August 31

There’s a catch phrase that I seem hear an awful lot these days. It seems to describe almost every situation in life whether it’s good or bad. The sentence which is repeated over and over to me in times of deep and even troubling situations is simply this: “It is what it is.” These five words have become an excuse to accept sometimes the unacceptable. “Mom and I haven’t talked since that huge argument we had, but it is what it is.” “Our son was suspended from school and his behavior has become uncontrollable. “But it is what it is.” “My spouse and I rarely communicate anymore, but it is what it is.” “Our church seems to be in turmoil all the time, but it is what it is.”

This sentence has become an excuse to just accept bad and even ungodly behavior. It’s as if we’ve thrown up our hands and said: “This situation can’t be changed because it is what it is.” But maybe we should ask a question which might change the way we view things. “Is it what it has to be?” With a little effort and a lot of prayer, things don’t have to be what they are. Actually, they can be what they were designed to be. But you can’t be lazy in your faith and in your relationships with others and God.

It can start today by just changing an attitude of acceptance to an attitude of determination. You may not can change, but God can change anyone. Then my friends, “It can be what He wants it to be.” Godspeed my friends.

 

August 30

Today I’ll have the high honor of preaching a message of hope at the funeral of my Aunt Mable Hurt in Pontotoc, Mississippi. If there was ever an individual who fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith, it was her. She was total class at 2 in the morning. If you looked up the definition of a southern lady, it would have a picture of Mable beside it. Jesus said: We find our lives by losing them.” In other words, when we give ourselves in service to Christ and others, we find true meaning in life. She shaped and molded four of the finest daughters any parents could hope for into great leaders for the Kingdom. As a school teacher, she was more than just an instructor, she was a mentor. As for her work in the church, let’s just say she’s a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Her husband, my uncle Ben, died December 11, 1971. She never remarried. I guess when you find your soulmate, there’s no need to look for another. They were married June 22, 1942. The separation they experienced on this earth is no more. For both of them it was worth the wait. “Go rest high on that mountain, Aunt Mable, your work on earth is done.” Well done. Tell Mom and Dad I love them and will see them soon. Godspeed my friends.

 

August 29

Preachers need a safe haven where they can go and unwind. This is a place where they can relax and just be themselves. Jesus had such a place in the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazerus. Often he would preach and teach in the city of Jerusalem during the day, then retreat to Bethany to the home of his friends. Remember, he didn’t have a home of his own, so this house and these friends provided him a place to just decompress from the demands of his ministry.

I’ve been fortunate over the years to have a place like that in almost every city I’ve lived. I can enter the doors to a judgement free environment and just enjoy a time of fellowship, fun, and relaxation. Yesterday was such a day. After a long day in Jackson, I called a dear friend of mine and told them I was dropping by to change clothes and just visit for a while. I was told where the spare key was located and instructed to let myself in the house and they’d be home shortly. Within a few minutes the back patio was filled with family, adults and children alike. For just an hour, everything just faded away and all that was on the agenda was conversation and rest.

I know it doesn’t seem like much to you, but those moments can literally be the difference in making through another day or not. Imagine that. The minister needs to be ministered to as well. I’m grateful for those homes of refuge that allow me to just be me. Truly they’re a gift from God. Godspeed my friends.

 

August 28

There are times in my life when I get tired of seeing people I love hurt. However, I do believe in the backstage of life that God is working through all things to bring about good. (Romans 8:28) even the things that break our hearts and shatter our dreams, God is still at work. But have patience my friends, because “the good” you may not see for quite some time. Some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in life have come through the most difficult days in my life. He never said it would be easy, he only promised he never leave or forsake us. That’s good enough for me. Godspeed my friends.

 

August 27

This past Friday I played a round of golf with my son-in-law at Canton Country Club. I’ve probably played more rounds there than any other course. As many of you know, I pastored First Baptist Church, Canton for nearly ten years. However, this round was different because it was the first time I had played there since my dear friend Charles Weems passed away. Charles, Steve Stringer, Bobby Winstead and I had a regular game each Saturday. However, I’ve played more rounds of golf with Charles than anyone else I know.

I had a strange feeling from the moment we arrived at the course. It was both unsettling, but comforting at the same time. For you see, every hole tells a story and hold a special meaning for me. At times my emotions would get the best of me while at other times I found myself laughing out loud. Before I knew it, nine holes were over and I looked down at the scorecard and there was a 38 by my name with a double bogey on the card. I finished with an 82, and yes Charles, I drove it in the water on 15. There’s no doubt he would have won, but I would have reminded him I didn’t play from the senior tees.

