Out of the Wilderness


Scripture – Acts 8:26-40

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet, Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.”

So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep, he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.”

The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or someone else?” Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?”

He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.


Many people find themselves in a spiritual wilderness. The truth about God is out there, somewhere. They search and yearn for God, visit sacred places in hopes of finding God, listen to preaching, and read the Bible, but still feel like outsiders to the life in God they desire. God remains distant, unrelatable, a puzzle. God’s prevenient grace is ever present with them, but they can’t sense it or receive it.

Such was the case of the Ethiopian eunuch, a powerful chief treasurer of the wealthy kingdom. He traveled over 2,200 miles through harsh wilderness roads by chariot to worship in Jerusalem. On the way back to Ethiopia, he’s going on a wilderness road in his chariot, reading an Old Testament passage from the book of the prophet Isaiah. He doesn’t understand it or make sense of what he is reading He needs someone to interpret it for him. Then, along comes Phillip. Phillip guides the eunuch to understand the Scriptures; he proclaims the Jesus of the Scriptures and Lord of life to the eunuch. Phillip then baptizes the eunuch into the faith and fellowship of believers and sends him on the way back to Ethiopia as an ambassador for Christ to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

The Church of today needs more Phillips in our schools, workplace, and communities which can lead people out of their spiritual wilderness. That is people who can answer the questions of others that find themselves in a spiritual wilderness. They can point others to Jesus’ saving, healing, liberating, and indwelling significance. The Phillips of today are sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They are willing to cross boundaries (ethnic, racial, cultural, geographic, political, social, economic, etc.). They know and can handle the Scripture with confidence and can interpret it in a winsome way.  They can talk about Christ in a personal way because they are in a relationship with him. And, they can lead others to give their lives to Christ.


“People Need The Lord” by Steve Green

Every day they pass me by I can see it in their eye
Empty people filled with care Headed who knows where
On they go through private pain Living fear to fear
Laughter hides the silent cries Only Jesus hears

People need the Lord People need the Lord
At the end of broken dreams, He’s the open door
People need the Lord People need the Lord
When will we realize People need the Lord

We are called to take His light To a world where wrong seems right
What could be too great a cost For sharing life with one who’s lost
Through His love, our hearts can feel all the grief they bear
They must hear the words of life Only we can share [Chorus]


He Leads Us!

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El Buen Pastor United Methodist Church stained glass window, Edinburg, Texas

Scripture: Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff– they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.


I will always be grateful for the amazing ten years I pastored El Buen Pastor United Methodist Church in Edinburg, Texas before I was newly appointed to serve a cross-conference appointment as the Southwest Texas Conference New Church Developer in San Antonio. The translation of El Buen Pastor from Spanish to English is, The Good Shepherd. The magnificent stained glass window pictured above, a classic artistic portrayal of Psalm 23, stood as a spiritually formative focal point at the front and center of our sanctuary. The dominant image of a gentle shepherd carrying and caring for a young and helpless lamb certainly helped shape the self-image and missional understanding of the loving and nurturing congregation for they understood themselves by and large as sheep to be cared for, rather than as leader shepherds of those in their familial and social networks of relationships.

One day, when I was praying about how to lead and help turn the congregation missionally outward, I re-read Psalm 23. This time, I was drawn to verse 3, “He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.” It struck me that Psalm 23 is at its core a missional psalm. It is written from the perspective and experience of a sheep confidently looking to his leader shepherd for his missional leadership, direction and assignment, accompaniment, protection, and missional success. Interpreting Psalm 23 with a missional perspective transformed the way our congregation understood and practiced our ministries our nurture, outreach, and witness. After all, we now understood our mission as preparing and sending confident Christian shepherd leaders into the dark valleys of the world for the sake of the Lord’s name and to proclaim the favor, goodness, mercy, and love of the Lord.

The sheep in Psalm 23 testifies that in his experience, the shepherd is a good and trustworthy leader worthy of subordinating oneself to and obeying, even when the shepherd sends the sheep through the darkest valleys for the sake of shepherd’s reputation/name (v. 4). The sheep accepts the shepherd’s missional assignment, and with boldness and fearlessness, he heads out into and through the darkest valleys fraught with dangers, toils, and snares because he has been set apart – anointed – for the mission. When the mission is over, the shepherd refreshes and restores the sheep for the next mission (v. 1-2). Over and over again, the sheep experience the goodness and mercy of the Lord while on assignment and mission. He trusts that the shepherd’s goodness and mercy will continue forever (v. 6).

Next time you sense the leading of the Lord to enter into a challenging situation  – a dark valley – for the sake of the Lord’s reputation or name, read and pray Psalm 23. Seek the assurance of the Lord’s leading, direction, protection, and care the psalmist proclaims and invites us into.  When you find the shepherd’s assurance, head out with boldness and trust.  Paz.


