About Me

I graduated from Northeast Louisiana University in Monroe, LA with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism. From there, I went to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and earned the Master of Divinity (’91) and Doctor of Philosophy (’96) degrees with an emphasis in Systematic Theology. I’ve served as Pastor of churches in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Missouri. As of July 2019, I’m back in the Volunteer State serving as Pastor of First Baptist Church Clinton.

I consider myself a free and faithful Baptist with an ecumenical spirit who embraces the grace of God through Jesus Christ in my life and desires to extend that same grace to others.

Easter is here!

“Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed!”

Spring has sprung and we are adjusting to the additional hour of
daylight each day. There are signs of the changing of the seasons with
flowers in bloom and grass beginning to grow again (I just mowed mine
for the first time in a long time).

The pandemic is still with us, and it’s still important for each of us to
help mitigate the spread of the virus. For me, that means getting the
vaccine. I received my first dose a few weeks ago and will get the
second one this month.


I remember vividly the news of our schools closing last March, and
how our church responded to the spread of the virus by discontinuing
in person meetings. I saw a Facebook “memory” picture of me sitting in
an orange Vol shirt while doing the first Wednesday livestream from my
house–I think more of you were excited to see me in that shirt than
hear anything else I said! (FYI–I’m still an Auburn fan)

Yes, this past year has been filled with a great deal of uncertainty—for
all of us. Our leadership challenged us to remain faithful in our financial
and prayerful support while “being where you need to be” as it related
to the virus. We went through the ordeal of lost rhythms of life,
graduations, celebrations, and special events.

It’s been a stressful time for our nation. Pandemic fatigue has hit a
new high and we are all just about fed up with being fed up with
COVID19 and everything that goes with it. And, there have been mass
shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado. So, there’s a lot at home
and abroad to concern us.

Although these experiences may be unique, they are not new. Life is
not easy, and it was into this kind of world that Jesus came. We’ve
made it to Easter and are celebrating the resurrection of our Lord Jesus
Christ. And with this mind, I’m also praying for a resurrection and
renewal of spirit to occur in First Baptist Church as well.

The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once wrote that the
church has too many “admirers” when what Christ really wants are
“imitators.” Jesus not only took up his own cross but challenges each of
us to do the same. Easter is an ideal time to renew your relationship
with Christ and involvement in the church.

I’m excited about what is yet to come for 2021. The church staff is still
sorting out and anticipating what things will look like later this year. I
look forward to being able to ordain new deacons, dedicate babies and
their parents, celebrate graduates, and share in the Ordinances of the
Lord’s Supper and Baptism all at different points along the way. Special
moments like this have been missed, and my hope is for them to take
place once again in the near future.

I’ll look forward to seeing more of you in person and others of you
online. Let’s keep on keeping on and remember “Christ is Risen

Lent during a Pandemic

Pitchers and Catchers have reported and spring training is underway! Baseball season is just around the corner and my St. Louis Cardinals mask will come in extra handy. There’s something about the establishment of a familiar routine that offers comfort, especially as we’ve all had to navigate through the perils of COVID-19. I’d rather deal with baseball season than the COVID season.

Finding something else to occupy our time other than what we’ve had to deal with is healthy for us. There’s renewed optimism about a vaccine on the horizon, even though it’s important to remain vigilant and diligent in our distancing and mitigation efforts.

I need Lent this year. It meant so much to experience Ash Wednesday and be reminded of our mortality and sinfulness: “from dust you are and to dust you will return—repent and believe the gospel.”

Over the next several weeks, our church will make its journey to the cross. You’ll notice the color purple being featured more on our pulpit and Lord’s Supper table as well as the cross in the baptistery. We’ll remain in this posture until Maundy Thursday and then of course, Easter Sunday. But, let’s not hurry through these important weeks of reflection and repentance. I’m hopeful that each one of us will find a way to slow down and appreciate what Jesus Christ has done for us. We have so much to be thankful for, among the most valuable is our shared life together. 

Let’s also remember those who are struggling due to the winter storm across our nation. Millions of Americans have been without power and it’s a dangerous situation for many people. Which reminds me, I was so impressed with Dolly Parton’s response to the Tennessee legislature’s efforts to put a statue of her on the capitol grounds. Parton was grateful for the overture but responded, “Given all that is going on in the world, I don’t think putting me on a pedestal is appropriate at this time.” 

I think that answer is just right. May her answer inspire us all to keep things in perspective during these challenging days. 

Finally, I want to express gratitude to those who are working hard to keep schools open in our area. The recent Presidential town hall reminded us that there are many places in our country where this is not the case. Let’s take time to thank our administrators and teachers for their efforts.

