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From Drugs to Doctrine – A Story of Discipleship

From Drugs to Doctrine – A Story of Discipleship

He sat there shaking violently, the effect of two weeks straight binging on drugs. “I’m going to die,” he later said reflecting on the fear going through his mind during that occasion. Of course this wasn’t the first he’d been strung out on drugs – such had been his pattern ever since he dropped out of high school and lost his spot on the baseball team.

He was a druggie! Anything he could get his hands on he’d take. Once laid up in a hospital bed next to his friend, both overdosed but survivors, now he sat alone, just he and his dad outside the funeral home. Inside his cousin lay dead of an overdose from days earlier.

I loved this young man now in his late teens. I’ve known him since he was just a cute, bushy-headed toddler. But here he sat in the car with the window rolled down shaking violently.

“I’m scared! My insides are raging. I don’t know what to do!” he repeatedly said.

We prayed. “God, you are not the author of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. You have come to set captives free. Set Zac free, dear Lord. Give him life, save him.”

God answered our prayers that day. At least regarding physical life. I’ll never forget sitting across the table from him at IHOP late into the evening in the early morning hours, with him still under the effects of being stoned off his gourd for weeks straight.

But I learned something that night. God has the ability to even work in the heart of someone strung out on drugs. Zac prayed trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior. What a blessing to witness this new birth!

Zac had quite a journey to walk before he was totally free. He agreed to go to a Christ-centered, biblically-saturated men’s recovery home in Southwestern Oklahoma. His first attempt there ended in disgrace, and he was asked to leave.

For a few months he went back to his old life – going even further into darkness. Living in houses that had no utilities, without work, drugging it up again. I met him one day and took him to Cattlemen’s restaurant. We talked. I listened. He listened, as much as he was able to, as I reminded him of God’s grace as well as God’s right to rule over his life. I dropped him back off at the house where he was staying, after stopping by the grocery store for bottled water. “No running water,” Zac informed me.

And then it happened. God got Zac’s attention by letting him get caught. After a month or so in the OKC detention center Zac got permission to return to the residential home he’d been asked to leave. This time he made it with great success and much grace!

Fast forward to the present: I sat in my office at home opening up an email with an attachment. It was an assigned paper in fulfillment of a class requirement at Leavell College (The college at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary).

The Gospel as Eyewitness Testimony and the Development of Early Christology

Then it hit me – I was being asked to review a doctrinal paper excellently written by a former druggie named Zac. Now a fully devoted disciple of the Lord Jesus and pursuing a call to ministry, he was reaching out to me for affirmation and feedback on a theological paper. I bowed in thanks to the One who sets people free in Jesus. Praise the Lord for His grace.

The State of the Orphans in our State

The State of the Orphans in our State

God is still a Father to the fatherless (Ps. 68:5), and the church is becoming more aware of this reality and its practical implications for followers of Jesus.

Orphan Sunday[1] is upon us – an internationally observed day in which many churches focus on the Father’s heart for orphans and highlight ways to serve marginalized children. There is a very healthy, gospel-centered, organization that the Lord is using to resource churches to move toward the orphan and vulnerable child in Jesus’ name.[2]

Yet, even though God still loves orphans and the church is increasingly coming alive in practical desire to love and change the destiny of orphans, the need is not diminishing. Take for instance legal orphans[3] in our own state system.

Check out some of the latest statistics as follows:

  • As of last reporting on 10/25/15, there are currently 11,027 children in Foster Care in Oklahoma
  • For fiscal year 2016, which started on 07/01/15, OKDHS[4] projected the need to be 1054 new homes/beds, by the end of the fiscal year, which ends on 06/30/16.  Currently they have only signed up 174 new homes/beds the first 4 months of the fiscal year.  To stay on track, they needed to sign up at least 351 new homes/beds by now.
    • OKDHS lost 167 foster homes since this time last year:
    • 174 New homes – 167 lost homes = 7 net gain over this time last year!!!
  • As of last reporting on 10/06/15, there are currently 351 children “available” to be placed in an adoptive home statewide.  They have many more children “eligible” to adopt, but they are already placed in an adoptive home.
  • Of the 351 children available to adopt only 42 of them are ages 0-5, all of the others are over the age of 6.
  • Region 1, (which includes Logan county where I live and serve as pastor), currently has 69 children available to be placed for adoption are ages listed as follows:
    • There are 6 children available between 0-2
    • There are 5 children available between 3-5
    • There are 36 children available between 6-12
    • There are 22 children available over the age of 13.

I realize this is not your problem. It’s not my problem. After all, these aren’t my kids and probably aren’t yours. Right?

Jesus may not have the same opinion:

An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great” (Luke 9:46-48).

To receive Jesus in a deeper way into your home through fostering or adopting you may apply to become a foster or adoptive family by either calling the Bridge Resource Support Center at 1-800-376-9729 or apply online at

Imagine if there were so many Christians – lovers of Jesus – that offered themselves to this great work … that there was no more need. Currently there is a need. Will you prayerfully consider what part God wants you to have in expressing the Father’s heart for orphans?



[3] Legal orphan – I am applying this to those who are in temporary custody as a foster child as well as those who have had lost their parents through the legal system due to parental failure (abuse, neglect, etc.)

[4] OKDHS stands for Oklahoma Department of Human Services

What My Dad Got Right

What My Dad Got Right

“Then Jacob called his sons and said, ‘Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come‘” (Gen. 49:1).

In my earliest years my family was intact. Dad and mom were together in ministry and connected in rearing my brother and me. There are a few things I remember from those early days – things that were said or done – treasures which I hold closely to my heart.

