They ALL Go to the Same Walmart

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What a great concept. One store that has everything you need and millions of things you don’t need. The idea of one stop shopping has taken our culture by storm. Now there are several stores that compete for your one stop shopping for anything from groceries to clothing to tires. We all go. Some even enjoy the shopping. I look at it more like an experiment of human behavior.

It is no secret that going out shopping anywhere will introduce you to all kinds of people. Some are funny. Some are sad. Some are just a little bit strange. But they all gather together at the one place to find all of their shopping treasures – Wal-Mart.

From the outside, it seems that the people of Wal-Mart get along nicely. You may run into friends on the cracker aisle. You may see someone to avoid on the pickle aisle so you walk a little faster to the eggs than you normally would. However, for the most part people get along, but not always.

I have seen parents chasing children by the toys. I have seen lines of frustrated gift receivers waiting to exchange Christmas presents. Even some of the seemingly nicest people push and shove on Black Friday for that one special video game or discounted TV. But we all go back the next week like nothing has happened.

Do you see a similar pattern emerging from Wal-Mart and your church? Some are happy. Some are sad. Some are a little strange. But we all gather in one place to meet with God. We are people that are broken, hurt, confused and full of sin, all seeking help from God. Church is not the perfect place, but it is the gathering place for sinners to find the truth from God. I love the church and I have to admit sometimes I see just a hint of Wal-Mart as we gather.

From time to time people will get discouraged with their church and seek another church. Some look for new music or shorter sermons. Sometimes, even pastors want to have a new church with different people. While looking for that new and different church where everything is better just remember – they all go to the same Wal-Mart. People are just people and they can’t help it. We are sinners in a sinful world surrounded by sinners who do sinful things. Our minds want to turn to sinful thoughts and our bodies want to follow.

Church is the one place that should understand this struggle. Christians are forgiven of sins by faith in Jesus Christ. Christians are changed by the power of the Holy Spirit that moves in our lives at salvation. However, living the Christ life at church or at Wal-Mart is a work in progress. Theologians call this sanctification. The apostle Paul calls it impossible. We can’t live His perfect life. He must live it through us. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  (Gal 2:20 ESV)

The next time you see a fellow Christian struggle with the flesh and sin, pray for him or her. Try to encourage them with the love of God and Scripture. Oh, and remember that you are just like them – a work in progress – for we all go to the same Wal-Mart.

The Hand Between

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Shep and Shepherds should rest in the comfort that we are held in the hands of our Savior. He holds us in dark days, in sad days, and in days of pure joy. This is a poem from A Minister’s Obsticales by Ralph G. Turnbull.

He held the lamp that Sabbath day

So low that none could miss the way,

And yet so high, to bring to sight

That picture fair of Christ the Light,

That, gazing up, the lamb between

The hand that held it was not seen.

 

He held the pitcher, stooping low,

To lips of little ones below;

Then raised it to the weary saint,

And bade him drink when sick and faint.

They drank, the pitcher them between,

The hand that held it was not seen.

 

He blew the trumpet soft and clear,

That trembling sinners need not fear;

And then with louder note and bold,

To storm the walls of Satan’s hold;

The trumpet coming thus between,

The hand that held it was not seen.

 

And when our Captain says, ‘Well done,

Thou good and faithful servant; come,

Lay down the pitcher and the lamp,

Lay down the trumpet, leave the camp,’

The weary hands will then be seen

Clasped in the pierced ones, naught between.

The Saving of Danny Stevens

pb-110825-baptisms-6.photoblog900To an eight year old boy it doesn’t get any better than a Sunday evening filled with “Wonderful World of Disney” and “Bonanza!” Television programming in 1965 meant that we had just received our first color television and could watch all three channels in color. However the God of the universe had other plans for me than to spend the evening watching color television.

Just as Tinker Belle had just dusted the magic kingdom, I noticed that my mother was not in the living room with Daddy and me. My Dad was reading the Shreveport Times which was one of his favorite past times. I asked Dad where was Mama? He did not know either so I got up to look for her.

When I found my Mother she was kneeling beside the bed praying in the dark. My Mother was a devout believer of the Lord and a student of the Bible so I was not surprised to find her kneeling in prayer. I knelt beside her and she began to ask me questions.

“How are you feeling at school?” she asked. I may have been young but I thought I could take advantage of that question. I responded, “Mama I don’t feel very good.” I thought I could just stay home from school. She continued to ask if I had been thinking about heaven or hell. My response was no, but at that moment I began to think about it a lot.

