September 29

I find it interesting that there are so many people out there who want to be in "the know." They always seem to know the details of other people's lives and business. The problem is pretty simple, most of the times they don't have their facts straight. What bothers me so much these days is, we're so quick to believe the worst in others before we know the whole truth.

The other day while having lunch with a friend, he told me about a particular situation. About four hours later he called me and asked if I had repeated what he told me. I assured him that I hadn't, (There was no reason to do so). He was very much relieved because what he had told me wasn't true. Sometimes we need to ask ourselves a few questions before we share certain information.

First, you need to know if it's true. The only way you can do this is by heading to the source itself. Several years ago, a church member of mine came to my office and told me something she had heard about one of our deacons. I called the deacon and asked him if I could come see him. Upon my visit with him I found out the story was absolutely false. I then called the individual who shared it with me and told them the facts. Then I told her she had a responsibility to go to all she had told this information and tell them it was false.

Second, you have to ask yourself: "Is it necessary to repeat what you have heard?" Will it build up the person you are talking about, or tear them down? The Christian faith is always about building one another up. It's easy to point out the faults of others because you never have to address the shortcomings in your life.

Finally, are you willing to go to court and swear the story you're repeating is true? If not, it might be a good idea to keep your mouth closed. Many reputations could have been saved if these principles had been applied at the time. Be careful what you repeat. Oh, and by the way, if someone you know is quick to talk about another person in your presence, you better understand they'll be quick to talk about you outside your presence. Just food for thought. Godspeed my friends.

 

September 28

The other day I had just finished making a purchase at a local business and was about to walk out of the store. My salesman said: "Before you go, take one of these." It was a bowl of of half folded small pieces of paper, much like you you find in a raffle drawing. I reached in and pulled out a green slip of paper which read: "Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (James 1:19).

First, it impressed me that in this day and time there's a business establishment which isn't afraid to demonstrate their faith. It has almost become offensive to be a follower of Christ today. These fine people were friendly and very accommodating. No one was preaching the gospel, but there's just a different vibe when you go into their place.

Second, that little passage of scripture reminded me of a very valuable lesson. If indeed we would listen more and talk less we'd have a better understanding of each other. If we put this scripture into practice, we might have a better understanding of God. But the problem is, we're just such big talkers. Especially preachers. We might be the world's worst. I can't listen to God if I'm too busy running my mouth.

Maybe today you and I need to be quiet and listen to our spouses, children, and friends. Who knows, we might just hear a fresh word from God. He still speaks, you know. Godspeed.

 

September 27

Yesterday was just one of those days as a minister. Three hospitals in three different towns. However, there are moments as a pastor when the people you're ministering to, suddenly bless you far more than you could imagine.

I received a text late yesterday afternoon from one of my members that they had taken his father by ambulance to our local hospital. His blood pressure had dropped so low that he had passed out. Now what you have to understand about this man is, he's a WWII veteran and one of the most soft spoken individuals you'll ever meet. He and his wife have been married over 70 years.

When I arrived at the emergency room, his wife and son were seated in the waiting area waiting to be called back to see him. I sat with them until a nurse informed us it was okay to make our way back to his room. We walked together through the doors of the ER and made our way to his holding area.

What happened next was a sight of beauty that few have the privilege to witness. This beautiful lady made her way to her husband's side and softly laid her hand on his chest amidst the wires and machines. She softly kissed him on his lips and stroked his face. You see, that man is her life. Everyone should have the honor of seeing such love.

I prayed with them and made my way to my car. I thank God for the opportunity to witness such a beautiful moment. Every now and then we get a chance to see real beauty that exists in our world. I sure did. I couldn't help but think of the song Kathy Mattea recorded many years ago: "Where Have You Been." I witnessed the ballad first hand. He came home last night after receiving some fluids and for now everything seems okay. But I know it was okay when they kissed. Such moments need to be cherished because they don't happen often. Godspeed my friends. Go and do likewise.

 

 September 26

Everyone  seems to be posting about things which upset them. Some things I've read I agree with wholeheartedly. Others, not so much. One thing's for sure, we're not at a loss, nor a shortage of opinions. Especially on social media. So, I might as well throw in my two cents worth and weigh in a a few things which annoy me. 
 
It disappoints me that a majority of our churches today are in decline when it comes to attendance and baptisms. Quite simply, worship attendance and Bible study are no longer a priority in our society. We've replaced them with pleasure and leisure. It's hard for Christianity to have an impact on society when it has such little impact on church folks. 
 
Second, it disappoints me to see what we've turn worship into as believers. We moved from God centered to consumerism. Rather than understanding that worship is about honoring God and letting Him be the center, we've turned it to our needs and desires. It doesn't matter if you're contemporary or traditional, but it does matter if you're authentic. The vitality of God doesn't depend on style, but rather what's in the heart of God's people. 
 
