April 13, 2020 - Grace and peace from our brother, Jesus, Amen. Happy Easter—Resurrection Sunday. Today is the most important and mysterious day of our faith. If you were like the majority of people, you found a different way to celebrate Easter and to be with family. Sue and I stayed home; the storms that blew through Sunday left us without power for several hours. So it is Monday morning, and I am finishing up my article and weekly newsletter.

A good friend sent some remarks found on church marques about yesterday. One said, “Services canceled. God making house calls.” Another said, “Folks, it’s okay that the church is empty on Easter. The tomb was empty too.”

All four gospels speak of this special morning. I used as the text for my sermon the story from John 20: 1-18. His narrative has Mary Magdalene discovering the empty tomb. In the ancient world, the word of a woman was not considered binding or trustworthy, so Mary runs back to tell the men. The disciples discover the empty tomb, but John makes it quite clear that the disciples do not understand that Jesus has been raised from the dead. The other disciples return to where they are staying; however, Mary stays and sees two men—angels—in the tomb. Mary asks them if they know where her master’s body has been taken. Mary must feel someone behind her because she turns to see a man standing there. As soon as the man speaks the word “Mary,” she knows that he is Jesus.

I was reminded as I was reading and studying this week that some denominations and sects do not call Sunday Easter but Resurrection Sunday. The term Easter does not have Christian roots, instead referring to a festival honoring Eastre, the Teutonic goddess of light and spring, whose symbol is an egg. Most/all Christian holidays, though, have elements from earlier pagan celebrations; our Christian forefathers looked for ways to make the “new” religion more palatable to those who found it strange.

I spoke to most Paxton Methodists in the last week or so, and everyone seems to be following doctors’ orders, staying home and safe as much as possible. I know we all miss visiting with friends and family, but we are doing what we have to do. Sue and I often ate out, which we really miss. The Joaquin Senior Center remains closed: Sue was on the phone plenty this week, checking up on the Senior folks.

My daughter sent me some humorous quips about these strange times in quarantine. Here are a few:

I need to practice social-distancing from the refrigerator.

I don’t think anyone expected that when we changed the clocks, we’d go from Standard Time to the Twilight Zone.

I am so excited—it’s time to take out the garbage. What should I wear?

We humans find ourselves living in the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter morning. We live between the terrible violence of Good Friday and that sweet Easter freshness of dawn on a spring day. We live with our strengths and weaknesses. We live with our doubts and our frustrations. But we can and must also live with promise and hope. Even in these most trying times, we must remember that other generations have lived through difficult times and had their own doubts and frustrations. Today, Easter Sunday, is a day of great hope, great promise, and great expectations of a better day.

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.” Normally Sunday School starts at 9:30 and Worship begins at 10:00. But during the Pandemic our usually “open doors” are closed. 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.

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

April 13, 2020 - My brother who lives in Orange, Texas called yesterday, and we got in a discussion about “how to make children mind in church.” Things were different when I started preaching in 1950. Most of the churches didn’t even have a nursery… much less a Children’s Church. Parents brought their babies and young ones to church and sometimes the parents put a pallet on the floor for the children. It was hard to preach when several babies were bawling during the sermon. It was hard for the mothers… and the Preachers.

So adding Nurseries and Children Churches was definitely a good idea. But what did parents do before nurseries and Children Churches? “Some parents used to take young children out and spank them,” I said, “and all the members church listened and watched intensely as they re-entered the building. “Yeah,” Joe said, “I’ve seen parents slap them, pinch them, twist their ears or tell them “what was gonna happen when you get home.” “And for some children, a stern look is all it took.”

Then Joe told me the way he calmed his children down in church. “I stared straight ahead at the Preacher, slipped  my hand down and quietly grasped Mike’s  leg and started squeezing.” “I could tell when right pressure was reached when his eyes looked like egg yolks.”

