Kraig Lowell Pullam

My thoughts. My reflections. My journey…. On pastoring, preaching, leading & learning.

Sunday Reflections

God be praised for a blessed Lord’s Day at the Shiloh MB Church!

It is quite difficult to think it is now November and the year 2017 is steadily coming to a culminated close. October has been a busy month, by any human standard. I am hoping to spend the first half of this month pulling together a workable/tentative outline of 2018’s calendar at Shiloh. Truly, I am excited about what lies in store for us in the coming year, while also praying for wisdom, clarity and patience as we chart new territory in areas of ministry that are new for both myself and our congregation.

On Sunday I began a new Preaching series entitled THANKFUL.

I preached through 1 Thessalonians 5:18, using as a sermon subject “The Anatomy of Gratitude”. I am amazed when I reflect upon how the Eternal chooses to use us irrespective of our apparent inefficiencies. Like Paul, I am the ‘least of them…’. Even still, He took my short week and limited preparation to display to this preacher how He can use us on scraps, quick exposition, Sunday morning note-writing and intensified prayer. I wasn’t ready; and yet, GOD chose to reveal His loving embrace upon His vessel, and smile on His message and His people. I’m grateful.

If the Lord says so, we will continue next week to explore the subject of Thanksgiving. To get a head start, I am trying to work my way through the exposition of Luke 17:11-19. However, I want to deal with the positive side of THANKSGIVING and not the negative…the 9 ingrates who failed to return and tell Jesus thank you. From my preliminary study, I am ruling against it; but it is up to the Lord and what He says in the next 24 or so hours. I may switch to the exposition of Acts 16:25 or somehing else. Prayerfully, it will be resolved no later than Monday evening. Nevertheless, I am convinced that it is my desire, if the Spirit permits, to preach something narrative. On the 3rd Sunday, I am planning to do an exposition of Psalm 103. We shall see!

Grateful for the 3 who made decisions following the message, including 2 by Christian Experience (including a minister) and one as a candidate for baptism. God be praised!

I had a productive meeting with our ministry leaders following our morning service. Looking forward to working with them in 2018.

I was saddened to learn, while eating with my family after church, of a mass shooting in Texas, at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. At present, there are over 25 who are reported as fatalities. The pastor was away on Sunday, but his 14 year old daughter was present, and is reported as one of those who were slain. I could not even imagine the devastation. There is something to consider when a shepherd must minister to others; never forgetting that the minister also needs consolation and comfort. I am lifting in prayer this pastor, his family and the families affected in this community and congregation. What a senseless act.

In other news, I was excited, as many others, to see the Houston Astros win the World Series. This is great for the City of Houston. In addition, my Cowboys pulled off a win against the Kansas City Chiefs. My brother, Kevin, and his wife attended the game. I love him dearly, and will learn to forgive him for getting to the AT&T Stadium before me. Even still, God is good!

I would love to hear from you; and ask that you would share this blog with others, if it is a blessing to you. May the Lord bless your week, in the name of Christ our Lord!

Sunday Reflections

Well….God be praised for another Lord’s Day.

October has come and it is almost over. Since my last blog, there have been a few notable milestones. For one, my eldest biological brother, Kevin, was elected to serve as the next Pastor of Pleasant Mt. Gilead MBC in Fort Worth. Not only did he follow the Pastoral personality of Rev. Larry J. Mouton; but also stands in the place where my beloved friend and mentor, Dr. R. L. Sanders, served for many years as Pastor. How grateful I am that God has chosen Kevin to serve there. I am praying for this marriage between pastor and people; and that the Lord will grant His favor, direction and provision in what is prayerfully the beginning of a long-standing heritage in the making.

The Lord also blessed us to celebrate one year as the Pastor of Shiloh. I grow to love our people more and more each day. It is comforting and empowering to know they love us. I’m looking forward to greater things occurring; and pray to one day look back on the work, and provide a paradigm on how to faithfully and steadily lead a congregation to growing greatness amid a changing community, an epic legacy and a larger than life predecessor.

A pastor’s first year (particularly following a long-tenured pastor) can make or break a church and even his personal calling. I intentionally took a few days off to do nothing but pray, bask in God’s presence, initially view the calendar for 2018, reflect on what actually took place this past year and….REST.

For sure….the calls, pressing demands, emergencies and life altering situations didn’t stop. In fact, they were awaiting me on the other side. But nothing fell. Everything got done. And…I am excited about our future.

This past Sunday I concluded a Series I entitled: Fake News: Trumping the Lies We’ve Been Told.

