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A Legacy of Love

29 May

This week my good friend and a man I have long looked up to is celebrating 40 years of ministry and retiring as Senior Pastor at Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville.

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“Bro. Jimmy” as most of us call him has been woven into the fabric of my life for many years.  The first time I knew of him was in the early 80’s on the rare occasions when my family was not at church on Sunday morning. We would watch the service of Whitesburg on one of the local Huntsville television channels. The first time I met him was in 1992, when a young pastor friend talked me into going with him to a service at one of Whitesburg’s Winter Bible Conferences.  Two young “preacher boys” evidently stood out to him from the platform and Jimmy made a beeline for us after the service.  He took a few minutes and greatly encouraged us when he did not have to.  In the years to come, as I served in ministry, I would make an appointment with him and he would graciously give me an hour of his time as I navigated life as a young husband, father, and pastor.  So, he was a mentor to me for a number of years. Then from 2007-2013, I had the privilege of serving on staff with him as Associate Pastor at Whitesburg.  After serving “up close and personal” with him for almost seven years, I had more respect for Jimmy Jackson than I did the day I started.  I make no apologies, I have a tremendous amount of love and respect for Jimmy Jackson. In many ways, he is still my pastor.

He is one of the wisest people I know.  Etched in my mind and heart are many things I heard him say repeatedly. Here are a few examples…

  • “God blesses what is right; He does not bless what is wrong.”
  • “The Bible says to forgive people, and there are some people I have had to forgive lots of times.”
  • “Bloom where you’re planted.”
  • “Stay steady.”
  • “Nothing builds people up like love.”

Very often when facing a situation in my own leadership, I quote one of these to myself or to others. His impact on me and my leadership is profound.

In today’s world, it is almost unheard of for a man to lead the same church for forty years, yet Jimmy Jackson has done just that at Whitesburg.  He has been faithful. He has been faithful through years when the church grew and prospered in astounding ways. He has been faithful through years when the church faced challenges and hardships. He has been faithful through personal tragedy and set backs that would have made most men quit. Through it all, week after week, he stepped to the pulpit of Whitesburg, opened his Bible, and preached from it. Week after week, he shepherded people and walked with them through their own valleys. Week after week, he consistently shared the gospel and sought to win souls. He is an example of Godly, steady faithfulness over decades. This past Sunday in his final message before becoming Pastor Emeritus, Bro. Jimmy told the church “Stay in the battle, no matter what comes. Be a sticker!”  That’s Jimmy Jackson in his own words.

At his side every step of the way has been Bobbi Jackson, a faithful pastor’s wife.  Many times, I saw Bobbi meet needs in the church family in her behind the scenes way.  Only another pastor’s wife has any idea of the burdens and blessings involved in being the wife of the pastor. Maybe that is why my wife, Becky, loves Bobbi Jackson so much!  Like her husband, Bobbi Jackson has a legacy of faithfulness. I honor her as I honor him.

It’s hard to put into words what the Jacksons mean to the Corbin family.  Since leaving Whitesburg in the Fall of 2013, every time I have seen Jimmy or Bobbi Jackson each of them has asked about Becky and our boys. Every single time. They know our boys names. They love us and we love them. Literally thousands of people have the same story.  It’s no wonder that Whitesburg chose “A Legacy of Love” as the theme for the Jacksons’ 40th Anniversary Celebration on Sunday. It’s a fitting description.

Certainly, in forty years as pastor of Whitesburg, Jimmy Jackson has left a legacy of love in the lives of so many people. However, this legacy of love is only possible because of his own legacy of love. He has loved the Lord faithfully. He has loved his wife faithfully. He has loved his children and grandchildren faithfully. He has loved his church faithfully. He has loved his city faithfully. He has loved the Word of God faithfully. In a day when so many have fallen, he has stood. In a day when so many have quit, he has kept going.  In a day when so many are filled with anger, he is filled with love. He is a pastor I want to be like because he is a Christian I want to be like.

