You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2015.

Please check out KHCB radio for each of the five Mondays this June. Around 10:00AM Central Time I will have the privilege for 15 minutes to teach from the Bible and then lead you in prayer. You can find it on FM105.7 or listen live from the internet on KHCB.org. I hope that these few moments together will encourage you! Joy!

IMG_5677It has been months since construction has started on a key building at our headquarters campus.  My travels bring me up to Dallas on occasion and I look with expectation at the progress of the building that has captured center stage for Dallas Seminary promotional materials.  Watching a key project take shape is fun to do and gives prayers something tangible to press on to new heights.

There were many of disappointing glances in the past.  I do not know the engineering answer to those seemingly many visits when not progress was happening.  Someone mentioned that the sandy ground required a lot of shoring up and foundation strengthening.

Apparently, the foundation construction was done precisely to give not only the inspectors new confidence but also all of the Seminary constituency certainty about the future.  Now, whether earthquakes or storm or prophetic cataclysmic episode this building is built to withstand them all.  That is a good place to be in a seminary world of Biblical prophecy.

A structure is in place.  Progress is now something that we can all see.  After months and months of planning, promoting and raising the funds to make this building happen, it is finally taking shape.

Foundations are understandable.  So much is necessary to make a building last that is unseen.  Most of us get that.

But, it is human to want to see something happening.  Visual evidence makes the mind soar to greater heights of faith and belief.  On the one hand we live by faith.  On the other hand we live by sight.

Massive steel girders are connected and permanently locked into place.  Soon the building will be weather tight and the functional part of the user-friendly parts of the building will be skillfully installed.  Visually it will no longer be the appetite for a massive presence but then it will shift to quality aesthetics and brilliantly designed space.

The past is a testimony of God’s favor on this institution.  This building is a promise that there is more yet to come.  We are thrilled to be a part of that plan.

I am looking forward to walking in to this building.  When the dedication service happens, I will make the pilgrimage north to Dallas from Houston.  This will be HQ’s new digs and I among many am looking forward to seeing what God has provided.  That will be a time to rejoice and celebrate God’s generosity and goodness.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRender-4Water, we need it to live.  Too little and our lives are in serious jeopardy.  Too much and the threat to lives is unbearable.

Texas is my adopted home state.  We came when a drought plagued this great land.  There was not enough water to transform the brown grass and cause the landscape to bloom.

People told us stories of the Spring when wildflowers and Blue Bells decked the hills and blanketed the meadows.  Now, with too many years of too little rain brown dirt was all that the great state had to show off.  Ranchers rationed water to their livestock and farmers judiciously grew crops based on what water they could secure for a meager harvest.

Now, the rains won’t stop.  The deluge from the heavens keep coming.  Our streets are flooded and the homes of too many are now soaked.

The tragedy of an Austin family that rendezvoused for a family gathering over the Memorial Day weekend threw me intoIMG_5781 a moment of quiet reflection.  A number of them were gathered in a house.  The swollen river rose and swept the house away.

How does life go on as usual after such a story breaks?  Many of those precious lives are still missing.  What of those who survived?  How do they ever pick up and keep going?

The faith of that particular family is their center.  They have turned to God for comfort and strength.  Prayer for them is not just a perfunctory euphemism, it is an expression of life, real life.

I am inconvenienced with the rain.  It reroutes my driving and it slows down my commute, but I do not have the grief of lost loved ones that weigh down my soul.  In my busyness I paused and prayed for them.

Many other stories of people whose homes were taken over by water make my inconveniences pale into insignificance. Flood waters did not invade my home.  They did not ruin the floors or furniture in my home.

FullSizeRender-3The filth in the flood waters did not litter my garage.  Muddy silt is not all over the floors of our home.  My vehicles are not ruined by water filling up my transmission or begin the rust process of a slow death to my car.

My fellow Houstonians and Texans have been devastated by the abundance of water.  But, I have been spared and for that I am grateful.  Together many of us will clean up, encourage and restore others who have been hit the hardest.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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May 28, 1977 is a special day in my life.  As a nervous groom, I was trying to capture the wonder of being where I had witnessed so many who went before me.  In a few moments I would be standing in front of God and witnesses and I would be married to the love of my life.

