August 31

The other night as I was out walking, my mind began to reflect on the 30 plus years of my ministry. In that span of time I've had to make thousands of decisions which would not only effect the church where I served, but the lives of various people as well. As I thought about some of those decisions, some were good and some, well not so much. However, without hesitation, and with full confidence I can honestly say I never made a decision with the sole purpose of hurting another person. However, there's also no doubt in my mind that some of my actions and decisions hurt the feelings of other people. That's just the nature of the ministry and leadership. When decisions are made, not everyone is going to be happy. To be quite honest, some of my decisions haven't been very popular in my own home, let alone the church.

Most of the time in church work, a pastor will have someone approach him and say: "There are a lot of people unhappy with you!" It has happened to me and you can rest assured it has happened to most ministers who are faithfully serving in the local church. Following the will and the direction of God is a difficult task at best. It will lead a minister and church down a path that at times is difficult and unpopular. What we need to realize is that God has called us to be obedient rather than popular. That's a hard and difficult lesson to learn and live by as a minister. However the thorns and briars of leadership we might endure along the way pale in comparison to the suffering our Lord endured on his way to the cross. I often have to remind myself of this from time to time.

Pray each day for your pastor. Even when you don't agree with him. I can assure you for the most part, he's doing the best that he can. When I retire I'm thinking about working in an ice cream shop. Most folks leave there happy if they receive the proper amount of chocolate sprinkles on their choice of flavor. It would be nice if church work was that easy. Godspeed my friends.



August 30

 

Joel Osteen, Senior Pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas has come under fire recently for not opening his church up for flood victims due to Hurricane Harvey. Osteen has since said that the church will do what it can to help victims of this horrific situation. I'm not about to defend or come to the rescue of Pastor Olsteen, He certainly doesn't need my support nor approval or disapproval. However, as one who has been a part of a shelter during Hurricane Katrina, I do think I can help shed a bit a light on the subject.

 

When Katrina hit in August of 2005, I was serving as pastor of First Baptist Church, Natchez, Mississippi. The storm brought evacuees to our city by the thousands. Now if you'll remember, the storm hit on a Sunday night and a Monday morning. By about noon on Monday, our church had zero power. There were other churches in our area that had power and were able to assist people in need. You talk about a helpless feeling, we had it. Around Tuesday afternoon our power was restored and we had a decision to make. Do we get into the game. We knew if we did it would be for the long haul.

 

We decided to open our doors to those in need and before you could shake a stick we had over 300 people in our facility. The manpower alone to run such an operation was incredible. The Red Cross quickly certified us as a shelter and without their help, we couldn't have made it. I was fortunate to have a great team in our staff and our volunteers. I can tell you this, to this day I consider it one of the most rewarding mission opportunities of my ministry.

 

When we finally closed our shelter, just two days later, we had 300 more evacuees in our facilities due to hurricane Rita. A month later, I was in the hospital due to pneumonia and exhaustion. Looking back on that experience I wouldn't change a thing. However, we wouldn't have been able to help so many if our church had been without power or was under water itself. We were able to help be the hands and feet of Christ because we were spared damage ourselves.

 

It's easy to criticize others for their lack of support, but one better look in the mirror first and see what they are doing on a daily basis to meet human needs. I personally believe Rev. Osteen is a false prophet who preaches a watered down gospel each week. As far as opening his doors to help others, only he and his church can make that decision. I'm in no position to judge his actions because I haven't toured his facilities to see if they are even in a position to do so. Unless you've been there, it's better to just keep your mouth shut and do what you can to help the victims of this storm. A good way is to open your checkbook and send money to a reputable ministry. The Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief Ministry is a great one. 100% of that money will be used to help those in need.

 

Joel will answer for his actions and you and I will answer for ours. Godspeed my friends.


August 29

 

If you are a parent, do your children a favor and get them involved in church on a regular basis. When I'm talking about involved, I mean get them to Bible study, worship, choirs, mission opportunities, and special events. The lessons and values they are taught will serve them well in life as they grow older.

 

Far too often I have parents tell me: "My child doesn't like to go church." Well, my question to you is: Do they like to go to school on Monday morning? Probably not if we're totally honest. Our children are far too busy theses days and before you know it, families are crowding out church. Don't make that mistake.

 

As we begin a new school year, make church a priority in your family's life. You'll be giving your children the greatest gift they'll ever receive and it will do you some good as well. Godspeed.


August 28

 

Yesterday a dear pastor friend of mine had the daunting task of preaching a memorial service for a precious four year old child. What made this service even more difficult was the fact that the father of this child was also the minister of youth at the pastor's church. So not only is he trying to comfort a grieving family, but he's also ministering to a member of his own staff. Due to the fact that the service was held at 5 pm yesterday, I personally couldn't attend the funeral. However without talking to a soul I know he did a tremendous job because I've heard him in the past.

