Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Who, Whose and What - 1 Timothy 1: 12-18

This Sunday past it was my joy to bring a 'charge' to the new candidates being ordained into the deacon ministry of ParkwayHills. My text was not my usual one for such occasions, but it was nonetheless appropriate. I chose a passage from Paul's 1st letter to Timothy, as he wrote an encouraging word to this young pastor by testifying of things he had learned personally.

First, Paul wrote concerning who he was - saying he was a sinner saved by God's grace.  He wrote, 'even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. ...I received mercy.  And the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.' Paul made no bones about this. He was clear as to his former self, going on to say that 'Christ came to save sinners of whom I am foremost.'

Second, Paul wrote concerning whose He was - by adding, 'I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience.' Paul joyfully believed He was the possession of Christ. Though we might say I possess Christ, Paul would say, "Christ possesses me." (cf. Acts 17:28, 2 Cor. 6:16, 2 Cor, 13:5, Gal. 4 et.al, Eph. 3:17) And that he was no longer slave to the flesh, but a slave (bond-servant) of Christ - one given a new life, bought with a price and now to be borne with honor.

But finally, Paul wrote a word to remind Timothy (and us) of what we are to do - as any Christian being set apart to serve the task God has called us to. Paul shared that Christ had made him an example (v. 16) 'to those who would come to believe,' and charged Timothy to 'fight the good fight.' (v. 18) All of this reminded me on Sunday of who we are, whose we are and what we are called to do. With Paul I concur that we are sinners saved by grace, Christ's very possession bought with a price, and called to be an example by fighting the good fight - never giving up.

As I went home to turn on my TV, I saw that Russel Wilson, the quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, had thrown 4 interceptions to come to the 4th quarter facing a deficit of 12 points against the Green Bay Packers. Yet, with but 2 minutes left to play, his team tied the game and won the NFC championship in overtime. When interviewed, he was asked how this happened. His reply was, 'we never gave up - we just kept believing.'

Indeed, in Christ we need never give up! We've been assured victory by our Lord. Consequently, by remembering 'who' and 'whose' we are this enables us to live the 'what' of our Christ-life, too - one standing as an example to others.


Pastor Sam

Saturday, January 3, 2015

MOM - One, Three, Thirty One

January 3, 1931 - 84 years ago today - was when my mother, Anna Beth Sellers, was born. She was the 2nd of four children born to her parents, Alvie and May Sellers; and was possessing of gangly stature, dish-water blond hair, sad, penetrating eyes, and a bright mind. In her early days her father farmed but later became an independent insurance agent. Her Mother was a homemaker - seeing daily to home, hearth and children - and, when the family was not serving at community events or with friends and family nearby, they were at church, where her Dad led the singing and served as Deacon Chair.

Mom lived her entire childhood in the same farm-house in a community called Pt. Enterprise, nestled quaintly - both then and now - between the Farm to Market Roads which ran east and south between Mexia and Teague, Texas. People there - if not employed as merchants, shop-owners or a professionals in the city - were either farmers, ranchers, workers in the oil fields or growers of peaches. She attended the Pt. Enterprise community grade-school, which had been built by her grandfather, Macon Thornton, and distinguished herself as top of her class. After the 8th grade she attended High School in nearby Mexia, graduating in the spring of 1948 as 'Blackcat.'

As a child Mom enjoyed her family, her favorites being her mother's sisters and best friend, Berniece - who still lives in Pt. Enterprise. However, come summer after High School, at just 17, she was ready to move on, and did, by striking out by bus for the big city to the north - Dallas, where a friend had offered a place to live and a job with a company called Dallas Linen.

Mom worked as a book-keeper at Dallas Linen and it was her duty to check the route-men in as they came in from their routes of delivering clean linen. On her first Friday the office was a-buzz with activity. Friday was a busy day for several reasons for, not only was it pay-day, it was the day when the 'out-of-town' routes came in - increasing the work of the office. On this first Friday, then, Mom was to have something happen that would change her life forever, for Delmer Dennis, a handsome young route man, with looks and a personality that was the envy of all, came into the plant to check in. As this happened, Mom along with her friend Lawana, had happened to come back by the plant on their way to a movie. Dad climbed out of his truck and walked up to the window, with Mom asking, "who is that man?"  Her friend replied, "that's Delmer Dennis."  To which Mom replied with a smile, "I'm going to marry him." Their first date was on July 5th and they were married on August 8 - in her Mom and Dad's home - 5 weeks after that.  So... Mom was right - and as long as I knew them they were this much in love, never tiring of one another, cherishing all of ife together.

