Kraig Lowell Pullam

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

Archive for the category “Spiritual Formation”

Sunday Reflections

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

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

Here is an outline of last week’s sermon…

When the Thrill is Gone

Revelation 2:1-7

I. COMMENDATION OF THINGS DONE WELL

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

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

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

d. It is a determined church (verse 3)

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

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

  • REMEMBER 
  • REPENT 
  • REPEAT 

Here is today’s sermon outline…

When Life Gets Rough

Revelation 2:8-11

I. GOD IS BIGGER THAN OUR CIRCUMSTANCES

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

II. GOD KNOWS WHERE WE ARE

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

III. GOD MAKES A PROMISE TO US IN OUR SUFFERING

1. Expect It

2. Don’t be scared

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

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

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

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 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!

He’s Looking At You

Over the course of this past week, I have had the opportunity to fellowship with several Pastors and Leaders within Shiloh and in the city of Fort Worth. This has been a tall feat; but ultimately the rewards of such have outweighed and minimized the task altogether. But I must admit…the highlight of my week began on the 2nd Sunday. While in my office, talking to several church leaders before the start of Worship, the phone rang in my office. I answered!  Someone asked, “Hello, is the new Pastor of Shiloh preaching this morning?”  My response: “I believe he is. If he is not preaching, I’ve not received the memo!”  As it so happens, the person asking the question happened to be the assistant of one of my preaching heroes, Pastor Isadore Edwards. He is the Pastor Emeritus of the New Rising Star Baptist Church of Fort Worth; having served there as Pastor for over 40 years. He and my predecessor, Dr. Albert Emmit Chew, Jr. were very good friends. Interestingly, I’d learned a few weeks earlier that Pastor Chew helped to found New Rising Star, and was responsible for Pastor Edwards’ going there and serving as Pastor there. As I had heard around town…Pastor Edwards wanted to hear me preach; and had intentions of stopping by Shiloh to hear me. He wasted no time!  As service began, he came in with several preachers, sat on the front row and quietly listened in as I preached. 

My Sermon for the day came out of Romans 15:1-7. The title: Let’s Stay Together. 

For some reason, God has wasted no time leading me to deal with some very intense passages of scripture during the opening weeks of my time at Shiloh. This sermon was about unity and living in harmony as fellow-believers, amid our varying distinctions, preferences and ideologues.  I was on-edge regarding the message.  The presence of Pastor Edwards, I admit, intensified my internal tensions and prayers. 

Earlier in the week, I received a call from one of the deacons at New Rising Star, stating Pastor Edwards enjoyed the message, and his affirmation that I was a gifted student of God’s Word; and that he would like to have lunch. I was informed that Pastor Edwards, who is now 90, has good days and bad days; and that he may not talk much, but still has his memory and enjoys good fellowship. 

As we dined together, I had an interesting discourse with Pastor Edwards. 

I told him how pleased I was to have had him in service; and admitted to him I was nervous, after listing him as one of my favorite preachers growing up. That’s not hyperbole. He was, and still is!!!

Here’s what followed….

Him: Why were you nervous? Me: Because as I was preaching, I could look out right in front of me, and see you. Him: Can’t you see Jesus in front of you while you preach? Me: yessir, but I’m not looking at him physically. Him: You can believe He’s looking at YOU!

I was floored and speechless!  He got me!!!  Jesus is looking at me. 

Whether it is my character; my witness; my preaching or leading God’s Precious people; leading my family or my personal devotion – He is looking at me!!!

In the midst of his seasoned years and waning strength, God used Pastor Edwards, to reassure and afffirm His all-seeing eye is on me, as it was on Pastor Edwards’ old friend, Pastor Albert E. Chew, Jr. God knew exactly what I needed, when I needed it most; and I am grateful for the angels (messengers) He sends along the way, to remind me of His constant presence in my life and ministry. 

My Sunday & God’s Strength

A few months ago, I ran across a letter I had written to Dec. Cephus Clifton in February of 2011. A few weeks prior, I received a unanimous call to serve as Mt. Salem Baptist Church of Victoria’s 10th Pastor in their 139-Year history as a local congregation. In essence, my letter said, “I can’t do this!” I went on to express that what Mt. Salem needed, I could not realistically fulfill. I conveyed my gratitude to him and the entire congregation for considering me, and placing their vote of confidence in my serving as their spiritual leader; and that I would be praying for them in the days, weeks and months to follow. The context of my letter entailed my assessment of all of the hurt, difficulty and challenge that the congregation had experienced. In light of their journey, I overwhelmingly sensed that I was inadequate as their next shepherd. Moreover, all of the challenges in Mt. Salem made me come to appreciate what my congregation back at home had going for itself. I began to second-guess myself. I began to have a change of heart. I began to think God made a misstep. So I wrote the letter. 

I never sent the letter! 

For the record, I am glad that I did not send the letter. 

Fast-Forward five and a half years later. I’m sitting in the restroom of my hotel on a Saturday night, crying. In the morning I would stand and tell the people I had fallen in love with as Pastor, that I had been called to serve as the next Pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. Further, that I believed it was God’s will for me to go. 

 

On Sunday morning…I tried my best to make my way through my continuing exposition of Psalm 23. To be completely honest, I’m not clear on what I said in the message. To make matters worse, my distractions caused me to leave my notes and manuscript of my sermon at home.  Because I had already informed those who were at Bible Study on Wednesday of my call; and that I had not officially accepted, but was praying…the crowd was more somber than usual. Mt. Salem is not an overly-boisterous crowd; and so the silence could have been anything at all. But I think both them and I were awaiting the announcement of my decision. No one in the room, except D’Ani, knew what my decision would be.

