Have you met the members of my congregation?

I belong to the greatest church in the world.  We have an eclectic group of members and leaders. You would love them.  Here are some of their names….

First off, our pastor is Rev. Turner Byrne.

The deacons are Rod(ney) N. Staff, Moe Love, Noah D. Word, and Ruffin Tumble.

The Sunday School teachers are I. M. Humble, Chester Drawers, Hal E. Looyah, and Shuck D. Corn.

The church council includes I. M. Wright, R. U. Ready, H. Evan Sent, and Joiner R. Flock.

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Preparing for your one moment in the world’s spotlight

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks a reason for the hope that you have.” (I Peter 3:15)

Sometimes you know when your moment is coming but most times you don’t.

One morning ten years ago, I was to be interviewed on a national hookup for Moody Radio. Early that morning, I sat at my breakfast table and thought about doing such things…

For the last week, I’ve had a post-it note beside my computer: Monday. Interview. Moody Radio. 10 am. A reminder to pray for the Father’s presence in this and a prompting to be near the home phone at that time.

It’s not like this is the first time I’ve been interviewed, so it’s not about my having the jitters.

What this is about is the need for a follower of the Lord Jesus to be prepared for that moment when the microphone is poked in his face and he is asked to account for something important.

I recall reading where a consultant was prepping politicians and Fortune 500 big-shots for their moment in the spotlight, for good or ill. Some of his points have lingered with me to this day.

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Leadership in crisis: That’s how you get to be a hero!

I wrote this in April 2007, as New Orleans was in the second year of digging out and rebuilding from the devastating Hurricane Katrina.  The people described here are the kind we need today, people who step up and get it done even when others say it cannot happen. See what you think….


Doris Voitier is about to receive one of this country’s premier awards, the JFK Profile in Courage Award, given to only one or two persons a year for showing courage in the face of overwhelming odds.

Doris Voitier is the superintendent of the St. Bernard School System, in the parish just below New Orleans.  (Note: As of 2020, she is still in this position and also an at-large member of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.)  This parish was completely flooded in Katrina and 90 percent of the homes were either damaged or ruined.

A few weeks after Katrina, when everyone was saying St. Bernard Parish was destroyed and most leaders were still shaking their heads and wondering what to do, Doris Voitier decided if St. Bernard were to get on its feet, the schools would have to be operating. Problem is, they were all flooded and ruined, every last one of them. So, she had a little talk with the FEMA people, found out they weren’t going to do anything, and took matters into her own hands.

She took out a loan for $17 million and ordered 22 portable classrooms and 107 travel trailers for school employees, all of whom had lost their homes. Then she announced that school would reopen only 11 weeks after Katrina. Incidentally, she spent $22,000 for each trailer in contrast with the $60,000 which FEMA would eventually pay.

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While her Son was dying, Mary was thinking…

“But there were standing by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” (John 19:25)

Why am I here? And why is He there?

There seem to be no answers other than “God knows and we trust Him.”

Thy will be done. “I am the bond-slave of the Lord. Be it done to me according to Thy word.”

Sometimes you cry and cry until there are no more tears.

Your heart aches until it no longer feels anything.

Your mind grows exhausted from events happening all around, none of which you were prepared for.

If anyone had told me a year ago I could experience the suffering of this day and live through it, I would have thought it impossible.

There are no words to describe this kind of heart-break.

You are surrounded by people, yet more alone than at anytime in your life.

Friends come over, want to make sure I’m all right. They ask how I’m coping. No words come.

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Beware of wanting everything too simple

A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money. –Everett Dirksen, Republican Senator from Illinois (1896-1969).

Watching our nation’s politicians as they propose, dispose, impose, expose, compose and, of course, suppose regarding the economic crisis this country seems to be constantly facing, I find myself wondering how many actually know what they are talking about.

I hate to be skeptical, but common sense — forged by a half-century of dealing with churches, finance people, and my own situations — informs me that most people do not relate to budgets, debts, and deals in the millions of dollars, much less billions and even trillions.