That’s the gift of our memories. They rip our hearts out at times, yet they also make us laugh just moments later. I’ll take the pain that comes with them because the memories of a special friendship make me a better man and friends to others. Thanks Charlie, for always being a friend I could count on in this life. Save a tee time for me and I’ll see you again. By the way, since all things are new in Heaven, there will be no senior tees. Godspeed my special friend. I sure do miss you.

 

August 26

This morning at church we’ll be talking about how to get out of the dumps. Everyone, regardless of who you are or what you do, will have their down moments. You know, those moments when you feel like no one understands you or knows how you feel. In those moments of isolation and solitude, God will come to you and ask this question: “What are you doing here?” It’s a question that deserves a good response from you.

I’ve learned two valuable lessons in my moments of darkness that have made all the difference in the world. First, God can get you out of the dumps. Sometimes it requires talking to someone or even getting some medical help. Remember, the mental, spiritual, and physical aspects of life are all tied together. When one is off centered, if effects the other two.

Second, God will take care of you while you’re in the dumps. You probably won’t notice it at the time, but when you look back to the past, there will be no doubt his hand was on your shoulder. Godspeed my friends.

 

August 25

The tear stains on my shirt hadn’t even dried by the time we got back to my car. The visit the the ICU unit to check on some old friends and to offer a word of encouragement, had lasted about 30 minutes. You leave a family who is clinging to hope that their loved one can somehow make a drastic turn around and begin the road to recovery. However it seems every time she takes one step forward, she takes two backwards. These are the ones that suck the life out of ministers. After all what would you expect when you baptized Dad, Mom, and both daughters at the same time. You get in your vehicle and the feeling of helplessness overwhelms you because there’s not one single thing you can do, but pray.

All of a sudden it hits you. You’re reminded of the most important fact of all. You just represent the one who offers hope. You’re the one that prays, but God is the one who does the work. Just as he meets the needs of the hurting and grieving, he comes to his servants and says: “Rest, take nourishment, for the journey is long.” My job is not to “be hope”, but just to offer it in the name of Christ. But when you see the tear stains on the shirt, it sure becomes a little more difficult to remember your role. But I trust the Director, for he not only knows the scene, he authored the entire work. Godspeed my friends.

 

August 24

“If you really knew me, you wouldn’t like me at all.” I can’t tell you how many times someone has sat in my office and uttered those words. “You just don’t know what all I done and the things I’ve said. If you only knew, you’d turn your head in disgust.” There are so many individuals out there walking around with a load of guilt and two loads of shame based on things that happed twenty years ago in their lives. They want to find relief and redemption, but they’re not sure it’s available to them. These people have somehow convinced themselves that God’s grace can cover everyone else’s sins but their’s.

Sometimes as individuals we don’t need to be reminded how bad we are, but rather how good God truly is. No matter the sin or the action, Christ died for you. And the amazing thing is, if he had to do it again, we would. If you’re feeling as though you’ve destroyed the bridge that grace crosses over, please remember that you’re the crown of God’s creation. You were created in his image and for his pleasure. No matter how dark the night is in your life, his light will shine. No matter how grotesque the action, his blood covers it all. Sometimes we just have to accept the fact that we are acceptable.

You see it boils down to this simple thought process. Stop thinking about how bad you are and starting rejoicing at how good God is. His love and forgiveness is enough for you. Godspeed my friends.

 

August 23

Last night one of our children’s workers lost her cellphone. We turned her room upside down, looked in the kitchen, and even rummaged through the trash, but no phone was found. She looked through her car and even went back to her house. No phone. In today’s world, it’s hard to function without our smartphones. (Even though we did it for years while we were growing up.) The reason there’s such a high value on these devices is that they’re much more than a phone. They are our photo albums, contact lists, emails, messages, and even our navigational devices. All of us have a sense of panic and lostness when we misplace or lose our cellphones. We feel cutoff from the world.

But is there as much panic in our lives when we are cutoff from God? When there’s no prayer time, no bible study, no worship and no quiet time. You see, our time with God is vital in our survival in this world. If we fail to take time for God in our lives, we begin a journey to a spiritual drought in our lives. The sad thing is, there’s more panic over a lost phone for most of us, than lost time with God. Maybe we’ve become more dependent on technology and less dependent on our Creator. Maybe a little adjustment needs to take place in our lives. Godspeed my friends.

 

August 22

If you’re told something negative long enough, especially by someone you love or trust, it’s hard not to believe it. Even when it’s not true. Let me give you an example. A young girl comes into the house all excited about being chosen to sing in the school choir, only to hear her mother say: “Why did they choose you? You can’t sing.” It doesn’t matter that the girl can sing like an angel, she now is convinced she can’t. She see herself in the same light as the most important person in her life sees her.

