Kraig Lowell Pullam

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

Archive for the category “Christian Living”

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!

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.

 

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!

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