Unfortunately, Becky and I won’t be at the special service and reception on Sunday due to ministry responsibilities at the church we serve now. No doubt there will be a huge number there to express their love.  It’s a privilege to use this platform to express in a small way the love, respect, and appreciation we have for Jimmy and Bobbi Jackson.  “Bro. Jimmy and Bobbi” we love you, honor you, and celebrate with you. Congratulations. Well done. You are the best!

 

 

 

 

 

30 years ago – always an Ider Hornet

25 May

Iderhighschool

As I saw social media posts from families who had graduates this week, I was reminded that it was 30 years ago this week when my classmates and I walked across the field at Wayne C. Hardman Stadium.  It’s hard to believe. Yes, I was part of the class of 1988 at Ider High School. There were 72 of us in our graduating class. As I look at this picture of my alma mater, I am filled with great memories and joy. I don’t remember the buildings; I remember the people. I remember my friends and classmates. I won’t even attempt to name them because I will leave someone out. There is a special sense of belonging among those you went to high school with. Occasionally, I run into one of my classmates and it’s always a joy. We are old enough now that it doesn’t matter who was in what group or who was popular. We are just glad to see one another – no matter who it is. Unfortunately some members of our class have passed away – some due to illness and some due to tragedy. The class of ’88 has been reminded to be thankful for every day of life.

As I look at this picture, I am reminded of just how much Ider High School has meant to my life. It was there that learned to do math and acquired critical thinking skills. It was there that I was taught to love writing. It was there that I played sports and learned the value of hard work and being on a team. It was there that I learned to respect authority – even if I didn’t understand or agree with it. It was there that I was taught to do my best and never settle for average. It was there that I learned to get along with people and function with others. It was there that I learned to type (yes they actually taught that!) It was there that I learned to be self-disciplined and study. In short, it was there that I grew up and came of age.

I will never forget Mr. Adams’ biology class or Mr. Fuller’s science class. History with Mr. Williams, drivers ed with Coach Allday and science with Coach Daniel will be forever etched in my mind. I can still see Mr. Hardman coming down the hall. I can still smell the locker room of the Gordon Scott Gymnasium, hear the cheers of the pep rallies, and feel the Fall breeze as I walked up to Hardman Stadium for Friday night football. I remember yearbook staff and AP English. I remember homecoming parades, scholars bowl, and 2nd in the state drama team! I remember the Hamricks and the Brooks families who opened their home (and their kitchen) to our entire class because they knew that teenagers needed a safe place to gather and hang out – but with adult supervision!

Were there negative things about high school. I am sure there were, but I choose to remember the best and forget the rest. I have often said that I am thankful I grew up on Sand Mountain. However, I want specifically and publicly to say that I am thankful I grew up in Ider, Alabama and went to Ider High School. I will always be an Ider Hornet. To any members of the class of ’88 who read this blog, I love each and every one of you, and I would love to hear from any and all of you!

Lord, take over a worship service again.

6 Apr

Once a church reaches a certain point, the services must be planned and prepared for in a greater way.  In order to have a quality choir and orchestra, the music they share in worship must be planned and prepared ahead of time. In order to have the audio-visual elements that are now standard in many churches, all of those elements must be prepared ahead of time.  Certainly, preaching is better if it is prepared ahead of time!  None of this means that we don’t pray and ask the Lord to lead us in our worship services. We do that every week at our church.  I would hope that every church does that, no matter how many or how few they may have in worship.  However, the end result for most churches is that our services are planned and prepared in advance, many times we print an “order of service” but, even if we don’t, we know what songs we will sing.  We know when we will take up the offering, and we know what message we are going to preach. Nothing wrong with that. God is honored in excellence.  We should always have the highest quality possible in our worship services.  However, wouldn’t it be wonderful if God moved so powerfully in a service that we threw our plans out the window?

