February 25, 2021 - When Paul wrote to Timothy in his second letter, he has this to say in chapter 3, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves… unthankful.” Does that description fit us in our own day and time? Lovers of self would indicate a certain degree of selfishness and along with that comes a lack of gratitude.

The events of the past week were a trying experience to say the least. We were without power, we were without water and we were cold, very cold. Perhaps it revealed to us the many things we take for granted in our world.

We always assume that if we are cold, all we need to do is adjust the thermostat and we can be warmer. We are accustomed to turning on the faucet and being able to get water to make coffee, or cook our food our get a drink. We are accustomed to flipping a switch and having light in the room. Yet, during our bitter freeze last week, we did not have the use of these things we have come to take for granted.

If anything comes to us out of our cold weather experience, it is that we have many things in our life that we take for granted and do not appreciate as we should. However, more than electricity, heat and water, we should make certain we appreciate the people in our lives. The people who make our lives better. Let’s make sure we don’t take them for granted but thank God for them.

It’s something to think about… tbp

Center Church of Christ, 110 Hurst Street, Center, Texas or online at www.centerchurchofchrist.com.

February 21, 2021 - The Third Appreciation Service for Pastor Gary Suell, Sr. and First Lady Pam Suell of Mt. Gillion Baptist Church will be held at the John D Windham Civic Center, 146 Express Blvd., Center, TX 75935 on Sunday, February 28, 2021 at 3pm. Masks and/or face coverings mandatory. The speaker is Rev. James Ervin, the Pastor of Iron Wheel Baptist Church, Nacogdoches, TX. We would love to see you there. Dinner is catered and you may get it to go.

Mt. Gillion Baptist Church is located on Hwy 87 North in Center, TX.

“Eutychus fell out the window because of Paul’s long sermon...” Acts 20:9

February 22, 2021 - In the late fifties while I was a student at ETBU in Marshall, Texas, I was asked to preach at The Bonaldo Baptist Church in Nacogdoches County. The church was composed of the descendants of the early Spanish settlers: the Acostas, Molandes, Ariolas. The Bonaldo Creek and the Loco Creek ran near this community and into the Angelina River. The church decided to name their church after one of them and wisely chose The Bonaldo.

Both the log parsonage and the outhouse were inhabited by large wood rats and long chicken snakes. And the ancient well was partially filled with an accumulation of armadillo hulls, tin cans, and years of dinner-on-the-ground leftovers.

When I arrived for my appointment that first Sunday, Deacon Vick Ariola introduced me to his seven Molandes cousins and their families who made up the majority of the membership. He advised me, “Now preacher, we got a bird nesting under the pulpit and we don’t want them eggs to git cold.”

Sure enough, as I approached the pulpit, a wren fluttered from her nest under the pulpit and sailed out through a missing windowpane. I don’t remember what my sermon subject was that day, but I do remember that I didn’t let those eggs get cold!

I was pastor of the church for two years and they never replaced the windowpane. They must have figured keeping out the elements was not as important as keeping out long-winded preachers!

February 22, 2021 - Grace and peace from our brother Jesus. Sunday was the First Sunday of Lent. We sure had a winter storm last week—missing Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. Time flies, whether you’re having fun or not! We called off church last Sunday before the snow and ice made it to East Texas but decided to try church today. It turned out to be a beautiful warm day, with snow and ice melting everywhere. Our prayers are for all those still without power, water, and other necessities of life.

Paxton Methodist is having in-person worship; we respect each other by wearing masks and keeping socially distant. Scientists and medical professionals say that we can do three simple things before the vaccines are generally available: To curtail the spread of Covid-19, we should wash our hands regularly, stay at least six feet apart—social distancing, and yes, wear a mask—or maybe two masks—at least for the next hundred days. Things are so dire that mask-wearing is the patriotic thing to do. It is also the Christian thing to do, loving your neighbor as you love yourself. As soon as you can, get vaccinated against this scourge—twice. Sue and I got our first dose of the Covid vaccine the first of February. We were so happy to get that needed shot in the arm that it was a day of celebration for us.

