thoughts of a missionary

Let’s Talk About Jesus

If you ever move to a small town like Denison, Texas you will be asked three questions, where did you move from, what brought you here, and where do you go to church?  The first two questions are normal icebreakers, but the last question gives a little more insight on a person’s core values. Like any small town in the Bible Belt, the church denomination question plays an important part of the town’s culture.  It’s a polite way for the locals to find out where someone stands religiously and politically.

If you are slow to find a church home, you will be invited to just about every church in town.  With all the church invitations you might be led to believe that your area is the crux of Christendom.  However, if you understand the Gospel, and you pay close attention to where most of the conversations land, you will begin to realize that everyone might be talking about church or religious rights, but no one is talking about Jesus.

Almost two years ago I moved my family and ministry into the Traveler’s Hotel.  There I run a transitional home for troubled young men while pastoring a small church downtown.  Although our mission is to provide food, clothes, and shelter for our residents, we work hard to not forsake our  primary commission to preach Christ crucified.  This is a perspective we must all hold on to.  With all that is going on in our country it’s easy to forget that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness.” (Ephesians 6:12) 

It’s for this very reason we cannot let ourselves, as ambassadors of Christ, become so emotionally invested with the state of our country that we lose interest in the state of those around us who are currently lost, hurting, and hell bound.  Our King has taken His throne and has fortified His kingdom and He has recruited us to the front lines of the good fight. 

Yes, I know our country is a mess, and yes, we cannot bury our heads in the sand when it comes to our current affairs, but we need to keep our eyes fixed on the judgement seat of Christ.  We need to cast our political votes and get back out on the battlefield.  For we were told by our heavenly Commander and Chief, through the Apostle Paul, that “no soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:4)  This means that we, the church, should not be baited by political propaganda, but remain “fishers of men”.

The Deception of Perception

I run a transitional home for troubled young people who are facing unfavorable circumstances.  As inspiring as this may sound, our facility could be a toxic and dangerous environment if a system wasn’t in place to insure everyone’s success.  So as you could imagine our first protocol is safety. 

I have interviewed hundreds of people, from all walks of life, who are destructive in nature to some degree—this is to be expected.  Therefore, my job is to determine whether or not the fires they start are vindictive or just collateral damage from a skewed worldview.  It’s not the lifestyles of homelessness, prostitution, or drug abuse that frighten me, it’s that dirty little secret floating around in one of their heads that no one figures out until it’s a propaganda piece on the six o’clock news.

For those who don’t check in, we have two groups of people that walk out of our doors after an interview.  One group are those who passed our screening process but haven’t hit rock bottom yet, and the other are those who are grooming themselves to become our future rapists, child molesters and murderers.  They have the profile, but are lacking in opportunity.  So be careful when you are trying to fabricate your own Blindside story, these sweet little narcissistic sociopaths prey on those who are blinded by mercy. 

So you might be wondering what a deception expert has to do with the matters of anxiety, depression, or substance abuse.  The short answer is that every one of these symptoms is a lie, and it’s my job to sniff it out in order to bring resolution.  Just like debris protects the clarity inside the eye of the storm, so it is with the life and lies of addictions and disorders.  The revolving wreckage is merely a diversion to mask the truth.  

I’ve always been a good read (most people are who have abuse in their backstory), but the education my job provides has taken my knowledge to another level.  I’ve had a Homicide Detective who has been in the business for over 30 years agree.  Profiling individuals is as much of an art as it is a science—this cocktail of natural intuition, books from experts, and field experience has made me a better sheepdog for those I love and care for.  It’s a blessing and a curse.

And no, I don’t sit around and squint at my friends trying to read their thoughts and motives— most people, even if they are hiding an agenda, are harmless.  Even those who are driven by jealousy, ambition, or control are usually just jockeying for a meaningless position.  If you were forced to dig into their matters, you wouldn’t find anything illegal, just unethical.  When I see these people walk into a room I stay off their radar—especially if they know you have a read on them.  However, from time to time there are wolves that find their way inside the pack, but this isn’t anything a good timeline, vocal shift, gesture or facial expression can’t expose.

So when our phone rings, there is usually someone on the other line in tears about their loved one.  The situation is as urgent as it is toxic.  They have been down every avenue by the time they’ve reached us.  It’s at this point I have seconds to determine whether or not to intervene—I cannot allow my willingness to help cloud my judgement.  The world of “addictions and disorders” doesn’t need a hero, it needs a vigilante.

Matthew 10:16 "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves."