Because of my need for a break, I’m not sure I enjoyed this series as much as I anticipated. I took the general idea from Kerry Shook, a Pastor in the Houston area. I liked the creativity of the “Fake News” connecting to pop culture…but did my own play on the words. Kerry Shook and I are completely different preaching types, along with our contexts; therefore our preaching content was nothing alike. It really forced me to step out of my comfort zone. In addition, I also have been going to the pulpit without a manuscript or my iPad, and minimal notes. God is faithful.

I am looking forward to continuing our study through the Book of James that we began over a month ago. This Wednesday our plan is to conclude the first chapter.

Beginning in November, I’m looking forward to kicking off our Sunday Preaching Series entitled: THANKFUL.

In others news, the LA Dodgers and Houston Astros are in the World Series. At this moment, the series is tied 2-2. I love the Astros. To date, it is the only professional team I’ve enjoyed attending quite a few of the games. This is a very surreal moment, however it turns out.

I would love to hear from you; and have you share your thoughts and share this blog with others. May God bless and keep you!

Sunday Reflections

God be praised for another Lord’s Day in His presence.  On Sunday, I began to reflect upon the goodness of God for how He has sustained my family and I; and continued to hold our congregation together amid a vote that took place a little over one year ago.  On August 23, 2016, the results were in.  I had been voted in as the new Pastor of Shiloh MBC in Fort Worth.  After over 60 resumes were submitted, I had made my way to being the final candidate.  The vote was 262 yea’s, 69 nays and 2 abstainers.  Fast-forward one year later, I could not help but remember how difficult it was for me to stand on the 4th Sunday in August one year ago; and tell my beloved congregation in Victoria that I had been called to serve as the next Pastor of Shiloh; and that I believed God was telling me to go.  Inso-being a year later, I became astounded in how swiftly the time has passed; and the significant (seemingly insignificant) milestones occurring since then.  Mt. Salem has since called a new pastor.  We were preparing to install one of the Sons of our congregation as pastor of the Greater New Hope Baptist Church in Fort Worth.  In addition, so many people with whom Dee and I are connected through family, churches and friends were rocked by the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.  Even as I write, Hurricane Harvey has not settled; and the affects of his presence are yet fully unknown.  All the while, the inimitable V. Michael McKay was with us over the weekend to both promote his new book; and galvanize our already stellar music department.  Amid other things that I will leave for another time, to say it was a day filled with worship and mixed emotions would be an understatement.  I was just so grateful that all of my family was accounted for (including our parents, some who were with us); and with some inconveniences on them, all of our family, church members, former-coworkers, friends and loved ones are safe and accounted for.  I am absolutely grateful, even while empathizing with many who are still searching for family members and looking for help.

I preached a stand-alone sermon on Sunday out of img_0375.  It is the story of Mary breaking her alabaster flask and pouring her extravagant oil upon Christ.  I wanted to utilize my time between two series of messages and deal with GIVING; but I also wanted to take advantage of Minister McKay’s visit and cover WORSHIP.  The Holy Spirit led me to the passage in John 12 as a perfect harmony of both subjects, giving and worship.  My title was, “If It’s Not Broke, Break It.”  Years ago, I had attempted to preach this story recorded out of Mark 14.  It didn’t go so very well years ago.  I think the Lord blessed my feeble attempt in preaching.

In the afternoon we journeyed across the city to install one of the “Sons of Shiloh”, Rev. Reginald Andrews.  Before I arrived at Shiloh, Rev. Andrews had spent almost 30 years faithfully serving both Shiloh and Rev. Albert Chew, Jr., my predecessor.  While he has never said it – I know that he not only misses Rev. Chew immensely; but it has been challenging to find a way to walk and do ministry amid the void of a presence who has essentially become a giant in his faith.  All in all, I am grateful for Rev. Andrews, his love for Shiloh, respect of me and his unfailing love for the person and memory of Rev. Chew.

In summary, I think the Lord has displayed over the course of this year (continued reinforcement this past Sunday) that life, ministry and people keep moving on.  We make a mistake in thinking that everyone will be happy, comfortable or cheerful regarding change.  We also make the mistake of thinking we can do anything significant without resistance, friction or difficulty.  God has blessed me to pastor some great congregations.  I honestly believe Shiloh is one of God’s best churches.  But to say that it has been a “cake walk” would be a complete fabrication.  There are some of those ‘nays’ who have come to embrace me as their leader; and then there are some (I am sure) who are not my fans; some who are still there and some who are not.  I am grateful for the presence of them all.  None of it is personal; even when it seems like it may be.  The truth is – we are in a spiritual fight and battle.  Often, the people who inflict seeming pain fail to realize that they are being used by Satan.  They honestly believe their antics are legitimate, purposeful and maybe even godly.  Yes, I am fully convinced that there are times that we need to pray an imprecatory prayer the likes of Psalm 109 — for God to destroy our enemies.  But we must be discerning — for there are times when God allows difficult times and even difficult people to remain to refine our character, develop our patience, strengthen our convictions and deepen our prayer life.  There are even times where both are in order.  Then….there is an important truth — that it isn’t really our task to separate the wheat from the tare; it is God’s!  Often our calling is to do what God has called us to do, get out of the way; and let Him do the rest.  As a consequence, I pray and lift every Christian church and ministry, spiritual leader and sinner who needs repentance.  God loves us; and He will not ‘rejoice’ until the world hears the message of His love, grace and faithfulness.

