Did you hear about the guy that was invited to an event he wasn’t particularly interested in but is going anyway?

HalIt’s me! Yep, that’s right, it is me. I was invited by a certain acquaintance to attend a good event that I’m not particularly fired up about due to all that’s going on in my life as a pastor, husband, dad, grandad, friend, etc.  (You are busy, you get it.)  But here’s what I will tell you, I was not offended, fully expected it at some point, and am going to go because I appreciate the passion this person has by including me.  I really believe this individual thinks our church and I will be better off because of it.  So, there you go…

EASTER Sunday is an ideal time to invite those who aren’t necessarily interested in church…  I’m sure the event I’m attending will be fine, but it’s not going to focus on the gospel—Jesus came, lived a perfect life to die for our sins, and He rose from the dead—which changes everything!  Who are you inviting?  The person may be expecting, waiting, and willing if only we will just do it!

The title of my sermon Easter is literally that it changes everything!  Why?  Because it’s been my experience, the experience of millions, that HE does!  It’s in Jesus we have hope—no matter our circumstances.  But many, many people don’t know that hope.  Let’s do this…

Until next time…

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I ONCE GAVE BILLY GRAHAM A PIECE OF MISSISSIPPI CARAMEL CAKE—SORT OF…

Billy-Graham-Birthday Like many of you, I’ve been touched by the home-going of Dr. Billy Graham in numerous ways.  And like so many, I have my own Billy Graham stories.  (They really aren’t that big of a deal, but due to being raised during the prime of his career, it’s fun to think about.)  Besides the obvious—seeing movies, hearing him on TV, etc., I had three more “personal” experiences. First, I attended a Billy Graham Crusade in Jackson, MS, as a teenager and one of my friends gave their life to Christ.  Second, I was a summer camp counselor while in college at Camp Rockmont, a Christian boys camp in Black Mountain, NC, where Dr. Graham’s grandson attended.  He was in our “tribe” and stayed in the cabin next door. His name is Jonathan Lotz, Anne Graham Lotz, son.  He was a good kid and from what I understand has become a fine young man.  Third, my son Trey, and I attended a conference a few years ago at the Billy Graham Training Center (The Cove).  While there, I actually drove Trey over to Camp Rockmont to see where I worked that summer during my college years.  While there, we “ran into” the Camp Director when I worked there.  (I didn’t tell him, but I actually thought he had passed away.)  He invited us into his house and we shared memories and stories.  Here’s the story that eventually connected to Dr. Graham having caramel cake… My seasoned friend/boss and his wife had known the Grahams for years.  (They were practically neighbors up there in those mountains.)  He shared that his now deceased wife use to make Billy Graham a Mississippi Caramel cake every year.  (She was a native Mississippian and her mother had taught her how to bake.)  Dr. Graham often expressed how he missed my Camp Director’s wife and her caramel cake.  Sooooo, upon our return from the trip, I found a first-class caramel cake making company in my native state of Mississippi and had it sent it to my Director because he had been so kind to Trey and me.  Several weeks later I received a letter from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association thanking me for the cake.  My former boss had eaten a piece and then sent the rest to his friend/neighbor, Billy Graham.  Billy Graham’s secretary sent me a note saying that although Billy wasn’t supposed to eat sweets on a regular basis, they allowed him to eat a piece of the caramel cake.  He greatly enjoyed it and shared the rest with his staff.  Isn’t that awesome?  So, Trey and I feel like the one and only Dr. Billy Graham ate a piece of caramel cake that we had sent to the mountains.  It was a mountaintop experience for my son and me for sure.   I will likely frame that note now and forever remember how sweet it was that God allowed us to have that experience.  As I reflect on his life during the past week, I feel a sense of loss.  One of the greatest Christian men and evangelist that ever lived is no longer on earth.  And we rejoice that he is in heaven with Jesus and his beloved wife.  Like so many others, I just miss the reality of him still being alive.  It made the world a better place, even though he was confined to his bed recently. But we have a responsibility to continue the work of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We all have a mission field, a sphere of influence, so let’s use it for Kingdom Purposes and finish strong—just like Dr. Graham!  Life will be that much sweeter if we will…

Why “Black Panther” is such a popular and profound film

By Dr. Jim Denison

I saw Black Panther yesterday, which makes me anything but unusual. The movie took in an estimated $192 million over the weekend domestically, making it the highest February film debut in history. It has already grossed $169 million overseas as well.

It is the highest rated superhero movie of all time. After viewing the film, I can see why.

Ryan Coogler, already famous for Creed, directed an astounding cast in one of the most gripping films I’ve seen in years. Part of the movie’s appeal is clearly its amazing action sequences and outstanding performances. But its deeper message is one I believe to be especially significant for Christians in America.