Dad passed away in July of 1989, the year we planted ParkwayHills. The next year, PawPaw (Mom's Dad) passed. Ten years later - in 1999, Mama May (my Mom's mother) passed - but they all had been there at the first church service of ParkwayHills, the one held under the tent. I loved them all - and speak of them often, but it has been Mom who has remained to encourage me all these years since. As I think of how they lived and loved, the memory of those days provides a wonderful benchmark for my own life. Pictures remain, of course, but the truths learned from them are now lived in the generations that have followed. Faith, family and love - these are the greatest gifts of my life, and they were given by them. Mom is still living, and Dad lives on in my heart - and oh... how I do love them so!

Last night Mom spent the night with B and me here in Plano. B made her a chocolate cake, and we exchanged cards and quiet talk while watching Cannon, our grandson, crawl about on the floor.

It has been a good day.  

Happy Birthday, Mom


Monday, November 17, 2014

Snow Dust and Joy (speaking of which)

I cannot recall a time that the Dallas area has seen snow in November, though I am certain our history has known it. It's just that it is rare, and my memory (albeit romantically suspect) is not immediately aware. But that is what I awakened to today - a dusting of snow on my roof and lawn - becoming the determining factor that my home, too, would join the other 'earlies' in turning the radio to Christmas - and Belinda is celebrating!

Speaking of which (or whom), Belinda was gone this past weekend. She was on a "Spark Ministry" Mission trip http://www.sparkministry.org, leaving me to brave the cold alone. I was fine for the most part, though I did miss her, finding myself - for the first time in weeks - facing a weekend without a wedding by keeping busy with Hospital visits, calls and sermon prep. So much of my time was by the fireplace, with pen and computer in hand, and taking to the joy of catching up on actually 'listening' to the God I serve.

Speaking of which (and weddings), this has certainly been my year to perform them. The calendar shows that since the middle of August I have performed 9 weddings. In the month of October there was not one weekend I was not performing at least one, and this has been one wonderful stretch of ministry for me as I do enjoy these so. As I think about this there is no happier time for a pastor to serve a family, and I consider it a great blessing to have officiated over 600 of these over the last 30 years. And... guess what? My calendar shows I have at least one more before year-end. It is for Katie, a beautiful young woman who grew up in our church, so I am certain this will be as joyous as all the others have been. For, after all, it only takes a 'dusting' of joy, like today's snow, to change one's radio station. (Phil 4:8) Amen? Amen!


Pastor Sam

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Election Day - 2014

Dr. Jim Denison writes in his 'Forum on Truth and Culture ' today http://www.denisonforum.org/cultural-commentary regarding apathy, or one might say pessimism and 'checking out,' of Americans in their political process.  Alarmingly, I find this to be true even among church members, who, painfully, are often little more than 'christianized' (lower c) versions of the culture they inhabit.

But hear me - Jesus did not call us to apathy regarding any of life's issues - neither the gospel nor our politics. Instead, He has called us to be as salt and light - so that every decision we make and action we take might be with the intention of making Him known.  

Some would argue that a "Christian vote' must 'always' be for one party or platform - the party or platform supporting all conservative issues, for instance.  But, I would argue that Jesus may be less concerned with our issues than we. What matters to our Christ, who died on the cross for our sins, is that we who know Him are lending due diligence to the charge He's given - the gospel. And this may be done even while standing in a polling line.

In America we've been given such privilege, and by choosing not to vote we miss an opportunity to bear witness to our calling of presenting Christ as we tender our privilege and responsibility as citizens of honor. In short, rendering to Caesar that which is Caesar's is more than just paying taxes, it is modeling our good citizenship before all of God's people, so that all may know that a Christ-servant is, in the least and for the best, a servant of all.

In the end our hope must be to realize what matters most - that sharing the gospel of Christ is of utmost importance, not winning or losing an election. And, that by participating in all of life excellently, with 'Christ-skin' on, we might utilize our most effective voice.

