Monday, August 26, 2013

Too Quick

This morning, my nephew (Allen) who lives in Randleman, North Carolina started his first day of his Senior year in high school.  This is the same kid who when I first got to see him as a baby, he screamed and started crying.  As a four year old, this is the same kids I threw a plastic baseball to him and it drilled him in the chest.  This is the same kid I taught how to play video games and gave him his first video game console (THE original Play Station).  This is the same kid who I would make cry when we played basketball because I would always block his shot.  This is the same kid who would get excited when Uncle Ted was coming to town because that meant Cheerwine slushies.  He would stay with us at my Mom's house when we were in town.  We would go to museums, parks, the zoo and so many other adventures.  Less than two years ago, he got his driver's license and is no longer dependent on whether Uncle Ted can pick him up when I am in town.  He has his own wheels and his own life.  He will be graduating this Spring and heading off to collage.  He is now taller than me, heavier than me, faster than me, can block my shot, but he's not cuter than me nor grayer than me.  It seems like just a few minutes ago, his parents were trying to get me to change his diapers (an attempt which failed).  It seems like yesterday, he would hold my hand when we walked through parking lots and count on me to have unlimited cash for the many adventures we experienced.  In November, he will legally be a man and he has major decisions ahead of him.  Once he leaves for college, I may not get to see him when we go to back to North Carolina or only see him briefly because he has a life with obligations, his own commitments and has his own path to choose.  I hope and pray he will always make time for his Uncle Ted, but I understand what has happened in his life now.  June will be here before I blink and I will watch him walk across that stage to get his diploma.  There is a part of me that is thrilled with the incredible man he has become, but there is a part of me that sadly misses the child he once was.  (If you think I am a little melancholy now, wait until my kids start graduating from high school).  No matter what we think, life moves on way to quickly.  In one moment, changing diapers, in the next moment driving off to college.  Too quick!!  Too quick!!



This past Sunday, Annette Blevins shared an incredible testimony with us.  She shared about her heart attack and the surgery she had.  she also shared about how she used to go 90 miles per hour (She's down to 82 mphs now).  What stuck in my mind was just her thought about how quick life passes.  We aren't going to be here forever.  We had better make the most of our time on earth because it will pass too quickly.  One minute, we are giving our lives to Jesus, the next minute we are meeting Him in Heaven.  The pace of life doesn't slow down.  The danger is that we get so busy living life, the we miss the multitude of opportunities God gives us to impact eternity.  When everything is said and done, only those things done to honor God will matter.  We can get so caught up in the daily mundane living, working, paying bills, etc. that we forget to have our eyes open for the good God could do through us.  Hebrews 9:27 reminds us, "Just as man is destined to die once and after that face the judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many."  We have one shot at time, not multiple chances.  We need to faithfully follow Christ today so we can impact eternity.  There is someone who needs your assistance today.  There is someone who needs good news today.  There is someone whose life you can change with just a smile or comforting word.  Will you do good today and seek to magnify Jesus?  Those opportunities pass too quickly.

This Fall, my 30th college reunion takes place on November 2nd at Wingate University.  It seems like yesterday, I was attending Wingate COLLEGE (Not university).  It seems like yesterday, I was saying good-bye to my roommate (Randy) and close friends in my suite (David, Jim, Jack and Tom).  It seems like just yesterday I was receiving my BA in Human Services from Dr. Corts.  It seems like just yesterday I was pondering my next step in life of moving to Louisville to work on my Master's degree from Southern Seminary.  It seems like just yesterday I was walking my parents through my Wingate hangouts and introducing them to my friends and professors.  It seems like just yesterday, my hair was dark brown without any gray, I had no wrinkles and no age spots!  I look back and I think..."Too quick!  Too quick".  I pray that Allen will make the most of his final year of high school because it will pass too quick.  More than that I pray that we will make the most for Christ because it will pass to quick.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Most Popular

In 1947, the fans of Major League Baseball were first given the opportunity to vote for the starting position players in that game.  This was a way for MLB to return the game to the fans and fans have been voting ever since.  I remember going to the 7-11 as a kid to get a ballot and vote for my favorite players.  You could get a punch card for free, punch the card beside your favorite player and mail it in.  This was pretty cool for me since I grew up in North Carolina which had no professional team.  The first time I ever voted, I made sure to vote for every Baltimore Orioles player, then I mailed me card.  This year, I was able to vote via the Internet and was allowed to vote up to 20 times.  No, I didn't only vote for Orioles players, although they  did get most of my votes.  This year, Chris “Crush” Davis of the Baltimore Orioles finished first with 8,272,243 fan votes to edge Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers, who had 8,013,874.  He still would have won without my 20 votes, but I helped make him the leading vote-getter this year.  He would have gotten my vote any way since he gave a bat to my son at last years' Baltimore-Oakland baseball game.

