Kraig Lowell Pullam

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

Archive for the tag “preaching”

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!

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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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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!

Reflections!

imageGod be praised for a wonderful week of God’s good, grace, faithfulness and favor!

This past Lord’s Day, I had the opportunity to preach the Youth Day at the historic New Light Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas. During my formative years, I would hear my grandfather, Dad and preachers who would talk about the late, great Dr. P.S. Wilkinson, Sr. For years, I had tried to attain a copy of his publication, “Pilate’s Judgement Hall” to no avail. Last year, my aspirations became realized. It is, by far, one of the most valuable books I have in my library. Never did I think I’d be preaching there! The congregation is now lead by Dr. Wilkinson’s grandson, Paul Wilkinson, Sr. He is doing a phenomenal job carrying on the legacy and leadership of this great congregation and family. It was an honor just to share, especially for a Youth Day! I am 36; and I typically get invitations now for revivals, annual days, workshops, pastoral days, etc. It is refreshing to get an occasional invitation to preach a Youth Day! While some preachers my age who are pastors could possibly see this as a step back, I see it as an affirmation of my youth! I love it! I actually shared a very modified version of a text I’ve preached before from Psalm 118 regarding praise to the Lord. In the first few verses, I see an affirmation that God’s people are called to praise Him because of 1) Who He is 2) What He has and 3) What He does.

During the week, I also had the opportunity to share in revival at the Zion Fair Baptist Church in Sinton, Texas. It was an enjoyable time of fellowship; and also gave me the opportunity to be home in Corpus Christi, Texas (my hometown) for a few days. I believe I shared what the Lord placed upon my heart; and in dealing faithfully with God’s Word, God in turn, was pleased. A special thanks to Pastor Alton Coleman for the opportunity to come and share with this precious congregation and people.

I am looking forward to being in my own pulpit this coming Lord’s Day. This is the Month of Prayer at our church; and my hope is to continue on prayer this Sunday.

My schedule has been so hectic… I am looking forward to working through the finalization of my Ph.D. application and also begin the process of my Board Certified Chaplaincy. With my schedule, I am convinced that God has given me the best wife in the world! There is no possible way I could be half of who I am were it not for her support, sharing the load and being present when I can not be. Whether it is following up with a sick member, attending an event, praying and listening to one of the young girls in our congregation….it makes life and ministry so much easier. I really believe that the best is yet to come!

In other news, I am not happy about basketball season and the fact that football season is over. Really looking forward to the fall!

What are your thoughts? How was your week?  Please take a moment to subscribe to my blog and also share with friends, family and coworkers.  Thanks for reading!

Sunday Reflections….3 weeks!

It has been a few weeks since my last blog. I am glad to be back! My schedules in the pastorate and chaplaincy have both kept me pretty occupied. The most significant change has been to increasing and refining the moments I am spending with my immediate family (wife and boys) and my study (devotional, leisure and sermon preparation). Going into the most recent conference (aforementioned in my last blog), I wanted to walk away with some practical ways to simply learn quicker and move toward sermon construction at a faster pace, until it is clear and precise. This consumed much of my time. Taking the past 21 years of preaching models, habits and experience and refining my craft to suit me at the age of 36 has been both refreshing and fulfilling.

Since my last blog, I’ve continued my series in the Book of Acts at our church, Mt. Salem. On the first Sunday of October, I shared Peter’s 1st Sermon on the day of Pentecost, recorded in Acts 2:14-41. The title of the sermon was, “Let Me Explain.” What sparks Peter’s sermon at Pentecost was God’s leading to debunk the notion that what occurred in the opening verses of Acts 2 were fabricated results of drunkenness. But he doesn’t spend all of his time addressing false accusations, and neither should we. He simply verifies what happens in scripture and then makes a rush to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter is masterful when it comes to modeling the preaching craft; and the study of the passage really presented an opportunity to plainly share the Gospel story and message. God be praised for the souls who were added!

The following Sunday, I shared “The Marks of a Spirit-Filled Church”, from Acts 2:42-47. Again, the Lord was kind to us! Admittedly, this was not a feel-good message; but challenging to both myself and our congregation. The thing about preaching one text, and continuing with the next verse the following week; and simply explaining what the text says and means….really forces the preacher to deal with what is there, whether good or bad. I am convinced that this not only grows the preacher tremendously, but it will in turn stretch and grow the congregation in the maturing and application of God’s Word. Again, souls were added! To God be the Glory!