 

There are very few people who understand the physical, mental, and even spiritual toil it takes on a minister to preach a memorial service. Especially if the pastor is close to the family. There have been funeral services I've preached that left me exhausted with nothing left to give. In some instances it has taken me days, weeks and even months to recover. In some cases, I'm not sure I've fully recovered from some of those events. You see, the closer you are to the family, the harder it is not to lose it emotionally. And the truth of the matter is, if the minister loses it, it becomes harder on the family. There are moments when a pastor has to pray: "Okay God, you have to get me through this one because my resources aren't enough"

 

If I know my friend and I'm sure he's struggling today. There's a thought that continues to run through his head: "Did I do enough to help comfort this family? Did I help them understand that there is hope and light at the end of the tunnel?" The message of faith and hope is usually unheard at a service due to the magnitude of the grief and pain the family is experiencing. All a minister can do is be the representative of God in a dark moment. I know without a shadow of a doubt my guy was just that yesterday.

 

Don't forget to pray for your pastor on a regular basis. You have no clue as to what they face each day. Without the strength from above, there's no way they can do what the job requires of them. I'm often told: "You couldn't pay me a million dollars to do your job!" My response is always the same: "Me either." One has to be called. Godspeed.


August 27

 

I wish that your life would have no difficulties, sorrows, or pains. However, the reality of life is everyone will experience some type of suffering. Even the most devout Christians will walk through times of grief and darkness. There's an old expression which reminds us there are three types of people: Those in a storm, those coming out of a storm, and those about to go through a storm. Christianity isn't an insurance policy which protect us from life's calamities.

 

There are moments when we pray and pour out our souls to God, but there seems to be no response. Heaven seems to be made of brass and our words only echo and come right back to us. We want to scream: "Don't you see all this suffering down here? If so, why aren't you doing something about it?"

 

As hard as it is to accept at times, the reality is, life is hard and sometimes unfair. Sometimes during those dark moments in life, God doesn't give us an explanation as to why we suffer, but He does share in the suffering with us. Instead of fixing a problem, He walks with us. But there are times, because I've witnessed it, when individuals withdraw from His presence and help. They become bitter, angry, and fed up with religious cliches.

 

Today, if you think God has dealt you a raw hand in life, you're dead wrong. He never deliberately sends suffering on anyone. The distance between you and Him is determined by you. Draw close to Him and you'll find He has already drawn near to you. Godspeed.

 

August 26

We're living in an age of hypersensitivity. It seems as though you about can't say anything anymore without offending another person. Don't get me wrong, there is absolutely no place for racial remarks towards anyone. However, there comes a time when we have to be adults and not cry out about every little thing. If we're going to be offended, let'a do so about things which matter.

It ought to offend all of us that we've seemed to have taken a major step back in racial relationships. Until we see ALL PEOPLE, as people of value, there will always be bigotry and hatred. For the followers of Christ we need to understand that our faith is based on faith, hope, and love. When we treat anyone, and I mean anyone with disrespect, we do so to Christ himself. Count no one for whom Christ died as being worthless.

It ougut to offend you that there are still innocent children and adults who don't have enough to eat. We live in a land of plenty, but somehow that plenty isn't enough. Now there is a difference in taking care of the needy and enabling people who refuse to take responsibility.

Finally, understand that the gospel has always been offensive. As a matter of fact, I fully understand if I preach the Word of God, it will offend some individuals. The message of the cross is offensive because it reminds us that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". People today don't want to be reminded that they are sinners. As a matter of fact, many in our society believe we've moved beyond a dependence upon  God and that is a major problem. In other words, we have a sin problem rather than a skin problem. If we would focus our attention on getting our relationship with God where it needs to be, more of our problems in society would begin to fade into the background.

Our mandate is to "love the Lord our God with every ounce of our being, and love our neighbor as ourselves. Hit those two areas and our world will become a better place and we'll become less offended. Godspeed.


August 25

Long before David became Israel's greatest King, he was a shepherd boy. When he described his relationship with God, he ventured back to those simple days of tending sheep and wrote these words: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."

You do realize that everyone has a shepherd, don't you? Something that leads or motivates their life. For some, money is their shepherd. For others it's notoriety or recognition. Still for others it may be pleasure or desire. But everybody has a shepherd.

However, if the Lord isn't your shepherd, you can't finish the sentence as David did: "I shall not want." Because of the simple fact that unless God is master or Lord of your life, there will always be a hunger for something else. That's the way we were created, with a need for something that goes beyond our own resources. As one scholar stated: "There is a restlessness within us all until we come to rest in Him."

Today as we examine our lives, we must ask: "Is there something missing?" If there is that "want" in your life, you might want to find the shepherd. I can assure you, He's looking for you. When you come together as one, you'll be able to echo the words of David: "I shall not want." Godspeed.


August 24

 

Lord, there are times when I must admit that I don't understand your ways. It's hard for me to understand why a family is grieving today over the death of their four year old daughter. In my limited knowledge it's impossible for me to see how such a thing could happen to a great family who has dedicated their life and vocation to doing your work. However, I ask that you would engulf them now with your presence and love. Please allow the outpouring of love from their friends, family, and church to sustain them through this dark time in their life. I pray that somehow, someway, you would use this time to glorify you.

 

Father, I ask today that you would bring comfort to others who are hurting, grieving, and facing uncertain times in their lives. We fully understand that when we grieve and hurt, you suffer with us. Remind us that we can't shake a fist at you and scream: "You don't understand", because you do. Remind us that you know what it's like to lose a child and grieve at the loss of any life. Help us to realize that our grasp on you isn't nearly as important as your grasp on us. Hold the hopeless tight in your arms and allow them to feel your presence now.