If you decide to participate in ‪#‎GivingTuesday‬ remember In Triumph! Running a residential program doesn’t always leave you with enough time to campaign for funds, so even the smallest donation can contribute in a big way. Giving through In Triumph’s PayPal link will also make you apart of PayPal’s Guinness Book of World Records’ challenge!

God bless and Happy Giving Tuesday to you!

A Holy Gratitude: 4 Ways to Retain a Thankful Heart

The secular worldview of Thanksgiving is reminiscing over the things we have. The problem lies here… God has always required an offering from His children that is centered around what pleases Him, not what pleases us. This is a form of gratitude that the world is not able to give. A holy gratitude. Here this morning, my intention was to show four ways how we can retain a heart of biblical thanksgiving.  I’d like to suggest for those who might be struggling with disappointment and anxiety this year, to listen in.


Preserving Life and History

The first time I spoke with Jacob Carter he was a drug addict facing felony charges.  Five years later, by the grace of God, Jacob is a licensed minister of the Gospel, a drug and alcohol counselor at In Triumph, and a published author. Today, I am writing to those who might want to celebrate with Jacob in the things that the Lord has done in his life.

Being a musician myself, In Triumph is a big advocate of the liberal arts once a young man is rooted in the Gospel.  It’s at this point we encourage our students to develop a craft during their stay.  Jacob chose to spend his free time writing an American History book—it’s entitled Before History Dies: The stories surrounding the JFK assassination that stripped America of her innocence. A work like this demonstrates the type of character Jacob has developed throughout his process.  To go from destructive to productive is nothing short of miracle in his life.

You can either buy his book on Amazon, or you can go to The 20th Annual JFK Lancer Conference and purchases a signed copy from Jacob himself.


Pray For ISIS?

You will eventually see the hashtag on social media that says #PrayForISIS—and although I understand that we should pray and love (ἀγαπᾶτε) our enemies, I do question if this ideology is being used out of context.  Christians are being asked to show empathy towards their enemies as they rape and kill our families.  My hope is to silence those who are blurring the parameters that have always separated the mission field and the battle field.

There will always be those who will oppose my view on this matter, but it’s not wise if all of us live in the prosperity world of “blessings” and unicorns.  Some of us are called to be sheepdogs—those with an instinctive responsibility to protect the people around us.  Not providing for our families in this manner is no different than the infidels in our eyes.  We are a dying breed—the only Christian men left who were not castrated at a Promise Keepers event.  This article is to bring balance and assurance to those who are ordained barbarians.

Before I start I’d like to mention that this article is not political propaganda.  I refuse to be yoked neck to neck with those Right-Wing radicals who are more offended when someone tampers with the Constitution of the United States than with those who preach “another gospel“.   You will find these Conservatives standing alongside ISIS on Judgement Day.

And yes, there will be boneheads who will read this article and still walk away with the erroneous idea that I am against loving and praying for our enemies.  Let’s not allow these dreamy half-cocked Buddha-Christian idealists to monopolize anymore of our time.


The question we should be asking is why did God give David (the warrior) and Solomon (the preacher) the thrown at different times of biblical history?  God didn’t ask the two kings to mix a heart of war with a heart of evangelism, so why are Believers putting this burden on us today.  First, we must acknowledge that both David and Solomon were ordained for two different eras—to accomplish two different purposes in God’s will.  David was placed on the thrown at a time of war, while Solomon reigned at a time of peace.  King David tried to mix war and worship, but the Lord denied his request to build the temple.  The king after God’s own heart had spilled too much blood upon the earth.  But make no mistake about the man who said in Psalm 139:22 “I hate them with the utmost hatred; They have become my enemies“, for he was justified before the good Lord to hate and kill his enemies.  Nothing disqualified David from his purpose, but God saw it fit for his son Solomon to build the temple instead.   And as you begin to read the differences in how these two kings operated, you will also notice the differences in how they prayed as well.  For it was just as right for King David to prayed for victory as it was for King Solomon to pray for rest.   The question here that should be asked is what era are we born in, a time of peace or a time of war?   The answer determines if we pray through the lens of 1 Kings chapter 8 or 2 Samuel chapter 5.


Some have asked if we should imitate Christ and become martyrs when the enemy comes against us.  Well, we are speaking of two different scenarios here.  One, the government was justified in killing Christ,  His apostles, and our church martyrs by the law and with the law.  ISIS on the other hand does not enforce any of our laws.  They are an illegal terrorist group who despises our God given rights.  Much like someone breaking into your home, they are not an authority that we are commanded to submit to.  This falls under self-defense because the perpetrator has to break the law in order to overcome you.

