February 2016

Monday, Feb 29

One of the hardest things a minister experiences is the loss of a special person in their life. Hopefully, most preachers aren't removed from their congregation, but rather invested. I know in my life, over the years, regardless of where I've served, those people have become my life. Therefore, when someone close to you dies, it's like losing a family member. Today I'll journey to Jackson, Ms. for the memorial service of Sandy Black. Larry and Sandy served as our interim mus...ic minister while I was at FBC Natchez. I've often said one of the highlights of my ministry was serving with Larry and Sandy. I learned so much from both of them. While my children were playing high school basketball, I'd look up, and there was Larry and Sandy. When my mother died, who made the special effort to be there? You got it. Sandy was class at 3 in the morning, a beautiful woman inside and out. I'm glad she was part of my life and she will be missed greatly. However, she's not lost, for we know exactly where she is. Godspeed Sandy. We love and miss you.

Sunday, Feb 28

The other day we ran into a family that I had the privilege of being their pastor many years ago. The daughter in the family was a friend of my youngest daughter. Now you have to realize its been probably 15 years or more since I'd seen this girl. I baptized her when she was about nine or ten. The first thing out of her mouth was: "I don't remember you being so grey." I guess it's true, we're all getting older. However, age is a matter of the mind. Carl Sandburg once said: "W...hen I die, I want to die with the mind of a boy!" In other words, keep that child-like wonder around in your life. Over the years I've found there are things I once did that I can't anymore. However, through the years I've learned valuable lessons on how to depend on God I every situation. I may be old to some, but to my Heavenly Father, I'm just his child. Now excuse me while I look for my cane and false teeth. Godspeed.

Saturday, Feb 27

The call of Christ is a stimulant and not a sedative. Somehow, someway we've gotten confused about our relationship with God. He hasn't called me to be weak, but rather strong in His name. He hasn't called me cow down to the world, but rather take the shield of faith and the sword of word into battle each day. He hasn't called me to be the world's doormat, but to to call the world to repentance in Him. He hasn't called me to be successful, but rather obedient. He hasn't come ...into my life to be a cosmic kill-joy, but to give me life more abundantly. He hasn't called me to conform to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. It's time that many of us remember this and rise up to the challenge which is before us right now. The world will only get better if you and I will rise to the level of obedience He requires. Stop judging others and sinking to their level. Live for Him because He died for you. That ought to stimulate you and me. Godspeed

Friday, Feb 26

I believe in life there are two types of people, the givers and the receivers. Receivers eat the bread that givers bake. Receivers sit under the shade tree that givers planted. If you'll remember the forgotten beatitude: "It is more blessed to give than receive." Notice there is a blessing in both. A gift is either elevated or degraded by how it is received. However, the higher call is for us to be givers to others. The greatest gift you will ever give someone is the gift of your time and attention. Most folks today are more guarded with their time than anything. Think about it for a moment, even those closest to you want you more than the things you can give them. You are blessed by the giving of your time, effort, and attention to those who need it. That's exactly what Jesus did. He gave of himself to the people who needed a friend and some hope. Which person are you? The giver or receiver. The real blessing in life comes from giving the best of you to those who need you. Godspeed.

Thursday, Feb 25

This is a spiritual fact that we need to remember. God fulfills all of His promises even if we don't personally experience them. In reality, this shouldn't shock nor disappoint us. Moses never made it into the Promised Land. David didn't build the Temple in Jerusalem. However, God delivered on both of His promises. One of the frustrating aspects of the ministry is, we never get to see the end result of our work. However, God is faithful to make good on His promises to His servants. Today, even as difficult as it may be, trust God to keep His word. The answer to your prayer may not happen in your time or even in your lifetime, but it will happen in the right time. Of this I'm sure. How can one be so confident? God's time is always the right time. Godspeed.

