He Had It First

He Had It First

As he left the doctor’s office and reached to punch the button for the elevator he wondered whom he would tell first. He had never been good at showing his true feelings and this was going to be difficult to share.

He had no close family, not even what most people would call close friends and he wasn’t sure any of them listen and how could he burden these friends with his own hurt, he had never been burden with theirs. The older man who stood in the elevator as its door opened nodded and said, “Bad news?”

In shock he looked at this total stranger and wondered how he could know such and thing and why it would matter. Unlike his normal behavior he begin to tell his story to this total stranger, they got out of the elevator and stood in the lobby as he poured out his heart to this never before seen man. It was like there was a motor running and he could not turn it off, he just poured out all that the doctor had said and how in shock he was at the news.

Yet the stranger, listened as though his was the only story in the world to be told. On and on he went even telling the man that he did not know what to do next, who to tell and how to react. Exhausted he stopped and started to apologize to this man whom he had captured in his sorrow. The stranger touched him on the shoulder, and with the concern of a lifelong friend said, “Just remember son, Jesus had it first and He will walk with you through this journey because He has already been there.”

And He has.

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Published in: on March 31, 2016 at 10:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Live It

Have you ever noticed how many people live in the past? It is always yesterday with them. This scripture warns us of the foolishness of living in the past. Nothing wrong with memories and with good memories but to dwell on how it use to be and how you wish to return is like trying to find the hole a stone makes when thrown into a lake. God has given us this day; let it be the best March 31, 2015 we have ever had.  Use it, fill it up, and then place it in your memory and into the hand of God with thanksgiving.

Published in: on March 30, 2016 at 10:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

My Church

My Church

Our church was just across the street and a couple of houses down toward the east so it was always in sight and as long as I can remember that was my church

My dad said that one Sunday morning as we were all getting ready to go to church that he heard several cars blowing their horns out on Lexington and decided to go and see what all the horn blowing was about. There I was in all my Sunday best standing in the middle of Lexington Avenue holding a stick in my hand stopping all of the traffic. Of course it only took dad a moment to realize the problem and he rushed into the street, picked me up and on the way back to the house asked what in the world I was doing. He said that I told him that I wanted to be the first person in church that Sunday so I decided to block the traffic so that no one could get there before I did.

I guess we should have known then that I was going to become a pastor, I have always loved church, mother said that after we moved to Lindsey Street if we drove by the church and lights were on that I would pitch a fit because we were not there. It didn’t matter to me if it was a ladies meeting or a deacon’s meeting, if someone was in church I wanted to be in church.

I have wonderful memories of Calvary, as an old man I can say for certain that they knew how to love a little boy there. It was there that I made my profession of faith at the age of nine and was baptized and it was there that I preached my first sermon when I was sixteen years of age. I always wanted to pastor a church named Calvary and said that I would buy up every billboard around and put on it – Life Begins at Calvary, Corner of Lexington and Tomlin.

The church family moved some years after I left, I preached the last revival in the building and then took part in the first revival at their new building. The building is still there and when I visited one day about five years ago it stirred up so many memories that I had to weep. For life did begin for me at Calvary, there at the Corner of Lexington and Tomlin. To all those who made it possible, and I know they are all now in Glory, thank you, thank you for knowing how to love a little boy

Published in: on March 28, 2016 at 10:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

At the Sea

Moments in the Master’s Land

Now and then life gives to us one of those moments for which we have longed. As a boy it was a simple fishing trip with my dad, fishing from a boat near Pickwick dam, spending the night at my grandparent’s house in Dyersburg. Later it was standing dressed in United States Navy blues and receiving the honors as our colors were marched on the parade field before us.

Another wonderful moment.

For our first six days we stayed in Tiberius on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. While the city is only mentioned once in the bible the sea served as a central part of much of Jesus’ ministry.

I sat in the dark one night and listened as the waters of the sea lapped against the wall which protected our hotel from erosion. Far across to its eastern shore you could see the lights of Jordan, on the sea itself were fishing boats searching for their catch in the light of the full moon.

I wondered if it were somewhere near here that Jesus took a boat across to the other side to teach the people.  Maybe it was close by that He walked to his disciples as they trembled in their boat during a storm.  Somewhere on that sea Jesus had slept in a boat while his disciples feared for their lives because of the storm.