Now, if the government begins to persecute us because of our Christian faith, this changes the dynamics.  A new set of doctrines have to be followed when the government has to twist the interpretation of our laws in order to make us enemies of the State.  This is what happened to Christ and his apostles.  They were put in the predicament to either be a martyr or a incriminate themselves even more and fight against their legal authorities—their choice was made know.  If our government keeps suppressing our religious rights, once we are out numbered and dismantled, some might chose to comply and die a martyr’s death.


When Jesus said to “turn the other cheek”, did he mean to allow someone to rape your wife and children?  And to make sure you are feeling the emotion of love while they are doing it?  Because this is literally what ISIS is doing.  And to compare this with how we should treat those who are cruel to us at work is asinine.   If a person doesn’t recognize that it is our duty to stop unlawful violence, they went to more than one Promise Keepers event.  I wish these types of Christians would all just convert to Hinduism instead of shaping Christ into the image of Mahatma Gandhi.  There comes a point when the Lord uses those who have no problem confronting evil for a season of peace.  So what do you reach for while your wife and kids are being beaten, your Bible or your gun?  Maybe it’s just like David’s and Solomon’s reign—first you pray for victory, then you pray for peace.  This leaves the question, when does someone’s status change from social enemy to an illegal victimizer?  We are taught that if someone is a  social enemy, we turn the other cheek, but what about an illegal victimizer?


W.W.J.D. doesn’t really translate here.  The carpenter from Nazareth was promised since the 3rd chapter of Genesis to be our sacrificial lamb—to lay down is His life for us.  In theological terms it’s called substitutionary atonement.  Christ had a purpose for being passive, we are not expected to lay down our lives for the sins of the world.  It is finished and the game as changed.  Our Savior has become King and when he get off His thrown Hw will being an acting Judge.  I can see being a martyr when the  laws make us enemies of the State, but as long as the legal system is still in our favor, I would rather defend myself to preach another day.


So at what point can you say that we are at war with ISIS?  They are breaking our country’s laws to kill us.  And if we are at war, can we please stop thinking like missionaries towards these people?  The military’s chaplains during times of war are there to serve our country, not our enemies.  They are to give hope and spiritual peace to our soldiers while they are under gunfire.  But today, does one side have to be officially dressed in Red and the other side literally have to be dressed in Blue to declare war?  The war looks different today.  We no longer have military uniforms to visionally separate sides.  ISIS, dressed in civilian clothes, started an urban war on U.S. soil.  They are not confronting our military,  instead they are, by default, recruiting civilians to the front lines by killing us.


If Christ only died for the elect, why would he pray for the none elect?  He didn’t.

John 17: 6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.” 

Or how about the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 1:20  handing Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan?  It’s easy to see that Paul scratched these two off his prayer list and moved on to more productive things.  Remember it was he who wrote in Romans 1:24 that God gives people up to their lusts and impurities of their heart.  So will prayers for ISIS change vessels of wrath chosen for dishonorable use into vessel of mercy that God will use honorable use?  With the understanding of Romans 9, it just might be okay to pray once for those who might convert from ISIS to Christianity and move on.  But keep in mind, unlike any war we have ever seen, when ISIS attacks us, it is a profession of faith to them.  No turning back.


Some might be asking how can you love your enemy and kill them just the same?  My question in return is how can you love your family, friends or countrymen and not protect them just the same?  The problem lies with how the world has confused love with emotion.  Love is unconditional, meaning it’s not based on how you feel.  I can feel the emotions of anger towards my children, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love them.  It also doesn’t mean I don’t disciple them.  As a parent, God uses me as a form of judgement in their lives.  If they refuse to repent, God will one day bring a harder judgement upon them.  The same for our enemies.  I can be angry with them, and through the lens of God be used to bring judgment upon them for the sake of justice.  And during times of war, the wages of sin is death.  If someone is victimizing people, I do not have to feel a warm emotion towards them.  I am allowed to feel a righteous anger and bring them to judgement before an angry God.

Another thought before we move on, did you ever notice that Jesus never asked the centurion in Matthew 8:5-13 to stop killing his enemies?  He found no reason to call him to repentance.


Just like how the Lord uses police officers to enforce His laws, God might authorize others to up hold His laws as well.  As many of you know the word “repent” is a military term for turing in the opposite direction—to retreat.  If my own children refuse to repent of their disobedience, then the Lord will use law enforcement to carry on with His chastisement.  If they continue to rebel, depending on their offenses, they will be incarcerated and possibly put to death.  God used men and woman to do this job.  When an enemy refuses to repent spiritually, and decides to rebel against you with force, God appointed us, civilians as well, to uphold the law and stop those who refuse to repent from their violent ways.