When I look back to 1950 to my first churches, I am not overcome with sadness… but overwhelming joy. At the Neuville Baptist Church, I can just see Tommy Conway’s family coming down the clay hill and gathering around the old wood heater in the middle of the building. Then the Baileys and Inez Sullivan crossed over the railroad tracks to join the rest of us around the heater. Seeing the whole family lined up in the pews --- the babies out-preaching my sermon and the parents correcting the children --- still brings tears to my eyes. Families coming to church together --- sitting together --- learning about Jesus together --- is there anything more beautiful?

Thank you, Lord… for beautiful memories.

April 8, 2020 - Perhaps an unintended benefit of this “current distress” is that we are learning that we didn’t need to live life in the mad rush we had been living in. We felt there was so much to be done and so little time! However, all of us have been forced to slow down just a little and hopefully we have learned a little patience in the process. Maybe, just maybe, we have learned the truth of that old saying “Rome was not built in a day."

If you remember, Jesus had the burden of the sins of the world on His shoulders, yet we find Him saying to His disciples, “Come ye apart into a desert place, to rest awhile.” He knew they could not crowd every day and every moment to the brim, without losing some of the peace and relaxation they needed for their real goal in life.

When Jesus and the disciples passed through Samaria, Jesus was weary, so He sat down by the well to rest, while His disciples went away into the city to buy bread. He could have gone with them, and no doubt found an opportunity to preach in the city. But He needed to relax, to spend some time in quiet meditation. Jesus even took time to take little children into His arms and bless them and he took time to raise an only son from the dead and give him back to his mother.

To a group of disciples with the most stupendous task before them any group of men ever had – evangelizing the whole world - Jesus said, “consider the lilies.” Take time out to notice the beauties of nature and draw some conclusions about God from them.

When we are out of quarantine, let’s learn to not live in too much of a hurry.

It’s something to think about...tbp



April 6, 2020 - Please allow me to ask you a most important question this morning a question to which the answer will be the most important answer you will ever give. For it will be your answer that shows your personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.
I ask you, "Please tell me, where will you be 200 years from now?"
You may say, "I can't answer that, how can anyone know that?"

Well, it's simple, if, you have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Master, as God Almighty then you would certainly know where you will be 200 years from now. You will be at home with God in heaven, for none of us of today live to be anywhere close to 200 years of age.

I can say, without reservation, without doubt, that I do know where I will be 200 years from now, I will be at home in the house of my Lord.

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake." (Psalm 23:1-3)

Jesus Christ, my God, takes care of me, he is my shepherd, he leads me as a shepherd leads his flock, he protects me, he places my in the most comfortable places. He restores my soul in righteousness. Yes, I know him and he knows me and I know that I will be with him always. That nothing of this world can separate me from his love.

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows," (Psalm 23:4-5)

Why should I fear anything of this world, for I have the most powerful weapon of all, the love of God to protect me from the world.

It is as God tells me, "Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)

There I have God's own personal promise that he will watch over me, he will be right there beside me in all things. He will be my strength when I am weak, he alone will help me, he will lift me up and keep me in his care forever.

"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28)

Only our Lord Jesus Christ has the power to destroy one's soul, fear him only and not other people but, the Lord God of heaven.

Because I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord, my God, my Savior I can be totally assured of my future and yes, I can know where I will be 200 years from now. Do you? You can!

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever." (Psalm 23:6)

Because I believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and have accepted him as my Lord I have the assurance of his promise to me, that I will indeed dwell in the house of the Lord forever. I have no doubt as to my future, my destination when my life on earth is done, I will go home to be forever with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, my God.

So too, can you know this truth, so too, can you be saved from the penalty of your sin, the death of your spirit in hell.

"Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and  is justified (cleaned), and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." (Romans 10:9-11)

Please, don't wait, humble yourself today, ask Jesus to save you from your sins and he will gladly do so.

Acknowledge him as your Lord to others that they too might come to know him as Lord and know the true joy of being a born-again child of the Most High God, our Lord Jesus Christ... May his love, grace, and mercy flow over you this day and forever and may you too dwell in the house of the Lord forever...

