Bro. Bill's Devotional

June 28, 2017

I don't know if you've noticed, but Satan seems to be riding a pretty good hot streak these days. A political figure resigns in disgrace, Satan wins. A church fires a pastor for because of a disagreement in leadership style, Satan wins. A couple files for divorce because they just can't get along, Satan wins. A teenage rebels against his parents, Satan wins. A young man struggles with addiction and finally gives into temptation, Satan wins. An individual gives way to despair and takes their own life, Satan wins. Racism rears its ugly head, and Satan wins. God's principles and commands are completely ignored by a nation, Satan rejoices at yet another victory. We need to realize that the evil one is alive and well these days and he's victorious in a lot of situations because he is a liar, deceiver, and a manipulator. His main job is to steal, kill, and destroy anything that is good and pure. He will use any and every means to convince you that life is meaningless and hopeless. But don't buy into his lies nor his temptations. True, he's had his way in many battles, but rest assured, his day of reckoning is coming. The race is sometimes is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but rather to the faithful. Keep your eyes on Christ and rest assured, the war will be won by him. In the midst of chaos and confusion, don't lose hope. Wait on the Lord and I can assure you, victory will be inevitable and complete.  Now go out today and kick the evil one's tail. After all, he better get use to losing, because it's already been decided and he knows it. Godspeed.

 

June 27, 2017

Have there been moments in your life when you feel prayed out?  No matter how hard you try, the words feel frozen on your lips.  Sadder still, we reach a point where we don't know how to pray or what to say. In our mind's eyes we think: "What's the matter with me? It's never been this hard in the past!!" Well, take comfort and remember, when you can't pray nor know what to pray, the Holy Spirit comes and prays for you in words and phrases so powerful, our simple minds can't comprehend them. As a matter of fact, right at this moment, Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father making intercession for you. Imagine that! The King of Kings and Lord of Lords is praying over you right now. The greatest prayer warrior to ever walk the face of the earth is aware of what you are feeling and experiencing at this very moment. When others don't understand, he does. When others question your mind set, he doesn't. When others tell you they know how you feel, but really don't, He does. As you walk through the darkness and uncertainty of life, remember, you're not alone. Don't fall off the cliff of life, but fall into His arms and feel His strength. Believe me, He'll never leave you, nor forsake you. That's a fact, Jack. You're not alone in your small frail vessel. Turn the boat oars over to Him and He will steer you out of the fog and place your feet on solid ground. Of that, you can be sure. Godspeed my friends.

 

June 26, 2017

There are things which happen to us here on earth that we will never understand. It's hard to rationalize the irrational or to comprehend the incomprehensible. As a pastor, people look towards me for answers to questions which have none. I've learned over the years that sometimes I simply have to say:  "I don't know."  However, I do know that God wants what's best for our lives, but he doesn't automatically swoop in and make everything better when we mess things up. He's never promised us a life free from heartache and pain, but he has promised us that nothing will separate us from his love. Remember, God answers every prayer, but he doesn't give us an explanation to every situation. Sometimes we have to live with the unknown and walk by faith and not by sight. That's exactly where I've been over the last five days. In my anger and confusion, I will still choose to walk with my God. I hope to see you in that line, come hold my hand if you want.  Godspeed. Let it be.

 

June 25, 2017

I've been in the ministry for over 30 years and never experienced anything like last night's funeral visitation for Charles Weems. It would be hard to estimate how many people came through that line, but I do know a lot of folks waited two and three hours to get a chance to speak to this family. A visitation which was supposed to last two hours went almost four. Why was that?  Because my man Charles was a good man.  That's why this situation is so hard for all of us to handle. I could type for a solid day just on his generosity alone and that still wouldn't touch the surface. In my opinion, he could almost be generous to a fault. Last night friends and family gathered to love, nurture, and support one another, but there were others present. As I stood by Judy, Charles' wife, even she didn't know some of the people who visited. There was the waitress from Penn's Fish House, who had waited on him for 14 years. There was the lady who worked in the meat market from Piggly Wiggly who came to pay her respects. Charles had served as a city alderman for 36 years and everyone knew and loved him. He's been my friend for 30 years and to my knowledge we've never had a cross word nor been mad at each other. But I find myself angry at him today. I don't know if I've ever seen a family, a family I love, so devastated and lost. It simply didn't have to turn out this way!  But here we are, and now I'm charged with the duty of preaching his memorial service. To say the least, I'm a little overwhelmed and my heart is broken. However I do know where my strength comes from and I know He's got this. Pray for my friends, Judy, Marsha, Leigh, and Anna. They need it now more than ever. Godspeed.

 

June 24, 2017

As Christians, a lot of us have been misinformed on how to handle depression. Many of you have been told all you have to do is pray and have enough faith and you can overcome your problems. However, we need to understand there are holes too deep in our lives to just be prayed out.  There are nights so dark that we need help beyond our prayer life and faith. I'm not minimizing the power of prayer nor the importance of faith, but we need to understand the seriousness of this disease called depression. And folks, that's what it is, a disease.  You see, there's a difference in being depressed over a situation and suffering from depression. Everyone of us gets down in the dumps in life, however, not all of us have suffered from depression. And what's so sad today, we as Christians have almost labeled it a sin of shame. Well let me ask you this: Did you realize many individuals in Bible suffered depression?  Take a small stroll through the book of Psalms. Many of the writers were downcast and searching for God. Elijah suffered from depression. After Queen Jezebel put a bounty on his head, we see him fleeing for his life and wanting to die. Others include: Jeremiah, Job, Saul, and more the likely John the Baptist towards the end of his life. So what do we do when our souls are downcast and the darkness is consuming us?  The same as if we had lung disease or cancer, we get help. There is no embarrassment in having a disease. The tragedy is when we wait too long. It's time we Christians step up to the plate and get a little understanding on this subject. I'm afraid if we don't, many of us will have it tough our lives in destructive ways. Godspeed.

 

June 23, 2017

Pastors cry and bleed when they hurt just like everyone else. Sometimes that gets lost in the shuffle. It's certainly true in my life and the events which have taken place over the last 24 hours. Yesterday started like most of the other days of our vacation at the beach. That was until I received a call telling me my good friend Charles Weems has suddenly lost his life. Charles has been more than a friend to me. He has been my accountant for nearly 30 years. He was one of my deacons at FBC Canton and I would say he was my best friend while serving in Canton. I've played more rounds of golf with him than anyone I know. Charles and I took our children trick or treating every Halloween and every fall we took them to the State Fair. His children were like mine and mine were like his. I preached both of his in-law's funerals and performed the marriages of two of his children. We spent every Christmas Eve together in some shape or form during our 10 years in Canton. We've laughed and cried, said hello and goodbye countless times, but I never expected to receive this news yesterday. How he passed away is not the issue, but the fact that he's gone breaks my heart. Tommi Jo and I left Orange Beach yesterday to be with a family in confusion and brokenness. I still can't wrap my brain around this at this moment and must admit, I feel inadequate and broken myself. I don't want pity nor much of anything. But realize this, your pastor is human and I can assure you, he hurts just like you. We aren't superheroes who are emotionless and uncaring. To the contrary, we are ordinary and often we care too much p, if that's possible. Pray for my friends, Judy, Marsha, Leigh, and Anna.  This is as bad as bad can be. Godspeed.

 

June 22, 2017

While in Orange Beach for our summer vacation, we've had the opportunity to experience our first tropical storm. Yes, Cindy has been interesting to watch as she sends her pelting rain, tornadoes, high winds, and huge waves. The power and the size of the waves have been fascinating to watch from the balcony of our condo each day. As you watch the waves roll in, all you can think is: "Man, I'm glad I'm not being hit by that about now!"  When things calm down for a minute, you'll see a few people brave the elements. But the minute the winds pick up and the waves grow higher, they run for shelter. You can't help but think of the power and authority of God. Several times in the Bible, God controls the surging of the sea. As a matter of fact, Jesus spoke and calmed the waters for his frightened disciples. Today you might find yourself in the midst of a physical, spiritual, or emotional storm. Right at this moment the waves of life are sweeping your vessel up and down. There are moments when you think all is lost and there's no way to survive. He speaks: "Peace be still!" and the waves die down. Oh you might feel the wind and rain, but there's something different. Someone else is in the boat with you. Why not let Him take the helm and steer you out of the storm?  Godspeed my friends.