I’m convinced today that you are hearing two voices in your head. No, I’m not suggesting that you’re mentally ill, but there are two voices vying for your attention. One voice is telling you that your life doesn’t matter and that no one cares. That voice continues by saying if people really knew you, they’d turn their back on you. However, there’s another voice that’s whispering in your ear. It’s hard to hear at times because of the noise of the the world. That voice is telling you that you’re valued and loved. As a matter of fact, that voice keeps reminding you that you’re worth dying for. That voice will tell you over and other that he knows everything about you and loves you still.

When God becomes the most important person in your life, then you start seeing the beauty he sees in you. You’ll see yourself in the same light as the most important person in your life sees you. Listen to his voice, he has never been wrong and he won’t be wrong today. Godspeed my friends.

 

August 21

I was getting my haircut the other day and man was looking at me as he carried on with his story. Finally, he look a little closer to me and said: “You’re a preacher! I can tell by your hair. You have preacher hair.” The sweet lady that cuts my hair quickly said: “He doesn’t have ‘preacher hair’! Most preachers have a big combover to cover their bald spots or the have big platforms in the front! He doesn’t have preacher hair.” (My Dad actually had the preacher hair style.) The man in his persistence said: “Yeah, all these new preachers have hair just like him.”

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to spot a follower of Christ by their hair style, or the clothes they wear. Just to be able to quickly identify a Christian by some outward trait would be nice and convenient. However, there is a way to recognize a believer fairly easy. Jesus said: “You’ll know my disciples by how they love one another.” When the world sees such love, they’ll be drawn to it. They won’t be able to help themselves. Change in our world starts in churches will to change. We actually have to love one another. Then and only then can we effectively impact the world. It starts with loving one another.

As for the preacher hair.......if the young ones are wearing this style, then I get credit for starting it. It’s been this way since 1982. Long before I was a preacher. Godspeed my friends.

 

August 20

In my humble but correct opinion there’s no harder job in the church than the job of being a pastor’s wife. The expectations and pressures of such a job will wear an individual down emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I witnessed this first hand as a child in the life of my mother. It’s not easy to measure up to job description which is different with every church member.

The pastor’s wife has to be willing to go where the Lord leads. She has to understand that her husband is on call 24/7, even if some people assume he works two days a week. The pastor’s wife has to get use to the midnight emergencies which demands her husband time and attention. The pastor’s wife has to get use to vacations being cut short because of a death in the church. And a pastor’s wife has to get use to the criticism, fair or unfair that comes with the job. She’s usually the only one that sees the lowest of the lows in her husband’s life due to the demands placed upon him. She has to understand that that excellence is expected and little appreciated. Her heart will break when someone she trusts betrays her family. She’ll get to a place where she’ll wonder if she can trust anyone at all, including her husband. It’s just a thankless job.

Today Tommi Jo and I will celebrate 35 years of marriage. 32 of those years have been in the ministry. She’s seen the good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The victories and defeats. Through it all, she’s been faithful to me, the church and our God. She deserves a gold metal for those years of service. Happy anniversary! It hasn’t always been good, but it certainly has been dull. I love and appreciate you more than you will know.

 

August 19

The time is now, so what are you waiting on this day. You have an appointment with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The question is: “Will you keep it?  There will never be a better time to get plugged into a church and start serving. Remember, the call of Christ is not to come and sit, but rather to serve in his name. So, the ball is in your court. Stop thinking about the past and how you got your feelings hurt or someone else disappointed you. Put your hands on the plow and get busy. For this is the day the Lord has made. Don’t you think it’s time you rejoiced and get glad in it?  Clock is ticking. Are you ready?  Godspeed.

 

August 18

Have you ever wondered why the vilest of sinners, the outcast of society, and the ones who suffered public humiliation were drawn to Jesus? It’s pretty simple. His goodness was never offensive. The problem with so many Christians today is, we just can’t get out of the way of ourselves. There are times when we need to take a stand and thus be offensive to the world. However, there are moments when we need to echo the words of Jesus: “No man condemns you and neither do I.” In other words, it wouldn’t hurt if the world saw a little love of Christ in his followers. You have to find that proper balance.

I have found over the years that many folks out there don’t need to be reminded of how bad they are. They’re well aware of that on a regular basis. They need to be reminded or told for the first time how good, loving and forgiving God can be towards their life. There are folks out there who don’t need to hear a sermon, they need to see one. Finally, there are so many men, women, boys, and girls who need to be told they haven’t walked beyond the grace of God. You see, what I’ve observed over the years is that a lot of people don’t think they’re worth of forgiveness, much less the love of God. That’s where God’s people come into play. We have to be the instrument God plays to communicate his love and forgiveness. When this happens, you’ll see changed men and women. But it starts by letting the world see the love of God in his people. Today is a good day to start. Godspeed my friends.

