IMG_0329God be praised for another memorable weekend and Lord’s Day.

On the heels of Spring Break, I’ve been glad to get back to a certain level of sanity. On Saturday, I was happy to attend a scholarship banquet of the Gamma Zeta Omega Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. One of the honorees was my wife, D’Ani. Not only was it a blessing to have her honored on this affair; but to see several Pastor’s wives recognized during this event, including Zelda Johnson (the wife of Pastor Manson B. Johnson of Houston); it was an encouragement to see young people receiving scholarships to further their education in a context and surrounding of excellence and hundreds of people supporting this event. D’Ani has been a blessing to so many; and it is my continued prayer that God would continue to use her to touch the lives of others, including her patients, Christian believers, the unsaved and many others. I was also pleased to see a few of our members. Should they read this blog, I want to personally express my gratitude for the sacrifice and time committed to attend and show their support. You are a blessing!

I left that event and headed to take my eldest son Kai Livingston (who is now TWELVE-let the countdown begin) to a soccer game. They won, 7-2.

It has been a rough time for me for one reason – ALLERGIES! Nothing affects me like the changing from winter to spring. It never fails to touch me in a not-so-kind way.

Interestingly…I did not preach this past Sunday! While I am far from being a superb preacher (though I am striving to be better), it is rare for me to go a Sunday without preaching, unless it is my anniversary or I am on vacation. God has been kind to me these 21 years (I’ll write about that later) of preaching. At the Mt. Salem Church, we had a special treat for our Monthly Youth & Young Adults Sunday. Rev. Quincy D. Mosley is a very gifted and anointed proclaimer of God’s Word. Preaching since the age of six, a native of Corpus Christi (my hometown), a membership minister of my father’s congregation…I’ve been blessed the few times I’ve heard him share. He shared from Psalm 34, one of my favorite scriptures. Five of our young adults came forward! God be praised!!!

I was also able to attend and support the 5-year pastoral anniversary of one of my childhood mentors, Rev. J.R. Miller, in Corpus Christi, Texas. Pastor Miller is not only a gifted preacher, but an innovative pastoral mind who has been instrumental in my desire early in life to be a preacher who thinks and studies God’s Word. I haven’t always been the greatest supporter and encourager. But, the more I experience the loss of loved ones, the more my commitment to showing my love towards those who mean the world to me, strengthens.

At our church, this is the Month of Reconciliation and Forgiveness. This coming Lord’s Day, I am looking forward to having with us the New Light Baptist Church of San Antonio and Pastor Paul Wilkinson, Sr. as our special guest for our Family and Friend’s Day. I am looking forward to their being with us.

The Cowboys (my team all the way!) haven’t secured a running back; but Adrian Peterson is interested in possibly heading to Arlington. Of course, the Vikings are saying “not so fast!” While I would love to have him on our roster…the fact is, there are many running backs would prevail with the superb line the Cowboys have managed to put together. However, he’d be a great addition.

I am looking forward to beginning a teaching this Wednesday, Lord willing, on Forgiveness.

It is my prayer that my blogs serve as not only personal reflection and a tool to strengthen my writing ability; but most importantly to encourage others. I would love to hear from you and ask you to please subscribe to my blog. How was your weekend? Blessings!

imageGod be praised for a wonderful week of God’s good, grace, faithfulness and favor!

This past Lord’s Day, I had the opportunity to preach the Youth Day at the historic New Light Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas. During my formative years, I would hear my grandfather, Dad and preachers who would talk about the late, great Dr. P.S. Wilkinson, Sr. For years, I had tried to attain a copy of his publication, “Pilate’s Judgement Hall” to no avail. Last year, my aspirations became realized. It is, by far, one of the most valuable books I have in my library. Never did I think I’d be preaching there! The congregation is now lead by Dr. Wilkinson’s grandson, Paul Wilkinson, Sr. He is doing a phenomenal job carrying on the legacy and leadership of this great congregation and family. It was an honor just to share, especially for a Youth Day! I am 36; and I typically get invitations now for revivals, annual days, workshops, pastoral days, etc. It is refreshing to get an occasional invitation to preach a Youth Day! While some preachers my age who are pastors could possibly see this as a step back, I see it as an affirmation of my youth! I love it! I actually shared a very modified version of a text I’ve preached before from Psalm 118 regarding praise to the Lord. In the first few verses, I see an affirmation that God’s people are called to praise Him because of 1) Who He is 2) What He has and 3) What He does.

During the week, I also had the opportunity to share in revival at the Zion Fair Baptist Church in Sinton, Texas. It was an enjoyable time of fellowship; and also gave me the opportunity to be home in Corpus Christi, Texas (my hometown) for a few days. I believe I shared what the Lord placed upon my heart; and in dealing faithfully with God’s Word, God in turn, was pleased. A special thanks to Pastor Alton Coleman for the opportunity to come and share with this precious congregation and people.