In a recent conversation with my wife, we were talking about people responding in a worship service, and I made the statement “In my entire ministry, I have seen the Lord take over a worship service on two occasions.”  Then I proceeded to share with her about those two occasions.  Since that I day, I have prayed several times, “Lord, take over a worship service again.”  Let me make it clear: I am not talking just about people responding to an invitation at the end of the service – as wonderful as that is! I am talking about occasions when the Holy Spirit of God moves so strongly that it interrupts the order of service and things happen that aren’t in the bulletin.  I am talking about occasions when people are so moved by the Spirit that they MUST respond on the spot.  In 24 years as a pastor, I have seen this happen on two occasions.  Let me share them with you.

The first happened in 2005 when I served as Senior Pastor of Cropwell Baptist Church in Pell City, Alabama. A man named Kenny and his wife had visited our church a few times and I had visited in their home. Kenny was a good man, but he was not a believer.  I shared the gospel with him in his living room, but he did not give his life to Christ.  Then came one Sunday morning I would describe as “just a normal Sunday.”  No special emphasis. No indication that God was about to move in a great way. We sang congregational songs. We took up the offering.  Andy Hadley was leading our great choir in singing the song “Bow the Knee.”  The service was going exactly as planned. I was on the front pew ready to step up when the choir finished and begin my message.

Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement.  I looked up and saw Kenny coming down the aisle weeping – right in the middle of the choir special.  He knelt down on the steps in front of the pulpit and began crying out for the Lord to save him.  I knelt down beside Kenny to pray with him. The choir finished the song and then the church continued to sing and pray.  Finally, Kenny finished praying, looked up at me and said, “Pastor, I am sorry I messed up the service, but I couldn’t wait.”  As we embraced, I told Kenny, “You didn’t mess up the service, you made the service!”   To be very honest, I do not even remember the rest of that service. I don’t remember if I preached my planned sermon or not.  I just remember the overwhelming sense of God’s presence in that service and the visible, tangible rejoicing of God’s people.  The Lord took over that service.

The second occasion happened six years later on October 17, 2011 at Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville, where I was serving as Associate Pastor.  Our Senior Pastor, Dr. Jimmy Jackson, had invited an evangelist named Ron Herrod to come for what we promoted as “A Day of Prophecy.”  Like the day in Pell City six years earlier, this day was “normal” and even “average.”  Our attendance was about average.  We met with Ron Herrod before the service and had prayer with him. The worship service and the music went “as planned” with our choir and orchestra doing their customary wonderful job. It was a good, solid Sunday, but there was no special air of excitement or special feeling. Ron Herrod got up to preach and his message was from the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 – “What to Do If You Miss the Rapture.”   It was a good, solid message delivered by a good, solid man of God but his delivery and content were nothing extraordinary.  From my vantage point on the front pew, there was no hint of what was about to happen.

Those of us who have heard very many sermons know the signs when a preacher is about to move into the invitation.  I was on the front pew and sat up in my seat because I could tell that Ron Herrod was about to move into the invitation and I would be the point man down front to receive people.  As I looked up at him, I noticed a change come over his countenance. I noticed his voice strengthen as he spoke with even greater clarity and power.  It might not have been noticeable to the rest of the audience, but it was tangible from my seat. It was like the Lord took over Ron Herrod in those moments as he finished his message and extended an invitation.

The invitation music started and I stood down front along with other staff members to receive those who responded – and respond they did!  Immediately folks began coming down the aisle – most of them adults. “I want to be saved.”  “I need to be baptized.”  “We want to join this church.”  They kept coming.  The invitation was extended and people kept responding. In fact, the rooms that we normally used for decision counseling overflowed into the hallways and we eventually moved everyone who responded to the choir room in order to have room.  Our second worship service was going while we were dealing with this group who responded in the first service.  It took almost the entire time. Finally,  I realized that I needed to be back in the worship center to receive people responding in the second service and I raced back there with my eyes blurry with tears and my heart overwhelmed with joy at what I had just seen happen.  We saw a similar type of response at the end of the second service.  It was nothing short of incredible. The next Sunday we baptized a BUNCH of people, and then more in the coming Sundays – all of whom made decisions on that day. The overwhelming majority of them were adults.  The Lord took over that service on October 17, 2011.