While on our knees in the dark of that small bedroom my mother shared with me Scripture from the book of Romans that she had memorized. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:  (Rom 3:10 KJV) For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;  (Rom 3:23 KJV) For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  (Rom 6:23 KJV) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  (Rom 10:13 KJV)”

It was at that very moment that I realized I needed Jesus Christ to save me. I fully understood that I was a sinner and enough of a sinner to be separated from God and deserving of hell. I also understood from Sunday School and Vacation Bible School that Jesus lived a long time ago, but He died on a cross to pay for my sins and to forgive me and save me.

Mama asked me if I wanted to ask Jesus to forgive me and save me. Without one second of hesitation I said yes. I bowed my head and began to pray out loud. “Jesus, please forgive me of my sins and come into my heart and save my soul.” That was over fifty one years ago and I still remember it as if it were last night. I saw no lights. I heard no angels. I felt no feelings except for a peace that come over my heart and mind. But from the minute I asked Jesus to save me, He did!

I don’t remember anything else I said in that prayer, but one thing I knew, I had been saved! There was a burdened lifted from my eight year old heart. All of my sins had been forgiven. At eight years old it was not a lot, but they were all forgiven. I had a joy in my heart that I had not had before. I was saved, I was forgiven, and I was happy about it! Mama explained that if we hurried we could still get to evening services. I was going to be baptized!

As I went to my room to get ready I remember saying, “Mama, we should go to church every Sunday night!” We piled my dry clothes in a brown paper grocery bag and headed to church.

I walked in the First Baptist Church of Springhill, Louisiana with my paper bag and my new salvation. Our church was having a weekend youth revival. A young evangelist named Mike Harmon was preaching a sermon called, “When The Lights Go Out On The Road to Hell.”  When he finished the sermon I was really glad I had already been saved! The time had come for the invitation and for me to walk down front and tell everyone what I had done. I stepped out and walked right up to Pastor Howard White. He asked me what he could do for me.  I said, “I just got saved! I want to be baptized and I brought my clothes.” I was baptized that very night in front of a packed house at our church.

For the past fifty one years I have been kept in salvation by His amazing grace. During that time I have sinned, rebelled, and failed, but He has never withdrawn His saving grace from me. He has never failed me and has always been good and faithful to me.

I have learned so much about Him and His salvation since that Sunday night in 1965 and I want to know Him more. Of all the great things that has happened to me, my loving wife, two awesome kids, four wonderful grand kids, the call to preach and pastor a church, nothing compares to that small dark bedroom with my mother in tears praying for me and telling me how to be saved.

I don’t know where you are. You may be reading this in a hospital, a church, your home, but you too can be saved. Like me, just ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins and save your soul. It is that simple and yet that life changing.

Umpire of My Soul

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Although I was born and raised in the state of Louisiana, I didn’t experience the Big Easy of New Orleans until I was an adult. As you would imagine, I was pretty well shocked out of my socks. One of my friends drove us there and made reservations at one of the restaurants in the French Quarter.  As we sat down to order I had this powerful feeling come over me as if I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The only thing I could think of during dinner was, “I need to get out of here before this place burns down and my name is in the paper!” I was in the Big UN-Easy!

I survived New Orleans and have been back several times. However, I will never forget that uneasy feeling. I knew something was wrong and it was inside of me. I believe it is connected to Colossians 3:15 “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” (KJV) What I was feeling was the absence of the peace of Christ.

Colossians 3:15 is a very interesting text. The word used in the Greek language for “rule” is βραβεύω which is pronounced brab-yoo’-o. The word is used here and in Greek literature to describe one who arbitrates a dispute. The English use of this word is umpire. He is the one who arbitrates in a game to bring both teams to agreement. He makes them play within the rules.When a baseball player makes three strikes, he is out. The picture above is of Jeff Klinghoffer. I’ve never met him, but I’m sure he is a nice guy. However, when he calls you out, your out!

When a football player is running with the ball he may run all over the field. He can run backward, sideways, or in circles as long as he does not step out of bounds. Once he steps out of bounds the umpire blows the whistle and play stops. The game starts again from the place he stepped out of bounds.

The peace of God is our umpire. As long as you are in the will of God you will have His peace. You are free to roam about in His will, even to run in circles. However, the moment you step out of His will, the Holy Spirit blows the whistle and removes the peace. Believe me you will know when that peace is pulled. It is then you must return to the place in your life you stepped out of bounds and make things right with God. There may be a confession of sin. There may be a redirection of your lifestyle. This is one area of our spiritual life that God will let you know what to confess and what adjustments to make. He wants to restore the peace that passes understanding to your life. He wants to give you guidance. He wants to walk with you in peace. Sometimes we walk away from Him. Sometimes we step out of bounds or strike out and need the Holy Spirit to blow the whistle on our lifes.

