And Don’t Forget to Give Him Thanks


This was Lake Travis in Austin, Texas two years ago. It was at its lowest level since 1942 and we were facing the worst drought in Central Texas history. The lake is full when it reaches the level of 681 feet. Christians gathered in May, 2014 to pray for rain when the lake level was at 625 feet. A group of pastors even went before the Austin City Council to call the city to prayer, asking for revival that would come from God when repentance came to our city. We declared that we were going to ask God for rain and for Lake Travis to be completely filled for the first time in many years. I don’t remember getting any “amens” from the council, but we didn’t go expecting that anyway.

Lake Travis has a surface area of 18,000 acres, requiring approximately 326,000 gallons of water to raise one acre one foot. Do the math and you will see that we were asking God for a lot of rain! But within days of our prayer gathering, the rains began. And today, 56 feet of water later, it’s a different view at Lake Travis!

Paul reminds us that we are to “pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.” (Philippians 4:6 NLT)

On Thursday evening at 7 p.m., March 31, less than two years after our first gathering, Christians across the city will gather at Hyde Park Baptist Church to “thank Him for all He has done.”

And the revival? We’ve not seen it yet, but we’ve seen God at work in some unusual ways throughout the city and we will keep asking and looking forward to an incredible gathering to come as we will thank Him for all He has done – when revival comes!

Pastor Rod


When You Know How It Ends

I found myself at home alone last week, following a long day. Camille had left for a prayer time she shares each month with several pastors’ wives in our area and I decided to turn to ESPN for some time finalscore1to relax. I was excited to find that, in anticipation of a new football season, they were replaying some of college’s best football games from across the years. And the game that had just begun was the 2013 “Iron Bowl” between Auburn University and the University of Alabama. As an intensely loyal Auburn guy (stay with me, Alabama fans), I was excited to be able to watch this game again. The rivalry between those two programs is arguably the most intense in college football. And the 2013 game was a vivid display of that intensity and the outcome would hold huge ramifications for a possible conference and national championship finish.

The game went back and forth. It was a nail-biter from start to finish. And, in the end, Auburn won the game on the return of an attempted field goal by Alabama with one second left in the game. Auburn returned the missed attempt 110 yards for the winning touchdown. An unimaginable finish.

But my purpose is not to re-live the game but to point to my experience as I watched it again more than 8 months later. When I watched that game as it was played in November of last year, I was filled with anxiety from the kickoff to the final play with no time left on the clock. There was no point in the entire game where either team or their fans could relax, confident of the win. But I watched with confidence last week. I remembered how my stomach was in knots as I had watched last year. But no such worry this time. It was an intense game. An exciting game. But I watched without the slightest tinge of anxiety because I knew how it would end. The outcome was determined and I could rest in that knowledge.

When I look at our world today, there has not been in my lifetime as much unrest and chaos as we see around us. From Hamas and Israel, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, the Ebola crisis in Africa and to Ferguson, Missouri, our world is experiencing chaos. And those events will create fear and anxiety unless we know the outcome.

“… The Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. … I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:4;13)

If our security is in this world we will live in fear. But if our hope is in God and His promises, we are encouraged as we wait patiently for the outcome. We know the final score and the win is certain.


“Thanks!” is Inadequate

Camille and I are deeply appreciative and humbled by the Anniversary Celebration last Sunday of our 20 years at Anderson Mill Baptist Church. So many of you spent countless hours preparThank Youing for this event and the results were incredible. The day with our family and our church family will remain one of our most cherished times. Plus, the Memory Book and the gift trip this fall were unexpected treasures!

These 20 years have gone quickly but have been good ones as we have faced both joys and challenges together as a family under God’s leading and blessing. Several times on Sunday, the statistics were shared regarding the fact that a very small percentage of pastors remain with one church for 20 or more years. That’s true, but you have made that relationship an easy one to maintain through these two decades. The 20 year tenure says as much, or more,  about you – the church – as it does about us.

You have loved our children and helped them to grow into adults who love the Lord and His church. Sometimes pastors’ kids leave the church, or at least have a less than positive view of it, because of what they have experienced or known during their years at home. But you have given our children the encouragement and room to be themselves and grow with you in their walk with God. You have shown them what a loving, God-honoring church looks like. And for that, we are deeply thankful.

You have also loved Camille and me and have been willing to follow and grow together. You’ve been willing to make changes necessary to reach a changing community while remaining faithful to the ministries God has given us. You’ve stepped up to accept challenges that require additional money and time in order to see that others hear the gospel and experience God’s love.