May God bless and keep you, is my prayer!

Reflections

img_0375It is hard to believe I haven’t blogged in three (3) months.  Nevertheless, here I am.  God be praised for the journey.

The last time I wrote, I had just begun my preaching series through the 7 churches of Revelation.  This past Sunday, August 30, 2017, I finally concluded.  One commitment I made during the process is to not break the series.  By God’s grace, I did not.  Whenever I stood in the pulpit of Shiloh, the Lord allowed me to continue, amid the challenges of working through the texts, holidays, personal desires not to cover certain issues (i.e.-Jezebel), I forged ahead.  During the course of this study, I received a couple of reminders of how there seemed to be no love entailed in my sermons.  One brother who has become near and dear to me noted that he had to duck and dodge as I preached.  Someone expressed that they had felt that perhaps God was not pleased with them.  At first, I felt bad regarding such comments while going through the series.  But then I had to remember Christ’s aim in the Book of Revelation: REPENT!

One of the most difficult things, in being a preacher, is communicating to the hearers how hard it hits us before it ever reaches the pulpit.  I am convinced that it must touch us if it will ever touch anyone else.  It has also challenged me to work harder and do better in communicating the love of God, even in the hard passages.  The fact it – Revelation (as it relates to the 7 churches) doesn’t mention the love of God.  But I hope to always communicate that God’s love is present from Genesis  to Revelation.  Therefore, I am always grateful for ways to become a better communicator of God’s Word.

This week, in the midst of my pastoral duties, I’ve been working my way through the three parables tucked away in Luke 15.  However, I think I am going to preach a couple of messages on encouragement before I delve into dealing with God’s love for the lost.  My hope and prayer is to do better on this platform; and chronicle my journey in my pastorate, marriage and parenthood without getting myself in any trouble.  I am learning that the people we least expect often peer into (and sometimes misinterpret) the things you intended to purely help someone understand the journey… I hope and pray to continue that dialogue here….all for the glory of God.

 

Sunday Reflections

There is some level of difficulty in coming to terms with the fact that I haven’t blogged since January of this year. Notwithstanding, my time has been well-spent, amid the pressing demands of life, family and ministry.  I officially moved to Dallas/Fort Worth on September the 1st; preaching my first sermon as the Pastor of Shiloh MBC/Ft. Worth on September the 25th. Little did I know, when arriving, the psychological, emotional and physical challenge my quick move would ensue upon me as a husband, father and pastor. While trying to make adjustments and get settled…life and ministry never stopped.  Because I burned no bridges during my transition, and the love was strong with relationships we had left in Houston and a beloved congregation in Victoria, I found myself emotionally drained (and even confused) at times.  And then, after the sixth (6) month, around March or shortly thereafter…I felt myself and things getting back to normal. Or should I say…my “New normal”!  For about a month now, I am developing a system that works for me; and have set boundaries and priories for me to get things done in my new role as the Pastoral Leader of our great church. In so doing, I have found the time I need for personal development, spiritual formation, daily physical exercise and, most importantly, private devotion. I thank the Lord for my loving wife and our boys who have never complained about the move’ and who have shown support for this calling upon OUR lives.  I’m so excited and elated to see what the Lord will do in this new work. Admittedly…because I have seen the vision of what the Lord is leading us to…it is quite overwhelming to see HOW He will bring the vision to pass. But I know the the Lord works best in people who realize they cannot do it without Him.

Last week, I JUMPED into the Book of Revelation, and finally developed the spiritual guts to do an exposition through Revelations 2 – 3, on the 7 Churches.  Revelation has always been an intimidating book to me, as it is to most preachers. It is so full of imagery, prophecy, correction, confrontation, sporadic shifts and the like. In 23 years of preaching (preaching about 960 times) , I am pretty sure I’ve never preached from the book of Revelation, even once.  Interestingly, it is the one book in scripture that the Lord promises to bless those who read it.  So here we are.  