That vivid memory was 38 years ago.  Since then we have shared adventures of graduating from a rigorous graduate and postgraduate academic programs, wading through the challenge of numerous pastorates, being blessed with the joy of three amazing children, living overseas, active in making disciples of men and women for decades, filling our tiny home with people just to shower them with hospitality, facing the rigors of ministry travel, challenges and troubles, adding friends around the world and laughing over a myriad of life moments.

Together we held on to each other while going through the hardships of loved ones who have died, sadness when difficulties visited those we loved, betrayal by people we served, financial crisis when what little we possessed was stripped away, transitions from one place of familiarity to another place where God wanted us to go, and moving with boxes, memories, and weary bones. But, those dark times pale in comparison to the joys of life, joy, loyalty, blessing, discovery, a growing family and loyal friends.  Our vows and God’s grace were with us throughout the various and strange ministries to people.

Now, we have shared more together than we have lived alone.  Our conversations are deep with meaning, long-lasting friendships and loving family moments.  News from near or far bring smiles to our faces as we recount years and decades of love from special lives that are permanently a part of our realm of devotion, service, care and encouragement.

When I think about how long 38 years really represents, I sigh deeply, marvel with a smile and shake my head with unbelief.  Thank you, Yvonne, my bride of so many decades.  You have followed me to parts unknown, put up with so much inconvenience and lived with so little.

We still have so much more to experience and adventures to share.  New chapters open every day while we count our blessings from the years gone by.  His faithfulness has been our watchword and it will continue to be for all of the days and years that He graciously allows us to continue our pilgrimage together.

Happy Anniversary!

photo credit: Kristin Bailey photography

IMG_5785Stormy weather has been inundating our state.  Torrential rains doused our lands with cloud bursts, accompanied with lightening and thunder.  In an instant, our three lane streets turn into one middle lane bordered by swift streams of water looking for a place to go.

Not everyone is blessed to live on high ground and in a planned community that installed public utilities to direct massive amounts of water away from homes.  Our drainage system and open culverts keep our community safe from flash floods.  Yet, our hearts go out to those living near the swollen parts of the San Jacinto River and Trinity River.

Thousands have been evacuated from their homes.  They have been given shelter by family, friends, neighbors and churches.  Muddy currents have swept away property, soil and vehicles.

Gratefully, public servants have been on high alert.  They have responded to cries for help.  Alert and courageous, they have ventured boldly into rising waters to rescue lives of people, pets and livestock.

South of Austin, our state capital, hundreds of homes have been washed away.  Whole streets have been wiped out and only slabs remain where houses once stood.  Lives have been lost and many are missing.

On a busy travel day for the gathering of families for Memorial Day, we all fear for those whose loved ones are unaccounted.  Flash floods and water over roads catch the most alert drivers by surprise.  Six inches deep is all the water that is necessary to carry away a small car.

My telephone sprang to life on Sunday morning.  It was not a text, email or phone call.  An emergency alert came through loud and clear.

Tornado Warning: flashed on my screen.  This was not a watch but a warning.  Added to the alert was an order to seek safe shelter immediately.

Thankfully, the warning was only for the next 4 minutes.  I could hold my breath, pray, rest in the LORD and stay safe in our home.  No tornado appeared; we were grateful.

Even as I write this another severe thunderstorm is blowing over our home.  We can feel our home shake when the thunder claps overhead.  The rain pounds against our house like a machine gun spitting out rapid fire rounds.

Yet, the God who created our world is protecting all whom He blesses with favor.  His power is far greater and His mercy is even more generous than a flash flood.  I will put my faith in Him.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_5772It is only a scratch.  It is only a scratch? Why would anyone do that and not leave a note to fix it?

My truck is important to me.  It is very important to me.  I take very good care of it and want it to last for many years.

Yes, I even have a name for my truck.  His name is Yoda.  As its manufacturer is Toyota, hence its name is Yoda.

This is my third truck over the years that I have been on this earth as a legal driver.  It is my second Toyota.  Of all my trucks this one is my favorite.

It can take me anywhere I want to go.  This truck will move anything that I need to transport.  As far as personal rigs go this one not only is amazingly functional, it is also well designed and aesthetically sharp-looking.

My bride and I came out of the grocery store.  As we approached our steed of faithful miles, it was standing where I had left him.  But, my approach was mixed with shocking disbelief.

