Kraig Lowell Pullam

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

Archive for the month “December, 2015”

My Take on Bill

 In 2010, I almost named my baby son Kosby Lowell. 

There you have it from the jump. Without secret or hesitation, like many, I grew up in the nineties on The Cosby Show.  Invariably, as with Seinfeld, The Bernie Mack Show or The Jamie Foxx Show, one could not dispatch the show from its namesake and lead figure. In fact, Bill Cosby was essentially one of the leading pioneers in this sort of autobiographical kind of satirical humor in PRIMETIME America; particularly crossing over to every culture, race and creed. Bill Cosby single-handedly, with his stellar cast, became a household name. I, like many, couldn’t wait for Thursday to arrive!!! In a real sense, Mr. Cosby personified a charicarization of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “American Dream”.  The Huxtables cleverly and compellingly enchanted America and persuaded the nation, possibly the world, that Malcolm’s “Nightmare” had diminished and Black America could live, work and dream as they pleased. 

Tragically , and often unfairly, segmented society will often trip on the paradigm and make the picture interchangeably synonymous with the person. In all fairness, The Cosby Show was an autobiographical reflection of Cosby’s own life. Camilla was Clair. Bill was Cliff. The four kids were his own son and three (3) daughters. But what if the story wasn’t about his own life at all?  Would his personal life taint a person’s sacred view of Cliff?  I do not know. What I do know is that this scathing truth prevails in Christendom, for sure. 
On the one hand, we cannot expel the message from the messenger. Conversely, the church can unfairly crown the Christian Leader with an unattainable standard that only Christ can comfortably reach. 

Since 2014, Cosby has been accused by over 50 women of either rape, drug facilitated sexual assault, sexual battery, child sexual abuse, and/or sexual misconduct, with the earliest alleged incidents taking place in the mid-1960s. After an October 2014 comedy routine by previously unknown comedian Hannibal Buress casually accusing Cosby of inappropriate sexual behavior went viral, earlier sexual assault allegations against Cosby became more public, prompting many female accusers to come forward. In the wake of the allegations, numerous organizations have severed ties with the comedian, and previously awarded honors and titles have been revoked. Cosby and his lawyers have repeatedly denied the allegations, calling the allegations discredited. Most of the acts alleged by his accusers fall outside the statutes of limitations for legal proceedings. Today,  December 30, 2015, numerous civil lawsuits against Cosby, as well as a single charge of aggravated indecent assault in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, remain pending.  He was arraigned today. 

I would like to make a few observations, as this is clearly not going away. 

1) As the husband to a woman I love, a mother I cherish, two goddaughter who I pray for daily and countless women to whom I minister, I am very sensitive to the cries of these woman. I am not naive enough to think that sexual harassment is mere fiction. Worse still, as with the “wardrobe malfunction” in 2004,  often the woman is villainized while the man is given a pass of fidelity. As with the woman caught in adultery in scripture (John 8:1-11), the brother is conspicuously excused and exempt. This is unfair and inequitable. 

2) As a man living in what Maya Angelou calls “these yet to be United States”, I cannot help but ask “Why now?”  Okay….I can hear someone shooting me down. 50 women? Speaking out since 2014? I’m just saying!

3) As a Christian who is a pastor, I think this should lead us to ask a few questions. Let’s face it…Leaders fail. Some fail more and more often than others. I often wonder if the church does a good job of 1) restoring those who’ve fallen 2) given enough thought to preserving the message and legacy of spiritual leaders after they have fallen from grace. 

Focusing on my last point, I have seen it go in both directions. There are churches that will turn a blind eye to a leader’s alleged (or confessed) in descretions. I know of a Bishop who was accused of several improprieties, and there seemed (it may have been done privately) to be no form of discipline, counseling, repentance, etc. on the other hand, I’ve seen draw it measures taken in churches where the leader is not only removed; but any semblance of trace of their ministry in that congregation is obliterated, stripped down, sanitized and thrown into the wilderness with the nameless creatures in the 2004 movie “The Village.”  