Here is an outline of last week’s sermon…

When the Thrill is Gone

Revelation 2:1-7

I. COMMENDATION OF THINGS DONE WELL

a. It was a devoted church (Verse2)
”I know your works.” 

b. It is a disciplined church ”could not bear those who were evil.” (verse 2) 

c. It is a discerning church
‘you have tested those who say they are apostles, and are not, and have found them liars…” (verse 2) 

d. It is a determined church (verse 3)

II. CRITICISM OF WHAT’S GONE WRONG
(Verse 4)

III. COUNSEL ON HOW TO MAKE THINGS RIGHT
(Verses 5-7)

  • REMEMBER 
  • REPENT 
  • REPEAT 

Here is today’s sermon outline…

When Life Gets Rough

Revelation 2:8-11

I. GOD IS BIGGER THAN OUR CIRCUMSTANCES

  • He is the Lasting One 
  • He is the Living One   

II. GOD KNOWS WHERE WE ARE

  • He Knows Our Tribulation   
  • He Knows our Poverty  
  • He Knows the Slander (Verse 9) 

III. GOD MAKES A PROMISE TO US IN OUR SUFFERING

1. Expect It

2. Don’t be scared

  • THE REASON FOR SUFFERING 
  • THE RESTRAINT OF SUFFERING 
  • THE REWARD OF SUFFERING 

 
Ultimately, I believe God was pleased. The mood of both churches is quite different. One deals with a loss of love while the other affirms a promise of suffering and the truth of victory. While it is heavy stuff, I’m convinced that not only is expositional preaching the best preaching method of stretching a church; it is God’s method for stretching the preacher. It is my hope to continue, and conclude this series by the first of the summer.  I am spending this first year getting to know the people of Shiloh, familiarize myself with the community, and gradually present my style and form of leadership, administration and things in between. Truly grateful for gradual, rather than impulsive, growth. My brother, Kevin, has said ‘if it grows fast, it blows fast!’  I concur!  So I am humbled by the work God has assigned to my hands; and I am praying now on His leading and directing us to build that TEAM that will surround the vision He has given to execute His plan for Shiloh. Please keep us in your prayers. I am fully aware that this is no small feat. God is able!

How was your Sunday? What was preacher? I pray you have a great week. Blessings!

My Thoughts on Pastor’s & Social Media

Note: This started as an intentional one-paragraph post for my friends on social media; and turned into not only a word to them; but my thoughts on pastor’s and social media.

The Holy Spirit prompted me last year around this time to do what I am doing now on social media…but I didn’t do it. I just made the change, but made no announcements; and I know that some of my friends noticed the change…with some calling me on it. Here it goes.

I love social media for what it is. It allows me the opportunity to connect with family and friends from afar; and share in laughs, jokes and even events of which I am unable to be apart of, without feeling excluded. Those who know me can attest – I’ve pretty much always been popular; but private in many respects. But something has changed for me over the past couple of years – MY MISSION HAS INTENSIFIED. Now if you know me…you know that I enjoy life. But while my communication, over the years…has become much greater in terms of personal interactions, especially with the people I pastor, getting better with my closest friends, fellow pastors and the like – I’m beginning to see that I CANNOT keep up with all of the group Facebook messages, the “If you really do love me or Jesus, send this message back to me and 4 other people you love” messages, and even group texts and the like. At times, when not responding, people may say “Oh…you’re the pastor of Shiloh now” or “You’re too big now…” Hence, one of the reasons now I know the Holy Spirit was leading me to do this last year…before Shiloh or anything now was even apart of the equation. With or without Shiloh, Mt. Salem or any one thing in particular…my life is about ministry; and more than spending my life on a phone, trying to see what is happening on social media. Now, don’t get me wrong….people who jump to the extreme of saying Pastor’s or Ministers should not be on social media are quite naive. It is a very powerful medium. But I have to use discretion (as I ALWAYS have) as it relates to how I use my time interacting with others on social media. Therefore….when I go LIVE, it is for a purpose… When I am not responding to group or individual messages, I’m probably ministering to my family or the members I pastor. When I am lol’ing or posting something funny on social media…that is even intentional – to provide me an outlet as a Pastor to vent, breath or enjoy people. That is it – I LOVE people. Some things I am just not going to do. I will never like game requests(🙄) or group messages or group texts. That’s not me. But if you need prayer, biblical counsel or even correction, I am here for you. I hope and pray that we see Facebook and other social media outlets for what they are – an opportunity to be SOCIAL, when we WANT to be social. Also note…there are parts and facets to a Pastor’s life (nothing sinful) that everyone just doesn’t need to see or can’t even handle seeing. I agree with my friend H.B. Charles, Jr. who says that “…people don’t need to be reminded that their Pastor is human. They need to be reminded that he is holy.”(Paraphrase)  I concur and strongly agree! The fact is – if we live long enough, the people will eventually receive the reminder that we are, in fact, human beings….just as are they. 