I am looking forward to being in my own pulpit this coming Lord’s Day. This is the Month of Prayer at our church; and my hope is to continue on prayer this Sunday.

My schedule has been so hectic… I am looking forward to working through the finalization of my Ph.D. application and also begin the process of my Board Certified Chaplaincy. With my schedule, I am convinced that God has given me the best wife in the world! There is no possible way I could be half of who I am were it not for her support, sharing the load and being present when I can not be. Whether it is following up with a sick member, attending an event, praying and listening to one of the young girls in our congregation….it makes life and ministry so much easier. I really believe that the best is yet to come!

In other news, I am not happy about basketball season and the fact that football season is over. Really looking forward to the fall!

What are your thoughts? How was your week?  Please take a moment to subscribe to my blog and also share with friends, family and coworkers.  Thanks for reading!

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God be praised for a phenomenal and extraordinary day in the house of the Lord this past Sunday! It completely goes without saying – God is faithful to keep His Word; and He is committed to carrying out His ultimate plan in the lives of His children.

I continued looking in the Book of Joshua.

Here is my outline:

Title: Crossing the Current of Life’s Challenges
I. Look back to God’s provision, Vss. 1-4
II. Give attention to God’s position, Vss. 3-4
III. Consider your call to consecration, Vs. 5
IV. Stand firm with faithful conviction, Vss. 7-8
V. Trust in God’s instruction, Vss. 5, 14-17

Preaching through the first few chapters of Joshua have been both challenging and enjoyable. Admittedly, I flustered through a portion of Joshua 3 on this past week. There is a portion of the story of Joshua that is a little fuzzy to me; and this is the account of them preparing to cross the Jordan. Nonetheless, God brought me through.

In overall church life, this has proven to be a tough month. We are facing the challenge of how to best utilize our church building. To be sure, the building where we worship each week is old. In fact, it is very old. And the more activities we have at our church, no matter what we’ve done to enhance sanctuary space, the building starts “showing her age!” There are just so many changes taking place in our congregation; and this is just another added to the list. We are sort of at a crossroads…which way do we go in terms of our building – try to restore or build? For many reasons, I don’t see undertaking a building project in 2016. For more reasons, I don’t see continuing to invest in space that, no matter how much we attempt to make it work, it is just not functional. This is a tough reality, for many reasons. I am prayerfully trying to discern God’s will in this; and look forward to seeing God show His hand and reveal His desire for our church in this.

In other news…the NFC Conference (Team Irvin) won the pro-bowl! January has just been an amazing month!!! I cannot complain about anything. Things are forming in the area of my organization, church life is exceptional, another open door in chaplaincy, the boys are doing well in school and I continue to have the most amazing wife. I was talking to a friend recently (last week); and he and I were discussing how many events in our lives were not as we had planned them out. This conversation arose as we discussed a book I am writing on how life can turn some peculiar corners; and how God uses our disappointments and setbacks to reveal His ultimate, preferred will for our lives. It is true – I never, in all of my life, would have concocted most aspects of my existence on the screen of my life. I would have gone to a different college, married a different person, pastored a different church, lived in a different house, drove a different car, etc. I can reflect upon all of the ways I thought my life was taking on a different direction.

But here is what is so critical – God’s love for us is willing to be criticized in order to accomplish His purpose in our lives; and move us from what is good to what is best for us!

Never, in all of my life, would I have come up with where I am now. But never, in all of my life, would I have thought I would be as blessed as I am today. Literally…I see what God was up to all along. Did I make some wrong turns along the way? Of course…or I wouldn’t be human. But I have literally seen God allowing me to graduate from the best schools (better than the ones I wanted to attend), marry the best woman (she was tailor-made for me!), father the 3 best sons (even though I wanted FIVE!…not anymore), and Pastor a church that has grown and stretched me in ways I didn’t think possible! Boy…what a journey. If someone were to come to me and say, “Let’s go back and give you all of the stuff, choices, people and places you once desire.” I would, without hesitation, say “You’re crazy!” I guess the saints of old put it like this: “I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.”  Now does this imply that anything I wanted was not good? No way… I’d like to think I’ve always wanted the BEST! Morehouse and Princeton Seminary are AMAZING schools.  The church I thought I’d pastor the rest of my life was one of the best!  Dallas (the place I wanted to live) is an amazing city! The person I thought I’d be with the rest of my life has become an amazing wife to someone else; and they have amazing children.  All of those things just weren’t God’s best for ME!

