MainKids Camp Out 2016: Part 2

June 23, 2016

By Dolores Rader, Minister to Children

Camp Out is coming to a close and we are filled with sadness to leave our
friends and this beautiful, beautiful place! It has been such an amazing
camp filled with God’s presence at every turn. Here are a few highlights
from me and then highlights from the boys!

Since worship is our central theme to Camp Out, we have one worship
service each day we are here. On Tuesday, Rachel Moore was our preacher
for our midday service and the girls lead in every aspect of the service
from tolling the hour to singing “Little Lamb” as the offertory anthem to
praying, reading scripture, and ushering. On Wednesday, Suzann Herrmann
and the boys led the evening service at the water. Suzann preached on
looking up and finding God wherever we are. The boys sang Amazing Grace
and ended the service with a joyful “I’ll Fly Away”. As is our tradition,
on the morning we leave, we will have our final Camp Out worship service
outside at the giant cross here at Artesian Lakes. Anna Rader is our
preacher and the camp counselors lead in worship. All of our worship was
based in Psalm 92 this year.

MKCampout2016FWe played at the playground, played capture the flag, hiked, swam, flew
down the slides into the lake, and shopped at the gift shop for candy and
souvenirs. In between all of the fun, we talked about and practiced
different disciplines for personal worship. Amanda Villasenor talked to
us about what the Bible says about personal time with the Lord and how
she practices journaling. We made our own journals and journaled
throughout camp. Emily Westerburg talked to us about the importance of
devotion time and how she and Mr. Trey do this together and separately.
We also talked about ways to ask for prayer from our friends and ways we
can pray when we can’t find the words and when we only want to share our
thoughts with God. We made teeny, tiny prayer boxes, lit candles, and
prayed for each other.


And now highlights from the boys:

I loved everything about this camp. My favorite parts though were playing
with my friends, swimming, free time, and seeing wildlife. –TrevorMcLaughlin

I love camp because we can have fun. My favorite part in camp is the
slides and seeing wildlife. -Ulysses Paredes

I liked naming the wildlife. That is my favorite thing. -Cody Sawyer

I love swimming with my friends and spending time with my friends. For
swimming, I love the slide! -William Fowler

My favorite thing here to do is Circle Time and free time. -Timothy Kutz

Quiet time is my favorite time at camp. -Marco Campos

My favorite part about MainKids Camp Out is hanging out with my church
friends. I love playing tag, swim, and do a bunch of other stuff. -Lee


Holy Week 2014 – Devotion 4 – Annas

April 15, 2014


Jesus answered Annas, “Why do you ask me these questions?  Ask those witnesses who actually heard what I said to them.  They know what I said.” – John 18:21

In the early 1870s, Lawrence Murphy was the “boss” of Lincoln County, New Mexico.  Murphy owned the only bank and general store in the area.  Local residents despised Murphy, who charged excessive prices.  An enterprising English businessman, John Tunstall, opened a rival store in 1876.  Murphy, however, moved quickly to eliminate Tunstall as a threat to Murphy’s monopoly. On February 18, 1878, Tunstall was shot and killed.  The assassins were Murphy employees.  Tunstall’s death ignited the Lincoln County War, a series of bloody battles between Murphy’s gunmen and the Regulators, a group of former Tunstall employees that included William Bonney — “Billy the Kid.”

Annas was the Lawrence Murphy of his day.  He had formerly been the Jewish high priest, but the Romans had deposed him for carrying out illegal capital sentences.  Even so, the job remained in Annas’s family:  the new high priest was Annas’s son-in-law, Caiaphas.  And while Annas himself was no longer the high priest, he remained the “boss” of the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem, largely because he controlled the Temple markets.  When Jesus booted the moneychangers out of the Temple, Jesus’s actions hit Annas squarely in the pocketbook.  So, after Annas learned of Jesus’s arrest, Annas told the authorities, “Bring him to me.”