 

Heavenly Father, I know you haven't promised us a life free from sorrow and pain, but you have promised us that nothing will separate us from your love and presence. Let those who are walking in a cloud of darkness today reach out and feel your hand of grace in theirs. Today, I pray that though we don't understand your ways at times, we will walk humbly with you. Thank you for providing us a way to come to you through your son Jesus. We pray this prayer in His name......and all God's people said........Amen. Godspeed.

 

August 23

The other day after I had finished mowing the yard, I sat down to cool off and started scanning the television to see what was airing. The recent Disney classic "Cinderella" was being shown on TBS. Now this wasn't the animated, original version, but rather the one that was released a couple of years ago. I had already seen this version a couple of years ago with my girls.

As I watched this story which was so familiar to me, all of a sudden I became very uncomfortable. To watch someone be so mean and ugly to another person, even though it's a fairy tale, is hard for me to watch. Close to the end of the story, the ugly stepmother breaks the glass slipper owned by Cinderella in a fit of rage. Cinderella, broken hearted, looks at her stepmother and asks the question: "Why are you so mean to me?" Her only response is: "Because you're so nice!" At the end of the movie, after Cinderella places her foot in the glass slipper, she leaves her life of abuse and hatred. She turns back to her stepmother and says: "I forgive you."

I thought about that for the rest of the day. How can someone forgive another who has caused so much heartache and suffering. Well before you quickly dismiss this as just a fairytale which was written years ago, let me remind you of another story told long ago. The big difference is, this was no fairytale, it really happened. As Jesus hung on the cross, suspended between heaven and earth, he spoke these words: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." When you and I pray to Him and confess our sins, he says: "I forgive you."

Now if He can forgive us, shouldn't we be able to forgive each other? It's hard, but it is necessary to experience life and wholeness. Maybe we need to be kind to those who are unkind to us and allow others to see Christ in us. It's a simple lesson, but then again, I just a simple individual. Godspeed.

 

August 22

"Totality", a word I hadn't heard much until a few weeks ago as we approached the day of the solar eclipse. So many people packed up their families and traveled to places that would give them a few minutes of darkness in the middle of the day. My brother and part of his family made their way to North Carolina to see this once in a lifetime event. He told me: "If you haven't experienced totality, then you don't know." He's probably correct.

I guess it must have been some experience to literally see the day become night for a few minutes. You might even say it was exciting, maybe even gratifying. However, there are so many people who are living their lives in totality, utter darkness. All you have to do is just look around our world and you'll see it. It may be awesome to experience it for two minutes, but it would be tragic to spend eternity there.

Jesus said: "I am the light of the world." It's our responsibility to share and pass that light to the ones walking and living in darkness. Instead of warning others to look away from the sun, our cry and encouragement is to say: "Look to the Son." In him there is no darkness. Godspeed.

 

August 21

The big news today is of course the solar eclipse. Millions of people across our country have anticipated this unique experience which only happens once or twice in a lifetime. The last totality of darkness happened in the United States on June 8, 1918. The next opportunity to see or experience such a rare phenomenon is slated for 2024. However, I'm not so sure these blackouts are as rare as one might think.

As a pastor, I see people experience an eclipse of the heart on a regular basis. At one time these individuals loved and served God with all their heart. However, due to the events of life, their hearts have become hard and cold. The darkness around them is only surpassed by the darkness within them. An eclipse at the noonday of their life has left them cold and callused. Misery and despair has replaced joy and happiness in their life. There's a funny thing about the heart, it can grow cold and out of touch for a season in life without warning.

So what can one do? Well it's pretty simple, but many miss it. To change the cold spirit requires one to seek the light. The solar eclipse will only last a few hours. You'll decide how long the eclipse of your heart and soul will last. Don't allow the darkness to completely cover your heart. If you do, prepare yourself for a life of misery. And that my friend is no way to live. Godspeed.

 

August 20

I grew up in a pastor's home and saw first hand the toll it took on my mother's life. The life of a pastor's wife is a difficult and often lonely road to travel. Very few know the burdens, loneliness, brokenness, and depression these special ladies carry on a regular basis. I vividly remember the dark times my Mother experienced due to the pressures brought on by church work and church people. She had an expression which still holds true today: "There's no hate quite like Christian hate." She was so right.

There were times at night, following supper, that she would clean up the kitchen then head for the piano. Before too long, the tune of "Nearer My God to Thee" or "Amazing Grace" would echo throughout our house. It was her way of drawing near to God in those moments of doubt and utter aloneness. What she experienced, I wouldn't wish on anyone.

Today marks the 34th anniversary for Tommi Jo and myself. I honestly don't believe she knew what she was signing up for when she said: "I do." In those years she has followed God's call for my ministry. That call has led us to Louisville, Kentucky, Sparta, Ky., Vine Grove, Ky., Canton, Ms., Natchez, Ms., Decatur, Al., and Columbus, Ms. In those churches we have had the high honor of serving some of the finest and most Godly people ever to walk the face of the earth. However, we have also encountered the thorns of life in other folks.