All in all, I continue to look forward to see what God is up to; and what God is up to in my marriage, our sons, this ministry God has entrusted unto me; and for the congregation of Mt. Salem. What a journey. I pray that God continues to guard my life, health, mind, wife and family for His glory and our good. The best is yet to come!

God be praised for another day and week celebrating the presence of Christ; and fellowshipping with His saints. This past Lord’s Day and week have been both phenomenal and busy. December has, for our congregation, been a time of rest. Well….atleast that was the intention. We canceled all church activities for the entire month of December. My sentiment was this: “We will hit the ground running in 2015.” Passing the halfway mark of January, I can attest to the fact that this was and is true in the case of our congregation! I have adopted something I began years ago in my first pastorate—instituting in our church a theme/emphasis for each month. January has been our “Month of Renewal.” While this is not a new concept to myself; it is fairly new to our congregation. I suppose it is typically an unspoken…for January, in the least. Most people try to begin the new year in renewal. This month I have decided to forego our typical Spring Revival; and have decided to do a local concept of “Wednesdays in the Word.” During our regular midweek activities, we have canceled our regular activities; and we have invited a Pastor and Congregation for one of our sister churches to be with us throughout the month of January, each Wednesday night. This has been phenomenal!!! Thus far, we have been blessed tremendously. This past Wednesday, Rev. Kevin VanHook, Sr., and the St. Peter’s Church of Victoria were our special guests.

Since the new year began, I’ve been led to share from the Book of Joshua. My major emphasis has been to show how God has called the Body of Christ to transition in the midst of the recurring changes in our world. Pastoring a congregation that will celebrate 144 years in a few months, I envision seeing our church ‘age gracefully.’ On this past Lord’s Day, I shared from Joshua 2:9-19.

Here is the outline:
Title: How God Uses Trouble
I. God uses the unlikely, Vs. 1
II. God uses the what’s available, vss. 2-7
III. God uses our faith, vss. 8-16
IV. God uses us where we are, vss. 17-21

I somewhat enjoyed preaching this passage that recounts the steps of Rahab; and how God uses her to make an eternal impact on a generation. But I would have enjoyed sharing it much more had I better utilized my study time throughout the week. Unfortunately, my time was spent earlier in the week doing other things that vied for my attention and focus. Fortunately, God is faithful to His Word, and not my human deficiency.

This has been an unusual time in the life of our church and for me personally. Personally, I am trying to organize my own personal spaces in order to be more free to function and become more effective in all aspects of what I seek to accomplish in 2015. 2014 was a good year; but a rough year! I want to be more organized and functional this year. In addition to completing the 2015 Program Plan (Annual Booklet/Pamphlet that contains the pastoral vision, mission of our congregation, calendar, etc.), I am trying to work on submitting my application for Board Certified Chaplaincy while also submitting my doctoral application prior to deadline. Can you say “Torture”?

It is an unusual time for our church because growth, for us, is possible…but there are natural roadblocks to this growth, as with any congregation over a hundred years of age. At the end of 2014, I was faced with a real dilemma – do I continue to ignore the things that must be altered for the sake of unity and harmony (even though it isn’t growing us) or do I confront the challenges head-on and assume the position of Pastor, knowing God’s vision is our preferring future. Well…whatever else I know about myself, I know that if I continued to do the former, I would eventually surrender and move on. And that if I would do the latter, there would be possible backlash; but the end result would bring about the growth that God envisions for us, and a place I would enjoy pastoring all the more. Well…I’ve begun the process of the latter. Already, I have begun to see the positive effects, as well as the resistance to change. For me, this has been a time of growth for me.. I am naturally. A person who is intolerant of resistance and have never had a problem walking away and moving on. But in pastoring, especially pushing 40, I am moving to the point of not caring who doesn’t like a change when 1) it pleases God and 2) my heart is right. All in all…what we seek to do must always be in the best interest of Christ’s church; and with a love for souls, both inside and beyond the walls.

All in all, I am looking forward to seeing what God is up to; and what He is doing in the life of my family, the ministry He has entrusted unto me; and for the congregation of Mt. Salem. The best is really yet to come!

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Hello

Posted: December 10, 2014 in Christian Living, Pastoring, Preaching, Random Thoughts
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There has been some time since I’ve last blogged. I called myself taking a break from my series in the Book of Acts and, as a result, a break from blogging. This has undoubtedly contributed to a heightened level of inner-stress when I consider that writing is cathartic and I thrive on structure. At any rate, here I am!

The fall has been quite busy, with 2 of our sons being in sports, trying to become more proactive in my workout schedule and trying to sort through some other things going on in church life, ministry and work.