This past Lord’s Day, I had the privilege of preaching for one of the historic congregations in my hometown, Corpus Christi, Calvary First Baptist Church, for their Choir Annual Day. The Pastor there is Dr. Charles E. Richardson, Sr., who is good friends with my father; and has served this congregation for quite a number of years now. Calvary First is the church where my parents grew up; and also where they met. Many great preachers and mentors of mine, grew up and began preaching at Calvary First, including J.R. Miller, Cleophus LaRue, my uncles, Monty Francis and Lloyd Pullam. It was a joy to preach there on a Sunday morning. I shared from Psalm 118:1-6, “Every Reason to Praise the Lord.” Pastor Richardson is a dynamic preacher in his own right; and so I was humbled not only that he asked me to come and share, but for the warm reception to my preaching and our congregation.

I try to read one book a week. This has been my practice for some time. I was astounded to learn that Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Seminary, reads 12 books a week. I’m not believing that! But okay… I’ll stick to my one book a week. On good weeks, I can read 2, especially if I am not preparing for a sermon. On vacation, I can read a little more. But most recently, I read a book last week entitled, “Singing in a Strange Land”, by Nick Savatore. It is a book chronicling the life of Rev. C.L. Franklin, the father of Aretha Franklin. I would encourage any preacher to read this biography. It is insightful, interesting and even enriching.

It is my prayer that all who read are blessed by these blogs. I am praying how to better utilize and maximize this medium, and also to best encourage Christian leaders, pastors, ministers and laypersons. I would love to hear from you and also encourage you to subscribe. How are you? How was your Sunday? Blessings!

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Sunday Reflections

IMG_1406This past Lord’s Day came and it went.  But not without God’s showing up in our midst.

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to teach a couple of sessions on ‘Reaching Today’s Millenials’ for the Colorado Baptist Association’s “Equipper’s Workshop”, under the umbrella of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.  This event was held at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in El Campo, Texas, where Rev. Michael Moore serves as the pastor.  I enjoyed meeting new people and being apart of a great team of teachers.  IT is my hope for the people of Mt. Salem to experience this in the coming future.

Our worship experience on Sunday morning was phenomenal, from start to finish.  While our Sunday School attendance has been waining since the Summer, I am confident that things will improve.  I am sure there are probably some more innovative ways we could adopt to accelerate the growth of the Sunday School.  For many years, Christian Education & Sunday School were my bread and butter.  But the things I would do would completely change the entire landscape of what many know in our Sunday School, including curriculum development, taking out weekly reviews, etc.  All of these things are effective in most settings.  But 1) Pastors must choose their battles wisely.  2) Pastors shouldn’t be quick to change things simply because they know the change would bring numerical growth. 3) I am still learning the geographical and church landscape in the city of Victoria; and it is okay to be patient in learning.  All of that being said…our Sunday School is effective in what we provide at this time.

From start to finish, worship was phenomenal.  From the opening prayer, there was just a sweet Spirit in the place and among our people.  It was evident, that the deacon who led the opening prayer had spent time with God the previous days.  This simply affirms that the person who gives the call to worship sets the tone of the entire service.  If he or she is bland, the service will often be bland.  If he or she is routine and ritualistic, the service of often (not always) the same.  If he or she is on fire or overwhelmed by the presence of God or moving beyond the usual….the worshippers will often follow suit.

Because of my experiences in church and as a pastor for a few years now, I knew at the beginning that this would be a great experience in worship, Lord willing.  And it was.

I was led to take a break from my series in the Book of Acts; and shared from a passage in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 with the title: My Will, Life’s Thorns and God’s No.  The Big Idea of the text is: How we should respond to the sovereign providence of God with gratitude, surrender and worship, even when God’s answer to our prayers seem to insult our desires.  My points were that we should respond to God’s “no” with gratitude because I. God’s “no” and our ‘thorns’ protects us from the sin of human pride. II. God’s “no” and our ‘thorns’ move us from human provision toward heavenly providence. III. God’s “no” and our ‘thorns’ hallmark God’s plan over our pain.

