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Baptist Convention – Unashamed

This week Kathryn and I spent a few days gathering with over 8000 other Southern Baptist at the Convention. I look forward to sharing with you some of the awesome things that we have done together as Baptist this year! We heard some great preaching, and saw our convention once again reaffirm it’s purpose. The word we heard spoken the most beyond any other single word was the word “gospel”. One of my favorite preachers, Dr. James Merritt, stated that the greatest single statement anyone has ever spoken comes from Romans 1:16. I quickly turned my Bible to the text to see what it said! How did I not have the single greatest statement in the Bible not already committed to my memory! Paul wrote these simple and profound words, “I am not ashamed of the gospel”. The pastor had an interesting way of describing our world today. Dr. Merritt stated, “We live in a society that is constantly ashamed of what is right and completely unashamed of what is wrong!” He went on to say, “It is a day when compromise has shut the mouth of conviction, and when the Gospel has been silenced by fear of ridicule.” Paul said ,”I’m not ashamed of the Gospel.” Paul gives some amazing reasons in this verse not to be ashamed that you should read when you get a chance. This is a time when the world needs Southern Baptist to be people who are unashamed of the Gospel! Billy Graham once said, “I wouldn’t cross the street to talk to someone about religion, but I will go around the world to talk to someone about the gospel.” David Platt said, “Every saved person this side of heaven owes the gospel to every unsaved person this side of hell.” Can you think of anything more important in life than the Gospel? Let us live like Paul and not be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Let us shout it from the rooftops of Community Rehab. Let us share it tenderly to children at Brownwood Camp. Let us take it to the skyscrapers of New York City! Let us proclaim it in the hills of Falls Creek Youth Camp. Let us proclaim it to the mountains of Honduras, and let us never forget to share it with our neighbors!!!!  

Daniel Harper

Vacation Bible School – 2018

June 3 – 7 Vacation Bible School

This year’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) invites your kids to grab their megaphones, lace up their cleats, and tune up their instruments. As they fill up the offensive line, sideline, and drumline, your players, cheerleaders, and band members will realize God has given them His ultimate playbook. He wants them to join His team, train hard, celebrate salvation, and encourage one another. Get in the spirit today with Game On! Meal starts at 5:30 PM & class 6:00-8:00 PM

Renewed – Soaking in God’s goodness

I had a great birthday this week. My parents came down and helped watch the kiddos for the weekend so Kathryn and I could escape for a few hours. My idea of an escape is an air-conditioned movie theater and a good restaurant, but my wife makes much better choices with her life and health! She chooses things like running 5K’s and playing basketball! She had researched a nearby state park with trails to hike and sights to see that we have never visited before. It was way too beautiful of a day to sit inside a movie theater anyway so we decided on a drive to Colorado Bend State Park to do some hiking. I love nature, and she loves exercise so it was a win for both of us! We had read about a waterfall called Gorman Springs tucked away on a hiking trail in the park, and we were determined to find it. We discovered a great little barbecue restaurant along the way and headed to the hiking trails. On a side note, I would not recommend stuffing yourself with barbecue and then attempted to hike three miles. The hike to the waterfall was not all that long, but it was rugged. The hiking trails are nothing more than jagged rocks surrounded by cactus! One missed step and I would have spent my birthday with a pair of tweezers picking out barbs! The area was beautiful, and we enjoyed the hike to the waterfall. It really was a sight to see that made the hike well worth it. This waterfall was the opposite of Niagara Falls. I do not want you to get the wrong idea. It was not a roaring rapid of rushing water, but more of a constant and tranquil spectacle. The water cascaded down the side of the cliff and bounced off the rocks below into shallow pools that drained into the nearby Colorado River. Both the river and the waterfall are viewable from this location. I learned that the waterfall is actually spring fed. We were told that at times the waterfall grows in size and strength, and other times of the year it appears calmer as it did this day. We sat for a while watching and listening to the sound of the water running. Birds and wildlife were abundant in the area as the water was a source of life to them. I see in that waterfall a picture of God’s love and grace. At times it’s a mighty and powerful torrent, and at others it’s a meek and quiet whisper. Like this water fall God’s love and grace come from a never ending source. The water will never stop flowing! This also means that the water is new every day. That waterfall will never be stagnant or old. Lamentations 3:21-25 states this very thing. It reads, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope. The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him. The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him!” I just want to remind you this day to soak in God’s goodness, to seek refreshment in Him, to hope and trust in your God! May you come to the never-ending waterfalls of His love and grace this week! Thank you Kat for sharing this beautiful place with me. It was a gift I will always remember, and way better than any movie would have ever been!

