Category Archives: CHANGING HEARTS

When I was in prison, you visited Me.

prison guard with keys outside dark prison cell

Hi, This is Tex.  My calling is discipleship: knowing, being, making and teaching others to make disciples for Jesus.  A big part of being a disciple is in being involved with “extra-church” activities, where you develop relationships with people who are NOT your garden variety church-goers.  Prison ministry is one of those activities.  I’ve been involved in prison ministry for about 16 years now, and the Holy Spirit moves in prisons in a way He hardly ever moves in traditional church.  Below is a letter from Jim, a brother of mine in the Jubilee Prison Ministry.  This story is about a prison ministry weekend that happened a few weeks ago near Houston.

I have been serving in prison on Jubilee or Kairos weekends for 17 years.  Many of you have supported my efforts over the years  (thank you!) and have often asked me what happens on these weekends.  So I thought you might enjoy the following story – I’m a CFO, cynic and pessimist but this story is miraculous (or very close to it).

I was the leader of Jubilee #1 at the Scott unit in Angleton 3 weeks ago.  One of my jobs was to assign the 25 or so talks to our volunteers.  Most of the Scott #1 volunteers were new, so I didn’t know them – so had little insight to help assign the right talk to the “right” person.  So I asked God to somehow intervene as I made “random” talk assignments.  I assigned the “Forgiving Others” talk to Joseph, one of 3 volunteers who came from San Antonio to serve.  Joseph is a relatively new Christian, and is also an ex offender, so when he heard about Jubilee he believed God had called him  and agreed to participate.  Our weekend started early Friday morning.  Joseph’s talk occurred Saturday afternoon.  Here is a summary of his talk:

“My little brother was murdered on April 1st.   I was very close to him, and was unbelievably upset, angry and full of hatred at the man who killed him.  I started planning my revenge – when, where and how I was going to kill the man who murdered my little brother.   But then I agreed to serve on this Jubilee weekend.  Continue reading

SEEK MY FACE.112716

change your life

2 Chronicles 7:14: [God says to Solomon, before the dedication of the Temple], “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven, and forgive their sins, and heal their land.”

Had a little discussion in Sunday school with a bunch of high school kids; talking about prayer.  The question was, “What do you pray about?”  Right out of the chute, Kelli says, “I pray to know God.”  I was astounded.  I didn’t think we’d even get around to that part of prayer for a long time, maybe not even touch it that day.  I said so.  I asked, “What do you mean?”  She said, “I want to know what God thinks; what He wants for my life; to understand who He really is. I want to know what it means to really trust Him.”

You know it’s like Oswald Chambers said, “When you stop seeking what God can do for you, you have time to seek Him for Himself.”  I think that’s what the verse means when it says, “Seek My face.”  We talked about ‘listening to God’.  Maybe not an audible voice, but that clear feeling you get in your heart about what God thinks, after you seek God’s face.

Later I had a revelation about this little episode.  Never understood it this way before.  When you start to seek God’s face; seeking to know Him for Himself; you enter a whole different dimension of knowing God.  It’s like the difference between ‘believing in God’ with your head and trusting God with your heart.  It changes your whole relationship with Him.  This is the same way (maybe the same thing in different form), when you seek to know God, to develop a relationship with Him as a Father and a friend, it changes the whole complexion of your relationship with each other.  When you really start to listen to Him for understanding, and not just for provision, you really are changed in your heart.  It’s just like it says in James 4:8, “Draw near to God, and He’ll draw near to you.”

OASIS WEEKEND.NEWTON TEXAS.07-31-2016

Oasis_9Last weekend we went to First United Methodist Church in Newton, Texas.  The kids at John Wesley UMC, from grades 6-12, did a weekend mission trip.  We built a wheelchair ramp, and did a good deal of mowing and cleanup for several people in the community.  We had a Vacation Bible School for 49 kids. We worked in the Food Pantry (and Clothing Shop) of Newton, stocking and sorting. We had entertainment: A Youth Rally on Friday night, with live music, games, toys and free tee-shirts; and a movie for all ages on Saturday night, on the lawn in front of the Church, an animated feature called “Inside-Out”.  Popcorn, candy and drinks for all!

May not sound like such a big deal to some; but it was a big deal to us.  It was a memorable event.  We get to develop personal relationships with people in the community.  They love us, and we love them.  Everybody is happy to be nice to each other.  And the SPIRIT  is moving in Newton!  On Sunday morning, members of the church served the team breakfast, then we had church together, with the youth band leading the singing.  At the end we had a few testimonies from people in the community who were touched by the service of our kids.  No doubt, when it was over, everyone was blessed, and God was grinning!