June 21, 2017

What happened to Tim Tebow this past weekend in Charleston, South Carolina made a few headlines, but not many. Some of you may know that Tebow is trying to make it in professional baseball and was signed by the New York Mets and he's playing for their minor league team the Columbia Fireflies in the Class A league. I think most people have an opinion on Tebow. I personally think he's a great guy, a wonderful role model, great college football player, below average NFL quarterback, and a great analyst on the SEC Network. I'm not sure what to think about his baseball career, but if that's what he's about, go for it. I don't think we'll see him in Shea Stadium anytime soon.  This past weekend while play against the Charleston RiverDogs, Tebow was mocked publicly for his Christian faith by the opposing team. Every time he came to the plate they played "The Hallelujah Chorus", the RiverDog mascot wore eye black stickers under his eyes which read John 3:16.  When Tebow would bat, the mascot mocked his touchdown ritual of kneeling and praying. All in all, Tebow took it like a man. But where is the outcry from all who like to protest?  If any community or group with any initials standing for their name thought one of their peeps was being harassed or ridiculed, it would have been big news on every major network. Tebow's crime? He's a Christian and today, that in itself is offensive to many. Thanks Tim, for always handling yourself with class even among the classless!  Godspeed."


June 20, 2017

Have you ever found it difficult to pray?  Somehow the words seem frozen on our lips.  Other times our prayers don't apparently even make it past the ceiling.  In our moments of darkness, grief, sorrow, and pain, many of us question if God is present and if He cares about our situation. As we deal with these emotions, a thought runs through our minds: "What's wrong with me? I shouldn't have this doubt and feel an absence of a presence."  Well, hold on just a minute, you might be more normal than you think. Everyone at one time or another has had their moments of silence and doubts. The Bible is full of individual who struggled to find God and His presence. Heroes such as Elijah, Jeremiah, many of the writers of the Psalms, and John the Baptist. Even our Lord Jesus struggled with the weight of the cross before him as he prayed: "Father let this cup pass from me." Later on the cross he would cry out:  "My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?" Now if that's Jesus, what does that say about us?  When you find it hard to pray try two things. First, just pray: "Lord help me, I need you!" Second, read the 23rd Psalm! Finally, remember when you can't pray, the Holy Spirit prays for you!  In other words, you have the ultimate prayer partner. Just hang in there, God's always present even when He seems silent. Godspeed.


June 19, 2017

I'm an "over-packer".  Okay, I admitted it and they say the first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem.  When I'm going to be out of town for a day or so, no less than three shirts, three pants, several pair of shoes and of course caps. We don't even want to get into how many caps accompany me on my excursions. (You would think I have three heads with the number of caps I have. The problem is, I see more in my future.)  A week's vacation is usually a two day packing process. Why and how have we gotten to this place in my life. Well, first and foremost, there's nothing normal about me and we rarely collide in a single sentence. Second, I like having my stuff with me. Third, I like options when I'm away from home. Fourth, you always want to have clean underwear! Are you an over-packer?  I'm not talking about luggage at this point, I'm talking about life. Have you overloaded your life and your schedule so much that you have little room for Christ?  Oh, it doesn't happen overnight, it happens gradually, over a period of time. The problem is, when a crisis hits our lives, we can't remember where we left our God. How sad to have a life full of things of this world and forget to include the most important thing. Don't worry about much, but pursue that which is important. Godspeed my friends.


June 18, 2017

He was a unique man with an unusual way of expressing himself. If he was assuring you that his word was his bond, he would say: "If I tell you a hen dips snuff, look under her wing for the can!" If you were in the car with him and you passed a group of teenagers hanging out in a parking lot, he would say: "That's trouble waiting to happen."  When watching a football game, if the punter shanked a kick, these words would come out of his mouth: "I could have kicked it further than that backwards." And when you tried to justify your bad decisions he would reply: "You can justify yourself straight to Hell!" He had zero tolerance for a hitter taking a called third strike, a receiver dropping a pass, and a parent dropping their child off at church on Sunday and then heading for the golf course. He was hard, unwavering, passionate, and most definitely a trend setter. He wore a coat and tie to work almost every day and never owned a pair of blue jeans. His casual dress was a blue or yellow jumpsuit.  When I was called into the ministry he said: "If you can be happy doing anything else, do it. However if God has truly called you, you'll never be happy doing another job."  As far as preaching, he reminded me: "Sunday comes around every week, you better be prepared."  And when he heard me preach the gospel, he wept tears of joy. He was the best man I ever knew and I miss him every day. When he died I lost my pastor, my mentor, my best friend, and my Dad.  Pops, I remember everything you taught me, and I'm trying. Happy Father's Day!!!! You gave me a gift I can never repay.  Godspeed.


June 17, 2017

This morning as I was brewing my first cup of coffee from my Keurig, I realized I forgot to put my mug in place. (Sad but true, this wasn't the first time I had done so.)  Realizing my mistake, I quickly grabbed the mug I had used yesterday. No big deal, it was clean enough. When I got ready for my first sip, there were two plastic wrappers from the peppermints I had enjoyed from the day before. Nothing harmful or grotesque, but they needed just floating around in my mug! Of course they needed to be removed before consumption. The same can be true in our lives. Before God can bless us and fill our cups with his grace, mercy, and forgiveness, there are certain things, trash if you will, which need to be removed from our lives. The only thing which stops us is, well, us. We have to not only receive his gifts, but we are required to repent of our sins and turn towards Him. Far too many of us are trying to drink from his cup, but there are too many  things floating around in it. Things from our past such as guilt, anger, regret, lust, failure, and doubt. The good news is, if we will allow Him, he'll help us rid ourselves of the unnecessary trash. All you have to do is put forth the effort. His drink is always more enjoyable without the trash. Trust me, peppermint coffee ☕️ isn't what one desires the first thing in the morning. Godspeed.


June 16, 2017

A sad but simple truth today is that church is no longer a priority in today's society. Ron Mumbower shared with me this past week that about 80% of evangelicals of The Greatest Generation professed Faith in Christ. Today, only 4% of the children of evangelicals of our current generation are professing Christ. In other words, we aren't even reaching our own children today! Now why is that? Well, it's pretty simple. In today's mind set, a regular church attender is one who shows up at once a month for about an hour and a half or two hours. So take a minute and let that sink in your mind. The rest of the time we are filling our children's mind and time with things of this world. When a child becomes a teenager and has no interest in church, why are we so surprised? And sadder still, a lot of churches have totally disbanded Sunday night church. So now, even the religious folks are saying it's not important. I know what a lot of preachers will say. "It's hard preparing two messages a week and make them interesting. Well sure it's hard. But it's still important if this is all the Bible study so many people are getting in their lives. We're blessed at our church, not that it's perfect by any means, but we have about 75% on Sunday night compared to what we have on Sunday morning. Why? We place a value on that time of worship. What's interesting is, we have a lot of people from other churches worship with us at night because their church offers nothing. Somehow the trend has to shift if we're going to even win our own children, much less the world. The only hope for change in our world is changed people. The change boils down to priorities. Godspeed my friends.