Recently, I had a significant loss very close to our family. This loved one has always been near and dear to me, though we didn’t have the relationship where we talked every day. In some ways, our relationship would be complicated and superfluous to explain. In most way, she was just a spirit who crossed paths with the Pullam family in more ways than one; and I she had always been kind to me personally; and a loving spirit. Not only this – but people who have been and are close to me were also close to her. As a consequence, my heart was heavy in the shock of it all; and empathy towards those who were and are affected. She will be missed tremendously. Her homegoing celebration was just that – a celebration. A year ago, my paternal grandfather went Upstairs on the day before Thanksgiving. A few weeks ago, with her passing the day after Thanksgiving… this time of year solidifies itself as a time of reflection and perspective for me.

This past Lord’s day I preached “The Kind of Faith the Moves God”, from Luke 1:26-38. My hope in the coming week is to pick up in verse 39 and following.

Beyond this, I am trying to prepare for 2015; and looking forward to some great things happening!

It has been a few weeks since my last blog. I am glad to be back! My schedules in the pastorate and chaplaincy have both kept me pretty occupied. The most significant change has been to increasing and refining the moments I am spending with my immediate family (wife and boys) and my study (devotional, leisure and sermon preparation). Going into the most recent conference (aforementioned in my last blog), I wanted to walk away with some practical ways to simply learn quicker and move toward sermon construction at a faster pace, until it is clear and precise. This consumed much of my time. Taking the past 21 years of preaching models, habits and experience and refining my craft to suit me at the age of 36 has been both refreshing and fulfilling.

Since my last blog, I’ve continued my series in the Book of Acts at our church, Mt. Salem. On the first Sunday of October, I shared Peter’s 1st Sermon on the day of Pentecost, recorded in Acts 2:14-41. The title of the sermon was, “Let Me Explain.” What sparks Peter’s sermon at Pentecost was God’s leading to debunk the notion that what occurred in the opening verses of Acts 2 were fabricated results of drunkenness. But he doesn’t spend all of his time addressing false accusations, and neither should we. He simply verifies what happens in scripture and then makes a rush to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter is masterful when it comes to modeling the preaching craft; and the study of the passage really presented an opportunity to plainly share the Gospel story and message. God be praised for the souls who were added!

The following Sunday, I shared “The Marks of a Spirit-Filled Church”, from Acts 2:42-47. Again, the Lord was kind to us! Admittedly, this was not a feel-good message; but challenging to both myself and our congregation. The thing about preaching one text, and continuing with the next verse the following week; and simply explaining what the text says and means….really forces the preacher to deal with what is there, whether good or bad. I am convinced that this not only grows the preacher tremendously, but it will in turn stretch and grow the congregation in the maturing and application of God’s Word. Again, souls were added! To God be the Glory!

This past Lord’s Day, I had the privilege of preaching for one of the historic congregations in my hometown, Corpus Christi, Calvary First Baptist Church, for their Choir Annual Day. The Pastor there is Dr. Charles E. Richardson, Sr., who is good friends with my father; and has served this congregation for quite a number of years now. Calvary First is the church where my parents grew up; and also where they met. Many great preachers and mentors of mine, grew up and began preaching at Calvary First, including J.R. Miller, Cleophus LaRue, my uncles, Monty Francis and Lloyd Pullam. It was a joy to preach there on a Sunday morning. I shared from Psalm 118:1-6, “Every Reason to Praise the Lord.” Pastor Richardson is a dynamic preacher in his own right; and so I was humbled not only that he asked me to come and share, but for the warm reception to my preaching and our congregation.

I try to read one book a week. This has been my practice for some time. I was astounded to learn that Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Seminary, reads 12 books a week. I’m not believing that! But okay… I’ll stick to my one book a week. On good weeks, I can read 2, especially if I am not preparing for a sermon. On vacation, I can read a little more. But most recently, I read a book last week entitled, “Singing in a Strange Land”, by Nick Savatore. It is a book chronicling the life of Rev. C.L. Franklin, the father of Aretha Franklin. I would encourage any preacher to read this biography. It is insightful, interesting and even enriching.

It is my prayer that all who read are blessed by these blogs. I am praying how to better utilize and maximize this medium, and also to best encourage Christian leaders, pastors, ministers and laypersons. I would love to hear from you and also encourage you to subscribe. How are you? How was your Sunday? Blessings!

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imageGod be praised for the Cutting It Straight Expository Preaching Conference!

Some of my preaching and pastoral comrades have asked me over the past few days what has been my experience in Jacksonville on this past week at this recent preaching conference. While I am not a Preaching Conference Connoisseur, I can say I’ve had my share of the aforementioned. Hence, I wish to give my personal experience here.