 

CONSISTENCY.040516

Open Your Heart Concept

“Consistency is the crutch of small minds.”  Tex (from a letter to my kids)

Some people said Jesus was inconsistent because He said people should abide by the law one time, and the next time He said people should be led by the Spirit, and be merciful to lawbreakers. Even in the Old Testament, God said He’d rather have someone with an obedient heart than sacrifice, even though sacrifice was according to the law.

Over and over in the Bible, it says that God looks at the heart.  Somehow or other it should be the way we look at it too.  I’m sure people ought to do what they say they will, but you don’t have to do the same way ever time. Different situations require different responses.

And this isn’t situation ethics either.  It is just realizing that we ascribe to a higher law, which is layman’s terms is being true to God and the people that God puts you with, above being true to man’s law or any dogmatic principle.  (How do you know which is is right?  If you’re seeking God, you’ll know.)  Like it says in the Bible, “This is the first and great commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, . . . And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”  This is the fulfillment of all of the law and all of the prophets.  If you love God, you will keep His commandments; if you love your neighbor, you’ll treat him right.

My experience has been that if you abide by these two commandments, you won’t always appear consistent to the world, but you will usually do the right thing, and you will be consistent to God and in your heart.

BORN AGAIN: 031716 (John 3:3)

bible

KJ21    Jesus answered and said unto him, “Verily, verily I say unto thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

This seems like a relatively simple verse.  It says that you can’t SEE God;  you can’t SEE the kingdom of God (KJV); you can’t GET into the Kingdom of God (TLB); you cannot BE in God’s kingdom (NCV) unless you are born again.  Other expressions for knowing God, such as ‘get saved’, ‘have eternal life’, ‘go to heaven’, ‘have righteousness’, ‘be converted’, ‘have a relationship with God’; you can’t do any of those things, unless you are spiritually transformed.  [Changed on the inside]

The word translated as ‘again’ means ‘from above’ in Greek.  ‘From above’ means by God, by Jesus, by the Holy Spirit.

‘Born’ means what you’d think it means; that you’re the child of your father and mother; you have their substance residing in you.  So you can’t be ‘born again’, ‘born from above’, have God as your Father, unless you are spiritually transformed from your natural self to God’s own child.

So ‘Born again’ means ‘spiritually transformed’.

So it IS simple.  Jesus wasn’t making some ethereal, mystic statement.  He was just telling a truth.  He was just stating a fact.  You just CAN’T have a relationship with God unless you die to yourself, trust Him and let His Spirit come to live in you.  As long as you are holding on to control of your life instead of surrendering and letting God run your life, you can’t even SEE the kingdom of God, much less be a part of it.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

TAKE CARE OF ‘EM.022716

         Homeless man holding sign   “We take in strays, orphans and widderwimen.”  (see James 1:27)

            Y’all all remember Lois.  She was the old lady that used to babysit for us when Lindsey was a little baby.  She was pretty crazy, and she had a drinkin’ problem off and on during her life.  She had some pretty hard times, what with her husband dying when he was a young man, and them having a boy with Downs Syndrome. She had to raise that boy by herself.  He lived to be about 20 years old. But oh what a caring heart that lady had.  She was like a member of our family.  She went camping with us in Big Bend; and she took y’all fishing at her lake house.  She took us out there to feed the chickens and have puppies in her living room floor.  She needed us and we needed her, and God saw to it that we all got what we needed, which was mostly somebody to love us, and hug us, and answer the phone when the call came in the middle of the night.  I was glad to know her.

And there was this guy named Dave Twoomey.  I’m not sure how it happened (somehow  thru the church I think) but we ended up with his wife and two little girls living in the basement apartment while he was sitting in jail for kiting checks.  Somehow or other he finally got out after about a month and they all left; but in the meantime we fed ‘em and talked to them about Jesus; and got ‘em clothes and stuff.  I don’t think we changed their lives or anything, but something was going on.  And at the time God had blessed us with extra stuff and money; so it didn’t hurt us one bit.  We even gave him a Bible, but I think he left it there when he left.

When I first got baptized in the Spirit, I was working for Paul Campbell remodeling apartments.  He had this cabinetmaker named Jim Haynes who was a recovering alcoholic who hadn’t quite made it to recovery.  One time he didn’t show up for work for 3-4 days and Paul got me to go with him to Jim’s apartment to see about him.  He was so drunk he couldn’t even get his clothes on, so we helped him.  Continue reading

RESISTING TEMPTATION.011816  

 

ANXIETY CLOUD.121415

 

In this election year it’s hard to resist the temptation to dive into political commentary, particularly about who would make the best president; and what the candidates think about issues that I think are important.  I’m with Mary Harwell Salyer: “How far above politics You are, O Lord – high above the low-slung mud and lack of love shown for others, including…”  Can’t resist saying what a Godly courageous man Dr. King was; and I love his quotations floating around the ‘Net.  And while I don’t know who the best man is for the job, I also loved Dr. Carson’s comment at some speech last night, about the Powerball: “I already won the lottery. I was born in America & know the Lord”.

