Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Tribute to Billy Graham and Thelma Perkins

Two of the greatest saints of God who ever lived died today and entered the glories of heaven.

One of those saints, Billy Graham, was well known. In his 99 years he had touched every corner of the earth. In one sense he was a simple Baptist preacher. In another sense he was a giant of a man. Billy Graham stated "My one purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which, I believe, comes through knowing Christ". That being so he fulfilled that purpose well. He preached in 180 countries and in the process preached to an estimated 250 million people. I have known of Billy Graham all of my life. As a kid growing up we used to gather around the television and listen to him preach. Many years later I had the privilege of serving as a counselor in one of his crusades. I stood within 40 feet of him but never had the opportunity to meet him personally. I think there were smiles in heaven today when Billy Graham arrived. And I think there was a smile on his face when he stood before the throne and met the Lord Jesus.

The other great saint that passed from earth today and began her days of heavenly rejoicing was Thelma Perkins. She was not known by very many people outside of the locality of where she lived. But I knew her well. I first met Thelma Perkins when I was seven years old. Our family was new in town and we joined the Gano Avenue Baptist Church where Thelma and her family were members. She became a lifelong friend to all of us. But we found her worthy of so much respect that none of us, not even my mom and dad, would address her, by any other term except “Mrs. Perkins”. Mrs. Perkins spent her 94 years on this earth loving and serving the Lord through her church and loving and encouraging the people that God placed in her path. Mrs. Perkins was a homemaker caring for her husband and raising three children. She was a kind neighbor. She was a gracious host. You would always get a good meal at her house but more importantly you felt love and warmth and kindness in her home. She never said unkind words about others and her presence made you cautious about engaging in unworthy speech as well. She was one of those people that the love and grace and mercy and kindness of Jesus just oozed out of. Her kind of character and demeanor is rare in the world. Mrs. Perkins was an ardent student of the Bible and was a Sunday School teacher for over sixty-five years. She had a great interest in missions and though she never traveled that much she prayed for people all over the world. I know she prayed for me. Her life and example has been an encouragement to me and many others.

Billy Graham got to heaven early this morning. Mrs. Perkins got there about 10:20 AM eastern time.  I am not sure what the protocol of heaven is like. But somehow I think that with these two great saints arriving on the same day that protocol was broken. There must have been applause. Maybe the heavenly choir got a little extra excitement and danced while they sang. Surely somebody shouted. I was not there so I don’t know. But I think that when the Rev. Billy Graham and Mrs. Perkins stood before the throne today the face of the Lord Jesus was beaming when He said “Well done, my good and faithful servant”.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

My Christmas Prayer for 2017

When the rhetoric is vile and spewing forth hate

Fill my heart with love, my mouth kind words to relate


When characters are threatened by accusations

Keep my tongue from promoting the declarations


When news blares of another sniper with a gun

May my sheath, sword, and shield be your majestic Son


When I encounter neighbors burdened and in need

Grant me the blessing to give, not withhold in greed


When humankind divides by status, creed, and race

Help me pursue common ground, guide me by your grace


When conflict and confusion never seem to cease

Make me wise so that I might facilitate peace


When a brother has no one on whom to depend

Cause me to be silent, listen, and be a friend


When loneliness and despair threaten to destroy

Bring me hope, that encouragement I might employ


When I see people broken by sins frustration

Give me boldness to share knowledge of salvation


When they grapple in darkness unguided by sight

Let my life and voice become a beacon of light


When people doubt Bible truth and implication

Allow me patience for a gospel conversation


When stilled in weariness from our earthly story

Deliver heavens hope from the Lord of glory.


I Think Maybe I am Getting Old

I think maybe I am getting old. In recent weeks I have had a hankering to make contact with some old friends. I followed through on those yearnings. I called an old friend I had not spoken with in a few years. He told me the sad news of his oldest son being killed in an automobile accident. In the course of that week I spoke with another old friend and learned some of the stresses of his life. It is late in the year and I had some vacation time I needed to take. So this last week I drove to Missouri to see an old friend. We had an enjoyable visit.  But he has a few health problems that concern me and I know they trouble him. I move on and go see my mother and father in-law. I enjoyed the evening listening to their stories. They don't have any sons but since I married one of their daughters they claim me and I am proud of their claim. On the way home I meditate on my visits and I have a fresh reality that getting old has some challenges. And I think maybe I am getting old.


I get home and sleep in my bed one night and then take off in the in the other direction to Kentucky. My purpose is to attend a funeral visitation for the father of a pastor friend of mine. My friend is not as old as I am but I know from experience that losing your father will make you feel old. I continue on my journey and go spend the night with my aunt. We set up and talk past midnight and I am pretty sure that is past her bedtime. But I don't want to miss the opportunity share some old memories. Because, I think maybe I am getting old. Next morning I drive over to the town where I grew up. I go to the cemetery to visit the graves of my father and mother. I inspect the flowers resting on top of their stone and I surmise that they are in good enough shape that they don't need to be replaced just yet. I had made arrangements to see another old friend. His son is about the same age as me and I had spent a lot of time at his house when I was growing up, particularly on Sunday afternoons after church. We have a lot of church stories to tell and a lot of people to memorialize. I discover that this old friend and I have more friends in common that are dead than are alive. I think maybe I am getting old. 