With little kids, I’ve spent much of my time and resources in Florida, but this was my very first time in Jacksonville. Admittedly, I can be biased. I was introduced to H.B. Charles, Jr.’s preaching around in the year 2000. He and his brother, Kevin Willis, conducted a city-wide revival in my hometown and word quickly reached me in Dallas about both of these preaching giants. Around this same time, I was invited to preach at the Fairview Baptist Church, following Joe Carter, who had preached their youth revival for a number of years. H.B. is loved and adored at Fairview, preaching for years for their simultaneous revival in Oklahoma City. To say the least, whether in my hometown or at Fairview, I wanted to know who this guy was that people would either come up to me and ask if I knew him, or would say that there were some similarities between us both. Eventually, I heard him preach; and I was astounded by his amazing preaching gift and ability to proclaim God’s Word so clearly, freely and directly. At some point, the comparisons began to get on my nerves. First, I knew there was no way I was anywhere close to being a preacher of his caliber. Second, I insisted these folks were laughing at me behind my back. But over the past 7 or 8 years, those things don’t bother me; and I just absolutely love the ministry and person of Pastor H.B. Charles, Jr. As a consequence, I refused to miss this conference. I pastor a smaller congregation; and learned of the conference after I had budgeted for another conference that meets in July. I also had plans of attending Joel Gregory’s Proclaimer’s Place that meets each year in July. But when learning of the Cutting It Straight Expository Preaching Conference, I was already there. I was able to pull together my resources to attend the conference. It was just that important to me. And…I am glad I did!

The headquarter hotel for the conference was Omni Hotel, located in Downtown Jacksonville. Rates were fare. I’ve stayed at the Omni more times than I can can’t, including honeymoon; and know the quality of the ‘Omni Experience.’ While the service there was nothing to write home about, the presence of the Shiloh volunteers were outstanding! Their hospitality was second to none.

The conference began on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 around noon. Registration began that morning, where attendees were able to pick up their packets, badges and also go and receive their free resources for the day. These resources were supplied each day of the conference, and contained no less than 3 books as well as CD’s of the preaching of great expository messages. By day 2, if you paid pre-registration as I had, you had already received resources that exceeded your registration costs. I believe there was careful thought put into the registration process. I had no problems. The registration desk had to write me out a name tag; and asked me to return the next day for my printed label. When coming in the next day, it didn’t even cross my mind. However, a volunteer asked me to visit registration and my label was there for me. There was very close attention paid to detail the entire stay.

Let me jump to my favorite part… The conference itself. Pastor Charles was simply phenomenal as a host! From his greeting pastors and preachers around the campus, to his utilization of announcements, transparency, sharing, shaking hands, etc…. He was born to do this! If I am honest, the only thing I didn’t particularly care for was his leading the panel discussion on the final day. It wasn’t horrible; but I think it could have been handed off to someone else. So I guess that is my little critique.

All of the speakers were phenomenal. Ralph West was…..Ralph Douglas West! R. Albert Mohler gave a stellar lecture on the first day regarding expository preaching. His preaching seemed redundant and stale later that night, but I believe he did an okay job of reading and explaining the text. I am still fuzzy on his exhortation; but his exposition was clear to me. The second day of the conference, as well as the third and final, were on the cutting edge. The courses provided really dealt with preaching and the preacher. H.B. Charles, Jr. was in rare form; and Mac Brunson was simply epic. I finally had the opportunity to hear a new friend of mine, Romell Williams, who pastors the Lillydale Baptist Church in Chicago. I think his sermon, “The Ministry of Preaching” simply explained the what and why of preaching, and an exhortation to keep on proclaiming the gospel and Word of Christ. Maurice Watson was vintage.

Let me try to be clear: This was not a church-growth or pastor’s conference. This was a conference for the person who seeks to be an ‘expositor’ of God’s Word. Be that as it may, this conference encouraged me as a pastor to keep the main thing the main thing. Bryan Lorritts encouraged all ministers to live a life of integrity and demonstrate a character that pleases God, even behind closed doors. The time was well-spent in prayer, fellowship, meeting one another and training.

Pros: Price of Event, Strong Preaching, Insightful Sessions, Free Resources, Uplifting Worship Experiences, Free Lunches (on certain days), Experiencing the craft of preaching in a church setting, A strict emphasis on the Preaching craft, excellent Shiloh volunteers and staff who clearly have a heart for ministry, their pastor’s vision and the guest experience

Cons: Hotel commute (while this is a downside, I hope this does not change! I love being in the church environment), Conference ending on Friday evening…harder for travel. I didn’t particularly care for the fact that they didn’t have a book signing for Pastor Charles and his new book. Honestly, I wish I had more to say in this category, but I do not.

Additional Observations: This is not a conference that acknowledges women in preaching ministry. Respectively, while Pastor Charles’ views are clear, I don’t believe a woman should feel that she is not welcome. I think this conference would help all persons; but do not be taken aback by this. Be that as it may, there was a course conducted for minister’s wives; and I am told there are plans to expand this at the next conference.