Wednesday, Feb 24

I'm confused. But the again it doesn't take much to confuse a simple mind like myself. But over the last few years all I've heard from hardcore evangelicals is that we need a man of God in the White House. I hear the call for renewal and repentance to a nation which has lost its moral compass. There is no doubt that what is wrong is now right and what is right is now wrong. Christians are currently a people who have few rights and no voice. And now, playing out before us is a scene from the teaching of Jesus. "There was a judge who didn't fear God and didn't respect man." Sounds like a popular figure today. Paul also warned us about those who tickle the ears of the hearers. In other words, they say what you want to hear. This is a fact, there are candidates out there who fear God and follow His teachings. Obviously, we as believers have decided that we rather applaud an individual who recently said he's never asked God for forgiveness, he just tries to do better. I believe in the separation of church and state, so no names, nor endorsements are given. But we better wake up, for the other side offers a liar and socialist. God help us, we can't get this one wrong, but it sure looks like we're about to. But what do I know, I'm just a simple preacher. Godspeed.

Tuesday, Feb 23

What are you afraid of in life? Psychologists tell us that we come into this life with two basic fears. The fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. However, it doesn't take long to add to the list. There is the fear of death. The fear of public speaking. The fear of being rejected. The fear of failure. The fear of never finding love. The fear of finding the wrong love. For many of us, fear has dogged us our whole life. We were scared to death of kindergarten. Then there was elementary school, middle school, high school and ultimately...college. Many of us are fearful about the future of our country. And a lot of us are afraid to face this day and the uncertainty it brings. But there is hope and encouragement for a he Children of God. In II Timothy 1:7, ( Or as Trump would say two Timothy) God reminds us that He hasn't given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and self discipline. So the fear doesn't come from God, but the power to overcome it does. How? By realizing He has already gone before us. If He is ahead of us, and for us, what do we have to fear? That is if you truly trust Him. Godspeed.

Monday, Feb 22

Be careful how quickly you judge others. Don't ever say: "That could never happen to me or my family." When you take that judgmental attitude, you'll make yourself out to be a liar every time. I can't even count the number of times in my ministry that I've witnessed an honorable family go through a heart breaking and life changing experience and have someone render judgment by saying: "Well if that had been my child you can bet it wouldn't have happened." Well it usually doesn't take long for the scoffers to experience a similar situation. When you say: "That won't happen to me", you are doubling down on temptation with Satan. You're spiritual arrogance can be the very straw that breaks your back. Rather than rendering judgement on others, why not restore and sympathize with those who are hurting. It's been said that the church is the only army that shoots their wounded. Satan has enough help in this world destroying others. We don't have to join his ranks. Don't be that "guy" or that "gal" who always judges the hurting. Be the one who shows compassion. After all, isn't that our mandate from Christ himself? Godspeed.

Sunday, Feb 21

Today we continue our series of sermons entitled: "Facing Your Own Demons." Our subject for today is loneliness. Now, before you're quick to ask, is this a demon? Realize there is a difference between solitary time with God and loneliness. The first thing God pronounced as not good after all His creations, was that man should be alone. You can feel alone in a crowded room or a crowded house. Loneliness speaks the lie to you that you're life doesn't matter and no one cares. Loneliness drives you to self-pity and continues to tell you that no one has ever had it so bad. Loneliness leaves you vulnerable to temptation, especially with teenagers because they desire approval from their peers. The truth, however, is that life, even though it has its peaks and valleys, is worth living. As Children of God we must remember, we're never alone. Today, you might feel like no one cares and things would be better for all concerned it you just went away. That is a devil's lie! That's how he wants you to feel. Don't give in, fight the good fight and keep the faith. Reach your hand out, you'll feel God's hand in yours. He'll never leave nor forsake you. Godspeed.

Saturday, Feb 20

I was talking to a young mother a couple of days ago about attending our church. Her children are being picked up by our van ministry each week, but she does attend. In the course of our conversation she said: "I'm just so tired on Sunday, it's one of my few days off from work. Immediately I assured her that we did no exercise or weight lifting during our worship time. The heaviest lifting she'd have to do was to lift her Bible to her lap. She was reminded that out chairs ar...e very comfortable and would provide excellent support. Finally, I told her if she felt the need she could just go on to sleep and it wouldn't bother me in the least. However, she needed to demonstrate to her children that church is important, not by sending them, but by bringing them. As you can see, tact is not my spiritual gift. But listen closely, we better see the urgency of leading people to Christ. I see no other avenue to change our culture than by changed hearts. Praying we will see her tomorrow. Oh, she got a second visit from me yesterday. Persistence is one of my gifts. Godspeed.