In one situation, for the first six months of our ministry, she was so sick she could barely get out of bed. Two surgeries later, her health was restored. The fact that she's still standing is a testimony to her love for me and her faith in God. Most women wouldn't just be dog gone, they'd be long gone.

In every church we've served, without hesitation, the people of the congregation have said: "We've never had a pastor's wife do so much." They were right in their assessment.

A pastor's family usually has to pay for the pastor's sins and mistakes. It's unfair, but that's just the way it is. I don't know of another job which demands so much and give so little. Love on your pastor's wife, she needs it and you need to express your appreciation. Happy anniversary Tommi Jo, I love you and you deserve so much better. "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." Godspeed.

 

August 19

Have you noticed it doesn't take long for a life to trend in a downward spiral? All of a sudden, through the events of life or personal choices one finds themselves in a hopeless situation. The darkness around an individual mirrors the darkness within that person. The reality is, getting one's life in a storm is much easier and faster than getting out of it. So where and how can we find help. 

The first thing one has to realize is, we live in a fallen world where bad things happen to good people. That's just a simple reality that so many of us forget. When a God created the world He said: "It was good." He didn't say: "Its perfect." Christianity isn't an insurance policy which protects you from all the calamities in life. Our faith gives us an assurance that though the waves of life are high, there is still one who says: "Peace be still!"

Which brings me to our next point. When the brokenness comes to your life, Satan's biggest lie is that you're all alone. Nothing could be further from the truth. As a matter of fact, just the opposite is true. When you're at your lowest point in life, God couldn't be closer to you. You may not feel or hear him, but He is right beside you. How do I know that? "God draws near to the broken-hearted." (Psalm 34:18) The key is for you to draw near to him. 

When you're surrounded by darkness, remember, there's one who knows how to turn on the light. Call on His name and you'll find Him closer than you imagined. Godspeed.

 

August 18

Today I have an eye appointment for the first time in about fives years. My eye doctor retired a few years ago and though it's no excuse, it has taken me a while to find someone to take his place. I've noticed over the years, as the maturation process has continued in my life, two areas have been effected. My sight and my hearing. I am aware of the fact that I can't see or hear as well as I once did. Hopefully one of those areas will be addressed today.

How is your vision and hearing? Too often we only see or hear what we want in life. Several years ago while pastoring another church, I had member that was totally blind. Every so often I'd drop by her house for a visit. During the course of our conversation she'd talk about how God had blessed her life. She spoke fondly of her husband who had passed away years before I knew her. She talked about her children and grandchildren and how they had taken care of her. I never heard her once complain or speak bitterly about life. One day I told her: "You're blind, but your vision is 20/20."

It's true, we usually see what we want to see in life. It's easy to become negative or cynical about life with everything bad going on in our world. But let me remind you, good still exists in our lives and society, but few take time to see it. As you walk through this day you get to choose part of what you will see. God is still at work, but only those who remove the spiritual blinders off their eyes will see. How is your vision today? Your attitude and sight will give you away every time. Look for God today. There's a good chance you'll see Him. Godspeed.

 

August 17 

The other day while visiting a member in the hospital who was about to have surgery, I reminded him of three things which had to take place in order for his procedure to be successful. First, the doctors and medical team had to do their part. Second, he had to do his part. And third, God would then do his part. Those three things were absolutely essential for him to get back on his feet. 

That rule applies to so many aspects of our lives. We need to remember that God's not going to do for us those things which we can do for ourselves. If you have a fractured relationship, you do your part to mend it and then God will do his part to help the situation. If you have a task which needs to be accomplished, you do your part and then God will do His. Too often we expect God to do all the work with any effort from ourselves and that's just not a reality.

If you're finding your life stuck in neutral or the tires of your life are spinning in place, you might want to reflect on what you're doing. I can assure you, if you pull your share of the load, God will join you and do His part. It's a team effort on both sides. Maybe you need to put forth a bit more effort and see what the two of you can accomplish together. You might be surprised. I can assure you, you'll be blessed. Godspeed.

 

August16

Good gosh, I hate running in the morning on days like this. The humidity is so high and by the end of my run it looks like I've been swimming. Every inch of me is covered in sweat and it takes forever to cool down. But over the years I've learned just to push through the hot difficult days. It's kind of funny, at the end of my run, there's a great deal of satisfaction knowing that the exercise is complete and the task is accomplished. But it's not easy.

The same is true with our lives. There are days we experience which are long, hard, and demanding. The road we must travel and the cross we must bear is at times overwhelming. The best we can hope for is just to survive and push through the journey. However, there's a strange phenomenon which takes place in those dark moments. A power and strength beyond our own enables us to face and finish those hard days. When the fog lifts and the night turns to day there is a sense of comfort and accomplishment. Those hard days allow us to appreciate the high moments in life. 

Today if your feeling a bit tired and worn out, push through. Allow the Spirit of God to guide and walk with you. Your faith will grow more when you depend on His strength to see you through the sweat and the tears. By exercising your faith, it will strengthen and move you forward. Rest assured, cooler and calmer days are coming. Until then, push through. Godspeed.

 

August 15

There's a simple lesson which Jesus emphasized over and over again. The lesson dealt with the issue of love and how it's the main factor in every relationship. As a matter of fact he said: "You will know my disciples by how they love one another." In other words, the world will see God in the love Christians have for one another.