While I was taking a break from the Book of Acts, little did I know that God said ‘no’ to my continuing the series in order to illustrate His providence, knowing what we needed as a congregation.  Nine people came forward after the message, most came for prayer regarding things they’ve been dealing with in their lives.  Some said, “Pastor, that message was for me.”  I take no credit in this.  There is no way I claim to know what people need.  As pastors, we may study the people, and pray that God would reveal what they need.  But only the Holy Spirit can get into the lives of the people with whom we lead.  With that in mind, I am grateful that God would use me, us and the message He seeks to convey through me.

I am looking forward to a great week.  Currently, I am in Jacksonville, Florida to support my friend and brother, Pastor H.B. Charles, Jr. at his Cut it Straight Expository Preaching Conference.  I am certain this will be a great time of encouragement, training, preaching and instruction for those who seek to grow in the exposition and delivery of God’s Word.  I so want to be a great preacher.  In fact, this desire grows more each day and week.  Please keep those traveling pastors, ministers, volunteers, staff, speakers, and H.B. in your prayers.  Can’t wait to see what he has envisioned (I am sure for years) unfold; and a wife, family, congregation and leaders who support what I am trying to become.

The Cowboys won on Sunday; The Texans did not.  The Saints won, but hey, two out of three wishes ain’t bad.

How was your weekend?  What are you thoughts?  I would love to hear from you.

The Divine Call

iStock_000001476421XSmall-320x212Recently, I ran into a young preacher who asked me how I came into preaching ministry; and how I knew I had been called? I gave him a short answer. But this is a longer version of what I said…