Friday, Feb 19

The other day I found out a friend of mine resigned from his church with no place to go. The reason? The church needed revitalization. What in the heck does that mean? This is just my opinion, and it won't cost you anything and that may be what it's worth. We've reached a place of epidemic proportions when it comes to forced terminations in the ministry. We fire at a rate of over 200 ministers a month. In the state of Mississippi alone, among Southern Baptist, it is one a week. And that's just the ones we know about. A lot of these pastors haven't done anything immoral or unethical, but the church feels like they need to go another direction. It sounds like coaching and preaching have become a lot alike. Church members look at declining attendance and giving and think: "We have to make a change!" Have you ever thought the change may not be in personnel, but rather in the heart? Just as we see a lack of respect for teachers, policemen, coaches and other individuals of authority, we see the same towards preachers and other ministers. The change may need to be with the congregation. It's a good thing Moses wasn't replaced when the Children of Israel gripped and complained. They'd still be in the wilderness. The church is the Body of Christ. We better start treating it as such. The funny thing I've observed, rarely do those churches who fire pastors see an increase in attendance. Usually the opposite occurs. Why? Very few want to be a part of a group that continues to operate in a dysfunctional manner. In other words, the problem wasn't removed. Too bad they can't see it. My friend will be fine, but this is a problem that's not going away and it's killing a lot of good people and bringing a demise to many churches. We better start getting this one right. Godspeed.

Thursday, Feb 18

Last night during our Wednesday night Bible study, I received a sign of affirmation which blessed my heart as much as anything has in a long time. We were talking about how important it is as a church to receive people as they are. Now for some folks this is real hard. However, I said one of our real strengths of a church is its non-judgmental attitude towards others. In the back of the congregation was a recent convert to the Christian Faith. She has had a tough life, but has found purpose and direction in her new faith. She is there every time the church doors are open. As I was talking, she was nodding her head in agreement. In other words, she had already experienced what we were discussing. She's never been judged or ignored because she was different or new to the church. Too many churches are going spiritually bankrupt because we want to reach people like us. That was never our mandate. People in the world need to know that the church isn't a collection of saints, but rather a group of sinners redeemed by the blood of Christ. Then we can start making a difference. Godspeed.

Wednesday, Feb 17

When Jesus said: "In this world you'll have trouble", you realize he wasn't kidding, right? I think most of us are aware of the difficulties in life. The battles with our health, finances, family, and work that we face day in and day out. However, the hardest struggle we face is when we get hit by the unexpected. The friend that turns on us, the family member that doubts us, the minister who doesn't check on us. Michael Card, in his song, "Why?", states: "Only a friend can be...tray a friend, a stranger has nothing to gain!" How true is that. When you look at the life of Christ, he called 12 disciples. One betrayed him, one denied him, one doubted him, and only one was there when he was executed. The pain is great when those closest to you rip your heart out. Believe me, it takes a long time to trust and a long time to heal. But one things for sure, there is one who knows how you feel. If he can forgive us, then our mission and responsibility is to forgive and move on. It's not easy, but neither was that cross. Godspeed.

Tuesday, Feb 16

I can remember when our children were young, there would be times when they'd get In a bit of trouble. (Usually it was when they were hanging around some of deacon's kids.) When it came time for their punishment I'd sometimes, not all the times, ask them: "Do you want grace or the law?" The first time I asked them this question, they quickly wanted to know the difference. I'd respond by telling them that grace was deserving punishment, but not receiving it. The law was getting what they deserved. They loved them some grace! Don't we all. However, when thinking about our relationship with God, there are some who feel as though they have walked beyond the grace and forgiveness of their Heavenly Father. Nothing, I mean nothing could be further than the truth. As that old hymn reminds us, His grace is greater than all our sins. Stop dwelling on how bad you've been, and start thinking about how good and forgiving our Heavenly Father is. You can never walk beyond his ability to forgive you. His love is always unconditional. Godspeed.