Let me note once more: I’m not AGAINST social media. Can you imagine what Jesus and the Disciples could’ve done with social media? Wow!  After word of mouth, it is the least expensive form of advertisement. But also beware…social media (if you haven’t noticed) leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation, mess, messy individuals, legal ramifications and the like). You can find some great examples in ministry of Spiritual Leaders who are using social media to impact the world for good. I cannot provide a list here; but my aforementioned friend is a place to start. 

I intended this to be a short Facebook post; but I suppose this has mutated into a blog. So while I am here, I would suggest that, while I’m no pastor to other pastors…I would commend us to watch what we expose to others. I get it. People want transparency. People desire their leader and the minister to be vulnerable. And while there are many laypeople who would read my blog and strongly suggest otherwise…I suggest to the pastor that they proceed in this area with caution. This may be true with many; but some cannot handle the pressure of learning their Shepherd BLEEDS. So since I am already sounding like that old pastor we young preachers struggled to listen to at the table…and we only tolerated listening to him because he was paying the bill… let me go a step further. Be careful about what you communicate on social media. Maybe I am old school; but a preacher shouldn’t be using curse words, or even hashtags or letters that obviously equate to a bad word, on social media. Example:sm#h or the like. I would advise that any given pastor does not display so much of their lives or activity on social media. Get this – God blesses you.  Don’t apologize for him doing so.  But just be careful and cautious. I honestly believe it is good to ‘Go live’ with a purpose and when we have a message. I actually would like to go live even more… but i want to make sure I’m not displaying anything vain. My wife and I like to travel occasionally. My concern is – how much of that should be displayed on social media? How many of our members are struggling to make ends meet, who cannot afford or are even in good enough health to go to Disney or take a trip to a beach? Where we go is not the point. My prayer is that we are sensitive to our flock; and those with whom surround our flock. Now….there are certain things for which I have no control over. I absolutely love my new Pastoral office. It actually looks better in person than on video or picture. It’s not as extravagant as many, but is is more than anything I had before. And I’m grateful. I will not apologize when I display what goes on at Shiloh or when I go live. Why? Because I am boasting in the Lord, what God has given Shiloh and the labor of my predecessor. And…the fact is, that’s Shiloh’s property, not mine! I am just simply suggesting that we be very careful. 

I don’t even have to tell you there are enemies of yours who are looking for just one thing to use against you. 

Now….I’ve always been the kind of person (because of older brothers) who didn’t have to go through something to pick up warning signs, take precautions or go in another direction. I haven’t had to deal with issues I am certain many pastor’s have dealt with regarding stalkers, people with wrong intentions, hackers and the like. The Lord has blessed me! Also….I “keep to myself”.  I am a social butterfly like my mother; but I know how to let people go so far, like my father. Boy, has this blessed me. Have people hurt me in LIFE? Of course, I’m a pastor and I love people; and sheep BITE. But I dare not equate social media people with my “life” people. My family, friends and the people I pastor know where to find me, how to get a hold of me and I know their intentions; and they know mine. But I must be honest….I don’t personally know my 4100 plus Facebook friends. I am certain there’s atleast a few who don’t have God’s business in mind. 

I hope to possibly share this in a live video in the near future; for those who need clarity. Again…I am not a counselor or teacher to pastor’s. I’m just a fellow-traveler. I hope and pray this is helpful; and hopefully you will do what the Lord leads you to do. I will post this to my blog, rather than as a Facebook post. Prayerfully you will see how this blog is different in the sense it was never intended to be that, but hopefully helpful. Again, I will try to follow up with a live video to share my thoughts concerning this. I welcome your thoughts.  

Pastoring, Fathering…the Journey

Whenever I come to the end of another year, I often find myself in reflection.  Today, I came across some old emails and files from my first church, Cornerstone Baptist Church of Pearland.  As I began to reflect, as I sometimes do…I can have a mixture of emotions.  Most of them good, some not so good.  For the most part, I am the one who would take responsibility for the not so good parts.  Today…I likened my pastoral experience to my experience as a Dad.  I’ve pastored 3 congregations. I am the father to 3 sons.  My first church (Cornerstone) is somewhat like my eldest son Kai.  When I think about Cornerstone, I think of how (as with my son Kai) I didn’t know a thing about pastoring.  I was so green, naive, dumb and inexperienced.  As I look back and reflect, it is humiliating to even think of my silly ways.  Now for me, these foolish things did not consist of any kind of scandal such as indescretions, embezzlement and the like.  I refer to things like time management, dealing with people and their problems, pastoral care, communication, temperament, patience, financial decisions, diplomacy, leadership and the like.  Even in preaching – I go back and read some of my notes and ask, “Why did I say that?”  I remember once doing a series on relationships.  I discussed everything from Affair-proofing your marriage to Keeping the Fire in your marriage burning.  Sounds good?  Maybe… But I didn’t even think to consider having childcare available so that the adults could safeguard their children from the topic.  Just dumb.  It sounds very logical now; but I didn’t learn the lesson, save through trial and error.  I could go on and on.  But in the same way, I parallel my first church with my eldest son, Kai.  I was 28 in 2005 when I began pastoring my first church; but I was only 24 when D’Ani gave birth to Kai, my and our first child.  We had been married only 3 years (at 21), and here I was in seminary, barely able to support a wife; and here is Kai.  I fell in love with him at first sight.  But I had no idea what to do beyond that.  Some of it came naturally, because I had a great example in my father, and D’Ani seemed like a pro.  But I was as nervous and confused as all get out.  Kai had nothing to reference, so he didn’t know any better.  But I was struggling so much with a job on staff at a church, trying to make it through seminary; and learning how to manage finances as the head of a household…I look back and wish I had savored more moments with my boy, when it was only he and I.  Again…it may not have been anything dramatic (such as abuse, neglect, etc), but it was big to me.  Now that he is 13, I look back on that time, as I do my first church…and know that if I knew then what I know now, I would have been a better pastor and father to them both.