After church, we had a ‘church meeting.’ I told them that I believed God was speaking; and instructing me to serve as the Pastor of Shiloh. Again…I cannot recall what I said after that. What I saw were the faces of the people I had come to know and love.  I saw the faces of young people I had baptized, counseled, comforted and even rebuked. I saw their tears. It took everything in me not to cry. Since I had already cried and had my moments the day before, I was able to make it through. Eventually, I led us in a word of prayer (I think); and then that was it. 

And there it is. And there I was. Obedient to God; broken before His people….  The people I felt I couldn’t lead 5 years before, I didn’t want to leave. 

For five years, God has taught me how to love and experience the love from a congregation through Mt. Salem. He has shown me what forgiveness, healing and transformation looks like. I have seen a group of people who were hurting love me and my family in a way I had never seen before. And I will always have a special place in my heart for Mt. Salem. I’ve concluded…God makes no missteps! He knows what He is doing; and He knows where He wants us. How Shiloh even came up is clearly God’s ordered steps… I’ll share that another time. But, to be sure, God knows what He is doing!

Over the next thirty (30) days, my family and I will make the transition from Houston-Victoria to North Texas. While I am looking forward to the next chapter of my life and ministry; and the people of Shiloh await us…my heart still lingers for the people of Mt. Salem. In turn, God has prepared my heart for the people of Shiloh; as He is also preparing the heart of my successor for the people of Mt. Salem. For this I am humbled and grateful. Please keep my family, Mt. Salem and the Shiloh Church in your prayers. God is faithful!

The Entitlement Cure

 
I’ve just finished reading John Townsend’s book “The Entitlement Cure”. After hearing and reading several stellar reviews, along with seeing the intriguing title, I wanted this book in hand. And while the subtitle sparked my interest more than the title, I knew I needed to read it…amid my difficulty in reading all things Townsend. I don’t know what it is; but I’ve always found the writings of John Townsend a chore and bore…to the extent of having to play music in the background not to fall asleep. Admittedly, I realize this is an unfair criticism; and something I would hate for anyone to say about my writing. After all, Townsend is a well-respected author and the co-mastermind behind New York Time’s bestselling “How People Grow”, a book I have used during my days of Christian Education in our Book Club. The fact is…Townsend is not a wordsmith. But getting beyond the style, there is substance couched in “The Entitlement Cure.” Therefore, I wouldn’t 1) Discard this book as irrelevant 2) Misdiagnose this book as a prompt of any political propaganda 3) Write off this volume as being unworthy of investment. 
“The Entitlement Cure” addresses a prevailing problem that now infiltrates every vital organ in relational life as we’ve come to know it. Whether it is in the church, marriage, home-life, work-environment…Townsend asserts that we are all infected by the disease of entitlement. In fact, entitlement is a byproduct (well, he shows how it pre-dates human creation) of man’s fall in the Garden of Eden. Townsend contends that entitlement is the belief that “….I am exempt from responsibility and I am owed special treatment…”, and that the problems in human society stem from this crippling disposition. In this volume, the author not only analyzes, but also speaks to both the culprit and enablers of the entitled on how to jettison this attitude of being special, being owed, refusing to take responsibility and blaming others.

Hitting at the core of the book, I realized I actually love Townsend’s style of writing! Addressing the relational patterns that drive entitlement (Chapter 2), he gives the practical markers of how we often feed the entitlement monster and thereby foster attitudes of entitlement (example: praising what takes no effort; praising what is required; praising what is not based on reality; etcetera). Unfolding five principles that can restore the problem ALL of us have with entitlement (some more than others.) While all five principles are of notable mention, I do think one of the components outlined by Townsend is how denial, perfectionism and narcissism attribute to the pressure, stress and emptiness that accompany their intended. Entitlement limits our good and our growth, according to the author. I do agree! 

One of the very central themes in this volume is Townsend’s description of feeling deserving to taking responsibility. He says that there is a right way to deserve and there is a wrong way to deserve; and explains how responsibility is not only right, but the practical ways to assume responsibility (Chapter 8). One of the things I like is Townsend’s conventional use of what he calls “NHT”. In short, this means “Next Hard Thing.” Townsend argues that our NHT is the choice we all need to make that moves us beyond the difficulty. In a real sense, what separates the good from the great, the best from all things average…is the ability and willingness to move past the proverbial areas of discomfort. According to the author, this requires 1) Carving out time 2) Going against the flow of life 3) Going against other’s expectations 4) Starting a ground zero (ie – “at the bottom”), etc. In this recourse, there are two (2) specific dynamics I would like to spotlight here in conclusion. One is saying when you are wrong (Chapter 13) and facing the pain that gets you somewhere (Chapter 14). I think that these two chapters and dynamics are key to understanding Townsend’s entire point. 

In summary, I would suggest this as a read for anyone who is looking to practically stop being an enabler to those who are highly entitled; and as a practical guide to taming the entitled monster who lives inside of us all. I give the book two thumbs up; and a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10. I would also suggest this as a great read for parents, couples and church leaders. 

 

Closure 

  Like time suspended,

A wound unmended-

You and I. 

We had no ending,

no said goodbye;

For all my life, 

I’ll wonder why.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday Reflections

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

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

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

 

So…..

 

Here’s my outline…

 

Title: Releasing the Unforgiving Prisoner of Your Pastor

Text: 2 Corinthians 2:5-11

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What One Great Preacher Taught Me About Books!

  I have a confession.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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