In the years before and since these two days, I have certainly been part of many great worship services.  I have seen many people saved and baptized.  Many others have joined the church.  I have seen the altar filled with people praying after I preached.  It’s been wonderful to see many people respond to the Lord’s leadership over the years. However, these two occasions are different from all of the others.  It wasn’t planned. God just moved.  It was powerful.  It was convicting. It was encouraging. It was eye opening. It was joyful.  We could do nothing but weep tears of joy and give God praise because there was no question that He alone did this.  God took over the service. Period.

I told Becky that I was praying for the Lord to do it again.  Oh, how I long to see the Lord take over a service again. It’s been almost seven years.   No matter where you attend church, let’s all pray and come to church on Sunday expectant.  This Sunday might be the next time the Lord takes over the service.

 

 

The Day of a Godly Person’s Death

8 Sep

Our church family at Lakeside has been touched profoundly by death this week. First of all, a beloved 33 year-old member of our church died after six months in the heart transplant unit at UAB hospital. On Wednesday, a wonderful 37 year old teacher at one of our local schools passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. She was (and had been) the teacher of several of our Lakeside children. I do not write this blog post because I have answers. I do not. Only the Lord knows why. Tonight my mind went to a little known sermon by a well known preacher.

Jonathan Edwards was a preacher the Lord used mightily. He is most famous for his well known sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. However, my personal favorite sermon   from Edwards is a sermon on death.  It’s good to share it for many of us this week…

“The Day of a Godly Person’s Death Is Better Than the Day of Their Birth”
Ecclesiastes  7:1

A good name is better than a good ointment, And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.” (Ecclesiastes 7:1, NASB95

1.  They receive a better and more blessed life.

“Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”” (John 6:49–51, NASB95)

For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”” (1 Corinthians 15:53–55, NASB95)

2.   They enter into a better world.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”” (Revelation 21:1–4, NASB95)

Listen to Edward’s own words on this point…

The world that a man comes into on the day of his birth is a world of low, earthly, and mean enjoyment. But the world that the soul of a godly man is born into on the day of his death is a world of spiritual and divine enjoyments. This is a world of fading, vanishing pleasures but that is a world of substantial, durable joys and delights. There are pleasures forevermore.

 The world that men come into on the day of their birth is a world of sin and vanity and trouble. But the world that a godly man enters into on the day of his death is a world of perfection and holiness, of light and joy without any mixture of sin and sorrow.

 On the day of a person’s birth, he is born into a world that is under a curse and has no guard against it; but on the day of his death he enters into a world that is blessed of God, where there is no curse, but only joy and happiness, a world that is blessed continually with the glorious presence of God and the perfect manifestation and full enjoyment of God’s love. It’s a world filled with the boundless love of God which doth as a river of life satisfy all the inhabitants thereof.

3.   They are received by a better parent.

“And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:18, NASB95)

4.   They receive a better inheritance.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3–5, NASB95)

At the end of the message, Edwards urges us to make some important applications…

  • This truth should help the grief of those who have lost friends and loved ones.

 

  • This truth should inspire us all to prepare spiritually for death

 

  • We should rejoice because we need not fear death.

 

 

Why I have a picture of Spurgeon in my office

15 Mar

spurgeon_chair

Not long ago, a pastor friend of mine was surprised to see a portrait of the great English pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon on the wall of my office near my desk. “You’re not a Calvinist, why do you have a picture of Spurgeon?”  It was a good question. It was also my joy to explain to him why I have his picture in my office even though I am not a Calvinist. Spurgeon was a famous pastor in London who died in 1892. His sermons and books are still in print today and influencing hundreds of thousands of people around the world. While pursuing my doctoral studies, I was required to do an academic paper on an evangelism and revival leader. The professor distributed a list of famous names like Billy Graham, Billy Sunday, W.A. Criswell, and Bill Bright – urging us to choose one.  I chose Spurgeon because he was the one on the list I knew the least about even though I saw him quoted constantly.  Over the course of the next few weeks, I read five biographies of Spurgeon and wrote a thirty page paper on his life and ministry. To say that was transformative in my life and ministry would be an understatement. Every time I look at the picture of Spurgeon in my office, I am reminded of the reasons why I so admire him and why he has impacted my life and ministry so greatly.