School will be starting for many this week, as our kids go back to school being promoted to the next grade.  I remember moving from James Y. Joyner Elementary School to Mendenhall Junior High School and then from Mendenhall to Walter Hines Page High School.  The beginning of those two years were filled with anxiety and hope.  It was the opportunity to meet new friends and find your place.  I was surprised at how quickly the "popular" group rose up from among us every day students who had no chance to be popular.  I was always fascinated by that because I never was popular at school.  I had my group of friends and I was at peace with that, but there was often this thought wandering in my mind wondering what it would be like to be a part of that group.  I actually tried to slide into the that group through a back-door connection with a neighborhood friend, but it took too much work to keep up with the latest trends.

Our kids are going to face that same type of pressure in the next few weeks.  They all want to be liked and no one wants to be the outcast.  Even if a kid acts like they enjoy being the brunt of the jokes, they really don't like it.  Some of our kids will be tempted to do foolish things to get people to like them.  They will compromise and make bad choices to get on certain people's good side.  Of course, we as adults do the same thing.  We desperately want to fit in, so we go along with what everyone else is saying and doing.  We don't want to be looked at as the oddball or the fool.  So we go along with co-workers who are cooking the books or we accept weak theology or we jump in on the joking.  The need to be liked and accepted is universal and affects us all.

Here's where we need to come back to the Bible and the life of Christ.  If you take a moment to read Matthew 21:6-11 27:15-26, you will see the true colors of the crowd.  Jesus on one day is the conquering hero, loved and adored by all.  The next week, He is the pariah who needs to be crucified.  The work we use is "fickle".  The crowd will cheer you one minute and boo you the next.  We need to make sure our kids know and remember this as they begin the new school year.  It is imperative that they build lasting friendships with people who can be trusted rather than seeking a superficial acceptance by those who want to control.  We need to make sure they know that God is more concerned about their faith in Him than the approval of others.  They need to know that God loves them so much He sent His only son to take their place on the cross.  He values them, so they can be at peace in who they are.  We need to encourage our children to be rebels and go against the flow of the pagan culture in which they are living.  The best way we can do this:  Do it ourselves.  That's right, model this lifestyle for our kids.  If they see us living to please God rather than others, they will be more inclined to do the same.  If they see us being rebels against the pagan culture, they will realize this rebellion is a good and healthy thing.  

If you were to ask me which of my classmates at Mendenhall or at Page was voted "Most Popular", I couldn't tell you.  However, if you were to ask me who were my real friends and helped me through some of my most difficult days in my teen years, I can easily rattle of those names.  The same will hold true for our children if we teach them that being faithful is more important than being popular.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Trust or Panic

In II Kings 5, we see the account of Naaman the leper and his healing.  It wasn't an easy healing because it brought pressure on Israel.  You see, Naaman was the general of the armies of Aram, which was an enemy of Israel.  So when Naaman comes to Israel with a note from the king of Aram asking that Naaman be healed, the King of Israel panics.  He believes this is an attempt by Aram to start a war with Israel.  He correctly states, "Am I God?".  His reaction to this opportunity is to freak out and panic.  Contrast his response with that of Elisha.  Elisha knows that this is an opportunity from God.  So even though the King doesn't trust God, Elisha does.  Two different responses to the same situation:  One is a reaction of faith in God, the other a reaction to faith in self.  One sees this as an opportunity for God to reveal Himself, the other sees this as an opportunity to lose what he values the most.  One is a reaction of trust, the other a reaction of fear.


God will bring these same types of situations to bear upon our lives.  He loves us so much that He will be us in traumatic situations.  These circumstances are beyond our control and are given to test our faith.  Just like metal is purified by heat, our faith will be purified by trials.  So do not be surprised by what is happening in your life right now.  These things have happened, not because God has abandoned you, but God wants you to have an Elisha response.  He wants us to view this particular situation as a time for God to shine.  This is an opportunity for family and friends to see that God really is God.  BUT for that to happen, we must approach it with Godfidence (This is confidence in God).  Godfidence allows us to remain calm in the most dire of circumstances.  Godfindence gives us strength to minister to others when our circumstances are unsettled.  Godfidence allows us to thank God before He has cleared up the situation.  Godfidence allows us to turn to God, rather than a beer, a friend or a bad temper.  

