Kraig Lowell Pullam

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

Archive for the tag “Pastoring”

Sunday Reflections

It is Monday.

While most Monday’s for any Pastor privately unveil his vulnerabilities and fatigue, for me it also reveals God’s power in clay pots and flimsy vessels.

Following 2 Saturday funerals, my day began as the guest preacher of Grace Tabernacle Baptist Church, where the Pastor is Rev. Roy E. Brackins. Grace was celebrating their 31st church anniversary; and it was an honor to share with these precious people. Pastor Brackins is both a gifted preacher and an outstanding Pastor; and he has been very kind to me.

The past Lord’s Day was Pentecost Sunday. For several years, I’ve inconsistently sought to atleast familiarize myself with the liturgical calendar, beyond Christmas and Easter.

In January, I spent the month in a series on Giving. In February, I preached a series on Prayer. In March, my preaching focus each week was on Christ’s sacrifice leading up to the resurrection.

My intention was to begin a series on ‘Breaking the Huddle’ in April. It is now the middle of May, and I have not started that series. The Lord has simply lead me to deal with other passages over the course of this past month and some weeks. I am a living witness that even when we as Pastors put together an annual preaching schedule, the plans can often change.

I found myself, yet again, preparing my notes for Breaking the Huddle from a passage tucked away in Matthew 17:1-8. God then led me to deal with Acts 2 in the surrounding story of Pentecost. The sermon title was “The Spirit’s Filling”. I attempted to deal with the formula, the fallout and the freedom surrounding the filling.

I trust that God was pleased with the sermon; and accepting of our worship on a rainy morning. Grateful for our 2 baptisms.

On this Monday, I am admittedly drained. For any Pastor, we must remain encouraged and learn to guard our space and take care of our temple. The work, expectations and being misunderstood is often overwhelming and overrated. But we must remember that we are not in this because it’s easy or comfortable; but we’ve been chosen and commissioned to be a “prisoner for Christ.” Every church member should pray for his or her Pastor; and every Pastor should lift their fellow-Pastors up as well.

Sadly, the Rockets lost to the Warriors last night in game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. This makes the series 2-1.

How was your Sunday? I would love to hear from you.

Sunday Reflections

God be praised for a blessed Lord’s Day at the Shiloh MB Church!

It is quite difficult to think it is now November and the year 2017 is steadily coming to a culminated close. October has been a busy month, by any human standard. I am hoping to spend the first half of this month pulling together a workable/tentative outline of 2018’s calendar at Shiloh. Truly, I am excited about what lies in store for us in the coming year, while also praying for wisdom, clarity and patience as we chart new territory in areas of ministry that are new for both myself and our congregation.

On Sunday I began a new Preaching series entitled THANKFUL.

I preached through 1 Thessalonians 5:18, using as a sermon subject “The Anatomy of Gratitude”. I am amazed when I reflect upon how the Eternal chooses to use us irrespective of our apparent inefficiencies. Like Paul, I am the ‘least of them…’. Even still, He took my short week and limited preparation to display to this preacher how He can use us on scraps, quick exposition, Sunday morning note-writing and intensified prayer. I wasn’t ready; and yet, GOD chose to reveal His loving embrace upon His vessel, and smile on His message and His people. I’m grateful.

If the Lord says so, we will continue next week to explore the subject of Thanksgiving. To get a head start, I am trying to work my way through the exposition of Luke 17:11-19. However, I want to deal with the positive side of THANKSGIVING and not the negative…the 9 ingrates who failed to return and tell Jesus thank you. From my preliminary study, I am ruling against it; but it is up to the Lord and what He says in the next 24 or so hours. I may switch to the exposition of Acts 16:25 or somehing else. Prayerfully, it will be resolved no later than Monday evening. Nevertheless, I am convinced that it is my desire, if the Spirit permits, to preach something narrative. On the 3rd Sunday, I am planning to do an exposition of Psalm 103. We shall see!

