Kraig Lowell Pullam

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

Archive for the category “Christian Living”

My review of “Messy Grace” by Caleb Kaltenbach

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“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!

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.

Grit to Great (Review)

  

Guts. Resilience. Initiative. Tenacity. According to authors Linda Kaplan Thaler & Robin Koval, these four aforementioned components are the essential ingredients of GRIT. In a real sense, the requirements in acheiving a superior level of success and achievement consists of no secret ingredients or magical nuances. No. Thaler and Koval contend that all persons who have acheived recognition & accomplishment in their fields have applied the learned (not born with) art of resilience, sweat, character, lessons from failures, perseverance and hard work. 
How can you explain…

• Colin Powell as a C average student?

• Michael Jordan’s coach deciding he wasn’t a good match for his team?

• Steve Jobs maintaining a 2.65 average in high school; and getting fired from Apple in the mid 80’s?

• Bill Gates dropping out of school?

• Jerry Seinfeld getting booed off the stage during his first stand-up gig?

“Grit to Great” teaches that we can encourage others to become people of grit by providing support and guidance, but also helping them, like the Jordans, Jobs, Gates, Powells and Seinfelds of the world, to learn on their own and push beyond initial limitations and disappointments. I agree with the authors who assert that the self-esteem movement that began in the late 1960’s have resulted in a rightful assesment of worth, but an unhealthy perception that we all deserve a trophy. Eventually, this concept numbs the desire of others to strive to live on the cutting edge of greatness. As a pastor and spiritual leader, I operate under no false illusion. People matter; and they are important! But I contend with Thaler and Koval when (Chapter 2) they state that talent plays only a small part in comparison to stamina and resilience. 

If I may apply this to the Christian arena… Good churches become great churches not by pulpit personalities, talented singers or gifted acrobats; but by common people who are willing to remain vigilent, determined and intent upon seeing Christi’s vision for His church become ultimate reality. 

The greatest preachers are not the most intelligent, best-dressed or well-spoken. It is the one who digs deep into the truths of God’s Word; and diligently spares no expense to cut straight in the communication of it’s truth and application.

So it is in every arena of life, according to the authors of “Grit to Great”. Simply put, the authors say that talent will get you noticed, but it is GRIT that yields you a seat at the table. How is this done? : 1) Be an overpreparer 2) Get in the door 3) Go the extra mile! 

 Admittedly, the authors assess that moving from GRIT to GREAT will not happen overnight. It will require embracing moments of boredom and the celebration of small victories. One of the ways this is done, they say, is by debunking “WillPower”. They suggest that willpower is shortlived. Conversely, we should develop new habits for acheivement and put it on repeat. Ants don’t have a spoon; but they do have a strategy. In all that we do, whether it is writing, business ownership, church membership, parenting, in marriage m, friendship circles or anything else, it is important to utilize the resources that we have; adjust to every life-change and disappointment; learn to improvise; grow in your mindset and learn how to “fail forward.” 

There are many high points and new insightful challenges to our general paradigm of thinking. But one that stands out is how we have limited time in our days and lives. The authors point to the fact that the less we have in days, the more we are able to focus on what truly counts and really matters. We shouldn’t wait for the perfect moment to start walking. As we have often heard, God will give you more along the way than He does before you start. 

The most important component in grit to great for me is the essential piece of developing our character. As a Christian Leader, truth and character are vital if we would expect to stand before people as the visible images of an invisible God. Proverbs 28:6 says, “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.” 

And it is important that “character building” (the term the authors use) begin with the building of character within us a leaders and people willing to instill the type of character in ourselves and others that makes people willing to dedicate themselves to creating a better world.  

I highly recommend this book. Around 150 pages in length; it follows the format of Jim Collins’ “Good to Great” bestseller. While there are no cited scripture references, sermon illustrations (though there are a great number of illustrations and quotes that are helpful preaching nuggets), or Greek words…every pastor and preacher should have this book on their shelves. Please follow the link to order a copy or kindle of this book!

 

Sunday Reflections

iStock_000001476421XSmall-320x212God be praised for a great meeting in the tabernacle on the Lord’s day!

After taking a break away from our exposition through the Psalms, I picked up where we left off and continued with Psalm 14.

This 2-week intermission was partially feeling a pastoral need to deal with internal matters within our church; and partially a difficulty and challenge in wrapping my homiletical hat around the 14th Psalm. I love exegetical work! Admittedly…there is the continual challenge of formulating the meaning of the text into a well-crafted sermon that lives in the practical ears of parishioners.

All in all….I just threw myself to the proverbial sharks, not wanting to delay another week. I’m glad I did!

Here’s my outline:

Title: Running Away From the God You Need
Text: Psalm 14:1-7
C.I.T. : While the entire human race rebels against God, the righteous long to see His kingdom established on earth.