Daniel Harper

Movie Take Away – I Can Only Imagine

We went and saw the movie “I Can Only Imagine” Sunday night. The movie really is an amazing testimony of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness. I know everyone has not seen the movie yet, but I wanted to mention a few things that I took away from the experience that relate directly to the ministry here at First Baptist Church. First, I was reminded of the reason that we do youth and children ministry. This young man had an abusive dad, a mom that abandoned him, but thankfully a youth pastor that loved him. It was actually sermon notes he had written as a child that God used to turn his life around at this key moment. Never underestimate the influence of the youth and children’s ministry in the lives of these students. Every Bible lesson, every word, every hug, every smile, and every bite of food may be what God uses to change a boy, girl, or an entire family. Secondly, I was reminded of the extreme importance of youth and children’s camp. For many children these weeks are just a fun week away from home, but for some these weeks are absolutely life changing. For some young people the week at camp with our church provides them more love, attention, and Christ focus than they will get any other time in their lives. Like young Bart, some kids would do anything to escape their life and just stay at camp forever! I have actually heard students tell me this before. It was this camp experience that grounded Bart in church where he was introduced to Christian music, God’s Word, and even found his future wife! We strive to offer these students a life changing camp experience at places like Heart of Texas and Falls Creek. These are expensive projects that take a massive amount of prayer, hard work, and commitment from our church, but they are worth it all just to see one life changed by Christ. I will end by asking a question. How would this story have been different without the local church in Bart’s community? He would not have gone to camp to hear the Word of God for the first time. He would not have taken those notes in the journal from that Bible lesson. He would not have met a children’s minister that showed him the love of Christ. He would not have met his future wife! He would not have had a youth group to go to in High School. He would not have been invited to sing at church by his pastor. His dad would never have heard him sing Amazing Grace on the radio. His dad would not have been saved. He could never have written this amazing song about what his father is seeing in heaven! Millions of people would have never been ministered to by the amazing song written from these experiences. While none of these people are named in the movie, I am sure Bart Millard knows them all by name. Take time today to consider how Bart’s story would have been told without the local church and without the many Christian people in Bart’s life! I don’t even want to imagine!

Daniel Harper

Spiritual Holes & Muddy Water

There was a problem with a water line down our road this week. Evidently a pipe burst and had to be repaired. I felt sorry for the city workers out in freezing temperatures fixing the pipe. We were thankful for their work getting our water turned back on. Later that night I ran a bath for the kids. I turned on the water and returned in a few minutes. When I got back to the bathroom and looked at the water I was shocked. The bathtub was filled with brown water! I do not mean a little muddy. I mean thick brown mud where the water should have been. I did not see any reason in the boys taking a bath as they would just get dirtier getting into that water than they were before the bath! I drained the tub and rinsed out the inch of mud covering the bathtub. I turned the water on and let it run for almost an hour before it started running somewhat clear again. I’m scared to see my water bill next month, but I did not know another way to clean the lines. The break in the line was at the other end of the block, and every house downstream caught the flood of mud that made it into the lines during the repair. I joked with my neighbor later about the mud he sent our way! The muddy bathtub was a potent reminder to me as a pastor. A hole in my life, in my faith, in my walk with Christ can be detrimental to those I lead. I may believe that a choice that I make in my life only affects me, but my dirty bathtub this week reminded me of the danger that sin in my life can pose to others. That dirty water always flows downstream! First Corinthians 10:31-32 states, “…Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble…even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good, but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” My prayer this week is that God would help me fill the holes in my faith so that the mud of sin never flows downstream to those I lead causing them to stumble. May the water of God’s Word flow through our lives so that what flows through us brings spiritual life and blessing to those downstream from our lives!

Daniel Harper

Who are you following ?

Most of you know that one of my weaknesses in life is a lack of an internal compass. I get lost easily. This week I followed behind the hearse to Hico cemetery. It was one of the longest processions I have ever been in. Traveling behind me were 20 other cars. It made me nervous just thinking about how one wrong turn could quite possibly lead the entire entourage to the wrong place. I was especially careful to just follow Todd as he led the way. I was thankful that I could relax, and not be the one in the lead. I was both a follower and a leader. As I thought about my position in the procession, I also considered the position we all have in life. We are all simultaneously called to be both followers and leaders. The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” Two lessons can be easily seen from this verse. First, we are all called to follow Christ. We must passionately and wholeheartedly keep our eyes on Him in order not to get lost in this world. Secondly, we must remember that we are called to be disciple makers. We are called to lead others to follow Christ also. Many people follow our example. We may think that we are alone in our walk of faith, but all of us if we turn around will find someone not far behind. This means we must ensure that we follow Christ so that those that follow us will follow him also. We are all both followers and leaders! Who are you following? May we follow hard after Christ! Who is following you! May we lead people to Christ daily by our example!  

