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Taken for Granted or Thanked with Gratitude?

Recently there was a campaign here in my city to increase the local sales tax as a way to offer incentives to companies to move their businesses into our city. While the measure actually failed, I was quite interested in listening to the debate among residents and city business leaders. I heard all kinds of good arguments both for and against the proposal. However, there was one particular gentleman in our city who was all for the proposal. He saw me and talked for 15 minutes. Over and over again he said the same thing, "Pastor, the people of our city deserve more and better businesses. Our children deserve more businesses. We just deserve to make life better for ourselves."

I understand the guy's passion because who doesn't want things to be better for themselves, their children, or their neighbors. However, that one phrase he continued to use over and over haunted me for the past couple of weeks when he said, "we deserve better." This is a distinct refle…

Being in the wrong place!

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Recently a good friend of mine was supply preaching at a church about an hour and a half away from where we live. Somehow he got a late start leaving his house for the church that was expecting him to deliver both the morning and evening message. Because he was running late, he drove in a hurry to the small town, drove up to the church, and into the parking lot. He received a call from the kind gentleman who had invited him to come and preach for their church asking him where he was. My friend apologized and assured the man that he was in the parking lot of the church about to walk through the doors. The man was relieved and hung up the phone to wait on the preacher to walk in.

Meanwhile, my friend put on his sport coat, picked up his Bible and headed through the front door. He spoke to the 2 men who were ushering at the front door of the church, assured them he was present and laughed at how he thought he was going to be late. The two ushers let him know he had arrived just in time …

Thoughts returning from the Arkansas Baptist Convention 2013

I just returned from my 13th Arkansas Baptist Convention annual meeting. This year it was held over 5 hours away from Marion in Rogers, Arkansas at the fantastic facility of Cross Church at Pinnacle Hills. It is different to go to the annual meeting of the ABSC with literally NO responsibility as president of the Executive Board or the Convention. The positive thing about this is I got to sit back and observe our convention from a semi-objective point of view.

What did I learn?

1. I am getting older!
While I am not by far the oldest among all the messengers, I have noticed over the past few years that I appear to be getting older. This is a great thing! Why? Because this means that unlike other state conventions across the SBC, we have younger pastors and staff members attending our annual meeting. This is a great sign for the future of our convention.

2. I am not cool!
I did not show up as a messenger at the state convention wearing skinny jeans, loafers, spike up and/or frosted hair…

NOT ANOTHER EXCUSE!

Pastoring a Baptist church for many years (12 1/2 in Marion, AR) I have come to hear some of the worst, as well as some of the most creative excuses one could ever imagine come out of the mouths of seemingly good church members as to why they can not possibly serve the Lord. To be quite honest with you I kind of get a kick out of some of the excuses because the church member gives it to me with such enthusiasm and such defensiveness you would think they were on trial for murder, rather than being asked to help serve food at a student event, attend a special program, or do something as simple as go to Sunday School. All the while you know in your heart that the excuse of how they really needed to go and "check the thermostat" at their Lake house this weekend isn't really quite as "urgent" as it was presented.

Excuses....why do we make up creative lies called "excuses" and use them as a basis for not serving God or others in and through our local church…

Your Work...Your Witness!

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I read a Calvin and Hobbes© cartoon that seemed quite appropriate. Young Calvin came up with a new money making scheme. He overturned a cardboard box for a stand, wrote some words on the box, and placed it on the street next to his house. He sat behind the box and waited patiently for customers; however none came. Before too long, Hobbes, Calvin’s stuffed tiger came by and asked him, “So how is business?” Calvin replied annoyed, “Just terrible.” Hobbes then looks at the words written on the box that read, “A swift kick in the seat of the pants- $1.00!” Hobbes sat down to sympathize with Calvin’s lack of business and said, “No business? Boy that is hard to believe!” Equally befuddled and disappointed Calvin threw out his arms in exasperation and said, “I just cannot understand it either! Everybody I know needs exactly what I am selling.”
What the world needs from us, what our families need from us, what our co-workers need from us, and what our churches need from us is contribution! We…

Just a little bit of Faith!

This November I will be leading another tour to visit all the sights in the Holy Land. I always enjoy leading such a great adventure and seeing God’s Word come alive in people’s lives. One of my favorite places to go is the boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. I seem to always think about that time Jesus came to His disciples walking on the water, and Peter called out to the Lord to walk on the water. Jesus told Peter, “Come!” At that point Peter had a decision to make about his faith in the Lord. He had to step out of the boat or sit down in the boat depending on his faith.

You know it is easy for us to say that we believe the Lord and that we put our faith in Him, but it is another thing to step out of the boat and walk on water when He tells us to “Come.” In other words, there are times we know in our heart God has called us to do something and go outside our comfort zone, but to do so requires active faith. It takes faith to go on that mission trip, go to the Holy Land on a tour, teac…

What are you Transmitting?