A Time of “Forced Leisure”

In a recent devotional reading from Streams in the Desert, I read about Jesus’ “withdrawing to a solitary place” (Matthew 14.13) and the importance of boundaries. The author offered these words:

“There is no music during a musical rest, but the rest is part of the making of the music. In the melody of life, the music is separated here and there by rests. During those rests, we foolishly believe we have come to the end of the song. God sends us times of forced leisure by allowing sickness, disappointed plans, and frustrated efforts. He brings a sudden pause in the choral hymn of our lives. and we lament that our voices must be silent.”

The author concludes in this way, “God does not write the music of our lives without a plan. Our part is to learn the tune and not be discouraged during the rests.”

The calendar shows that it’s 2021, yet that doesn’t mean that the pandemic has suddenly disappeared. Schools, businesses, families, and yes, churches, are seeking ways to deal with this unpleasant reality. When it comes to the COVID-19 virus, our nation is not of one mind in how to deal with it.

Many of us (including myself) are wrestling with COVID fatigue. This is a new phrase for the moment—meaning essentially that we are tired of social distancing, canceled or modified activities, and ongoing efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus. In short, we want this to be over!

Unfortunately, it’s not over. We are going to have to deal with virus and its effects for months yet to come. Like you, I am eager and hopeful for a vaccine. Until that time, it’s imperative that we slow down rather than try to force through this unpleasant season.

Even though this may be an uncomfortable time, it is also the only time we have to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. I believe the Lord has purpose in this situation and if we are sensitive to it then it can be a source of growth for us. Remember this: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of various kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1.2).

We are in a period of “forced leisure” right now. Let’s be patient with each other and may graciousness abound.

The 1st Amendment and Social Media

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This part of the Constitution has always been an important and precious privilege granted to us Americans. It includes parts of our lives relating to the freedom to worship or not to worship, the right to peaceably assemble and protest, and the right to speak your mind without government interference.

In response to the attempted coup at the Capitol building, social media platforms have removed President Trump’s ability to communicate with his followers–on Twitter alone the President boasts 88 million followers. Twitter explained their decision as follows:

After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.

I’ve heard a number of reactions to this decision, ranging from “what took you so long?” to “this is a gross violation of the freedom of speech.” Those who argue the first position believe the President has been gaslighting his followers and inciting violence–like yelling “fire” in a crowded theater (remember those?). Those who affirm the latter posit that this action is persecution against those who hold more conservative political and religious views–in short this is censorship.

It has been remarkable and shocking to watch the events at the Capitol building on Wednesday. It has also been, to a lesser degree, been remarkable to observe the reactions to it. I have friends whose opinions fall all over the spectrum concerning this issue. Last Wednesday is a watershed event for this country, and like many people, I will be watching to see what is yet to come. If you haven’t read President Bush’s take on the attempted insurrection, then I’d say it would be well worth your time.

I’ve heard several folks say that President Trump’s 1st amendment right to free speech is being violated. I do not agree. While the removal of the President from social media might be incredible to some, it does not violate his 1st amendment rights.

Social media companies like Twitter are private companies and can regulate those who use their platforms. Each of these social media platforms have terms of service and those who participate have to abide by those terms and conditions. Whenever the company deems a person to be in violation of those terms and conditions, then it can remove that person’s right to communicate on it. Participation on these platforms is a privilege that can be revoked. I have no doubt that this viewpoint will be challenged in the days to come. Perhaps the one caveat to this development would be having Twitter change from a “permanent” ban to an “indefinite” ban–but time and probably politics will tell. Emotions are running very high at the moment.

If there is an enduring lesson to these rapidly changing events, it would relate to what kind of presence we are going to have in our communities and yes, even (and especially) on social media. Let us move away from gaslighting and towards sharing of the Light. We need more light, and less heat.

January 6, 2021

The U.S. Capitol building was breached for the first time since the invasion of the British army in 1814. I am angry and shocked about this development, but also concerned about the deterioration of our national traditions and norms. This is not a partisan issue for me but a patriotic one. However, I believe this can be a watershed moment and a wake up call for this nation. Dissent is part of our heritage but this behavior cannot be normalized.

What happened today can never happen again. Our democracy is fragile and it’s possible to lose it–not from outside forces but those from within. I hope that our love of country will be stirred in response to this effort at insurrection.