It bothers me greatly to see the total lack of respect for pastoral authority and leadership in today's church. Do you realize we're firing ministers at a rate of 200 a month? In the state of Mississippi, in the Baptist denomination, at least one minister is terminated a week. We need to understand our ministers are call by God and not the church. 
 
Finally, with all the problems we're facing as a nation, we expect God to fix it with no effort from a His people. The last time I checked, God spoke these words: "If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear their prayer and heal their land." It begins with God's people acting and living like Christians. Show me that, strive to be that. Stop tearing others down and "walk in a manner worthy of that which you've been called."  Then you'll see change. I wonder if we'll see full churches this week with people earnestly seeking to be instruments of His love. Spend more time in the Word than on social media. Be a part of the solution rather than the problem. Then and only then may we possibly see some change. God help us and Godspeed my friends.

 

September 25

There are moments in my life when I really miss my Dad. Now don't get me wrong, I miss my parents each and every day. But you need to realize when I lost my Dad, I lost not only a parent, but a mentor, a pastor, a role model, and a friend. I can't tell you how many times I've missed his wisdom and insight. Especially when it comes to church work.

Many years ago, while serving my first full-time church, I called him after a deacon's meeting. Things had not gone particularly well and one of my ideas was shot down rather quickly. I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. I told him: "Well, I took my first "L" (loss) tonight in our meeting." He simply replied: "Son, it will be the first of many. Remember, there are only so many hills you can die on, make sure you pick the important ones." For over thirty years that advice has paid huge dividends for me.

The same is true with all of us in life. Far too many of us are dying on hills that really don't matter. We've made our stand on selfish mountains of our own choosing and never once considered what a God would have us do. Our opinions, not God's standard, has become central. Maybe we need to select our hills a little more carefully. In doing so, maybe we would drift into the background and God would come to the forefront. I'm trying Pops, but sometimes it's not so easy. You would remind me: "If it were easy, everybody would do it." Point well taken. Godspeed.

 

September 24

Many of us will spend time getting ready for church this morning. We'll select our clothes, hopefully get a bath or shower, brush our hair and teeth then head out the door. But are you ready? 
Upon your arrival to church you will select a parking place, make sure there's nothing between your teeth, and make your way to your life group or sanctuary. You'll spend time in conversation and fellowship, getting caught up with family and friends over the events of this past week. But are you ready? 
You'll find your regular seat and look over the order of worship at the announcement, songs and even the message. You'll do your best to get settled in your nest for the next hour or so. Your mind will drift to the thoughts of lunch or the events of the upcoming week. But are you ready?  
You see, worship requires something from you. You actually have to prepare your mind and your heart for a corporate encounter with the Living God. There's something dynamic which happens when God's people gather together. He shows up. The problem for many of us is quite simple. We miss Him because we're just not ready. Don't let that happen today. Seek the Lord while He may be found. Godspeed.

 

September 23

Parents need to realistic when it comes to their children. I know that's not a popular thing to say, but it's true. Now don't get me wrong, I firmly believe we need to encourage, love, support, and nurture our children. But we have to be realistic when it comes to their skill sets. They aren't always going to be the brightest, smartest, fasted, or most talented. But that doesn't mean they can't be successful with the gifts God has given them.

My daughter, Laura Jo Hurt, reminds me ever so often about a conversation we had when she was playing high school basketball. I told her up front that she wasn't going to be the star of the team. Her role wasn't to be the top scorer or the most valuable player. Her job was to rebound and get Mallory Archer the ball so she could score. I reminded her that her role was just as important as any other player on the court and the success of the team depended on her doing her job. She also knew she was my favorite player and I loved seeing her do her best.

The Declaration of Independence states: "That all men are created equal." That's really not a true statement. Some folks are blessed with a plethora of skills and abilities while others struggle to find one area where they excel. At the end of the day your child needs to know that you love them and accept them not based on what they achieve, but rather based on who they are. They want to be told: "You are accepted in my eyes." Too many children have never received the blessings from their parents because they didn't measure up to an unreasonable standard. That my friends is a real tragedy. Don't let that happen. Godspeed my friends.

 

September 22

It's not easy growing up in the shadows of older and successful siblings. Especially when those brothers or sisters are smarter, better athletes, and more popular than you. Sometimes the footprints and expectations they leave are hard to follow and difficult to live up to. Trust me, I know all too well what it's like to be the caboose of a pretty strong train.

Growing up in a small town and being the youngest of four boys, I knew first hand what it was like to live in the shadows of my older brothers. I was never as smart as them and never as good of an athlete as them. However, there were two things that made that journey a bit easier.