Why superhero movies are so popular

Black Panther is the eighteenth movie connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, beginning with Iron Man in 2008. DC Comics has made dozens of movies over the years as well.

Superhero movies are extremely popular these days, in part because the news reminds us daily how much we need protection.

Nikolas Cruz has confessed to attacking Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, one of more than 140,000 schools in the US. In addition, there are more than 5.6 million commercial buildings and more than 107,000 shopping centers in this country.

Most have multiple access points and little if any armed security. The cost of protecting each of them against an armed attacker would be astronomical.

A list of the deadliest single-day mass shootings in modern US history includes schools, churches, businesses, a cafeteria, a McDonalds, a postal center, an immigrant community center, a casino and resort, a gambling club, a nightclub, a navy yard, a street, a movie theater, two brokerage houses, a Buddhist center, a nursing home, and a government center. Clearly, securing every vulnerable location is impossible.

In our post-9/11 world, the promise of superhero protection, even though fanciful, is attractive. But there’s an element central to the plot of Black Panther that helps explain its unique appeal as well.

A dilemma at the heart of life

Black Panther is about an African nation called Wakanda, which developed a metal called “vibranium” from a meteorite. Vibranium helped them produce an extremely advanced civilization and technology they have hidden from the world by posing as an impoverished country.

At the heart of the movie is a dilemma: Should they share what they know with those in need?

If they do, will they lose control of their resources? Will people use their technology for evil? Is their king’s highest duty to his nation or to humanity? If he refuses to help those he can, what kind of country will Wakanda become?

Martin Luther King Jr. noted, “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?'”

Black Panther resonates with audiences in large part because its dilemma is our dilemma. Every day, we must face the question of serving self or serving others.

The best test of character

I heard about an executive with an unusual hiring practice. He would force the prospective employee to wait in his assistant’s office for ten minutes before their interview. Afterwards, he would ask his assistant how the candidate treated her. Her response was critical to his decision.

The best test of our character is how we treat people we don’t have to treat well.

We find this maxim on display in Genesis 45. In the midst of famine, Joseph’s brothers returned to Egypt seeking food. Recall that they sold him into slavery some seventeen years earlier (Genesis 37:28). Now he was prime minister of the most powerful nation in the world, second only to the pharaoh himself.

His brothers’ lives were in his hands. For their crimes, he could easily and justifiably have ordered their execution. Instead, he arranged for them and their families to join him in Egypt, where they would live under his protection and provision.

Thirty-eight centuries later, his benevolence serves as a model for us.

Let’s learn a lesson from Joseph: When we treat with kindness those we don’t have to treat well, God blesses our compassion. And we manifest the character of the One who “came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45).

Albert Schweitzer was a world-renowned theologian, musician, and missionary doctor. In 1935, he gave a speech to the students of Silcoates School in England on “The Meaning of Ideals in Life.”

Dr. Schweitzer told the students, “I don’t know what your destiny will be. Some of you will perhaps occupy remarkable positions. Perhaps some of you will become famous by your pens, or as artists. But I know one thing: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

Will you be “really happy” today?

I AM NOT A FIRESTONE EMPLOYEE…

FireStoneUpon return from a recent vacation, I discovered from my wife that my car needed some repairs. (I took her vehicle on my trip due to better gas mileage) I knew it was due for an oil change and maybe a few other issues, but because I drive it every day, I guess I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten. (I think there’s a sermon here—the gradual drift from God that we may not realize is so bad? Another day…) Sooooo, my first action step my final day of vacation was to take my Mustang to Firestone and sit for hours doing some work.

While sitting in a corner of the store with books and papers spread out, an older gentleman walked in and started asking me questions. Now, if you know me, I am the least likely person that knows anything, I mean anything, about cars. I can turn on a car and drive it and turn it off when I arrive at my destination. That’s about it. (I’m really not kidding.) He spoke broken English, so I knew I was not talking with a Southerner, at least a Deep South southerner, like myself. He started asking me questions about various tires, he wanted to know If “we” did trade in on tires, etc. I would listen and then politely encourage him to ask the man at the front desk. It didn’t seem to matter, he would shake his head ok and then ask me another question. The man was nice. He actually introduced himself to me. His name? Moses. (I’m not kidding here either.)

I finally answered one of his questions because it was a “no-brainer.” I know, I probably shouldn’t have, but it just seemed to be the right thing to do at the time. 🙂 It did not do any damage, but it did make me think… How many times have I asked the wrong person what to do about a need and received bad information? You get where I’m headed here?

SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD… There is nothing wrong with seeking wise counsel. The bible encourages us to do so. (Proverbs 1:5) But we need to pray first. And then when we do seek wise counsel, we need to be sure we’re talking to the right person. If not, we may end up with some bad “tires” or repairing something that doesn’t need repairing. 🙂

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

Until Next Time…

DON’T SNEEZE AT SOSTHENES…

IPhone_Dont_SneezeI’m currently preaching a sermon series on the book of 1 Corinthians.  This Sunday I’m preaching about a man that most of us have heard very little about.  His name is Sosthenes.  He should not be taken lightly or overlooked.  Here’s the verse…

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,” (1 Corinthians 1:1) 

I’VE DISCOVERED THE FOLLOWING TRUTHS, SO FAR…

Every child of God is useful, whether they are known are not 

            Those least known “down here” may be well known “up there.” 

            We all need Godly companions 

            Live for the approval of one—Jesus 

            No one avoids pain here on earth 

NOW, BACK TO SNEEZING… The expression, “that’s not something to sneeze at,” has been around a long time.  There may be little things we’re missing lately.  So often I find myself focusing on what I consider the “big things” of life, while likely missing “little things.”  For example, my wife recently wanted to take a walk to our neighborhood park instead of riding our bikes.  Why?  One reason she stated was so that we could hold hands.  I’m a guy, but I’ve heard enough marriage messages to know that what seemed little to me was big to here.  By God’s grace, I didn’t overlook the opportunity.  Do you see what I mean?  Whatever is going on in your life today, don’t let it cause you to miss the moments around you.  Please don’t let it cause you to not enjoy the journey.

Live life for the moment because everything else is uncertain! ~Louis Tomlinson 

Until Next Time…

IS TUA THE NEXT TIM?

The Next Tim Tebow?

TuaIs Tua the next Tim?  I’m referring to Alabama’s Freshman phenomenon that quarterbacked them to a National College Football Championship recently? It sure seems that way.  Here’s why…

  • He uses his platform to give glory to Jesus… Tua Tagovailoa won a game for the ages and publicly praised “my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and then told an interviewer, “All glory goes to God.”  I JUST LOVE THAT!  Timmy T is the one that basically invented tebowing. Need I say more?
  • He is humble…  When asked about his response when told he was going to start the second half, he said, “Who would have thought I would have been here, you know?”  Tebow works with special needs folks.  God clearly gives grace to the humble.
  • He loves his family… One of the most touching moments was when Tua ran over to his dad and hugged his neck and kissed his cheek!  You read about Tua and you read about his incredible family.  Timmy is known as a “mama’s boy.”  Personally, I think that can be a good thing.  He loves his mom, dad, and siblings!
  • He has the “it” factor.  When interviewed after the game, the quarterback Tua replaced, Jalen Hurts, said that this young man has the “it” factor .  Folks, that’s the guy he replaced!  And how can anyone describe Tim Tebow’s life thus far except that he, too, has the “it” factor.  You just can’t explain it, but you know it when it’s there.
  • He has a charismatic personality… I watched this young man during the pregame press conference.  In my opinion, he just took over.  Not because he wanted the limelight, just because of his love for people.  He connects with everyone.  He uses humor to bring levity to life’s situations.  Tebow does the same.  If you watch him as a sports announcer, he helps the “team” of broadcasters’ shine.  He did the same as a quarterback.  These guys can’t help it.  That’s how God wired them and they “get it!”  They are comfortable in their own skin.
  • He works hard… Now, if you know anything at all about Tim Tebow, you know he works REALLY hard to develop his craft.  His work ethic, workout routine, is epic!  Tua Tagovailoa has been impressing coaches, players, and others in practice for months.  He was ready to shine because he shines in practice.  Jim Rohn said, “Take advantage of every opportunity to practice…so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.” A person can be tremendously blessed with talent and never reach his potential.
  • He is left handed… There are not a ton of left-handed quarterbacks out there.  The other one that played for Bama many years ago was Kenny Stabler.  He, too, was a success.  But not all of them are.  Tua said that his dad is the one that helped him develop his skill as a passer when he was just a kid.  Tebow may not have the accuracy as Tua, but he was a strong left-handed presence.  And you can’t think about Tebow without remembering all those passes he threw in college with that unique spin on the ball that often accompanies a pass from a lefty.

One of the greatest Judges Israel ever had was left-handed. He, too, was a warrior and led others to bring glory to God.   His name wasn’t Tua or Timmy.  He was the second judge of Israel.  But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help, the Lord again raised up a rescuer to save them.  His name was Ehud son of Gera, a left-handed man of the tribe of Benjamin… Judges 3:15a

You may not be left-handed.  You may not play ball.  You may feel like a loser today.  BUT you need to know something today from these three left-handed men, God loves you just as you are and has a plan for your life.  Little is much in the hands of God!