I arise today through the mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through the belief in the Threeness, through the confession of the Oneness, of the Creator of creation. Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man [person] who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

The Breastplate Prayer is attributed to St. Patrick of Ireland



Peace be with You


duccio_doubting_thomas_2-1-e1454807042795-960x250Reassuring Thomas (Fragment), 1311 by Duccio.

Scripture: Luke 24:36b-48

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you–that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance and forgiveness of sins are to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.


I checked my silenced cell phone for messages after this week’s Monday morning meetings at the conference office and discovered that had I missed three calls from my 27-year-old son who is a pastor at a UM church in San Antonio. Several voicemail notifications showed on my phone screen, but I did not bother to listen to them. Instead, I called him immediately thinking that he either had some good news and could not wait to share it with me or there was an emergency he was calling about.

My son shared that he was calling me earlier to ask for prayer and guidance as he raced to the church to minister to the surviving family of a long-time member who was in a tragic and fatal auto accident as she was turning into the church parking lot for a Monday morning bible study. The family members had all gone their separate ways by the time we spoke. We have had several conversations during the week to process his experience. He called yesterday to share some of his thoughts on the sermon he is preparing for the memorial service this Saturday morning. I’m sure the Lord will give him the right words of comfort and assurance the family needs to hear in their time of need.

The faith of the family of the deceased in Christ’s promise of eternal life has left an indelible impression on my son who has been around the deaths of friends, several church members, and students. He shared how the family while grieving, expressed gratitude to God for the life of their loved one. He said, “Dad, I was expecting to minister grace to the family in their time of sorrow and loss, and instead their faith in the resurrection and eternal life ministered grace to me.” He continued, “The good news of Jesus conquering death through the resurrection is meaningful and real for people of faith. Their witness in the hope of the resurrection and eternal life strengthens my faith.”

The main point of Luke’s post-resurrection appearance story is that the peace of the resurrected Christ drives out doubt and fear. Christ’s peace becomes the basis for the proclamation of the marvelous news of the resurrection to all nations. The disciples found in the resurrected Christ sustaining peace, hope, and joy for their troubled hearts. The family my son ministered to this week found in the resurrected Christ sustaining peace, hope, and joy for their troubled hearts. Like the disciples, we also find in the peace of the resurrected Lord, sustained joy and hope for our troubled hearts. In turn, we desire that our peace, hope, and joy in the risen Christ will find its way into the troubled hearts of people in our communities and in our frightened and disbelieving world.

Paz – Peace


The Second Sunday of Easter, April 7, 2018 – The Ministry of Accompaniment


Scripture: Luke 24: 13-16

Now on that same day, two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

Reflection: The beautiful and touching story of the Walk to Emmaus is a familiar post-resurrection story (Luke 24:13-35). The Scripture does not say why Cleopas and another unnamed man are walking away from the disciples in Jerusalem, but they are. They are despondent, disappointed, and devastated by everything that happened during the Passover festival in Jerusalem.  Jesus of Nazareth, the one who was going to redeem Israel, was betrayed, crucified, dead, and buried. They had heard that Jesus had risen, but for some reason, they cannot accept consolation much less see how God was at work in all that happened. They sadly walk away from Jerusalem to Emmaus, rehearsing their disbelief and disappointments, the eyes of their hearts unable to see hope.

Suddenly Jesus accompanies them, listening to them, talking with them, walking alongside them. He does not walk ahead of them. Jesus does not walk behind them. He walks with them and listens to their narrative account. He converses with them and helps them to see a larger, hidden narrative of God’s saving activity and presence in all that happened. Jesus encourages the faith of the walkers in the breaking of the bread and reveals himself as the crucified and risen Lord! The two men, hearts burning with joy and hope, return to Jerusalem. They find the Eleven and those with them and tell them how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

There are times in our lives when we experience traumatic events that leave us wounded, disappointed, devastated, and despondent. Our grieving hearts wonder, where is God in all of this? Suddenly, the Risen Christ walks alongside us sharing in our pain and grief. Christ walks alongside us in Spirit, and through the accompaniment of loving and supportive family members, close friends, a loving church community, and through the strength we receive from worship, bible study, and prayer. Suddenly, our wavering spirits are encouraged. Our grief blinded eyes see things in a new way.  We find God’s presence and strength in hopeless situations. We can sing a new song of faith with joy. As we experience Christ’s accompaniment and power in our time of need, we are enabled to encourage and point others on their journeys to Emmaus to the source of all hope, Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord and Savior.

Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018 – Consolation and Commission

  Why do you weep?

He is Risen!

Go and Tell!


Easter Pic

Click on the link: Easter Message

Isaiah 25:6-9 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will
make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged
wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines
strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the
shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread
over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the
Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the
disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, Lo, this
is our God; we have waited for him so that he might save us.
This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad
and rejoice in his salvation.


1 Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!

2 Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!

3 Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where’s thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!

    4 Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!  Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

5 Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

6 King of glory, soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!

By Charles Wesley (1707-1788)