We had a really small crowd this morning—even for Paxton Methodist. But it was great to get out. We shared stories of the past week and also learned much about fasting in our Sunday School lesson. Most of the lesson, though, dealt with God’s justice. In the Kingdom that Jesus spoke of—God’s Kingdom—people are set free: They share bread with the hungry, provide shelter and clothing for those in need, and generally love their neighbors. In our scripture reading this morning, the Prophet Isaiah tells us we are to fast from oppressing workers, quarreling, and brawling—and to fast from destructive economic practices. Without God’s justice there will never be peace. 

We want to be as safe as we can. Since we resumed in-person worship, our music has been on CD. We can hum the song under our masks but no vigorous singing! Both hymns today were sung by Alan Jackson. The first was “Standing on the Promises” and the second, “I’ll Fly Away.” He only sang a couple of verses of each, but he had our toes tapping!

The main scripture for this Sunday came from the first chapter of the Mark Gospel. In verses 40-45 Jesus once again is looking for a quiet place to pray. His disciples catch up with him, as does a man suffering from leprosy. This unnamed man is looking to be made physically, mentally, and socially whole. Jesus heals this man and then sends him to see a priest who will confirm that he is now free of the disease. Jesus asks only one thing of the man—not to tell anyone what occurred. Of course the healed—and once again whole—man cannot stay silent, and soon everyone knows. We humans just are not very good at keeping secrets!

Whoever you are, in whatever faith you were born, whatever creed you profess; if you come to this house to find God you are welcome here. Paxton United Methodist Church is an inviting church that takes to heart the idea of “Open Doors, Open Hearts, and Open Minds.” Worship begins at 10:00. Our email address is paxtonumc@yahoo.com. If you would like the weekly email newsletter about Paxton Methodist, you can send your email address to the Paxton email address, and I will add you to the list. God’s Speed.

Randy & Sue Smith/Paxton United Methodist Church

February 17, 2021 - Ruth Graham wrote a book titled In Every Pew Sits A Broken Heart. All of us need to remember that from time to time. There is also a familiar passage in I Peter chapter 5 and verse 7 we need to remember. Peter writes there, “Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.”

You and I are in this verse! There is so much in our world that is impersonal. We live in an age of bigness and numbers. Everyone wants to know “the last four of your social” when you call wanting information.

Yet, God still knows us and me as individuals. God doesn’t keep track of us by a computer or an account number. You see, it’s just the way we read in John chapter 10, he knows us.

But we are not only in that verse as individuals in I Peter. In that verse are our cares, our concerns, and our problems. Every care that you and I are carrying is in that passage. Cares that often can be roadblocks to blessings. Yet, Peter tells us to cast our cares upon Jesus and with our cares removed we can truly experience the joy of the Lord.

Never forget, no cares like Jesus and no one understands like Jesus. For those who will surrender their life to Him, obey His commands and live His kind of life, Jesus will carry their burdens. The question is, are you living life Jesus’ way?

It’s something to think about … tbp
 
Center Church of Christ
110 Hurst Street
Center, Texas

February 15, 2021 - Although James Cannon and I were both from the Shelbyville, Texas area, I first met him in 1970 when I became pastor of Fletcher Emanuel Baptist Church in Lumberton, Texas. James was our Youth Sunday School teacher, a member of the Lumberton tax equalization Board, and was highly respected resident in the fastest growing town in Texas. We became close friends and often hunted together.

A hunt we made in the winter of 1970, I’ll never forget. Our favorite woods were located on The Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation near Woodville Texas. On this particular day, we were extra excited when we woke up with a surprise snow on the ground. After stopping at the Pitt Grill Café at Woodville for breakfast, we drove to the woods where we built a fire and waited for daylight.

“You take the high woods and I’ll take the low,” James said. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was not an ordinary day. These woods that were usually alive with vibrant sounds of wildlife were unbelievably silent, not a bird, not a squirrel, not even the usually cawing of a noisy crow did I hear. It was as if all nature had agreed to silence and the only sound I heard was a slow flow of wind sneaking through the trees. A day like this is described by hunters in different ways, but my brother and I always called it “a day of the ill wind.”