In the United States, a criminal defendant may invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to answer questions that might incriminate him.  Jewish law is a little different.  Under Jewish law, a prosecutor may not even ask a question that could incriminate a criminal defendant.  Annas, as the former high priest, was certainly aware of the requirements of Jewish law.  Yet, he did exactly what Jewish law forbids:  he asked Jesus to incriminate himself and his disciples.  Jesus reminded Annas of the requirements of Jewish law, effectively telling Annas:  “If you really want to know the truth, then go find witnesses.  You are not entitled to cross-examine me.”

We all must choose where we will store our treasures.  Annas and Lawrence Murphy chose to build for themselves empires on earth, seeking to terrorize or eliminate anyone who might dare to oppose them.  Less than a year after Murphy ordered Tunstall’s death, Murphy himself died of cancer.  Murphy’s empire on earth was useless to him after his death.  So too was Annas’s empire.  Jesus was not a rich man, he was not an influential politician, and he was not a “boss.”  He died as a common criminal.  But he is, and always has been, the King of Kings.  Our treasure is in him.  God’s empire is eternal.

Our Father in heaven, holy is your name!  May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.  And may we always know that our treasure is in you, not in the things of this world.  Amen.

All Church Mission Trip Day 1

March 18, 2010

By Dolores Rader, Minister to Children

I woke up this morning bubbly with anticipation (honestly, I was groggy from lack of sleep too).  The All Church Mission Trip began today, and I was eager to return to Eagle Pass, spend time with my family serving as Christ’s hands, and spend time with my church family deepening relationships with those I already knew well and building relationships with those whom I might only know by name or face.

Back to this morning…Google Maps says it takes five hours and 20 minutes to get to Eagle Pass from Houston, but caravanning with three vans and three cars filled with forty-three people stretches the trip into a seven hour and 37 minute adventure, but it is SO worth it!  After checking-in, stretching, and enjoying pizza, all fifty-six South Mainers ranging in age from five to something slightly more than five gathered together in worship.  As we heard God’s Word and sang joyful hymns of praise, the feeling of love was palpable.  Specific memories from last June came rushing back as I looked around the room:

Our youth are simply amazing and serve as ideal role models for the children this week.  Rebecca Moore pulls Macy Smith, our youngest missionary, onto her lap effortlessly and envelops her in a literal hug of love throughout the service.  They all sit together and sing together with smiles and joy that you know comes from experiencing the love of our Lord and Savior….Read more here.

“My Mama always said Share Everything ‘Cept your Toothbrush”

March 17, 2010

By Kevin Sinclair, Minister to Youth

Since coming to South Main in the Summer of 2008, I think I may have heard the word “share” more than I had in the previous 26 years of my life. As a centralizing image in our Vision of what being a follower of Jesus Christ looks like, we as a church family have adopted the popular and easily noticeable, “Worship, Discover, and Share.” As a word-enthusiast (Yes, I am quite easily entertained), I love the inexhaustible nature of language. Just as Steve discussed the evolution of English words such as artificial and meek on the Third Sunday of Lent, all words possess within them a richness and depth that grows and changes over time. Like children growing into their own skin and becoming teenagers right before our eyes, words wiggle and warp to become more accurate or creative ways to express the ineffable, unfathomable feelings and emotions we experience in our souls. So, for me, summing up or Christian and South Mainer identity with three words is a enticing invitation into reflection, conversation, and action as the family of God in this place.

I have spent Sunday after Sunday being washed in the beauty and grandeur of our sanctuary while worshipping with my church family; I have spent a Friday night and Saturday with some dear, close friends and made some new friends at Discovery Weekend discovering my Spiritual Gifts (a few were a surprise!); I had the joy of participating in Next Wave and sharing together with my church family in the building of not only beautiful, safe space for the youth, but also in the communal conversation about stewardship and fiscal responsibility as Believers. Now, a new task lies ahead of us.