1.  Spurgeon is a great example of love for Christ and exalting Christ in preaching. That is the one characteristic that stands out most to me about Spurgeon; if anyone has ever loved Christ, it was Charles Spurgeon. His love for Christ bleeds through in every sermon. I don’t believe I have read a Spurgeon sermon that did not explicitly and clearly call people to place their faith in Christ.  He once described his preaching style as “starting at any text and running to the cross.”

2.  Spurgeon is a great example of faithful Bible preaching. Week after week from the pulpit of his church, Spurgeon opened his Bible and preached. As he grew older, his sermons grew in Biblical and theological depth.

3.  Spurgeon is a great example of soul winning and evangelism. He literally wept for souls and was not satisfied if people weren’t coming to Christ. He was willing to lead his church to change in order to reach people. For instance, when the original facility of his church became inadequate, he lead the church to move its services to a theater – a very controversial decision at that time.

4.  Spurgeon is a great example of pastoral leadership and hard work. He visited his flock. He organized ministries. He met needs. He led the leaders. He answered inquirers. He traveled and preached extensively. He invested in young preachers. He lead his church to send out missionaries. He read six books per week. Yet, he never neglected the pulpit ministry at his church.

5.  Spurgeon is a great example of love for people and encouragement. He loved his church. He loved the people in the city of London. He loved fellow Christians and pastors even if they didn’t agree on every issue.

6.  Spurgeon is a great example of being willing to stand for truth at great personal cost. In his early years, Spurgeon was a phenomenon. In his latter years, he was an outcast among many.  His warnings of theological drift during what became known as the Downgrade Controversy proved prophetic, but they largely fell on deaf ears and earned him the scorn of many. When it came to his convictions, Spurgeon would not bend.

7.  Spurgeon is a great example of perseverance during great personal stress. At the height of his popularity, his ministry endured a great tragedy that Spurgeon never completely got over. After the birth of their twin sons, his wife was largely homebound and was never well again. Yet, by all accounts Spurgeon remained a faithful husband and father. Spurgeon developed health problems himself and suffered greatly during the last two decades of his life. The only thing worse than his physical suffering was his emotional suffering. Spurgeon struggled with depression for many years and spent many days in the depths of despair even though he had an undeniably strong faith in Christ.

On June 7, 1891 the mighty preacher took to the pulpit for the last time. Wracked with physical pain and the weakest he had ever been, Spurgeon ended his last sermon with these words. These are the last words Spurgeon spoke from a pulpit. They capture his heart….

Those who have no master are slaves to themselves. Depend upon it, you will either serve Satan or Christ, either self or the Saviour. You will find sin, self, Satan, and the world to be hard masters; but if you wear the livery of Christ, you will find him so meek and lowly of heart that you will find rest unto your souls. He is the most magnanimous of captains.

“There never was his like among the choicest of princes. He is always to be found in the thickest part of the battle. When the wind blows cold he always takes the bleak side of the hill. The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on his shoulders. If he bids us carry a burden, he carries it also. If there is anything that is gracious, generous, kind, and tender, yea lavish and superabundant in love, you always find it in him. These 40 years and more have I served him, blessed be his name! and I have had nothing but love from him. I would be glad to continue yet another 40 years in the same dear service here below if so it pleased him. His service is life, peace, joy. Oh, that you would enter on it at once! God help you to enlist under the banner of Jesus even this day! Amen.”

For more information about Spurgeon visit http://www.spurgeoncenter.com

It’s well worth your time to watch this great film about his life…http://www.throughtheeyesofspurgeon.com/

 

To everything there is a season…

12 Feb

2-3-briarwood-boys-basketball

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, ESV)

That Bible verse echoed in my mind last night in the gymnasium of Homewood High School as a season in my son’s life and the life of our family ended.  Our Briarwood Lions lost to Pelham in the area tournament, ending our season and the high school basketball career of our oldest son, David.  It was not the easiest of nights for our family.  You cannot understand it until you have a night like that one.