June 15, 2017

You might remember the line from the movie, "Cool hand Luke" starring Paul Newman: "What we have here is the failure to communicate!" And that is precisely our problem today. No where in scripture does it say: "If you have a problem with your brother or sister, send them a text explaining your position."  But that is exactly what we do in today's society. Instead of talking to our families, friends, co-workers, and neighbors, we send them a text and before we realize it, a simple problem or situation becomes a personal tornado which rips and destroys relationships for no good reason. Why?  Because a text is a gutless way of saying something to someone that we would never say to their face. When you read a text, you don't see facial expressions nor do you hear voice inflections. Whatever happened to sitting down with someone and just talking through a problem until it's resolved?  Texting is a wonderful tool when used correctly, but it's destructive when used incorrectly. Sad but true, The evil one uses this technology to create stress, confusion, and destruction in our lives and society. If you have a problem with someone, put down the phone and have a verbal conversation. Oh, it might help to actually pray with the person as well. That would be a novel approach. The last time I checked, God speaks to His people rather than text them. When He sends me a text, I'll change my position on the subject. Talk, people, just talk it out. Godspeed.


June 14,  2017

The last five years have been quite the journey for me and the good people at PHBC. If you would have told us a few years ago that our church would be the center for Christian counseling, not a one of us would have believed it. However, that's exactly what has taken place through the ministry of Ron Mumbower. It's been such a blessing to see lives and families restored under Godly counseling. We are blessed to have individuals and couples travel from Starkville, West Point, Tuscaloosa, Vernon, and Sturgis. The testimonies which have been shared as to how this ministry has changed lives is overwhelming. When I have the opportunity to talk to someone who is struggling in life with depression, anxiety, or some other mental issue, immediately the question of cost for our services comes to the for front. My response is usually the same. I ask the individual: "If you had cancer or heart disease, what would you do?"  Immediately they respond: "Well I get help!"  The same is true with depression.  Too many people live with the guilt and shame that they are struggling with this issue. It's usually not something you can just "get over". Sometimes we all need a little help from someone else. It literally can be the difference in life or death. I'm looking forward to the next five years to see how God shapes and molds our congregation as we follow His leadership. Godspeed my friends.


June 13, 2017

One of the things I love the most about the Bible is, it's a timeless book. Every time I read it, I see the relevance of its message in today's world. One of the central themes which resonates throughout the Word of God is humanity's rebellion against the precepts which God has established. Whenever this happens, there is separation from God and His people. What happens next is the anger and displeasure of God, the judgement of God, then the repentance of his people and the restoration of a covenant relationship. However, before that relationship can be restored, the people must realize the consequences of their actions, repent, and return to holiness. We don't hear much about this in today's society. It's almost as if we think we're advanced and smart enough to do whatever we want, whenever we want. Each person has to decide what's right or wrong in their eyes. As a result, chaos breaks out and a Godless society emerges much to the dismay of lot of believers.  What's even worse is this simple truth: When Christians speak out against the wickedness and spiritual rebellion in the world, we are called intolerant and ignorant. Nobody, I mean nobody wants to hear about "sin" anymore. I heard someone say yesterday on the news: "We need to just love each other." I don't disagree for love can cover a multitude of sin and mistakes. What we need is to humble ourselves and admit we have a problem in our world that only God's love and power can fix. To love each other properly, we must first love God and seek his face. Then and only then can the land be healed. Oh, and by the way, how many times does the Bible have to call something an abomination or wrong for it to be so? Once is good enough for me. Friends, if you don't like the message, you might be part of the problem. That alone is for God to judge. Godspeed and God help us. We need It and we need Him.


June 12, 2017

The other night while attending a reception of a wedding I performed, the band which was playing for the party called all the married couples to the floor for a dance. I watched my youngest daughter and her husband walk hand in hand to the floor and take each other in their arms and begin this slow dance. (For those of us who are Baptist, we call this foot fellowship, rhythmic exercise, or liturgical movement.) As I watched this event from a distance I thought to myself: "This is the way it was meant to be." I guess since their marriage it's been clear that I'm no longer the man in her life, and I'm okay with that. Part of being a parent is letting your children go and be the adult God wants them to be. Unfortunately, in this day and time, a lot of parents haven't learned this lesson very well. One of the greatest conflicts in a marriage is the interference of parents. When your children are grown and have a life of their own, as a parent, it's time to back off and allow them to grow up as adults. Oh, there're going to be times when they still need a little help and wisdom, but wait until it's asked for by them. I'll admit, it's hard watching from the sidelines, but as parents, Tommi Jo Hurt and I have done about all we can do. I'm so proud of the young ladies we've raised over the years. However, it's their time to soar as adults. Maybe, just maybe they'll save one dance for me. Godspeed my friends.


June 11, 2017

Last night I had the honor of performing a wedding for my daughter's college roommate Alison Newman at Fort Morgan, Alabama. She was a beautiful bride and her husband Hunter Gauntlet was a handsome groom. Over the years this young couple has become so special to our family, so it was fun being with them last night at the reception and watching them enjoy their night. After everything was said and done, I came back to my room, suffered a heartbreaking loss to LSU, read my Bible and went to bed. In an hour or so, I'll meet my good friend Jeff Davis and visit with him over brunch and then head home. I'll miss being at church this morning, but the opportunity to be with family and friends this weekend has been priceless. A week from today, my family and I will travel back here to Orange Beach for a much needed week's vacation.
In the past I would have broken my neck to travel back home in order to preach on Sunday. In doing so, I've missed so much fellowship time with people I love. However, God and others have revealed to me that it's okay and even necessary to take time away. Even Jesus would often withdraw from the people and spend time in prayer and rejuvenation because he needed it. The same is true with ministers. I'm just sorry it took me this long to figure this out.
I remember several years ago, while on vacation, my daughter had an emergency appendectomy on a Saturday morning. What did I do? Traveled back to my church and preached the next day. To this day, I regret that decision. Now days my family doesn't get cheated in the area of my time and presence. Don't begrudge your pastor for his time away. In the long run it'll be good for him and the church in keeping that relationship healthy. My church family is in good hands this day with Rickey Blythe at the helms. I'll take my time getting home and enjoy the ride and day. We'll both be better in the long run. Godspeed my friends.



June 10, 2017

In 1966 I was five years old, but to this day I remember the controversy. John Lennon, one of the Beatles, made his famous quote: "The Beatles are more popular than Jesus Christ."  Outrage and anger resonated through much of the country. Many small towns built bond fires for the purpose of burning the records of the Fab Four. Later, Lennon would try to explain his words by offering the point that he wasn't being disrespectful but the Beatles were bigger to the teenagers than religion.  The reality is, he was probably correct. Today, we may not say these words out loud, but we communicate them with our actions. There are many things more important and more popular than Jesus Christ for much of society. Our work may be more important. Our family may be more important. Our money, our passion, our recreation, even our church may be more important than Jesus Christ. Where is the outrage?  Where are the protesters?  Why are our tongues silent and our actions still?  All of us at one time or another have echoed the words of John. We just haven't said it at a press conference, but we prove it with our time and money. Whatever you prize, you will praise. Whatever you praise, you will worship. What's more important than Jesus in your life? I hope and pray nothing. Godspeed.


June 9, 2017

By now you've heard the tragic news about the church bus accident near Atlanta, Ga. yesterday. The group of young people were 11th and 12th graders from the church Mount Zion in Madison, Alabama. Their former pastor, Ron Madison is a dear friend of mine. Without all the answers to how this accident happened, we do know it resulted in the death of a precious young girl. Can you imagine the heart ache and grief that must be going through the hearts of her parents, family, friends, church, and community? There's no way to sort through the why's and how's. We don't understand how or why God could allow such a thing to a group dedicated to do His work. The reality is, there's no rational answer to that question. However, I do know that our God is a loving God who never deliberately sends tragedy into our life. But also remember this, the reality in this life is, bad things happen to good people in this world. This precious young lady will never attend college, get married, have children, nor retire from a career. But she is sharing in the goodness and grace of God at this moment. "To live is Christ, to die is gain!" In other words: "To live is Jesus, to die is more Jesus." She's getting more Jesus today than ever before. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and church. Godspeed my friends.