This passage was my morning quiet time today and just "happened" to be the passage I studied as I work through the book of II Kings.  I have some circumstances in my own life which require more Godfidence on my part.  But it also brought to mind where we are at as Hillcrest Baptist Church.  Yesterday, we voted to repair our roof before the rainy season and the damage that may happen because of our aging roof.  We voted to invest $16,400 even though we really don't have that much money.  We are stepping out in faith that God will provide.  This is a big step for our church because we really don't have any other fall back plan.  We are committed because we believe God wants us to trust Him in this.  We are barely getting by financially as it is and now we are adding to the amount we need to receive each month.  Which reaction will you have?  Will you react like the King of Israel and panic?  Will you see this large amount and be overwhelmed by it?  Will you criticize and complain?  OR will you react like Elisha and totally trust God?   Will you trust God with your own personal finances and begin to tithe?  Will you trust God and give an offering above your tithe?  Will you let people know that we are trusting God and we know He will provide.  Our faith is tested before the results ever come in...while we are still waiting and the outcome is in doubt.  Like Elijah, let's step out in faith and enjoy celebrating what God is going to do before He even does it.  For those of you who are not a part of Hillcrest Baptist Church, but would like to be a part of God's wonderful provision, you can give on-line securely by going to  

I'm looking forward to the church having a corporate testimony of what God has done in providing a new roof for His church.  I am also looking forward to the testimonies of what God has done in providing for you.  So step out with Godfidence and enjoy trusting God when the situation calls for panic!

Monday, August 5, 2013


The number twelve is an important number:
  -There are twelve months in a year
  -There are twelve numbers on the face of a clock
  -Twelve is the last year before a child becomes a teenager
  -Eggs are sold by the dozen
  -There is the song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas"
  -Texas A & M football has the "12th man", symbolizing the impact their fans have on the game
  -In bowling, it takes 12 strikes to complete a perfect game
  -We have twelve pairs of ribs in our bodies
  -There are twelve inches in a foot
  -There are twelve face cards in a deck
  -Alcoholics Anonymous has twelve steps in its program
  -There are twelve Jewish tribes
  -Jesus had twelve Apostles


The number twelve also represents the number of years I have been pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Richmond, California.  Yep, twelve years ago I preached my first sermon as the pastor of this wonderful church.  Yesterday, we celebrated that as a church family.  My taste buds are still dancing from the wonderful meal we had after the service.  The ribs, chicken, lumpia, spaghetti, cornbread, Cheerwine cake, coconut creme pie, fudge, peach cobbler cake and so many more tastes are still being savored.  I had to work out extra hard this morning at the gym after eating so much.  I want to thank each of you for making yesterday so special and the cake Jewel made was incredible.  My family and I are honored to be a part of such a loving congregation.  You are far more generous than we deserve.  You make me feel like an outstanding pastor, even though I know there are tons of pastors who are much better at this than I am.  I am humbled that you can see good in me and are willing to listen to what God has to say when I stand in the pulpit.  In the past twelve years, a lot of members of Hillcrest have died or moved to other cities, so it was hard to only see a few hands of those who were here on my first Sunday.  However, it is thrilling to see how God has been adding to His Kingdom and His Church in the past twelve years.  I know He has great plans for our church, so I am trying to not get in His way.

Perhaps the highlight of my day was simply watching you respond to the Holy Spirit during our musical worship as many of you came forward to kneel at the altar and ask for God's healing.  Thank you for not being intimidated or afraid to humble yourself before the Lord.  I love being in a congregation that has a multitude of ages and ethnicities, because Heaven is filled with people from every tribe and tongue.  More than that, I am grateful to be in a congregation that passionately seeks to honor God.  You don't just talk about it on Sunday, but live it out on Mondays.  When I meet your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers, it is evident that your light is shining in the world.  Thank you for giving me the freedom to preach truthfully about God's Word without having a political agenda, a personal agenda or walls built up which hinder the truth of the Bible to penetrate your life.  I talk with other pastors and see the "hoops" and expectations other pastors have from their congregations and thank God that you simply push me to follow Christ.  You have pulled along side me when I was in need or struggling.  You have called me when you thought I was hurting and have challenged me when you felt I was wrong.  Most of all, you have show the love of Christ to me and to my family.

Twelve is a wonderful number.  Twelve years have gone by too quickly.  I don't know what will happen during the next twelve years, but I pray we will continue to serve the Lord with passion, joy and consistency.