You are about to hear a gaggle of folk talk about sharing, but this time we searching deeper in our souls to uncover that sacred part of each believer: the very faith the stirs our spirits to action, that we cling to in our darkest moments, and bring with us to worship the Living God every Sunday morning as the called and consecrated community of Christ.

You’re never more like Jesus than when you share…so what did Jesus share?

He shared everything! He shared his faith and trust in his Abba Father in Heaven! He shared his compassion and love with outcasts, prostitutes, greedy money-handlers, and oppressive, violent Roman soldiers. Everyone we would WANT Jesus to reject, cast aside, and criticize, he held open arms of love and grace to invite them to participate in God’s redemptive work in our world. But, if we don’t share the good news about what God is doing in our individual lives, in our corporate life as South Main, or throughout the whole of Creation…who will? All of us have received the gift of this church and have been blessed by it because someone else brought us or invited us. Appreciation and gratitude are nothing if they are only words; they must manifest in action and behavior. Sharing together during the Next Wave campaign was exciting and wonderful, but it can’t stop there! Buildings do not a Church make, but only the Holy Spirit binding together broken bits of our fragmented existence into the reconciled and transformed Body of Christ. Our beautiful, inviting physical plant give us space to grow together, work together, and play together as community, but long before there was a church at 4100 Main St., there was a lil’ ol’ Tuam Baptist Church, up the road. And long, long before there was a Tuam Baptist Church, Believers and Followers of the Way gathered in houses and public forums to share together not only the Gospel but life itself. The Church is no more the buildings we inhabit than the Word of God is the leather binding hugging the paper pages of my Bible. There is something deeper and realer than the places we sit and gather…it is the very people whose lives are being transformed, shook apart, mended together, and flipped upside down by the presence, teaching, miracles, death, and resurrection of the homeless, penniless, itinerant preacher from Nazareth. We have come together to build space–and break-taking space it is–but our call to share the good news that Christ has died and resurrected to conquer sin and death thereby declaring “Behold, I am making all things New!” This hope we share with each other is indispensable to our call to follow Christ.

I’m not talking about throwing tracts at people or going door to door like Spiritual Amway Salespeople. I’m talking about letting your conversations go deeper with people, keeping an open ear, eye, and heart to see the loneliness and brokenness of those around you, or inviting someone you know and care about to “Come and See” what God is doing in this place that we call South Main. Ken Chafin once said, “If the Church isn’t for everybody, then it’s for nobody.” Everyone needs a place to call home. Everyone needs to hear some good news. and Everyone needs to know that there is a God who knows their name, sees their face, and seeks joy for their life.

Worship…Discover…and, well, you know what to do…

Grace & Peace,


Unpacking “I See You”

February 16, 2010

At the January 17, 2010 Golden Globe Awards, James Cameron accepted an award for the Best Director of a Motion Picture. In his acceptance speech, he quoted from the movie, “Oel ngati kameie” which in the Avatar movie-speak language of Na’vi means, “I see you.” For Cameron, saying, “I see you,” was a way to express appreciation, honor, and love to those he worked with in making the movie. While I haven’t seen the movie yet, the phrase, “I see you” jumped right out at me–I knew that wasn’t a James Cameron original. I learned about the concept of “I see you” not in the movies but in seminary.

My Duke Divinity professor Dr.Peter Storey, past president of the Methodist Church of South Africa and of the South African Council of Churches, taught us about the concept that is familiar in Africa and frankly, shouldn’t be unfamiliar to those of us who read the Bible. Desmond Mpilo Tutu, in his1999 book No Future without Forgiveness writes this of the African concept of ubuntu, “Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. It speaks of the very essence of being human. It is to say, ‘my humanity is caught up, inextricably bound up, in yours.’ We belong in a bundle of life…it is not, ‘I think therefore I am.’ It says rather: “I am human because I belong. I participate. I share.’ Dr. Storey translated ubuntu as “I see you.”