FullSizeRenderThere on the side of my truck was someone’s signature.  No it was not a name.  It was a long deep scratch.

The depth of the scratch was not something that I could rub out like a scuff mark.  This one was so deep that it took the paint off and gashed my door so uneven that the white paint highlighted the dark underbelly of the layers of paint.

I was not sick over the discovery.  It was just one of those, “Oh, well, what can you do?”  It is not worth the expense to report for insurance coverage.

Gently, I stoked my hand across the wound.  My head shook with disgust.  “What a waste,” I surmised.  Some people just are careless and don’t give a rip.

If someone does not care about keeping their car up then I do not judge them.  Nor do I intrude on their lives and shame their irresponsible behavior.  But, if I am victimized by someone’s misstep then at least leave a note with the pertinent information.

Do people really just assess damage for others and conclude what they need to do or not do?  Are they objective and concerned about the victim’s assessment?  Are they really happy with leaving and blowing off the episode as “no big deal”?  This is annoying but, what can a person do?

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_5685The pomp and circumstance were in the air.  Families and friends rolled in from miles around.  Some even landed after a long plane ride.

Each graduate had a lot to celebrate.  Graduate and post-graduate education takes a lot out a person’s soul.  It is more than just an education.

The hallowed halls of a seminary set a course for every student to master a theological theme that will prepare them for a lifetime of ministry.  They leave the seminary with skills to preach, teach and guide the lives of every kind of person that they will likely meet as a pastor or church leader.

Each one has even been trained to deal with the unruly, the unlikable and the trouble-maker.  Yes, in the ministry those kinds of unpleasant people lurk among the pews.  They have a self-imposed calling to make life difficult for the leader who shepherds the flock.

Most have even studied foreign languages, both alive and dead.  Their skills in the grammar and art form of language was won over countless nights of studying, hard disciplined memorization and endless hours of rehearsing and thinking.

Before they could graduate they had to stand in front of peers and professors and speak sermons, teach lessons and debate issues.  The spoken word is now their friend and greatest avenue of communication.  They are orators of the best kind; they speak on behalf of Almighty God, who called them to service.

Each one felt the relief when the final paper was turned in.  Smiles replaced pensive feelings of uncertainty.  Finally, the Registrar’s office gave them the good news: they were qualified to graduate!

Faculty gathered with resplendent regalia.  The colors of their robes showed off the universities where they graduated.  A variety of alma mater represented the world.

The auditorium was massive enough to have open seating and a completely free invitation.  Cheering sections formed.  Excitement filled the air with a prelude of videos and music.

But, the familiar song began the service as the faculty marched in.  The graduates were right behind them.  Everyone in the audience “ooh’ed and ah’ed” with the traditional display.

Each hard-working graduate was treated to an earful of sounds, an eyeful of ceremony and a heart-full of challenge to no longer fill a classroom.  Now, it was time to put all of that learning into action.  It was time to COMMENCE!

Congratulations, DTS Class of 2015!  God bless each and everyone of you.  Now, get going and tear it up for Jesus!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_5688This month we honored the “mothers” in our life.  That is a special calling.  They experienced so much pain and trouble over the years of practicing motherhood.  Yet, they covered it up with the joy of pouring into our lives.

Now, on this special day of our year, we treat them with celebration and delight.  Flowers, candy, presents, service, spoken words, time for a phone call, treating them to a special meal and an endless number of ways to bring her honor.

Our children are all far away, thousands of miles away. They would all contact her with excellent expressions of gratitude.  But, she would miss them all.

The planning of a special day was up to me.  My smile and my mind were in synchronized harmony.  There were no surprises, just delightful fun.

It all began with making her breakfast.  The menu was not fancy but it was special.  We enjoyed the delectable meal and of course, I did the dishes.

She had some free time.  Then, I took her to a movie.  The film was an action adventure with a special twist to honor a late actor who passed away during the filming.

We talked about it on the way home.  Both of us remarked about how well done the honor factor made the film special.  As people of faith we connected immediately to this actor’s reputation of faith as well.

The special day came to a close in church.  We love our church and pastor.  The worship was encouraging and the sermon was very up-lifting.

She elected to make dinner.  It was her standard offering: fantastic, delicious and filling. This woman has done a brilliant job with all of her chosen duties to family.