On another occasion Jesus stated: "You can't love God whom you've never seen and hate your brother that you have seen." The Bible is clear about the subject of relationships between ourselves and others. You may not like another individual's actions, but you must treat them with love and respect. 

That brings us to a difficult subject and one which continues to tear up our society on a daily basis. As I read and handle the word of God carefully, it's clear to me that you can't be a follower of Christ and be a bigot. It's spiritually impossible. Furthermore, racism is a choice and a learned behavior. A child isn't born hating another simply based on the color of their skin. That characteristic is taught and learned over a period of time by people of influence in one's life. Hatred in the name of Christianity is a false doctrine which needs to be snuffed out by true followers of Christ.

My parents certainly weren't perfect by any means, but there was a lesson they drove home over and over into the hearts and minds of their four boys. That lesson was simple: "You don't judge people based on the outward appearance, but rather by what's in their heart." Today's parents would do well to follow this teaching. The last time I checked, it's not only Biblical, it's the very heart of true Christianity. Godspeed.

 

August 14

In the past two months I've had the unique opportunity to speak at two churches I pastored. In June I preached a memorial service at FBC Canton and yesterday I had the privilege of preaching at FBC Natchez as they kicked off their fall revival. Both of these churches are near and dear to my heart.

I served at FBC Canton for 10 years. The unique aspect of that church is, it was my Mom's home church. It's also where my Mom and Dad were married. Both of my girls were baptized into the Christian faith there as well. I was the youngest pastor that church had ever called and I'm sure they were often pushed to their wits end under my leadership.

We left Canton in 2000 and began our service at FBC Natchez. There is no place in the world like the city of Natchez. It's almost a world unto itself. I always said we considered Canton our home, but Natchez stole our hearts. I probably had as many friends outside our church as I did inside. I always love having to opportunity to travel back to that special place.

Looking back on those two ministries in my life there are a few take aways to consider. First, those two churches did way more for me than I ever did for them. There is a debt which I owe both congregations, which I could never pay. Second, you never know the effectiveness of your ministry until you leave. Sometimes a word of encouragement will come from the least likely of sources. They remember a sermon, an event or even a visit which made a difference in their life. I'm just thankful I had the opportunity to serve these two great churches in my life.

Now it's time to travel back to Columbus and continue the work God has for us at PHBC. I can hardly wait to see where He's going to take us. Godspeed my friends.

 

August 13

When you see someone who is struggling with a personal or spiritual issue, never say: "That could never happen to me or my family." Too many folks have had to eat those words and change their attitude towards a particular issue when it hits their life.

 

When I was serving my first church, we had a man elected by the church as a deacon. One man on our body of deacons was furious at his election. One evening during our meeting this man said: "We're not longer a New Testament church. The man we elected as a deacon has married a woman who has been divorced." Sometimes, even today, I'm amazed at how we pick and choose to interpret scriptures. I haven't the time to argue this passage about divorce. But this man was unyielding in his banter.

 

A strange thing happen just months after his outcry against divorce. His son, who was a deacon, ended up getting divorced. You can bet, Daddy took a much difference stance on the subject when it hit his house. And so would most of us.

 

Don't ever say: "That could never happen to me" because you'll make yourself out to be a liar every time. Instead, you might want to say: "There by the grace of God go I." Never say never. Godspeed.


August 12

Several years ago, following a Wednesday night service which a preached on the need to forgive others, I had one of my members approach me and he was furious. He pulled me to the side and blasted me. "I can't believe you did tonight!" he said. "You saw me come in and decided to preach a message directly to me. How dare you!" Now what you need to realize is he was serious. He actually thought I saw him enter a room of about 200, and changed my message just to make him feel uncomfortable. To be totally honest, I didn't know he was in the room.

 

Preaching 101 reminds the speaker to never, I mean never center a message around one person. You just don't do it. First, it's totally selfish on the preacher's part. Two you sacrifice the rest of the congregation for the sake of one person. Three, it's totally unprofessional. And finally, even if you do it, more than likely the person you're directing the message to will think you're talking about someone else. I've never done it, though I've been tempted to do so, and I'd never do it.

 

So here we are, at the front of the church having this conversation. I asked my accuser to come to my office and discuss the situation. Finally I'd had enough and said: "How arrogant can one person be to think that a preacher would see you and decide to preach his entire message to you. Your problem isn't with me, but rather your problem is with your God and yourself. I would suggest you follow some serious soul searching my friend and find out why you're so mad." Before I could ask him to pray with me, he stormed out of my office. To say the least I was stunned and a bit ticked off.

 

The next day, I received a call from this man. He apologized for his actions and accusations. The reality was, he and a coworker had gotten into it prior to his arrival at prayer meeting. He had said some pretty awful things to this individual. Well, now this is making sense. He went on to say he had apologized to them as well.

 

The next time you think the preacher is stepping on your toes, you might want to notice that he's 30 ft away from you. The feet you might be feeling may belong to someone greater than him. You might not like the message, but don't blame the messenger. Godspeed my friends.