I. The Folly Of Trying to Make It Without God
a. The World is Insane (vs 1a)
b. The World is Immoral (vs 1b)
c. The World is Impotent (vss 2-3)

II. The Response of God to Man’s Foolery
a. What Men Do
i. They never learn (vs 4)
ii. They never rest (vs 5)
iii. They never win (vs 6)

b. What God Does (vss 4-5)
a. He looks
b. He finds

III. The Joy of Trusting in God’s Loving Protection
a. For their salvation (vs 7a)
b. For their restoration (vs 7b)
c. For their celebration (vs 7c)

God breathed upon the message and I am thankful to have made it through. My goal is to make it to Psalm 15, and take a break to concentrate on working through a book I am trying to put together, in a series of sermons. Currently it is a composition of around 200 pages of full-page sermons of about 20 sermons I need to seriously edit, footnote, re-write and try on our people. I am believing it will ultimately bless our congregation and, in turn, bless others. With prayerful plans to begin doctoral work in July of 2016, I am hoping to have this done by the Spring of next year. I need every single prayer I can get.

In other news… My Cowboys finally win a game, after 7 weeks of losing without Tony Romo. I don’t know what’s worse – losing 7 games; or losing 7 games after a great season last year. I celebrate this current win!

How was your Sunday? Please take a moment to share your thoughts, subscribe and share this blog with others if it is a blessing to you.

Today, Live Today! by Max Lucado’

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“Today, I will live today.
Yesterday is past.
Tomorrow is not yet.
I’m left with today.
So, today, I will live today.

Relive yesterday? No.
I will learn from it.
I will seek mercy for it.
I will take joy in it.
But I won’t live in it.
The sun has set on yesterday.

The sun has yet to rise on tomorrow.
Worry about the future? To what gain?
It deserves a glance, nothing more.
I can’t change tomorrow until tomorrow.

Today I will live today.
I will face today’s challenges with today’s strength.
I will dance today’s waltz with today’s music.
I will celebrate today’s opportunities with today’s hope.

Today.
May I laugh, listen, learn, and love today.
And, tomorrow, if it comes, may I do so again.”

– Max Lucado

The Waiting Game

imageWaiting for God is not laziness. Waiting for God is not going to sleep. Waiting for God is not the abandonment of effort. Waiting for God means, first, activity under command; second, readiness for any new command that may come; third, the ability to do nothing until the command is given.”

I recently read, again, this quote by one of my favorite Christian writers in church history, G. Campbell Morgan. And each time I read these words, I am floored! The primary reason for my overwhelmed response is because I realize that if there is anything I hate to do, I hate to WAIT. I hate to wait for anything. A flight. At a restaurant. An appointment. A movie. Anything… Well, anything except my imminent appointment with death. That can wait! But anything else…I wouldn’t mind kissing Miss. Wait goodbye… Another reason I am taken aback by Morgan’s statement is because it always seems to find my location. It is just my luck – I always find myself behind the person, out of all the bank lanes, who needs a deposit slip, then a pen, then another deposit slip for another account and has a host of questions for the teller. I’m the guy who stands in the grocery line behind the clerk who is with a customer who forgot an important item. Yes; that’s me! My final reason for being overwhelmed by Morgan’s statement is the fact that waiting seems universal. ALL of us must wait. In fact, when we came in this world, someone had to wait for our arrival. Regular people and prominent people all must wait too. Why? Because waiting is our universal reality.

So many of us are waiting on God to move. I run into so many people who fill out job applications, but it only leads to another rejection. There are persons I know who serve in a ministry field that doesn’t seem to fit into the vision they’ve imagined; and God just seems to keep them there with no way out. I know of others whose biological clock is ticking, and there seems to be no prospect of finding their “happily ever after” with a loving spouse and well-behaved children. I could go on and on. But here is another reality – when you’re waiting, and it seems as if God isn’t moving, or as if He doesn’t care; and the wicked are flourishing and succeeding. It can be disheartening when you’ve been standing in line, placed your order, paid your bill and standing to the side, while others behind you do the same, but they recieve their order and depart while you continue to wait.

Morgan says that waiting on God is not passivity or apathy. Like a good waiter or waitress, waiting on Him requires paying attention to every delicacy, detail, whim and need. A good waiter or waitress will not leave their guest disappointed because of menial service. The waiter is alert! The waiter is marked present! In like manner, if you are a child of God, it is your Christian duty to pay attention to every spiritual delicacy your Father has while you wait on Him to move. It’s His party; and it’s His table. He leaves and He will move when He gets ready. None of us are “off the clock” until He says so. The question, then, is how are you conducting yourself in the waiting room? Are you focusing so much on your next level that you are mismanaging your current level? Are you so intent on getting others straight and getting even that you haven’t grown in your own faith-walk with God? Have you sought comfort with all of the worldly things that the world offers in an effort to take your mind off of the reality that you’re still waiting?

