Thursday, October 31, 2013

Where Did the Time Go?

As November looms larger and larger, I'm reminded of a few key dates. One is November 5, 2006. On that Sunday I stood before Cross Road Baptist Church and preached from Colossians 2. I knew five of the people in the congregation. They were the pastor search committee. Since then, I've shared seven years with this church. God brought us together, we agreed with God, and I became their pastor.

Another date is November 17, 2006. Two things happened that day. First, I wrapped up almost six years of employment with ICT Group. I made some great friends. I worked for some wonderful bosses. But Cross Road would be my first full-time pastorate so my time with ICT was over.

By the time I got home (our new home) most of our stuff had been moved from one side of Little Rock to the other. We spent our first night in our new home that night. We are still unpacking! Actually, we've unpacked what we need; the rest must just be junk. We ought to have a yard sale.

November 19 was my last Sunday at Reynolds Memorial Baptist Church in Little Rock. They were such a great blessing to my family and me. I was excited to move into full-time ministry but sad to leave these sweet folks behind. I've been able to keep in touch with some of them through social media. I'm glad for my time there and glad for the friendships still in tact.

The Community Thanksgiving Service was on Tuesday, November 19, 2006. Cross Road, Holly Springs Baptist Church, and Martindale Baptist Church hold joint services each year for Easter and Thanksgiving. We rotate which church hosts the events each year and the pastors of the other two churches preach. Martindale hosted the service. The pastor of Cross Road was supposed to preach. I was brand new and they had already made arrangements for someone else to preach. Like someone in my church said this past Sunday, I should let it go! This service was my first official function as pastor of CRBC. I've enjoyed these joint services each year. We host this year and Joe Berry from Holly Springs will preach.

My first Sunday to preach at CRBC as pastor was November 26, 2006. Here we are seven years later. Where did the time go? When I came, one of the ladies said she expected me to be here a long time - long enough to have Riley's wedding here. He was almost 6 years old then. I replied that I wanted to baptize my grandbabies here! We have a way to go. But these first seven years have flown by.

The years have been filled with challenges. Some we've handled well, others we haven't. We've seen people come and go. They've given various reasons. If all the people who have left would have stayed... I guess I shouldn't think much about that.

What I should and do think about is the wonderful people of Cross Road Baptist Church. God brought us together. He has accomplished much through us. I believe he intends to accomplish much more.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I thought I made a mistake...

I remember hearing this joke when I was a kid and still chuckle at it...especially when I tell it.

"I've only been wrong once in my life. That was when I thought I was wrong but was right all the time." (Insert rimshot)

I heard a man introduce his son at a conference this week. The father listed his son's credentials then said that one of the younger preacher's great qualities was humility. Then the dad said, "He didn't get that from me." It's true. Everyone in the room knew it. Later, in another setting, the same man offered his advice with this preamble: "In my humble opinion..." I wanted to raise my hand and mention his previous admission! I respect this man for his leadership of his church and our Southern Baptist churches. At least he is honest about his lack of humility.

Well, in my humble opinion, I made a pretty good cup of coffee today. I thought I had made a mistake but it turned out good so I think I'll just spin the story to make it look like I did it on purpose.

I usually drink my coffee black. No cream. No sugar. That's pretty much a knee-jerk reaction to what I call "candy coffee." Too many people (my wife included) add a bunch of stuff to a cup of coffee and still call it coffee. Beige coffee is not really coffee. Sweet coffee is not really coffee. Cold coffee is not really coffee.

Every now and then I'll put a little sugar in my coffee. I'm not sure why. Maybe I'm feeling a little uppity or something. Just a little sugar. I do this so seldom that the sugar in the little sugar bowl thingy is usually stuck together in one big blob. So I tap the bowl against the kitchen countertop to loosen the sugar then I carefully shake a little into my cup of coffee. I don't want to dirty a spoon so I just grab whatever is close and stir with that. I rinse it off and put it back where I found it. Don't judge me.

This morning I felt like I needed a sprinkle of sugar in my coffee. So I went through my routine. All was going just fine until what amounted to about four teaspoons of sugar shook from the bowl into the cup. A big chunk made a big splash. I had to wipe off the counter. What am I supposed to do now? I'm not patient enough (and I am too cheap) to pour out the coffee and start over.

So I went all in. At the coffee shop I almost always order a cup of coffee black. I'm almost embarrassed to order something off the menu board. I can't pronounce some of it and have no idea what's in any of it. My wife, on the other hand, fits right in with that crowd. Our friends own a coffee shop and they have a drink named "The Deana." I couldn't even tell you what's in it.

Well, I'm standing in the kitchen with a five pound bag of sugar dissolving in my coffee. Then I do the unthinkable. I head to the refrigerator and get the milk. I think my red-headed fair-skinned son's summer tan is darker than what I'm drinking right now.

But it's pretty good. I could never duplicate it. And I would never consider trying. It was a mistake that turned out good.

One of my favorite Bible verses in Romans 8:28. God has a way of taking my mistakes and making something good out of them. He can and often does fix things for me so that he gets the glory and honor. Just like I would never try to remake the concoction I made this morning, I would never purposefully mess up my life expecting God to wave his hand through the air and fix it for me. But when I do make a mistake I know that I can confess my sin, turn from it and toward him, and he will show his glory somehow.

My responsibility is to acknowledge my mistakes, trust God to help me through them, and the let God be God. He does that God stuff better than anyone.

Friday, October 25, 2013

First and Second

The World Series is now two games old and is shaping up to be a thriller. Boston and St. Louis split the games in Fenway Park and now move to Busch Stadium for the next three. This is the best of baseball. Or is it?