Let the peace of God rule your heart. It is a good barometer for the soul. Peace lets you know if you are walking with Him in His will. The absence of peace lets us know we have some praying and seeking to do. Return to Him.

So, if you see me in a restaurant in New Orleans you will know I have sought His peace or I have been kidnapped and held hostage. It is no fun living out of bounds. Do the work needed to rest in His peace. Your umpire will let you know how you are doing.

You Can’t Have My Depression

“You can’t have my depression or my cancer or my diabetes or my tears of grief. They are tailor made just for me. Every painful step I take is used by my Father and He is working for my good. It’s mine and you can’t have it.”  Wow, what a statement. I don’t have cancer or depression, but I have had some sad and hard times. I know people who fight cancer. I know people that battle depression. I also know a God that is active with us in ourgreatest struggles.  I do agree that the storms of our life are ours alone.

Storms come to us in three basic ways. First, they are self inflicted. Something we have done to create the storm. Second, storms are the result of someone else’s sin. We have to deal with the decisions of others. Third, storms are directly from God. He has a plan and a purpose for everything I deal with. I have to take ownership – it’s mine and mine alone and it is for my good.

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Good? Are you serious, GOOD? How is cancer good? How is debilitating depression good? How is heartbreaking grief good? Everything in us screams it is bad. It is painful. It has nothing good in it at all. That is how we feel and anyone trying to tell us that the pain of our crisis is good must be out of their mind. Right? Except our Lord says, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.”  (Psalm 119:71 KJV) He also says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  (Rom 8:28 KJV)

Based on the Scriptures I must work off of this premise: what is happening to me right now is being used by God to bring good to me.  Satan means harm and destruction, but God takes it with His sovereign power and works it for good. How many trials come our way that are not under His control and power? He is able to take whatever pit you may be in and to use that pit to work on you and work for you. We have to step over the barrier of doubt to see that God is doing for us what only God can do. How does this work?

There are a million ways God will work good for you, but for me I have noticed four.

  1. God grows my spiritual development. There is no question that when the darkness lifts I am stronger in my spiritual life. Spiritual growth is His goal for us.
  2. I pray more under pressure. I reach out to God when I am under pressure. There is something about the pain of cancer or depression forces us to cry out to God. When life breaks my heart and my body I cry out to God for help and for hope.
  3. I run to Bible reading in times of trials. While my heart is breaking, my mind is racing to the Scriptures. I believe that the Bible is the true Word of God, therefore Scripture is comfort. It is there I find words of peace, words of encouragement, and words of direction. “My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word.”  (Psalm 119:28 KJV)
  4. The songs of faith sound sweeter when I am praying through the darkness. Music is a tool God uses to burn His message of grace and hope into our thoughts. We all know the little jingles of television commercials. They are designed to leave a message in your thoughts. The songs of God are even more powerful. “God will take care of you…” “It is well with my soul…” “And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains…” “I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth….”

For over forty years in ministry I have watched dear people suffer with burdens of the heart and of the body. I have watched them drag heavy burdens to the altar of prayer and only to hear our Savior say not now, not yet. Pain in this life is very real. Some of you carry more than your share and more than others. Whatever your storm: depression, cancer, fear, anger, or any combination thereof, it is yours.  No one can take it from you for it is being used by a loving Father. His desire is to mold you into the image of Christ. Molding is never painless, but it always produces a God glorifying outcome.

Christ is always near His children when they suffer. “…weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.  (Psalm 30:5 KJV) He will never leave you or forsake you, especially in your darkest hour.

Church With No Money

It was sobering for me to look at the picture. My daughter was on a mission trip to Africa and sent thiss-sudan-church picture. I held the picture of a large green tree with about 30 smiling faces from South Sudan. They were at church. The tree was their church. No building. No walls. No organ. No carpet. No problem.

I stand amazed at Christians. In recent days churches have faced many different catastrophes, such as floods, shootings, and fire. Yet, on the next Sunday morning there is a group, sitting in lawn chairs with their Bibles, singing Amazing Grace from memory. They have learned the secret of having church with no money.

The first church was gathered on the shores of the Sea of Galilee with no building and no bank account, but full of awe and wonder of our Lord Jesus. We gather to worship King Jesus, not always in a building, but always together with other believers.

Please do not misunderstand. I too enjoy the walls, roof, and air conditioning of the church. However, some equate the building with the church. The organization of the church is a spiritual organization of believers gathered to worship King Jesus and study His Word together.