After three hours of hearing and seeing nothing, I was returning to meet James when I heard a loud “boom” from his shotgun and when I reached the car, he was waiting for me. In a low, almost whispering voice, he said, “Brother Doug, I’ve done something that I don’t want you mixed up with.” “I’ve shot an illegal deer,” he said. When I said, “Let’s go get him,” James mumbled, “It ain't no him." “A doe shot across the road, and I pulled the trigger on her before I knew it.” I assured him that he could count on my silence and we loaded her into the car. He put the meat in his freezer and his wife and three children ate a lot of venison the next year.

I later moved to a pastorate in Louisiana and didn’t see James again until I became the pastor of The First Baptist Church of Shelbyville, Texas. Our church was located only a half mile from his homeplace next to the Shelbyville High School. One Sunday morning as I made announcements, it brought tears of joy to my eyes when I saw James walk in the door. He told me afterwards that he came up to see his mother and that he would be going back home the next day.

That was the first time I hsd seen him in 25 year and it would be my last. His daughter Cynthia called me one day saying James was ill and gave me his phone number. We talked a while, but his voice was very weak. Two months later, Cynthia called saying her dad had crossed the Jordan and would be brought back to Shelbyville for burial.

Someone anonymously wrote: A good friend knows all your stories, and your best friends helped you write them. When I awoke at three this morning, I decided to write about James and a story he helped me write that happened 45 years ago. James was not just a man: he was a godly man and a good man.

His rewards are stored in heaven.

February 11, 2021 - There is a little obscure sentence found in Philippians 3:10 that expressed the deepest longing and desire of the apostle Paul, where he writes, “That I may know Him.” 

Paul’s deepest and most fervent longing evidently was to know Jesus better. That ought to be our deepest longing also. The knowledge of God revealed in Jesus Christ gives us a grip on the great spiritual realities. If we are to know Jesus better, then we must spend time with the book of God, the Bible. You see, it is the Bible that reveals Jesus Christ, the son of the living God to us.

Right here, right now, this very minute, how real is Jesus to you? Jesus Christ needs to be real in our lives and we need to make Him more a part of our lives.

If we are to come to know Jesus, if He is going to be real to us, there is a price to be paid to know him. Let’s be honest, everything worthwhile has a price to pay. To be a world class athlete, an individual must pay a huge price in training. To be an accomplished musician, long hours must be spent in practice. There were those in the New Testament who left everything for Jesus. Peter, Andrew, James, and John got out of the fishing business. Paul said he counted all things loss for Christ. If we want to know Jesus Christ, really know Jesus Christ, we must be willing to surrender our will to the will of Jesus and make him first in our lives.

It’s something to think about … tbp

Center Church of Christ
110 Hurst Street
Center, Texas

February 8, 2021 - Grace and peace from our brother Jesus, Amen. Sunday was the 6th Sunday of the Epiphany. The Season of Epiphany is shorter this year than in other years because there is no set date for Easter (and it’s a little early in 2021). We know that sometimes Easter morning starts off cold and dark—but other years, Daylight Savings has occurred and Spring seems to have sprung. So like in real life, there is uncertainty.

Paxton Methodist is having in-person worship; we respect each other by wearing masks and keeping socially distant. Scientists and medical professionals say that we can do three simple things before the vaccines are generally available: To curtail the spread of Covid-19, we should wash our hands regularly, stay at least 6 feet apart—social distancing, and yes, wear a mask—or maybe two masks—at least for the next hundred days. It could save 50,000 lives. Things are so dire that mask-wearing is the patriotic thing to do. It is also the Christian thing to do, loving your neighbor as you love yourself. As soon as you can, get vaccinated against this scourge—twice. Sue and I got our first dose of the Covid vaccine last week. We were so happy to get that needed shot in the arm that it was a day of celebration for us.

Our Sunday School lesson was based on the first thirteen verses in the second chapter of James. In his first century way, James stresses how important it is for the communities of Jesus followers, as well as all people of good will, to treat others fairly and with dignity. He also reminded us of our obligation to help those who are struggling. James ended by saying that in God’s Kingdom, mercy overrules judgment.

We want to be as safe as we can. Since we resumed in-person worship, our music has been on CD. We can hum the song under our masks but no vigorous singing! The first song, a real toe-tapper, was “Give Me that Old Time Religion,” sung by Willie Nelson. The second hymn, “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” is often called the Methodist anthem.