Is this right?  If Billy Graham is discovered to have been a murderer years ago, should all of his honors, medals, books, sermons be destroyed?  I can go on and on all day. But I will stop here and simply ask, at the end of this year, that we pray for spiritual leaders and their families. The stakes are high, and the Devil is busy!  

I am praying for Cosby, his accusers, those who admire him and are effected by his influence. I do not claim to know him personally; and would like to give him the benefit of the doubt, as I do the same for these accusers. But let us also consider the spiritual underpinnings of how this connects to the church and how we respond to someone who is accused, guilty, innocent or all of the above. 

Ultimately, God’s grace extends toward us all. What are your thoughts?  

Closure 

  Like time suspended,

A wound unmended-

You and I. 

We had no ending,

no said goodbye;

For all my life, 

I’ll wonder why.

The above poem was written by Lang Leav, gifted and noted author, in her own write. I believe her poem “Closure” echoes the sentiments of many who are wishing to tie up loose ends as 2015 comes to a screeching halt and takes its bow, and 2016 makes its grand entrance.  

Without giving a long discourse on closure; my hope and prayer is that God’s Holy Spirit would lead and prompt us to let it go and move on. I can think of some defining moments in my own life that could have potentially signatured my demise and downfall. From my own failures and disappointments to friends who I may have felt mistreated me, to relationships gone wrong, to church members who took advantage of the ministry provided to them and the like. However…God is the Author and Orchestrator of Divine Closure. And as a follower of Christ, we are never given the charge to make permanent responses to temporary issues. People, feelings and things should be granted the right of being funeralized, evicted and forgiven. 

We must be careful not to kill what God wants to live.  In like fashion, we should never attempt to resurrect what God wants to die. John 19:30 records the words of Christ as he is suspended on the Cross of Calvary between two theives and surrounded by an onlooking world gone wild, “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

Often, the finish can be bitterly sour; but it is necessary. There is often a blessing packaged in departure and benediction. When closure is divine and a part of God’s ultimate intent, God will bring comfort and consolation. The greatest error is to wallow in the thought of what could’ve been. In 2015 there may have been missed opportunities, fractured relationships and closed doors. That spells bad news. Here’s the good news: God specializes in bringing NEW opportunities, cultivating NEW relationships and opening NEW doors!  

So I would encourage anyone to simply stop rehearsing the past that cannot be changed; quit crying over spilt milk; and stop re-writing closed chapters. Trust in the eternal truth that God GIVES to us more than He TAKES from us; and He will remain faithful when the tides change, chapters close and life happens. 

I am praying for you; and invite you to turn the corner, and head down the avenue called DIVINE CLOSURE!

Sunday Reflections

  
God be praised for another Lord’s day!It is hard to believe the last Sunday of 2015 has come and it has gone. 

If I have a Sunday morning preaching Goliath, I’d have to say it is typically the last Sunday of the year. There. I said it! 

For me, the primary reason it is so difficult for me is because the Christmas week, according to the Guiness Book of World Records (🙊) is officially the “fastest week ever, in America”….especially with 1) Having children who aren’t in school 2) Having children who think Daddy not having Bible Study at the church the rest of the year means more time for them. 3) The day before Christmas entails traveling to your hometown; and the day after entails recovering from the aftermath. 4) Me loving every minute of it, especially #2!!! (Note: 12 year old going on 13, not so much!)

 

So…..

 

Here’s my outline…

 

Title: Releasing the Unforgiving Prisoner of Your Pastor

Text: 2 Corinthians 2:5-11

C.I.T.: Paul’s instruction of restoring an offender illustrates godly lessons in how and why we should let it go.