First, my parents never expected me to be like my brothers. Never once did I ever hear them say: "Why can't you be more like your bothers?" As I struggled to find my path in life, my Mom and Dad would always encourage me and remind me that I could do anything I set my mind to do. They always encouraged me to be me and follow God's leadership in my life. I remember when I told my Dad I thought God was calling me into the ministry. He simply said: "If you can do anything else and be happy, do it. But if God is truly calling you, you'll never be happy doing something else." The journey wasn't easy, but it has been rewarding and my parents always encouraged me.

Second, I never saw my brothers as my rivals, but rather my heroes. Without hesitation I can honestly say, no one has better brothers than me. We don't always agree, and at times we've fought like cats and dogs, but never cross or fight one of us. If you do, you'll have to fight ALL of us. I'm always proud to say I am the brother of Al, Richard, and Pete. Everyone should be so blessed to have siblings like them. If you ranked us, I'd finish fourth every time, and that's just fine with me.

Parents, your children are unique and different. Allow them to grow up and be the individuals God wants them to be. You may be surprised how they turn out. It shocked the daylights out of my parents. Godspeed my friends.

 

September 21

Does your life feel like it's in disarray and out of control? No matter what you do, or how hard you work, you can't seem to get caught up. By now you thought things would be slowing down, but instead everything around you seems to be speeding up. The joy you once had now seems to be replaced with anxiety and stress. Even the simplest of tasks are hard to complete. You've officially entered the overwhelmed zone. You're looking for answers, but all you're finding is more questions. Maybe, just maybe you need a shift in priorities.

One thing I've noticed recently is the fast pace that many of are living these days. We seem to be traveling through each day at mach speed with our hair on fire. We're always in a hurry to get to the next place for the next appointment. We've filled our lives with clutter and have neglected the important aspects of life. Oh, the people around us think we have it all together, but we're falling apart at the seams. As Bonnie Parker, of Bonnie and Clyde fame once wrote in her journal: "I thought we were going somewhere, it turns out we were just going. Does that sound familiar?

In your rush to do life, where is God in your list of priorities? Has he been pushed to the background and forced to take a backseat in your life? You do realize He's a God of order don't you? Quite possibly you and I need to allow Him to adjust our lives and in doing so, order can be restored. For a moment just stop what you're doing and focus on Him. Aren't you tired of doing this on your own? The good news is, you don't have to. He's just one prayer away. Godspeed my friends.

 

September 20

How many times have you opened a sentence with the word, "Why"? Why did my loved one die? Why did I lose my job? Why is my child so rebellious? Why did the doctor have to say cancer? Why do I always seem to have more month than money? Why does life have to be so hard? Why doesn't God do something about my situation?

I would imagine that most all of us at one time or another have asked the question: "Why?" However, before you throw up your hands and surrender to defeat, you might want to consider a few things. Sometimes in life if we gain a different perspective it can make all the difference in the world.

First, you and I need to understand that it's quite normal for us to ask "why?" Throughout scripture some of the greatest saints to walk the planet asked the same question. There are 11 verses in the Bible which basically ask the question: "Why do the wicked prosper?" One of those passages is found in Psalm 73 and another in Malachi, chapter 2.

Second, we grow in our faith when we ask tough questions. In those dark moments of despair and hopelessness we often find a presence rather than an answer. And believe me, a presence an be enough to get you through the night. Remember, God answers all of our questions, but He doesn't always give us an explanation.

Finally, it's important for us to eventually change our question from "Why? to "What?" and "How?" Maybe we need to ask: "What can I learn from this and how can I use this situation to glorify God?" Sometimes one word in a sentence can change not only the meaning, but our attitude as well.

Don't be afraid to express your true feelings to God, He can handle them. However, trust and follow His direction for your life, even when you don't understand. That's what faith is all about. Godspeed.

 

September 19

I have a confession to make. Those who are close to me already know what I'm about to share with you. We won't waste anymore time so I'll just say it. I'm losing my hearing. Oh, don't feel sorry for me because I'm not going deaf by any stretch of the imagination. However, I don't hear as well as I once did. I've noticed that there's a constant ringing in my ears and in noisy places, I don't always hear what people are telling me. Not too long ago I was talking to a good friend of mine and was telling him about this situation. His response was: "Well my friend, the same thing is happening to me and my doctor told me it was a part of growing older."

I've thought about this for a few months. It's one thing to grow deaf, but it's quite another to turn a deaf ear towards another. In one instance it's part of the maturation process. However, the other is a choice. How sad it is to turn a deaf ear to those who are crying out in pain, suffering, and loneliness. Too often we become deaf to others who are screaming for our attention. The list includes our spouses, children, friends, our church, and even our God. It's sad to lose your hearing, it's tragic to turn a deaf ear to those who are seeking to gain our attention.