Daniel Harper

Overwhelmed

I came in Monday morning and began a new week of work. There is a new week of sermons, Bible Studies, school work, and church administration. It is such a blessing to be serving God in a place so full of ministry opportunity. This “opportunity” can also be a giant burden on those serving in the work of the ministry. We all feel the pressures of engaging in the hard work of raising a family, maintaining a profession, and still finding time for spiritual things. This morning we were late to school again. While Kathryn and I were making lunches, packing school bags, and making breakfast all the boys were doing their Bible Study. The problem was that they had not even gotten ready for school yet! We were ready to walk out the door, and they appeared to have just gotten out of bed. I began scolding them to rush to the table to eat breakfast and run and get dressed. They countered my aggression with a valid argument. They defiantly yelled back, “Dad did you not tell us that our Bible study and time with God must come first every day?” They are smart boys. On one hand they were wrong. Bible study must not replace responsibility to be to school on time. We have to set our alarm earlier, work harder, and sacrifice more to have the time with God we need. On the other hand, how do you scold your children when they are all excitingly reading their Bible’s before school? It was a tough dilemma. We were late to school again, but the boys read their Bible. We will try to make both happen tomorrow. I came to the office afterward and opened my schedule for the week. It was full. I color code my calendar events. Personal events are green, church activities are blue, and doctoral deadlines are red. Every day this week looked like a rainbow of colors. Immediately the stress began to rise. I was quickly overwhelmed by my schedule. My Bible sat beside me unopened. I had not listened to my own sermon. I read this morning about the parting of the Red Sea. It just happened to be the text for that day. He led His people with a cloud and with fire. Plagues were sent on behalf of the people of God. Pharaoh melted before the almighty hand of God. The Israelites worshipped. History was forever changed. Thirty minutes later I closed my Bible. I was overwhelmed by the power of God in His Word. My calendar did not seem as daunting anymore. My stress over an overwhelmed schedule was not a problem of time management. It was a spiritual problem. I had an overwhelmed schedule because I had an underwhelmed soul. We all get overwhelmed from time to time. Perhaps we are overwhelmed by the world because we are underwhelmed in our spiritual life. Do you have an overwhelmed life because you have an underwhelmed soul?  

Daniel Harper

Tentmaker

I am done with camping for a good while! If you’ve ever gone camping, you know it’s a lot of fun…but not for very long. After a few days, you start longing for things like a shower, walls, and a real bed. A rainstorm in the middle of the night speeds up one’s dislike of camping. Camping is a temporary situation. In 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 Paul, who’s was a tentmaker, uses the analogy of a tent to talk about the true nature of this life. He stated “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens”. The comparison is simple. Tents are temporary. Houses are not. Tents are flimsy. Houses are sturdy. Houses are comfortable. Tents are terrible! Our earthly tent is wearing out, but our heavenly home  is eternal!  We finally made it home tonight. I took a hot shower, turned on the air conditioner, and crawled into a soft bed. I can tell you firsthand tonight that a house is much better than a tent. Next time things get rough remember that this life is just one giant camping trip, but home is around the corner! Serving Him Together Daniel

Spiritual Cracks

I had the pleasure of visiting the dentist office this week. Evidently I had an old filling with a hairline crack in it. The dentist said that the tiny crack allowed some tooth rot onto my tooth. The idea of the use of the word “rot” in connection with anything in my mouth was uncomfortable. Thankfully she was able to drill out the old filling and remove the rot before it ruined the tooth. I was surprised that such a microscopic crack was going to ruin my entire tooth. This got me to thinking about our spiritual lives. Is there any area in our lives that we have cracked, where the enemy can get in? What about watching things on TV that are questionable or reading books that do not honor God? Have we been a party to gossip? Have we spoken harshly to someone or held on to bitterness? Have we embraced a theological idea that is not entirely Biblical? Are our relationships pure and do they encourage us in our walk with God? Do we pray daily and read God’s Word? John 10:10 warns us that our enemy seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. He is looking for even the smallest cracks to bring spiritual rot into our lives. Take time this week to get some spiritual “filling” of your own to make sure that rot has no place in your life!!