 

August 17

It’s kind of ironic that the King of Rock and Roll and the Queen of soul died on the same day 41 years apart. Both Elvis and Aretha brought so much joy and change to the world. Elvis combined soul and country music and produced what we now know as Rock and Roll. His sound was different and he changed music forever.

Aretha was just different. As a pastor’s daughter she took gospel music and combined it with soul and gave us a sound that shook us to our very core. When you heard R-E-S-P-E-C-T, you heard Aretha at her very best. As a matter of fact, that song ranked number 2 in the all time list of top 100 rock and roll song. “Satisfaction” by the Stones was number 1.

As I watched and listened to the tributes to the Queen of Soul last night, so many echoed the same thoughts. So many simply said: “She’ll live on through her music just like Elvis.” So true.

Over two thousand years ago, the King of Kings died on a Roman cross. The religious and political leaders thought it was finished. After all, isn’t that what he, himself cried from the cross? But three days later, everything things changed. Through his resurrection he conquered death and Hell with one victorious action. He doesn’t live through words printed in a book or stories told about him. Unlike Elvis and Aretha, he’s alive and well and he’s still changing lives today. I love the music of Elvis and Aretha, and they both changed the cultural landscape of our world. Jesus not only changed the world, but he created it. And he’s still changing lives today for all eternity. That’s the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Godspeed my friends.

 

August 16

Last night as I laid my head on my pillow, my heart was especially heavy. There was a burden and a sense of helplessness that was hard to overcome. Over the last few days and weeks I had heard from some very close friends who are facing some major struggles in life. The majority of them were dealing with grief, but others were facing the uncertainty of life itself. Most all of these individuals were at one time parishioners of mine. However, through technology I heard from them through text messages, emails, and inboxes. It’s a helpless feeling being so far away from people you love and care for in life. I can pray for them and offer words of encouragement, but there’s no substitute for a physical presence. That at times is an impossible feat.

Each night before I go to sleep, I read my Bible. Over the last four or five years it’s been a goal of mine to read it through in a year. Last night as I read the 34th Psalm, I came to verse 18. “God draws close to the broken-hearted.” I’m limited by time and space, but God isn’t. He’s omnipresent, which means he’s everywhere. He especially draws close to those who are hurting. Much like a mother does after a child scrapes his or her knee. He wraps his arms around the broken and he holds them close to his heart. If you’re having trouble feeling him, be of good cheer, for he feels you and your pain.

To those who have reached out to me recently, rest assured you’re being lifted up in prayer. However, remember, he’s promised to never leave you nor forsake you. You can trust him with your heart. Godspeed my friends.

 

August 15

For the most of us we’re familiar with the seven stages of grief which include shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and ultimately acceptance. I can remember in college psychology studying these basic principles and wondering how they affected an individual’s life. Over the past few months I’ve had an opportunity to minister with a lot of grieving people. So often I’m asked: “When will this hurt go away? At one point I think I’m fine, the next I’m falling apart. What’s wrong with me?”

If you’ve ever felt that way then you need to understand you’re normal. You see there’s no one size fits all when it comes to grief. There is no schedule that comes with grief. In other words you can’t get a calendar and map out the grief process. It’s different for different people. But what I will tell you is there is healthy grief and unhealthy grief. There’s constructive grief and the destructive grief. There’s hopeless grief and a grief which is comforted by hope.

Grief always waits its turn. You can deny it, push it back, ignore it, but sooner or later you have to deal with it. Grief is personal. But so is the comfort of God. So be honest with him in your feelings and allow his presence to move you forward. Find a friend, minister or counselor to talk to about your struggles. There’s always strength in numbers. Remember, you don’t have to travel this road alone. Help is usually a phone call or a prayer away. Godspeed my friends.

 

August 14

Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is ourselves. Let me explain. A couple of weeks ago I called a dear friend of mine who had just lost his father. As a matter of fact, we talked just shortly after they had finished visitation at the funeral home. I asked my ole friend how he was dealing with everything and he replied: “Not good.” You see, the last few days of his father’s life had been difficult. He had suffered from dementia and other physical ailments. Now let me tell you, if you’ve never dealt with an irrational sick senior adult, consider yourself blessed. It’s hard emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Sometimes you have to be stern and forceful with them.