As I look at the world in which we live, it's become apparent to me that we're not only not listening to each other, but we're not listening to God. There's a passage of scripture which reminds us: "If you hear my voice, harden not your heart" (Hebrews 3:15). Maybe we need to listen a bit more with our hearts and not our ears.

I have a physical scheduled for next month with my doctor and we'll discuss the situation. Maybe we need to schedule some time with the great physician and adjust our spiritual hearing? It sure couldn't hurt. Godspeed. Now if everyone would quit mumbling, I may not have a problem.

 

September 18

There's a common fear many Christians have in their spiritual lives. Many believers live with an anxiety that God's going to call them to do something that goes beyond their skill set. This actually no new phenomenon and one that's traced all the way back to the Old Testament and the commissioning of Moses. When God called Moses to be his representative to Pharaoh, you will remember the initial response from this meek man. "Get someone else because I'm not good with words." In other words, he thought he was inadequate to do the job.

Listen closely to the following sentence. God never calls you to do something and then not equip you get the job done. However, He will ask you to do something you never dreamed possible. There's a passage in Paul's letter to the church at Philippi where he reminds his readers: "They can do all things through Christ who gives them strength." (Philippians 4:13) In other words, if God calls you to a certain task, rest assured He's going to supply the resources necessary for you to complete it.

Several years ago, at a church I was pastoring, we were talking to a young man about joining our team as our minister of music and senior adults. In a conversation with this individual, he expressed his desire to come do the music, but he was uncertain about working with senior adults. I assured him that they didn't bite.....much. But I reminded him that God would equip him to do the job. A funny thing happened. He joined our staff and was an outstanding Minister to Senior Adults.

Today if God is calling you to step out of your comfort zone, don't sweat the final results, just be obedient. Trust that he knows what He's doing. Godspeed my friends

 

September 17

Does prayer really work? That's the question we'll be considering today during our time of worship. The answer really depends on how you view prayer. For many of us we see prayer as a vending machine where we drop our request to God. We just pull a leaver and our desire drops at our feet.

To be quite honest, there are some of us that believe God has already decided what's going to happen, therefore prayer makes no difference at all. In other words, why pray if It makes no difference in the outcome.

To answer the question: "Does prayer work", we have to understand what prayer is. Prayer is a time of communion with the one who is at the very center of life and the universe. It is a dialogue with the one who created me in His image. It is a time when we open up our hearts and souls with the one who knows us best and loves us the most. The more I know about prayer, the more I don't know.

God's waiting to hear from you today. Furthermore, He desires you to know Him and the plans He has for your life. Don't you think you need to spend a little more time with Him? He's waiting and willing to talk to you. He has all of the time in the world for you. Do you have time for Him? Godspeed.

 

September 16

Have you ever been caught off guard or taken by surprise? Something came out of nowhere and just rocked or changed your whole world? Maybe it was a change in a relationship or even your health. It might have been family related or even in your profession. You looked at the situation and realized things would never be the same. In such times life will either speed up or slow down.

When life deals you an unusual hand, it's always good to have someone with you who can handle the pressure. In Super Bowl XII, the San Francisco 49ers were trailing the Cincinnati Bengals 16-13 with just a little over 3 minutes left in the game. The 49ers had the ball on their own 8 yard line and had 92 yards to go to win the biggest game on the biggest stage. Talk about pressure.

As the 49ers where beginning this drive, quarterback Joe Montana entered the huddle and before he called the first play he said: "Hey, did any of you notice John Candy in the crowd?" The tactic of deflecting their attention worked and they marched down the field, 92 yards to win the game. He knew how to handle the "big moment."

Right now, no matter how big the surprise or how great the pressure, there's one who is never surprised. Nothing catches God off guard. Listen to the one who created you and follow his marching orders. I can assure you, he'll never leave nor forsake you. His steady hand at the helm of your life can navigate the highest waves. The question is, are you going to let Him lead you? You may not score immediately, but victory is inevitable. That's for sure. Godspeed.

 

September 15

I've been in the ministry for over 30 years and I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said to me: "I heard something good about you the other day, but I'm not going to tell you because you'd get the big head." Now I fully understand that half the time this is said in a joking manner and over the years you basically take it with a grain of salt. However, if you only knew how much negative things a minister deals with on a regular basis, you'd run to them with a positive word of encouragement. Trust me, their not going to all of a sudden think they're God's gift to society. It might be just the medicine they need at that time in their life.