June 8, 2017

Today is a happy sad day for us at Pleasant Hill Baptist. You see, it's the last day of Vacation Bible School. For our faculty and staff, it's a happy day because in reality, most of our adults are a bit tired after a week of high energy and high activity. This has been one of our most successful VBS efforts in a a long time. It's a sad day because we'll be saying goodbye to a lot of our children who have been with us all week. What really breaks my heart is the apathy with which many adults demonstrate these days towards church. Last night we had "family night" and my heart was so filled excitement as I watched each of our classes perform songs they learned this week about a loving God. However, after our program I had the opportunity to speak one on one with many of the parents. To be honest, they saw this week as a time of free babysitting for them. If only they could see the urgency of striking while the iron is hot. As we look at the world today, it's only getting worse from a spiritual aspect. Our only hope is to educate our children on the hope they have in Christ Jesus. I know many of our adults have very little time or interest in church or organized religion, but it's still the best way to raise a child. How sad it is to make every provision for your child socially, educationally, athletically, and yet forget about their spiritual health. Take your children to church. Now more than ever we need to teach our children to walk in the ways of our God. If not, then we have no hope for the future. That really breaks my heart. Godspeed.


June 7, 2017

One of my former church member, who is in college, has been called as an interim pastor of a small church. To say the least, my heart soared upon hearing this news. There's no doubt God has a special plan for this young man's life. In his first couple of days he's already built a website and a Facebook page for this little church. Last night he asked me for some advice as to what he should do. The following is a small sample of the words he received from me. First, love the people where they are at this moment. Over the years I've learned that love not only covers a multitude of sins, but also bad decisions, mistakes made, and not so great sermons. The congregation wants to know the pastor loves and is investing his time, life and love in them. Second, visit your people and listen to the sacred stories of that church. In order to know where to go, one must know where they've been. Third, don't make a lot of changes in the beginning. Too many pastors want their church to be like all these mega churches in our society. Each church has a certain DNA, and the changes you make should be gradual and slow. It's a marathon not a sprint. Finally, preach the word. In order to preach the word you better read up, pray up, study up, prepare up, and speak up. My young Timothy is going to do a great job because he's been blessed with a multitude of gifts. The greatest is, he's walking with God. Pray for him and the church. Do the same for your pastor and congregation because it is a difficult calling. Godspeed.


June 6. 2017

The other day I was talking to a funeral director about the different sizes of caskets. An unusual conversation to say the least. Hey, don't roll your eyes, just keep on reading. I asked him if ever looked at an individual and sized them up as to what type and dimension casket would be required to bury that person. Very candidly and honestly he said: "Yep, I hate to admit it, but I do it all the time."  Now before you sit there in judgment and disbelief at this man's answer, you better realize we all do the same thing every day. We size people up according to the color of their skin, where they live, what political party they vote, what side of the track they live, where they work, what type of car they drive, what type of clothes they wear, and how much money they have. We tend to put them in a box based on what we see, not what we know. It's called prejudging a person. You see, if we can size up an individual and put them in a box, then we don't have to get to know them. The good news for us is, God doesn't work that way. He looks beyond the outward appearance and judges us based on the heart. Our world would be a lot better off if we just took a little time to get to know our fellow brothers and sisters rather than rendering a judgment without ample information. Imagine a place where people are actually judged based on what's inside. Oh, there is such a place.....it's called Heaven. Hope to see you there one day. Godspeed. By the way, already know what size box I'd require!!!


June 5, 2017

Never say never! He was born and raised in this area but was never involved in church. When we had our open house following the completion of our sanctuary, he came and took a tour. For some reason, at the encouragement of a friend, he made a contribution to our building program. On my first visit in his home he told me that Sunday's were a day he visited the nursing homes, so church attendance was going to be difficult for him. His sister moved close to our facility so he came one Sunday with her. From that time he didn't miss a Sunday morning worship service. He even showed up three days after a heart cauterization. About a month ago, he finally filled out a visitor's card, but held onto it for two weeks. Why?  He had checked the box that said: "I want to know how to become a Christian."  A day later, two of us made another visit to his home and he accepted Christ as his Savior and Lord. Yesterday, two weeks later, he walked the aisle of the church and made his public profession of faith. I watched grown men in our church weep tears of joy at this sight. Why was this so significant? He is 70 years old. For over a year, three of our Sunday School classes had been praying for him. Some thought it would never happen, but never doubt the power of the Holy Spirit. Never say never! Godspeed.


June 4, 2017

Each year about this time we have our Vacation Bible School. Our schedule is a bit different in that we start on Sunday night and then pick up on Monday morning and finish on Thursday morning. As we begin our week of "Galactic Starveyors", what better guest can you bring in other than Jim Odom, former Project Manager for the Hubble Telescope. As our children are busy tonight with their Bible study and other activities, Jim will be speaking to our adults about how God used Hubble to bring several scientists and engineers to faith in Christ Jesus. To say the least, this is going to be an interesting week. I'm always amazed at how talented our people are at PHBC!! With each passing year, I stand amazed at their creativity and passion they have for children.  Most of us have fond memories of our childhood years of VBS. For some, it's when you first realized the power and love of God. I'm fortunate to have two ladies as directors who literally take the ball and run with it during this process and allow me to continue to pastor the church. Let's all pray for the children who will be filling the hallways of our facilities and the adults who will be teaching them. It's my prayer that God will move in a powerful way to bring hundreds of children into faith in Jesus and thus into the Kingdom of God!!! Godspeed my friends.


June 3, 2017

There's nothing that will divide a family faster than earthly possessions. I've seen it happen far too many times. After Mom and Dad pass away, the surviving siblings fuss and fight over what is left in the estate. Far too often these relationships never return to what they once were. When my Dad was about to undergo open heart surgery in his early 80's, the night before his procedure he called all four of his sons to his hospital room for a private meeting between the five of us. If you know my brothers, imagine the four of us crammed on a small couch at Baptist Hospital in Jackson, Ms.  My Dad sat on the edge of his bed and told us about all of his assets including life insurance policies and savings. My oldest brother Al was the executor of Dad and Mom's estate. We were told how things should be divided and how the process should unfold. The last thing he said to us was:  "Don't let anything or any possession tear this family apart."  It wasn't until years later, after both had passed away did we have to divide up all of their property. No one fussed, and no one fought because we did exactly what he told us to do. (Personally, I was afraid if we didn't we'd hear from him.) At the end of the day, family is more important than anything this world has to offer. I've never seen a hearse with a Uhaul trailer behind it. However, I know I'll see my family in heaven and I hope my Dad tells his boys........."Well done!"  Godspeed my friends.

 

June 2, 2017

There are a few things in life I'd like to have the chance to do again.  Some for selfish reasons, others for just the excitement or enjoyment. However, if I could, it would be nice to venture back to my childhood days in Cleveland, Ms. I can vividly remember moments when my parents would be sitting in the den watching a program on TV. (More than likely it was  "The Waltons", or "Little House on the Prairie.) My Dad would be reclined in his green Lazy-Boy and my Mom would be sitting on the end of the couch across the room. Ever so often I'd join them and take my seat next to my Mom. Eventually, my head would find rest in her lap. Before long, the tenderness of her hands would stroke my forehead or she would just run her fingers through my hair. Often she would rub my shoulder as if she was communicating to me: "You're safe and you're loved."  There were times in those formidable years of my childhood and youth that I needed to feel that acceptance and security. Now days as an adult, I often find myself at the crossroads of some situation or burden in life and I think:  "It would be nice to lay my head in her lap just one more time and feel the warmth of her hands and and that unconditional love and acceptance. Then I'm reminded, there is one who bids me come, and abide in Him. He calls me to cast my burdens on Him. He speaks and reminds me I'm not in this boat alone. Although at times the storms rage and the waves are high, he speaks: "Be still and know that I am God."  I lay my head in His lap, and the burdens become lighter and manageable. The good news for you, His lap is big enough for you too. Godspeed.