Grateful for the 3 who made decisions following the message, including 2 by Christian Experience (including a minister) and one as a candidate for baptism. God be praised!

I had a productive meeting with our ministry leaders following our morning service. Looking forward to working with them in 2018.

I was saddened to learn, while eating with my family after church, of a mass shooting in Texas, at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. At present, there are over 25 who are reported as fatalities. The pastor was away on Sunday, but his 14 year old daughter was present, and is reported as one of those who were slain. I could not even imagine the devastation. There is something to consider when a shepherd must minister to others; never forgetting that the minister also needs consolation and comfort. I am lifting in prayer this pastor, his family and the families affected in this community and congregation. What a senseless act.

In other news, I was excited, as many others, to see the Houston Astros win the World Series. This is great for the City of Houston. In addition, my Cowboys pulled off a win against the Kansas City Chiefs. My brother, Kevin, and his wife attended the game. I love him dearly, and will learn to forgive him for getting to the AT&T Stadium before me. Even still, God is good!

I would love to hear from you; and ask that you would share this blog with others, if it is a blessing to you. May the Lord bless your week, in the name of Christ our Lord!

Sunday Reflections

Well….God be praised for another Lord’s Day.

October has come and it is almost over. Since my last blog, there have been a few notable milestones. For one, my eldest biological brother, Kevin, was elected to serve as the next Pastor of Pleasant Mt. Gilead MBC in Fort Worth. Not only did he follow the Pastoral personality of Rev. Larry J. Mouton; but also stands in the place where my beloved friend and mentor, Dr. R. L. Sanders, served for many years as Pastor. How grateful I am that God has chosen Kevin to serve there. I am praying for this marriage between pastor and people; and that the Lord will grant His favor, direction and provision in what is prayerfully the beginning of a long-standing heritage in the making.

The Lord also blessed us to celebrate one year as the Pastor of Shiloh. I grow to love our people more and more each day. It is comforting and empowering to know they love us. I’m looking forward to greater things occurring; and pray to one day look back on the work, and provide a paradigm on how to faithfully and steadily lead a congregation to growing greatness amid a changing community, an epic legacy and a larger than life predecessor.

A pastor’s first year (particularly following a long-tenured pastor) can make or break a church and even his personal calling. I intentionally took a few days off to do nothing but pray, bask in God’s presence, initially view the calendar for 2018, reflect on what actually took place this past year and….REST.

For sure….the calls, pressing demands, emergencies and life altering situations didn’t stop. In fact, they were awaiting me on the other side. But nothing fell. Everything got done. And…I am excited about our future.

This past Sunday I concluded a Series I entitled: Fake News: Trumping the Lies We’ve Been Told.

Because of my need for a break, I’m not sure I enjoyed this series as much as I anticipated. I took the general idea from Kerry Shook, a Pastor in the Houston area. I liked the creativity of the “Fake News” connecting to pop culture…but did my own play on the words. Kerry Shook and I are completely different preaching types, along with our contexts; therefore our preaching content was nothing alike. It really forced me to step out of my comfort zone. In addition, I also have been going to the pulpit without a manuscript or my iPad, and minimal notes. God is faithful.

I am looking forward to continuing our study through the Book of James that we began over a month ago. This Wednesday our plan is to conclude the first chapter.

Beginning in November, I’m looking forward to kicking off our Sunday Preaching Series entitled: THANKFUL.

In others news, the LA Dodgers and Houston Astros are in the World Series. At this moment, the series is tied 2-2. I love the Astros. To date, it is the only professional team I’ve enjoyed attending quite a few of the games. This is a very surreal moment, however it turns out.

I would love to hear from you; and have you share your thoughts and share this blog with others. May God bless and keep you!