The same is true with all of us. From the teacher to lawyer and everyone in between. We all need a word that will lift our spirits and give us that jolt of energy to make it through the day. Time and time again in God's word we are told to encourage and build one another up. Never are we given a mandate to tear each other apart. A good question you might want to ask yourself is: "When was the last time I said something positive to another person?" You might be the difference maker in an individual's life at a critical moment they're facing. Anyone can be negative, but it takes a special person to encourage others in their time of need.

You have a choice today and I hope you choose wisely. You can either build another up and demonstrate the love of Christ or devour them with criticism. There are enough negative people in our world today. Hopefully the people of God can actually be light to others who are struggling in the darkness. It starts with just one kind word. Hopefully you're up to the task. Godspeed.

 

September 14

Yesterday I was sorting through some old papers in my office and stumbled upon a picture that was taken a few years ago. As I looked at that collection of individuals, all of a sudden a feeling of anger began to consume my body. This was a group of individuals that at at one time had been my friends, or so I thought. However, over the years these individuals brought a lot of heartache and destruction into my life. Never, I mean never have I ever been so misled and wrong about a group of people. You talk about wolves in sheep clothing, these were them.

As I examined the photo for several minutes, my first inclination was to text one of these individuals and remind him how sorry he was. That would really show him and probably make me feel better about myself. Now folks, I'm just trying to be as transparent as I can. Even preachers feel this way from time to time. The temptation to somehow "get even" was suddenly replaced with another thought. "How long are you going to let this person hurt you?" I can tell you, that thought didn't come from me. Instead of reaching for my phone, I just stopped and prayed for the person. I asked God to forgive me for my feelings of hostility and anger. Was it easy? Nope, to be honest it was down right hard. But release was found and achieved.

Resentment and anger can be a dangerous prison cell. All it does is eat at your soul and rob you of the joy in life. It also works as a wall between you and your relationship with God. It destroys the very bridge that grace walks over. Here's the point, you get to decide how long people from your past will hurt you. Don't let someone so small and hurtful rob you of your joy. Forgive and move on and your life will be more productive and your relationship with God and others will improve. Godspeed my friends.

 

September 13

Have you noticed how many people go through life with the attitude that others owe them something? Children think their parents owe them what their little hearts desire. Students believe the teacher owes them a passing grade. Athletes assume the coach owes them playing time. And far too many religious folks believe that God owes us big time for the years of church attendance and giving.

If you don't believe me, consider your prayer life. How much time do you spend in prayer asking for things? We work with the premise that prayer is like a vending machine. We drop in our request, pull a lever, and out pops our result. We live with the notion that God owes us because of our faithfulness and morality. But prayer is much more than that and believe me, God doesn't owe you a thing.

You do realize that prayer is a dialogue rather than a monologue, don't you. That means not only do you talk, but you listen as well. Part of our prayer life should be just listening to God. Whatever happened to "being still and knowing He is God"?

Before you rush into God's presence demanding He take care of a situation you screwed up, have you thought about confession? Have you considered being thankful? The more I learn about prayer the more I realize I don't know very much. However, I do know that a God is wanting a relationship with me which requires time on my part.

Today, rather than demanding things from God, realize He doesn't owe you a thing. But on the other hand, you owe Him everything. We might want to thank and praise Him more. Who knows, we just might become a little more like Him. Isn't that the goal? Godspeed.

 

September 12

Growing up in a home with three older brothers exposed me to certain things at an early age. One of those areas of life was music. My oldest brother Al had a pretty decent collection of 45 records and albums of various rock and roll artists. (If you don't know what a 45 record is, nor an album, you might want to stop here and go to google.) Because of his love for music, and the fact that he was ten years older than me, I was listening to the Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, and many others by the time I was in kindergarten.

One of the problems with being so young and listening to such music, I often found myself misquoting the lyrics of songs I really loved. When you change the words of a song, you change the entire meaning of that composition. One of my favorite songs back then was a Beatles track entitled: "Take the Back Right Turn." I loved walking through the house proudly singing it over and over again. Unfortunately that wasn't the correct title nor words.

We do the same thing with scripture from time to time. We've heard something over and over, but the problem is we've heard it incorrectly. One example of this abuse of scripture is when I hear people say: "God never puts more on you than you can handle." No where in scripture is that found. The passage that is in God's word actually reads: "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." (I Corinthians 10:13) There's a big difference in the meaning of those two sentences.

You see, in reality there are times in life when we have to bear more than what we can handle. If not, there would be no need for family, friends, church, or even God. We help one another bear life's burdens and ultimately cast our cares upon the Lord. You don't think the people in Texas and Florida are facing things that are more than they can handle? When you feel overwhelmed, call out to the Lord for He is near.