The volunteer staff was just phenomenal. And hats off to all of the staff, including Nicole Clark, Daniel Beckwith, Marcellus March, Cameron Triggs and his wife and Joe Pace. These guys made it happen!

The conference is scheduled for next year already and you can register NOW. The dates on the website (cutstraight.org) are listed as September 23-25, 2015, but I believe the dates will be moved one day ahead to make those days Tuesday thru Thursday.

In short, the conference’s name simply describes the sum and scope of the conference.

I’d love to see in the future more interaction with ministers via social media during conference, and also adding maybe a course that walks through either dissecting a right/wrong sermon model as well as a possible course on the actual delivery of the sermon.

Final Note: In no way, did this conference look like it was a first for H.B. Charles, Jr., the staff, volunteers or the Shiloh Church. That aside, I’m glad to say I attended the first. And I suspect this is simply a sign of greater things to come!

If you attended the conference, I’d love to know your thoughts and experience. If you are a minister or a pastor, and have been blessed by the conference or wish to be an encouragement to the ministry of Pastor Charles or Shiloh, please visit his blog at http://www.hbcharlesjr.org and click ‘Contact HBC2’ and leave your encouragements there. Also, please take a moment to subscribe to my blog. Blessings!

Sunday Reflections

Posted: September 24, 2014 in Uncategorized
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IMG_1406This past Lord’s Day came and it went.  But not without God’s showing up in our midst.

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to teach a couple of sessions on ‘Reaching Today’s Millenials’ for the Colorado Baptist Association’s “Equipper’s Workshop”, under the umbrella of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.  This event was held at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in El Campo, Texas, where Rev. Michael Moore serves as the pastor.  I enjoyed meeting new people and being apart of a great team of teachers.  IT is my hope for the people of Mt. Salem to experience this in the coming future.

Our worship experience on Sunday morning was phenomenal, from start to finish.  While our Sunday School attendance has been waining since the Summer, I am confident that things will improve.  I am sure there are probably some more innovative ways we could adopt to accelerate the growth of the Sunday School.  For many years, Christian Education & Sunday School were my bread and butter.  But the things I would do would completely change the entire landscape of what many know in our Sunday School, including curriculum development, taking out weekly reviews, etc.  All of these things are effective in most settings.  But 1) Pastors must choose their battles wisely.  2) Pastors shouldn’t be quick to change things simply because they know the change would bring numerical growth. 3) I am still learning the geographical and church landscape in the city of Victoria; and it is okay to be patient in learning.  All of that being said…our Sunday School is effective in what we provide at this time.

From start to finish, worship was phenomenal.  From the opening prayer, there was just a sweet Spirit in the place and among our people.  It was evident, that the deacon who led the opening prayer had spent time with God the previous days.  This simply affirms that the person who gives the call to worship sets the tone of the entire service.  If he or she is bland, the service will often be bland.  If he or she is routine and ritualistic, the service of often (not always) the same.  If he or she is on fire or overwhelmed by the presence of God or moving beyond the usual….the worshippers will often follow suit.

Because of my experiences in church and as a pastor for a few years now, I knew at the beginning that this would be a great experience in worship, Lord willing.  And it was.

I was led to take a break from my series in the Book of Acts; and shared from a passage in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 with the title: My Will, Life’s Thorns and God’s No.  The Big Idea of the text is: How we should respond to the sovereign providence of God with gratitude, surrender and worship, even when God’s answer to our prayers seem to insult our desires.  My points were that we should respond to God’s “no” with gratitude because I. God’s “no” and our ‘thorns’ protects us from the sin of human pride. II. God’s “no” and our ‘thorns’ move us from human provision toward heavenly providence. III. God’s “no” and our ‘thorns’ hallmark God’s plan over our pain.

While I was taking a break from the Book of Acts, little did I know that God said ‘no’ to my continuing the series in order to illustrate His providence, knowing what we needed as a congregation.  Nine people came forward after the message, most came for prayer regarding things they’ve been dealing with in their lives.  Some said, “Pastor, that message was for me.”  I take no credit in this.  There is no way I claim to know what people need.  As pastors, we may study the people, and pray that God would reveal what they need.  But only the Holy Spirit can get into the lives of the people with whom we lead.  With that in mind, I am grateful that God would use me, us and the message He seeks to convey through me.

