Posted by: Rex Boyles | September 7, 2008

“an unfinished story”

Saturday, August 30, 2008 @ 11:30a … Ester Rodriquez was born into the family of God. Enough said! Let’s welcome her home!

But you need to hear this story …

Dennis and Theresa worked at a children’s home, when we first started meeting as an “official” church. One of “their girls” was Lisa. When Dennis and Theresa moved to Cozumel to direct the children’s home there … Lisa continued to enjoy the teaching and fellowship at the OPEN. (Note: She was dating a boy named Adam; eventually they broke up.)

On February 3, 2008 … Lisa decided to be baptized into Jesus. She invited Adam’s family – Teresa and Jason, as well as his little brothers, Brian and Christian – to witness her new birth. After we all welcomed Lisa home, Teresa came up to me and said, “I have never been at a church like this. I just feel so welcome.”

Well, Teresa and her family began enjoying the teaching and fellowship at the OPEN. She even invited her sister, Francis to come with her. Each Sunday Francis brought her granchildren, Brianna – Micah – Julia; and each time we prayed for her daughter, Ruby, the mother of these children. Ruby’s husband, Rick, began to come with Francis.

Eventually, Ruby starting enjoying the teaching and fellowship at the OPEN. She especially enjoyed the “For Ladies Only” class that meets on Saturday morning. On May 10, 2008, Ruby was baptized along with her mother, Francis, and her Tia Teresa. (Then a little over a month later – Ruby’s husband, Rick, was born again on June 20, 2008.)

By the way … Ester’s son and daughter-in-law, Josh and Zimri … along with their children, John, Alexis, and Paul … and Ester’s daughter, Samantha, and her son, Jayden, are now enjoying the teaching and fellowship at the OPEN. 

By the way … Francis’ grandson, Angel, comes with Rick and Ruby’s children to the OPEN. 

By the way … Teresa’s son, Adam and his new girlfriend, Angel, are coming to study the Bible with me now.

By the way … this story is still being written … by the grace and providence of God.

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Posted by: Rex Boyles | August 31, 2008

“… everything in common …”

It was the first day of the week … the first words of the new covenant … the first invitation to be saved. Three thousand (3000) received the Word and were baptized. Read it (Acts 2). No exaggeration … 

But that should not be surprising … what else would sinners do, who are begging to know what Jesus wants them to do?

It is no wonder that these new disciples “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer”. They wanted to learn everything they could about their new Master. They wanted to be together … they wanted to know more of His will …  they wanted to remember Him and count on Him. 

They all had different backgrounds – different languages – different hometowns … but they all shared “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father”.

That is why they had “everything in common”. That is always what happens when believers become brothers.

And it is happening here … at the OPEN. Not because we organized it so …  not because we scheduled it so … but because a group of believers became brothers … because a group of prodigals became partners.

Justin and Lacy … who have opened their home (old and new) to us – for fun and fellowship.

Bart and Lynn …  who have used their businesses to provide jobs for us – and other blessings.

Thomas and Orpha … who have given a van – just when one of us needed it most.

Duane and Riley … who have brought donuts on Sunday morning for months – for all of us to share.

Marc and Randy … who have used their expertise and connections to help us get what we needed.

And others and others … who have given rides – loaned cars – bought lunches – picked up kids – babysat – fed dogs – cleaned toilets – brought groceries – donated vacuums – washed towels – baked brownies – checked papers – filed income taxes – offered wise counsel – wiped away tears – prayed countless prayers – shared the Word – wept with those who weep and rejoiced with those who rejoice. 

“All the believers were together and had everything in common.”

I have read of it …

I have heard of it …

But now … I am living in it.

Posted by: Rex Boyles | August 24, 2008

The Lord Provides …

Abraham stood over his son … ready to sacrifice him, but the Lord stopped his hand. Instead … Abraham saw a ram stuck in a thorn bush. Abraham confesses what we all want to believe – “the Lord provides”. (My “real” Bible calls the name of that place – “Jehovah-jireh” – the Lord provides.) 

I love the story … though there are certain parts that cause me some angst … but I confess – today – that I have experienced that “the Lord provides”.

One of my teachers taught us that the word, provide, comes with this meaning; “pro” – “video” (to see before). In other words, God saw beforehand that Abraham would need another sacrifice and worked it out so that the ram would be there in the right place at the right time.

