Kraig Lowell Pullam

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

Archive for the category “Christian Living”

Winning Through Daily Discipline

Yesterday, Tom Brady & the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated Patrick Mahomes & the Kansas City Chiefs (31-9) in Super Bowl 55. So many were intrigued with the prospect of a forty-three year old Tom Brady (who some call ‘The G.O.A.T.’ in the NFL) could overcome the challenge of defeating the defending QB Super Bowl champion of 26 year old Mahomes (aka ‘The Kid”). Many wondered. Vegas placed their bets. Two opposing teams gave their best. Only one team won!

People desperately want to win at life. Whether it is a career, a relationship, a job situation, a bet, or game, or a quarrel… Everyone wants to succeed in everyday life, and Christian’s are no different. People search frantically for tips from books, horoscopes, periodicals, tarot cards, and from ‘experts’ on TV talk shows. Tragically, it seems as if Christians and Christ-followers are looking everywhere to learn how to ‘win’ at parenting, in finances, the workplace and other areas of life. Whether it is Dr. Phil or Dr. Oz or Oprah or Delilah After Dark or Dr. Laura – these persons will always fall short. Our greatest strength and clearest direction is sanctioned and situated in God’s Word; and not the manmade ideologies that direct the world.

We win through WISDOM. Wisdom emanates from God. We learn from God through His WORD.

Proverbs 1:1-2 speaks of our gaining of wisdom. The main word for wisdom in Proverbs (hokma) includes being moral but goes beyond that. It is the ability to make the right choice, even when there is no moral law directing us in a specific area. The three marks of wisdom are: discipline, discernment, and discretion.

Let’s take discipline. In verses 2 and 3 of Proverbs 1 we see instruction – training with strong accountability. It means being drilled and examined by an instructor who constantly remains in your face. So then, how does wisdom come?

Proverbs 27:5 tells us that it comes through the personal confrontation of a friend.
Proverbs 26:11 tells us that it comes from our mistakes.
Proverbs 3:11-12 tells us that it comes through the suffering and difficulty God allows in our lives.

To be certain, wisdom springs forth in us each time we journey through the wilderness and through the storms in our lives.

Wisdom’s trademark is when we become disciplined through every trial, test, and even temptation. This disciplined wisdom is not given to impulse, but to learning how many things require prayer, silence, peace, and surrender. Just as a musician can only become skilled through persistent practice, and an athlete can only become physically competent after rigorous training, so wisdom is won through the discipline of searching after God’s heart through His Word.

How have you grown in your daily walk with God in wisdom? What helps you become a more disciplined disciple and follower of Jesus Christ?

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Blessings!

Here’s Your Invitation

Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars.
She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table.
She has sent out her young women to call from the highest places in the town,
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she says,
“Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” – Proverbs 9:1-6 (ESV)

There’s an invitation for you!

In Proverbs 9 we see of Wisdom and Folly as rival young women. Each of them are preparing a lavish feast; and both of them are inviting people to attend. Solomon gives a disclaimer – Wisdom is a responsible woman of character while Folly is a prostitute serving stolen food. Wisdom appeals to the mind and heart. Folly appeals to the senses and impulsivity. Solomon contends that it is easier to excite the senses, but the pleasures of Folly are temporary and destructive. Conversely, the satisfaction that Wisdom brings yields lasting results, though often slow in it’s activation and can be easily abandoned by distractions, personal pursuits, and legitimate demands.

Lady Wisdom calls for us to find the right directions to her house where the feast awaits us. What moves us toward growth in either Wisdom or Folly are ultimately the love, commitment, and priorities that drive us. Think about it this way – you cannot overcome unforgiveness if your driving force is being in control. You cannot overcome bitterness or slander if you are driven by the approval of people. You cannot overcome workaholism if you are consumed by the accumulation of status, money, or affirmation. What we learn in choosing the invitation to join in and attend to the feast with Wisdom is more than WILLPOWER. If we ever seek to gradually grow and become ‘better’, it is through a reordering of our desires that will bring wisdom.