In 2011, I became the pastor of Mt. Salem.  Boy…that was a sweet time.  Seminary was over.  I’d survived the rough years of trying to learn Cornerstone.  I was completing a Chaplain residency at Harris Health, in Houston; and finances were quite a bit better.  In fact, the year was so good, we traveled to Disney World in the summer with the boys, and then to the Chicago-area for my brother’s installation and then to Hawaii in the fall.  The financial struggles, as it relates to church-life, were somewhat in our rear view mirror.  I shifted from doing a little bit of everything at Cornerstone (cleaning, running off the bulletins, etc) to Mt. Salem, where they had learned to function a year without a pastor.  Mt.  Salem continued to grow steadily; they were okay with my commute; D’Ani was just fine with my commuting there for mid-week; the boys saw it as a field trip on Sundays; and everyone was happy.  Because of my trials and errors in trying to learn a new church and young people at Cornerstone (predominantly young adults), my greatest joy and challenge was learning a 140-year old congregation like Mt. Salem.  Because Mt. Salem had been through her own storm before I arrived, and I had  challenges at our first church – we pretty much appreciated one another.  Mt. Salem was simply a breath of fresh air.  I cannot think of a time I pulled up to Mt. Salem and didn’t smile.  I loved it; and fell in love with the people.  I was 33…so a little more laid back than I was at 28.  Because I was so ambitious and the young adults in my first church had much more energy, I appreciated the laid back persona surrounding Mt. Salem.  I absolutely loved it.  I literally saw how everything I had experienced at Cornerstone, prepared me for Mt. Salem.  Of course, like any older congregation, there were challenges with moving the church forward…  But I have always assumed I was pastor; and because of my wisdom (along with being more patient than in my 20’s) there were things I was just not led to do or change.  I now know why-that wasn’t why God called me there!!!  Ultimately, I would not have even appreciated Mt. Salem, had it not been for my first church.  In like manner, when D’Ani gave birth to Kaden (our second-born son), we were 28.  I had started back at seminary after taking a semester or so off.  We were still fledgling as a church, at Cornerstone.  But overall, things were okay.  I’d learned a little bit about fathering, so Kaden had it a little better.  Of course, Kaden was a force to be reckoned with; and still is.  His temperament was nothing like Kai’s.  Kai needed only a television or a video game.  His love language was and is gifts.  You can put him in a room with things or gadgets and he was fine.  Kaden?  He needed someone in the room with him; and his love language was and is quality time.  Just like any given church, every child is different.  And in like manner, I learned things with Kaden that were diametrically opposite of what I learned with Kai.  Fortunately, all of these things worked together in harmony, to simply make me a better father and spiritual leader.  

Now…early in 2016 I was happy.  I had absolutely no complaints, on my end.  Other than the wear and tear on my vehicles, we were okay.  Unlike 2011, in 2016 I was no longer a resident at Harris Health, but a Staff Chaplain with a nice salary and full benefits and retirement.  One of my uncles had mentioned to me an opening at Shiloh in Fort Worth, a church I knew nothing about.  I had only known of their pastor, Dr. Albert E. Chew, Jr.; and had met him only once when I was a teenager at a winter board meeting; and knew of his recent retirement and passing.  My uncle said that it was ‘a great church’ and suggested I send in my resume and biography, something I didn’t do often (Mt. Salem nor Cornerstone ever saw a resume!).  I did; and left it at that.  After all…in some sense, I had sort of ‘arrived’: Nice incomes, D’Ani with a great job that she loved; wonderful anniversary every March; and a church family that we loved.  All was well!  Fast -forward, after a national search…I was eventually called to Shiloh in Fort Worth.  Totally unexpected!!!  And I honestly believe that this is my last stop.  I’m not moving anymore…Lord willing!  I’ve discovered that SHILOH IS THE GREATEST CHURCH IN THE WORLD (no joke); and we have fallen in love with the people!!! Now that I am done with seminary, am 38…been married for almost 2 decades, pastoring over a decade and the like – I am much more patient, considerate, pastoral, responsibile and the like.  I can see, just as before…how the young days of Cornerstone and the experience of Mt. Salem balanced me out to lead the people of Shiloh over the next several decades.  Like Shiloh, our baby Karter was totally unexpected.  Between Kaden and him, we had lost 2; and had concluded we were probably done.  We were thanking God for 2 healthy, vibrant and smart boys!  But God had other plans!!!  We can pinpoint the days of conception with our first 2; but Karter?  I just know he is mine; and he wasn’t planned!  