And, you have exhibited a heart for the world. Look around you in worship to see faces from as many as 10 different nations and cultures who worship together in this church family. With enthusiasm, you have taken the gospel to Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Brazil, Honduras, Bangladesh, New York, Missouri, Arkansas, and throughout the city of Austin. You have also been in the top 5% of Southern Baptist Churches in per capita giving each year for the past 5 years for our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for World Missions. Thank you for being a Great Commission Church.

God blessed our family when He brought us to Austin, Texas 20 years ago. It has been our joy in serving with you and we look forward to what lies ahead as we continue to engage people in our daily paths to take their next step with Christ.

We love and appreciate you!

Pastor Rod and Camille



Altogether Together

A description of the early church in Acts 2:44 has, for a long time, intrigued me. In describing the church, Luke says, “All who believed were together and had all things in common.” The words which catch my attention are these; “were together.” The term “together”, in this case, refers to direction or location. In other words, these believers were moving in the same direction and camped in the same location. Location here is not geographicalTogether. These believers were planting their lives on the same area of commitment. I’ve sometimes translated this idea by stating that these believers “were altogether together.” What a great concept and testimony to the unbelieving world, not to mention a powerful position for accomplishing God’s command for taking the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Just like our churches today, this first church was made up of people from different backgrounds, social standing, educational levels and economic resources. There were any number of issues that could have divided them, but they had experienced the miraculous work of God in their lives and wanted others to know Jesus and His forgiveness as well. So, they laid aside the issues and preferences that could divide and focused on what was of greatest value – the gospel message. They were altogether together in their direction. They were “all in” for the gospel. And the result? The gospel spread like wildfire through Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and beyond. Even when faced with threats and persecution, they prayed for greater boldness to live and speak the word of God.

I read a short article recently by Pastor Jimmy Pritchard who is serving as the President of our Southern Baptist of Texas Convention. Jimmy had served on the committee for our International Mission Board charged with finding the man God would bring to lead our world mission agency. At his first progress report to the board of trustees, he remarked that he was somewhat surprised that the Holy Spirit seemed to be saying different things to different members of their group. After the laughter subsided, he reported that when the committee decided that they must pray and ask God for unity, they began to come together in a focused pursuit. When all was said and done, they found unanimous agreement in God’s direction. But it only happened when they were “altogether together” in pursuit of God’s plan instead of their own individual plans.

God’s charge to the church has not changed. The gospel message is our direction and our place of encampment. It doesn’t matter what we have on our church calendars or how we think things should be done, if we are not altogether together regarding the fact that God has placed us where we are in order to share the gospel in our neighborhood and around the world, we will be failures. Unless we do all that we do with that goal in mind, all of our words and activities are nothing more than exercises in religion. I want to be part of those who refuse to spend their lives in religious activity. I want to be all in for the gospel. That will mean I lay aside those things that could divide and unite with others in taking the life-changing message of Christ to our community and beyond. I’m thankful to share in that fellowship with you.


The High Value of Friendships

friendsAs a chaplain with our police department I ride with one of our officers during a shift at least once a month. Recently I had a very interesting and enjoyable ride with an officer who had served for many years with the Beverly Hills Police Department. As you can imagine, he had some very interesting encounters and experiences in 25 years with the department. But one of the most memorable was serving as security for the 80th birthday party for Jimmy Steward. Arriving early, he rang the bell at Mr. Stewart’s home, expecting to be greeted by a housekeeper or some member of the house staff. Instead, Mr. Steward opened the door and welcomed him in, gave him a tour and visited with him as if he were a long-time friend. As the guests began to gather, he was in awe of the long-standing friendships of the invitees – people he had grown up watching in movies and on television. It was obvious that they had lasting friendships with their host and there was no celebrity air in the gathering. After the party ended, again Mr. Stewart spent time with my friend thanking him and visiting long after everyone had left. And as this officer reflected on his experience he decided it was not difficult to understand why these people were such loyal friends to Jimmy Stewart. The reason? He was a loyal friend who valued their friendship. There was no pretense of fame or position. He loved them and they loved him.

I thought about the classic Christmas movie called It’s A Wonderful Life, in which Jimmy Stewart stars in the lead role as George Bailey. You’ve seen the movie, I’m sure, and know that George is a man with a huge heart for people but loses everything to Mr. Potter, the conniving and selfish town bully. But when things had reached their worst most of the town came in friendship to declare their support of George. And someone said, “Remember George, no man is a failure who has friends.”