 

I. Letting it Go Communicates God’s Mercy (Vss. 5 – 6)

 

II. Letting it Go Restores the Offender (Vss. 7-8)

 

III. Letting it Go Displays Obedience (Vs. 9. “…if you would…stand the test and be obedient…”

 

IV. Letting it Go Mirrors the Character of Christ (Vs. 10. “…forgive…forgiven…”)

 

V. Letting it Go Disarms the Devil’s Antics (Vs. 11. “…in order that Satan might not outwit us…”)

 

It was a long week. Well, rather, a short week! During the week of Christmas, I have found extreme difficulty putting together my message on the last Sunday of each year, for years. I thought I had nailed down Genesis 13, which is the detailed account of Lot and Abraham parting ways. Then…this led to my going back to Genesis 12 with the calling of Abram. Before I knew it, I simply had a preliminary skeleton of an outline of Genesis 13 (a passage I had never preached before) and a re-working of Genesis 12 (a passage I had preached a few times)…looking at all of these notes on Christmas Eve, with a 2-part tentative sermon series on “The Blessing of Saying Goodbye.”. Simply put (fast forward)…I spent the little time I had left sifting through the above 2 Corinthians 2 passage to share with our people. 

 

Because of prayer, my heavy study of 2 Corinthians 2 in the past, google, experience, Bible software and other ministry helps…the Lord faithfully saw me through the preaching delivery, I trust. I thank God for the 1 who came forward for prayer and the other the join in fellowship with our congregation through membership. 

 

While I cannot explain or accurately describe both my peace and joy this last week of 2015; I can honestly say I am grateful for so much. My family, the people I serve, along with my friends and the opportunity I am given to minister to so many in chaplaincy – have compelled me to stand in amazement and awe. God has been good to me! While it hasn’t been the way I would have planned it out…I wouldn’t change anything about my story, up to this point. 

 

Who, but God, knows what the New Year will bring. My short-version prayer is that I would be in the center of His will for my life. His will trumps my plans, desires, comfort or willingness to get the big picture. I’m going to trust Him more in 2016; and believe He plan and purpose is bigger than my own, and lead my family into that plan. This is also my prayer for every person with whom I pastor, my family, friends and those who are reading this now. The Best is Yet to Come!

 

What One Great Preacher Taught Me About Books!

  I have a confession.

Confession is good for the soul, but it is terrible for the reputation. So as I confess, I shall attempt to make my confession neat. 

To be sure, I stand on the shoulders of some giants in the faith who have shared my ministry. Some of whom I’ve know personally who’ve played a significant role in my development up close. Conversely, there are many more whom I’ve both met and never met who’ve, in the words of my friend and brother Pastor H.B. Charles, Jr., “mentored me from afar.”  

From a distance, I’ve been a faithful student of E.K. Bailey (who was, in fact, my college pastor; but I didn’t know him as well as I would’ve liked), Ralph Douglass West, I, Manuel Scott, Sr., O. S. Hawkins, Joe Ratliff, Mac Brunson, Melvin Von Wade, Isadore Edwards, Warren Weirsbe, Jasper Williams, Jr. and the like. Many of these preachers were my idols. 

But personally… I stand on the proverbial  shoulders of my father, William L. Pullam, my uncles, Monty Francis & Lloyd Pullam, and the natives of Corpus Christi, my hometown, such as James R. Miller and Cleophus LaRue. In my own young mind, these preachers could do no wrong when it came to the craft of preaching and in Minsitry. Beyond my hometown, I owe of debt to John (Pop) A. Reed, Jr., E. Thurman Walker, Earl Jackson and my own Pastor, Harvey Clemons, Jr. 

But there is one preacher who has had a profound effect upon me.  I literally think of him almost daily. To be honest, he crosses my mind almost every time I pick up a book. He has touched my life and ministry in ways that I cannot adequately describe. Here is my confession…it haunts me that I never really had the chance to tell him how much. Dr. R. L. Sanders pastored for many years the Pleasant Mt. Gilead Church in Fort Worth, Texas. I would preach for him in their youth revival for quite a few years in my teens. And he was always very kind to me. 