On a Sunday evening, March 27, 1994, I preached my first public sermon at my home church, St. John First Baptist Church, in Corpus Christi, Texas. I was fifteen years old. I knew very little about life, people, trouble or the Bible. But I knew two things. On the one hand, I knew I had been called by God. On the other, I knew I wanted to be a preacher. I have heard, even then, of preachers (including my father) and their stories of ‘running from the call’, in an act of rebellion to God’s calling them to proclaim God’s Word. This was never me. I wanted to preach…since I can remember. Why? I didn’t know then. And, I am not sure I know now, why I WANTED to. But I did. Because of these personal dynamics and aspirations, my parents were very delicate in how they handled my urgings and open frustrations that God, in my view, was taking too long to call me. I knew very little of how parents can play too big of a role in this process, and prematurely influence their children to do something ahead of God’s providential timing. I would often ask my mother, “when is God going to call me?’ or “why is He taking so long?” And there would even be people who would eventually say to me, “you’re the little preacher in the Pullam family” or “when are you going to start preaching?” At 8 or 9 years old, I would get very excited during this time of year because my parents were on their way to the National Baptist Convention. This meant only one thing to me – my Daddy would be returning home with tapes of the preachers I wanted to hear. It seems weird now that I was waiting by the door to hear the likes of a Stephen Thurston, E.K. Bailey, E. Edward Jones, Isadore Edwards, Albert Chew, Earl Pleasant, William T. Glynn, Terry Anderson and the list goes on and on. They all had a captive audience in me. I am now 36 and I have 11, 7 and 3 year old boys; and I wouldn’t know what to think if they wanted to listen to any kind of preaching or read a book in my library. Now I know how weird or ‘different’ I was. I’d sit in church and hold on to every word my father said, and even his mannerisms in the pulpit, and his lifestyle and walk outside of the pulpit. My greatest joy growing up was to sit among his books and read his notes. His books became my friends and personal acquaintances. By 10 and 11, I was reading Herscell Hobbs, J. Dwight Pentecost, Warren Wiersbe, James Cone, W.E. Vines and others. I can’t say I knew what they were saying, but I read them. THEN….I became a teenager. Eventually, I turned 15. I was a freshman in high school. I fell in love with a girl who I thought walked on clouds. Ok, let me just tell the truth, she DID walk on clouds; nobody else saw it, however, but me. Interestingly, my previous yearnings and urgings became dormant and silent. I still loved preaching, etc. But my interest was her, playing football, etc. I suppose one thing that may have had an impression upon me was the fact that she was a spiritual young girl who had also come from a preaching home. But directly, she knew nothing of my previous desire or internal inclinations to preach. Then the strangest thing happened… During this silent time, when I had completely abandoned my urge, God began to speak to me. I could not let it go. To me it is difficult to explain to someone who has not been called how you know you are, but I would liken it to being pregnant. Some women have a inclination they are carrying something or someone. It was that real to me. I heard no audible voice. My parents never brought it up. Things were just…..quiet. I never will forget the night I went to my father at his office at the church. That was one of the most difficult conversations to have. First of all, how would I start the conversation? “So….it’s my time!” or “I must be about my real father’s business.” I don’t know what I said, but I opened up my mouth and simply told him I have a strong feeling that I must preach. Somehow I had mustered that this was not something I merely wanted to do; but something I HAD to do. I left that night, with my father praying with and for me. My father dealt those months with me in a way I know now was wise and very rare. Basically, he GAVE ME A HARD TIME, but didn’t destroy my spirit. He sent me to pray. He gave me a reading assignment concerning the call. It was a LONG book; but I read it. I came back. This happened a few times; and I kept coming back! He knew then that this was something maybe serious, atleast to me. Then…I had to go before the church. No one, not even my mother or the girl I was dating, knew what was going on with me. In December of 1993, I walked forward at my father’s church, and announced my call to preach. I will always love the people of St. John First. They received me with open arms. Before I got home to a phone, my girlfriend and the entire city, it seemed, had already heard of the announcement. I thought the next week I would preach. Right? Wrong! Whatever reading and researching I had done prior to my announcement paled in comparison to the reading assignments my father gave me. He gave me the assignment to read through Al Fasol’s “Steps to the Sermon.” This book blew me away, and still does. And it is a book I try to read annually or every other year. Moreover, it is a reference I use when struggling in my study approach throughout any given week of preparation. Additionally, I voluntarily referenced A.P. Gibb’s “The Preacher and His Preaching”. From December of ’93 March of ’94, I slaved and pored myself in study, reading and preparation, until my father felt comfortable setting a date for me to preach publicly. The date was set for March 20, 1994; but that happened to be my Dad’s 13th preaching anniversary. So it was moved to the following Sunday. But…I had to do one more thing – I had to preach my sermon in front of my Dad, as he sat there in the church. Empty. With him staring at me. Torment! I am sure it was more tormenting for him to listen than me to preach it in front of him. Amid the mess, plagiarisms, mispronounced words, etc….it got through the Rev. William Lanier Pullam filter. I received a personal illustration of grace and mercy. I preached that evening, on the 4th Sunday of March. I couldn’t believe all of the people who were there to hear me. It was until years later that I realized they weren’t there because of me, but out of respect and love for my parents, grandparents and family. There were a few of my friends there; but they were there with their parents, so they didn’t count. When I look at the tape of my first sermon now, there were 30 or 40 preachers there, along with a crowded church with no where to sit. Even though some of my preaching heroes (such as Cleophus LaRue, Lloyd Pullam, J.R. Miller, Harold T. Branch and others) were there, I was just ready to get it over. My sermon was “Work Out Your Salvation” from Philippians 2:12-16. I can still preach that sermon and pray the opening prayer backwards! I cringe when I hear myself preach; but I would climb under a bed if I had to hear that sermon again. The only thing I cherish these days about that is still have the handwritten manuscript of that sermon. The sermon was over. I was warmly received. And then, they took up an offering! I was able to go to the bookstore the next day and get a Thompson Chain Study Bible, a Broadman Commentary set and a few other books to build my library. My Dad was also insistent that I open up a bank account so that I could make future deposits and continue to build my library. What are a few things I learned through the experience of a call to preach?

First, the call is personal
At the time of my calling, my father, two of my uncles, my grandfather and others were preachers and pastors. But this should not be the determining factor when it comes to one’s call. I have often jokingly said, ‘Some were called, a few went and many their Mama sent.’ Humbly, I suggest this is not a good place. Parents should be very careful not to play into the call. The calling to preach is not akin to piano lessons, a football practice or any other extracurricular activity. It is a serious call from God. Any child, knowingly or unknowingly, must live the rest of their lives living up to or down from YOUR call for them to preach. If God is or has called someone to preach, He can do it without your help.

Second, the call is powerful
In 1 Corinthians 9:6, Paul says, “Woe unto me if I do not preach the gospel…” Boy, was this my story. Without any 4 hour energy drink, I had a conviction before my call, that this was not of me or anyone else, but God. Any man, woman, boy or girl who is called by God must search within through prayer, spiritual counsel and personal reflection what God has called them to do. You cannot afford to make a mistake. You cannot afford to be wrong. If you are wrong, you could be the biggest embarrassment in town. If you are incorrect, you will leave the ministry when you discover it is difficult, there are storms, it won’t make you rich or you realize you are no longer free to do things your way. It must be so powerful that, if you don’t preach (both with your words and your life) you are worse off than a dead man or woman.