The way of wisdom is not through a quick fix, trending gimmicks, or a dramatic turnaround. The way of wisdom is traveling down the road each day that entails long training and daily discipline and….FOCUS. While focus can be mind and will; it is HEART. Proverbs 4:23 instructs us to, ““Guard your heart above all else, for from it flow the issues of life”. Don’t just believe in the goodness of God–but savor Him and His power and His heart in WORSHIP. God desires our unreserved pursuit of Him, such that our desire pursues to dine and commune with Him as we seek His face and heart, not only his hands (what He gives).

“Come and dine!” There are two houses and two invitations. Again….wisdom offers you a banquet of bread, meat, and wine; folly offers you stolen bread and water. Wisdom promises you life, but if you eat at folly’s table, you will die.

The banquet described in Proverbs 9 has an interesting parallel to Christ’s parable described in Luke 14:15-24. In Christ’s parable, many are invited but never make it to the celebration because thy are sidetracked by other activities that seem more important at the time. Today, don’t let anything become more important than your pursuit of God and your search for His wisdom.

What or who is vying for your attention today? Pastors and leaders…how are you deciphering what is pressing versus what is a priority? Christian…is there anything in your life that knocks God off of the throne of your heart, and inhibits your pursuit of God fully and completely?

Wisdom.
Folly.
Which house will you enter?

Please share your thoughts in the comments. I would love to hear from you!

Please like this blog, follow us; and share with a friend. – Pastor P.

What Do You Say?

“Kraig, what do you say?”

Growing up as a “PK”, aka “A Preacher’s Kid”, and the son of active church members, this is a question I heard quite often. After one of the church members would come up to us, give us a gift or a piece of candy, my mother would assert, “….what do you say?” The correct response was, “Thank You!” Growing up, I was a very quiet kid. Preaching at 15, followed by college, ministry, and pastoring pushed me out of my proverbial shell. But in those moments as a little child, after receiving the gift, I would hold my head down, stare at the ground, with no expression.

In leadership we understand that every member of our team has an innate desire to be valued, needed, recognized, applauded, included. Each team member should be valued in the leader’s eyes. Of course, this applies to any relationship or friendship, and in any other arena where teamwork and comradery are involved. Leaders should be the first to recognize the accomplishments and achievements of others. Most people serve and work better when they are affirmed, applauded, and told they are appreciated for their work, commitment, loyalty, and faithfulness.

It is not by accident that Genesis 1:27 affirms for us that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were created in the image of God. The theological term we often use for this is imago Dei….that we are made in God’s image. This is not merely an anthropomorphic spotlight (hands, eyes, etc); but it is more an expression of our inherent, internal qualities and are intrinsically tied to who we are. These entail our tendencies (the good ones), our proclivities, are attributes, and the like – but without sin. We like intimacy, and we are prideful. We can become jealous, and despise enemies. Of course, these qualities and characteristics come from God – but He possesses these attributes without sin. Our sinful nature is what makes pride and jealousy and despising our enemies and our pursuit of intimacy so dangerous.

Here’s another one – God loves and craves affirmation. There are many examples in scripture of God seeking and desiring His people to bask in His presence, affirm His goodness, relish His power, massage His ego, and give Him the praise He so rightly deserves. As a matter of fact, when having a conversation with a Samaritan woman at a well, Jesus tells her in John 4:24 that God is “seeking worshippers….”.

How does this apply to you and I in this moment? I’m glad you asked!

I am sure you have so many things to complain about. Maybe there are some mistakes you’ve made in life recently that simply do not reflect the best version of ‘you.’ There is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us that there can often seem very little good in the rest of us. There are so many who have lost their lives during this pandemic (with numbers continuing to rise), people who are apprehensive about the new vaccines, and fears and anxieties are high because of financial challenge, relational instability, loss of friendships, and the like.

In the midst of it all….I contend there is something you have left. There is the gift of your praise and worship and gratitude to your Father! Whatever you are facing today, the more you lavish your affection upon Him, He will fill you with His presence and His power.

In your hurt….thank Him.
In the midst of your despair….worship Him.
After your errors…return to your place of worship, and bow before Him.