I do not know how long the ram was stuck there … before Abraham needed it – not that it even matters – but I suspect that God was working on such an arrangement from at the least the very first mention of the sacrifice by Isaac (“We have the fire and the wood, but where is the sacrifice?”), when Abraham replied, “The Lord will provide.” God works with faith that way …

I do not know how long ram was stuck there … or how long God had been working on this deal … but I know that fifty-nine years ago, today, August 24, 1949, God “saw before” and provided Doug Oakes for me.

Before I was ever born – long before 🙂 – God knew that I would need a brother … a friend … a buddy … a co-worker – a “knit to my soul” companion … like Doug.

He was born in Ohio … I was born in Texas

He was raised “in town” … I was raised “in the country”.

He didn’t like school so much … I loved school.

He believed in Jesus early in his life and wanted to preach – I believed in Jesus early in my life, but I never wanted to preach.

God stuck him in a school of preaching … just as I started the same school – the same class.

I knew immediately (no exaggeration) that I wanted him to my friend (everyone did) … and from the moment we first met – we became David and Jonathan-type friends.

God saw before … that I would need a friend, like Doug, in that school … someone to help me understand some of the more insightful truths of the Word … someone to help show me how to treat others … someone to help me learn to be a friend.

God saw before … that I would need a co-worker, like Doug, in the church where we first worked together … someone to help  me find my way around the big city … someone to help me learn how to work with church leaders and church politics … someone to help me become a real “youth minister”.

God saw before … that I would need a soul-mate companion, like Doug, in the years that we would live and serve apart … someone to help me withstand the pressures of “brotherhood” schedules … someone to help me plot or plan for a new course for ministries … someone to help me believe that God could use even me.

God saw before … that I would need Doug Oakes, especially in the years of my shame that continue even til now … someone to help me believe that the promises of God for David were also meant for me … someone to help me pay a few bills, when there was no money to pay bills … someone to help me enjoy laughing and loving again – as I watch God bless his tribe and multiply his grandchildren.

I do not know how long God had that ram stuck in the bush for Abraham … but I am convinced that He had Doug in mind – for me – from glory to glory.

I love you, Doug Oakes … and I am blessed “immeasurably more than I could ask or imagine” through you … and I count myself as favored by God for your friendship …  fellowship … and “knit-ship”. (And I realize that I am just one of a multitude of people who thank you for what you mean to them – and thank God for you.)

I hope others will join me … at this place … to honor you as they praise God for you. Me first!

p.s. You can read of Doug’s love for the Lord and the Lord’s wisdom in Doug at www.acornsfromoakes.wordpress.com

Posted by: Rex Boyles | August 17, 2008

“On hearing this …”

On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5; NIV).

I will let you read and study the words from God on this matter … and you draw your own conclusions.

But I saw this same thing happen on Wednesday night ( 08.13.08 ) – at about 10:20p.

Ricky Pool believes in Jesus – just like the men in Acts 19, did. He also had been baptized – just like they had been. And when he learned about the baptism that Jesus commands, he was baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus – just like they were.

It is not so important – now – what Ricky had been taught before or why … for what really matters is that when Ricky learned the “way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:26; NIV), he obeyed Jesus.

He could have said, “I have already done that.” … but he didn’t. He just obeyed Jesus.

He could have said, “My pastor didn’t teach me that.” … but he didn’t. He just obeyed Jesus.

He could have said, “Ya’ll don’t have music.” … but he didn’t. He just obeyed Jesus.

He could have said, “Ya’ll don’t have a real church building.” … but he didn’t. He just obeyed Jesus.

He could have said, “I am never coming back here again.” … but he didn’t. He just obeyed Jesus. 

I have more to say about this new brother and his family – but I will save that for another time. But please help me welcome Ricky into the family of God.

p.s. Ricky did ask me … “Why would they have taught me something that wasn’t the truth?” My answer was honest but just as confounded: “I don’t know.” I am coming to believe that we are more interested in protecting our “traditions” or “territories” than in teaching the truth. Are we too dogmatic to believe that we cannot just teach people about Jesus and believe that they will fall in love with Him? Are we too afraid to let people just ask the question – that sinners have been asking since Pentecost – “What shall I do to be saved?” Are we too religious to just let Jesus answer that question – without comment or commentary?