 

August 11

Yesterday would have been my Mom and Dad's 71st wedding anniversary. When asked how they met, my Dad would always tell the same story. They were both attending Mississippi College at the same time. My Mother was dating or seeing a guy named Funchess. Now you have to realize, my Mom and Dad barely knew each other, and as the story is told and my Dad saw Mom and this guy walking around together. As they approached my him, in all of his subtlety, he simply said: "Hey Funchess! What are you doing with my girl!!" The rest they say is history.

My three brothers and I were blessed to be raised by great parents. Our home was a place of love and discipline. There was no doubt who was in charge. There was a standard that was set by Mom and Dad and we knew there would be consequences for our actions.

We need parents to act like parents today more than ever. Our children need to be loved and nurtured, but they also need discipline. Children, whether they admit it or not, want boundaries in their lives. It up to the parents to be the adults in the house and set those boundaries. I'm so glad my parents loved me enough to discipline me when I needed it. There's no doubt, I am the man I am today because of their love, acceptance, and discipline. Happy anniversary Mom and Dad!!! Thanks for the times when you got tough. I love and still miss you each day. Godspeed.

 

August 10

Forgiveness is a tricky and slippery slope. It actually involves three levels of action. When I think about forgiveness in my life, I have to confess my sins to my Heavenly Father. In doing so, I have the assurance that He not only hears my prayers, but he is faithful and just and forgives my sins completely. In other words, I don't have to continue to bring it up to Him again and again.

However, there's a second aspect of forgiveness that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle and that's the forgiveness of others. When we've been hurt or mistreated by others, we have no other course of action but to forgive those individuals. Here's the tricky part. My willingness to forgive others is directly tied to my forgiveness from God. In other words, God can't forgive me if I'm not willing to forgive others. That's a Biblical truth that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. Also remember, our unwillingness to forgive others eats at our soul like a cancer and it affects our lives more than the one who offended us. Before we know it, we find ourselves cut of from God and others and that's a place of misery.

Finally, in order for forgiveness to be complete, one has to forgive themselves. Too often we walk through life burdened by our mistakes from the past. Don't hold a higher standard of forgiveness for yourself than God. If He can forgive you, don't you think you can forgive yourself? Leave the judgement aspect of your life to God, that's his job, not yours. When all three pieces of forgiveness come together, an abundant life begins to take place. And after all, isn't that what Jesus came to offer you and me? Godspeed.

 

August 9

For the first time in my life I'm working out with a personal trainer. I still do my running each day on my own, but now I'm working to strengthen my upper body and arms. I knew it was going to be a tough day when I walked into the gym Monday and my guy said: "We're going hard today. What you need to understand about my trainer is he once owned his own gym. Also, about a month ago he made his public profession of faith and I had the high honor of baptizing him. He has an expression he uses on me everyday: "I trust you on Sunday, you trust me on Monday." We were doing bench presses and I watched him press 498 lbs for his final round. You read that correctly, 498 lbs. He only did it once, but that was the goal.

 

After he finished, he set the weight on my bar. It was twice what I had ever done. I looked at him and said: "I can't do that!" He replied: "All you have to do is get it up and down once, maybe twice." I got it up and lowered the bar to my chest, a pushed it up. I lowered it a second time and it was unmovable going up. All of a sudden, it felt lighter. The push upward became easier. How was that possible? I looked to my right and my guy was helping me lift the weight. All of a sudden, the impossible became possible.

 

The same is true with the weight that you're carrying in your life right now. It may be a weight of guilt, grief, or darkness. You find yourself struggling and straining to lift it on your own, only to find it's too heavy. You do realize there's a power available to you at this moment, don't you? There is a voice crying out which says: "Cast your cares upon me, because I love you." A strange thing happens when we seek his help. Our burden becomes lighter. Don't let the pressures of life overtake you today. Call upon His name and your personal spiritual trainer will help lift the weight. Godspeed.


August 8

I know you've heard this a thousand times, but let me remind you of a simple truth about life. Some of the most valuable lessons we learn in life are when we face difficult situations. When adversity comes our way we learn a lot about ourselves and our faith. In other words, it's easy to follow God and sing praises to Him when everything in life is coming up roses. However, can you be faithful and obedient when your life is collapsing around you? Can you sing: "God is so good" when your house is on fire? Can you be light in a dark world when your health is threatened? Can you cling to your Maker when you don't understand why things have unraveled so fast in your life? What you truly are is revealed in moments of testing and uncertainties.

 

Several years ago I had to walk through the hardest times in my life. I remember walking my dog one night and thinking: "God, is this it? Have I come to a place now where I'm finished? Are you through with me? Am I ever going to preach again?" What I found to be true in those days is what I have found to be true throughout my life. Even in the darkness and doubt, God is faithful. Those dark uncertain days prepared me to be used by God in ways I never dreamed possible. In other words, God is still God and He still has a plan for every life.

 

So today, you get to choose. Will you trust Him even when you don't understand His ways or will you curse your situation? The Christian life is about trusting the One who loved you enough to die for you. Your dark days can be an opportunity to make a difference in another's life in the future. That is, if you allow God to teach you. Godspeed.