There are things and people and problems and situations in your life that will seek all of your attention and allegiance today. Consequently, the things that have your allegiance and your attention, will also have your affection. The Bible calls these ‘idols.’

I want to encourage and admonish you – whenever you are tempted to amplify non-essential, temporal things, shift your attention toward the God Who longs to hear you talk to Him (Jeremiah 33:3), long for Him (Psalm 42:1), and abide in Him (John 15).

What do you say? Tell Him “Thank You!”

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During this Season…

What a season this has been for ALL of us.  

It is hard to fathom that we have been in the midst of a worldwide pandemic since March of 2020 (6 months ago and counting).  To say that our world has changed would be an understatement.  

In the midst of it all, I think there will be some good to come out of this season.  On the positive side, I would like to assume society is becoming more sanitized, germ-conscious and aware of our environment and space.  On the negative end, I think we will become even more anti-social, guarded and socially-distant in the days and years to come.  It doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore, to think of a world where humans colonize to other planets, where everyone wears space suits, helmets with purified air, and a reality where there are no hugs or external fellowship; and where ‘social distancing’ now has a name.  

The primal factor in my moving to Dallas Fort Worth was to lead the people of Shiloh in Fort Worth. That being said…my life naturally began to revolve around them for over three years (at the beginning of the pandemic). So it is quite natural to initially have felt a sense of ‘lostness’ not being able to interact with, visit or ‘fellowship’ with the people who’ve become my family. In the strangest way…in all of my years of pastoring, I have never felt ‘closer’ to my congregation during this season of life and ministry. For this, I am grateful. Of course, there have been some with whom have been unable to connect. But calls and cards have been a godsend.

So many people are anxious, fearful, confused and frustrated in the midst of this pandemic and Covid-19.  I thank God for media and technology; but in some way, the media has had it’s way of pushing people mentally into overdrive.  Even worse, most are not aware.  To be sure, it seems that people, and the world, have gone absolutely mad, crazy and out of control.  This seems even strange to write, when it seemed as if we were the aforementioned before 2020, and would’ve been so sure it couldn’t get any worse; atleast not so quickly.  Even in churches, there is a great divide.  There are some who think it is too soon to open (with many experts saying there will be a second wave during flu season) and others who are saying, ‘We do everything else, and go everywhere else.’  Add to this, the political debate we’ve forced upon wearing masks or not.  Leaders, it often seems now, are in a lose-lose situation, in whatever decision they choose to make.  

One thing I am sure this pandemic has done in most settings – be it with our family, in our friendship circles, in marriages and relationships, in the world or in church, and any interpersonal way – people have shown their true selves and their actual motives.  Guess what? So have we!  

As a Pastor, it is one of my tasks to not only encourage my parishioners and family and friends; but to encourage and lift other leaders and pastors.  Philippians 4:6 encourages us not to ‘be anxious’ about anything; and Galatians 6:9 instructs us to ‘be ye not weary in doing well.’  Joshua chapter 1 in it’s entirety is always an encouragement, and it a chapter I have been lead by God’s Spirit to read daily.  While this season is a wonderful opportunity to grow, focus on God, become more Christlike and centered on God’s Word; and to become more serious about what concerns God, I am afraid many of us are missing the opportunity, letting the moment pass us by.  It is so important to use every moment during this ‘waiting room experience” as an opportunity to grow, focus, search the depths of your own soul, cherish every moment and person and to make yourself better and stronger.  

This has been my goal and also my prayer.  While I felt the results of others’ anxiety and ‘busyness’, and experienced the loss of my Aunt (Janice Pullam) since my last blog, and some whom I know who’ve experience illness and their own loss, I believe God is refining me.  In the midst of challenge and change, God has blessed me to enroll back in school, and begin preliminary work for my Ph.D.  I have continued to write; and shape my thoughts for publication in the future.  God has also used this season to gradually break me out of my fear of being on camera, and all that entails. He is certainly challenging my nerves and my patience with others and compassion for people.  I am also grateful and humbled that God would see fit to allow me to celebrate 4 years of Pastoral ministry at Shiloh on the 4th Sunday of this month.  While it has not gone without it’s fair share of challenge (particularly in 2020 and during this pandemic), I am clear that it was God Who led me to beloved Shiloh MBC in Fort Worth; and He will order every step, with joy for the journey.  Certainly….I appreciate every member of Shiloh who knows and believes that Shiloh is Christ’s church; He will keep it; and God has called us to love, lead and live like Jesus Christ in our own lives.  