Equally important, however, is that there must be accountability and justice for this moment. People are dead today that do not need to be because of the violence that was incited at the Capitol building. We witnessed a violation at the seat of our democracy. The kind of extremism that was on display cannot be tolerated or simply glossed over for the sake of national unity. There must be consequences to the behavior that was on display before our nation can begin to heal.

I’m reminded of the words of Benjamin Franklin when asked what kind of government had been formed for the new nation. He reportedly said, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

“Whatever may have been my political opinions before, I have but one sentiment now. That is we have a Government, and laws and a flag and they must all be sustained. There are but two parties now, Traitor & Patriots and I want hereafter to be ranked with the latter and, I trust, the stronger party”–U.S. Grant, 1861

A Desire for the Familiar this Christmas

I’m writing this on the day that the Electoral College meets to officially name Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States. Typically, this moment goes by without so much as a yawn, but with all the challenges that have accompanied this election, I guess you never know what to expect.

We are all Alice in Wonderland this political season. After a contentious but not really so close election, I’m ready to move ahead and hoping the nation as a whole can do so too. Things that I never thought I’d see occur in our nation have happened. Our democracy has been challenged in ways it has never been before, and our institutions may have bent a little bit to these uncertain political winds. But, at least up to this point, they have held secure. Most recently, the Supreme Court of the United States determined not to hear the Texas lawsuit which sought to delegitimize millions of votes across several swing states. That has been welcome news.

In addition, I’ve been encouraged by the announcement of a vaccine to made public very soon. Accordingly, the next several months should see Americans taking their injections and hopefully positive COVID cases going down by the summer. This moment, taken with the Supreme Court decision, sends a wonderful message to us all that healing is on the way. It’s about time to return to some degree of the familiar and normalcy–whatever that’s going to mean.

Christmas is just around the corner, and as a pastor, I am blessed to serve in a local church to experience this meaningful season with others. To be sure, the pandemic continues to limit our gatherings but the message of the newborn King cannot be hindered. As our Advent guide title suggests, we are having “An Unexpected Christmas.”

What isn’t unexpected, however, are the familiar scripture readings about the birth of the Christ child. The nativity story with the shepherds, angels, the journey to Bethlehem for Mary and Joseph will be heard once again. There’s still “no room in the inn.” Even after all these years, it remains to be seen if there’s room elsewhere for Jesus among us.

I’m enjoying rehearsing and reading the gospel accounts once again. We will celebrate the arrival of our Lord once again–COVID cannot stop this from happening! My hope is that all of us will appreciate what we’ve been given even as we grieve the loss of the familiar this Christmas season. Maybe folks won’t gather as they usually do, but we might be able to be more grateful for the simpler and smaller things this year.

May God grant us the peace to persevere through these uncertain days as we celebrate around the very familiar and predictable story of baby Jesus. Let us never take our blessings for granted, and may God grant us wisdom and courage for the days to come. Merry Christmas!

A Thanksgiving Hope

President-Elect Joe Biden spoke to the nation today and offered some words of comfort and encouragement for the nation. “It’s really hard to care,” Biden said. “It’s hard to give thanks. It’s hard to even think of looking forward, and it’s so hard to hope. I understand. I’ll be thinking and praying for each and every one of you at this Thanksgiving.”

We need hope. Our nation needs it and the world in general is in short supply of this incredible resource. This year will be known as “the lost year” and one in which our resolve as Americans has been tested. Friends and neighbors have found themselves at odds with each other over politics and the pandemic–it’s been tough.

I’m approaching this Thanksgiving with a cautious sense of optimism though. Several vaccines are in the works and offer promising results. There will be a new administration entering office next year who needs our prayers and best wishes. Schools have struggled with fierce determination in our area to remain open and our leadership deserves our gratitude. Churches and their staff have done what they can to keep their people in contact with each other too. There remains work to be done, and we must remain vigilant in our mitigation efforts for several more months to come.

Our greatest hope is Jesus Christ–he is “the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13.8). This is one of my favorite verses of holy Scripture; a reminder that nothing affects the faithfulness and steadiness of our Savior.

I’m well aware that there are those who are dealing with death and loss this holiday season. While many people are celebrating, there are also those who are hurting and having difficulty finding a cause for thanksgiving. Let’s take a few moments to reach out and encourage those who are suffering. Let’s also take some time to count our blessings, primarily those of faith, family, and friends.

The pandemic will put many of us in different places and spaces for Thanksgiving. Regardless of our situation, may we be still before the Lord and trust for what is yet to come:

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
    I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and rejoice in you;
    I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High (Psalm 9.1-2).