It was an emotional night. On the way to the game, Becky and I talked about the first time David played basketball – in 2nd grade Upward Basketball. He did so well that the next year he got recruited to play on an RA basketball league team!  Every winter for the last ten years, we have been in the stands cheering for our son and his team. It’s just been part of our life. We do not know anything else. There has always been another season – “next season maybe we can…” Now it’s over. There is no next season. That’s hard.  The looks on the faces of the other senior parents (and the tears) told me they were feeling the same emotions.

It was a night to remember and celebrate our son. We remembered that undefeated RA team back in 3rd grade – with David being one of the leading scorers. We remembered that three-pointer David made at the buzzer in 8th grade against Whitesburg Middle. We remembered the night up at Skyline he was chosen All-Area as a 9th grader.  We remembered his 34 point 20 rebound game as a 10th grader at Paint Rock Valley.  We remembered his tw0-handed slam dunk in a game against Shelby County in 11th grade.

It was a night to see once more how basketball has helped my son grow up.  He learned to play on a team.  He learned to respect authority and accept instruction from his coaches. He learned that life (officiating) isn’t always fair, and you get mistreated. He learned to come back from failure after losses, and not to take success for granted after wins.  Our family moved to Birmingham after David’s 10th grade year, which meant he moved from playing 1A basketball to playing 6A basketball.  The players were bigger, stronger, and faster.  Points and rebounds were much harder to get. He wasn’t “the man” on this team. His new team played a different style, and was filled with experienced players who had been in the program for years. He struggled at first – and his playing time reflected that struggle. However, David hung in there, kept working and became a good contributor off the bench during the last few games of his junior year. This season, he started every game and was a key player at a 6A school.  Yes, David learned about basketball, but he mostly learned about life. He grew up. You can’t put a price tag on that.

It was a night to be grateful for coaches and teammates. We don’t have coach horror stories. Every coach David has had loved him and influenced him in a positive way.  David played many years with the same set of teammates up in Huntsville at Whitesburg Christian Academy. The memories made with those young men will never be forgotten. They are a treasure. Fittingly, those boys played their last game last night as well. David, Tanner, and Andrew went out together – just a few miles apart. When David walked through the doors of Briarwood Christian School his new teammates immediately accepted him even though most of them had been together for years. They let David into the circle, and their kindness to him at an awkward time will never be forgotten.  David’s teammates at Briarwood are some of the finest young men I know, and I am proud he got to go to battle with them.

It was a night to treasure friends. Parents of athletes have a special bond. You spend so many hours together in the stands. You eat so many meals together after road games.  You live and die together every time the whistle blows.  As the clock ticked down last night, I treasured the many games I sat by my great Huntsville friend Eddie Richardson as we – ahem – educated officials on some of the finer points of the game of basketball. I also treasured the looks on our wives faces! Here at Briarwood, the “pre-game analysis” with Ricky Miskelley and the detailed x’s and o’s breakdowns with Jeff Travis have been priceless.

Finally, it was a night to look ahead to the next season. It won’t be a basketball season, but the next season of life for our son and our family. It won’t be like this season that just ended, but I am praying it will be just as blessed and just as rewarding. God is good.

 

 

 

 

 

Five reasons why you should see WOODLAWN as soon as you can!

16 Oct

Woodlawn

(1)  WOODLAWN is the true story of the spiritual awakening that happened among the 1973-74 football team at Woodlawn High School in Birmingham.  It is the true of story of how Tony Nathan became a household name in Alabama and the nation.

(2)  The gospel is clear in the movie.  This is no generic “believe in God” piece.  There is a clear call for salvation & change. In fact, this is a great opportunity to bring a friend who doesn’t know Christ.  I am praying that many thousands are brought to Christ through this movie.

(3)  WOODLAWN isn’t a football movie. You read that sentence right. It is a movie about the power of the gospel to bring racial reconciliation and love for others. THAT is the heart of WOODLAWN.  It just so happens that the gospel brought racial reconciliation and love to a high school football team. The message doesn’t get lost in the football.

