In the Tuesday morning session of the Texas Baptists Annual Meeting, Steve Vernon, associate executive director for Texas Baptists, introduced the winners of Texas Baptists' first sermon and essay scholarship contests.
Baylor University senior Nate Hilgenkamp was the winner of the sermon contest, and was provided the opportunity to share his sermon over Luke 1.
Hilgenkamp began by telling the audience about his apartment at Baylor, which he shares with seven of his friends. He mentioned that six of the eight roommates share one bedroom, by choice, in which Hilgenkamp's own mattress was on the floor of the closet. He explained that this was the "epitome of college life," and he often received the question, "How do you live like that?"
Hilgenkamp went on to say he took this question almost as a compliment, because the question of "how?" pointed to the fact that they were doing something others did not think to be possible. He went on to explain this question of "how?" in the context of the stories in Luke 1.
Hilgenkamp also explained the situations surrounding both Zechariah and Mary. Zechariah, being an old man, had most likely given up on his dream of having children, and Mary as an unwed virgin had no intentions of having a child at this point, much less becoming the earthly mother of the Messiah.
Hilgenkamp pointed out that these stories are encouraging because they show us God uses "whoever he wants, whenever he wants, to do whatever he wants." Both Zechariah and Mary answered with the question "how?" and explained that when God is calling us out of our comfort zone, we often respond with the same question.
"Our own lives are filled with reachable goals," expressed Hilgenkamp, "but God wants more."
Asking the "how" question in our prayer lives, he explained, means we are asking God for things we cannot do on our own, and provides opportunities for God to display His strength and provision. Hilgenkamp went on to quote author Steven Furtick in saying, "if the size of your vision for your life isn't intimidating to you, there's a chance it's insulting to God."
Hilgenkamp referenced Exodus 3:11-14 to make his final point. He told the story of Moses and the burning bush, capitalizing on the "I Am" statement from God, and the fact that Moses entered into the conversation with his own list of "how" questions, expressed through excuses. In the Lord's saying "I Am", He is answering the "how" question. "Allow God to fill your limitations. How? Because 'I Am'! Our job is simply to be use, not to finish the plan, so dare to ask more 'how's', because 'I Am.'"
The two winners of the essay scholarship contest also had an opportunity to read their essays. Ryan Higgs, first place essay winner and Henderson High School senior, wrote on "What Makes a Baptist a Baptist," touching on many of the distinctives unique to the Baptist faith. He summed up the distinctives into two different categories: beliefs and behavior, which marked by a tenacious spirit of perseverance. Higgs plans to attend East Texas Baptist University next fall to study religion.
Brent Rhodes, second place essay winner from Corsicana, wrote specifically over the believer's baptism, noting the full immersion baptism is a public profession of faith following the example of Jesus. Brent plans to attend Texas A&M University next fall to study mechanical engineering.
All three winners expressed their gratitude towards Texas Baptists and their representatives for this scholarship opportunity to begin, or continue their higher education experience.
Courtney Hackett served as a guest writer during Texas Baptists' Annual Meeting, and is a junior at Dallas Baptist University.