Today was the first Sunday of the month, so we celebrated Holy Communion. To be as safe as possible, everyone stays in their seats: I give each person a baggie with a small container of juice and a communion wafer. I use hand sanitizer twice during Communion and deliver it to everyone.

The first scripture lesson came from Isaiah 40: 28-31, where we hear the Prophet Isaiah reminding the people that God is everlasting; we must not give up in our struggles, even though we will tire and stumble. The Gospel lesson came from Mark 1, when Jesus once again teaches and heals. He also shows the importance of prayer and finding time for quiet.

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, and as usual I don’t have a favorite team. I will probably watch some of it—the two quarterbacks promise an interesting match-up. Often the games are one-sided and boring. If Sue watches with me, she’ll want to see the high-dollar ads that I usually skip. She’s making homemade cinnamon rolls for me, so the house smells wonderful!

I took some checks and plenty of tuna to the food bank at Community Christian Services. It was good to see everyone. CCS volunteers have become essential as they bring much-appreciated supplies to those in need. In February we will be collecting soap and shampoo to donate. It was good to have Joe worshiping with us today. We wished Keith a belated happy birthday.

Whoever you are, in whatever faith you were born, whatever creed you profess; if you come to this house to find God you are welcome here. Paxton United Methodist Church is an inviting church that takes to heart the idea of “Open Doors, Open Hearts, and Open Minds.” Worship begins at 10:00. Our email address is paxtonumc@yahoo.com. If you would like the weekly email newsletter about Paxton Methodist, you can send your email address to the Paxton email address, and I will add you to the list. God’s Speed.

February 4, 2021 - The year was 1965. Hal David wrote the lyrics to a song and Burt Bacharach composed the music. The song was first recorded and made popular by Jackie DeShannon and the title was, “What the World Needs Now Is Love.” The first stanza reads like this:

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some, but for everyone.”

You know, that’s even more true today than it was during those turbulent days of the 1960’s. To be sure, it was the Apostle Paul who wrote so long ago, “Love never fails” (I Corinthians 13:8).

True love is of God, for God is love, and love is an eternal boon to life. In these tumultuous and trying times, God’s people more than ever must be an example of love. All around us we see hatred exemplified and often even praised. We see more and more the worst that mankind is capable of.

When we have love in our hearts, all of life will be richer and sweeter. Not just for us, but also for those around us. Our lives must be dominated by true love inspired of God. Magnify love. Express love for all men.  Be an example of a loving soul in a world of hate. Try the way of love in all contacts of life.
    
It’s something to think about…..TBP

February 3, 2021 - In 2010, Pam and I took a three-week vacation to the West Coast.  After Yellowstone, Wyoming, Idaho and California, and Oregon, we were returning home through Colorado and turned on a road leading to the peak of Colorado’s tallest mountain, Mt. Elbert. We were pulling our old Red Dale Travel trailer and failed to read the sign that forbad our entering this steep mountain road with our truck and trailer. It didn’t take long for us to realize we were not equipped to climb the super steep road.

As we trudged up the road, we were suddenly engulphed in a blinding snowstorm. Pam laughed out, “Look, it’s snowing!” But the beautiful snow became a blizzard snow and as we got close to the peak, we started sliding backwards and slid dangerously close to the edge of a bottomless precipice. When Pam shouted out, “Get ready to jump!” Had I jumped from the passenger side, I would have literally jumped over the cliff and Pam would have been lying on the icy road. But suddenly at this do-or-die moment, our trailer jack-knifed and slid to a stop only three feet of the cliff’s edge.

Since there was no traffic on the mountain, we figured we might be stuck for days in the blinding storm. “We can wait the storm out,” I said. “We have propane and plenty of Campbell’s Soup.” So we got in the trailer, opened a can of Cream of Chicken soup, and as it warmed on the burner, we heard a motor outside. I opened the door and there he was: a huge man driving a huge orange snowplow. “You need help?” he hollered. And within minutes we were back on the road and following him as he sprayed gravel from the back of his truck. A few miles later, we were safely at the bottom of the mountain.

When we got back home, we told our story to our church. “That wasn’t a man that helped y’all,” one of the members said. “It was an angel.” “I know angels can take many forms,” I laughed. “This one even smoked a cigar and had tattoos on his neck.”

 

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