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It has been some time since I’ve last blogged.  Four months to be exact!  Since blogging back in April, my world and our world have not failed to keep on moving.

  • More unarmed minorities have been killed by law enforcement officers.
  • Crimes against those who protect us have tragically resulted.
  • Gay marriage has become the law of the land, getting its stamp of approval from the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that same-sex partners have a constitutional right to marry, sweeping away state bans on gay unions and extending marriage equality nationwide.
  • Bruce Jenner has become Caitlyn Jenner.
  • Floyd Mayweather defeats Manny Pacquiao.
  • Bobbi Kristina, the only daughter of Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston together, has died.
  • Kermit & Miss Piggy have broken up. (I can’t make this up!)
  • Ashley Madison (a Canada-based website who promised discreet encounters to those in committed relationships) broke their promise and were hacked! (note: Ed Stetzer predicts that 400 pastors will resign this coming Sunday because their names surfaced in the hack)
  • Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are running for POTUS!

On a personal note, I have just been taking some time away from blogging.  To be perfectly honest, I have no excuses.  Yes, I have growing sons who’ve consumed my Summer, preparations for making my printed publication a reality (long overdue), attempts to begin Ph.D. work (now halted), 15 year anniversary trip with my wife (check), the list goes on and on.  But I am discovering excuses are relative and they are inexcusable.

An old friend of our family, the late George O. McCalep, would commit an hour each day to just write.  He would sometimes find himself unclear on the direction of his writing matter…but he would write unencumbered by any distractions.

I love to write.  My biggest obstacles are procrastination, writer’s block and wanting things to be perfect.  The more I live, the more I am convinced that God gives many of us with limited ability more ALONG the WAY than He does before we start.  So that is my renewed commitment….to just start writing!

I am now 37 years of age!  Going into five years of pastoring the Mt. Salem Church, 15 years of marriage, my eldest son on the brink of being a teenager, approaching 22 years of preaching….I’ve seriously been evaluating where I am in ministry; and where God is taking me.  I can honestly say that I’ve viewed people’s attempts to see what’s next of what God has in store ahead, sometimes, as vain and narcissistic.  But the older I become, the more I realize it is necessary; and something I’ve actually been doing all of my life.  I don’t have time to waste!  It is my prayer that God grants me many years of life… But I am more interested in making my life count.  My focus is to leave my mark, and be as much of an original as I can, rather than a cheap imitation of someone else’s life, ministry and legacy.  That is where I am!  That is my focus!

Currently, I have been preaching through the Psalms.  At the beginning of the Summer with Psalm 1, I am now on Psalm 8.  My focus is to complete Psalm 8 in the morning, and then move forward.  What began as our “Summer in Psalms” may continue for a while.  I’m enjoying the challenge and the luxury of some predictability in my preaching preparation.  I love leaving one verse and going to the next.  In ways, for me, it is much easier but also more of a challenge.  I love it!

I am praying for every Pastor who leads God’s people; and every proclaimer who shares God’s Word faithfully, consistently and accurately.  This is no small endeavor.  Leaders are being attacked.  I’m not necessarily referring to those leaders who were hacked.  But good men and women who are just trying to serve the Lord, love their families, do right by God and His people….they are being attacked; and they are discouraged.  My prayers are with them, as well as those who are guilty of failing and falling.  I pray we never fail to realize that Shepherds BLEED, and healers are often WOUNDED.

May God faithfully reveal His grace and strength to them and all who need His care!

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IMG_0329Well…God be praised for another day of celebrating the presence of Christ on the Lord’s Day!

April has been quite a busy month. Along with sports activities, D’Ani and I have both managed to remain occupied with the endeavors we’ve been assigned as stewards. Over the weekend, Jones High School of Houston (D’Ani’s alma mater), Class of ’95 celebrated their 20th class reunion. On Friday night there was a skating rink outing (for just alum, thank you Jesus…I’ve retired from skating!!!), a dance/banquet on Saturday and a worship service, followed by a picnic, on Sunday. Unfortunately, I missed it all. The only thing I could realistically attend (Saturday dance/banquet), became implausible due to a musical held at our church overseen by our Building Fund Ministry. While I’ve never been a partier, I have always loved to dance amid my lack of rhythm. I suppose it is my love for music! Nevertheless, much to my chagrin, D’Ani traveled there alone. Fortunately, she was not the only one whose spouse could not attend. During her event on Friday, I had the opportunity to watch a 20/20 interview on Bruce Jenner who openly admitted his desire to become a woman. Prayerfully, I hope to blog about this one day soon, Lord willing.

On Sunday, I continued to deal with the subject of forgiveness by exploring a single phrase and thought couched in Christ’s Model Prayer: Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. While it is my hope to one day preach a series on the entire prayer, I felt it befitting to share this scripture on the heels of the previous week’s exposition of the parable of the unmerciful servant.

Here’s the outline of my exposition…

Text: Matthew 6:12 Subject/Title: Overcoming the Grief of Guilt Big Idea: God’s forgiving grace towards us prayerfully compels us to let others off the hook.

Outline:

I. The Desire of Forgiving Grace “Forgive us our debts…”

II. The Danger of Forgiving Grace “…as we forgive our debtors.”

• The person who will not forgive, burns the bridge over which they themselves must travel.