What I loved about Dr. Sanders most is that he loved books. No…. He LOVED books!!!  Growing up, I fell in love with books. My dad, his father and paternal grandmother all loved books as well. I have it honestly. I can rightfully say that my love for books has been proven. Now I get it. A lot of preachers love books. But I don’t just love books because of what’s inside of the pages; but I love the shape, feel, smell, touch, texture and personality of each and every book!  Growing up I relished my dad’s library, at church and especially at home. His best books were at home in his study. I later discovered that preachers can often get sticky fingers and books, at church, can mysteriously disappear. Just saying. My dream in life was just to have almost as many books as my dad. I stopped counting my books a few years ago, around 8500 books. My wife seems to think I have my dad beat. I now wish to catch up with Al Mohler one day… But I will always relish my Dad’s library. R. L. Sanders had a great (and huge) library. Let me share a few things Dr. Sanders shared with me about books…

1. Books are our friends. Dr. Sanders talked about books like they were people. He knew their personality, temperament, mood, highs, lows and the like. While I am not sure he read every book that surrounded his library from wall to wall; he could literally give me a summary and the gist of every book I would ask about. As with our friends, we should familiarize ourselves with them and know who they are. This is also true with our books!

2. Read anything and everything.  I will never forget the day I saw Dr. Sanders picking up a medical book and a psychology periodical in a used bookstore he took me to. After seeing my puzzled look, he affirmed that he reads anything he can. He told me that day, if he sees a book talking about a sheep or a goat, he can learn something in that book about people and theology. That blew me away!  Today….I’ve just begun reading “Why I left Jihad” by Walid Shoebat. I couldn’t help but think about Dr. Sanders, as always, when I pick up a book that doesn’t consist of scripture or a sermon. But I have already begun to gain insight into the mind of a terrorism, simply reading the words of someone who has been there. I have Dr. Sanders to thank for that. 

3.  Many of the gold mines of preaching are in the old writers and in old books. Dr. Sanders would drive me around Fort Worth, and show me how to find the good books and writers. He taught me how to look for certain things and which writers and publishers had what. He loved M. R. Dehaan, Arther Pink, Greschem Machen and a few others. He is the one who first told me to never pass up the old minister’s manuals; and to study their words, illustrations, etc. 

4. One of the greatest investments you will ever make is in your personal library. The only thing that makes many preachers great preachers are better libraries. That’s it. Resources change everything. And it is even better when we allow God’s Spirit to call to our remembrance the resources that will enhance any given text and truth that we are attempting to communicate to hearers. 

I thank God for Dr. Sanders; and the indelible mark he has left upon my minsitry that cannot be erased. While I cannot talk to him now and reassure him of his lasting impression upon me; I can, in turn, 1) express my appreciation to those respective others who’ve touched me who are still around 2) honor his legacy. 

Thank God for Dr. R. L. Sanders!  I miss my old friend. How I wish I would’ve talked to him more before he moved upstairs. But I know this – I will see him again; and his memory still lives on!

The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership

  

Over the course of the past week, I’ve struck gold! Jenni Catron’s new publication “The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership” is a goldmine for every leader who seeks refining in the private and public arena. I love to read just about anything. But I am a sucker for biographies, books on leadership, the craft and skill of expositional preaching and Christian living. This book merges and meshes biography, leadership and Christian living into one volume that is practical, portable and pregnant with leadership nuggets in layman’s terms.  

To begin with, the author addresses, at the core, what she terms “…the DNA of extraordinary.” In unearthing the true definition of extraordinary, in relation to leadership, Catron contends, “…extraordinary leaders call others to their extraordinary best.” Using Christ, other biblical characters, modern-day leaders who’ve exceled and her own lessons of success and failure, she outlines the four aspects of leadership that essentially inspire and ignite others to not only follow the leader; but to develop as leaders. The four dimensions, Catron argues the power and resourcefulness of the Shema, also known as “The Great Commandment”; and its enormous implications for us as leaders. We can find the Great Commandment recorded in several of the gospels, quoting Hebrew literature. Mark 12:30 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all of your mind and with all your strength.” In leading with all of who we are, for the sake of God and others, it requires my heart, my soul, my mind and my strength. And to not give all of myself would, in turn, shortchange God and others. 