Posted by: Rex Boyles | August 10, 2008

“The Sinner’s Prayer”

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” 
(Luke 18:9-14; NIV)

I do not think that I would mention the “other” man – the Pharisee – if Jesus had not. I am trying to learn to ignore those who are “confident in their righteousness” and who “looked down on everybody else”. That has not always been the case. There were times that I craved for them to consider me an equal – worthy of their confidence and compliments. I am ashamed of myself for that. I sought their company and tried to conduct myself – appropriately – which at times meant that I felt that I, too, should act … as if I was “above reproach”, even superior.

But then I sinned … 

Of course, I had sinned before … but when my sin of adultery (how I hate what I did) “became public”, I was among those sinners … that were “looked down on”.

I became familiar … somewhat … with how the prodigal might have felt, apologizing to the Father … with how the sinful woman felt, washing Jesus’ feet with her tears … with how the woman “caught in the act” felt, waiting for judgment to come … with how the condemned thief felt, begging to be remembered … how the broken-hearted disciple felt, walking with the Master on the beach.

I cannot say that I was ever so “self-righteous” that I actually prayed as the Pharisee. (God forgive me, if I have.) But I know that from early on … to even now … I should (and shall) stand and pray with the tax collector … “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

I acknowledge my sin. I commit sin … not just lapses of judgment or spiritual mistakes. I sin … and there is no excuse. I sin … I miss the mark … I fall short … I fail.

I acknowledge my need for His mercy. I cannot undo what I have done … can’t fix what I have broken. I can do better, but I cannot redeem myself – cannot justify myself – cannot cleanse myself. 

I acknowledge my right – by His mercy – to approach Him. I do not deserve this access to the throne of grace. It is available to me, only because of the death Jesus died … the price that Jesus paid … the life that Jesus lives.

p.s. Ignore the Pharisee, looking down on you. Lift up your head and heart to the One who is looking out for you.

Posted by: Rex Boyles | August 3, 2008

“… making the most of every opportunity …”

On the same day of the same week …

Kelly (one of my brothers at the OPEN) was introducing one of his friends, Kurt, to Jesus.

Lisa (one of my sisters at the OPEN) was introducing one of her friends, Barb, to Jesus.

Kelly has known Kurt for years. They met at school. They played ball together … double-dated together … worked together … did all kinds of buddy stuff together. Kelly invites me to have lunch with them, occasionally … and Kelly always hopes that Kurt will ask about the Lord. On Monday (7.28.08) Kurt asked … he wanted to learn “the way of the Lord more accurately”.  

Lisa has known Barb for just a few days. They met online … chatting about shared concerns and interests. During their conversations, Lisa introduced Barb … to Jesus …who can calm storms for those who are afraid … who can conquer demons for those who are enslaved … who can cure diseases for those who are distressed. On Monday (7.28.08) Barb decided to “listen to Jesus”.

So … on Monday ( 7.28.08 ) … Barb found her way with Lisa’s help … to a little church in Canada, where she was born into the family of God.

So … on Tuesday ( 7.29.08 ) … Kurt found his way with Kelly’s help … to a little church in Lubbock, where he was born into the family of God.

Please … welcome our newest brother and sister to the family of God.

But let us also learn from the example of Kelly and Lisa. Kelly works as a landscaper; Lisa as a teacher. But they live their lives as lights in the world … salt in the earth … fishers of men (and women). What they did on the same day of the same week … was not any part of an organized campaign or special “bring a friend day” at church (both of which are good things) … but they just did what friends do when friends ask the question.

They did what Phillip did when the Eunuch asked the question – they took the Word and spoke about Jesus.

May God bless Kurt and Barb. I want to be like them … listening to Jesus.

May God bless Kelly and Lisa. I want to be like them … talking about Jesus.

Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
(Ephesians 5:15-17; NIV.)

Posted by: Rex Boyles | July 27, 2008

“One small step for man …”

On Sunday, July 20, 1969 … Neil Armstrong took “one small step for man – one giant leap for mankind”, when he became the first man to set foot on the moon. It was an impressive demonstration of this nation’s faith in man and the determination of man to get that man all the way to the moon.

On Sunday, July 20, 2008 … Rick Coin took a small step of his own. He confessed his faith in Jesus and was buried with Jesus in baptism, so that he could be raised with Him into a new life. It was an impressive demonstration of this man’s faith in Jesus and the determination of Jesus to get that man all the way home.