We who have been blessed by her service and love.  Looking back and recounting her contribution into all of our lives seems endless.  Our children especially have rehearsed her mothering now that they are adults.

Instead of looking for ways around her watchful eyes, they now see the values that she was pouring into them.  Now, their values that they have chosen to live by have many roots in what their mother had taught them.  They are amazed, pleased and also grateful for what mom invested in them.

On this day, Happy Mother’s Day, Yvonne.  You have done a faithful job of rearing our three little ones into taking their place as outstanding adults. Well done!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRender-1Our church is full of variety and surprises.  Worship is never predictable or ever run-of-the-mill or boring.  Instead, a vibrancy emanates from the gathering of the saints.

Joy erupts and delight is our common experience.  It is not just an emotional release but a cheerful expression of our worship of our God.  When Jesus changed us forever our hearts are now grateful and overflowing with gratitude to Him.

One of the occasional events that spurs our variety of worship is the generational service.  Our worship people bring in the children.  They are highly rehearsed and trained.

When the majestic music begins and the children pop in with their parts of a solo, an ensemble or a choral presentation, it is easy to smile.  Their energy and devotion overflows.  Teachers and parents have brought many of these children to faith and their exuberance for their Savior is obvious.

My bride is a second grade teacher at the First Baptist Academy.  She has established a wonderful loving relationship with her little tykes.  Several of them were in the gathering of youngsters to sing at the worship service.

Eagerly each of her students took a chance to invite her to sit up front to watch and listen as they sang their hearts out to the Lord.  That is an invitation that cannot be turned down.  In fact I was given clear instructions to photograph the events with my camera phone.

Our energetic worship leader invited us to worship.  The auditorium filled with hearts that stirred to bring a gift of praise to the Lord.  All of the adult vocalists and instrumentalists were in fine form.

When the experienced and gifted lead the way for the young and neophytes there is confidence that is built into the lives of these young ones.  Like a large family surrounding the fireplace, we joined in with song and adoration of the One who has given us everything.  We felt lifted up and engulfed in something much bigger than what we could ever create ourselves.

The Spirit carried us along as we were invited and then whisked away.  Lost in the joy of expression and appreciation was this moment.  Young and no-longer-young blended voice, soul and spirits into one presentation to our solitary audience.

Eyes of those we knew on the stage was a part of a special sharing.  We were included.  Mutual appreciation was our bond before the great throne above.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

11178203_10152408615652614_555981716271583104_nWe are an extension campus.  Our Dallas campus is the headquarters of this amazing ministry.  Yet, our Houston operation is growing by leaps and bounds.

We have 34 graduates this year.  They are mostly local to the great city of Houston and its surrounding region.  Most of their friends and family will have a tough time making the journey to Dallas to celebrate their commencement achievements.

To give local family and friends the chance to be a part of this substantial celebration, our extension campus has a Graduation Chapel one week prior to the central festivities up north.  We honor each graduate with a brief description of what their plans and destination is after they receive their sheep skin.  We fill the chapel service with great worship, intimate prayer, laughter, memories and special recognition of those who stood out with academic and service demonstrations.

I scanned the crowd many times during this chapel service.  The smiles were a mile wide and the tears were free-flowing.  Trying to imagine all of the answered prayers for the many years represented by these graduates is mind-blowing.

Photographs with special people were endless.  The four sheet cakes disappeared as the party spread into the foyer.  Guests drank sweet punch, returned endless times for refreshing chilled water and stopped many times along their course of walking to congratulate and exchange hugs with fellow classmates.

Previous graduates returned to cheer on their friends.  Current students marveled and told me that they had something even more to anticipate.  Relatives were overcome with the joy of reaching this end.

Children were laughing with their parents.  One mom told me that she was rehearsing her Hebrew vocabulary flash cards while in labor for the little one that she hugged next to her leg.  Life and success cannot get much more precious than this.

photo 4Gratitude is over the top on this event.  Conversations about calling, dreams about the ministry to come and deep gratitude of God’s faithfulness were common in the crowd.  With pride I watched out once students now shine as Masters of Theology, Masters of Arts and Over-comers in all sorts of adversities.

Faithful too are the staff and faculty that I am privileged to call “Team Houston”.  They are selfless, persevering and godly men and women who live to serve others.  Here on a Saturday, they are going above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that these graduates always remember this day.

photo credit: brucefong photography

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