If Muslims refuse to repent, and take the next step, a profession of faith, to attack our citizens, God will allow anyone who is threatened to reestablish law and order.  While they are still Muslims, I prayer for a spiritual repentance, but after the Lord hands them over to evil, and they decide to set their sights on me, I will kill them until I get a military repentance.


Personally, I believe the confusion is in trying to merge two different sets of doctrines—the doctrines surrounding evangelism and the doctrines that support justice by the means of war.  Much like how the evangelical church has combined the doctrines of justification and sanctification to only distort the doctrine of “faith alone”—we could be facing the same thing here.  Has the world softened us up to the point that we now feel guilty if we don’t combine the mission field with the battle field?


We should recognized when to take off our missionary hats and put on a barbarian’s helmet so to speak.  We all have a particular position in the body of Christ to fill—some are the palm of the hands and some are the fists.  During times of peace we expect soldiers to act civil, and during times of war we should expect civilians to act like soldiers.

But concerning those who might find themselves a threatening circumstance, trying to muster up empathy for your enemy is not wise, it dulls your senses and slows down your reaction time.  I run a mission that deals with aggressive people at times, and if I were to drop my guard, I become a liability to those who are counting on my protection.  I am a sheepdog.

US Soldier

Happy Birthday In Triumph!

We are excited that today is In Triumph‘s birthday!  Sitting here reminiscing overwhelms my soul.  I am grateful that the Lord has also given my family missionary hearts. It has made their spirits resilient.  As a father I love watching my kids running around and playing on the mission field.  To be so comfortable in a spiritual war zone displays the peace above all understanding that only God can give. And I love my wife as well.  The lack of privacy could have killed our relationship in many ways, but we have become very creative to say the least.  Only God could have prepared my family for this kind of a journey.  Living and working in the trenches could be disastrous in our personal lives, but the Lord protects His will with a mighty force.  I want to publicly give God the glory for not only moving us from strength to strength, but for the flame of Christ that shows no signs of fading.

Soli Deo GLoria!

Team Jesus

I tried for a day off today.  This doesn’t mean I could just completely check out, but it did mean I didn’t have to prepare a sermon for this morning.  Most days of the week I put in about four hours of study in order to teach a class by 10:00 AM.  This can be a nice break for me, but I’m still on call.  Like this morning, even though I didn’t have to prepare and teach a class, before I could even finish my first cup of coffee the ministry phone started ringing.  When I answer I say “Hello, this is In Triumph, how can we help you?”  And I mean it.  The voice on the other side is usually a desperate family member, a strung out homeless teen or the State of Texas.  This morning it was all of the above within the first hour.  At this point my priorities for the day shifted.  I’m back on the clock—interviews, emails, and checking guys into the program.

In my line of work, those who walk through our doors don’t want help, they want us to remove the consequences of their actions.  But I refuse to be their next painkiller.  Some people might be called to sooth and refresh other believers in the body of Christ, but that isn’t what the Lord has commissioned me to do.  My phone rings when the world is out of answers.  When prescription pills, counseling, and life-skills fail.   When all hell breaks loose.  I teach defiant boys how to be Biblical men.  Not a very rewarding job, but it’s a good job.

I hear people say that they want to do God’s work, but have no idea where to start.  They might have even been told the “God has big plans for your life” slogan.  And this might be true for some, but for the most part I just see people waiting around for a glamorous position to open up.  Something inspiring!  Why not?  because “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.  But how long have you been saying that and waiting?  Do you sometimes find yourself feeling like a prom date that got ditched?  All dressed up and no where to go?  Who knows, this could just be God’s way of keeping the self-serving super heros off the mission field.  If that’s the case, so be it.

Have you ever applied for a job and ended up turning it down because you knew you could land something better?  Well, that might have been true and hopefully you landed something big, but I bet you weren’t desperate.  I bet your kids still ate that night while you got back online to put in a few more applications.  But not with the mission field—resumes aren’t accepted here.  I realize the world has conditioned the church to hire CEO’s to do a pastor’s job, but this is not how the Lord recruits for the Great Commission.   Here, if you are hungry and jobless, you don’t wait to be hired, you find the need and create a position.  And let me give you a hint, not all of the tough and dirty jobs in the Kingdom are filled.  As I am going about my way I still see a lot of “Now Hiring” signs.

Well, that’s what I did.  I looked around, founded a need and created a position for myself.  It was not about my title or making the game winning play—it was about being apart of the team—to represent.  I just wanted a uniform with my Saviors name on it.  I didn’t even have to make the practice squad—even the batboy gets a jersey.  So, although I’m not the Home Run King, I get to hand him his bat at every game.  Man, you should see the Soul-tan of Swat knock Lucifer’s curveball out of the park.

