Sunday, May 29, 2016


Sumter, South Carolina is home to me.  I was raised here.  And I loved it during my early years. 

Then, in August, 1993, I moved away.  For twenty one years, I was living in other areas.  Along the way, I thought to myself, "Man, I just want to get back to Sumter.  That's really where I want to be." 

Finally, I the summer of 2014, I got what I wanted.  After 23 years, I got a chance to move back home to Sumter.  And what a thrill that was. 

If God lets me, I plan on staying here in my town for the rest of my life.  There is no place I would rather be.  And I hope that when I take my last breath on this Earth, it's right here in the Gamecock City.

The people here are wonderful.  And the location makes it easy to get to the beach or the mountains in no time at all.  This place has a grip on my heart, and I want to remain here for the long haul.

But recently, this was what ran through my head:  As much as I love Sumter, it's not really my home.  Paul explained this perfectly when he wrote in Philippians 3:20, "our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ."  This may sounds a little weird to some people, but Christians have a home that is not of this world.  It is actually in Heaven with the Lord.  And what a special place it is.

Yes indeed, our time here on Earth does matter.  Very much!  There are blessings to enjoy, people to love, and missions to accomplish.  God has us here to do His work by being His hands and feet.  And we should make the most of the years He has given us in this world.

But it is vital for us to remember that God has created us for eternity, and we can spend this eternity with Him.  Let's not get too attached to this world and start thinking this is all there is.  We may reside here temporarily, "but our citizenship is in heaven."  That is where we ultimately belong.  And, thanks be to Jesus, that is where we will be one day.

As long as we are walking on this Earth, let's make our time count, but let's also keep this in mind:  We're not home yet.  One day we will be, though.  And what a great day that's going to be.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Mr. Socks

When my son, Emerson, was a little boy, he used to pull socks up his arms.  Then he would run around the house saying to all of us, "Hey everyone, my name is Mr. Socks!"  The little guy would always crack up laughing when he did it, and so did the rest of us.  It was a funny sight to behold!

Pretending or wishing to be someone else is not just something kids do.  Sometimes teenagers and adults want to do the same thing.   Maybe a few of these ideas have run through your mind at one time or another:

"I wish I was taller."
"I wish I was shorter."
"I wish I looked different."
"I wish I had a different kind of personality."
"I wish I had a different set of skills."

To be honest, I've thought things like this before.  Perhaps you have too.  It happens.

Let's all consider this today:  God made you and me exactly what we are for all the right reasons.  Rather than spending our time trying to turn into Mr. Socks or someone else, we should simply accept who we are and get comfortable in our own skin.  

In Psalm 139:14, the writer proclaims, "I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."  Isn't that a fantastic verse?  He is saying, "God, You made me for a specific reason and with a perfect plan in mind; therefore, I worship you."

The little boy who said it years ago was exactly right:  "God don't make no junk."

There's nothing wrong with kids pretending to be someone else.  But when we grow up, we need to understand who we are and learn to be ok with it.  God didn't make a mistake when He made you or me.  So let's accept how He made us and live to the fullest.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Sermons And Baseball

I've noticed something over the years:  sermons and baseball are a lot alike.  Of course, baseball is entertainment and church is not.  I do get that.  But think about this for a moment...

In baseball, sometimes a batter will hit a single and only make it to first base.  Fans in the stands notice that and appreciate it, but they don't get too worked up over it.  Other times, he may hit a double.  That's a little more exciting.  Occasionally, a batter will hit a triple.  When he does this, people cheer a little louder.  And on some occasions, he really connects well and hits a home run over the fence.  This really generates a buzz and gets everyone up on their feet. 

Nobody hits a homerun every time they step up to the plate.  Nobody.  Sure, that would be a lot of fun, but it just doesn't happen.  That's not realistic.

The same thing can be said about preaching.  It's hard to hit a homerun every single time we step in the pulpit.  What I mean is this:  some sermons may result in a visible, powerful reaction from the people in the pews, while other sermons may not.  Some sermons may be a like a homerun, and other sermons may be more like a single. 