While in Africa, ubuntu may be characterized as a philosophy of life, for Christians in all the world, seeing, appreciating, and cultivating the humanity and God-created good in others around us should be a way of life. For Christians, “I see you” should mean “I love you” in the fullest capacity. Jesus prays in John 17:23, “I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” 1 John 4 writes of seeing the other in this way, “We love because he first loved us. Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”

A recent Avatar blog asks, “What does ‘I see you’ or Oel ngati kameie mean to you in Avatar?” I might ask, what does ‘I see you’ mean to you as a Christian who learns from Jesus that to see is to love and to love is to see?  How can you learn to see and love others around you? Not just your spouse or family or best friend…what about the person you’ve never met who is single and lives alone? What about the widow who has lost her spouse? What about the person who is homeless standing on the corner? What about the friend who is having a hard time?  Daily, may we have the courage to see others as God sees us and calls us his own beloved children.

God is good

February 5, 2010

By Kevin Sinclair, Minister to Youth

The Psalmist in 34:8 implores us to “taste and see that God is good,” but how could this be possible? How are we to taste God? How are we even to see the Divine? We are taught from a young age that God is invisible, you cannot see the Divine, and we become more aware as we grow that God is ineffable, nor can you speak of the Divine, for our words will always fall short of the majesty, the beauty, the grace, and the power of the Numious, as Otto and Jung call it. We as Christians have a wholly different confession about our capacity to witness this mysterious deity, for we know and follow, “the image of the invisible God,” who is Christ Jesus, our Lord and Friend. But, this brings me back to the original question: how are we, in our limited humanity, to taste and see God?

Perhaps our ability to savor such a text discovers a grand impediment due to our Western obession with cognitive knowledge and rational proof. Do not get me wrong, there is a “thought-ful-ness” to faith. The Psalmist shares with us his love for meditating day and night of the laws and precepts of God, so that he might keep his ways pure. These ethical reflections are not merely on behavior and duty, freedom and responsibility, no…they are reflections on the very character and nature of God and the God-imaged-ness out of which we are all created–God commands us to be loving, because God is loving…God commands us to be holy because God is holy.

Nonetheless, our minds becomes polluted with the obsession and hubris to “figure out” or to “dissect” as if my ability to slice open a human cadavor and observe the complex systems of organs could in anyway explain to me how a human can show courage in the face of tragedy, or love in the face of hate. Anatomical understanding of a human does not exhaust the vastness that is the human. Why? Because we have to experience an-other to know an-other! We could spend the entirety of our lives with one other person and never know all there is to know about that person. There will always been experiences, memories, and stories that we have never heard, and there will always be experiences, memories, and stories to create with that other person. We must taste life with them to know them…we must witness and experience their goodness. Such is our life with God.

God invites us into relationship, not out of obligation, but out of devotion and compassion. God invites us to taste and see because life is more than rational proofs and cognitive propositions (How dreadfully boring God must think our droning of hymns sounds when we merely assent with the mind and tongue, but allow nothing to sink into our hearts and actions). Taste…and see…that God…is good. Remember the most delicious dish you have ever eaten? Remember how the flavors layered upon each other giving rise to new sensations of the palate? Remember the sense of satisfaction after the meal was finished, but how quickly our hunger builds again later in the day? God desires for us to desire God in such a way. God desire us to live life in this way…abundantly.

Jesus came so that we might have life, and have it abundantly. So let us all together share in that life by tasting…AND seeing, that God is good.

God’s Hand Revealed – By Jim H. Barkley

October 17, 2009

helping handI see God’s hand revealed in many ways. I sometimes sense it in a string of events that seem too coordinated to be purely coincidental. I have seen God’s handiwork laid bare in sunsets so stunningly beautiful they would make Monet feel like an amateur, paint-by-number artist.