Monday, Feb 15

What is our responsibility as children of God? When you get down to the simplicity of the gospel, it boils down to two things. Love God and love others. Pretty simple, but sometimes hard to do. As followers of Christ, I have to place God above all other relationships in my life. However, when my relationship with God is where it should be, most of my other relationships seem to fall in line. Second, I've have a responsibility to love others as well. But understand this, we have to realize this is not optional as a believer. And furthermore, I have to love people where they are and as they are. It's easy to show love understanding and compassion on people like us. As a matter of fact, Jesus said even the infidel does this and there's no reward in doing so. As believers, we are called to love others, even if we don't agree with them or like what they do. Remember, God loves you as you are and not as you ought to be. Remember the mandate, it's not optional. Godspeed.

Sunday, Feb 14

When you think about this life on earth, it's about loss. The loss of family, the loss of loved ones, the loss of friends, the loss of neighbors, and even the loss of pets. We lose our innocence, our purity, our excitement, and we lose our trust. We lose our blankets, teddy bears, and night lights. We lose our elementary years, our middle school years, our high school years and college years. We lose our classmates, our girlfriends, our boyfriends and our best friends. We los...e our games, our eligibility, our desire and we lose the championship. We lose our jobs, we lose at the stock market, our retirement plan, and lottery. We lose our opportunities, our time, our dreams and our aspirations. We lose our faith, our desire, our light, our hope, our joy, and our happiness. We lose our eyesight, our mobility, our health and our independence. We lose our memory, our dignity, and our privacy. Yep, this life is about loss. But the next life is about gain. The Apostle Paul wrote: "For me to live is Christ, to die is gain." This life is temporary, the next, well its eternal. Godspeed.

Saturday, Feb 13

She was just a dog. And yesterday when she died, I wept and cried like a baby. We're not talking about just river of tears, but sobbing and weeping. Later, a thought went through my mind: Did you cry such tears for your Mom or Dad, or your Father-in-law? To be honest, I don't remember. All I can say is, it was uncontrollably. Later I call my friend Ron Ron Mumbower and asked him: "What's wrong with me?" He assured me I was normal. I reminded him that normal and I don't oft...en collide in the same sentence. But here's what I've come to understand. Chesney was originally bought for Laura and then became my dog. To me, she represented a connection to my oldest daughter. Ches was as stubborn as a mule, guess that's why we got along. Birds of a feather. But in reality, a dog offers unconditional love. If you lock your dog and wife in a closet, after an hour, when you let them out, only one will be happy to see you. She brought me comfort over the years when I lost parents and a job. She never judged me, only loved me. Over the last two years we have nursed her through cushions disease, diabetes, and blindness. Our bond grew stronger. She slept next to me at night. I think God gives us such blessings like dogs to give us a glimpse of His love. This has been hard, but it's not like losing a parent or a friend, it's difficult but different. I'm thankful for 13 good years and a sweet pet that loved me and provided so much comfort. Godspeed Chesney. Love and miss you.

Thursday, Feb 11

So often we ask a friend, coworker, or family member: "What did you get for your birthday?" It's really not the quality of gifts that determines the success of the occasion, but rather the feeling one has when you're alone with your thoughts and emotions. Yesterday started with a 5.5 miles run (The Joe Hogan Run. Gotta run your age.) admiring the transformation of night into day. The morning continued with a massive amount of biblical preparation for Sunday and Wednesday nigh...t. I actually enjoyed lunch by myself, watching others interact with one other. The afternoon was spent finishing up Sunday morning's message. A brief bit of down time around 4:30, then off to teach a lesson on the Sermon on the Mount with the people I love and cherish. All along the way, throughout the day, messages were either sent by Facebook or by text. Several were so personal that I was moved to tears. One highlight was receiving a phone call from Larry and Sandy Black and listening to them sing to me. The question should be: "What did you get from your birthday?" The answer would be an outpouring of love. Thanks to all of you for making my day special. Godspeed.