Refusing to forgive:

a. Hurts the Savior 

b. Harms the saint 

c. Hinders the sinner 

d. Heartens Satan

III. The Demand of Forgiving Grace

1. Overcoming the Guilt Grief requires that we forgive freely

2. Overcoming the Grief of Guilt requires that we forgive fully

3. Overcoming the Grief of Guilt requires that we forgive FINALLY

IV. The Delight of Forgiving Grace

1. A cleansed spirit (Psalm 51:2)

2. A clear conscience

I enjoyed preaching this text!   Admittedly, I could sense a strong tension on the subject of forgiveness within our congregation the entire month, almost to the point of grieving my spirit. Looking back, I should have spent more time in prayer regarding my spiritual preparation and strength for this series. I conclude that there are a lot of unsettled issues within our congregation; and things that must be released. Of course, I have lived long enough now to know that there are personal issues of forgiveness that reside in the pews; but I also am aware that there are possibly continued and remaining issues with forgiveness within our church history and predecessors that also remain and linger. I am searching to discern which weighs heavily more upon our congregation. I’ve concluded that most of my struggle within ministry revolves around God’s people being unable to just let things go, personally and corporately, that God can move us forward.  I am seriously & sincerely praying for God to give continued patience because I often become agitated when forward progress is impeded by minuscule matters. I am praying that God would renew my strength and give me direction. Experience in pastoring has taught me that certain things are not my own vivid imagination or coincidental; but a hatchet that needs to be buried… I am ultimately praying for this area of need within our congregation.

I was glad to also journey to Gonzalez, Texas and share with one of the sons of our church who celebrated his 2nd year anniversary of pastoral leadership to the St. James Baptist Church. It was a blessing to share. I shared from Romans 1:8-15 and entitled the sermon “What to Do in the Meantime”.

All in all, I thank God for carrying me through the weekend and through another week.

I am reading through a book by Walter L. Liefeld entitled “New Testament Exposition”; and some excerpts through various volumes of “The Words of Gardner Taylor.”

The Houston Rockets have made it past round one of the 2015 NBA playoffs; and the Cowboys have selected Byron Jones (a cornerback from UConn) in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft. Great move!

If you are helped by my blogs, please share with family, friends and co-workers; and please subscribe. How has your week been? What are you reading?

IMG_4699God be praised for another Lord’s Day!

At our church, April is the Month of Reconciliation & Forgiveness. At every teaching and preaching opportunity during the course of this month I have used as a chance to teach and preach on forgiveness. On Wednesday, God simply took over our Bible Study time and walk us through His Word and shed light on the subject of forgiveness and reconciliation with the leadership of His Holy Spirit.

It was a busy weekend! On the heels of laying to rest the remains of D’Ani’s paternal grandmother, and my former member, Ada Thomas…the weekend was filled with sports activities, a physical Saturday morning for my oldest son, Kai, who will be playing sports in 7th Grade next year…and all of the other things going on. The impression and impact Ada Thomas made upon my life and ministry go far beyond mere words. Growing up a catholic, she grew to prize and cherish her faith tradition. To see her one day join the congregation where I pastored (a Baptist church) and be baptized were a gift that God saw fit to entrust me with; and I will always cherish the memory of every moment with her and in her presence. It is surreal to know that she has departed this side and “moved on.” Until the day she left, she called me her pastor. I will not only miss her; but she will be one of the first I look for when I get to the other side. Prayerfully, that’s a long time from now!

On Sunday, we observed our Family and Friends Day, all day long. Rather than inviting a morning guest, I preached! I took a parable Christ tells to His disciples in Matthew 18 that is often labeled, “The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.”

Here is my outline:

Text: Matthew 18:21-35
Subject/Title: Forgiven to Forgive
Big Idea: God’s forgiving grace towards us warrants and compels an inner desire to forgive others.

Outline:

  1. Forgiveness Should be Thankfully Received
    1. Forgiveness is Free, But it is not Cheap (Vv. 23-25)
    2. Forgiveness is Full, and it is not Partial (Vv. 26-27)
    3. Forgiveness must be Final, and not Temporary (Vv. 27)
  2. Forgiveness Should be Humbly Rendered
    1. Forgiveness Experienced Should be Forgiveness Expressed (Vv. 28-33)
  3.  Forgiveness Should Not be Regretfully Refused (Vv. 34-35)

Thankfully, I made it through the message! However, I am disappointed in the overall flow of the sermon. I preached this text in 2013; and it flowed much better. Challenging myself, I tried not to reference that sermon; and started from “Ground Zero.” Big Mistake! All of the hours I put into constructing the sermon before, it would have been helpful to go over all of my previous man hours, rather than feeling a need, in my own pride, to flex my proverbial “sermonic muscles.” All in all, you live and your learn! I thank the Father for His grace, patience with me, and humbly pray He gives me another opportunity to stand for Him in the future.

In the afternoon, it was an honor to have with us at Mt. Salem, Pastor Paul Wilkinson, Sr. and the New Light Baptist Church of San Antonio. What an awesome privilege to have them with us. One of the preaching giants of yesteryear in the area I grew up was P.S. Wilkinson, Sr. He was a favorite of many of the preachers who were my favorites. For years, Dr. Wilkinson pastored New Light until his passing. Paul is his grandson. I’ve been blessed to hear Dr. Wilkinson on recordings. I can honestly attest to the fact that Paul, who now leads New Light, is a great preacher in his own right. We were tremendously blessed by his sharing with us God’s Word.

In other news, many know me to be a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers and a DIE HARD Dallas Cowboys fan. I shall never waver on my Cowboys; but the Lakers have tested me for some time. I have always liked the Houston Rockets and tolerated (and had MUCH respect) for the San Antonio Spurs, my dad’s team. My other favorite teams were Cleveland (When Lebron went the first time) and Miami (When Shaq and Wade were together); but I didn’t like Lebron and Miami together, AT ALL! My favorite team these days has been the Rockets, even above the Mavericks. I’m looking for them to pull off a victory in this first round of the playoffs. We shall see.

I would like to know…how was your weekend? What did you preach about; or what did your pastor share? Please take a moment to subscribe and share your thoughts. Blessings.

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
Tags: , , ,

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!