I’m wondering – what have you learned during this pandemic?  How has God grown you durning this season?  

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Be Encouraged. 

2020 MidYear Review…

If you’ve never read any of my blogs since 2008 or so, I’d encourage you to atleast read the one before this one.  I would also encourage you to subscribe; as well as share this blog with someone you may know.  My blogs (when I do write) are intentionally candid, transparent and brutally honest.  As a ‘church kid’ I do still remain subtle and try to remain ‘politically correct’, to protect the innocent, the faint of heart; and most importantly, the people I love; and my church.

That being said….

If you take the time to read my last post back in January…there is a glimmer of excitement, hope and relief.  Contained therein, there is an unspoken sense of ‘I’ve been through the storm and rain; and 2020 is going to be an exciting year.

For ALL (or most) of us….I sure seemed off.  This has been some kind of year.  I’ve seen so many memes referencing 2020; and how rough this year has been, from ‘Can we just skip the 2020 album, and go to the next 2021 track’ to so many others.  My favorite has been the meme I saw by one of my friends I’ll call ‘CBB’.  She is a former member of our church; and she never disappoints with the memes.  The meme is entitled, ‘If 2020 was a slide’. The slide is a cheese grater!

For me….as I wrote my last blog, I knew God was leading me to make a decision in my own life and ministry; that I had prayed so many times about, over a couple of years.  I’d promised the Lord that I would move in His time; and no matter what anyone said, I would move on His timetable.  As I wrote the last blog, I didn’t even know if I’d be bold enough to obey God; or how my decision would effect anyone involved.  What I did know is that I feared God, more than anyone else.  My intention is not to go into details regarding any of that.  My intention is to say to you – after I moved in the direction God instructed me to move, I traveled to Jacksonville, Florida for the Southern Baptist Pastor’s Conference, held at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville.  The conference was empowering, enlightening; and the things I learned and the people I met simply made the time there seem like things were just coming together.  I had never been to SBC’s Pastor’s conference held at First Baptist Jacksonville.  My father had been while I was in high school; and Jerry Vines and Mac Brunson (their previous pastors) were two of my favorites.  But it is just a plethora of encouragement, insights and empowerment.

Lord knows I needed it.  2019 (so I thought) was a rough year…just dealing with a suprising loss in our church family.  One brother we lost was such a major encouragement to me personally.  He was not a deacon or a trustee.  He wasn’t an usher or a Sunday School teacher.  He was just a ‘regular guy’ from Louisiana, retired from Delta Airlines; and just supported his new pastor.  He had been on oxygen for a couple of years; and had been struggling through that; having good days and bad days.  But I just admired how he would make his way to Bible Studies on Wednesday nights; how he would help with our security and safety personnel; and he never left church without talking to me.  One Sunday I was in the foyer greeting parishioners as they departed; and he was waiting (as usual) for me to finish.  Finally, he said he’d see me on Wednesday night.  A day or so later, he was gone.  I never shall forget doing something I advise no pastor (especially a professional chaplain) to do.  There in the hospital, in front of his wife and daughter, I broke down and cried like a little baby.  As some know, I am not a crier.  Little did I know that God was preparing my tear ducts for 2020.  I miss him so much; and he will be one of the first men I look for, after I see Jesus.

During my time in Jacksonville, my father met me there; along with a dear friend of my family, whom I call my uncle.  Being an alumnus from Dallas Baptist and Southwestern Seminary, it was also a joy to see quite a few old colleagues, professors, classmates, etc.  I was unsettled by the brewing tensions 2020 would bring; but excited about pleasing God.