Oh, and by the way, that song wasn't "Take the Back Right Turn", it was "Paperback Writer". I don't know, I kinda like my version. Godspeed my friends.

 

September 11

Sixteen years ago our lives and nation changed. The attacks of 9/11 in New York and Washington D.C. changed the way we looked at the world and ourselves. Sudden we had a new perspective as to what was important and what wasn't. All we cared about was our safety and the security of our country. For a little while, we weren't Republicans nor Democrats. We weren't African-Americans or white Americans. We were just brothers and sisters. We found out that a national tragedy brought us together to work for the common good in our society.

Over the past two weeks we have again watched in horror as our nation has been ravaged by two hurricanes, the like of which we've never seen. Once again we've witnessed the goodness of humanity as we've reached across racial and socioeconomic lines to help those in needs. It's time we learned to do this on a regular basis instead of waiting on a national disaster or terrorist attack. It needs to become a way of life.

Yesterday as we were eating lunch at a local restaurant, an African-American man noticed my socks. He quickly pulled up his pant leg to reveal his colorful pair. We chuckled a bit and I said to him: "I've been accused by my black friends of having a little "brother" in me. His response was priceless. He said: "You are my brother!" We embraced and patted each other on the back. We need to realize we're in this race of life together so we better start loving and understanding each other. Socks are the answer, but they are a start. Godspeed.

 

September 10

Over the years I've has people ask me: "If God is all powerful and all loving, why doesn't He do something about all the evil and suffering in the world?" That's exactly what we shall be talking about in today's message. However, we need to remember that God's purpose isn't to make us comfortable, but rather to transform us into the likeness of Christ. I know that's not a simple or palatable answer to what's happening in our world, but it is the same answer which comes back to us over and over in the word of God.

There are times in our life when a medical doctor has to inflict pain on our physical bodies in order for us to heal and ultimately get well. Likewise, there are times when God allows us to go through suffering to bring about spiritual healing in our lives. Remember, God doesn't necessarily send suffering, but He does give us free will to make decisions about our lives. Some of those decisions lead to times of suffering. The promise we have as Christians is that He shares in our suffering.

This week as you navigate your life, rest assured that the Shepherd is with you. Listen to Him, follow Him, love Him, and trust Him. He will never leave nor forsake you. The sermon will be posted later tonight. Godspeed my friends and stay safe.

 

September 9

Yesterday was "Grandparent's Day" at one of our local schools. This special event was sponsored by the pre-kindergarten class of this particular school. One student in the class, who also attends our church, was uncertain if any of his grandparents would be able to attend, so Tommi Jo and I decided to represent him. We would be his grandparents for the day. Fortunately for him, his grandmother was able to make it, so all was right with the world.

Part of the program, which was very enlightening, was when the teachers read what the children liked about their grandparents. For the most part it was when they got to spend time with them. The things which meant the most to these kids weren't lavish events, but rather quite simple, everyday things. "I love my grandparents when they play with me!" I love when my grandparents when they let me spend the night with them." By now, if you haven't learned it, children spell love, T-I-M-E. The best thing you can give a child is yourself.

As I watched and listened to the events of this program, my mind drifted by to my own childhood and my grandparents. I never knew my mother's parents and my Dad's parent both died while I was in elementary school. I never knew the luxury of living in the same town with them. However, I do remember long walks with my granddaddy and learning the importance of tipping your hat to the ladies. I developed a love for caramel because no one, I mean no one could make one like my grandmother.

Now at the age of 56, I have no parents and no grandparents. However, I live with the assurance that I was loved and cared for in my life. Hopefully those values have been passed on to my children and ultimately to my grandchildren when they arrive on the scene. More than anything, your children want you. The question is: Are you willing to give yourself to them? It will be the greatest gift they'll ever receive. I'm now officially taking applications for grandparents and parents of my own.

Godspeed.

 

September 8

I was stopped the other day by a concerned parent. It seems as though their child had been at school and another student had told them this was the end of the world and soon the second coming of Jesus would take place. This well informed and well intended child even had scripture to back up his thesis. The parent told me that their child came home so upset that they were physically sick. So here we go, let's look at this subject for a moment as consider a few passages of scripture.

First off, no one knows the day or the hour of the second coming. In Matthew 24:36, Jesus himself said: "No one knows the day or the hour, not even the angels in heaven or the Son of Man." That's pretty plain to see and understand in my book. Ever since I can remember, people have been saying: "this is it, the end of time." The prophecy boys took a major hit with the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. I even remember that Henry Kissinger was the Antichrist. None of that turned out to be true.