Wednesday, Feb 10

Rudy Jacobs was a cake maker in Cleveland, Ms. the town where I grew up. Whenever there was a birthday or anniversary, we'd call Rudy and order one of his special white cakes with strawberry filling. I gotta tell you, they were to die for!!! Everyone in our family got a Rudy cake except me. There was one hitch. Rudy and his wife went to Florida for the month of February. So there was no white cake with strawberry filling for me. However, every year my mother would make a sheet cake with white icing that she used food coloring to color it red. (It usually came out hot pink). She put four golf tees in it and place a Valentines elf sitting on a pillow on the corner of the cake. She worked hard to make it look like it came from a bakery. You see, my brothers got cakes that were paid for with money, mine was paid in love. In reality, those are the best gifts. Those paid in love. Never was this more evident than at Calvary. There God paid the price for your sins and mine with love. Godspeed.
                                         I sure wish I had one of those cakes today.

Tuesday, Feb 9

I can vividly remember my early years of elementary school in Cleveland, Ms. Things were much different than they are today. As students, we were grouped together by abilities. Our groups were named after certain birds. You had the cardinals, the robins, and the blue jays. It didn't take much of a genius to figure out there was a smart group, an average group, and a slow group. The problem with this system is, it tended to put a label on a child that was hard to escape. In reality, children learn at different paces. For some, learning comes easy, they're like a sponge that just soaks up knowledge as it's presented to them. Then there are folks like me. I was a BR child, Before Riddling. Learning was hard for me and I always hated the fact that my friends were different birds than me. I'm a prime example of a late bloomer. The other day, after watching one of my sermons on the Internet, a good friend text me the question: "When did you get so smart?" All I can say is God can use people like me who have average or even below average intelligence. The Kingdom of God is different in that there are no groups, just disciplines of Christ. When we get to heaven there won't be a blue jay group, robin group, or cardinal group. We will all fully know, and will be fully known. In other words, we will be one in Christ. Finally I'll be with the smart group. So will you. Godspeed.

Monday, Feb 8

I've had many people over the years express their frustration by saying: "Life shouldn't be this hard!" When God created Adam and Eve, He looked upon His creation and said: "It is good." He never said is was perfect, nor did He say it would be easy. He simply said it was good. Our lives are filled with good and bad days. We experience ups and downs, victories and defeats. That was evident in last night's Super Bowl. On one side you had the thrill of victory and on the other, the agony of defeat. When we navigate through those low times, don't be surprised because Jesus said they were coming. "In this world you will have trouble." It's coming, expect it, anticipate it, prepare for it. Don't let it catch you by surprise. For your holding the trump card. (Not Trump card. Bad hair) Yeah, in this world we'll have trouble, but be of good cheer, for God has overcome the world though his son. Draw strength from His presence in the low days, for that's the reason it's there. Godspeed.

Sunday, Feb 7

No one, I mean no one is immune from depression. There's not a single individual who lives on a high point 24/7. As the old spiritual reminds us: "Sometimes we're up, sometimes we're down." In those moments it's important to remember. Remember the days from the past when you were happy and filled with joy and excitement. But also remember this, there are certain problems that you just can't pray your way out of as a Christian. In other words, at times we need help from others. It may be a counselor, minister, friend or doctor. It's not a sign a weakness to seek help, but rather strength. The tree which survives on the mountain isn't the tree in isolation, but rather the one surrounded by other trees. As Ringo reminded us: "I get by with a little help from my friends!" The sermon on this subject should be up this evening. Godspeed.

Saturday, Feb 6

Sunday morning we'll continue our eight part series of sermons on facing your own demons. The subject matter for tomorrow's message is: "Are You Depressed?" Everyone at some time in their life gets depressed. No one lives on the mountain all the time. There are so many factors which lead to this dark place in life. It could be a chemical imbalance, loss of a loved one, broken relationship, or hundreds of other factors. The biggest lie that depression tells you is that life isn't worth living. Let's remember the job description of Satan. It is to steal, kill, and destroy. He will use your darkest of days to bring those things into your life. However, the job description of Christ is to offer you life more abundantly than you can imagine. Over the last few weeks as I've prepared these messages, I've done so, differently. You see, I've been in these places, and so it gives me street cred when delivering them. Hope to see you tomorrow, it not, the sermon should be available tomorrow night. Godspeed.