June 1, 2017

The other day I preached a funeral for a sweet gentleman who had been a member of our church. Just three years earlier, I had officiated his wife's memorial service. He was the father of four adult children. Three were biological children, the fourth he adopted after his second marriage. After the service, the youngest child, the one he adopted later in life came up to me and thanked me for the service and for being so kind to her Dad. You could tell she was feeling a little out of sorts.  I stood up and looked her in the eye and said: "You need to remember he chose you. The other three were given to him, but he chose you."  I went on to remind her that none of us are born into the Kingdom of God, but rather all of us are adopted by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. With a tear streaming down her check, she said: "I needed to hear that today." Maybe you need to hear that as well. God has chosen you. The question is: Will you choose him? Godspeed.



May31, 2017

Growing up in Cleveland, Ms., we spent a lot of time in Memphis. Mainly because that was where our family dentist had his practice. During my junior high and high school years, my Dad and I made that pilgrimage many times as I was forced to wear a retainer to straighten out my teeth. The highlight of that trip was eating at Britlings Cafeteria. Britlings was basically a higher scale Piccadilly for those not familiar with this fine eating establishment. You'd grab a tray and walk down the line and pick out what you wanted. My usual was the carved roast, green beans, fries, and macaroni and cheese. Most of the time I was full by the time I got to the mac and cheese, so it went uneaten. I had to save room for the strawberry shortcake. A little frustrated, because you paid for each item, my Dad asked me: "Why do you get that macaroni and cheese and never eat it."  A reasonable question for the man picking up the tab. My response, which didn't help, was simple:  "I get it as a filler."  If I was still hungry after eating everything else, that was its purpose. Needless to say, mac and cheese from that point on was not on my tray. In a similar fashion, that's what's happened to Christ and His church. They've become a filler in a lot of people's lives. We make room for work, recreation, pleasure and gorge ourselves on these things and leave little room for what's important. We need to fill ourselves on food as Jesus spoke, that doesn't spoil. Stop making Christianity a "filler" and slide it over as a main course. Something miraculous will happen, your soul's appetite will finally be satisfied. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a sudden urge for some macaroni and cheese. Godspeed my friends.



May 30, 2017

The other day while watching the SEC baseball tournament, the announcers were talking about a particular player and his family. "They are all about baseball in that family. From the time the kids were old enough to play travel ball, they have been consumed with the sport. There's no telling how many miles they've traveled on the weekends to make sure their kids had the opportunity to play the sport at an early age."  I'm probably the only one who thought about this in a slightly different light. What I'm about to share is my opinion and you don't have to agree with it. I absolutely positively despise travel ball, especially baseball. The first reason is, I believe it puts too much physical strain on the kids, especially if they are pitchers. Look at how many Tommy John surgeries are being performed on young male athletes these days. It's absolutely astounding. Second, I personally think it's better for a kid to experiment with other sports. In this way, a child won't get burned out a a sport too soon. Third and most important, these travel sports consume an entire weekend. So my question is: "Where does church fit in for these families?"  All you have to do is check the statistics and see how many of these kids actually make it in professional baseball. There's no question that sports and teamwork help children and young people learn valuable life lessons, but what good are these lessons if there's no spiritual foundation? Don't settle for just the good things in life, but seek the better, everlasting things that make life meaningful and eternal. The family that makes Christ the centerpiece of their lives has a much higher chance of success. It all starts in the home with priorities. If God and His church have little importance in your family, don't expect different in your children's lives and families. Godspeed and let the hate mail begin.



May 29, 2017

Over the years I've developed a deep love for the city of Brookhaven, Ms. Some of the finest people I know either live there or are from that beautiful town. Throughout the years I've had the opportunity to drop by and purchase some shoes from either Pat Hennington at Progressive Men's Shop or from Mr. Lofton at Lofton's Department Store. Some of my good friends such Mark Lewis, Mitch and Rhonda Rayborn, Marty Stephens, David Braden,  Ray Montalvo Jr, Dan Wynn and of course Greg Warnock live in that town. The old timers actually call it Brookheaven because they feel as though it's almost the perfect place to live. As you can imagine, my heart was broken at the senseless violence which resulted in the shooting deaths of 8 innocent people this past weekend. Things like this just don't happen in good places like Brookhaven!!! But the reality is, they do.  No town nor community is exempt from the pure evil that exist in our culture today. I'm always amazed at the lack of respect for human life that's demonstrated on a daily basis in our world today. However, this tragedy, as senseless and heinous as it was will not define nor destroy the reputation of this wonderful town. They will rise above it through the love and grace of God. But to the rest of us, this should be a warning that the evil one and his forces are very much at work in our world. But understand this, love ultimately wins. How do I know this? Because it's the very nature of God!  Pray for that city and all of our towns in this great state. Pray for healing and restoration for the people of Brookhaven. Today all us us stand with them. We are Brookhaven Strong!  Godspeed and may God bless and shine his light on that great town.



May 28, 2017

One of the most frustrating aspects of my job is watching people drop out of church because they've gotten their feeling hurt or become mad with someone or a situation. What's interesting is, a lot of these people just quit going to church all together. Which tells me that Christ and His church weren't really weren't important to these folks from the start. Let me be as candid and transparent as a pastor and individual can be at this point. Some of the deepest hurts and pains I've experienced over the years have come at the hands of church folks. I've been lied about, criticized, talked about and drug through the mud by people who claimed to be followers of God. On the other hand, I've never been loved more, accepted, prayed for, and encouraged more than by God's people known as the local church. In other words, there is the opportunity to experience the best and the worst of folks in the church. But for over 30 years, each Sunday I've cleaned myself up and gathered with God's people and ultimately received some type of blessing. The emotional and spiritual scars which have accumulated over the years haven't dampened my faith, but rather made it stronger. The church isn't perfect, but neither are you and it's still the best way to worship and grow in one's faith. Don't you think it's time to lay aside the excuses and gather with God's people?  He's waiting on your arrival. Godspeed.



May 27, 2017

Last night while attending my niece's high school graduation, I watched 307 young people receive their diplomas. As each one walked across that stage, several thoughts ran through my mind. "Does this child feel loved?"  "Does this young person have a sense of value?"  "Does the student have a support group?" You see, there were 12 of us in attendance of that event to show our love and support for "our graduate". However, with 307 participants, you know there was someone in that class that graduated alone, uncelebrated. Sadder still, there are some of them who upon the completion of this milestone in their life, have no hope or future. But this is a truth I know, every one of those kids, whether they are black or white, male or female, rich or poor, there's one who loves and accepts them as they are. As a matter of fact, He loved them so much that he bought them with the price of his own son. It's up to you and me to share that love with them. The hope for them is not found in a textbook or degree, but a person. His name is Jesus. We need to share him with them. Godspeed.



May 26, 2017

We have a not so Miniature Schnauzer named Jeter. Imagine that. Each night while walking him I've noticed something unique about that exercise. As we go about our business, he walks ever so close to my legs. This dog would rival any canine at the Westminster Dog Show with his leach obedience. When I walk, he walks, when I stop, he stops. Never does he lag behind nor run ahead. He always walks by my side in the darkness. Now in the daytime, that's a different story altogether. But there's something about the night that keeps him close to his master. In reality, that's a lot like you and me. The darkness seems to pull us closer to our master, doesn't it? When the storms of life hit and the dark clouds cover our lives we tend to reach for the hand of God. In other words, we tend to walk a little closer to Him. However, a good lesson for us to learn is, we need to walk with Him regardless of the situation. Scripture reminds us that Enoch walked with God and we should do the same. Don't lag behind nor run ahead, just walk with Him. In the daytime and at night. Our God isn't just a god of darkness, although darkness is as light to Him. But He's a comforter and friend in every situation of life. Today, if you find yourself feeling alone, just call on His name. And when you walk, walk with Him. Godspeed.