It was here that he told them where to cast their nets so that they would have fish aplenty.  From this sea he called a fish to bring him a coin so that he might pay his taxes. By this sea in his resurrected body he prepared breakfast for his disciples and told them in the early morning hours to cast over there for a great school of fish and then to drag them to shore and join him in a seaman’s breakfast.

Looking across that great sea I could almost hear the Master saying, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”

 Our Nation needs to hear this calling.

Published in: on March 27, 2016 at 8:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

People

People are Fickled

He heard the people as they came shouting down the road, the Teacher is coming, the Teacher is coming; his mother told him to bring the knife and to cut leaves from the palm trees and spread them on the road, There were so many people that he had to climb a tree to see the man they were all shouting about; He was on a donkey, followed by a group of men and the people lining the road where shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’, the boy called to his mother, ‘Who is this?’ but she never heard or never answered. He had never seen so many people, never heard such a cry from the people as they seemed to worship the man on the donkey. ‘I wonder who He is’, the boy thought as the people came by and He entered the city, ‘I wonder who He is?’

A few days later his mother pulled him along as they followed the mass of people, again they were more than he had seen before, so many people and now they were shouting, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him” The boy could not understand, was this not the same man that he had cup palm leaves for, the same man whom they had bowed to and called, Hosanna to? What had happened, what had changed; he looked at his mother and her face was laced with terror but her shouts were, Crucify Him, Crucify Him.

He pulled at her arm and with tears streaming said ‘Mother, mother is this not the same man as the Hosanna man just a few days ago?’ She looked at him in terror and shouted and screamed louder, Crucify Him.

Published in: on March 22, 2016 at 10:58 pm  Comments (1)  

Breakfast

Breakfast Long Ago

The morning light was beginning to break through the sides of the truck partly covered with canvas. It had been our cabin for the night of camping on the Tennessee River.

I looked out of the rear flap that had been folded back to let in the morning sun and smelled the aroma of bacon being cooked, coffee perking, and smoke from the fires of each moving across our campground.

I saw my dad bending over the fire tending to the bacon and looking now and then across the still fog cover river. I was about nine when this warm and wonderful memory was carved into my soul. It had been a wonderful weekend with dad and some of his friends and their sons and now we would share a campfire breakfast together.

I could see some of the fish caught the night before prepared for the fire and a couple of the other fathers gathering to stretch, get a cup of coffee, and maybe cast a line for an early morning bite by the fish of their dreams.

My father was cooking, I was delighted. It would become one of my best mornings. So it must have been on the sea when the fishermen heard the call of Christ to cast on the other side and then to bring some of their catch and have breakfast with Him.

The risen Christ had arrived early, prepared breakfast for his friends and now waited for them to join Him. What a moment! What a morning! Try breakfast with Jesus and do it soon.

Published in: on March 21, 2016 at 11:09 pm  Comments (2)  

Got a Coat Hanger?

Do You Have A Coat Hanger?

The judge called and asked if there was any way that the children’s home could find room that day for a family of three girls and two boys. He explained that the father had been killed a couple of years earlier and the mother was on trial that day for her third DUI and she was going to have to go to jail.  If he placed them in state custody they could not assure him that the family could be kept together and he strongly believed that in this case it was important to all of them to remain in contact. I assured him that we would make it happen and went with one of our social workers to the office of a pastor where he had arranged for the children to be kept on a temporary basis.

As the social worker interview each child I tried to keep the others entertained and to assure them as terrible as all of this seemed I believe that they would discover that it was not going to be as bad as their fears.

I asked if they had any question they wanted to ask me and the smallest boy wanted to know if we had any coat hangers. Now I expected to be asked about TV’s, computers, ball equipment and a hundred other things but never a coat hanger. So I said, “I am not sure I understood you, can you ask that again?” Once again he asked if we had any coat hangers.

I asked him why a coat hanger was important and he said, “I have always wanted a coat hanger. When I go to my friend’s house his mother takes my coat and puts it on a coat hanger and then hangs it in a special place. At my house we just throw our coats in the floor and sometimes I use mine for cover, so I would like my own coat hanger.

I smiled, hugged him and said, “Son you have died and gone to coat hanger heaven for we have hundreds of coat hanger and I will be sure that you have several of your own as well as a closet to hang them in.” He smiled, rubbed back the tears and hugged my neck.

Most of us have such long list of our wants and here was a small boy being taken from his home and all he asked for was a coat hanger. Little children shall lead them and this boy did exactly that.