(4)  There are familiar faces and locations.  WOODLAWN was filmed on location in Birmingham.  You actually see Woodlawn High School, Legion Field, and Birmingham neighborhoods.  Birmingham’s own Caleb Castille has the lead role. Caleb is the son of Alabama great Jeremiah Castille, and played high school football at Briarwood Christian, as well as college football with the Crimson Tide.  Finally, it’s worth the cost of your ticket to see Jon Voight play Bear Bryant. To say it’s “spot on” is an understatement.

(5)  WOODLAWN is an absolutely incredible movie!  It looks great. It’s well acted. It’s paced well. You won’t be able to take your eyes off of the screen for two hours.  You might catch yourself standing up and cheering before it’s over!

 

Put it on your calendar now and go see WOODLAWN!

14 Aug

Woodlawn

I want to use this space today to urge you to go see a movie the weekend of October 16-18, 2015.  That is the premiere weekend for the movie Woodlawn in theaters.  Last night, I was invited by a friend to attend a private screening of the movie with several members of the team and other local pastors.  I must say that I was stunned (in a good way) by what I saw. Woodlawn isn’t just the best Christian-themed movie I have seen, but Woodlawn is one of the best movies I have ever seen, period.

Most importantly, Woodlawn is a true story of what happened with the 1973-74 football teams at Woodlawn High School and how it affected the entire city of Birmingham.  Yes, there is the football. Tony Nathan rose from obscurity to become a football legend in the state of Alabama. There is the climactic 1974 Woodlawn vs. Banks game that to this day holds the record for the largest crowd ever to attend a high school football game in Alabama.  In addition, Caleb Castille, the son of Alabama great Jeremiah Castille, has the lead role playing Tony Nathan. The football scenes are intense and startlingly realistic. The movie was filmed on location here in Birmingham, so we actually see Legion Field, Woodlawn High School, etc.

However, football is not the message of the movie, nor is it the message of the 1973-74 Woodlawn football team. That message is the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. A great spiritual awakening and movement of God that began among the football team spread throughout the city. During a time of great tension, the only thing that could bring true racial reconciliation and love for one another was the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Lives were changed. The city of Birmingham was changed.

This movie absolutely doesn’t flinch. It not only shows the brutality of the game of football, but it also shows the ugliness of racism, abuse, and mistrust. It shows the struggle for teens to grow up in a fallen world. It shows the soul searching of our own individual hearts regarding our own prejudices.  It shows the struggle to forgive. Most of all, it shows the hope of a better way – the love that only comes through the Lord Jesus Christ.  It does all of this with a $25 million production budget – meaning that the production quality is completely on par with any Hollywood blockbuster.

I’ve never seen anything like it.  I wept. I cheered.  I can’t wait to watch it with my sons.  Join me in praying that the message of this movie will bring hope to our hurting country. The directors of the movie are praying for 3 million Christians to buy tickets the weekend of October 16-18.  It is on my calendar, and unless we are providentially hindered, my family will be there. I intend to encourage my church family to be there and bring anyone they know who will come.  Due to the Birmingham connection, I have no doubt it will be big in the Birmingham area, but it needs to be big in places like Huntsville, Nashville, Mobile, Memphis, and Atlanta.

Tell everyone you know. Put it on your calendar. Pray hard. Believe that God is up to something great with this film. Here is the link to the website for more information…http://woodlawnmovie.com/

 

Being a friend to your pastor (or a staff member)

20 Apr

As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” (Proverbs 27:17, NKJV)

Recently Becky and I went out to dinner with a couple from our church with whom we have become friends.  It was a couple of hours filled with laughter, stories, and great food.  It wasn’t a sermon or a Sunday School class; it was just two couples having dinner like all of the other people in the restaurant.  Like everyone else, pastors and church staff members really need those times. Over the years, I have been blessed to have very good friends in every church I have served. It doesn’t threaten me when I see our staff members developing friendships with church members either. Many readers of this blog do not attend the church I serve. Please let me share a few thoughts about being a friend to your pastor (or a staff member).