I did something I don’t normally do, in 15 years of pastoring – I stayed over Sunday.  I visited my friend, H.B. Charles’ church (Shiloh in Jacksonville).  After church, I spoke to one of my best friends, Bertrain Bailey; and we shared our Sunday experiences, as we often do.  Of course, I didn’t have much to say.  I hadn’t preached; and I had only heard reports of the great time our people had back at home as Shiloh in Fort Worth.  As we spoke, Bertrain tells me, ‘Man…I’m seeing on the news that Kobe Bryant just died.’  My closest friends know I have always been a Kobe fan; and would always argue that he was better than the inimitable Michael Jordan.  As a matter of fact, my intention was to name my youngest son Kobe; to no avail.  I told him, ‘Don’t play like that.  We don’t play about Kobe.’ He said, ‘No dude, I’m seeing this on the news.’  From there…It has been a blur.

Kobe was, in fact, killed, along with others, in a helicopter crash; and the world rocked.  Without even settling down long enough, we were hit by the Coronavirus Pandemic.  And most recently, the injustices of the killings of unarmed black men and women; and the outrage that now ensues.  If things could get no worse – with family members who have fallen ill, members of my church losing family members, etc; the shocking loss of Pastor Manson B. Johnson of the Holman Street Baptist Church, has dealt another devastating blow.

Here is my summation to this blog…just in case you think the world revolves around your little worries; God knows how to allow a world of bigger problems to eclipse what you are facing.

To be sure, the things in my world continue to move on and move forward.  It is my prayer that God will continue to show Himself faithful, in the midst of any challenge any of us may face, individually or in this world.  Never forget the words of 1 Peter 5:7, which says, “Casting all your care upon Him; for he cares for you.’

Nobody told you that the road was going to be easy.  If they did, they lied to you! As long as you live this life, and seek to make an imprint, there will be challenges along the way.  It is so important to:

1. Remain Prayerful
2. Trust God (In God we trust, everyone else we thoroughly investigate)
3. Follow His Word
4. Walk with Integrity
5. Write everything down, including your story
6. Treat people right
7. Let God fight your battles

The good news is – if you’re reading this blog, you made it through some of the worst times in human history!!!  Just think – we get to live in this time.  And God is so gracious to allow us to experience it.

Be encouraged as you go throughout this process.  May you find joy on your journey!

Handling Stress

2019 was a very challenging year for me. In my estimation, it was probably the most challenging for me in ministry and personally.

Everything that could go wrong, almost did (I am very careful to say ‘almost’, because things could’ve always been much worse).

As I look back over my life, the end of a decade has typically been challenging for me. In early 1999, a relationship that meant very much to me officially ended. While it ended in 1998, I felt the effects of its dissolution; and trying to pick up the pieces the following year. To say it devastated my life would be an understatement. To this day, I know that it was only by God’s love, Grace and providence I made it through that.

In 2009, I was pastoring my first church. We were struggling to remain afloat. We went to a new location the previous year; and there was not a favorable response to the change. I couldn’t understand it, because it was the nicest building we’d ever worshipped in. Only years later did I realize some fundamental things that contributed to what I was experiencing, which I won’t share in this post. Added to the stress of a struggling church that couldn’t afford to support itself, let alone me and my family, I was completing my Master of Divinity degree in Biblical Languages at Southwestern Seminary. And if things could not get any worse, Dee and I had a miscarriage in May of that year, and another several months later.

Even years after, I can naturally see how those situations grew me; but still find it hard to see why God didn’t answer some of my prayers (keep me in that relationship or let me child/children live). I just know it shaped me into the man I am. However, I do live with scars; and I have a limp.

At the beginning of 2019, I made a post on my Facebook social media page…

It was a noble, sincere and faith-filled post. It had nothing to do with ANY one person, and it certainly had nothing to do with any of my obligations (family, church, friendships, etc). It was a general post!

Someone said that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. Satan heard it; and God permitted him to use anything and anybody to stress me out, INCLUDING MYSELF. In fact, myself more than anyone else.

As a consequence, I became someone I did not know and did not like. Because of my youth in 1999, I learned how to not always lash out at those close to me as I did when I was only 19 (atleast the ones who weren’t lashing out at me), and because of everything that went on in 2009, I learned to suffer silently, put on my ministry face, be Pastoral, preach and do my job….