Enjoying the Process (Pastoring)

I began pastoring my first church in March of 2005. At 26 years of age, married with a 2-year old son, I had absolutely no idea what it took to pastor or lead a congregation. Because I had been preaching since the age of 15; and the youngest son of a pastor…I thought I knew. But Bible College and seminary training did not prepare me for what I would encounter at 26. The Lord blessed me to preach almost every Sunday for four years, where I served as the Minister of Christian Education. My pastor let me preach each Sunday to the people in his congregation during the early service there. But my four years of preaching did not quite prepare me for what I would experience in pastoral ministry. Too often we can make the mistake of thinking we can handle certain functions because it either looks easy, or it seems as if we have all of the appropriate answers for any given situation. Even now, Donald Trump’s rhetoric will change regarding some of his promises if he were to receive the vote of the American people and actually become the President of the United States. This same truth applies to Hillary Clinton as well. 

 

By far, pastoring has been one of the most difficult tasks in my own life. Being the husband of D’Ani seems easy. Being the father of Kai, Kaden and Karter….well, that’s another story. But I digress!

 

Going back to my first pastorate…it was a new church! The pressure of starting a new work (specifically, a ‘cold start’) is second to none. It is one thing to start a new church that is branching off from another congregation (either a split or from a sponsoring church), it is something altogether different to start from scratch. No money. No building. No sponsors. No members! Just….a dream…

 

As I reflect, I would have done quite a few things differently. If I had pastored my SECOND church FIRST, I would have saved myself some of the trials I faced along the way; and I would have become more appreciative of the things that come with a new ministry that you are forced to endure in the old. It being my first church, and the church I started…it became my baby. Consequently, I didn’t give away enough of the ministry to others. I carried the bulk of the burden, particularly financially, upon myself and my family. When the church struggled, it fell upon me and my family. This, of course, is the price we pay for ministry. The ultimate hurt is when the church does well; and some wonder why those who’ve sacrificed are benefactors of that blessing. Ultimately, I should have been doing better financially, already finished seminary and prepared to carry the finances of the church, with or without anything in return. Ultimately, I loved Cornerstone in a way that I will never adequately describe; and the people of Cornerstone loved me and my family in a way that cannot be put into words. Not a day passes that I don’t think about and have fond memories for, “My First Church.” 

 

In my second pastorate…I was at a different place in my life: 6 years later; over a decade-long marriage; 3 children…seminary degree complete; nice chaplaincy job in Houston. Things were better for us personally. I was learning so much in the chaplaincy about pastoral care, ministering to hurting people and specializing with those who were mentally ill, along with a specialization in AIDS/HIV patients…my preaching and my ministry to the people to whom I was pastoring was transformed. In a real sense, the issues I would encounter in my current pastorate paled in comparison to the many of the issues I’d faced in the hospital (at Ben Taub in Houston). AGAIN….I am certain I’ve made mistakes along the way. I often wonder how effective I’ve been as a bi-vocational and commuting pastor. I have often wondered how many more relationships I could have cultivated in the city and at my own church had I not been on the road, or been so busy in my travels. At other times, I am amazed at how God has blessed our congregation; and how far we’ve come spiritually and in many other ways, since my arrival over 5 years ago. The challenges I had in my first pastorate were different from the challenges in my current. My greatest challenge (as I reflect) has been being an agent of change. In an older congregation, especially Baptist…not everyone is welcoming toward change. This is just a reality. As strange as it seems…I knew this by the time I came into my congregation at Mt. Salem. I knew (as I do now) that change must be gradual; and that patience is a powerful virtue. For example, I waited an entire year before starting a praise team. When I eventually did, I didn’t call is a ‘praise team.’ I called it the “A.L. Randon Ensemble”, named after the longest-tenured pastor of our church. The term “praise team” can be threatening to some who know nothing but choirs in the “old church”. And, for the same demographic, ‘praise team’ and ‘praise dance’ are one and the same. 