August 7, 2017

 

Back in 2009 I got this bright idea to run in my first marathon. Yep, 26.2 miles of running delight. For months I trained as hard as I had ever trained before. In other words, by the time race day was here, my body, my mind, and my spirit were ready. If you've never run a marathon, what you need to understand is, the race is really two separate runs. There is the first 20 miles and then there is the last 6.2. Around mile 22 I was struggling for the first time. I even walked for about a quarter of a mile just to give my body a rest. However, as I got to the finish line I saw my youngest daughter, Melanie Brashier, holding up a sign which read: "Leave it on the road Daddy!!" It was just the shot of adrenaline I needed. All of a sudden the pain took a back seat and a surge of energy shot through my body. All it took was a word of encouragement.

 

The same is true in this race we call life. There are some of us who are hurting, suffering, and struggling to get through. We're trying to push through the pain and the darkness, but quitting seems much easier and desirable. Maybe what we need is a little encouragement. Maybe we need to be reassured of someone's love and support. Quite possibly we just need to remember we're not alone.

 

One valuable lesson I've learned over the years of my running is: I have to focus on where I'm going and not look back at where I've been. The same is true for our lives. Stop thinking about the failures of the past and focus on the task of the present. You can do this!! How do I know this? Because you're not alone. There's a power of a presence available to you this day. When the race gets too long and the hills too steep, just walk, but keep moving. In other words.....Leave it on the road!!! Finish strong. You and the Lord have this. I have faith in you. Encourage others as you run your race. You can be a difference maker even in your struggles. Godspeed.

 

August 6, 2017

What are you doing with the opportunities God is giving you? Are you taking advantage of them or squandering them away? You've heard the old expression: "Opportunity only knocks once." Over the years I've found this to be a true statement. I can't tell you how many times I've been given a chance to touch or minister to someone and I've just flat blown it and wasted the opportunity.

 

Today I want you to think about what you do with your time. In reality, time is about opportunities. So many of of live with the mindset that we have an abundance of days. Therefore we think: "Well, I'll do that tomorrow." We fail to realize that today is the only day we have. Don't blow it.

 

Is there someone you need to encourage through a word or deed? Is there someone you need to thank? Is there someone you need to tell that you love them? Is there someone you need to forgive? In reality the answer to all those questions is a resounding yes. So get off your spiritual duff and get moving.

 

Several years ago I had a church member that was a great leader and a wonderful person. However, for years we couldn't get him to serve in any capacity in the church. Every year he was asked and every year he said no. One Sunday night he pulled me to the side and said: "I need to stop saying no and start serving. You guys put me where you think God can use me." Two weeks later he was dead. You see, time is of the essence and when it's over, it's over.

 

So, the choice is yours. What are you going to do with the opportunities God gives you? Don't wait until tomorrow because that day may never come. Godspeed.


August 5, 3027

There's a unique quality about grief. Grief always waits its turn. You can deny it, ignore it, push it back, and even try to forget it, but it just waits you out. Sooner or later you have to deal with it.

A pastor friend of mine relayed a story to me about how grief stood in line and waited on him. My friend's mother passed away and like many of us preachers, he assumed the pastoral role for his family. The arrangements were made for her funeral and he preached her service. As expected, he conducted himself in a professional manner and did a stellar job comforting his loved ones. Months later he found himself in a small town bank closing out her account. As he was filling out the necessary paperwork, it hit him like a ton of bricks. All of a sudden a flood of emotions overwhelmed him. He told me he cried like a baby right there in that bank. Yep, grief waits it turn.

Grief is also personal. We all grieve in different ways. For some of us we are outward with our emotions, while others are more private. I find myself at times, when I'm alone a flood of emotions sting my heart and mind to the point of feeling overwhelmed and at times, lost. However, as you grieve, make sure it's constructive and healthy and not destructive and unhealthy.

Finally, just as grief is personal, so is the presence and comfort of God. He and He alone reminds us that we don't grieve alone and without hope. Those two things at times are all we have to hold on to in our times of heartbreak and sorrow.

If you are waiting for grief to arrive in your life, rest assured it's coming. How you deal with it will say a lot about your life and faith. Godspeed my friends.


August 4, 2017

When I was applying for the doctoral program at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, part of the process was getting letters of recommendation from former professors of mine. This included former instructors of mine from college and seminary. One of the individuals that I contacted to secure a recommendation was my former professor of preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where I received my master of divinity degree. He had not only been one of my favorite professors, but he had given me a lot of his personal books for my library.

One evening I called this individual and explained my need for his assistance in pursuing my next degree. What followed in the course of our conversation shocked me and brought me to tears. After he agreed to write this much needed letter for me, he thanked me for calling and entrusting him with this responsibility. He then said the following: "I've never made a single difference in anyone's life in all my years on earth. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to help." What I didn't realize at that moment was my former professor, a man I loved dearly was suffering tremendously with depression. He went on to tell me how lonely he felt and how life had no purpose.

Depression and loneliness are a dangerous combination in anyone's life. It makes you feel as though no one cares and life itself is not worth the struggle. The reality of this situation was, he had made a tremendous difference in countless lives, including mine. I reminded him out the churches he pastored and the lives he changed through his ministry. I reminded him of the deacons and ministers he ordained and the countless individuals he baptized. Yet, at this moment in life, none of that mattered to him because he couldn't see it.