I allowed my perceptions of people’s issues to become personal for me. I allowed the problems and mistreatment of people I love and care about to stress me out, especially because I wanted to fix the situation. I even became stressed over loved ones and friends who felt I wasn’t giving them enough or calling them enough. I allowed other people’s fights (whether family or in church) to become my burden and problem. If a member left because of a divorce or conflict with someone else in our church, it hurt me and I took their leaving as personal. Even more…it causes me to see that I hadn’t fully confronted some of the truths and lessons God was trying to teach me in 1999 and 2009. Little did I know that my loss in 1999 and my challenges in 2009 were equipping me for the struggles I’d experience in 2019; that I may have 2020 Vision.

While I could make this post a Part 1 of a 3-part series, I’ll just express my few reflections here.

1) God has never promised that life or people or situations would come without friction.

2) God can handle people and things better than you.

3) Things and people will only have as much power as you give them.

3) Embrace the fact that many of the things, and people, that you are stressing about, probably aren’t stressing over you. These aren’t fabricationals.

5) Whether the problems or people are temporary or permanent, give it to God, show compassion, forgive yourself and then let if go.

6) Be thankful and grateful for the people, especially the God, you stress out continuously…who are patient, loving and present in your life.

This year…I will not abandon my intention. But I choose to believe I can determine its place in my life.

I pray for each person who is struggling today; and already stressed out in 2020. No matter what occurred yesterday, may you realize God’s overwhelming love for you; His purpose for your life; and use whatever energy for stress, toward fulfilling God’s promises in your life.

I hope to do that by sharing my story in the blog. Please subscribe and also share. Also…I would love to hear from you in the comments. Blessings!

Farewell, Servant…

fullsizeoutput_5a00I have never fully dreaded the idea of attending the homegoing of a family member.  When my mother in law’s brother, Marvin Small, passed away…I felt it slightly.  But I never will forget the last time I saw him outside of our local neighborhood grocery store, sitting in his car….Uncle Marvin gave me a look of farewell.  I felt a sense of closure.  I eagerly gathered up the strength to be there for the extended family who had become my own, and our young son, Kai, who grew to know and love the quiet uncle who lived a few houses down the street from us.  I slightly dreaded attending that funeral; but this is different.  

My Uncle Lloyd is gone.  The tears I shed just even writing those words are hard to explain, especially for a man who never, ever cries; not even really much when my grandfathers passed away.  Getting the news from my first cousin this past Monday….upon hanging up the phone, I cannot explain the feelings that overtook me in that moment.  My father’s only living brother; the patriarch of our family….now gone.

Growing up with hearing problems, I used to think he was the visible twin of the invisible God because it seemed as if everyone called him “Lord!”  My brothers called him “Uncle Lord!”  And my own father called him “Lord!”  I determined he was somebody important!  

Over time, not only did I learn the difference between Lord and Lloyd, but I grew to appreciate his ubiquitous presence at monumental events.  As I grew, I would learn that DFW was not some hop, skip and jump from the Sparkling City by the Sea.  And yet….he was at my first sermon, there for every milestone event in the life of our family; and could always be heard in any setting….especially church.  

People loved to hear him sing “I Won’t Complain” and “My Soul Has Been Anchored.”  But to hear him sing “Because He Lives” was my favorite.  He sang it in March of 1994, at my first public sermon, during the invitation.  

Behind the scenes…he gave me a heads up on approaching a young lady from Houston I had been admiring at his church, who would eventually become my wife.  Behind the scenes…I called him in the Fall of 2015 to ask him about a church in Atlanta, and he instructed me to, rather, submit my inquiry and information to Shiloh in Fort Worth…a church I knew nothing about; and the place where I now pastor; and hope to retire.  My first 5-day revival, as a teenager, was at his church, St. Emmanuel, in Denton.  Surprisingly, amidst the poor sermons I preached, he’d invite me back a few times afterwards.  Eventually, he influenced Pastor R.L. Sanders to preach me each year in revival in Fort Worth.  In time, that led way to preaching in Oklahoma for many years for Pastor J. A. Reed, Jr.  When he was healthy, Uncle Lloyd would attend those revivals, even the ones in Oklahoma, regularly and nightly.  