One of the things God has been reminding me of lately is the high value of friendships. We need friends and should choose, cultivate and keep them. That takes a deliberate investment of time and thought on our part. I’m very grateful for the friendships God has given me through the years. I have two friends from college who are also in ministry that I have the opportunity to see and spend time with each year. Another who has been a friend for 30 years who continues to challenge me in faithful ministry and is always good for more than a few laughs every time we visit or talk by phone. I have a friend with whom I have prayed each week for a number of years and continues to challenge me to pursue God’s heart. And there are others God has brought into my life through sports with our sons, workouts at the gym and shared commitment to missions. Some of the greatest experiences of my life have been shared with a couple of friends in mission travels through the years. I could never place a dollar value on those friendships.

What do friendships offer? They influence our lives, provide accountability to how we live, and they bring encouragement to persevere – to live and finish well. I often think of a powerful illustration of those contributions in friendship that happened to another long-time friend. He signed up to run a marathon in Washington, D.C. that was part of the celebration of the anniversary of one of our armed forces. His wife waited a few miles from the finish line where she got as close as she could get to the rope barrier and watched for him to appear. When she finally saw him, it was apparent that he had “hit the wall” and was hanging on, trying desperately to finish. In an instant she went under the barrier, ignored the shouts of Marines who guarded the race course, and began running alongside her husband, encouraging him to keep going, stay the course and finish the race. He did. But he was always quick to say that he would never have done it without his best friend – his wife – coming alongside, bringing influence, accountability and encouragement as she ran with him.

Who are your friends? Value them. Thank God for them.



Paying Too Much for Your Child’s Sports?

sportsI’m an avid sports fan. I was never accused of being a good athlete, but I tried and enjoyed playing. Both of my sons are far better athletes than I ever was, and I really enjoyed helping, watching and enabling them to play baseball, basketball and football.

I believe in youth sports programs. But as I have watched the development of these over the years, I have often wondered about the price some families are paying for the imagined success of their budding athletes. And the greatest price is not the financial outlay required, though that can be substantial. The greater cost is in what is being communicated to many children regarding the right values and priorities in life. I was reminded of this recently in an article by Dave Ramsey as he cited 7 indicators that parents are paying too much for their child’s sports involvement. Three of those especially caught my attention. According to Dave, you’re paying too much when…

You and/or your child is skipping church or family events to attend games

You’re stealing from your necessities to pay for sports expenses

You’re more excited than your child

Many parents operate under the belief that their child is an exceptional athlete who has to be groomed for a college scholarship or a future as a professional athlete, making church, family schedules and wise financial planning take a back seat to sports.

I remember what a coach with one of the nation’s leading college athletic programs told me a few years ago regarding the push from parents to get their son or daughter on the “right team” to give them every chance to be seen by a college or professional scout. As a coach with years of experience and success, he said, “If you have a son or daughter in sports at any level and with any potential, they are on the scouting radar for scouts across the country. They don’t have to be spending inordinate amounts of time and money to get someone’s attention. We know who and where they are.”

I thought about Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees. Recently retired, Rivera holds the record for most saves in MLB and will certainly enter the Hall of Fame as one of baseball’s greatest pitchers. How did he make it to the majors? He grew up in a tiny fishing village in Panama. He played baseball on a trash-littered beach when the tide was out, with a glove made from a piece of cardboard. He quit school to go to work on his father’s fishing boat. But he was still on the scouting radar and the Yankees signed him to a contract. The rest, as is said, is history.

If you are leading your children to put a team, a game or a tournament ahead of church on Sunday, you’re making a value statement. Why not trust God to take care of their future as you teach them to “seek His kingdom first,” allowing Him to add all the other things they need in life.

Sports are wonderful, but just be sure you’re not paying a price too great – one that will maybe even cost the spiritual well-being of your child for a lifetime and eternity to come.


Rain and Revival

Austin, Texas is known for a lot things. It’s the Capital of Texas; “Live Music Capital of the World”; “The Third Coast”; and the “Second Silicon Valley.” It’s a great city, and because of that, it is the fastest growing city in the U.S. with more than 100 people a day arriving to make Austindrought home. It’s known for the lake system created by the Colorado River that flows through the city. Texas and U.S. history runs deep in Austin. But we’re making a new mark in history now. We’re suffering from historic drought conditions – the worst in more than 50 years. And the fact that we’re adding a hundred new people a day doesn’t help the water supply. Lake Travis, fed by the Colorado, is 50 feet below its standard level of 681 feet. In some lake areas, levels are so low that old towns and settlements are now uncovered which had been under water for many years. The state and local governments have put measures in place for rationing and preserving our dwindling water supply.