Published in: on March 20, 2016 at 8:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Thankful

Thankful

Are you not amazed that of the ten only one came back to give thanks for his healing? Sounds a bit like America, does it not? After all that God has done for us, all the blessings these more than two hundred years have given us on any given day of the Lord only a few will be in His House to give praise and thanks to Him.

Maybe the current confusion and breakup of our all of our social values and national values have their roots in our not being grateful?

‘Father help me to understand that I can complain all I want to about the nine of ten who did not and do not give thanks, but that is not the great question for me to answer. My question is, ‘Am I thankful and do I show it?’

Ivan

Published in: on March 18, 2016 at 12:31 am  Leave a Comment  

All I Wanted

Everyone in town knew Mr. Sharp, and most of them knew that he was in his last visit to the hospital, but no one that I knew seemed to care. It wasn’t that they didn’t like him; they just did not know him and did not care one way or the other.

He had lived all of his more than 80 years in the county, never married, no relations to anyone that we knew of, just Mr. Sharp, that’s who he was the old stooped man who came to town on Saturday, got his supplies and went back to the old house where he had spent a lifetime.

Most people believed he had money, but it was never evident by the way he lived. His car was ten years old, his truck about the same and it had been even longer since his house had been painted, O Stooped, that is what they called him and that’s who he became.

I went by the Baptist hospital in Memphis to visit with him, I had stopped by his home a number of times, he was nice enough but it really never seemed to matter to him one way or another. He never came to church, never attended a funeral, he was just alone, always alone.

We talked a bit, he knew that his time was limited, it didn’t seem to bother him, and we just talked of nothing.

I tried to talk about his faith, his coming death but he wasn’t interested. I prayed, told him that I was leaving, then said, Mr. Sharp is there anything I can do for you, anything. He said, no, all was well, then he said, “Preacher thanks for coming to see me and thanks for praying for me, when you do my funeral tell the people all that I ever wanted was for someone to hold me because they really wanted to, but I lived my life in such a way that no one ever wanted to. It was my fault, tell them to be careful and to share themselves with others, and don’t do like I did”

If you wish for someone to hold you, you really do need to be holdable.

Published in: on March 15, 2016 at 11:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Looking Back

 

He knew that it had been a real mistake, now that he was looking back, but isn’t that always how it is with looking back? Things are so clear, even magnified when you are looking back.

It was such a mistake that he wasn’t sure there was any way to overcome it or to even survive it. Sure it had been fun at first. The freedom from his father’s house and business had provided him with so many new adventures that at moments he was not sure he would live long enough to enjoy them all.

His father had been generous with the settlement, given him more cash for his part of the business than he had expected or asked for, but then that was so much like his father, as he was generous with everyone. The money and independence had been great for a time and anyone who said money could not buy happiness just didn’t have enough money.

But in truth it wasn’t happiness that troubled him now, it was survival. The economy had dropped, the job market had collapsed and his plans to go to work and restore his funds before they all ran out had failed. It was gone, all of it as well as all that it had bought, friends, car, big apartment, popularity, all of it was gone.

He thought about William his father’s driver and errand runner. He lived in a nice, small, but nice house. His children all went to college and he had always seemed at peace with himself and his life. He wondered how much his father paid William and how William had become content and at peace with his life.

His shift as a burger flipper was almost over but looking forward to another night in the ‘union mission’ did not bring him any peace. He would smell those burgers and all the wine and vomit of the men with whom he had to share the small room crowded with cots and the left behind of society.

Sleep wouldn’t come, but prayer did. He didn’t know how to pray but he remembered his father praying and so he just talked to God. Maybe he could go home and ask his father to forgive him and to give him a job, just any job at his father’s house would be better than this. Maybe, just maybe his father could teach him about peace, he was weary of happiness; he just wanted peace, just peace.

What could he loose? His father might say no but he would be no worst off, he needed his father and he wasn’t going to wait until morning he was starting home right now. Looking back he remember how exciting it had been to leave home but now as he made his journey home it wasn’t excitement that moved through his heart, what was it, was it the beginning of peace?  When he turned into the drive way he saw his father sitting on the porch looking out toward the street. Suddenly the old man jumped up, called to his wife in the house and came running to meet him. As he felt his dad hug him and felt the tears from him falling on his shoulders he was sure that peace was coming, peace was coming.

From the story in Luke 15

Published in: on March 15, 2016 at 12:34 am  Leave a Comment