April 5, 2020 - Grace and peace from our brother, Jesus, Amen. Sue and I continue to stay at home. Paxton United Methodist Church has canceled Sunday School and Worship Services through April and will reevaluate once again at the end of the month. The coronavirus appears to be getting worse, and we are told it will continue to spread for quite awhile. Sue has been busy cleaning out closets, clearing out files, and cleaning out her desk. She has also been cooking up a storm. The Senior Center, where Sue volunteers, is not only closed, but the Community Building is also off-limits to renters. We always enjoyed eating out, but that is no longer an option—takeout, if that, is the new normal. I have been doing yard work and working in my garden, very therapeutic for me. I still walk the dogs twice a day but not at the city park, which has been closed.

I took the cans of chili that Paxton Methodist Church collected in March and dropped them off at Community Christian Services. Those wonderful volunteers have always worked so hard getting food to those who often run short at the end of the month. But now their efforts are really herculean, as more and more people find themselves in food danger; in addition, working with the public brings extra very real dangers. Those at CCS are true heroes during this time of crisis.

I read on Shelby County Today last night that the number of coronavirus-infected people in Shelby County has doubled. Rural areas around the United States have not been affected like our nation’s large urban areas, but that is going to change. Unfortunately, rural areas have fewer medical options as there are fewer doctors and hospitals. In Shelby County we don’t even have a hospital, although we have an excellent ER. The best thing we are told that we can do is to stay home and avoid contact with others. It is time we all listen to the medical experts and scientists and do as they say to stay safe and flatten the curve of new infections.

Our nursing home ministries are on hold as nursing homes and assisted living facilities are in lockdown. We certainly miss seeing our friends there; my mother-in-law is one of those people in assisted-living lockdown. Each day, the nursing and medical staffs at these places are continuing their work to help our seniors face a deadly enemy. Once this present crisis has waned, we Texans need to look at how we can aid the medical and nursing staffs at our state nursing homes and how we can improve the care we provide our seniors. There are things we can do as a state to help improve elder care in Texas.

I have continued to email out a weekly Paxton Methodist Church newsletter that includes this article and a weekly sermon. For those members who don’t have or use the Internet, I have been copying parts of the newsletter and mailing it to them. Our little congregation has been really good about keeping in touch with each other through texts, emails, and phone calls.

Sunday was Passion/Palm Sunday. In the ancient church, believers came to church each day during Holy Week to remember and to celebrate the passion of the Christ. On this particular Sunday, palms were waved as Christians celebrated Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of that fateful week. I have almost always used the readings of Palm Sunday as the scripture for my sermon. But during these difficult times, I found that the Old Testament Lesson, Isaiah 50: 4-9, really spoke to our current predicament. The short reading is part of the Third Song of the Suffering Servant. Isaiah never identifies who this servant is—whether it is a person or the nation of Israel. But from early on in the faith, Christians have come to see Jesus as the suffering servant. In the reading, Isaiah speaks of God as comforter and companion in our life’s journey. For me, the most comforting words in the lesson are, “The LORD God will help me.” We can be assured during these difficult and trying times that these words are as true today as they were in the time of Isaiah. Remember them as you work on staying safe and healthy.

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.” Normally Sunday School starts at 9:30 and Worship begins at 10:00. But during the Pandemic our usually “open doors” are closed. 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.

April 2, 2020 - In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that we are not to be anxious about the things of this life. He warns us against unproductive worry. Yet, there is so much going on in our world today. We are under “quarantine” because of a pandemic, there is economic unrest, we are in an election year and there are just so many other things for us to worry about.

Most of our anxiety and worry is about tomorrow. Because of our concern and anxiety over tomorrow, we fail to live, really live today. Yet, do you remember what Jesus said? “Be not therefore anxious for the morrow, for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matthew 6:34 ASV) Jesus was talking about such things as food, clothing and shelter. It would do all of us good to read the 6th chapter of Matthew and read it often. We cannot and will not deny that life is complicated, especially in our day and time. But my friends, the God who has brought us this far can carry us on from where we are. 

 Rather than spending our time and energy worrying about what tomorrow might bring, we need to make sure that we live today, and that we live for Jesus. When our Lord spoke those words, he was not saying that life would be free from problems. Jesus never promised us a life free from trials and struggles. He did promise that he would see us safely through those struggles. To be sure, life will have problems, but we are serving a God who can solve all our difficulties if we succeed in living for him one day at a time.