May 25, 2017

If I were to ask you today: "Are you a Christian?" What would be your response? I can't tell you how many times I've asked that question to various individuals of all ages. The responses I receive vary from person to person. "I think so."  "I hope so." "I think I've been a good enough person."  All of which are the wrong responses to a specific question which demands an absolute answer. I posed this question to a 70 year old man the other night. When he answered in a vague way, we went on further to ask him if he'd like to know for sure that he had eternal life. Upon presenting the Gospel, another question was asked of this individual: "Is there any reason why you wouldn't want to accept Jesus as your Savior?  He said: "Nope, no reason at all."  Then in just a matter of minutes, his life was changed for all eternity as he invited Christ into his heart. Now how did this come to fruition?  Well, to be honest, our church has been involved in a campaign known as the 3-1-5-1. It's pretty simple. Pray for 3 lost people. Learn one gospel conversation. Invite 5 people to your small group and finally, share the gospel at least one time to an unbeliever. This man had been on the prayer list of two of our Bible Study groups. He had been invited to church. He asked, on an information survey, how he could become a Christian. The rest was easy. The harvest is plenty, but the laborers are few. What are you waiting on my friend? If you invite, they will come. Don't you have some invitations to extend?  Godspeed and get busy.



May 24, 2017

We as Christians believe that Jesus is the light of the world, which he is. However, that certainly doesn't mean that darkness doesn't exist in our world today. All you have to do is turn on the TV and you'll be reminded of the evil that's prevalent in our society. From the bombing in Manchester, England to the senseless murder of an innocent six year old boy, darkness seems to cover most of our cities. Maybe, just maybe we need a few good sermons on Hell. One preacher said it best: "When we stopped preaching on Hell, it broke out all over our world." If we want a different culture in our world it starts with a sense of urgency among God's people. Our only hope for a changed world is changed people. We need to realize that individuals outside a relationship with Christ have no hope nor do they have a future. When individuals have no hope, no future, no faith, then anything goes and anything is acceptable. Sound familiar? It's almost like believers have bought into a devil's lie that there is no hell. But remember, just as Heaven is a place for prepared people, so is Hell a place for the unprepared. The good news is the light of Christ has the power to change even the darkest of lives. How do I know this, I've seen it happen over and over again. But if we as followers don't buy into it, what does that say about the rest of the world. It's time we got off our spiritual fannies and put our faith into action. But remember, it's a slow process, but I still believe His "light will shine and the darkness will not comprehend it." Do you?  Godspeed.



May 23, 2017

I was raised by my parents to show respect for authority. To my teachers, coaches, ministers, and all adults, I was taught to say yes ma'am and yes sir. We were not allowed to call adults by their first names as if we were addressing fellow classmate or friend. We were also taught to respect individuals of authority which included our school principals, police officers, and elected officials. We were also never allowed to address God as the "Man Upstairs" nor were we allowed to refer to our parents by their first name. If we did we'd probably wake up in the next day or week. My parents instilled in us to respect our governing and elected officials, even when we didn't agree with them. We were to pray for them to have Godly wisdom to guide us in the correct path. Over the years I've even drawn a little heat for praying for or quoting our Presidents who weren't supported by the many of our church members. I've even gone so far as saying if these individuals aren't your president, find another country. Even today, I'd love to play around of golf with President Clinton or President Obama. I believe I could beat both straight up. If I was in their presence, they would get the respect the office and position demands, even though I disagree wholeheartedly with their philosophy. That brings me to the events of this past weekend at Norte Dame. A group of graduating students decided to walk out of their commencement program the minute Vice President Pence got up to give the graduation address. Never have I seen such a blatant display of disrespect. You don't have to agree with someone's political stance, but you do need to respect the office. This got me to thinking:  When these students get into the "real world", which most don't even know exist, when they disagree with their boss, are they going to walk out?  When stopped by a police officer for speeding, will they walk away because they feel like they've done nothing wrong?  What really chaps me is those who preach and scream for tolerance are the least tolerant people I know. Their philosophy is: "If you don't agree with me, you're wrong and stupid!" Well, I guess I'm the dumbest person on the planet!!! Maybe instead of a diploma, they should have all gotten participation trophies so everyone could be happy. I think Aretha said it best, R-E-S-P-E-C-T!!!! And we wonder why we're in such a mess. Lord help us. Godspeed.



May 22, 2017

The other day I attended a memorial service for a young man who was the son of a sweet lady in our church. Prior to the service, I had the opportunity to meet many of her family members who had traveled to Columbus for the funeral. It's amazing at times how small this world is from time to time. Her family and I shared many common friends from various cities in our state. Towards the end of the visitation time, the brother of my member arrived for the service, along with his wife. We struck up a conversation and before you know it the wife said: "Your last name is Hurt? Was your father a minister at Broadmoor Baptist in Jackson many years ago?"  I told her he ended his ministry there around 1986. She went on to tell me how much they loved and appreciated him during his time there. She went on to say: "He was something else! We use to call him Mr. Clean because he always looked so nice!"  Then she paid me the ultimate compliment when she went on to say: "I see your father in you!" However, that's were the similarities end, for I know without a shadow of a doubt that my Dad was a much better man, pastor, and Christian than me. Everyday of the week and twice on Sunday. But it got me to thinking, as children of God, shouldn't the world see the Father in us?  For many people the only contact they have with God is through his children. Let's represent Him well. Godspeed.

 

May 21, 2017 

What I'm about to tell you I can't explain, but it is the absolute truth. For the past three years we have had a mother Killdeer bird lay her eggs in about the exact same spot in our driveway. Is it the same mama bird? Now that I cannot answer because she didn't fill out a visitor's card upon her initial visit. However, I find it interesting that as of this past week, we now have four new eggs in the exact spot as the previous two years. Let's just say it is the same bird. For some reason she has found safety and security here on this property. We usually mark off the area so we know where to drive around as not to disturb them. We watch from a distance and let nature take its course. But for some reason, our driveway has become home for this family. Home is a place where you and I can return and feel safe, love and accepted. Do you remember the story of the prodigal son?  When he found himself broke, dirty, and alone, he decided to go home. Upon his arrival, his father saw him from a distance and ran to meet him. He didn't receive him as a slave or a servant, but a son. There are some of you who need to return home. It's not so much a place as it is a relationship. Listen close, it doesn't matter what you've done or where you've been, the door is open and your Heavenly Father is waiting. As a matter of fact, he'll run to you. All that's keeping you from him is, well, you. Don't you think it's time to get out of your way?  Godspeed my friends and safe journey........home.


May 20, 2017

Over the years of my ministry I can't tell you how many times I've seen this happen. An individual or a couple gets in trouble and they run to church expecting God to somehow fix a problem that took years to create. Now don't get me wrong, I sincerely believe when we are broken, we ought to look up to find help and strength. In other words, we need to run to Calvary and seek help. However, we need to realize that God isn't going to do for us that which we can do for ourselves. Second, let's remember, it didn't take a week to screw up your life, therefore it won't take a week to fix it. Here's where many individuals make huge mistakes. We run to God with a particular issue in our lives and then the moment we get restitution, we go our merry way as if to say: "Thanks Lord for bailing me out of this problem. I'll tell you what. The next time I need you, I'll be sure to give you a call." Has it ever dawn on us that maybe, just maybe, walking with God on a daily basis can save us a world of trouble?  He wants to be Lord of your life each day and everyday. He will not and cannot be manipulated by anyone. Why not practice preventative Christianity by actually living a Christ-centered life. Now there's a novel approach, but one that has proven reliable over the years. It can save you from a world of hurt and frustration. Godspeed my friends.