Here is what little I know about his journey to the throne of grace.

Twenty-five years ago Rick wanted to give his life to the Lord. He believed that Jesus was the Son of God … but no one taught him how to receive the new life from the Lord. No one showed him the Lord’s answer to the question of his heart and soul … the same question asked by the Jews to the Apostles – the eunuch to Phillip … the persecutor Saul to Jesus … the Gentiles to Peter – and the jailer to Paul … “What must I do to be saved?”

Rick wants to “turn his will and life over to the care of God” … “entirely ready for God to remove all these defects of character”. So when he read the promise of Jesus that he could have a new life, he did not argue …  make excuses … or delay. He got up …. was baptized … and got just what Jesus promised, “… get up and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). 

So now … Ruby ( born into God’s family on May 10, 2008 ) has a husband, who loves the bridegroom, Jesus … and now Brianna, Micah, and Julia have a daddy, who obeys the Father … and we, prodigals, have another brother home from the “distant country”.

Help me welcome Rick to the celebration …

Posted by: Rex Boyles | July 20, 2008

“I can get past this …”

(I will not tell you who, when, or where … but I want to share with you excerpts from an email I received from a sister and friend of mine.)

“… that is how I came to read your blog. I showed it to (husband), and we both felt very moved by your words.”

“I’m sorry to hear that you still suffer from the sins of your past, which is what it is … your past. As you know, so do we.”

“Even though we cannot forget what we have done, God has. But I, too, feel like there are plenty of those who want us to “suffer the consequences” of our sins, as if we don’t. It is so hard, as you know, to have been (a leader in the church) and to have committed such a sin.”

“There are those to this day in town who will still turn their heads frm me or not speak to me. That is their choice, but in turn it has made me just like them. My heart is hard toward them. My prayer is that I, too, can be like you and not have hard feelings towards them. That is so hard to so at times. I never thought that I would go back to (name of city), where my past was. To see all those from the church that I have known and loved and have them turn their backs to me (especially those that I was close to). But I believe with all my heart that through God I can get past this, even if they can’t.”

“I know each of us need to worry about ourselves and not what others think.”

Her words remind me:

… of the raw emotional pain caused by guilt.

… of the lack of understanding of so many, who have surely sinned but have never had their sins made public.

… of the shameful ungodly doctrine of those who either believe or give impression that they believe that a sinner has to “suffer enough”.

… of the bruised and broken hearts in our world who need someone to notice them – care about them – bind up their wounds and take them to a safe place to rest and heal.

… of the grace and mercy of God, who celebrates my homecoming the rest of the sinners at the OPEN.

Now it is your turn …

Posted by: Rex Boyles | July 2, 2008

“It is not expedient.”

I will not tell you who – where – or when … but I want to discuss some things that I heard in a meeting with the elders, deacons, and preacher of a congregation of God’s people.

The purpose of our “meeting” was to study “fellowship matters”. I had asked for and received an invitation to share with the leaders the fruit of some study that I had been doing in God’s Word, regarding fellowship and those issues that should or should not affect it. (They were discussing some issues that related to supporting a certain missionary – and I wanted to show my confidence and support for the missionary and also help them have another Biblical perspective as to how such decisions relate to “fellowship”.) My intention was to be helpful. 

We had a good study …

However, during the final “question and answer” period, an elder mentioned that they (the elders) had made a decision not to allow me to preach (or to participate in the services) at their congregation, because they did not feel that it was “expedient”.

For those who do not know me or my “storm”, let me – with shame – summarize: Several years ago I committed adultery, and my wife divorced me. Later I remarried. During those early dark days, several of these men met with me – heard my confession and accepted my godly sorrow as sincere repentance. Even after I remarried, they invited me to teach Bible classes and to preach on a Sunday or two. One of the leaders from the congregation did come to visit with me to discuss whether or not my divorce and remarriage were “scriptural”. After almost 2 hours of study, prayer, and discussion this brother mentioned that he could see why I would believe that my “situation” was Biblical – but wanted to study it some more. Unfortunately, we never studied again, and he chose to unofficially withdraw his fellowship from me.

It is important for me … that you know … that I do not blame him or them for their disappointment in me and their decisions to not “fellowship” with me. I am not upset with them … about their reaction to me. Honestly. Out of my respect and affection for them, I have not and will not do anything that might cause them to be upset or irritated. 