There are a lot of you out there who can identify with my former professor. You've have either felt that way, or feel this way now. One of Satan's biggest lies that he uses over and over is that you're alone in this journey called life. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is light in the midst of darkness and there is hope in the presence of hopelessness. God hasn't promised you a life free from trouble, but he has promised He'll never leave us nor forsake us. You can take that to the bank.

At the end of our conversation my friend and mentor said: "I'm so glad you called." I told him that I loved and appreciated him and reminded him of his influence in my life and ministry. Maybe you need to be reminded that you are important and yes you matter. Of that I am sure. Godspeed.


August 3, 2017

Back in June of 2004, I was playing golf on a beautiful summer morning in Natchez with our regular foursome. That same day some of my family members were having a memorial service for my uncle in Colorado. Due to the distance, I was unable to attend. When we got to hole number 7, a relatively short par three, I hit a beautiful shot just past the flag that backed up and found the bottom of the hole for an ace. Yep, a hole in one. Later that day I called my aunt and told her that my uncle, who had been an avid golfer must have kicked it in for me. We chuckled a bit and she was so glad that I called and told me about his service that day.

I've shared this story with you to help answer another question which I'm often asked: "Can our loved ones who have passed away come back to earth in some form to either communicate with us or let us know they're at peace?" Again, to answer your question openly and honestly, we must answer it Biblically and not emotionally.

The best resource and answer we have for this question is found in the gospel of Luke chapter 16. It's the story of the rich man and Lazerus. First, there is no indication that this is a parable which Jesus made up on the fly. I personally believe this was a factual story he told about two actual individuals.

You will recall that the rich man and Lazerus both died around the same time. Lazerus received comfort at the side of Abraham and the rich man found himself in torment and pain. He asked Abraham if he could go back and warn his brothers on earth. However, Abraham replied that wasn't an option and it wasn't possible. Here is where we find our answer.

I don't believe our loved ones can come back from any eternal destination and communicate with us here. I've found myself at grave sides with grieving families and all of a sudden a butterfly appears at the scene. It immediately brings the thought to this family that this may be their family member. I keep my mouth shut, for if it comforts them, who am I to admonish a grieving wife, husband, son or daughter?

But let me tell you what I do believe and think is possible. The Bible teaches us that our God is a god of comfort. As a matter of fact, the Holy Spirit is our comforter in this life. Throughout the Bible God used various signs to communicate to His people that He was there. There was the rainbow, a dove, earthquakes, wind, and of course an empty grave. Our God is a big and mighty God. He hurled the stars in the sky, created all things, parted the Red Sea, and conquered death and Hell. The last time I checked, He hasn't gotten out of the miraculous sign business. Who's to say that God himself doesn't give us little signs as a reminder that our loved ones are just fine in His presence? I can buy into that my friend because I've experienced it.

When my father died in 2005, I remember just prior to his death I prayed that God would spare his life because I wasn't ready to let him go. I remember a voice, an audible voice speak to me: "He was mine before he was yours." That's all I needed to hear. I'm not a highly intelligent individual, but that's something I can wrap my simple mind around and it brings me comfort. Hopefully it can help you. Godspeed.

 

August 2, 2017

Have you noticed that everybody has "a guy". You need a repair on the roof of your house, somebody's always knows a guy. If your car is in need of repair, someone knows a guy. If you need advice on investments, yep, someone knows a guy. And if you need tickets to the big game, there's aways, always a guy.

Well let me tell you, I know a guy that can help you in a lot of different situations. If your having family troubles, I know a guy who can help. If your having trouble with issues form the past, I know a guy you can call. If you're feeling like life is hopeless, I know a guy who can help. If you're feeling like life has no purpose or direction, I know a guy you can call. If your life is a mess and you don't know which end is up, I know a guy who can help.

Most of us have individual we call when things need to be repaired or replaced. But who do you call when you are in need of repair? Who do you look to when your life is falling apart? I know a guy and his name is Jesus and he's waiting to hear from you. There's no problem too big and no problem too small. The funny thing about him is, He's always more than you expect. Give him a call today. Godspeed.

 

August 1, 2017

How's your heart feeling today? Oh, I'm not necessarily talking about physically, but rather emotionally or spiritually. There are some of you who are dealing with issues which are tearing your heart apart. As a matter of fact, some feel like their heart has been ripped out of their chest.

For some of you, grief is your heart problem. You've lost a special individual in your life and now our days are covered in darkness. The task that once seemed simple and easy now has become difficult and at times impossible. You wonder if you'll ever be happy again in this life?

Others of you are dealing with a prodigal child. You've given your heart and soul to this child and now he or she is rebelling against everything you hold dear in your life. At times, you're not even sure you recognize your own flesh and blood. The weight of hurt and disappointment at times is more than you can bear.

Still, some of you are dealing with physical ailments which have robbed you of your independence. The treatments and prognosis are uncertain at best, and now your heart wonders if the quality of life is better than the quantity.

In the 34th Psalm, the writer reminds us that God draws near the brokenhearted. Now if God comes close to us in our time of brokenness, wouldn't it stand to reason that we might want to draw close to Him. He will and can make something of the broken pieces in your life. Godspeed.

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