I remember our parents asking us if we’d care for them when they got old and needed extra attention. That made an impression on me as it gave me a window into the future reality that these rocks in my life would someday not be rocks – they’d need my strength.

My dad was in bi-vocational ministry in those days; that is, he served in ministry but supported his family by other means. He had a heart for serving Jesus. He took the call of God on his life very seriously. I commend him for his commitment.

“My sons: Philip, you’re going to be an evangelist, and James, you’re going to be a pastor. Evangelist Philip and Pastor James,” my dad used to tell us repeatedly.

Who knew his words would prove to be prophetic? Though he had a severe mental, emotional, and spiritual breakdown in life; nevertheless, his words live on in fulfillment. My brother has been serving in the role of an evangelist as a missionary on the continent of Africa for more than 20 years, and I am a pastor. I don’t believe that it was necessarily the force of our father’s spoken words that caused this course of our lives. It is the hand of our Heavenly Father. But I have to wonder if God graciously revealed His intention to my dad’s soul – which then came out through my earthly dad’s words?

Maybe someday God will let us know. In the meantime, I’m enjoyed a rare visit with my brother this past weekend, and, for the first time as a pastor, I had the privilege of hosting Philip at the church where I serve. Phil preached on Sunday morning and gave a mission’s presentation in the evening. The evangelist and the pastor – together again – even if for just a moment.

“Dear Lord, help me to use my words carefully when I speak to my children. May they serve You all the days of their lives. Give me insight into Your desire for them and help me to speak accordingly. Amen.”

Creation and Accountability

Creation and Accountability

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1).

So simple and so pre-scientific; yet, these ancient words set the stage for all of human history and have moral implications for us today.

“Dad, in science class today our teacher showed us a film that explained the origins of the universe in terms of millions and millions of years. It said that a lump of clay gathered dust, and because of gravity it ended up spinning and becoming a sphere and eventually became the world as we know it,” said my eldest son.

“Did you ask your teacher where the lump of clay came from (or gravity and dust)?” I queried.

Behind all secular theories of origins lies a shadowy reality that something had to exist prior to even a Big Bang. Where did that something come from? Better asked, whom did that something come from?

If there is no ultimate Creator then there is no divine boss to whom we must give an account for our lives. Our choices become king, and ethics and morals become servant to our pleasures and desires. Ultimately, if this universe is simply a byproduct of chance and time, then there is no underlying meaning to life. We might as well get all the selfish pleasure that we possibly can. We should get rid of all threats to our personal happiness and use everything and everyone to advance our life’s goal of making self happy. And if there is no Creator God, to whom we have to give an account, what does it matter?

I tire of the inconsistency of those who profess faith in atheistic evolution and yet live their lives morally and ethically, at least in some regard, as if there is an objective accountability and divine moral compass. I’d like to see some consistency! Or, maybe that is what I’m seeing with the moral an ethical revolution of our society? Maybe the trickle-down effect of teaching atheistic evolution is finally catching up to us after all?

When society can largely sigh at the murderous atrocities of government-funded Planned Parenthood, yet scream when a puppy is abused, is this not evidence of selfishness? If atheistic evolution is true than puppies should be saved and unwanted babies discarded, that is, if puppies make us happy and unwanted babies make us sad.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth (Rom. 1:18).

My son and his friend from church both stood up for truth in the classroom and with respect challenged the status quo presented in the evolution video. As followers of Jesus let’s have a demeanor of respect toward unbelievers even as we stand up for God’s truth. There is a Creator to whom all must give an account. There is also a Savior who stands ready to save.

Perspective on Serving at a 126-year-old Church

Perspective on Serving at a 126-year-old Church

There’s something about pastoring at a 126 year old church that helps me keep things in perspective. When I consider the time God has given me to live on this planet, and then compare it to the age of the church in which I serve, I see the disparity between the two. I doubt I’ll live to be 100 years old; and yet, even if I do the church will have reached 180 years of age.

God began to work at Guthrie, First Southern long before I took my first breath. And, if the Lord Jesus delays His return and continues His grace upon this church, as I believe he will, this church will exist after my promotion to Heaven.

Numbers 20:22-29 tells of the transition from the leadership of Aaron the priest to his son Eleazar. There is no fanfare or big dramatic description of Aaron’s death. Rather, God simply commands Moses to bring Aaron along with Aaron’s son Eleazar up to the top of Mount Hor. There on the top of that mountain Moses strips Aaron of the priestly garments and places them upon Eleazar. No big prayers and with no ceremony Moses and Eleazar come down from the top of the mountain and a new leader takes the helm of the worship at the Tabernacle in the wilderness.

Each time I go into the Family Life Center at the church where I serve, I see in a glass case pictures of pastors who have served before me at First Southern. Some are still alive. As a matter fact, I had the privilege of talking to one a couple of weeks ago. But many of them have already passed on to glory. Certainly all of them have passed on from ministry at the church.

I realize that someday I’ll be in somebody’s distant memory and regulated to a photograph in a picture frame. This is a sobering thought and helps punctuate in my mind the reality that no matter the length of time God gives me to serve, it is but a brief blip on the radar screen of this church’s existence. And no matter how long God gives me to live on this earth, my time is exceedingly short.

So what shall I do with this knowledge? First of all, I will rejoice in the Lord. This perspective helps me realize that the good I might experience in my ministry context pales in comparison to the glory I’ll enjoy in the presence of God for all eternity. And, no matter that pain the may come my way in serving, it too will pale in comparison to the unending glory that awaits me. I am able to serve with joy and greater wisdom because I realize my time here is temporary.

“Dear Lord, grant me a long tenure in service of your people at First Southern. But help me to remember that my time here is short. Grace me with your blessing to the end that I am found faithful – and all to Your glory. Amen.”