 

Over the years, I’ve gradually implemented change….at a much slower rate than I either have wanted or anticipated. But the most important thing (atleast in my context and in light of our church’s history before I arrived) that the Holy Spirit impressed upon me was for UNITY to remain in our congregation. For this to occur, I could not and cannot have one generation competing against another. This would have brought in a busload of new, young people. Because of my experience, I know how to get that demographic in the building… But I will never forget my pastor telling me that much of pastoring is about the “managing of many personalities”. In this instance, it is not just about gaining new people; but about resisting the need to damage the faith of some mother in the church who has been apart of the same congregation for 50 years. Make no mistake…change MUST occur. And I am not suggesting that any given pastor should stunt their growth to cater to the midget-mindset of an individual who is centered on self and convenience. I am simply saying that pastors should be sensitive in not burning bridges to get to the next town. In this case, PEOPLE are our bridges! 

I know that my blog is long and it seems as if I am rambling. But there is a method to my madness. I do have a point. In a few weeks I will celebrate 38 years of life. My point is: ALL of this has been a part of my journey. I would not have been as sensitive to the feelings of others at Mt. Salem if I had not gone through some of the backlash of not consulting anyone and just moving, at my first church. I would have not been as prepared for the journey personally and in my own financial life for my second church, if I had not gone through some of the financial struggles in starting a church in my mid-20’s while in seminary, after leaving my job at a church to start that new work in ministry. 

 

Here’s my ultimate point: ENJOY THE PROCESS. And LEARN from the process. LEARN to manage WHERE YOU ARE with gratitude and humility. Don’t take for granted that God is at work. EVERY SINGLE THING has led me to where I am at this very moment. God has blessed me tremendously! 

 

Spiritually – I’m growing.

Domestically – I am married to the woman of my dreams, with 3 healthy boys who are active, smart and growing in their knowledge of Who Christ is.

Financially – I’m not a millionaire; but I have everything I need, and much of what I desire (I don’t desire much!)

 

Ultimately…I am enjoying the process! My encouragement to someone reading this blog is for you to enjoy the process as well. Stop listening to the voices of the enemy. I have this voice that likes to remind me of much I have not accomplished at 37. “You’ve done this and you’ve been there….BUT…”

Get this: I am where God wants me to be. My job is to do the BEST with what I am given; and to remain faithful; and to BLOOM where I am PLANTED. I am doing that; and I am grateful!!! This is my continual prayer for me, my family and for you. 

 

Three Sundays in Review…

IMG_5590My schedule has been hectic!

In fact, I’ve taken a couple of days (Tuesday & Wednesday), clearing my schedule completely, doing absolutely nothing.  In fact FURTHER…I’ve discovered I really have forgotten how to rest and just be.  I am keenly aware of the fact that changes are not only necessary and imminent, but anticipated.  While God has shown me that the reward for GOOD work is often MORE work; and my busyness is a direct result of His rewarding our faithfulness and the gifts He has instilled within us, I am not expecting my ‘busy-ness’ to discontinue in 2016… In turn, I am simply anticipating things to STREAMLINE!  Please pray for yours truly.  I really need it!

All of the above being explained, I am going to do something that is unconventional.  I want to give three Sundays worth of review, beginning with where I left off.

Here’s the outline for my message on:

Sunday, February 7, 2016
Title: Winning in Crisis

Text: Genesis 32:22-32

C.I.T. (Central Idea of the Text): At times, God takes us down in order to show us the way up.

I. God takes over when we get out of the way.
a. God’s breaking process reveals the power of our flesh. (v.25)
b. God’s breaking process reveals the power of God. (v.26)

II. God blesses clingy people.
a. We won’t cling until we are at the end of ourselves. (v.26, 27)
b. Even in clinging, we are prone to use God, not submit to Him. (v.29)
c. Clinging to God in weakness is the source of our power.

Sunday, February 14, 2016
Title: For the Love of God

Text: John 3:16

C.I.T. (Central Idea of the Text): God loves us before we win, and He communicates His love to us through His Son.