That, however, does not prevent the lowliest politician from sounding forth on the matter, usually to tell the world all that is wrong with whatever the nation’s leaders are proposing at the moment. And what is his own solution to the quandary we face? He never says.

A long time ago another senator, Missouri’s Thomas Hart Benton said, “The worst disease afflicting my constituents is a thing called ‘the simples.’ The folks back home want me to come up with simple solutions to their complex problems, answers that resolve all their difficulties without it costing them anything.”

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way.

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The 5 best pieces of preaching advice I ever received

Not every advice given to preachers is sound or wise.  But from time to time, a godly layman or preacher friend has a great word.  Here are five I recall…

One.  From a deacon. 

“Be patient with the people.”

I was fresh from seminary and the brash new pastor of a church in the Mississippi Delta. This was in the late 1960s, one year before Martin Luther King was assassinated.  I was preaching on God’s love for all people of all races, that we are all equal before Him, created by a loving God and thus to be valued. Not a very inflammatory message to be sure.  But some of my people were reacting.  That’s when the chairman of deacons called his young pastor aside.

“What you are saying is right, pastor,” said businessman and deacon chairman Lawrence Bryant.  “But let me remind you that the preacher before you told these people for nine years that segregation was God’s way.”  He paused.  “You can change them, but you need to be patient with them.”

It was the perfect advice.

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Every church has issues, every pastor a situation

“We who are in this body do groan….” (2 Corinthians 5:4)

“Not that I have already attained or am already perfected; but I press on….” (Philippians 3:12).

A young pastor sent me a question.  Two churches have contacted him about their search for a new shepherd.  Both are in the same general area, both about the same size, and, in his words, “both have issues.”

I told him, “Every church has issues.”

They all do.  Of the six congregations I pastored, none was completely filled with mature, loving, solid Christians.  All had issues.

The first one, Unity of Kimberly, AL lacked a group of mature leaders to work with their green pastor (moi!).

The second, Paradis of Paradis, LA, was asleep and needed awakening.

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What if your cross is the person you married?

And so it came to pass in the morning, that, behold, it was Leah.  (Genesis 29:25)

Jacob was neither the first nor the last to find that the person he married was far different from the one he had proposed to and thought he was getting!

I’ve known a few pastors over the years whose marriages were crosses they had to bear.  I thought of that while reading Heirs of the Founders by H. W. Brands this week, as he commented on the marriage of John and Floride Calhoun.

John C. Calhoun was a prominent political figure in America the first-half of the 19th Century.  A senator from South Carolina, he served as Vice-President under both John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. His home, Fort Hill Plantation, is located in Clemson, SC, and is open for visitors.  Calhoun was a fascinating character about whom no one back then (or now)  was neutral. His son-in-law founded Clemson University.

To say the Calhouns’ was a difficult marriage would be an understatement.  And yet, it had a romantic beginning, as most probably do.

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Foretastes of Heaven divine

I’m at the age now where this happens almost weekly.   A little foretaste of Heaven. 

In Glory, they’ll be coming up saying to you, “Do you remember that lesson you taught?” That prayer you prayed. That offering you gave.  That note you wrote.  That sermon you preached.  That witness you shared.

“Well, that’s why I’m here. God used it in my life.”

And you will be stunned. 

Makes you want to be more faithful today, doesn’t it?  More generous, more prayerful, more loving.  

Here are five foretastes of glory I’ve had recently…

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10 quirky things I do–and don’t apologize for

One man’s quirks is another fellow’s norms. I get that.  But from all I know and the world I’m a part of, these things I do fall outside the boundaries of normal and customary, particularly for a Baptist preacher of a certain age.

One. I read a lot of western novels.  Sometimes three or more a week.  I was never a cowboy, but growing up on the farm with animals–pigs, cows, a horse or a mule–you have no trouble envisioning yourself as a cowboy.

Two. I have a collection of comic books.  I’m not adding to it, as the books they’re turning out these days are not my cup of tea and the old ones I can no longer afford. — The Golden Era of comics was in the late 1940s and the 1950s. That’s also the time of my childhood, so the only comics I’m interested in come from that period.  I have hundreds of Disneys, and several cowboys, etc.

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