Second, remember what Paul wrote to young Timothy in his second letter to him. "God hasn't given us a spirit of fear, but one power, and love, and sound judgement. (II Timothy 1:7) Why be afraid of something that won't bring you harm? Too many people have fallen in love with this world which is only a temporary stop. In other words, don't fear that which doesn't effect you. If it were to happen, if you're a Child of God, nothing bad will happen to you.

Third, remember the words Jesus spoke in The 14th chapter of John. "Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me." In other words, trust God with your life here on earth and trust Him with your life in eternity. He's got this. The real question is: "Do you know Him and trust Him?"

Finally, my encouragement to you is live your life as if He were coming back today and work as if he wasn't coming back for years. Just get on with it. I'm ready if He comes today, but I'll keep working for Him until I leave this world or if he shows up. I don't sweat the things I don't know and can't control. You shouldn't either.

Talk to your children and assure them that all is taken care of in this life, and the one to come. Godspeed. Even now Lord Jesus quickly come.

 

September 7

Each Sunday, for as long as I can remember, I've done a special children's message for the kids in our service. It's a special opportunity for me to get to spend some time with our children and get to know them personally. There is a unique quality to this section of our service in that it's always unpredictable. A children's message is like exploring a dark forest, you never know what to expect and one should always be afraid.

This past Sunday we were talking about the importance of friendship. I took out my iPad which had a recent picture of my friend Sam Pitts and myself. I said: "Sam and I have known each other since the first grade and we've been friends for 50 years!" The response from one of our kids almost made me split my side. With wide open eyes and a look of amazement he simply said: "Shut up!!!" Now in current times the context that statement didn't mean be quiet. His words could be translated: "You don't mean it!" "Really?" "That is amazing!" It took every ounce of composure for me to continue on with that message.

I love that time with our children and to be honest, over the years I've debated if we need to keep doing it each week. Every time I bring up the subject of doing away with it, it's vetoed very quickly. Sometimes that message means as much to the adults as it does to the children. After all, Jesus himself said: "Only those who humble themselves as a child will see the Kingdom of God." I wonder, how many of you out there ever were a part of these messages? I hope you got something out of them. I know I did. Godspeed.

 

September 6

I can't remember anything close to what is currently happening in our country. The reason is because it never has. Hurricane Harvey brought devastation and destruction to the Houston area the likes of which we've never seen. The estimated damage in Texas with ultimately be in the billions of dollars. Wild fires in the western part of the United States are sweeping across dry land destroying everything from homes to natural forest land. There's no telling the amount of damage it will ultimately do. And finally, Hurricane Irma, a category five storm is about to make its way towards Florida. It's almost too much to comprehend.

However, there has been a stronger storm raging through our nation which has brought more destruction than possibly these three combined. It's the storm of hatred and division. Rather than seeing the good and common in others, all we see is the bad and what separates us. It's almost as if The Lord is looking down and saying: "If you people can't get your act together peacefully, maybe you can come together through adversity." You see, destruction and calamity crosses all social lines. From the haves to the have nots. I saw that in Katrina.

I've never been much of a prophecy guy predicting the end of time. But just stop for a moment and look at what's going on in our world. We really don't need a hurricane nor fire to destroy us, we're doing a pretty good job on our own. Maybe through the storm we can learn to love and tolerate each other, even when we have different views. This life doesn't owe us a thing. And you need to realize God doesn't owe you as well. We owe them everything. We aren't entitled to one blasted thing, but we find our lives by losing them. Trust me, it's been said so much that it has almost become a cliche. Our only hope in a spiritual renewal and a return to God. If not, we're dead where we stand. Godspeed.

 

September 5

In my 56 years on earth I've heard a lot of stupid or irresponsible comments. However, I'm not so sure that any of the compare with the one which came from a Texas A&M regent following the Aggies loss to UCLA this weekend. A&M blew a 34 point lead and eventually lost 45-44. In the wake of this epic collapse, one regent called for the firing of Aggie head coach Kevin Sumlin.

Now let's get down to the stupidity of this comment. Sumlin has an 11.25 million dollar buyout in his contract. In a normal year, for a rich Texas school, even 11 million is doable. But this isn't a normal year. In the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, it blows my mind that an individual could be so irresponsible in their comments. Instead of firing a coach, why not donate 11 million to the relief effort to those who need it most. This ought to show all of us, including myself how twisted our priorities are in our society. The sad part is, we expect God to somehow magically come riding in and clean up all of our mess with no effort from us. Sorry, it just doesn't work that way.

The sad part about a tragedy today is, it doesn't take us long to forget and move on with our own lives. It took less than a week for someone in a powerful position to forget about his own people. Hopefully we all can learn that out of sight shouldn't always mean out of mind. Good gracious. Lord forgive me for this rant. Godspeed.