Now, this list is not exhaustive and may add to it in the future.  But today, that’s all I got and I believe it’s enough to say WE GOT US ANOTHER TEBOW! PTL!  AND GOD HAS MANY OTHERS IN THIS WORLD WAITING TO BLESS IF ONLY, IF ONLY, WE WILL BELIEVE.

Until next time…

Fifteen Minutes Could Change Your Year

newyear

As we begin this new year, 2018, pastor Hal would like to share with you an article, by Jim Denison, about why we recognize New Year’s Day and how, we as Jesus followers, can begin a new year.


Happy New Year.

I watched the ball drop in Times Square from the warmth of my home in Dallas. It was ten degrees at midnight in New York City, colder than any New Year’s Eve except in 1917, when it was one degree. Mariah Carey performed on ABC’s broadcast, while Maria Menounos co-hosted Fox’s show and got married on live TV just after midnight.

You could spend New Year’s Day reading about ways to be happierhealthier, and wealthier in 2018. Or you could read about predictions in sciencebusiness, and culture. You could brave the cold to go outside and gaze at tonight’s Supermoon. If you’re like me, you’ll be watching college football much of the day.

What you’ll probably not do on this New Year’s Day is wonder why we have a New Year’s Day.

Why does January 1 begin the “new year”? (It doesn’t in many cultures around the world.) Why is there such a thing as a “new year”? And why does the concept of a new year matter to us beyond today?

Where did “New Year’s Day” begin?

If you lived without a calendar, nothing about today would tell you that it is any different from yesterday or tomorrow. You would know that the seasons have changed, of course. It’s definitely winter in Dallas (we will not get above freezing until Wednesday), while it’s definitely summer in Australia (the high in Sydney today is an enviable 80 degrees).

Over time, you would notice that there are four repeating seasons. You would notice cyclical changes with the moon and the stars. But you would probably not seek to identify one day as beginning the process all over again.

Where, then, did we get the idea for a “New Year’s Day”?

According to History.com, the earliest recorded festivals honoring a new year date back four millennia to the Babylonians. For them, the first new moon following the vernal equinox (late March on our calendar) began the new year. Egyptians began their new year with the annual flooding of the Nile, which coincided with the rise of the star Sirius. The first day of the Chinese New Year occurred with the second new moon after the winter solstice.

It makes sense to begin the year with such annual meteorological markers. However, January 1 is inauspicious in nature. Why, then, does it begin our new year?

In 46 BC, Julius Caesar implemented a new calendar beginning with January 1 (the month dedicated to Janus, the Roman god of beginnings). Medieval Christian leaders tried to relocate the new year to days with greater religious significance such as Christmas or March 25 (the Feast of the Annunciation). However, in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII reestablished January 1 as New Year’s Day.

Why do we celebrate a “new year”?

So, many cultures have been celebrating a “new year” for at least four millennia. But why?

I find Jewish tradition to be relevant here. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, celebrated each year in September. This is considered the day God created Adam and Eve, thus the “birthday of the universe.” The Jewish people celebrate the day with candles, festive meals, the sounding of the ram’s horn, and prescribed prayers.

One Rosh Hashanah tradition I consider especially significant is “Tashlich” (from the Hebrew for “to throw”).

On the first afternoon of Rosh Hashanah (unless it is a Sabbath, in which case Tashlich is observed on the next day), Jews go to a body of water (ocean, river, pond, etc.). They ceremonially cast their sins into the water, evoking Micah 7:19, “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” After reciting this and other verses, participants shake out the corners of their clothing.

New Year’s Day is far more significant than an annual day to change our calendars and watch football. It points to our innate need as fallen creatures to start over with our Creator. We know that we are not who we should be. And we know that we need forgiveness for our past and hope for our future.

Begin your year with God

To experience both, let me encourage you to take fifteen minutes today to begin your year with God.

First, observe a personal Tashlich. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to your mind anything in your life that displeases God, then write down what comes to your thoughts. Confess what you have written and ask your Father’s forgiveness.

Then claim his mercy and grace (1 John 1:9) and destroy your paper. I sometimes use the shredder in my study for this purpose. You can rip up the paper and flush it or burn it in the fireplace. However you dispose of it, rejoice that your sins are also gone, erased forever by the cleansing water of God’s grace.

Second, dedicate this new year to his glory. Ask him to lead you to fulfill his purpose for your life. Begin every day by surrendering that day to his sovereignty. And you will experience every day his “peace which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

A century ago, Louisa Fletcher spoke for us all:

I wish that there were some wonderful place
In the Land of Beginning Again.
Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches
And all of our poor selfish grief
Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door
and never put on again.

There is.


Until next time….