I. The Width of God’s Love “For God so loved the world…”

II. The Length of God’s Love “He gave His only begotten Son…”

III. The Depth of God’s Love “That whosoever believes in Him might not perish…”

IV. The Height of God’s Love “…but have everlasting life.”

Sunday, February 21, 2016
Title:
Handling Life Between Not Now & Not Yet

Text: Genesis 37:1-9; 18028

C.I.T. (Central Idea of the Text): Even in the waiting room, we must not allow injustice to stop us from being faithful to God.

I. Remember that who you are is not Connected to what you Have

II. Learn to handle it when what you see doesn’t match what God says

III. Always remember you have a secret weapon. “Judah”

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.

My Thoughts

blog-word-cloud1

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_4699God be praised for another Lord’s Day!

At our church, April is the Month of Reconciliation & Forgiveness. At every teaching and preaching opportunity during the course of this month I have used as a chance to teach and preach on forgiveness. On Wednesday, God simply took over our Bible Study time and walk us through His Word and shed light on the subject of forgiveness and reconciliation with the leadership of His Holy Spirit.

It was a busy weekend! On the heels of laying to rest the remains of D’Ani’s paternal grandmother, and my former member, Ada Thomas…the weekend was filled with sports activities, a physical Saturday morning for my oldest son, Kai, who will be playing sports in 7th Grade next year…and all of the other things going on. The impression and impact Ada Thomas made upon my life and ministry go far beyond mere words. Growing up a catholic, she grew to prize and cherish her faith tradition. To see her one day join the congregation where I pastored (a Baptist church) and be baptized were a gift that God saw fit to entrust me with; and I will always cherish the memory of every moment with her and in her presence. It is surreal to know that she has departed this side and “moved on.” Until the day she left, she called me her pastor. I will not only miss her; but she will be one of the first I look for when I get to the other side. Prayerfully, that’s a long time from now!

On Sunday, we observed our Family and Friends Day, all day long. Rather than inviting a morning guest, I preached! I took a parable Christ tells to His disciples in Matthew 18 that is often labeled, “The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.”

Here is my outline:

Text: Matthew 18:21-35
Subject/Title: Forgiven to Forgive
Big Idea: God’s forgiving grace towards us warrants and compels an inner desire to forgive others.

Outline:

  1. Forgiveness Should be Thankfully Received
    1. Forgiveness is Free, But it is not Cheap (Vv. 23-25)
    2. Forgiveness is Full, and it is not Partial (Vv. 26-27)
    3. Forgiveness must be Final, and not Temporary (Vv. 27)
  2. Forgiveness Should be Humbly Rendered
    1. Forgiveness Experienced Should be Forgiveness Expressed (Vv. 28-33)
  3.  Forgiveness Should Not be Regretfully Refused (Vv. 34-35)

Thankfully, I made it through the message! However, I am disappointed in the overall flow of the sermon. I preached this text in 2013; and it flowed much better. Challenging myself, I tried not to reference that sermon; and started from “Ground Zero.” Big Mistake! All of the hours I put into constructing the sermon before, it would have been helpful to go over all of my previous man hours, rather than feeling a need, in my own pride, to flex my proverbial “sermonic muscles.” All in all, you live and your learn! I thank the Father for His grace, patience with me, and humbly pray He gives me another opportunity to stand for Him in the future.

In the afternoon, it was an honor to have with us at Mt. Salem, Pastor Paul Wilkinson, Sr. and the New Light Baptist Church of San Antonio. What an awesome privilege to have them with us. One of the preaching giants of yesteryear in the area I grew up was P.S. Wilkinson, Sr. He was a favorite of many of the preachers who were my favorites. For years, Dr. Wilkinson pastored New Light until his passing. Paul is his grandson. I’ve been blessed to hear Dr. Wilkinson on recordings. I can honestly attest to the fact that Paul, who now leads New Light, is a great preacher in his own right. We were tremendously blessed by his sharing with us God’s Word.