Third, the call is providential
In Exodus 3, God commends Moses to use what is in his hand. In Timothy, Paul encourages his young protege to start where he is to use what he has. How is this even possible? Because of the providence of God. I am obviously deficient! No really. I am the lowest on the intelligence bar! It is safe to say that among my two older brothers (Kevin…who is a preacher! & Keith) I am the least intelligent, and have the lowest IQ. I repeat….this is NOT an opinion; this is fact! My brothers were AB honor roll and straight A students. Me? Never made AB honor in my life, except in college one semester! Not only am I the least intelligent, but I have also struggled with my hearing, since childhood. This led very early in my life to struggles in my speech. I have also learned since an adult that I suffer with an attention deficit. It is very difficult for me to concentrate or focus. To this day, I must be reading a minimum of 2 or 3 books simultaneously and working on atleast a couple of sermons. If I do not, then I get bored. I fact, the one semester in college when I made AB honor roll was when I took 26 hours. I loved it! Even in my sleep, my mind goes to the point where I listen to soft music in the background. Anyway…TMI. To me I am messed up. If you ask me, I have too many issues. But God has charged, assigned and equipped me to use me inspite of me! There is no way that I could make this up in my own story. What has the Lord done? Well, in one sense, I was the first of my brothers to earn a college degree and a Master’s degree. This was no one but God. On the other end of the spectrum, I have never lacked an opportunity to preach. With the exception of a time when I went through a storm in my life around 1999, I have preached somewhere just about every Sunday for the past 20 or so years. I’ve pastored 2 churches in the past 10 years. Admittedly, I am not a preacher who ‘Applies’ to churches for pastoring. I have pastored fairly small congregations; neither of them to which I applied. While I may never pastor thousands, God has been more than gracious in my ministry. Even being bivocational, my other job outside of pastoring is….pastoring! I cannot complain. In God’s providence, He knows who you are, where you are and all of your dispositions. Never think that your limitations mean anything to a God Who has no limits. And, by the way, He will always give you more along the way, than He does before you start. You can see this in the life of Jeremiah, young David and even in Christ our Lord.

What would you add to this list? I’m interested in hearing your story; and also ask you to take a moment to subscribe to my blog. Thanks for reading!

Sunday Reflections

God be praised for yet another Lord’s Day!

Our youth and young adults led us today in worship. It was encouraging to see so many of our youth and young adults participate over the weekend. I had the opportunity to spend some time with them on Saturday in what I called a ‘rap session.’ I am amazed to hear all of the things our kids are dealing with and the questions they have. It is also an encouraging reminder to be a better father to my boys; and talk to them on a regular basis about life and spirituality.

I continued our journey in the Book of Acts. I have unofficially declared at Mt. Salem that we are going through the Book of Acts; but so far, so ACTS! I have had some moments of embarrassment in the past almost 20 years of preaching, and about 13 years of preaching on a weekly basis to the same people, week after week. When a Pastor announces that they are about to start a series, you can count on atleast one person who will remember you said, “SERIES”; and they know what “SERIES” means. I have been guilty on one or two occasions of doing this on Stewardship. I remember in my first pastorate, I announced I would be preaching on stewardship for ‘as long as it takes for us to get it!’ I probably should have never said that. In addition, I said that in June, the beginning of Summer break. Attendance, as with many churches in the summer, declined among members, increased among visitors; and it just wasn’t the right time to be preaching on stewardship. Therefore, I stopped. Anyway…I am now in the Book of Acts, for right now!

Here is an outline of my sermon:

Title/Subject: The Power of Your Witness
Texas: Acts 1:6-8

I. If you are going to be a witness, stop concentrating on the situation, and focus on the Sovereign Lord. (verses 6-7)
II. If you are going to be a witness, there must be a dependence on the supernatural power of God to show up. (verse 8a)
a. His strength in separation (parting of Judas/replacement)
b. His strength in supplication (prayer)
III. If you are going to be a witness, share you story. (verse 8b)
a. Jerusalem
b. Judea
c. Samaria
d. Uttermost part of the earth

I am prayerfully looking forward to continuing in this study, Lord willing.