 

September 4

There's nothing like a tragedy or catastrophe that can bring people together. If you'll remember the weeks and months following the events of 9/11, we weren't identified as Republicans or Democrats, black or white, just Americans. I remember during that dark hour someone said to me: "Isn't it great to see how our nation has pulled together!" My response was: "Yes, but isn't it sad it took such a tragedy to do so."

Yesterday as I was watching the PGA golf tournament, they were talking about how many athletes had donated or raised so much money for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. They noted how J.J. Watt, defensive end for the Houston Texans had raised 18 million alone to help the city of Houston. Stacey Lewis, the number one ranked player on the LPGA tour, won the Cambia Portland Classic and donated her entire winnings to the relief effort. Johnny Miller, the golf analyst from NBC, became emotional when talking about Houston. He said: "We seem to be so divided as a nation at times, but when a tragedy hits like Harvey, we begin to see the good in Americans."

It would be nice to see "the good" in each other in the ordinary circumstances of life. Too often we render judgement on others based on our biases and prejudices rather than facts. Wouldn't it be nice just to see others as people made in the image of God? It will only happen if the children of God will walk in accordance of the calling they've received. Today, we're all Texans and our mandate is to help our fellow citizens regardless of race, creed or color. For the eyes of Texas aren't upon us, but the eyes of God are. Godspeed and God bless Texas.

 

September 3

It's hard to dig yourself out of the pit of darkness. It's so difficult that many individuals give up and feel as though they'll take up residence there. However, no matter how dark or deep the hole is, you may not believe it, but God is there. Corrie Ten Boom, who knew first hand of abuse and hatred of a Nazi concentration camp once said: "There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still." In other words, God shares in our suffering everyday. Oh, there may be times when you don't feel Him, but rest assured, He is there.

This is what I've noticed over the years and it still holds true today. In our moments of agony, grief, pain and sorrow, we'll either draw closer to His presence or withdraw from him in bitterness. It's sad to see individuals distance themselves from the very one who can help them. In doing so, the one we hurt the most is ourselves.

Wait on the Lord, be patient and wait upon his grace and mercy. Before you know it, when you least expect it you'll feel his presence lifting you up on angles wings. How do I know this? It has happened in my own life and in my own darkness. Don't run from Him, run to Him today and you'll see his arm wide open and waiting for you. Darkness is as light to Him and it can be for you. Godspeed.

 

September 2

Yesterday was one of those special days that only comes around so often. Usually our office is closed on Friday, but I had an appointment yesterday morning. I was just about to wrap things up and head out and all of a sudden the phone rang. When I answered, I was surprised to hear an old college friend of mine on the other end of the line. He had tried an old cell number of mine and discovered it had had been changed. He tracked me down through the church number and we got caught up on old times. He encouraged me by informing me that through Facebook I was his "virtual pastor". I'm honored and humbled at that title.

Later on that day I drove to Starkville to have lunch with a childhood friend. Our relationship goes all the way back to the first grade. We were two of just a handful of Mississippi State fans at our elementary school. We would often play football in our front yard and he was always Sammy Milner and I was Tommy Pharr. We laughed and talked about old times and old friends.

Over the years God has blessed me with wonderful friends. One of the reasons I'm where I am today in life is God put people much smarter and much better in my life. The friends of my my childhood, adolescence, and even adulthood challenged me to be better in all phases of my life. As I've said before, I'm afraid I took far more than I gave in those years.

As a parent you need to realize the importance of the crowd your children associates with on a regular basis. Their friends will either elevate their lives or bring them down. When my friends come to mind, the passage Paul wrote in Philippians 1:3 echoes through brain: "I thank God every time I remember you." Godspeed to all my friends out there. You are a blessing to my life.

 

September 1

Have you noticed how many people get called out on social media? I mean it has become a national pass time to post something negative, even if it's not true. Scroll down the home page of either Facebook or Twitter and see how long it takes you to read something negative that has been posted about someone else. It could be the president, a coach, a teacher, a preacher, or another public figure. To be honest, most of the time I see these post in the same light as an anonymous letter. They don't merit reading and they belong in file 13.

Social media has raised and produced a generation of cowards. We hide behind a keyboard and simply destroy the reputation of others. Which brings me to this. It's easy to tear down and write about others because it enables us to ignore our own faults and shortcomings. Have you ever thought that someone else might want to call out you? What if God had a Facebook page and decided to post all of your sins and transgressions? Maybe we'd have a little more discretion in what we write and post.

Today, rather than tearing down another, why don't you pray for them. And while you're at it, why not pray for your own life and attitude. Who knows, we might develop a little more tolerance for others. Even those who hold a different view than us. It's sure worth a try because what we're doing now isn't working. It's only destroying others rather than building them up. Godspeed.

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