In other news, many know me to be a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers and a DIE HARD Dallas Cowboys fan. I shall never waver on my Cowboys; but the Lakers have tested me for some time. I have always liked the Houston Rockets and tolerated (and had MUCH respect) for the San Antonio Spurs, my dad’s team. My other favorite teams were Cleveland (When Lebron went the first time) and Miami (When Shaq and Wade were together); but I didn’t like Lebron and Miami together, AT ALL! My favorite team these days has been the Rockets, even above the Mavericks. I’m looking for them to pull off a victory in this first round of the playoffs. We shall see.

I would like to know…how was your weekend? What did you preach about; or what did your pastor share? Please take a moment to subscribe and share your thoughts. Blessings.

Sunday Reflections

IMG_0329God be praised for another memorable weekend and Lord’s Day.

On the heels of Spring Break, I’ve been glad to get back to a certain level of sanity. On Saturday, I was happy to attend a scholarship banquet of the Gamma Zeta Omega Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. One of the honorees was my wife, D’Ani. Not only was it a blessing to have her honored on this affair; but to see several Pastor’s wives recognized during this event, including Zelda Johnson (the wife of Pastor Manson B. Johnson of Houston); it was an encouragement to see young people receiving scholarships to further their education in a context and surrounding of excellence and hundreds of people supporting this event. D’Ani has been a blessing to so many; and it is my continued prayer that God would continue to use her to touch the lives of others, including her patients, Christian believers, the unsaved and many others. I was also pleased to see a few of our members. Should they read this blog, I want to personally express my gratitude for the sacrifice and time committed to attend and show their support. You are a blessing!

I left that event and headed to take my eldest son Kai Livingston (who is now TWELVE-let the countdown begin) to a soccer game. They won, 7-2.

It has been a rough time for me for one reason – ALLERGIES! Nothing affects me like the changing from winter to spring. It never fails to touch me in a not-so-kind way.

Interestingly…I did not preach this past Sunday! While I am far from being a superb preacher (though I am striving to be better), it is rare for me to go a Sunday without preaching, unless it is my anniversary or I am on vacation. God has been kind to me these 21 years (I’ll write about that later) of preaching. At the Mt. Salem Church, we had a special treat for our Monthly Youth & Young Adults Sunday. Rev. Quincy D. Mosley is a very gifted and anointed proclaimer of God’s Word. Preaching since the age of six, a native of Corpus Christi (my hometown), a membership minister of my father’s congregation…I’ve been blessed the few times I’ve heard him share. He shared from Psalm 34, one of my favorite scriptures. Five of our young adults came forward! God be praised!!!

I was also able to attend and support the 5-year pastoral anniversary of one of my childhood mentors, Rev. J.R. Miller, in Corpus Christi, Texas. Pastor Miller is not only a gifted preacher, but an innovative pastoral mind who has been instrumental in my desire early in life to be a preacher who thinks and studies God’s Word. I haven’t always been the greatest supporter and encourager. But, the more I experience the loss of loved ones, the more my commitment to showing my love towards those who mean the world to me, strengthens.

At our church, this is the Month of Reconciliation and Forgiveness. This coming Lord’s Day, I am looking forward to having with us the New Light Baptist Church of San Antonio and Pastor Paul Wilkinson, Sr. as our special guest for our Family and Friend’s Day. I am looking forward to their being with us.

The Cowboys (my team all the way!) haven’t secured a running back; but Adrian Peterson is interested in possibly heading to Arlington. Of course, the Vikings are saying “not so fast!” While I would love to have him on our roster…the fact is, there are many running backs would prevail with the superb line the Cowboys have managed to put together. However, he’d be a great addition.

I am looking forward to beginning a teaching this Wednesday, Lord willing, on Forgiveness.

It is my prayer that my blogs serve as not only personal reflection and a tool to strengthen my writing ability; but most importantly to encourage others. I would love to hear from you and ask you to please subscribe to my blog. How was your weekend? Blessings!

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