But even though the plans are needed, plans to ration and preserve will not solve our problem. For all the good things about Austin, we are a city in need of more than rain that will replenish our rivers and lakes. We are a city in need of a downpour of God’s Spirit, bringing revival to the church and the refreshing work of God to a spiritually dry city.

Is lack of rain an indication of God’s judgment? If it’s not God’s judgment, it’s at best His desire to once again get our attention and our hearts. We’ve read, heard, quoted and prayed the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14 – “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” But we may be guilty of reading the verse in isolation. Verse 13 sets the context for our humbling, praying, seeking and turning. For verse 13 says, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people.”

God has shut up the heavens in central Texas. But IF we, His people, will humble ourselves, and pray and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways, THEN He will hear and forgive our sin and heal our land.

God, we need rain. But more than the rain, we need the healing it represents.


You Never Know…

There is a small community next to the neighborhood where I grew up that, to this day, is still known as “Who’d-a Thought-It.” The story was that someone was traveling the road from the city one day and discovered that a home had been built in this new, somewhat isolated area, and exclaimed, “Well, who’d-a thought it!” I assume that the story is true as the name has been used by people for many years and it’s the only explanation I’ve ever heard.

All of us have those “who’d-a thought it” moments in life. I had one recently when I received a note from a happy bride of one year. She wrote to say, once again, how much she enjoyed the whole wedding experience, how wonderful the first year of marriage had been, and how much the words I spoke in the wedding had meant to her and her husband. Then she told me of a recent discovery. Though the words had been directed toward them, there was another couple attending the wedding that was having a difficult time. Some major health issues and struggles were taking their toll on them and even affecting their relationship. But the words of scripture and encouragement I shared with the bride and groom, though not even meant for this couple, were heard by them as needed words of hope. They latched on to those and left with a new resolve to trust God and renewed hope for their lives and home. And a year later they were able to tell this young bride that God had used her wedding and words spoken to her to renew their love and commitment. Well who’d-a thought it.

You never know who is listening and what God will do with your words. Or, for that matter, what the enemy will do if you are not wise with your words. Paul wrote, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt…” (Colossians 4:6) And David said, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

Be careful what you say and how you say it. Our words have impact on people – even when we don’t know that they are listening. Who’d-a thought it?


One Day, Heaven…

I’m sure there are many other churches like ours. But I tend to think that the numbers are not large. If you drive a mile or less in one direction, you find homes in the million dollar range. Drive the same distance in the other direction and you find a tent city of homeless people. Between those extremes are people at all socio-economic and educational levels as well as cultural backgrounds. And, if you look around during a worship service, you see a snapshot of our community. I’ve always appreciated the fact that we are a multi-generational and multi-cultural church, but the significance of that fact recently settled in on me more deeply than ever.

On Good Friday we have a Drop-in Lord’s Supper. People are able to come as family groups, individually, or with a friend or two. They can spend time in quiet, personal worship and preparation for receiving the Lord’s Supper, remembering the sacrificial death of Christ. We have tables set with the elements at the altar with our staff spread out at the tables. As families or groups are ready, they may come to one of the tables where they share scripture and experience a time of remembrance and thanksgiving for God’s gift in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

As I finished praying for one of our families who have been long-time, faithful members and both successful and stable through the years, I looked up to see one of our newest couples. Financial success has escaped them. Having used all of their resources in a move to Austin from the far northwest on the promise of a job, they discovered that the job didn’t exist. They’ve been caught in a frustrating cycle. Without an address, most places won’t accept their job application. On top of that, most businesses now want applications filled out on line and interviews arranged by email. But they have no computer and the tent they occupy has no electricity. We’ve set up computers and our church family has provided some wonderful help to them and others who find themselves in the same situation. But that’s another story.

As I looked at these two contrasting families I was overwhelmed with thankfulness for God’s goodness to all of us. It doesn’t matter what we have or don’t have. It doesn’t matter whether we live in a home worth hundreds of thousands, or in a tent. It doesn’t matter if we arrive in a nice car or we walk. When we come to the Lord’s Table and to the cross, the ground is level. I knew that, but the reality became more powerful than ever to me that night as I looked at a living demonstration of that truth. We all come to the cross with a need that we have no hope of supplying. No matter what our resources, they are woefully inadequate.

I also thanked God for the privilege of being part of a church family who has opened wide its arms to all. It’s not just a church that allows people to come who are different from themselves. AMBC is a church that embraces people and walks with them into the presence of a Savior who has leveled the ground for all of us at the foot of the cross. It’s a taste of what heaven holds for us as we will worship together with every tribe, language, people and nation.