May19, 2017

Last night after returning home from the Mississippi State-LSU baseball game, I tried to settle into my evening routine. First, I had to walk our dog, Jeter. Check, no problem. Second, walk Lulu, check, wait.....BIG PROBLEM!!!!! Somehow, some way, either subconsciously or consciously I locked the carport door, thus locking myself out of the house. Normally this wouldn't be an issue because Tommi Jo would be in the house. This wasn't normal because she was in Clinton getting ready for a senior party for our niece. To compound the problem, we have no extra key hidden for said emergencies and it was around 11pm. Talk about panic!!! I'm locked outside, with one of my dogs, no cellphone, and all of my neighbors are asleep it seems. I'm walking around the house and suddenly I see my across the street neighbor pull into their driveway. I call out to them and ask if I can use their phone. We have a young lady in our church who has a key to our house because she walks our dogs occasionally when we're out of town. So now I have a phone book, and a phone. However, this family has no landline. But I see the grandmother's number and give her a call. Upon calling her and identifying myself, she panics because she thinks this is an emergency call about her son who just got out of the hospital that day following a heart procedure. I assure her that I'm the one facing an emergency. I get the number I need and soon I'm safe inside my house.  It took a few minutes for me to calm down I go to sleep. You see, I need a key, the right key to open the door. It's bad to be locked out of your house. It's tragic to be locked out of an eternal house because you chose the wrong key. Jesus said: "I am the door, those who come to me shall be saved!"  Make sure that key is in your life. Godspeed.



May 18, 2017

Several years ago I had the opportunity to pastor a young coach at the local high school. That school had lost, if my mind serves me well, around 27 games in a row. One Sunday, following another loss, the young coach approached me and said in a frustrated voice: "I know you learn more in life through adversity and loses, but it sure would be nice to win every now and then because I think I've learned enough through this streak!"  I think most of us have felt this way before in our own lives. We get to a point or place in life where we just want a little success. The losses keep adding up at home, work, school, and even church. We throw up our hands and yell in exasperation: "God, if you're not going to work for us, at least don't work against us!" Now folks, listen close for a moment because there are two valuable lessons we need to learn. First, God doesn't work for you nor does he owe you one cotton picking thing. As a matter of fact, everything you are or have, or ever will have is a gift given to you by God. What you do with those talents and gifts are entirely up to you. Second, and most important, remember, God has not called you to be successful, but rather obedient. When we yield our lives and will to him on a daily basis, even though we can't see it or feel it now, the victory is ours. It comes through submission on our part. Remember, "The race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong." Through Christ, victory is guaranteed not only in this life, but the life that shall be. Godspeed.



May17, 2017

Last night we attended a baseball game for boys six years old up to the age of nine.  One of the boys is a member of our church and he invited us to come watch him play. Upon arriving at the game, we found the family of the child we came to watch. Along with him, he has two sisters, ages five and four. Now what you have to realize is, these children have pretty much only seen me in a coat and tie. Last evening I wore shorts, a t-shirt, sunglasses, and a cap. When the youngest saw me, she didn't recognize me. Each Sunday or Wednesday when she sees me, I'm greeted with a hug and a kiss. But last night, it took her two visits and a lot of inspection before she recognized me. Even then she wasn't sure it was Brother Bill. Finally, her little face lit up and all was right with the world. The kiss was given and trust quickly restored as the mystery man was finally recognized by this precious child. That's exactly how it is with us as children of God. Often He comes into our presence, wanting to spend time with us and we simply don't recognize him. The reason?  He often comes in unexpected ways and places and our eyes aren't open to see His glory and presence because we're just too busy or just skeptical. Today, if you want to see and experience God, stop what you're doing, remember, He's there. The question is, will you recognize Him?  Godspeed.



May 16, 2017

There seems to be so much brokenness in our world today. As a minister, I see and experience this all too often. As a matter of fact, it's almost a daily occurrence. A mother receives a phone call informing her that her son has suddenly died of a massive heart attack.  A young professional is told that he has cancer and will have to undergo massive treatment in order to prolong his life.  The outcome is bleak to say the least. A young couple struggles to make ends meet in their household which produces enormous strain on their already fragile relationship. A high school student struggles to fit in to the culture of his peer group at school. A mother and father struggle to remain positive as their child's health condition continues to decline. It seems as though God's people are under a constant bombardment of spiritual and physical circumstances in their lives. However, the Psalmist reminds us: "I will lift my eyes unto the hills. Where does my help come from?  It comes from the Lord."  When the missiles of life begin to explode all around you, look unto the hills. Open you eyes and remember:  "Those that are with us are greater than those with them." Help is on the way. Hang in there, even when your arms are hurting. Keep running or walking, even when your legs are weak. Keep breathing, though your breath is hard to catch. He is near, that you can count on my friend. Godspeed.


May 15, 2017

Last night I watched as the New York Yankees honored and retired the number of Derek Jeter.  One of the announcers said that of all the athletes that had ever played in New York, none had been so beloved as Jeter. Over 50,000 fans showed up as that organization honored a man who not only had been the face of that franchise for 20 years, but he had been the face of baseball as well. Can you imagine being so loved and so revered as that single individual?  I know in my life, he's brought a lot of happiness and joy to our family. He's been a common link between my Dad, my brother, and my nephews and myself. My Dad would always say: "That Jeter is something else, isn't he??!!"  But that statement of being beloved kept echoing through my mind last night over and over. What a feeling that must be. However, I find it interesting that Jesus referred to his disciples as "beloved" several times. As a matter of fact, that how he feels about you. You may not have 50,000 people chanting you name or celebrating your achievements, but you have a Creator who thinks the world of you. As a matter of fact, you are the world to Him and today, right now, he's chanting your name. I'll take that over 50,000 any day. Godspeed my friends.



May 14, 2017

Yesterday I was mowing the field next to our church cemetery and I noticed a lot of families were out decorating the grave sights of their mothers in honor of Mother's Day. Our church doesn't have an official day of decoration, but this holiday is as close as we have. As one observed the activities which were taking place, you almost had the sense of several little worship services happening at once. There were people of all ages, from senior adults to small children involved in this sacred act. I would imagine the atmosphere was filled with all types of emotions, from grief to gratitude. No doubt there were stories being told to the younger generation about the character and faith of those saints who had gone to be with the Lord. But I also wonder if there were any feelings of regret shared by those people? Were there sons and daughters who wish they had one more opportunity to talk and embrace their mothers?  Where were they in their relationship with that precious mother upon her death?  Had they spoken words in anger which had strained that relationship or had they just ignored her towards the end of her days because of the business of life?  You can't rewind the days of our lives so you better take advantage of the time you have today. The last thing I said to my mother was: "This is going to end well for you, but not me. I love you more than words can express." No regrets. I wish for you the same. Godspeed and Happy Mother's Day!



May 13, 2017

Last night while attending a high school graduation, my mind drifted back to 1979 and my own graduation from Cleveland High School.  Don't remember a lot about that night, but I do remember two classmates of mine delivering speeches. I also remember I didn't graduate with any honors, nor recognition. Some graduate Magna Cum Laude or Summa Cum Laude, however, I graduated Praise and thank the Laude! There was a point in our commencement service where they recognized those receiving scholarships to various colleges. I had received a "Leadership Scholarship" from Mississippi College which would cover half of my education. Basically, due to the fact that I didn't deserve a scholarship, they gave me one because my Dad was president of the Alumni Association. During the recognition of scholarships, my name wasn't called out. When the service was over, my Dad asked me why I was omitted from the list. It was simple, I hadn't turned in my form. I simply was too embarrassed for them to call my name out for a scholarship I didn't receive on my own merit. I didn't do anything scholastically to receive it and I certainly wasn't any leader. I was just my Father's son. Isn't that how salvation works?  It's not based on what you do but who you know. You get to Heaven not based on what you do, but by knowing the Father and accepting his gift of eternal life. As for that "Leadership Scholarship", jury is still out. As to my salvation, verdict has been given. Godspeed.

