal, I long to crave the very thing I need ... a word from Him!

Unfortunately, I often find myself filling up on alternatives to the real meal.  Spiritual "GMO" foods if you will.  Or worse, I opt for what amounts to spiritual fast-food rather than a real piece of meat. A real meal takes a little bit of time.  It requires me to slow down ... no, wait a second, it requires me to stop.  It requires me to sit down at His table, not pull up at the drive through window.  God is not in the practice of serving up fast food and trying to convince us that it's healthy for us.  Perhaps you relate.  Perhaps you find yourself filling up on what amounts to junk food spiritually.  Maybe, you're craving everything but what you truly need.  Ask yourself, "When is the last time I've stopped and taken the time to hear His voice?  Am I starving?  Your Heavenly Father has an open-ended invitation for you.  "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me" (Revelation 3:20).

For more on hearing the voice of God, watch "Wavelength - Part One" below:
You can also join us live on Facebook, Sunday 4/30/2017 and Sunday 5/7/2017 at 10:30 AM

If you live in or near Montgomery, TX, we would love to have you join us on Sunday mornings at 10:30.  Westlake Fellowship is located at 19786 Suite 120, Hwy 105 in Montgomery. (beside Magnolia Diner)