Happy Thanksgiving all–

Veterans’ Day Musings

In a recent op-ed written for Dallas Morning News, Pastor Robert Jeffress admits his disappointment with the election outcome but acknowledges that Joe Biden is President-Elect of the United States.

Jeffress writes, “For millions of Christians across our nation, this is a bitter pill to swallow. It’s always easier to submit and to pray for someone when he was our preferred candidate. But the rubber really meets the road when the person who takes office is not the one we supported. Here is our chance to show that Christians are not hypocrites.”

We are witnessing something historic for all the wrong reasons–a defeated incumbent President is refusing to admit defeat and participate in a peaceful transfer of power. It is disappointing and it’s making some folks nervous.

President Trump’s antics may be entertaining political theater and he is certainly succeeding in intimidating members of his party. However, I don’t find his ongoing denials convincing or all that amusing. The world is watching us, and folks closer to home are becoming more nervous the longer this denial of reality continues.

Despite claims to the contrary, there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud. The New York Times recently released a news story indicating they had contacted election officials in the battle ground states for this confirmation. There is, however, widespread evidence of voters participating in the election. More than 150 million of us in fact!

It is up to us faith leaders, regardless of our personal political perspectives, to offer some stability to the nation. I think being “salt and light” is part of that admonition. Jesus also said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” These words uttered to Pilate are as relevant then as they are today. We cannot have a casual relationship with the truth.

At some point partisanship must give way to patriotism. Counting votes is about as American as you can get, and of course I’m talking about all the legal votes. Accepting the outcome of this election needs to happen sooner rather than later, but it doesn’t change the reality of what will happen on January 20. It could, however, put our country at risk during this uncomfortable transition between administrations.

On this Veterans’ Day, let us celebrate those who “more than self their country loved” and put country ahead of personal politics. Yes, we have our political views and differences, but these men and women who put on the uniform did not serve and defend blue states or red states. They came together and fulfilled their duty for the United States–surely we can do no less in the aftermath of this election.

I’m hopeful we will get beyond all the noise and disappointment relating to the loss of an election and find common ground for the love of our country. I don’t find agreement with Jeffress on many things, but I do appreciate his leadership in this area. There is too much hypocrisy in the church, and surely we can agree to pray for our leaders like the Bible instructs us to do. There is nothing partisan about prayer.

I prayed for President Trump during his time in office, and will be doing the same for President-Elect Biden and his incoming administration. Our nation and leaders need all the prayers and support we can offer. I encourage all our people to do the same and trust the Lord with the rest-DC

Election 2020 Musings

Marv Knox was an editor for a Baptist paper for years, and recently he penned an article that appeared in The Dallas Morning News entitled, “Yes, You Can Be a Person of Faith and Vote that Way” He mentioned that his mother had always told him never to reveal how old you are and also never talk about who you vote for. He explained the consequences of doing the latter.

Knox told a story about being a Sunday School teacher and building confidence and freedom among their small group. He writes, “We trusted each other, and we had discussed every religious, moral and ethical topic we could imagine. That day, I acknowledged, “By now, you’ve probably figured out I typically vote for _______ candidates” and filled in the blank. Most class members laughed, because they already had figured out what I told them. Later, a young wife and mother called to say another member quit our class. When I asked why, she told me, “She said, ‘You can’t be a Christian and vote that way.’” He responded that he actually voted the way he did precisely because of his faith in Christ.

This will be my first presidential election in this pastorate. It isn’t my first presidential election, of course, but every four years brings about a unique set of challenges as it relates to how people are going to get along during an election cycle. The COVID pandemic hasn’t made getting to know our people that much easier. Now that I’m in a new place, the same kind of concerns are coming to the surface.

I’ve been trying to figure this out for 25 years. It doesn’t seem to get any easier.

To be honest, I’m actually pretty grateful to be in a church who creates space for people who don’t agree all the time. It’s important to have a congregation who welcomes people of differing opinions and provides a spiritual home for them. I admit that this is an aspirational goal, one that I continue to hope, pray, and work towards as pastor of our people.

However, I would also have to be honest to say that the experience Marv documented is one I’ve had on more than one occasion. The refrain, “you can’t be a Christian and vote that way” isn’t that far from being verbalized when political matters are concerned. It’s actually surprising for some folks to realize that you can be a follower of Jesus Christ but not necessarily vote for the same candidates. Each of us tends to view his or her decisions through a particular theological and political lens, with faith contributing to thinking and behavior. When someone else doesn’t come to the same conclusions or vote the way we do, it can create angst in the fellowship.