Thank God for the responses to the message.

How was your Sunday? Did you hear or preach a sermon that touched you in some meaningful way? I’d love to hear from you!

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Sunday in Retrospect

imagesWhat an awesome day this has been!

Today our congregation celebrate 142 years of life as a local church.  The history of the Mt. Salem Baptist Church is quite unique.  Beginning in 1872, many significant events took place.  In that year, Yellowstone National Park became the world’s 1st national park, Bloomingdales Department Store opens, the nation’s first black governor took office and the worlds first international soccer game took place.  It was a great year!

And it is also in that year that a small group of churchgoers decided to start a church (May 19, 1872) in Indianola, Texas.  A few years later, a terrible storm destroyed much of the town.  Forcing many churches, families and businesses to move, the Mt. Salem Church found a new home in nearby Victoria, Texas.

We had two excellent worship celebrations today; and two awesome preachers blessed us in the sharing of God’s Word.  To date, it has been our greatest day of celebration in a church anniversary since I’ve served as pastor.

Both preachers had a common theme – God’s desire for us to appreciate the past while also reaching toward the future.  Everything shared and said were simply affirmations, verifications and confirmation of what God has either communicated to me personally or I’ve shared with a congregation this year and last concerning God’s plan and vision for our congregation and His plan for us to reach our community, city and world.  Our morning guest shared from Acts 1:8 and evening guest from John 13:34-35.  Both timely.

Also excited about some great opportunities and praying now for God to have His way in my life and in the life of our congregation!

Personal Challenge

 

ImageThere are not enough hours in the day to get everything done!  I am amazed when I think of how swiftly time passes these days.  There never seems to be enough time to get everything done!  I can honestly say at the age of 35 (and counting) that it seems like I was 15 last year, graduating from KigHigh School in Corpus Christi a month ago, marrying my wife, graduating from Dallas Baptist last week; and in my first pastorate, graduating from seminary just yesterday.  Literally!!!

Where does the time go?

To be honest….it doesn’t get any easier as the time goes.  Not long ago, I was listening to a preaching class conducted by one of my favorite preachers, Dr. William H. Curtis.  He stated that, for every pastor, when leaving the pulpit on Sunday, the next Sunday starts in 5 (FIVE) minutes!!!  Add to this, he says, funerals, church emergencies, family traumas in the church, weddings, meetings and the life.  I tend to agree!  This is the life of the Pastor!  The challenges are great, but somehow glorious.  There seems to be a splendid blend and mixture of the ingredients of both AGONY and ECSTASY!

This week, I look back and reflect on 5 years ago as I was preparing to walk across the stage with a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in biblical languages.  I have an itch to pursue my Ph.D. in Leadership in the coming year.  I also have a growing desire to buckle down and grow deeply as an expositor of God’s Word.  These are pursuits that pull and nudge me for which I ultimately attribute to a divine call that will not let me go.  While I feel old, the truth is I feel that God is preparing me for something that is beyond me that will consume the rest of my life.  What that is – I do not know.  Whether that is an expansion and continuance of the things I am already doing or something completely unconventional and new, I would be satisfied either way.  But, my preparation has always been a serious and somber task and pursuit.  The challenge deepens and intensifies – as I desire to be a great father, an amazing husband, the consummate leader, an outstanding pastor….not to mention being elected as the President of the congress in my association and Secretary of the Educational Board in my state convention.  Oh yes…and I’m a full-time Chaplain in one of the largest and leading hospitals in the city of Houston and the world!

My challenge is this – HOW CAN I DO ALL OF THIS?  Is it possible to excel in all of these areas and maintain my sanity?  Do I need to give some things up or away?  Would it be easier if I had a secretary?  Are there any pastors who can provide a remedy to excelling in all of these areas with ease?

Well….as this is my challenge, it is also my intent to tackle the challenge and to make adjustments where necessary.  Oh yes….add to this, I would love to blog on a daily basis!  Please pray for me as I pray for myself and all pastors, Christians and leaders who seek to discipline themselves in the areas of time and excellence in their respective fields and endeavors.  Philippians 4:13 rings clear: we can ‘do all things through Christ’ who gives us the ultimate strength.

What are you thoughts?  How are you managing your time?

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