Most often, however, when I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am witnessing God’s hand revealed, that hand is firmly attached to a human arm. A hand on my shoulder in a hospital waiting room brings God’s comfort. A hand that holds mine in a moment of prayer brings confidence that God is present and listening. Hands that provide food offer not only physical sustenance, but also fellowship that reminds me I am part of God’s family. Hands that tie together and box up thousands of pairs of shoes assure me of God’s love for and ability to help the poor. In years past, a hand firmly applied to my backside reminded me that God is just and demands my obedience.

Our faith is unique in its promise of a personal relationship with our God. I believe that God uses each of us to fulfill that promise to each other. “Whenever you did it for the least of these, you did it for me.” When we feed others, we feed Christ. When we visit others, we visit Christ. Jesus made this point clear. I believe, however, that he meant even more. I am convinced that when I am fed and visited by others, I am also being fed and visited by Christ. As I have often heard others express it, God holds us in the arms of others. Through our relationships with each other, we experience in a real and powerful way our relationship with God.

And here’s the great part. When we learn to recognize God’s hand revealed in the helping hand of a friend or neighbor, we’re more likely to recognize God’s face in the face of that friend or neighbor. And once we have recognized God in the faces of others, it becomes much easier to treat them as God has called us to and much harder to devalue or ignore them.

Judas Iscariot

September 7, 2009
By Steve Wells, Pastor

By Steve Wells, Pastor

We have been learning about the original twelve disciples in our Wednesday study this summer. Last week we learned from Judas Iscariot. Perhaps few characters are remembered more for their failure than is Judas Iscariot. And he is a Biblical character, which I take to mean that he has something to teach us.

Judas means “praise to God.” Because of that grand meaning, it was a very popular name, prior to the way Iscariot marred it. Judas betrayed Jesus. Two thousand years later, his betrayal still defines the name; even people who know little of the Gospel know that to be a “Judas” is to be a betrayer. Whatever good he did or might have done has been eclipsed by his last days. Matthew 10: 4 calls him, pointedly, “Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”

The truth from Judas is, Gene Kranz notwithstanding: Failure is always an option. We have it within us to live with great faith or, as my friend Joseph Kelsay said it, we have it within us “to quit before the miracle.” Judas quit before the miracle. Greatest sadness about his life is not what Judas did, but what he did not do. There was a moment during that terrible passion week in which both Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot were betrayers. Simon Peter three times denied he ever knew Jesus. Judas Iscariot sold his friend and Lord out to the Temple authorities. The difference between the two of them is that Simon Peter waited for Jesus to come to him, to forgive him,to call him back to ministry. Because Simon Peter received the grace to begin again, he preached the sermon that founded church and is remembered as a pillar of our faith. I believe that if Judas had waited, Jesus would have done the same thing for him that he did for Simon Peter. Again, the greatest tragedy in Judas’ life is not what he did, but what he did not do: he did not allow grace to work it’s way into him.

That lesson is a critical for us to learn, for, as John Claypool wrote, it is too late for innocence. If the truth were known, we have all failed. Each of us has skeletons in our closets. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And yet, the great glad good news of the Gospel is nothing less than this: God’s grace is greater than our sin. No matter how much mess we have made of our lives, it is not too much for God to forgive and redeem. God is more interested in our future than our past. God is more interested in what we can be than what we have been.

Judas never let God redeem his past, but Peter did. Judas never asked God for a better future, but Peter did. Judas never took God’s offer for a second chance; and his stubborn refusal consumed his life. Peter, on the other hand, found life, grace, peace, purpose and joy on the backside of failure and betrayal.

What do you need to ask God to forgive? to redeem? to repair? to rebuild? Have you asked God for a second chance? Are you willing to wait on Jesus, or will you quit before the miracle?

The Most Important Hour of Your Child’s Week?

September 2, 2009

Sunday sBy Dolores Rader, Minister to Children

Studies show that adults who regularly attended church as children are much more likely to be churchgoers than their counterparts who weren’t regular attendees as children.