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In 1972, NASA launched the exploratory space probe Pioneer 10. Its main mission was to reach Jupiter and send back information about that planet. It was a bold plan because at that time no satellite had gone beyond Mars. Pioneer 10 accomplished its mission and so much more. It swung past Jupiter in November, 1973, then passed Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. By 1997, Pioneer 10 was more than six billion miles from the sun. Despite that immense distance, Pioneer 10 continued to beam back radio signals to earth. The most remarkable thing was that those signals were powered by an 8-watt transmitter, which radiates about as much power as a bedroom night light. Not even the most optimistic scientist could have ever imagined what that little 8-watt transmitter could do. Yet even now it is transmitting important messages back to NASA from unexplored space.
So it is when you and I offer ourselves to God in faithful obedience. So many people look at their lives and think to themselves, “I j…

The screwdriver was lost!...or was it?

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I have to be honest with you. By nature I am not a very politically correct person. In fact people who are always seeking to be politically correct kind of make me cringe a little. These people are the pleasers. You know what I am talking about don't you? While I think we ought to be sensitive and caring toward others, there are some people out there who run so far to the extreme of this that they will compromise even their own core values, beliefs, and worldview.
One example that comes to my mind is the whole concept of being "lost." This is a term that I still use regularly to refer to "a person who has never trusted Jesus into his or her life to forgive their sins, be the Lord over their lives, and possess the assurance of heaven."Every where I turn nowadays I am being told that I cannot call lost people "lost" because it might damage their self-esteem and their personal feelings toward the church. To that I say, "Are you kidding me?" I …

WATCH OUT FOR JOY BUSTERS!

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Before Paul wrote to the church at Galatia about the Fruit of the Spirit in chapter 5, he asked a very penetrating question in Galatians 4:15: “What has happened to all your joy…”That question needs to be asked in the church today. What has happened to all my joy? What has happened to all your joy? William Barclay has said that “a gloomy Christian is a contradiction in terms, and nothing in all religious history has done Christianity more harm than its connection with black clothes and long faces.” Let’s look at three common joy busters that steal joy from our lives.

The first joy buster is unsatisfied expectations! Do you ever feel like you’re just going through some joyless routines in life? If the truth were known some of us are discontent with the way our lives are progressing. It could be that your expectations for your marriage or your job have not been met. Or, maybe your kids aren’t living like they should. Perhaps you don’t have everything you want – a bigger house, a nicer ca…

No more Business as Usual!

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A few months ago I was flying from Memphis, TN to Charlotte, NC. The flight was filled with people in every seat. After we took off from Memphis about 20 minutes into the trip the flight attendants began cabin service offering passengers drinks and pretzels. About half way through the cabin service the plane hit huge pockets of turbulence. The aircraft started rocking back and forth and bumping up and down. Several passengers got their freshly delivered drinks in their laps or on the floor. Quickly the flight attendants locked down the service cart and one almost literally crawled back to her seat and buckled herself in. Over the intercom she said some words that not only stuck out in my mind, but that I wrote down as soon as the turbulence was over. The flight attendant said this: “Ladies and gentlemen, the conditions are too turbulent and the time too short for us to continue our service as usual.”

You and I are not only commanded by Jesus to “make disciples”, but you are also exp…

It is time to "LIVE TO WIN!"

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My friend Dwayne Moore, President of Next Level Worship, has created and just launched a new church-wide campaign called "Live to Win!" Here are First Baptist Church in Marion, Arkansas we were privileged to be a pilot church for this great campaign. We saw a spike in attendance, an huge level of participation both in worship and in small groups, and we experienced people making significant decisions. I had the privilege of writing the sermon material for this great resource. Let me recommend it to you without reservation. I hope you will check it out today at www.nextlevelworship.com/livetowin


Join me in the Holy Land in 2013!

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I am currently putting together my 2013 Hallmark Holy Land Tour which will depart from both Memphis International Airport and Atlanta International Airport on November 18th for Tel Aviv arriving back in the US on November 26, 2013 which is two days before Thanksgiving. The trip cost for 2013 is cheaper than the 2010 trip coming in at $3,675.00. This is an all inclusive price which includes airfare, 5 star hotel accomodations, all meals, all tips, all entry fees, a full-time guide and a full-time driver through EDI Travel, and you will never even have to carry your own luggage! Walk where Jesus walked and experience the sights and sounds of the Holy Land. For more information, questions, or to request a travel brocure, email me today at clay.hallmark@firstmarion.org. I look forward to hearing from you. (Note: The trip is limited to the first 35 passengers. Enlistment requires a $300.00 non-refundable deposit)

Let's Be Generous Now!

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When you hear the word “generosity” what comes to your mind? Do you think of it in terms of making a gift or a donation? Do you equate generosity with a sum of money? Do you see it as something that “rich” people should do in order to meet the needs of “poor” people? Generosity is very often mistaken as giving. The truth is that while giving can be a part of generosity, giving in and of itself can be done with the wrong motives, without love, or begrudgingly. Generosity, however, is always motivated by and finds its source in the foundation of love.
On May 30, 2002, in an interview on PBS, Father Lindon Harris of St. Paul’s Cathedral which stands at the base of where the WorldTradeCenter twin towers once stood told a story of great generosity. It seems that an elderly black woman heard about a man who had hurt his leg searching for survivors and clearing rubble at Ground Zero. She walked from her apartment to the area and talked her way through security. She came into the church, wal…