I also can’t help saying how much I love what Lysa TerKeurst said on Twitter early this morning, “We can’t possibly remain in Jesus and rant about others at the same time. Dear friends… Remember today to love even when we disagree;” and “Jesus made it clear. His command wasn’t to bash other people when we don’t agree. [He said] ‘This is my command: love each other,’ John 15:17.”

My real conclusion about commentary is this:  We, as Christians, have a much more important task and higher calling than to consume ourselves with the ‘cares of this world’ and the ‘deceitfulness of riches’. We actually have the Answer, our Lord Jesus; and while many among us would disagree, for all kinds of reasons, WE JUST MUST keep sharing Jesus, and His love and His grace and His mercy and His eternal salvation, because we are HIS representatives here on this earth, and WE JUST MUST keep on telling the world that there really is VICTORY IN JESUS and not get distracted by all the alternative stuff. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.Religious Words on Grunge Background

HOPELESSLY DEVOTED TO YOU.122215

Female choir conductor during performanceSounds crazy, but every time I hear this song from Grease, sung by Olivia Newton-John, I think about God, and about how I feel the same way about God that she felt about John Travolta.  I am hopelessly devoted.  Even if God didn’t love me back, I’d still be totally committed, totally surrendered to Jesus, because I know that He is my only hope, my only Deliverer, my only real LIFE.  In the song, Olivia says, “My head says I should leave, but my heart says to ‘hang on till the end’.”  Sometimes I feel that way.  My head says there’s just no sense in what’s going on. Why would God do that to me or to someone I love?  But my heart keeps saying what Peter said, when Jesus asked the disciples if they were going to leave Him too.  Peter said, “Where would we go?”  ‘Course God is different from John T.  God not only wants me, but He loved me when I didn’t want Him or love Him.  He’s there every minute, in my heart, telling me He’s taking care of me.

‘Devoted’ makes me think about ‘devotional’.  When I was a kid, maybe 8-10 years old, my momma would give me a copy of the Upper Room daily devotional, those little bitty books that had a few words about God for each day.  She said I ought to read it.  She didn’t say much else about it, about why I should read it.  I remember thinking, ‘I can read the Bible if I want to think about God, and I do read the Bible; so what do I need with some old person telling me what to think about God?”  So being young and dumb, I didn’t read it.  I think if she’d explained a little more to me about why it was a good idea, if I’d just think about God for a few minutes, early in the morning each day, that it would truly change my life; that I would begin to feel the Presence of God in my life from that one small daily act.  So, and this is truly humorous (and sad at the same time), I promptly started reading a devotional every day when I was about 54 years old.  Doesn’t take me long to get it, huh? Continue reading

SMALL GROUPS FOR JESUS 2.111015

aerial view of family eating pizza at homeThere are a lot of “small” groups in the world, where people get together on a regular basis.  I’ve been a member of a number of them, such as a foursome for playing golf every week.  You get  to know the guys.  You enjoy their company.  You tell jokes.  You catch up on what’s happening in their world, how they’re getting along with their wives and their kids, their bosses and their employees.  In a lot of cases you are closer to them than some members of their own families. And you have the benefit of a little fresh air and a little exercise. (very little) Maybe you have a beer in the 19th hole.

My mother had a long-standing relationship with a bunch of girls she formerly taught school with.  They’d get together and play bridge every week.  None of them were championship bridge players, but that wasn’t the point.  The reason they got together was to share their lives with each other. When they were down they could call each other on the phone and get a little encouragement.  When they were up they could have a special meeting to celebrate.  You know it’s a great thing to have a husband and some kids to share your life with, but the girls in the bridge club are an indispensible part of a full life too.  There’s just some things you can’t, or don’t want to, share with your husband.  LOL Continue reading

SPEAKING SPANISH IS AN ACT OF LOVE.110815

smiley fashion designer holding tailors scissors and looking at cameraSo I went to the fabric store with my wife yesterday.  I’m telling you, my wife knows more about fabric and fabric stores than most of the people who work there.  She is buds with almost all the little ladies that work in the fabric stores in our area; on a first-name basis, if you know what I mean.  My job was to hold her place in line at the cutting table while she picked out the material and the pattern she needed.  So mostly I just get to watch and listen; maybe put in a little side-bar or two.

There were two ladies working the cutting tables, measuring and cutting the material.  At my table was a grandmother and her late teen granddaughter buying bright picture-pattern fleece material.  The cutting lady was showing them how to do some complicated sewing maneuver.  I said, “This is a great store.  You can buy material and get free sewing lessons.”  We all laughed.  The grandma said, “We need all the help we can get.”

At the other table was a family of Hispanic ladies, an ‘older’ lady (not as old as me, but older than the others), two younger ladies and two or three children.  Continue reading