But I have chosen to expose my shame again and their reaction to my fellowship, in hopes that we can learn the will and ways of our Father, who embraces a penitent prodigal and rebukes a self-absorbed older brother.

This congregation – that had seemed so willing to accept and forgive me – made the decision that it was no longer “expedient” to have fellowship with me. That is their right … please do not misunderstand. Expediency is a matter of personal judgment, and the elders have such authority (even responsibility) to make such decisions.

But my interest is in the why is it “expedient”?

If I understand the discussion of “expediency” at all, it does not even become an issue unless something is at first “permissible”. If something is “permissible”, then the question becomes, “is it it beneficial (expedient)?”

So … if it is “permissible” to have fellowship with me, why is it not “expedient”? Is it because my teaching would be damaging or destructive? That does not seem to be the issue with them. Is my past the problem? If so, could there ever be a chance of restoring that fellowship? My past will always be my past.

In all honesty, I know why fellowship with me is not “expedient” for these brothers. There are people in the congregation, who are still disappointed in me (me too) … still upset at what I did (me too) … still wanting to see me “suffer the consequences” of my sin.

So … while I understand these reactions … how do we deal with such a situation? How do we embrace prodigals and respond to older brothers? How do we celebrate the return of the runaway and confront the self-righteous? How do we show mercy and warn the unmerciful?

These are challenging questions … that we need to discuss and must answer – not in programmed positions or policy but in personal practice. 

p.s. As far as my situation is concerned, I believe that the leaders of this congregation made the decision that they thought was best for them. I accept it. But I leave you with my last statement to them: “If we were not talking about me (because I understand about my situation), I would say, ‘It would seem better – to cater to the prodigal who needs mercy than to the older brother who refuses to show mercy’. At least Jesus thought so.”  

Posted by: Rex Boyles | June 18, 2008

“I’m sorry.” – “Me, too!”

(Of course, I will not tell you the who or the where … but over the last few days I have heard from a Christian sister, whom I have known for 15+ years. What you will read are excerpts from her emails to me and some of my response. I post them here to encourage any or all of us – if there is any relationship that has become strained due to their sins or even your own – to find a way to contact them … to either welcome the prodigal home or to invite the former “elder brother” (or sister) to celebrate with you and the rest of us prodigals.)
EMAIL #2: “Ya know Rex, I don’t know so much about what you did or didn’t do. I don’t need to know. I had heard that you went off the deep end and from experiences of knowing too much about some other people I care about I decided that no details was better. For a time I wrote you onto my mental list of people that disappoint me. As I grow older that list means less and less to me. I’ve learned that God is the only one that will never leave, never disappoint, never turn His back… And people are people, and they do stupid things. I can’t judge; I have no right. I do stupid things too … we all do to varying degrees. The glory in it is that we can be forgiven by the only one that really matters.”
EMAIL #3: “One more thing that’s been bothering me… I have to say I’m sorry. When I heard you were in trouble … I kind of wrote you off. I have had so many people in teacher/preacher/authoritative positions in my life that have done shameful things that when I heard about you I just added you to the list. I didn’t try and help, not that I could have, but I just sat back and didn’t do anything. I’m sorry. I was wrong. Forgive me.”
p.s. I would love to hear more about your church, it sounds like a wonderful, healing kind of place. A place of second chances. I personally think it sounds wonderful.”

From Rex:
Now … about your apology. I am sorry, too. But I accept your apology. And I forgive you, though I did not know what you did or thought. Thank you for writing me … for letting me know that you love me – even now. When my shame splattered on the brotherhood’s consciousness – it hurt so much to see how friends and “brothers” reacted. I did not blame them … because I was so ashamed, and I knew that I deserved to die for my sin … but it hurt anyway for people that I thought loved me to treat me as an enemy – attacking me, trying to hurt me and get others to join them. Then there were people who just acted like they didn’t know me … but thank God there were some that sought me out – cried with me – helped me hang on until I could get back on my feet. I will never forget them … and I will thank God for them forever. And there are some others … who, like you, have found a way to contact me – to reassure me that even though my shamefulness was a disappointment – that they forgive me and pray for me. Thank you … thank you … thank you!!! Your emails have been a gift from God to me … so I thank you … and I thank God too.”  Rex
P.S. You are right about the church!

 

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