I am looking forward to a great week.  Currently, I am in Jacksonville, Florida to support my friend and brother, Pastor H.B. Charles, Jr. at his Cut it Straight Expository Preaching Conference.  I am certain this will be a great time of encouragement, training, preaching and instruction for those who seek to grow in the exposition and delivery of God’s Word.  I so want to be a great preacher.  In fact, this desire grows more each day and week.  Please keep those traveling pastors, ministers, volunteers, staff, speakers, and H.B. in your prayers.  Can’t wait to see what he has envisioned (I am sure for years) unfold; and a wife, family, congregation and leaders who support what I am trying to become.

The Cowboys won on Sunday; The Texans did not.  The Saints won, but hey, two out of three wishes ain’t bad.

How was your weekend?  What are you thoughts?  I would love to hear from you.

Sunday Reflections

Posted: September 15, 2014 in Uncategorized
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This past Lord’s day has been a bless-ed one!

Let me back up a little. This past weekend has been a great one!

Admittedly, I didn’t want the weekend to come. Witnessing he earthly departure of my remaining grandfather is something that hasn’t quite sunk in fully. There has been a closer bond to my maternal grandmother (my Memaw) and my paternal grandfather (Granny PawPaw) through the years, but I have always had a connection and closeness to them all. And while my paternal grandfather went home to be with the Lord last November, the recent passing of my maternal grandfather (Memaw PawPaw) hit closer to home. In my reflection, I have come to several reasons why. Not only have I reflected on the spiritual connections of my grandfather and his impression upon me as my only preaching grandfather who pastored several churches; but the fact that now BOTH of my grandfathers have departed, and ‘gone home.’ In the words of the late Robert G. Lee’s ‘negro’ nanny ‘Mam Lindy’, their ‘wooden wagon was changed into a golden chariot.’ I am unable at this time to express in words the tranquility, peace, sadness, grief and somberness I feel in my emotions. I was there at Rev. Alvin Francis, Sr.’s homegoing; but, in a sense, it hasn’t all the way sunk in. Interestingly, I’ve received many more phone calls, texts, inboxes, condolences and well-wishes during this time over the last. It is also difficult to see my own mother weep and literally wail over anything, but especially the passing of the man I’ve always heard her affectionately term as the man she first loved. That, coupled with seeing my Memaw surrounded by many loved ones and well-wishers, but leaving his remains…is something I can’t begin to describe. It is also sad in realizing I haven’t always been a great grandson. My paternal grandfather would say to me at family gatherings, ‘You know, Kraig, PawPaw doesn’t have much more time’ or ‘I don’t have much longer.’ I would always respond, ‘PawPaw, you are a young man’ or ‘You are going to be around here for another 50 years’ and dismiss such talk. But the truth is, whether young or old, all of our days are numbered and few, in contrast to eternity. I missed invitations to ‘dance’ with my grandfathers more in their final years. I want to do better. And on that note, I have two grandmothers who are here and doing well; but I pray for their strength and continued peace.

Didn’t mean to write all of that…

The upside of my grandfather’s home going was being able to see so many family members from far and near. To see all of my cousins, uncles and aunts in one place, in a strange way…was just a joyous time for me personally. Preachers and pastors who are close to our family, and like family, were also present. Rev. J.R. Miller is one of those men of God who has always been a constant encouragement and mainstay to our family. Another is Rev. Arthur Lane. Him, along with Rev. Lance Mann, are like brothers. I have a few brothers in Corpus, Oklahoma City, Dallas, etc.; but these brothers are also adopted as sons to my parents. So, they are sort of unimpeachable!

Good to see them all.

I was sort of protesting the fact that my room at my parents house is no longer my own. My big brother, Kevin, came in first and traveled the farthest away; and as a consequence, he took over ‘my’ room that they now call ‘Kai’s room’. So, I didn’t stay in Corpus. Dee and I took advantage of having no boys with us; so we stopped in Victoria for the night; and just enjoyed our time together…without the intruders. The next morning we headed to Houston; and I went to support Dee that afternoon. D’Ani is a gifted speaker and encouragement to women in Christ. I am really praying that one day she will begin to write and share with women what God has given to her. But, when I met her, she was a gifted praise-dancer. And that she is. My Pastor’s wife, Dianne Clemons, asked Dee to dance at the retirement party for her sister. D’Ani did a great job; and I am still amazed by her gift of liturgical dance.

Finally….this past Lord’s Day, our church held its Annual Men & Women’s Day of Victory. Our morning guests were Pastor Keith Sanders & the Rising Star Baptist Church, from Edinberg, Texas. Keith is one of my childhood preaching friends. And his wife, Tammy, is like a sister to me. I was in their wedding years ago; and it was so refreshing to have my old friend there to preach for me; and to see God using him in preaching ministry. I had been encouraging him to attend the EK Bailey Preaching Conference. He did this past July. I saw that he was hungry to grow as a Pastor and Preacher and, boy, did it show yesterday. He shared from John 12:1-4 on “He To Be an Overcomer.” Just awesome!