 

Before exploring the 4 dimensions of heart (relational leadership), soul (spiritual leadership), mind (managerial leadership) and strength (visionary leadership), Catron delves into the three aspects that are essential to all four dimensions: the image of leadership (character), leading in chaos (embracing the tensions within leadership and inspiring others in the midst of tension), leading from within (leading ourselves well to lead others better). The author debunks the notion that all great leaders are extroverts, talkative, etcetera. In a real sense, there are great leaders who are introverts and act more than they make announcements. But one of the things she seeks to communicate is that our experiences in life influence how we lead our own selves and how we, in turn, lead others. Catron asserts that character (a word she uses quite frequently) is often defined as “who you are when no one is looking.” It means firmly pursing the elements that will grow you regardless of whether they get immediate attention by those who surround us or on a larger scale. Character is about pursuing Christlikeness. When it comes to the heart, one of the truths that stands out is the fact that people follow leaders not for the leader but for themselves. Extraordinary leadership has the ability to convince people of such. Relational leadership (from the heart) puts people work before paper work; and seeks to encourage and inspire others toward greatness and influence. Spiritual leadership (from the soul) contends that leadership always flourishes in the face of servanthood and submission. That while humility and submission are counterintuitive to today’s leadership paradigm, these virtues should anchor who we are as spiritual leaders who model the example of Christ. Managerial leadership (from the mind) puts intentional time and effort into building review processes and performance management systems that create effective dialogue between employees and their managers, according to Catron. And visionary leadership (from strength) requires the attributes of courage, patience, endurance, conviction and focus. A strong vision will inspire the team. 

 All in all, we can see Christ as the consummate example of these four dimensions of leadership on the extraordinary level. 

I like this book; and I’ve enjoyed reading it as well. It is my hope to sift through it during the course of the coming year and share some of its highlights with the leaders I pour into. I give this book two thumbs up; and suggest it for leadership and laity alike!

Sunday Reflections

God be praised for another day in the presence of God in corporate worship on the Lord’s Day! 

After a long and tedious week, I had the joyful privilege of having my uncle, Rev. Lloyd Anthony Pullam, with us at the Mt. Salem Church to share in the preaching of God’s Word. What a treat! Uncle Lloyd is my favorite uncle. He is my Dad’s eldest brother; and he has always been a mainstay for myself and my ministry. Though he has lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth area since I’ve been able to recall, he would always show up and be marked present at my first sermon, wedding, pastoral anniversaries, etc. 

 

Back in 2010, Uncle Lloyd had a stroke that affected him physically and eventually led to his retiring after 26 years of pastoral leadership at the historic St. Emmanuel Baptist Church in Denton, Texas. Literally, I wouldn’t be married to D’Ani today without him (Long story!). While his stroke affected him physically, it did not affect his mind or his preaching. So, he came and he preached! The title of his message was “The Unfinished Business of the Church”. His texts: John 17:1-4; John 19:30; 2 Timothy 4:7; Matthew 28:18-19. We were blessed as a result of his sharing in the faithful preaching of God’s Word. I thank God for him; and his willingness to come and share with the Pastor and People of our congregation. 

 

Seeing the after-effects of my uncle’s illness served as an eye-opener and awakening for me a few years ago. Being a pastor, in and of itself, is a loathsome task in regard to the stewardship of one’s body and health. In the church, particularly in the south, parishioners of various cultures wouldn’t give the preacher much money; but they would give him a plate of food and bake him a cake. While we live in a different time, that tradition has continued in any given local church. And while partaking of some of these ‘treats’ aren’t off of the proverbial table to many pastors; simply put – eating whatever you want to eat AND not taking care of one’s self is a cardinal sin. I have and am learning to accept what our wonderful parishioners give, eat a little and share the remainder. Living with a wife who will not eat sweets, and sons who have yet to appreciate a pound cake or peach cobbler from scratch – it only invites danger to bring these things home with me! As a result of this lifestyle change, I have seen how far I’ve come, and how far I have yet to go. I owe it to giants in the faith, as my father, uncle, wife, sons and others to look after myself, protect my “temple”, guard what comes in and goes out and improve the quality of my life for the long-haul . That being said, I only hope to be as much of a blessing to these ‘giants’ who’ve been such a blessing to me; and enhance their life as they’ve enhanced my own.  I believe my Uncle’s story is not over. I am looking forward to him utilizing the gifts God has given him to write, publish and contribute his knowledge and experience working in Christian Education, College/Student Ministry and Music Minsitry to assist local congregations. 