As we approach an election in a few days, I’m aware that millions of Americans have already voted. Voting is not only a privilege but a right. When I think of the privilege of voting, it reminds me of those who have suffered, bled, and died in the service of this country. There are countless thousands who have given what Lincoln called, “the last full measure of devotion” for their country. There are places where voting isn’t done and dictators rule the land. For this reason, it is accurate to call voting a privilege.

However, we must also understand that the privilege to vote has been understood in other ways. When our nation was coming into being, not every one was able to cast a vote. Only persons with wealth and land were able to do so. It wasn’t until the last hundred years that women were given the right to vote; persons of color were granted this ability more recently than this. Privilege, from this standpoint, is not what our country should be about. We are moving forward in becoming “a more perfect union.” There’s a long to go, but we’ve got to ensure that everyone who is entitled to vote should be able to do so.

For this reason, we must also recognize that voting is a RIGHT. Each American citizen has a right to vote. Yes, it is a privilege but voting isn’t reserved for those who can afford it or have achieved a certain economic or social status. Voting should be made available for all Americans, and when this is recognized, then voter suppression can be called out for what it is. We should make voting easier in this country, not harder. This is not a partisan issue, it’s an American issue.

There are millions of mail-in ballots being cast this year. We might not know the outcome of the presidential election when Tuesday night is over. This doesn’t necessarily mean something clandestine is going on or that the results won’t be legitimate. It does mean that we need to be patient, keep breathing, and allow all the votes to be counted. Let the democratic process have its moment.

I’m hoping and praying not only for the outcome of the election but also how the church responds after its over. We are still God’s people, and have been through numerous presidential elections already. Regardless of who you vote for, make sure that you vote. It’s a privilege and right that each one of us should exercise. And when it’s over, let’s do our best to come together and show what genuine community is really all about.

Entering the Danger

A little over ten years ago, as I was getting settled into a new pastorate in Springfield, MO, our church hosted an acting troupe called “Skinny Improv.” It was (and is) a popular local entertainment group who specializes in improvisational theatre (think Who’s Line is it Anyway?). As the new pastor, it only made sense to be targeted to come on stage and be part of a sketch. I don’t recall the particulars of the story, but it had something to do with Miley Cyrus and Barry Manilow.

It can be intimidating to be in a place not knowing what your lines are going to be, or worse yet, not knowing what the other person on stage with you is going to say. But, the key component to remember is to say “yes” to whatever action is going on around you. Going with the action is necessary for the moment, even though you might not know how the scene is going to end. Of course, that’s the beauty of improvisational theatre.

A phrase relating to this theatrical approach is “entering the danger.” It means that you say “yes” to wherever the scene takes you, no matter how silly or ridiculous it might be. Saying “no” puts a stop to the action and effectively ends the scene.

I’m doing a sermon series this month called “Hope for Hard Times.” It’s not very subtle, I’ll admit, but I believe it’s where our people are right now. Last Sunday, I preached on the Call of Abram from Genesis 12.1-5, and noted that he was listed in the “hall of faith”: “By faith, Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Heb. 11.8).

The phrase “going without knowing” is an apt description of the church right now. I resonate with the frustration related to the uncertainty of what is yet to come with COVID-19. Our schools are opening this week and there is anxiety about the safety precautions and how our students and community are going to respond. I sympathize greatly with all those charged with making decisions right now. It’s too easy to criticize those who are accountable for these weighty matters; what is especially troubling is the variety of reactions toward the virus. Some view this as extremely dangerous, others are likely to see it as more of a nuisance than a health threat.

It’s worth revisiting the spiritual truth that Christians are to “walk by faith and not by sight.” It’s also true that we don’t walk by our feelings. Abram wasn’t necessarily looking for a change in his life, and at 75 could have been pretty much settled in Haran and not desiring a move. Yet, the Lord began his communication with him with the word “Go”. The phrase “I will” is used six times and “bless or blessing” five times. God is the protagonist in the story and is offering Abram an opportunity to be part of a special people who would belong to God. Abram’s obedience impacted not only his life but countless others who would benefit along the way.

I’m learning that long-range planning is less critical these days than knowing what to do in the moment. This “going without knowing” is where I am right now, which it turns out where I’ve needed to be all along. As a pastor, I find myself seeking to live out this admonition while passing on this approach to our leaders and congregation in general. Entering the danger is necessary. I’m learning that no script is necessary when it comes to obeying God–only “yes, Lord” Not “yes, but. . . “

Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9.23). We can have confidence that our Lord will show us the way that we need to go along the way. It’s not necessary that we know how long it’s going to take to arrive at our destination. May God help us be content to walk in the light that He provides us.