 

May 12, 2017

Mother's Day is a happy sad day for many of us. It's happy because we honor and remember those special ladies who brought us into this world and supported us along the way. It's a sad time because many of those special ladies have gone to be with the Lord. It's also a time of mixed emotions for many ladies who aren't biological mothers, or those ladies who have known the pain of losing a child. Not everyone views this day of celebration as a day of joy. In our brief time here, there's no way we an adequately explore all the different ways to navigate Mother's Day.  I want to look at one. My mother would often say: "You only have one mother."  And she was correct. But not all of us have known the love and support of a godly mother, and believe me, there's a difference. A good mother will make sure their child has everything necessary in order to succeed in life. A godly mother will make sure her children are prepared for everything in this life and the life that follows. If you were raised my a woman who walked with God, you were or are blessed beyond measure. Take time just to thank God for a woman who spent time on her knees praying for you. More than likely, you wouldn't be where you are today without her. I know that's true for me. Godspeed.



May 11, 2017

It's hard to watch people you love go through difficult situations. The reality is, when people we love hurt, we hurt with them. Often it's easier to navigate the bumps in bruises in life when they happen to us rather than the people closest to us. We are familiar with the pain and hurt when it happens to us as individuals. However, when our loved ones and friends are hurting, disappointments, broken, and downcast, we feel helpless and lost. How do we respond in such situations? Well, the first and most important thing you can do is pray for that individual. Alfred Lord Tennyson once said: More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of." Never, I mean never underestimate the power of prayer. Pray for guidance, clarity, and healing for those experiencing dark days. Second, give them a little space. By nature, especially guys, we are fixers. There are some folks that just need a little time and distance to absorb what's actually going on in their life. In other words, they'll talk about it when they're good and ready. Third, be there for them. In saying this, I'm not offering you a magic potion or salve that will remove the sting of the situation. But remember, having someone just sit with you is often enough. Forth, when the time is right, remind them they aren't alone. One of Satan's most used tool is isolation. He loves to whisper: "You're all alone and no one cares."  Don't let them buy into that lie. Finally, don't use cliches when offering assistance. They often do more harm than good. Remember, God answers all prayers, but He doesn't always give an explanation. And that my friend, is difficult to swallow. Love those who are hurting, don't try to fix them. Love ultimately conquers all. Godspeed.


May 10, 2017

There are moments in the ministry which will remind you why we do the things we do. Ministers can get bogged down in the business of church that we forget what's important. Now don't get me wrong, there is a necessity for meetings and such, but often we fail to keep the main thing the main thing. This past Sunday following our morning service, I was at the back door greeting people as the left the sanctuary. One young lady, that I shared the gospel with two years ago, and ultimately baptized her came out my exit. She took me by the hand and pulled me down where she could whisper in my ear:  "Thank you for coming to my house and telling me about Jesus."  You see, she asked Christ in her heart on the front steps of her home. Now, not only is she coming, but her family as well and another family which they invited. Sometimes God has to shake us a bit and remind us why we're here. It's pretty simple, but most are missing it. We're to tell others about Christ. If we miss that, we've missed it all. Don't miss the honor and privilege of sharing your story with someone who needs a Savior. Godspeed.



May 9, 2017

Have you ever noticed that God gets the blame for a lot of stuff he doesn't do?  Many years ago, I walked into a hospital room of a church member who had been diagnosed with lung cancer after many years of smoking.  After I'd been in the room for a while, this individual said: "God's punishing me for something I've done."  Without being judgmental, I simply said: "No, God's not punishing you. You made the decision to smoke for all those years and now you have to live with the consequences of your actions."  How many times have we placed the blame on God for something we did? One of the greatest gifts we receive from our Creator is the freedom of choice.  With that freedom comes the responsibility to either be obedient or disobedient. When you choose to violate the laws of the universe which God has set in motion, don't blame Him when disaster, grief, and pain come your way. God won't save you from yourself. So next time, think before you place the blame on the One who loves you the most. Godspeed my friends.



May 8, 2017

My mother-in-law, Doris Lepard, has the gift of hospitality. In all my years I've never seen one who can whip up a meal with every food group represented as fast and as well as her. Regardless if she is cooking for four or twelve, the process and the finished product is the same. All the food is ready at the same time, the table is set and the invitation is given. Come and eat. Never does she make you feel as though it's an imposition, but you sense it is a labor of love. There have been times when we've arrived at her house late, after traveling several hours. What does she do? Offers you something to eat and a place to rest. The gift of hospitality is a rare gift in today's society. However, do you realize there's another out there with the same gift who offers a similar invitation? The Bible tells us: "He prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies."  At that moment when we are being attacked and abused by the world, there is one who offers the gift of hospitality to you and me. He invites us to take a break and seek refuge in a place of safety and acceptance. An intimate invitation is offered to come dine and fellowship with the one who created you. He invented hospitality and he bids you to come and spend time with Him. What are you waiting for?  The table is set and the food is prepared, all that's missing is you. Godspeed.

 

May 7, 2017

Today's message is, "How to Work With God".  If we are honest, most Christians and churches have an agenda. We know what needs to be done and what programs need to be implemented. However, are these the things that God desires? Here is one bullet point I want you to file in your mind. Satan has no fear of a person working for God on their own. However, he does fear the person who is under God's rule and authority. The question he have to ask is: Are we launching out on our own, or letting God take the initiative and following Him?  Jesus said: "A part from the Father, the Son can do nothing."  What does that say about us? Think on it. Godspeed.



May 6, 2017

Johnny Lee popularized the famous country song, "Looking for Love".  This ballad was part of the smash movie and soundtrack, "Urban Cowboy". The two main characters, Bud, played by John Travolta and Sissy, played by Debra Winger, found love at a popular night spot called "Gilley's, located in Pasadena, Texas. If you're old enough to remember the song or the movie, you'll recall the lyrics which said: "I was looking for love in all the wrong places, looking for love in too many faces, searching their eyes looking for traces for what I'm dreaming of." Let me ask you a couple of questions. Where have you been looking for love? In a particular relationship, a church, a job, a pleasure, a bottle, or self-gratification? Have you found it? The second question is liken to the first. What are you dreaming of as it relates to love?  Do you want acceptance, security, safety, a home, a man or a woman? If you're looking for love in these areas, understand this, they are all temporary and limited by time and space. However, there is a place where you can find unconditional love and acceptance. A love that knows no boundaries nor limitations. A place where all are acceptable and welcome. It's not a bar or a church, it's Calvary. "Greater love has no man known than he who will lay his life down for his friends." Look there and you'll find more than you're looking for. Now if you will excuse me, I have the sudden urge to work on my two-step. Godspeed my friends.



Friday, May 5, 2017

I have a major character flaw. To be honest, I actually have too many to mention and not enough space to type in one post. So we'll address this specific area of my life that at times get me into trouble.  When I see or notice a friend or family member of mine who is being attacked or mistreated, I often come to their defense even when my help is unsolicited or wanted. In other words, I jump right in the fight even when I'm uninvited. My brain and heart are wired in such a way that I'll come to the battlefield even when my help may do more harm than good. Most likely this attitude goes back to my childhood when my mother taught my brothers and me the necessity of sticking up for one another. She would say: "You may fight each other, but you better not let someone else beat on your brother."  So much for turning the other cheek. However, I'm learning that there are battles which I don't need to fight and people I can't save. There's a price for every punch you throw and every word you speak. There's a difference in loyalty and stupidity. One has to learn the difference. But there's a flip side of this.  There is a virtue in this trait. You see, each day as believers we are under an assault from the evil one and the things of this world. There are pressures and temptations which mount in our lives. There is comfort in knowing we don't have to fight these battles alone. Help is available for the asking. As far as my flaw, I have to remember, there's my fight, your fight, and God's fight. His is the only one worth fighting. Oh, just a side note, I haven't mastered this quality yet, so if you hurt someone I love, I might be around the corner

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