This week I am reading and studying through Psalm 13. Psalm 13 and therabout seems to chronicle the period between David’s anointing at his father’s house and his future elevation as the king of Judah. He is living in the court of king Saul and Saul despises him. He is waiting. And David is perplexed in Psalm 13; and he doesn’t hide his overwhelming frustration with how long he’s been waiting for God to make His next move. First, it is important to lay your sorrow bare before the Lord. (Psalm 13:1-2) Second, Psalm 13:3-4 teaches us that the only place to carry our heaviest burdens is on our knees, in our prayer closet, in supplication before God. Finally, Psalm 13:5-6 shows us that David confirms future victory with the receipt of a rejoicing heart.

i have to be honest, however…I’m glad God is faithful, even when we mismanage life in the waiting room. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject; and invite you to share this blog with family and friends, if it’s been helpful to you. Blessings!

What We Can Learn From Lamar Odom Ordeal

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Confession is good for the soul; even if it’s not good for the reputation.

I’m a Los Angeles Laker fan.

There.
I said it!
I can’t really say how I became a fan, considering there’s no one in my immediate family or friendship circle growing up who liked the Laker franchise. Nevertheless, I like them!
One of my favorite Lakers is Lamar Odom. Yes…I said that too! 

On October 13, 2015, Odom was hospitalized after being discovered unconscious at the Love Ranch, a brothel in Crystal, Nevada. Those who are real fans, not only follow members of their team while they play, but after they have departed. And, those who are Christians, even pray for these current and former members of their respective teams. I’m no exception. It is alleged that Lamar Odom has struggled with substance abuse for the past few years. As a result, many have ascribed the constant turmoil in his life, in recent years, to many of the personal struggles he has with drugs. An abrupt marriage (marrying Khloe Kardashian after a month of dating), being traded from the Lakers to the Dallas Mavericks and then by to the Los Angeles Clippers, the list goes on and on, those who already didn’t know him coming to know him through a popular reality show; in a very public divorce; losing his best friend a few months ago; the list goes on and on.
One thing I think is certain – Lamar Odom needed help!

It leads me to make a few observations and/or ask a couple of questions.
1. Where are the roots?
2. Why are many Christians quick to believe we will not deal with our daddy’s demons or our mother’s mess?
3. Why do some manage life’s adversities better/worse than others?
4. Lamar Odom has always seemed to be a very nice/respectable/decent young man. But nice people are still human; and we must realize that we all have some things with which we wrestle and must work to overcome.
5. Can you help someone that doesn’t want help, feels they don’t have a problem or will not listen?

Because I am a Pastor and a minister, I cannot help but see how the aforementioned apply to not only our families and those in our friendship circle, but also within the Christian church. Acts 6 is the perfect example of leadership coming to grips with everyday human issues and struggles within the church. We are a spiritual entity; but we are also physically human. Any casual study of the Corinthian church would result in the obvious analysis that we can be gifted and struggle with human issues.
I am convinced that Jesus specialized in the study of human psychology and human behavior. And if the church is going to ministry effectively to those who are struggling with addictions, issues regarding their sexuality, family frictions, relational issues, etcetera, then the church must, by and large, bridge the gap that exists between what we proclaim on Sunday and how we manage life Monday through Saturday night.
Christian leaders commit suicide.
Deacons struggle with insecurity.
Choir members lie.
Trustees steal.

i can go on and on….

Are these just simply to be thrown to the logic of “we all have something we have to live with”? When do we decipher what is our “thorn” and what needs to be identified, confronted, biblically handled, prayerfully removed or corrected and the person changed?

Whenever there’s a “thorn” or habit that causes me to keep telling God, “I’m sorry”, it is probably a clear indication that there is something that needs to be crucified and not resurrected again. There are many things we are trying to resurrect that God wants to die in us. In like manner, there are many things that we are trying to kill, that God wants to live. Unfortunately, when there is unconfessed sin, it can be difficult to decipher between the two (Reference James 4:3; 2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 John 2:3–6; 3:7–10). I think that a strong, biblical congregation moves toward a biblical understanding and practice of Eldership; and also a strong, unwavering and biblical stance on church discipline.
As I pray for Lamar Odom to have a complete turnaround in his life, marriage and career (with his influence, there is life beyond playing basketball on the court… that at 35 years of age, he would see this as an opportunity to turn a minus into a PLUS. Because, after all….after being in a coma; reports that he would be a vegetable, etcetera…he has now awakened, off of life-support and is now walking and has been moved from the ICU in a Las Vegas Hospital to rehabilitation in Los Angeles, California.
May those of us who are apart of Christ’s church specialized in taking those who’ve been in a spiritual coma because of failures and setbacks, and nurse them back to spiritual health, victory and restoration.

Would love to read your thoughts and for your to share and subscribe!

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please share your thoughts and subscribe to my blog.

Sunday Reflections

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

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

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

Here’s the outline of my exposition…

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

Outline:

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

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

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

Refusing to forgive:

a. Hurts the Savior 

b. Harms the saint 

c. Hinders the sinner 

d. Heartens Satan

III. The Demand of Forgiving Grace

1. Overcoming the Guilt Grief requires that we forgive freely

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

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

IV. The Delight of Forgiving Grace

1. A cleansed spirit (Psalm 51:2)

2. A clear conscience

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

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

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

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

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

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