Here is why I’m sharing all of this.  As I look and see how affectionate, patient, considerate and expressive I am with Karter, I can sometimes be taken aback and saddened by how I was a little rough, non-affectionate, inpatient or non-expressive with Kaden and more with Kai or with Cornerstone and Mt. Salem.  Life has just slowed me down.  I’m a better man now. I’m more prayerful. I’m in less of a rush.  I’ve learned what can wait and what cannot.  I’ve learned how to choose my battles and when to proceed with caution.  I’ve learned how to give people a hug and tell them I love them and when to wisely tell a person who is toxic in our church to shape up or get out.  I’m literally a sharper cat.  And then I think – it was all of that (including Kai, Kaden, my losses, struggles in seminary and the like) which prepared me for who I am NOW, in this very moment!  And then I’m grateful…that while I think I’m getting older (almost 40)….God used all of that and has brought me to a special place in my life at 38.  Romans 8:28 comes to mind – that God uses all of these things as a ‘working together’…  Nothing is wasted; and God can use even our trials, tests and experiences as treasure to propel us to our next level of purpose, greatness and His pleasure. 

It is my hope and prayer that those who read my blog can see the good that emanates out of all of the trials of your life, and specifically 2016.  That when He brings in the unexpected, we will not only appreciate what He brings; but rejoice over what He gave us before – and know that it was all apart of His ultimate plan. God bless you and keep you.  I am convinced that, if I do my part, the best I is yet to come.  I pray and believe the same for you!

Sunday @ Shiloh

God be praised for another Lord’s Day!

This past Sunday, I turned to John 1:14, and explored Christ’s deity, incarnation, God’s grace and His glory.  The Sermon Title was, “The Christ of Christmas”.  The older I get, the more I am falling in love with not only biblical exposition, but story-telling and preaching Christian doctrine.  I am heavily leaning towards taking time each year just going through our doctrine and “What We Believe” in the Christian Faith.  I enjoyed the preaching moment, so much so, that I found myself in celebration…and lost my voice!  

Humbled and grateful that attendance at Shiloh is steadily growing; and the Lord is adding to our church family. Really excited about a young couple who joined at the conclusion of the message.  Later in the evening, a group of people from our church sponsored a Christmas sing-along. It was a fun time!

During the course of this week, I am trying to catch up on a number of things as we conclude 2016; and prepare for the coming year.  I am very excited about so many open doors that lie ahead; but realize that the closing of old chapters can be emotional and challenging.  At the age of 38, I can only hope and pray that we all learn from where we’ve been; use it to become better where we are; and glorify our Lord in the midst of it all.

                                                                                     

Sunday at Shiloh & Week in Review

God be praised for another Lord’s Day and another week of ministry. 

On Sunday, December 11th, I continued my exposition through Luke chapter 1.  Specifically, I made an attempt to cover Luke 1:38, 46-55
and used the title: “When Life Throws the Unexpected”.  Ultimately, I believe the Lord was pleased with my handling of the scriptures; and in turn, He smiled upon our time around His Word.  We are simply living in a time where the Preacher is not afforded the luxury of being sloppy with their treatment of the Scripture.  It must be cut straight, leaving the temptation to mishandle the communication of what God is saying and a cleaving to simply preach the text that we read. We are not called upon to smooth off the rough edges of God’s Word.  We are called, like salt, to pour it out and pass it on.  Since I am here, the Scripture admonishes is to preach 3 things: Preach The Word, Preach Christ and Preach the Gospel.