Several years ago…Uncle Lloyd had a stroke.  Eventually, this led to his retiring from Pastoring.  It did not alter his mind; but it did slow him down.  I could see some changes in his life.  But I never saw him waver on his call and his love for God.  I am certain he wondered why God wouldn’t have healed him completely.  I am also sure, like anyone, it was challenging to depend on others to do for him what he once did for himself.  I would confide in him my wish for him to capitalize on what he had been left with, by God.  But I personally would ask God often to give him more years, more time, and healing.  

The last time I saw him…I felt I saw a glimmer of hope.  For the first time in a long while, he didn’t go to sleep on me.  He was talking and smiling; and sounding like his old self.  He perked up when talking about George McCalep, as we always did; and about his ministry that he had been planning to launch and expand.  It was like old times.  We talked about barbecue, Shiloh, and family.  

I finally expressed to him that I was leaving to head back to Keller.  And he said to me, “Before you leave, will you pray?”  I prayed with my Uncle.  I didn’t pray for healing (I honestly felt that God was answering that prayer).  I simply thanked the Lord for the journey.  I thanked the Lord for His peace.  I thanked Him for my Uncle.  I thanked the Lord for Aunt Janice, their children, grandchildren, friends and family.  I asked the Lord to let us all know beyond a shadow of any doubt that He is God and God all by Himself.  After our prayer together, I told him I love him and I would see him soon.  

My dread of attending my Uncle’s home going is not because of any regret; but it is in the fact that I just wished he had more time.  This loss has taken me to a new, somber, unexpected place.  It is hard to believe I will never hear his voice alive, on this side, again.  It is so hard to believe that the man who was always present for us (even after his stroke)….now rests in the arms of our Savior.  But somewhere through here there is a lesson about submitting to the will and wisdom of God.  All of our steps are ordered, including his and mine.  When our work is completed, until the final chapter….God will have the last word.  I thank the Lord for my Aunt Janice, who never wavered on fulfilling the vows “for better or worse; in sickness and in health….till death do us part.”  She is to be commended and applauded for all she has done.

My Uncle will be missed by many.

Oh, I’m certain he wasn’t perfect.  But I am certain he is in the presence of my Savior…..healed, whole, lifting up both of his hands, walking, SINGING, shouting, crying, rejoicing and worshipping. 

Uncle Lloyd in now in the presence of the LORD!

I’ll see him soon….but not yet!

 

Celebration of Life for Reverend Lloyd Anthony Pullam will be as follows:
Viewing on Friday, May 17th from 12-8pm
People’s Funeral Home
1122 E Mulberry Street
Denton, Texas 76205

Funeral Service on Saturday, May 18th 11am
St Andrew COGIC
608 Lakey Street
Denton, Texas 76205

 

Integrity versus Perfection

img_1087Living in the public square and the fishbowl of Pastoral ministry, I have often felt the pressure of being dissected by others.  As a PK (aka Preacher’s Kid), this comes with the terrain.  Even more, being the “kid” of a man and minister (William Lanier Pullam) who could do no wrong to me as a Christian, husband, father, spiritual leader and friend to others, in a small town where everybody knows everyone…could often be a challenge.  I’ve met countless PK’s who developed a sense of resentment, even anger, towards the church and church leaders because of the display of hypocrisy, duplicity, inconsistency and the like exemplified by people in the church.  This breaks my heart.  On the one hand it breaks my heart because the church can be such a ‘messy’ place.  Church people, in the scripture, are likened to sheep.  Sheep get dirty.  Tragically, we often fail to comprehend our ‘sheepish’ comparison and reality.  On the other hand, I think that we subconsciously lift people to a standard that they can never realistically attain.  It is really a standard upon which only Christ can be seated.

I began blogging in 2006.  And over the course of the past twelve years (particularly the past several) I have blogged less and less.  For me, writing and blogging has been cathartic; and it has been a way for me to process my thoughts and to shape direction in my own life.  But, as my life moved more into a public light, I felt as if my quest for integrity became stifled.  It would irk me to blog about something; and then the next several days become aware of how my life did not reflect what I had written about.  After a while, I no longer knew what to write about…so enamored in how I might contradict what I’d said…if just a minuscule deviation of my words or thoughts.