That seems like a “duh”, but upon a minute of reflection it caused me to pause and think. It is SO easy to get caught up in the here and now urgency of raising children that sometimes as parents we lose sight of the big picture – what kind of adults are we raising our children to be? I am not sure why, but it really struck me when I realized that my children will receive over 2000 hours of math instruction by the time they are eighteen years old, and if I am not really serious about it, they will receive only 300 hours of Sunday School learning in the same timeframe. Wow.

Now, no one loves good math instruction more than I do, but when the girls are grown and on their own, will I be convicted in knowing I was as intentional in cultivating in my children a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, a solid understanding of the bible, and a deep and unwavering knowledge that church is family and loves them like family, as I was in making sure they went to great schools, weren’t tardy, and did their homework on time?

Simon the Zealot

July 10, 2009
We have been learning about the twelve Apostles this summer in Wednesday night Bible study. There is plenty of material about some of the disciples (Peter, Matthew, John, Judas) and then there is “Simon the Zealot.” He appears in the text of Scripture only three times (Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15, Acts 1:13). In each case, his name is listed among a group of disciples, “Simon the zealot.” But he is a real puzzle to me: what is a zealot doing among the Apostles of Jesus? 
The zealots were as much a political party as a religious group (then, as now, there are sometimes unfortunately little difference between the two). The zealots trace their history back to a terrible persecution of Jews under Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the second century BC. Antiochus Epiphanes placed an altar to Zeus in the Temple, sacrificed a pig on the altar, made it a death penalty offense to observe the sabbath or to refuse to worship an idol. As you might expect, that kind of brutality evoked a brutality in kind. One the the priests from the Temple in Jerusalem, Mattathias ben Yochanan, and his 5 sons (better known as the Maccabees) put together a guerilla army to fight for God and His people. They won, then ruled Jerusalem from 135-37 BC. As Mattathias died, he said to sons, “be zealous with the law and do not hesitate to give your life for the holy cause” thus giving birth the the “zealot” movement. Later, when the Romans took control of Palestine in 63 BC, the zealots were their nemesis as well. By then, they were known as the “assassins.” They carried knives under cloaks and took great pleasure in plunging them into backs of Roman soldiers. Their hatred grew to include anyone who showed slightest accommodation to Rome. 
So what is a “zealot” doing following the “prince of peace”? And how did Simon the Zealot get along with Matthew the tax collector? The short answer is, “I don’t know.” But somewhere along the way, Simon stopped being conformed to the pattern of this world and was transformed by the renewing of his mind (Romans 12: 1-2). I can’t prove this is true, but you can’t prove it is not. I think Simon went to listen to Jesus teach one day, after all someone (with knife under cloak) had to test young rabbi’s words to make sure he wasn’t a Roman lover. I think Simon heard a hope for the future and found a home in the heart of God in the message of Jesus he never knew while holding a knife in his hand. I think Simon found a joy in Jesus he thought was impossible in this world and for rest of his life he was “zealous for Jesus.” That is, he had a zeal to give and share life, not to take it. I think he kept the name “Zealot” as a reminder that people really can change all the way to the heart.
Do you know that your life can be joy-filled? I find it incredibly sad that a number of people hardly believe anymore in the possibility of a joy-filled life. I know people who have more or less accepted life as a prison and are grateful for any occasion that facilitates the illusion of the opposite: a vacation, a new romance, a drink. None of these things bad in and of themselves, but, when sought as an opiate for life, we become conformed by this world and not transformed by the next. But we can have joy that does not leave us in sickness, poverty, even death. We can have joy that moves us from the house of fear to the house of love. We can celebrate because Christ is sharing his own joy with us. We can have zeal, not to shed life but to share it. We can be transformed by the mercies of God. Simon was. How about you?
–Steve Wells, Pastor
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