 

I am looking forward to sharing on the last Lord’s Day of this year. It is always a struggle in preparing to preach the last Sunday of the year, for me. I am always pressed for time, doing last minute shopping, performing my list of honey-do’s, as well as looking after little ones who are out of school for the remaining year. Now it is Monday; and I am still grappling with various texts. If you’re reading this, please keep me in your prayers, as I will for you. I would love to hear from you, read your thoughts and ask that you share this blog with someone who would be helped. May you have a great week, celebrating the birth of Christ!

 

My review of “Messy Grace” by Caleb Kaltenbach

image

“Messy Grace”, written by Caleb Kaltenbach, is an honest insider’s look into a man’s life that grew up being raised by openly gay parents, who one day became a follower of Christ and a Pastor, struggling to embrace God’s truth while rendering grace. Moving from the use of scripture and autobiographical transparency, the author makes an attempt to skillfully (Chapters 1 to 6) fuse the love of God with the truth of God (Chapters 7 to 12) while juggling the tension that resides at the intersection of the two.

Working for a year closely connected as a Chaplain to the longest free-standing HIV clinic in Houston, I had the opportunity to interact with many in the LGBT community daily. As a result, I strongly believe that Kaltenbach is correct when he contends that many Christians fail to think critically or talk comfortably about the issue of homosexuality without and within the church context. In failing to approach the issue of homosexuality, we miss opportunities to dialogue and worse, hurt others in the process. Through his usage of story, imagery, example and painful transparency, Kaltenbach describes and unveils his personal history of his own mother and her partner, along with his father who would one day reveal his love for the same gender. What I do find intriguing is how vividly Kaltenbach describes his recollections of the seeming hatred and perceived venom directed at the gay community as he marched (as a child) alongside his mother and her partner in gay pride parades and generally in the gay community. He grew to simply believe all Christians hated anyone who wasn’t like them; and thus hated gay people. He also (some justifiably so) grew to believe that many hurts and prejudices were enacted and imposed by the Christian community, historically. As I look at even the Southern Baptist origin (of which I am a part) and how it originated (white Baptists in the south were opposed to the freeing of slaves; and wished to distinguish themselves from those in the north, who were against slavery) I must concur with many injustices done at the hands of “Christian” people and the “church.” But as with anything or religion that is extreme, this has its own limitations. After all, as the author points out, this doesn’t reflect the character of Christ.
The author seeks to persuade the reader to live in what he calls “the tension of grace and truth.” He clearly seems to suggest that those who are apart of Christianity already live in tension. But he invites all who are in the Judeo-Christian arena to explore Grace and Truth’s intersection; and live there.
The author contends that a real mark of spiritual maturity is how we treat someone who is different from us. And that we have tragically done a better job of wounding those who are different from than building them up. BUT…I like how Kaltenbach skillfully turns the tide in chapter 7 towards God’s truth. With rapidity, he stresses the fact that God’s truth must be balanced with God’s grace and love. God’s truth should not come at the alienation of God’s love; and neither should an emphasis on the love of God expunge the fact of God’s love towards messy people. The truth is – we are all messy.

 
I have two sides, when it comes to reading and reviewing this book. On the one hand, I am excited to see someone dealing with the issue of homosexuality, the church’s ignorance regarding the issue, same-gender attraction and confronting and loving others who struggle (or do not struggle) with same-sex attraction. On the other, the theologian in me kicks in…and I am uncomfortable with some of Kaltenbach’s assertions, views, perspectives and translations of scripture. But I realize he isn’t trying to just speak to the theologian; but to the charge at large and in general. I do believe him to be sincere; and that he makes an attempt to interpret God’s truth in light of the road he has traveled. He makes some very helpful steps to responding to those who “come out” and dealing with same-gender attraction in one’s own life or family.