In these two games these two teams have committed seven combined errors. In Game 1 the Cardinals pitcher let an easy pop-up fall the ground at his feet. In Game 2 the Red Sox pitcher made a bad throw allowing a run to score and a runner advance on the bases.

First and foremost, pitchers pitch the ball. Those who do this really well get paid really well. They aren't paid to be hitters, and they aren't paid to be fielders. Well, sort of. Their primary responsibility is to pitch the ball, but as soon as they release the pitch they are fielders and must field their position. And should they have a plate appearance they must do something to help the team.

Most of a pitcher's practice is spent on pitching. That makes perfect sense. But he also practices fielding and hitting - at least a little, maybe only in Spring Training. A pitcher can help his team and his own cause by fielding the balls hit to him, covering a base when required, and getting on base now and then - or at least laying down an effective bunt.

The first things are important, so are the second.

Your primary responsibility as a Christian is to honor God. You have to work on that because, for most of us, that doesn't come naturally. It gets easier and/or more enjoyable, but it always requires effort and intentionality. First things first: honor God.

You also have secondary responsibilities. You have family responsibilities and school responsibilities and work responsibilities and other responsibilities. And they are all important, too. Maybe this baseball analogy applies here. It seems the best pitchers are also fairly good hitters (for pitchers!) and field their positions well. In other words, the person who takes care of the first thing usually takes care of the second things.

I believe that if you honor God you will be a good family member and good employee or boss and a good student and a good friend, etc. In a way, maybe this is what Jesus meant when he said, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33).

First things first but second things matter, too. Let us live so that God is honored in every part of our lives.

Monday, October 07, 2013


We've had a taste of fall a couple of weeks ago. Then summer temps reminded us of the unpredictability of weather. Forecasting appears to be foreguessing. Weather patterns, currents, and causes intrigue me so I'm not making fun of the professionals. With just a few changes in destiny, I could see myself as one of them. After all, I can play the piano, too!

But today is a truly fall day. I woke up about 5:20, laid in the bed for 15 minutes, then got up and took the dog out for her early morning outdoor venture. The temp was 51. Beautiful. When the sun came up over an hour later, the skies were (and still are) clear and blue. Beautiful. I put on my jeans, long-sleeved shirt, and sweater vest and thought about sending my resume to the North American Mission Board.

It's now 3:30 and 73 degrees, clear skies. Beautiful. I could live in this year-round. Just throw in a few snow days and I'd be very happy.

Things aren't always perfect, are they? Sometimes the overnight temperature is 18 and the pipes burst. Sometimes it's a high temp of 108 and it feels like 118. Other days brings storms or droughts.

Weather isn't the only unpredictable part of life. Relationships can over-heat or go frigid. Jobs bring turmoil and dissatisfaction. Even our spiritual lives can see long, dark nights and periods of dryness.

The one constant that you can always count on is Jesus Christ. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). When relationships turn upside-down, cling to Jesus. When the job situation is unsure, cling to Jesus. When friends forsake you, cling to Jesus. Even when the storms - the literal ones - come, cling to Jesus. Here's a point that I've found many times to be true: Jesus will take you through the difficulties and things will be OK.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, and are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). Beautiful!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Reality Exposed

I spent Sunday evening and all day Monday attending an apologetics conference. Apologetics is the discipline of explaining or defending your faith to those who believe differently. Dr. James K. Walker from Watchman Fellowship and Dr. Barbara Pemberton from Ouachita Baptist University addressed differences between Christianity and beliefs like Mormonism, Islam, Hinduism, the occult, and the New Age Movement. Walker also addressed false teachings from within Christianity, specifically the Word of Faith movement. Over twenty area churches participated in the event offered by Pulaski Baptist Association.

I was somewhat aware of the differences but not at all aware of the depth and subtleties of the complete picture. If interested, you can find information at Dr. Walker's website at This post is not intended to teach apologetics but to expose something I learned yesterday. Maybe I didn't learn it yesterday but it was certainly reinforced during this conference.

Very few people on the planet - Christian church attenders included - believe the Gospel presented in the Bible. The Gospel is centered upon Jesus Christ who is God's son; he is God himself. Many religions believe Jesus was a good man and even an honorable prophet, but they reject the deity of Christ. They simply do not believe he is God. But that is exactly what the Bible claims and what Jesus claimed and what his followers claimed - even those who were executed for that belief.

The Gospel also claims that Jesus is the only way to eternal life. Jesus said he was the way, the truth, and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). The offer of salvation is infinitely broad including every person. Anyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved. But the way of salvation is exclusive - salvation is only through Jesus. Even folks who populate the pews week to week in our churches may not believe that. They think that somehow people will be saved some other way. At least our lack of concern for those without Christ seems to suggest we at least hope there is another way. But there is not. Jesus is the only way.

Imagine the transformation that would take place if every person who claims to be a Christian really believed these two things. And there are many other truths that are basic and necessary that people also struggle with. But just these two truths could transform the lives of so many people. And our churches would reflect the passion of the early believers.

And, best of all, our world would feel the impact today that the world felt in the earliest days of the church.

Maybe you are well-grounded in these truths and others. I hope so. But would you at least ask yourself if you truly believe that Jesus is God and that he is the only way to heaven? The implications include that, if believing, you would passionately share your faith with others. We live in a world that desperately needs real believers fulfilling the Great Commission's directive to make disciples. Once you and I are firmly established and on track, we can make a difference in the lives of our family and friends, our neighbors and co-workers, and our city and world.