Jesus said, 'if I be lifted up I will draw all me unto me,' which is both a theological truth and a practical reality. Christ was lifted onto a cross to become our way of salvation, and... as we lift Him up in everyday citizenship people still see Him - even when standing in line at the polls.

Blessed Voting,

Pastor Sam

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Summer's End Series begins tomorrow - 'The Power of God' (1. Cor., chp. 1-3)

... but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God... 1 Cor. 1: 23-24 (in part)

It is good to be back in Plano, Texas. Our plane arrived at DFW last evening and stepping into the Texas heat we were reminded that there are many reasons we live here other than our summer weather.

Likewise, there is reason the church thrives and remains strong through any changes to weather, culture, or evening news, too. Certainly more than any utopia found on earth, it is the forgiveness of sin and our reconciliation to God through Christ - with resurrection and heaven as a promise yet to come. This is our joy! Our 'smile' in spite of the 'summer's heat', and exactly what our church will celebrate over the next 3 Sunday's. For we, the local body of Christ - parkwayhills, have experienced an amazing summer of God's power. Record attendance and professions of faith in each of our summer mission events (both on campus and off) have reminded us that Christ really is the power of God.

So come join me - both tomorrow, August 17, and each Sunday, August 24 and 31, as we worship and celebrate what God has done through the power of His Son, Jesus Christ. My preaching series will be taken from the book of 1. Cor. chapters 1-3, and I look forward to seeing you...

In the morning,

Pastor Sam  

Monday, August 4, 2014

Brasil 2014, Day 10, 'Coming Home'

It has been a long day, but we are finally readying for our international flight to Miami. The team has been wonderful, but far too tired for me to try to put them all in one pic.  Suffiice it to say, I have absolutely adored being with these people. They have been amazing.  And, I will never forget how we became as one family in Christ over the last 10 Days. 

They are...

Doug Benton
Elizabeth Benton
Gracie Breitenfeld
Carla Cox
Chris Davenport
Jessica DeFrancisco
Sam Dennis
Taylor Dennis Butler
Hannah Gentry
Debbie Irons
Kyle Keeter
Mattie Keeter
Phil Kennedy
Leland Kennedy
Claire Olivier
Lauren Powell
Arianna Rodrigues
Arabella Rodrigues
Araceli Rodrigues
Glenn Sampson
Grace Verges
Mike Weaver
Kayla Weaver

They each have been the hands and feet of Jesus in Brasil! 

Now... it's time for the same at home. 

Deus Abençoe, 

Pastor Sam 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Brasil 2014, Saturday, 2 August - 'From Medina City Home'

The work here in Medina City has been so very fruitful. I am writing this blog just minutes prior to our last evening service here (Saturday night); though I may not be able to post till Sunday. Right now our team is rushing to shower, dress, then head up the hill to the municipal gymnasium. We are exhausted but filled with the grace and provision of God at seeing HIM bring people to himself. In Medina over 500 decsions have been recorded thus far - and in our two cities combined we have seen just under 1,000 professions of faith. This is simply a number, one of many means of our measuring, for we know it is God who knows the true number. Only He knows how many more have received the gospel whom we were not able to get record of. Especially among those precious teens in the schools who raised there hands to say 'yes' to Christ for salvation. 

As to our last day in Medina, today was just as full as our first two days here. It was 'Market Day' and the streets were absolutely packed. Taking advantage of this, our Saturday morn was spent on the streets near the cities market and heart - singing, playing circle games with children, painting faces, making baloons, offering social services/blood pressure checks and, of course, street preaching with aid of guitars. As I was doing this, I could not help but be reminded of the way my call to preach was first begun - on the streets of Wichita, Kansas, with a guitar. I found myself smiling at this warm snd reminiscent thought - and of God's power, providence and call over all these years.  

In the afternoon we traveled by bus to a a smaller town leaving half of our team behind in Medina City, visiting in homes door to door. It was an amazing day.  

We will load the bus at 3:30 in the morning in order to leave at 4:00 am for travel to Montes Claros. There we will enjoy a closing service with the other P70 teams who have been doing the same as we in another area of Minas Gerais. Pray for us as we travel to Montes; then as we fly to Belo Horizonte and board a US flight to Miami overnight. The trip home has few breaks affording us 30 plus 'tough' hours of travel.  So we will be ready to see DFW and YOU, on Monday.  

Deus Abençoe, 

Pastor Sam