Some of the weak points of the book are when he states that the best alternative for those who are gay be celibate or marry someone of the opposite sex. I see quite a few loopholes in this regard. For the sake of brevity and my lack of a plausible alternative; I will simply say this peeked my interest; and invite others to gather your own thoughts on the author’s assertions. But to address the practice of celibacy in short I will say that, in this sex-crazed culture (which Kaltenbach does address, I give him this), still having a non-sexual relationship with the person you are attracted to of the same sex, without a time-frame of ending the race…is an act waiting to happen. I’ll leave that there. To marry another person of the opposite sex when one is still gay, almost seems akin to “praying the gay away.” Again, in my view, this has fallacies. I would also add that this volume seems to deal with the perspective of the LBGT towards Christianity from one side of the aisle. Knowing quite a few persons in the LBGT, I can attest to the fact that this is not the view of all; and Kaltenbach does point this out.

 
I do think that every Christian reader and pastor should atleast skin through this volume; and it would help to purchase a copy of this book as a helpful resource to gain an understanding of someone who has lived on both sides of the proverbial aisle. On a scale of 1 to 10, it is a 6 when it comes to reading difficulty, 7 in Christian living and a 9 in practicality. All in all, I am glad I took some time to read this book during the course of this past week. After all, “Messy Grace” is a story about us all!

Sunday Reflections

  

God be praised for another Lord’s Day!

I concluded my 2-Part Christmas series from my attempted exposition of John Chapter 1. Here’s my outline:

Title: The Christ in Christmas, Part II

Text: John 1:14

C.I.T. : Jesus Christ is the love, truth & Grace of God fleshed out in high definition. 

I. The Christ in Christmas Reveals the Garment of God. “The Word became flesh”

A. The Divinity of the Word

B. The Humanity of His Flesh 

II. The Christ in Christmas Unveils the Grace of God. “….dwelt among us…full of Grace & Truth…”

A. Extension of His Grace

B. Extremity of His Condescension 

C. Example of His Truth

III. The Christ in Christmas Appeals the Glory of God. “We beheld His glory…as of the only begotten of the Father.”  

God breathed upon our study in John 1; and hope and pray our people were helped to fully glean on the amazing truth of Christ’s incarnation; and God’s expression of love to humanity in the gift of His Son. 

I’m looking forward to my uncle, Rev. Lloyd A. Pullam, share with our congregation this coming Lord’s day. He pastored for years the historic St. Emmanuel Church in Denton, Texas; and has been a blessing to my life and ministry in more ways than I am able to even express in a simple blog. Looking forward to the experience!

How was your Sunday & Weekend?  What are you preaching on?  I’m looking forward to a growing dialogue as we go into 2016. I’m praying for each of you; and looking forward to continued sharing. Blessings!

Valley of Vision

  

Each Monday, I try to return to this prayer. The roots of our longings often grow deeper, not on our mountains; but in our valleys. *Psalm 23:4*

The Valley of Vision

Lord, High and Holy, Meek and Lowly,

You have brought me to the valley of vision,

where I live in the depths but see you in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold your glory.

Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up,

that to be low is to be high,

that the broken heart is the healed heart,

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

that to have nothing is to possess all,

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

that to give is to receive,

that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter your stars shine;

Let me find your light in my darkness,

your life in my death,

your joy in my sorrow,

your grace in my sin,

your riches in my poverty,

your glory in my valley.

John MacArthur’s Parables (Review)

imageThis week I got my hands on a copy of John MacArthur’s most recent volume on “Parables: The Mysteries of God’s Kingdom Revealed Through the Stories Jesus Told.” As is MacArthur’s trademark, this particular work of his is candid in style and thorough in content.

Essentially, MacArthur’s work in this volume is threefold: 1) Clearly present factions in Christ’s immediate culture that sparked His use of parables and its purpose; debunking the common notions of why Jesus used this form of teaching. 2) Show how Christ’s key parables are fleshed out in parable, explanation, purpose, point, culture and application. 3) Contend that the parables are tools with which Christ used to teach and defend the truth as a teller of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.