Spurgeonesque Pulpit Desk

The timing is beautiful.  I believe the timing of things can reveal how the Lord enjoys the process of our lives.  As some of you already know we started a huge window project last year right before the winter hit.  This old hotel, built in 1893, had windows that were exposing us to the outside elements.  The size of hotel windows during this era dwarfed most men, so when the replacement windows were installed they insulated the rooms immediately. 

Without killing your time with trivial details, I’ll just make mention that the foundation that financed this project accomplished it in two phases.  The first grant was for our 4th and 3rd floor windows, and the second grant was to finish off the 2nd and 1st floors.  We partnered up with Brennan Enterprises due to their online reviews and the rest is literally history.  Now back to my story.

After working out the details it took a few weeks to manufacture the windows before I got a call from the installers.  The start date was the first time I met Pancho Peters, the brain and brawn who would see this project to the end.  I heard good things about Panchos’ work so I had a lot of confidence in him.  I instantly liked the guy, his handshake didn’t contradict what was in his eyes.  Like most men, we started off with small talk, but our relationship really started to open up when he noticed a portion of Spurgeon’s Grace for Grace sermon hanging on the wall of my study.  He too is a fan of the “old dead guys”. 

In one of our early conversations Pancho asked if there was anyway he could bless this ministry with his personal hobby, woodworking.  He had no idea that I had been trying to find a pulpit to teach from.  I went all up and down Main Street to find such a relic.  My need came from not having enough room to set everything on while I taught class.  At In Triumph, I teach all throughout the week, and I prefer to use the means of Church History, the Systematics of Theology, and even Christian Apologetics to preach the Gospel of the cross to the Postmoderns that check themselves in.  A pulpit desk seemed to be what could handle my Schuyler Quentel Bible bond by Leonard’s, along with a catechism and a historical document or two that a regular podium couldn’t.  The problem was that today there is no demand for a pulpits, most pastor’s TED Talks don’t require one.  Just a headset, slideshow and a water bottle.  Pancho, understanding the old style of teaching I am convicted to bring, said he would love to construct such a thing in his shop.

I sketch a pulpit desk on Adobe Illustrator for him and sent it to Pancho with an additional picture of Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s old pulpit desk.  He had a few questions concerning my favorite wood and functionality, but other than that, I expressed that I wanted him to take some creative freedom to be an artist.  I wanted this to come from his heart, not from a spec sheet.

Today, Reformation Day, and the last day of Pastor’s Appreciation Month, Pancho delivered my pulpit desk after over 75 hours of labor and love.  This one of a kind piece is solid mahogany that refuses for it’s beauty to be captured on camera.  The pictures do not do it justice.

What a gift.  What a friend.  He not only built a pulpit that functions according to my needs, but he also handcrafted a family heirloom for anyone of my sons or grandsons who is called to preach Christ crucified as well.  I love this pulpit!  A good teacher doesn’t want to abandon his notes.  He works too hard, and prayed all week for them.  Too many hours of research goes into a sermon to just walk away from your pulpit to follow the white rabbit down it’s hole.  The greats always used their notes like a map to stay on course.  To follow suit, I am an expository preacher—an old soul with a new fire.  I think this throwback pulpit desk not only reflects who I am, but it also reflects all those “old dead guys” who inspired me as well. 

Do you know what makes the timing of this pulpit even more beautiful… besides it being Reformation day and Pastor’s Appreciation Month?  Tomorrow I preach on Galatians 1:17-18, where Paul and Peter started an exact friendship as Pancho and I did.  A friendship that is built on our desire to live and die like Christ.  My brother blessed me with a gift that will keep on giving.

Here are a few picture that he sent me afterward he delivered it.

Pulpit Desk in Shop

Top View

And the “Prince of Preachers” Pulpit.

Spurgeons Pulpit

Pancho and I

Pete and Pancho

Windows of Opportunity

Over 55+ windows were replaced at the In Triumph mission were we live.  This has taken a year to accomplish with the help of a private foundation that believed in us.  Getting this old hotel (1893) in shape to serve in the Great Commission has been an interesting task.  Our first priority when we moved in were these 120 year old windows that were not holding up their end of the deal.  Exposing us to the elements was not a good way to welcome us to Denison.  Our operation costs are high enough and it was painful to watch the dollars flying out of our windows every month. 

The project was completed this week and what a difference it has made.   Someone tell Old Man Winter he better bring his A game this year.  These new windows are keeping the rooms well insulated and by default gave the exterior to the The Traveler’s Hotel a facelift.  Made of solid stone, this Katy Depot hotel is ready to add another 120 years to it’s history.

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