It’s something to think about…..tbp


March 31, 2020 - I am a positive person, my glass is almost always half full and almost never half empty and so it grieves me to keep talking about fear, but fear is what is gripping our world today.

Fear of the unknown, fear of the CV19 virus, fear for our own lives and the lives of our loved ones in the face of this dread disease.

But, I have heard enough of this fear and wish to tell you, not about the great storms of life that we all face, but about the Great God that guides me through all storms.

I want you to know that, yes, sometimes the storms are big, but that my God is always bigger, he is alway greater than anything this world may throw at me.

Listen to what he, the Lord God, says to all who will listen and believe in him as Lord over all.

"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)

Let us look closely as what God is telling us in this wonderful verse of the Bible. God says, "Fear not" God asks us for faith, not fear. Faith in him as Lord over all is our strength that overcomes all fear, both real and imagined.

Why must we not fear? "For I am with you" - no matter the situation, as long as we remain, "in faith" we have nothing to fear for God is with us and God is protecting us.

"Be not dismayed" - the dictionary says about dismayed - "experiencing or showing feelings of alarmed concern or dismay : upset, worried, or agitated because of some unwelcome situation or occurrence" 

But God says, "be not dismayed, for I am your God" - Not only is he God Almighty, creator of the universe and all things in it, he is also, "your God". Do you see that, he is not some unknown god, no he is "your God" therefore we have no reason to be dismayed or fearful for he is the Great I am, the Sovereign God of all and he is your God and my God.

Do not be dismayed at the size of the storm, remember the size of our God, he is larger than any storm, any disease, any pandemic, he is God and there is none other than him!

God says, "I will strengthen you, I will help you" All we must do is to trust him and not ourselves. Do as the great king Solomon suggests, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord, and turn away from evil." (Proverbs 3:5-7)

As the Lord himself says, "Fear not, for I am with you."

Faith in God as Lord of all gives us confidence that he will do exactly as he says, if we only believe in him as he asks. He will strengthen us and he will help us through all situations in life.

How does he do this? 

"I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Yes, God will lift us above the fray, he will hold us up in his mighty right hand, safe in him, from all the storms of life. If we only trust him, if we only have faith in him, if we simply trust and obey him as he asks.

So I say to you as we all confront this deadly virus around the globe, do as your health professionals ask, stay home, stay hydrated, maintain a safe distance from all other people, we are told here that safe distance is 6 feet, wash often with soap and water, but most of all, trust in the Lord our God to overcome this storm of life for us and to bring us safely out the other side.

Don't waste time telling God how big the storm in front of you is; instead, tell the storm in front of you how big your God is. 

He is Omnipotent, there is none other like him, trust him, believe him and have faith that he will do all that he says, for he certainly will.

"Fear not, for I am with you" - always for all who believe and obey his will...

March 30, 2020 - In the interest of public health and safety, and in order to remain in compliance with Governor Abbott's executive orders, and in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church has postponed their homecoming services previously scheduled for April 26, 2020. Another announcement will be made once we are able to reschedule. We apologize for any inconvenience.

March 29, 2020 - Grace and peace from our brother, Jesus, Amen. We are certainly living in strange and in some cases, trying times. Most of us are sheltering in place and trying to avoid people as much as possible. The medical professionals are telling us this is the only way to flatten out the curve and get a handle on this pandemic. The United States now has more cases than any other country in the world. After first ignoring the problem, we are trying to catch up and ramp up to handle the pandemic in the coming weeks and maybe even months.

I have used my time at home working in the yard and garden. When I retired from education, I built many raised beds and created a sort of “English Garden.” The weather this past week has been unusually warm, and I have been able to spend time weeding and planting. It has been very therapeutic. I have also continued with my Bible reading and sermon preparations. I haven’t delivered a sermon the last two Sundays but have written two that I have put in my weekly church newsletter. So I have tried to keep my mind and body in working order—sort of.

The Old Testament Lesson for the 5th Sunday in Lent comes from the Prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel has a vision or a dream that God takes him to a valley of dry bones and asks if these bones could live. Ezekiel knows that with God all is possible. The valley of dry bones in this vision is Israel.