(1)  Be faithful to pray. Some of the most treasured friends are those we know pray for us on a regular basis. There have been times the Lord has used the encouragement of a praying friend in a great way.

(2) Feel free to have fun & talk about “normal” stuff. Sometimes people think since they are talking with a pastor the conversation must be about spiritual things or the church. Those things are certainly important – eternally important – and we are glad to talk about them.  However, the truth is that we “do church” all the time, but we enjoy far more than just the church. We enjoy talking about college football, favorite vacation spots, hobbies, or a host of other things. We enjoy laughing, hearing your stories, and telling our stories!

(3) Be a “safe place.”    As I write these words I am thinking of a family in a previous church who had us over to their home on several occasions. The very first time we went to their home, the wife told us as soon as we arrived: “Here you are just our friends, Greg & Becky.”  That was her way of saying that they intended for their home to be a safe place for our family, and it was. There was never an agenda and never an expectation of anything other than friendship. Those were times filled with love, laughter, and generosity that I will never forget.

(4) Disagree but remain a friend. In one church I served I could always count on one phone call when the proposed budget for the next year was distributed: a call from one of my best friends. Every year he was bent out of shape about something in the budget and he would give me an earful.  Then it was over. He disagreed, but he remained my close friend. Our friendship meant far more to him than a line item in a budget or an item on the agenda of a business meeting.

(5) Understand when we can’t share.  One time we were having dinner with close friends and a particularly sensitive issue in the church were we serving at that time came up in the conversation. Realizing the position she had put me in, the wife looked at me and said, “I’m sorry; I know you can’t go there.”  Every pastor and staff member has things they cannot share with even their closest friends due to confidentiality, etc. A good friend respects that even if it means we can’t tell them.

Every pastor and staff member needs friends. I am so very grateful for the gift of friends for life.

 

 

The Greatest Generation

6 Mar

This week I visited a church member in the ICU of a local hospital. Even though he had been through a rough time, he was able to talk with me and in our conversation he referred to his time in combat during World War II.  As I talked with him, I was humbled and a little overwhelmed to be the pastor of a man who had given so much for his country.  As I walked to my car, I couldn’t help but think of others in the church I serve who are also World War II veterans.  In the short time I have been pastor here, we have buried several of these veterans.  A number of years back, news anchor Tom Brokaw wrote a book about the World War II generation and he titled it “The Greatest Generation.”   I believe Tom Brokaw had it right; this generation is the greatest generation in American history.  Please allow me to share why I believe this statement is true.

1)  The World War II generation is a generation of deep faith.  Not every member of this generation is a born again Christian, but many are. Some came to faith during the war, while others came to Christ later in life, but the reality is that many of this generation came to a deep and abiding Christian faith. Practically every evangelical church in the post World War II decades has been filled with faithful members from this generation.

2) The World War II generation is a generation of hard work & sacrifice.  Many of them were children during the Great Depression of the 1930’s and grew up in families working hard just to survive. After the war was over, they came home, got married and began their careers and families.  In a very real sense, this generation built the America we know today. They built businesses, communities, churches, etc. Even in their retirement years, the World War II generation has stayed busy. They have worked until they were not physically able to work any more. That is no coincidence. Work is all they have known.

3)  The World War II generation is a generation of a healthy patriotism. I have never met a World War II veteran who thought America was perfect. However, each one loves their country.  Many of them have seen first hand the results of evil and despotism.  They take the phrase “land of the free and the home of the brave” to heart.  They came up in a time when the American flag transcended Democrat or Republican  – it was a symbol of our whole country and what it stands for. Certainly, we do not worship America, but the Greatest Generation shows us how to love America in a healthy way.

According to the National World War II museum, 16 million Americans served in World War II.  Today only about 855,000 remain alive. They are dying at the rate of 492 each day.  In Alabama, there are only 12,700 left alive in the entire state.   Let’s take the time to thank and honor those members of the Greatest Generation that we know. Unfortunately, we do not have very long to do so.