Then I read that the definition of perfection is “without blemish”.  Interestingly, those who are in Christ are “without blemish.”  But the key difference in what tormented me and what the scripture says about being unblemished is crucial: one is built on LAW; and the other is settled in GRACE.

The law tells us to “Do.”  Grace informs us it is “Done!” 
The law teaches us that we have missed the mark; and grace reminds us that Christ has won the race and settled the debt.

In Psalm 17, David asks the Lord to vindicate him, and to protect him from his enemies and foes.  I find it interesting that David uses as his collateral to God’s answering his prayer is his integrity.  Really? David?  The notorious rebel of the Old Testament?  It is then that we must understand that integrity is not perfection.  It is exposing one’s self before the sovereign Lord; and giving God a heart of surrender.  We often quote David as being, “A man after God’s heart.”  Kenneth Ulmer has said, “The issue was never David’s heart.  It was the heart that David was running after.”  I contend!

We will fail.  We will make mistakes.  We will be imperfect.  Integrity understands this where perfection cannot.  Integrity also gives permission for others to fail, make mistakes and be imperfect.

Granted…this is not a license to live a double-faced, reckless, ungodly life.  We should want, more than anything, to walk the lives that we talk.  As Christians, spouses, parents, disciples and leaders…this should be our aspiration.  It is my sincere hope and prayer to live in a way that reflects the character of Christ (amid my own imperfections), in a way that ultimately points to God’s glory.

I don’t need to be perfect; because Jesus was; and because He is.  You don’t either.  His grace is sufficient where the law and man’s standard falls way too short.  Live in this truth and act like you’re free…because you are!

Day 11

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Prayer will…

  • Open the doors that will altar the course of your destiny.
  • Pull the covers off of the enemy’s antics; and clarify your focus.
  • Connect you to a remnant of intercessors whom God will use to impact eternity, and overthrow the kingdom of darkness.

Within our congregation, we began a prayer campaign called the 20 Days of Prayer, on February 5. We are now on Day 11. I cannot say how long I’ve been leading my church (wherever I’ve been) into a period of corporate prayer during some part of the first quarter of the year. But it has never failed to renew my spiritual focus.

These 20 Days of Prayer in our church have, in itself, given me new life and a greater sense of purpose. I am sure it has done and is doing the same for our parishioners.

This year…I’ve implemented a couple of changes that have deepened and intensified this time for me:

1) Jumpstart our days of prayer with a Prayer Institute.

2) Implement a Wednesday weekly, 15-minute prayer call at 6am.

Prayer Call each Wednesday in February at 6am….

Call-in number: 605-472-5649

Access Code: 266809

3) Commit 1 hour to privately/personally pray on our daily emphasis, outside of my regular prayer time.

4) Put legs on my prayers, as God speaks. I’m excited about what God is doing behind the scenes in our congregation, to make our congregation greater.

Today, as a congregation, Shiloh is praying for all of the endeavors of Shiloh this year; that God would bless our efforts, and the work of our hands.

I’m praying for the Lord to give us a heart, mind and spirit to work and execute His plan, power, purpose and provision for optimum results and impact.

God has revealed so much to me personally as we’ve refocused our attention on the priority of prayer. It even seems surreal when you commit to “JUST PRAY”, the things God will say to you as you tune in your spiritual ears to Him. When you renew your spiritual focus, He will show you things you’ve missed because of daily routine, perfunctory tasks, constant challenge and the like.

When we do it His way (fasting and prayer)….it is so refreshing.

On another note, yesterday we received word of another senseless at a high school in Parkland, Florida. 17 are reported dead. This breaks my heart, as I think of my own children, family members and the precious young people I Pastor. May the Lord call ALL of us to our knees in PRAYER. The only way things begin to change in this regard is through prayer, repentance and then action. Otherwise, the senselessness will continue.

May you find the strength you need now, to make it through. I pray you will find joy for the journey.

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!

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