In the afternoon, our guests were Pastor Derrick Reaves and the St. John Baptist Church, Corpus Christi, Texas. Dr. Reaves and St. John were such a blessing! Their choir blessed us tremendously in the ministry of song. And Dr. Reaves shared a classic Christian text out of Ephesians 1:3-6 and titled the message, “Blessed.” He did a wonderful job; and so glad that he was able to come and share with us. I’m looking forward to both of them being with us again in the near future.

This coming week, I am looking to continue our series in the Book of Acts; and hope to redeem myself from m last week’s disappointment, Lord willing.

How was your day? I would love to hear from you; and ask that you subscribe to future blogs!

Sunday Reflections

Posted: September 10, 2014 in Preaching
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1004729_10151526345174506_668343896_nThis past Lord’s Day had its fair share of challenges. I am five weeks into my series on the Book of Acts. The week started off great, with several challenges along the way. I would imagine if I were not a parent, or atleast a hands-on parent or husband, my preaching over the pulpit would be a little more exceptional. Parenting is HARD. I don’t want to say that it will get easier when they are older because, after all, do they ever really leave you? So…in short, last week…time just escaped me and somehow flew by. The routine is quite different, with trying to get my family more active at the gym and also spend more quality moments sharing, praying and being together. Needless to say, the evenings come fast; and there is very little time to waste. What does this mean for me? I can only hope to explain. I am a voracious reader. I will read any and everything. Also, I’ve developed a habit of storing (in my mind and on paper) the things I study and read regarding the message I plan to preach in a few days. My father taught me how to basically do disciplined and well-rounded study for sermon preparation; Dallas Baptist taught me how locate the right resources and collect/gather all of the information; seminary taught me how to combine all of this….on steroids! But what I struggle with is ‘sifting’ through it all and moving my sermon to the place of dislodging what I’ve heard H.B. Charles, Jr. note as ‘unecessary words.’ So….I can be different from many on Fridays and Saturdays. While many preachers may have too little to share, I have WAY too much! A typical sermon, for me, when it is finalized is about 5 to 7 pages, single-spaced, in Pages or Microsoft word, with an 11 font. My notes, before the sermon is scaled down to the final manuscript, is usually between 15 to 20 pages. Well…because I waited until Saturday to scale it down, I ended up rushing, with a final manuscript 10 and a half pages. Not good! As a result, I think I do a disservice to the overall flow of sermon delivery.

Fortunately, I kept my sermon to about 40 minutes. My usual time, for years, has been about 50 to 55 minutes; but my goal is to be around 30.

What have I learned?

I am aware that I am ambitious & impatient. There are 28 chapters in Acts; and I want to make a dent in this book; and feel I am getting no where. But I think this should be avoided. I have preached through Acts chapter 2 before; and it took me about 5 weeks to deal with Pentecost. What I found myself doing Sunday was trying to preach a 4-week sermon series in 40 minutes. While our congregation may have remarked the the message was helpful and people responded, I am aware that this may not be the best way to help the people. I’m thinking the best thing to do is either take my time, or so sift through the material so that, when it is delivered, it is condensed yet powerful and clear.

Here is my sermon outline:

THE PROMISE OF THE SPIRIT’S COMING (vs. 1)
a. God Keeps His living promise. (Dead men can’t always keep their promises)
b. God Keeps His personal promise. (Luke 24:49; Joel 2:28-32)
c. God Keeps His conditional promise. (Acts 1:4)
THE MANNER OF THE SPIRIT’S COMING (vss. 1-4)
a.Where He shows up (Location)
b. How He shows up (Wind/Fire)
THE RESULT OF THE SPIRIT’S COMING
a. NEW ENVIRONMENT (verse 2)
b. NEW LANGUAGE (New tongues – the principle is diversity. We don’t speak the same language. i.e. – Mary and Martha)
c. NEW OPPOSITION “Others”
d. NEW ATTITUDE (Verse 14…Peter is standing)

God be praised for His giving of direction in this portion of the scripture in Acts 2.  While I do feel that it would have been better for me to have taken a smaller portion and deal with it accordingly, it is now over; and if the Lord so allows, the time will come again to share.  Fortunately, I can work now to summarize it in review of the next portion of scripture, which is Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost.  

Thankful and grateful for the one who came forward.

The day ended with news that my maternal grandfather (my Mom’s Dad) had been rushed to the hospital in Corpus Christi.  He would move from labor to reward early the following Monday morning.  I am grateful for a life who touched so many.  Rev. Alvin Francis, Sr. will be missed.  Such a presence of a man is rare as the years go by.  Please keep the Francis and Pullam families lifted in prayer.