During the course of this past week, I have had a number of meetings that have been both challenging yet very encouraging. In many ways, I am seeing that Shiloh, as a whole, has a desire to move forward.  It is my job as Pastor, to not only affirm, insure and inspire us toward that end, but also to bear in mind that change (for anyone) can be challenging, emotional and difficult. It is Pastor’s job to relish the past, but he must remain sensitive; and provide a healthy balance or respect the past while prayerfully, gracefully and deliberately moving the ship forward. Thank God for my ministry at Mt. Salem and also my first job out of college, at Pleasant Hill in Houston. Like every facet of my life has played an integral part of where I am today, Pleasant Hill and my ministry at Mt. Salem…prepared me to be the successor of a giant in the faith to the likes of Albert E. Chew, Jr., and standing at the helm of one of the greatest and most prominent congregations in Fort Worth.  Please keep Shiloh MB Church in your prayers.  I’ll say this – I’m excited about 2017 in the life of Shiloh and in my own life personally. I remain prayerful and humbled that God didn’t forget about all of the lonely moments, sacrifices in ministry, the Church-hurt and my attempt to live an exemplary (not perfect) life in private and public.  I’m grateful. 

How has your week been?

Please lift my hometown of Corpus Christi in prayer. They are dealing with a water issue’ and are asked to refrain from the use of tap water. I am praying for them, along with the safety of people who are expeirenceing incement weather around our country’ and all of the homeless people who ha e no shelter. I pray everyone has an outstanding weekend!

Blessings!

Sunday at Shiloh

What a journey this has been!

2577006675_b5dd38dca6Admittedly, the road I’ve been treading has been bittersweet.  Leaving my old life and people, where everything was great, along with all of the things that come with being apart of a new assignment, have been bitter.  In juxtaposition, experiencing a fresh new season of life, relationships and the realization of God’s promises…have been sweet!  My difficulties in preaching, pastoral ministry and in life amid remaining faithful have truly prodded me to stop and thank the Lord for every facet and aspect of my new journey.

Shiloh has been phenomenal.  Let me be more specific – the PEOPLE of Shiloh have been phenomenal.  As I have been in a constant haze as to why and how God sent me to them; I am certain they have their own set of mixed emotions.  This is only natural and to be expected.  The loss of their leader only one year ago; the expectations of someone of his caliber;  many’s uncertainty of “where do I fit with this new guy?”; and wondering how things will look moving forward – are actually all LEGITIMATE concerns for those of us who are human.  But in the midst of this, the people have made this transition much easier.  All of the ministers, deacons, leaders and members have been encouraging; even those who have quietly shown their support through their presence; and looking me over.  As I tell them, I am looking them over as well.  The common thrust is that I believe they love Christ; and I think they may feel the same towards me.  Therefore, we can love one another through Him.

On October the 2nd, I began a 7-week series entitled, “The Journey Begins…the Legacy Continues.”  This series concluded on November 13, 2016.  After that, I took a couple of weeks to preach on Giving Thanks:

November 20, 2016: “What to do in the Meantime”, Romans 1:8-15
November 27, 2016: “The Supernatural Power of Human Gratitude”, Luke 17:11-17

Now that we are in Advent, I am simply preaching a series of sermons from Luke 1.  On Sunday, December 4, 2016. I tried my best to deal with Luke 1:26-38; entitling the sermon, “When God Doesn’t Make Sense.”  My hope is to begin live streaming our services, posting our messages and expanding our distribution of sermons in early 2017.  Please keep us in this regard.  In short, it had been a very busy week before Sunday.  I have been going nonstop since my first Sunday in September.  I had a couple of meetings on Saturday, as well.  I found myself finishing up my sermon into 1am or so, Sunday morning.  I laid down Sunday morning after 2am; and woke up when my wife said, “It’s time for you to get up.”  She was dressed!!!  I was so tired, I almost asked one of our associates to prepare to stand and preach.  I didn’t do it.  After making it through salutations and all, I just preached; and God spoke through me.  God took my few notes; and breathed upon me, us and the message.  Interestingly, I got happy toward the end.  Shiloh does communion a little differently than many congregations.  It is really on another level.  I think I’ve done communion over a hundred times.  After everyone had been served by the deacons, I began to serve the deacons before the deaconesses on the front row (lol).  I said to myself, “Kraig…go home and take a nap!”  We made it through; and worship was stellar.  Followed by meetings, I was able to try out a new restaurant with Dee and the boys; go to a place we like called Marble Slab; and made it home and went to sleep.  Although I missed several calls, texts and messages; and also my plan to attend a meeting with our Young Adults….the Lord assured me the world would not end because I took a nap; and that all of the people who needed me, didn’t need me as much as I may have thought they did.

In short, I had a great Lord’s Day.  Now that things are beginning to settle down, my hope is to continue to flesh out my thoughts in writing.  It is my additional hope and prayer that this will be of some benefit to someone who reads.  I hope and pray that you are blessed during the course of your week; and that you find a lesson and message every day of your life, in something.  Anything.  If this has been helpful to you, please share with someone else.

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