Well my friend told me he was feeling guilty because of some of the things he had said to his Dad. My response to him was simple. “Don’t have a higher standard of forgiveness than God.” All of a sudden you could feel the tension and burden begin to ease up over the phone. Choking back the tears, my friend simply said: “I needed to hear that! You’ll never know how much this call has meant to me.”

Sometimes it’s easier to forgive others but we fail to let ourselves off the hook. Don’t have a higher standard of forgiveness than God when it comes to forgiving yourself. Godspeed my friends.

 

August 13

The other night, while eating in a restaurant just outside of Nashville, I saw a middle aged couple come in and take a seat just a few tables across from us. They were to the backside of Tommi Jo so she couldn’t see them and there was no reason to call it to her attention. There was something interesting about the man. For some reason he was a bit unsettled. He got up about three times and the would sit down in a different position. It was if he was anxious or nervous about something. As for me, every now and then I’d just be drawn back to their direction.

About ten minutes after their arrival, a young man with fairly long hair entered the restaurant. More than likely he was a college student or a young professional. He looked around the room as if he was trying to find someone. When he spotted this couple he made his way towards them. When the man saw him coming his direction, he immediately got up and quickly walked his way. When the two met, the older man threw his arms around the younger one and they embraced. A million scenarios went through my mind as to what was going on. Could this be a father and mother meeting their college son for dinner? Maybe it was a relationship that had been strained and this was the first step in restoration. Who knows? But it was beautiful.

This scene took me back to my college years. Ever so often my Dad would have to travel to Jackson for a meeting or convention. He’d always call me up a school and set up a dinner meeting. When we met, he always greeted me with a hug and a kiss. Such memories are priceless and irreplaceable. I miss those days.

However in a similar way, the Heavenly Father is waiting for some us to come back to him. He’s prepared a table for you and he’s patiently waiting. What you’ll find is, when you decide to meet him, he runs to you and throws his arms around you. No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, he’s ready to meet you. That’s one appointment you don’t want to miss. Godspeed my friends.

 

August 12

Today’s message is on “Being Ready”. We spend a lot of time getting ready. Each morning we rise from our slumber in order to get ready for work or school. Students and parents have spent the last few weeks buying school supplies in order to get ready for the new year. Football teams are in full practice mode so they can be ready for the new season. After all these preparations, I wonder if they’ll be ready?

Today is an opportunity for you to get ready as well. The Christian faith is a series of opportunities to prepare yourself for this life and the life that shall be. We should prepare ourselves to live for Christ through prayer, Bible study, worship, fellowship, and service. God gives us grace by allowing us time to prepare so we’ll be ready. So let me ask you a question: “What are you doing to get ready? One day you’ll stand before God and he’ll either say: “Well done thy good and faithful servant.” Or he’ll simply say with a sad heart: “Depart from me for I never knew you.”

How sad it is to see individuals make every earthly preparation to be successful, yet neglect the very thing that will save their soul. Don’t be foolish my friends, get ready now. Godspeed my friends.

 

August 11

While on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, my alma mater, I noticed the new students were registering and getting ready for the fall semester. In my mind’s eye I wanted to ask them if they really knew what they were signing up for in life. After more than 30 years in the ministry I wanted to pull a couple of them to the side and give them a little advice.

For example, do they understand that only 40% of those who graduate will ever service a local church. That was the statistic when I finished and it could be higher or lower. Do they understand that about 80% of the things they will deal with will be negative. Things like death, marriage counseling, cancer, heart disease, and the loss of friends. Do they understand the 80-10-10 rule in the local church? 10% of their people will think they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread. 80% will like them if they do a good job. 10% will hate them regardless of what they do.

I wonder if they know what it will feel like to have people you trust betray you? It happened to Jesus, so don’t expect less. Will they understand the grind of being on call 24/7 and yet most folks think you work two days a week? Will they expect people to get jealous when you make friends? Will they understand the loneliness that comes with the job? Will they expect the heartbreak of burying a friend? Do they realize that churches fire ministers at a rate of 200 a month? Do they comprehend that when you leave a church, you leave all your friends behind? Do they know there will be moments when they question not only their call, but God himself? Will they be ready for the anonymous letters?

But on the other hand, do they know the thrill they’ll experience when they lead someone to Christ. Are they aware that they’ll see lives transformed right before their eyes? Do they know that their faith will be tested, but as a result, it will grow stronger. Do they know that calls will come years later from people who will say: “You made a difference.”?

I would have liked to have told one or two, it’s going to be hard, but in the end: “Fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith.” It will be worth it. Godspeed my friends.

 

August 10

We’ve been on a miniature vacation this week in Kentucky catching up with old friends. Last night as we were out on the screened in porch, it dawned upon me that we hadn’t watched TV

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