The above summary, in and of itself, seems difficult and complex. That’s because it is. There is nothing simple about MacArthur, in MY view. As with his preaching, like an Agatha Christi novel, if you miss a page, you may miss his point. But he does a stellar job of asking and answering: 1) What is a parable? and 2) How can we interpret the parables of Christ efficiently, effectively and correctly?

It is critical to note that MacArthur deflates the notion that Jesus used parables to make his teaching easy for all. MacArthur points out that this is not true. Jesus “tells” the story to reveal a doctrinal and eternal truth to those who received Him for Who He claimed to be; and to conceal this truth from those who would reject as an outcome of His judgment. Jesus did not, however, exalt the telling of a story at the neglect of doctrinal teaching. In Christ’s approach to communicating truth, as well as in His use of parables, He did not pit narrative against proposition or the story against doctrine, as if they were somehow mutually exclusive. It is clear, according to the author, that Christ uses this for a “telling the story” to enlighten those who have a heart of acceptance towards the truths of God, having the opposite effect on those who oppose and reject Christ. I believe MacArthur does a masterful job of underscoring that the milestone of Christ’s use of parables was fundamentally the assault against Truth. It’s culprit? The “Pharisaical Sabbath-enforcement squad” of His day. In Chapter 1, MacArthur classically communicates many insightful benchmarks in Matthew chapter 12 that ultimately spur this revolutionary and innovative approach to Christ’s preaching and His communication of the mysteries of the Kingdom.

What follows is an approach to Christ’s most prominent parables in a practical, scholarly and insightful style that is only characteristic of vintage John MacArthur.

Now, for a bit of critique. I love John MacArthur and his writings. But in this book, you sort of have to get where he’s going to get what he’s saying. As a fledgling scholar with degrees in Biblical Studies and Biblical Languages, I love him. As an honest layman with a c-average, he is hard for me to follow, on the surface.  If you couldn’t tell (as could I), even my summary bordered on the realm of being difficult to understand without a church encyclopedia. That was simply me trying to break down MacArthur complexity, to no avail.  Simply put, MacArthur is no Lucado or Swindoll or even (in my view) as simple to understand as a John Piper, at times. Now don’t get me wrong…if you can get beyond the scholarly highlights in chapters 2 through 10, you will find a GOLD MINE of preaching material, doctrinal nuggets and teaching points that will live and work well for teachers and students alike. That being said, this book (in my personal view) is not an easy-read; and not one you can speed-read through. I see it best as a volume one should read through slowly; develop a mental (or literal) file that can be used as a reference for future use when dealing with parables and illustrating the subjects/teachings/doctrines of [Receiving the Word, Discipleship, Justice and Grace, Neighborly Love, Justification by Faith, Faithfulness, Wisdom, Heaven and Hell, Persistence in Prayer.]

All in all, I would suggest having this book on one’s shelf as a handy reference in understanding the why, what and “aha” of Christ’s use of parables, and MacArthur walking you through the parables themselves. I give this book a 3 out of 5 stars for the layman; a 4 out of 5 for the scholar.

Post Navigation

Loving God on purpose

A blog on developing an intimate relationship with God

Thoughts9367

We inspire, help and encourage people to become successful by changing their mindset because we all need that little push to success.

Logical Quotes

Logical and Inspirational quotes

En the Mirror

transparent reflections from the heart

The Geographist

Geography, Now.

J. Ricci Energy

From where you are now, to where you want to be

Be Inspired..!!

Listen to your inner self..it has all the answers..

Cafe Book Bean

Talk Books. Drink Coffee.

unbolt me

the literary asylum

What I Write

The Adventures of an Erotica Author

Uldis blog

The only way to get love is to be lovable. It's very irritating if you have a lot of money. You'd like to think you could write a check: 'I'll buy a million dollars' worth of love.' But it doesn't work that way. The more you give love away, the more you get. - Warren Buffet

Konveksi Tas

Produsen Tas 2015

THE RIVER WALK

Daily Thoughts and Meditations as we journey together with our Lord.

Humanity777's Blog

The Church of Christ

Stepping Out Of The Fog

Journey From Depression To Clarity