We know that Israel has been destroyed. Jerusalem has been sacked and the Temple destroyed. Some of the people are carried off to foreign lands and others stay and live under occupation. Times are really bad. Many think they must be living in the end times. Ezekiel is a priest and is part of the exiled community. He assures the people that God will breathe life—his spirit—into his people and they will live once again. In an eerie vision, Ezekiel promises God is the God hope and rebirth.

These are words that sound strange to us but also are hopeful as we too are facing great challenges. Even though it is hard to see the end of the tunnel to this current pandemic, we remain a hopeful people. Americans have always risen up to the challenge.

All during the month of March the Methodists at Paxton have been collecting cans of chili. I will try to get them delivered this week. I don’t know how Community Christian Services is dealing with our current situation, but I will find out. Next month we will collect toothpaste and toothbrushes. Our programs to the area nursing homes are still on hold. We all hope that our friends at the various nursing centers stay healthy as they weather this storm. Our good friend Lillie is in rehab in Houston after having a complete hip replacement. Lillie had successful hip surgery after a fall and was doing great at rehab—but fell again. With the pandemic, visitors at the hospital have been told to stay away. I know that can get real lonely for someone who is working hard to get better.

Please listen to the scientists and medical professionals: Stay home as much as possible and minimize close contact with other people. When you have to be out, try to stay six feet away from others. Be wise, be safe, and be healthy!

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.” Normally Sunday School starts at 9:30 and Worship begins at 10:00. But during the Pandemic our usually “open doors” are closed. 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.

March 26, 2020 - In 1962, I resigned my pastorate in Portland, Oregon to become pastor of the First Baptist Church of Starks, Louisiana. I didn’t know it then, but this town would give me some of the most unforgettable memories of my lifetime. All of the town’s businesses were located along one street: two small grocery stores, (Ristrum’s Grocery and Amon Husband’s Grocery), the post office and further down the street, was the Starks School, and across from the school was the First Baptist Church and the church parsonage.

The town had four churches: First Pentecostal, the Catholic church, and two Baptist churches, which included a colored Baptist church, St. Mary’s Baptist Church. I met St. Mary's deacon, Brother Royal, at the post office one day, and we became close friends. He was a tall, handsome black man and a man loved by the people of Starks. He had a solid gold front tooth ---and a solid gold-filled heart. He asked me one day to preach at St. Mary’s on their church anniversary…and I gladly consented.

A few weeks later, I took deacons Cecil Albritton and his brother Milton with me to St. Mary’s. Everyone was silent as we were seated on rhe front pew. Just as we sat down, a lady walked in the door and began to walk down the aisle singing ---slowly and softly—"Oh, how I love Jesus because He first loved me." As she walked down the aisle, the congregation began humming with her and when she sat down and began playing, all the church harmonized with her. It was one of the most moving services of my life.

After Brother Royal introduced me, sat down and flashed his big gold smile at me. As I began to speak, the quiet calm congregation suddenly came to life. “Is that so," Brother Royal holleref, and the whole congregation began shouting ”Amen” and “Preach on, Brother." I quoted the scripture that says that they didn’t break the bones of Jesus when He was crucified. Then I paused and asked the congregation, “Why didn’t they break the bones of Jesus?” And deacon Brother Henry answered, “Because it was prophesied!” “That’s right, Henry…..it was prophesied," I said, "and since Jesus was already dead, the Romans had no reason to add to His pain by breaking his bones.”

I literally preached 80 minutes that day, and as I sweated my way into the church yard, Deacon Albritton chuckled and asked, “Why don’t you preach that way at our church?’ And I replied, “When y’all start hollering “Amen” and “preach on, brother” while I preach.”

I have conducted many wedding, funerals. etc. in Starks since I was there 65 years ago, but I have never revisited the St. Mary’s Baptist Church. I’m sure Brother Henry, Brother Royal and most of the other members have crossed Jordan now. But maybe their descendants still serve the Lord there and still sing. “Oh, how I Love Jesus." I hope so…

...with all my heart.