Consider this from the perspective of those who are sitting in the pews and listening to our sermons.  They may be tired.  They may be distracted.  They may have had a stressful morning before they got to church.  Any number of factors can influence how they are feeling and what they are thinking while we are preaching.  And this can affect how they respond to the messages we deliver on Sunday morning. 

Also, it's important to keep in mind that different topics affect different people in different ways.  A sermon on marriage might connect a lot more with a married couple in their 40's than it does with a widow in her 90's.  A sermon on money may hit home more with a business man in his 50's than with a young lady who is 15.  It's possible that the topic we are preaching on that day does not directly affect everyone the same way.  This can influence how people react to what we are preaching.

Here's what I'm trying to say:  Not every sermon is going to get the whole crowd on their feet cheering at the top of their lungs with tears streaming down their face like crazed fans at the World Series. 

If you're sitting in the pews, some sermons you hear may just be a reminder of something you learned years ago.  Other messages may be heavily convicting.  And then there are those that will set your heart on fire and stir you up in a big way.  It'll probably be different each week.  If the sermon you heard one Sunday morning doesn't stir your soul, just keep in mind that you still did the right thing by being in God's house and you still were encouraged in your faith.  Furthermore, next Sunday's sermon may be EXACTLY what you've needed to hear for years.  It's not going to be the same thing every Sunday, and that's perfectly normal. 

If you're in the pulpit, some sermons you preach may lead to a visible, loud response, while others may lead to stillness and silence.  Also, it's important to know that some people are very private and introverted with their response.  They may not be reacting on the outside, but their mind and their heart may be in overdrive privately as they take in what is being said.  Depending on a lot of different factors, the way people react will most likely be different every week.  So don't get too worked up either way about how people respond.  Just do your job and faithfully preach God's word week in and week out.  How people react to our sermons is between them and God.  It's not about us anyway.

Regardless of whether the sermon is a single or a homerun, it's always worth while to be in God's house with God's people.  That's time well spent every Sunday.  And it's never a waste.  As long as He is being worshipped, His Spirit is moving freely, His word is being preached, and people are bonding closely with Him, it's a win-win for everyone involved.

It's true.  Sermons are a lot like baseball.  And that's perfectly fine with me.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Moving To Texas

In the summer of 1993, Lara and I got married.  A few weeks after our honeymoon, we packed up everything we owned, and started driving west on Interstate 20.  Why?  Because we were moving 20 hours away to Texas.  I was entering seminary in Fort Worth, so that's why we made the big journey.

She cried the whole way out there.  It was her first time leaving home, so it was a big deal for her.  A time or two I wondered, "How is this going to work with her being so homesick already?"

But she hung in there.  We arrived, made good friends, got in a routine, and ended up loving our new life.  She found an awesome teaching job in Arlington, which was a short drive from our apartment.  It was a great three years for us.  In 1996, I graduated and it was time for us to move to our first church, which was in North Carolina. 

Guess what happened?

She cried the whole way from Texas to Wagram, North Carolina.  Lara had grown to love the Lone Star State.  And she missed it greatly when we left.

Still today we laugh about that.  My, how things changed!  It's funny how that happens in life.

This little story about Lara reminds me of something...

Change is hard, but it can be done. 

At first, it was tough for Lara.  She struggled with it emotionally for a little while.  But she ended up loving that stage of life. 

Maybe you're facing a change right now at church, work, school, or home.  And perhaps it's difficult for you.  Just remember that God can help you adapt and thrive in this new chapter of life.  Sure, it might seem tough at first, but hang in there.  It gets better.  In time, you can adjust and learn to appreciate this season of life.

One thing I've learned about life is that it doesn't stay the same forever.  Things change.  When that happens, don't fight it or choose misery.  Accept it as the next part of your life's story, and charge enthusiastically into this new opportunity to learn, grow, and soar.

Change.  It's not the end of the world.  It's just the door through which we step into a new chapter of life.  And it can be a wonderful experience!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Lucy Enter And The Bridge

Lucy Enter, a wonderful member here at New Calvary Baptist Church, made the following statement more than once:  "If you go to church long enough, someone will hurt your feelings.  When this happens, you have to build a bridge and get over it."