I want to give you a top five list of things you can have in your church and spend no money.

5. Kindness – Being kind to one another is free and very healthy for your church. The Bible tells us, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Eph 4:32 KJV) This is one area you can improve your church and never spend a penny. Just think how your church would react if five people were more kind this Sunday.

4. Worship – Jesus tells the woman at the well in John 4 about worship. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24 KJV) No carpet required! The worship of our King requires no physical elements, just a heart of love and adoration for Jesus.

3. Joy – Bringing joy into the church is defiantly a good thing. We have all been to service where joy was not present and in some cases not invited. This Sunday as you worship with music that speaks of Jesus, heaven, or salvation sing it with joy. People around you will notice. You will be blessed and your church will too.

2. The Bible – Every church has a time of casual conservation. We talk about the weather. We talk about football and our children. If we would intentionally insert a conversation about what we read in the Bible last week or how much we enjoyed the Sunday school lesson for this week. God will not let His Word return void, even from a small and casual conservation.

1. Love – This is the best of all the free, no cost, things you can have in your church. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love is how people know you are a real believer. Love is the greatest! Imagine going to your church and seeing people full of love.

All of these are free, no cost ways to have church. We don’t need money to love, worship, be kind, or share joy. All we need is a great love relationship with Jesus Christ and maybe a tree for a church.

God has a message for you.

Northern-lights-HD-Photos-download-beautiful-high-definition-wallpaper-of-northern-lightsThe dancing lights of the far north have been well documented, studied, and vividly captured on camera. The “Great Northern Lights” display a show created by an eruption on the surface of the sun thousands of miles away. The display of colored dancing lights on the black sky of the north provides us a realization that there is a Creator Who is in control of the elements of our world.

Summer time in the south produces our own light show. As the atmosphere heats through the long days of summer the evening often produces afternoon thunderstorms accompanied by lightening that waltzes across the sky. A few days ago I was privileged to watch the “Great Southern Lights.” From my back door there was a theatre display of the power and majesty of God. The lightening was flashing and dancing in the sky. The clouds formed a dark blue and white silhouette for the light to bounce back and forth. I stood for a long time watching in awe at the performance before me.

The lightening storm churned miles away from me but directly above my porch was a crystal clear sky glittering with billions of stars. I was fascinated by the contrast of stars, clouds and the flashing of God’s lights. I felt like God had created this beautiful display just for me and my joy. However, it was not for me only. It was for Him. Atmospheric beauty, fall foliage, polar ice sculpture and a million other beauties happen in parts of the world where no human can see, only God. God will display His glory in the heavens and we see His power and authority displayed in the heavens. But the beauty we enjoy is enjoyed by God first and most. Genesis says that after creation God said it was good. I echo, “Amen! It is very good.” I enjoy seeing my God demonstrate His power and beauty to the world.

The creation and its entire splendor are not for our entertainment but for our spiritual enrichment. Creation is to direct the soul to the knowledge of a Divine Creator. The search to understand the Creator leads us to the Bible to know more. In the Bible we find that the earth is home to the human race and that entire race is separated from God. Only God could love such a sinful people to the point of death. The Creator came to live among His creation and to die at the hands of that creation to save the souls of those who believe.

God is calling for your attention. The display of the universe is to call you to acknowledgement that there is one true God and that One God is seeking you. Every display of God in creation is to walk you toward repentance of sins and faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. One glance into the heavens will lead you on a journey to make heaven you eternal home. Turn off the television and step out side. God has a message for you.

Let’s Start Here

In the beginning…. well you know the rest. All that we have and all that we are starts with a beginning. So this is my beginning, at least of blogging. I pray blogging is an enrichment of my soul and maybe some reader along the way.

You may want to know something about me. I am a husband to Renee’ and the father of Matt and Kayla. I am also the famous Poppy D to my four grandchildren. I am a preacher and the Pastor of Crystal Springs Baptist Church in Tylertown, Mississippi. I am slowly morphing into a combo of my Dad and my Grandfather.

Something else you need to know. I am a sinner and I hate it. I also am one of billions that has been overwhelmed by the saving grace of Jesus Christ. I am grateful beyond words for His salvation of my soul and the continuous grace to live this life.

My prayer as I start this blog journey is that I keep my writings from error and that I not embarrass my family and friends. This looks to be a big job.  Lord help me.

My plan is to address issues of the church, preaching, pastoring, and an occasional update on the joys of my life. So as with any journey we have to start somewhere, we may as well start here. Thanks for coming along. I hope you enjoy the ride, bumps and all.