I get home and I read an obituary in the Illinois Baptist. A pastor friend with whom I have enjoyed many moments of sweet fellowship has lost his wife of 52 years. I call my friend and he reminisces about her life and her home going. She had been suffering from cancer and her death is bittersweet. I think my friend feels old and I think maybe I am getting old. 


So I am absorbing my recent experiences with old friends. It causes me to understand that I don't want to spend much time in puny arguments. Life is short and there is simply too many difficulties and too much sorrow to waste energy squabbling. I would rather give my life to loving one another and rejoicing in the love of others.  That is my opinion. But maybe I am just getting old. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Conceived in Eternal Love

Conceived in Eternal Love

By Brent Cloyd, 2017


Joseph was a young man excited about life

A maiden named Mary was pledged to be his wife

But then he received news that he could not ignore

News that hurt and the community would deplore

Though they had not come together she was with child

This kind of shame would cause them both to be profiled


Being a good man he did not want to cause her pain

To force public disgrace, there was nothing to gain

I’ll quietly divorce her, he fretfully resolved

This will be better for all the parties involved

But as he was dreaming in the blackness of night

An angel appeared, spoke to him, and set things right


Take Mary as your wife, and do not be afraid

Years past the prophet spoke of a plan that was made

The child that grows in her is a gift from above

Wrought by the Holy Spirit, in eternal love

She is carrying in her womb a precious son

Through him for mankind abundant life will be won


You will call Him Jesus, a savior from heaven

In His powerful name God will stop sin’s leaven

Through His life and story God among us will live

By His atoning work He has much grace to give

So Joseph arose, as commanded, without delay

Took Mary as his wife, The Lord he did obey


Scripture said that from a virgin Christ would be born

To allow otherwise would create righteous scorn

So they refrained from sex until after the birth

Denying themselves the natural urgings of earth

When the time came there was born a child of great fame

God’s precious gift, a savior, Jesus was His name.




Wednesday, November 29, 2017

When God Whispers in Your Ear

I have never had an angel of the Lord speak to me. I have never heard what I thought was the audible voice of God. The Lord has spoken to me through the scriptures. He has impressed things on my mind. He has placed feelings on my heart. He has sent other people to me with directives and words of encouragement. But an angel of the Lord has never whispered in my ear or showed up in a mid-night dream.


But when God spoke to Joseph he did so through His angel. Joseph was engaged to a young girl named Mary. Word got out that she was pregnant and Joseph knew he was not the one responsible. In despair he wonders what he should do. In a restless night of sleep an angel of the Lord appeared to him and made the situation clear. “Mary is a virgin and what is happening to her is an act of the Spirit of God. She is bearing a son and you are to name him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins”. And Joseph woke up from that dream and took Mary as his wife and did not have relations with her as his wife until after the child was born. As commanded they named the boy Jesus.


Not long after Jesus was born an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph again in a dream. The command this time was simple but it was direct and urgent. “Get up, and take the boy and his mother to Egypt and don’t come back until I tell you it is ok, for King Herod in his wickedness is searching for the child in order that he might kill him”. So Joseph arose in the middle of the night and departed to Egypt. Joseph in the course of a year or two had encountered the angel of the Lord twice and each time he had been called to radical action that altered his ordinary ambitions and asked him to do something strange and uncomfortable. What he was being asked to do was helping fulfill the words of the Lord spoken by the prophets but it was greatly changing his life. I think it is true that obeying the commands of God always push us to do and be something different than we ourselves had planned for our lives.


Joseph and his family lived maybe two years in Egypt. Then one night an angel of the Lord awoke Joseph again in a dream and said “you can go back to Israel now. Herod has died and it is safe to go home”. So he arose and went back to Israel. But once you have been gone from home, going home is never the same. When Joseph got back to the borders of Israel he discovered that Herod’s son Archelaus was ruling over the region of Judea and he was as bad as his father. Once again he received a message from God in a dream and he had to alter his plans of going back to his original home and instead went to the region of the Galilee. There Joseph and Mary set up housekeeping in a city called Nazareth. My guess is they were never quite at home. The people of the region of Galilee probably looked upon them as outsiders. But there Jesus and his brothers and sisters grew up. In that area Jesus developed his trade. Within the small parameters of that region Jesus brought forth His teachings, called His disciples, and developed His ministry. It all happened like this so that the words of the prophets could be fulfilled; the Messiah “would be called a Nazarene”.