Friday, Feb 5

Last night I received an inbox message from my Aunt Jeanine Martin, my Dad's youngest and only sister. She is one of my Facebook friends, as family should be, and regularly reads my post. However, yesterday she had watched one of the sermons I had preached. She went on to tell me how much I reminded her of her brother, which would be my Dad. Our preaching styles are very different, but I've been told the mannerisms are spot on. My Dad was the original and I'm just a cheap imi...tation of his great ministry. She said it was fun to travel down memory lane. When you think about it, it should be our goal to let the world see our "Father" in our lives. Our words and actions should reflect the fact that we've been with our Heavenly Father and desire to bring others to Him. Paul Overstreet wrote and sang a song many years ago which simply said: "I'm starting to see, my father in me." That dear friends should be what we are shooting for in our lives. Thanks Aunt Jeanine for the compliment and encouragement. Love you always. Godspeed.

Thursday, Feb 4

Last night while having dinner with our LifeWay sales rep, the following question was asked to me about my call to Pleasant Hill. "Where did you and the church intersect and come to each other?" My response was: "That's easy, at the corner of brokenness and despair. I believe they were broken as a church and a I was broken as a pastor." The look on his face was priceless. I went on to tell him when two broken entities meet, they can either die together or heal and grow together. I'm thankful everyday we chose the latter. Today, if you're feeling broken, let down, bitter, confused, despondent, and lost, the good news is you don't have to stay there. There is one who is very capable of putting the pieces of your heart back together. However, you have to choose to let Him. My friend asked me: "Are you always this transparent?" "Yep, pretty much, at this stage I nothing left to lose! Some call it blunt. I tend to lean towards straightforward." Godspeed my friends.

Wednesday, Feb 3

Monday, when Cam Newton arrived at Santa Clara, California for Super Bowl 50, he was obviously the center of attention (the 850.00 pants might have helped).  Newton was asked if he was ready for the spotlight of this grand stage. He responded by saying: "I'm secure in my faith and I know the Bible says God won't put more on you than you can handle." Nice response, but unfortunately the Bible never says that. Now I'm not hammering on Cam, personally I have grown to like him. However; he, like many of us including some preachers, misquote the word of God. There are times when more is put on you than you can handle, and that's exactly why we need the power and presence of our God. Another one is: "Everything happens for a reason." Yeah, the reason may be your stupidity or disobedience. Let's remember Romans 8:28: "All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose." But that doesn't mean everything that happens is good. Remember, God always wants what's best for you. Sometimes He has to work hard to pull us out of the mess we and others have made. But I can assure you, He'll never leave you. That is a Biblical truth you can trust. Godspeed.

Tuesday, Feb 2

Studies over the years reveal a truth about us all. We feel the same way about ourselves as the most important person in our lives feels about us. Think about that and let it soak in for a minute. In other words, if the most important person in your life demonstrates love, and affirmation to you on a regular basis, then the chances are you will have a healthy self-worth. However, to the contrary, if the most important person in your life is degrading and abusive, then the chances are you'll have a low self-imagine. I'm reminded of a young lady who just made the college choir and in her excitement, call her mom with the news. The mom's response? "Why did they pick you? You can't sing!" And she never did again. Today, you need to see your life through the eyes of Christ. When He becomes the most important person in your life, then you see how much value you have. How much? Enough to die for! Count no one for whom Christ died as worthless. You are all the world to Him. Godspeed.

Monday, Feb 1

When I began sharing on Facebook, there was no way to know how God was going to use these post. It was my desire to offer a word of hope and encouragement to people I love and care for each day. During this time, I've tried to be transparent with my feelings and struggles as a pastor and a child of God. The battles I face are no different from the ones you deal with on a regular basis. However, something strange happened in my life over the last few years. God used these post... to help me far more than He used them on anyone else. In other words, these daily writing became a way of expressing hope and encouragement not only to you, but to me as well. Today if you are frustrated, afraid, depressed, angry, isolated, or lonely, don't quit or give up. There is hope, there is joy, there is light, there is life. Hang in there and keep praying, reading your Bible, find a devotion book, and surround yourself with good people. You may have to wait a little while, but rest assured, help is just around the corner. That my friend is a promise. Hold on, you can make it. If I did, so can you. Godspeed my friends. And full speed ahead.

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