Powerful statement, isn't it?!

We're human.  That means we fail and hurt each other.  Some times we mean to.  Other times we don't.  Either way, it happens.

When this takes place, we can freeze in our tracks with bitterness.  Holding a grudge immobilizes us.  Or we can forgive and let go of the resentment we feel.  At this moment, we can move forward with our lives and leave that anger behind. 

Lucy passed away a few days ago.  A few hours ago, I preached the sermon for her memorial service.  As I sit here tonight, I have her wise statement on my mind.  "Build a bridge and get over it."  That's good advice for us all.  When it comes to the pain we feel from mistreatment, it's best to forgive and move on.  

Thank you, Lucy.  You taught us much through your actions and words.  Now enjoy your new life up there.  I look forward to the day when we get to see you again.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sunday Night Rewind - 5/8/16

*  Happy Mother's Day to all you special ladies out there!!

*  I'm thankful for Lara being a good mom to our kids, and I'm thankful to Mom for being such a blessing to my brothers and me.  Both of these women mean a lot.

*  We had a big crowd today here at New Calvary Baptist Church.  

*  The music was worshipful and well done.

*  I preached "A Message For Moms And Everyone Else" out of 1 Samuel 1.  This was my point:  In her pain, Hannah prayed, found peace, and praised God.  In following her example, we should do the same.  It was a fun message to preach.

*  At the end of the service, a fine couple joined New Calvary.  What a thrill that was!
*  Welcome, Linwood and Lynn.  We're all glad you're here!  

*  Revival services went really well here at the church this past week.
*  Many thanks to Wyman Richardson for preaching powerful messages.
*  There was a positive spirit in the air, and we all enjoyed wonderful times of worship.  It was a great few days!

*  My middle brother, Condy, came over to join us for one service.
*  I'm always glad when the three of us can get together for a visit.  It doesn't happen much because all three of us are pastors.  So when we do get to hang out, it's a great time.

*  I'm proud of Wyman's wife, Roni.  She was recognized as Elementary School Teacher Of The Year at her school in Arkansas on Friday.
*  Way to go, Roni!  You're great at what you do.  :)

*  It's been a fine few days.  I'm a blessed and thankful man.

*  New blog posts will be posted this week.

*  Rest well tonight.  God bless you and yours.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

What I Love About My Mom

I'm blessed with a great mom.  Diane is her name.  This is some of what I love about her...

Mom is an amazing cook.  I've always enjoyed the meals she prepares.  Delicious food comes out of her kitchen.  Her lemon meringue pie is my all-time favorite dessert, by the way!

Mom is a passionate educator.  For years she has been teaching and serving as a guidance counselor.  Many young people here in Sumter have been blessed by her work at Thomas Sumter Academy and Wilson Hall.  I think one of the reasons my brothers and I earned our doctorates is because of her stressing to us the importance of education.

Mom is a protective parent.  I've seen it many times.  If someone comes down too hard on my brothers or me, she gets pretty protective.  She can fuss at us, but she doesn't think you can.  Furthermore, if my brothers and I pick on each other, she sticks up for the one being targeted.  Mom looks out for her sons.  Always has, and always will.

Mom is a forgiving friend.  She understands that nobody is perfect and everybody fails.  While she does not excuse sin, she does show grace to the sinner.  I've been a recipient of her forgiveness when I've done wrong and made a royal mess of things.  While others gave up on me at times, she has lovingly worked with me and helped me make changes in my life along the way.

Mom is a committed Christian.  I've watched her for years love Jesus, read her Bible, pray, and worship.  And the church matters greatly to her.  As a son of Diane Richardson, I rejoice in knowing she is a child of God.  

Am I saying she's perfect?  Of course not.  Nobody is.  But what I am saying is this:  Mom has a good heart, means well, and gives her very best in life.  She loves her Lord and her family.  And that's really what matters.

I'm proud to say I'm one of Diane Richardson's three sons.  And I love her greatly.  Without a doubt, she is one of the best blessings I've enjoyed in my life.

Thanks for everything, Mom.  :)