One of the lessons this teaches us is the importance of obedience. A simple young man named Joseph, in the midst of stress and confusion, heard the voice of the Angel of the Lord and obeyed. Maybe he argued a little bit, but we do not have any record that he did. What the record states is that he obeyed even though it may have meant ridicule, added stress and increased responsibilities, making uncomfortable journeys, and the loneliness of living in strange places. He obeyed even though it greatly altered his life. He obeyed because he believed the voice of God was trustworthy and that heeding that voice would lead to the will of God being fulfilled.


God communicates to us in a lot of ways. We never know what method he might use. It might even be through an angel. But I wonder, if God gives a directive to us, will we obey? Will we follow His instructions even if doing so calls us to unusual and even radical actions? Will we do it believing that our obedience leads to the fulfilling of God’s ultimate will?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Coming and Going

Coming and Going

"Life is about coming and going". That is what my cousin Bill said at his mother's funeral yesterday.  I wrote that down (actually I typed it into notes on my iPhone).

My Aunt Bertie was my mother's sister. She was 86. She had raised five children and worked and volunteered at a variety of things. She and Uncle Ken had been married for 69 years. She had done a lot of coming and going. But she had spent the last twelve years in a nursing home. Alzheimer's had ended her coming and going. But that did not keep her husband Ken from coming and going to her. Twelve years of coming nearly every day to the nursing home to see his wife. Twelve years of going back home to an empty house. Nor did it keep her children from coming to and fro to visit. Coming to make sure she was taken care of and then leaving to take care of the other responsibilities in their lives. I am sure there were times that the coming and going was difficult and probably a few times they asked why. But some things you just do because it is the right thing to do. You come and you go because that is what life is about.

So yesterday we gathered for her funeral. To be honest I argued with myself a little about whether I should go or not. I had not seen her in a long time and I did not know my cousins very well. It would be a long trip and would my going really be that helpful? But her children had come to both of my parent's funerals and some of them had even made the trip to Virginia when my niece died. I had been honored by the care and concern demonstrated in their coming and going. So I decided that I wanted to go and I determined that I should. Though I had not yet heard my cousin Bill say it, I guess something whispered in my ear that life is about coming and going.

So I went. Brock who is always up for a trip came with me to keep me company. We shook some hands and hugged some necks and caught up on a few people. We shared a few memories and sang some of my Aunt Bertie's favorite hymns. We celebrated the life she had lived and we rejoiced in the heaven she now enjoyed. Then we left.

I am so glad that I came. There are some things we just need to stop and go do, because life is about coming and going.  And you know sometimes we get so busy with the comings and goings of life that we forget that life is about coming and going.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Funeral Visitations

My folks went to a lot of funerals and visitations for funerals when I was growing up. Many times I was privileged to participate in these functions. The first time I remember being at a funeral home was when my maternal grandfather Morgan Williams died. My dad picked me up in his arms and took me to the casket. As we stood there he gently explained to me that though it looked like he was sleeping that he had died. He told me that we would not get to see him any more after that day. But that my grandfather had gone to heaven and he was ok. I was five years old at the time and I guess that is about as much information a five year old boy can process. I remember many times when I was growing up that my dad would be called upon to serve as a pallbearer at a funeral for some family member or a neighbor or someone at church or even for someone that he barely knew. When this happened my dad would rearrange his work day and take care of this task. Without knowing it I think my dad was teaching me the lesson that when death occurs you have to deal with the inconvenience and stop long enough to respect the dead and express love to the families of the dead. When my dad died I rode to the cemetery in the hearse with the funeral director and he recounted to me the many times my dad had helped with a funeral by being a pallbearer. And that was just one funeral home! As my parents aged their funeral going activity increased. I would call them and ask them what they had been doing and they would tell me what town they had gone to for a funeral and whose funeral it was. I told them I thought they had found a new social outlet! My dad said "well son, that's what you do when you get older and your friends begin to die".

I have been to a lot of funerals and funeral visitations myself. I have delivered the eulogy at more than 300 funerals. I have stood in long lines and waited my turn to shake hands with or put my arm around a loved one and express my appreciation for the deceased and offer my condolences. I hoped that my brief moment by their side was helpful. But often I have wondered if it made a difference or not. When my dad and mother died I stood at sentry by their caskets and greeted each person who came through. I don't think I missed a one. And I discovered that each person who took the time and made the effort to come to the funeral home brought joy and comfort to my soul. Their presence and their words were a precious gift that I treasured.

I think I am coming to the point in life when like my dad and mother I may be going to more funerals. Not because I have a professional responsibility but because I have friends who are dying and loved ones of friends who are dying. Does it make any difference to touch base with friends and family at times like this? Maybe I am old fashion but I think it does. Visiting the grieving and helping people bury their dead may or may not be a spiritual activity. But it is one of the most human and neighborly things we can do.

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