What I Am Really Thankful For

When it comes to being thankful, and I am glad that we have Thanksgiving Day to spur us to thankfulness, I am a blessed man who has all the usual suspects to be thankful for. I am so grateful to have the salvation that only Jesus could give. I have an awesome wife, six wonderful children, great parents, a good church to attend, true friends. As a bonus, I have been called into the ministry. I have been healthy my whole life. I have never missed a meal or lacked a roof over my head.

But I want to look deeper this year, past those wonderful things I list every year.

1. The Lord has given His grace to me.

As years accumulate, I find that grace is greater than I ever realized, and that I have needed and have been given more grace than I ever dreamed. My abilities are less than I imagined, my strengths are laced with weakness, my gifts were given rather than earned. With this realization of need, I too can see the lavish grace God gives me. It is ever present and writes the better parts of my story.

2. The Lord has forgiven me.

My sin comes ever more into focus. The scope of my sin, frankly, shocks me. As I see it more for what it is, I treasure forgiveness more. I think too of how far reaching this forgiveness really is. It is permanent and won’t desert me. Its depth reaches deeper than my worst as Christ’s sacrifice more than earns all the forgiveness I need.

3. The Lord has been gentle with me.

He would have been within a holy God’s right to have been hard on me, even righteous, but He has been so otherwise. “Like as a father pitieth his child” has never been more true than in my case. He has led me along slowly, carefully, and patiently.

4. The Lord has corrected and molded me.

Strangely, I vividly remember years ago thinking when I heard the song “Thank You For The Valley I Walk Through Today” how ridiculous that was and how no one could even sincerely mean it. I have learned, though I still try to dodge all valleys, that both trials and chastenings have propelled me in life. It was never punishment, just help. Help I needed and received. It is good.

5. The Lord has given me love.

I know how trite we can be when we speak of God’s love. Still, the single greatest thing in my existence is that God loves me. It has redeemed my past, defined my present, and made my future. His love was there before I even considered it. His love came to me before I even knew what love was. His love possessed me when I had none to give back for it. In fact, after giving me love, He taught is teaching me how to love. In the final analysis, there is nothing as great as being loved.

As you might imagine, I sometimes struggle with thankfulness. But as you can see here, it is never over lack of material to be thankful for.
Happy Thanksgiving!

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Jesus And The Old Paths (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #4)

How often have we heard within the Independent Baptist world the claim that we are on “the old paths”? Or better yet, have often do we hear of sermons on

Jeremiah 6:16
Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.

in periodicals or at conferences? No matter the preacher, the sermon is usually the same. We must stick to “the old paths.” Since that is a verse of Scripture, that verse, of course, must mean something we ought to know. My question is simple. Could the passage given in the time of Jeremiah mean what we are told it does? Are we hearing a reasonable application of the text?

Well, what are we often told it means? After the admonition to stay on “the old paths”, we are given a list of points to define the old path. The list rarely varies from things like worship styles, or shouting, or clothes, or music, or acceptable entertainment. Strangely, the great fundamental doctrines, except maybe the Blood and the Book, are never mentioned, just these peripheral things. Are we only defined by these things? Are these things what Independent Baptists now are? Sadly, some are starting to think that very thing of us as we become just a caricature instead of what we should be for Jesus Christ.

If this weren’t bad enough, these “old paths” aren’t that old! If you look closely, they resemble the 1950s. In that I have known several people in my life that were pre-1950s, I find it a little laughable that I am asked to follow these “old” ways. If you don’t believe me, just find some pictures from the 1950s and see the resemblance! How did that time period become the standard? How did it become tantamount to the old paths of the Bible?

Do you suppose Jesus might be the better standard to determine “the old paths”? I mean He is both the Ancient of Days and the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Did you know that He often had the charge, in one form or another, leveled at him that He didn’t follow “the old paths”? Those “old paths” of Sabbath regulations, or tithing of something as small as little herbs, or hand washing regulations, and on and on, enraged many against Christ. He ignored them as you would a fly on the wall.

He followed something better, something far older, something truly timeless–His revealed Word. Nothing hatched later and passed off as His Word would ever detract Him from following the real “old paths.” No matter what anyone else says, I think it is time we follow these old paths of love, redemption, truth, and grace. This is “the good way”. This is the way we should walk. This is where we will “find rest for (our) souls”.

Those other paths? While they are called “the old paths”, we find they are at best a detour. Despite what we are told, they will not take us anywhere desirable to go. Even if you want to argue they aren’t actually bad, just remember they won’t take us where we desperately need to go–the arms of Jesus Christ.

I want “the old paths”! I want nothing less than “the old paths”! I just don’t want someone to switch the signs and find we are on the wrong path after all. In many cases in our Independent Baptist world, the signs have been switched. I appeal to you today to look at Jesus, to what His Word actually says, and ask for those “old paths”, and start walking today!

FIND ALL POSTS IN THE SERIES HERE:

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Preaching? By Alec Motyer (Books on the Ministry #11)

Would you like some real help on preaching? Then this volume is for you. It truly lives up to its subtitle, “simple teaching on simple preaching.”

Motyer, author of several helpful commentaries, has lived the life of an expositor. Every paragraph shows that to be true. You can almost feel him sitting in his study talking to you. What he says is worth hearing.

He says, “a sermon is like baking a cake.” You get your ingredients and go to the study as the oven. He is right. He gives proper perspective when he says, “The supreme kingship of The Lord Jesus Christ must ever be our most sensitive concern, and nothing must usurp His authority.” We let the Bible have its place in preaching to accomplish this key element.

He goes through the preaching process piece by piece. He explains how we study the key words and develop an exposition. Again, he highlights how we must stick to the Word. “The power of an expository ministry arises from bringing out what is there”, he rightfully proclaims.

From there he goes through examination, analysis, and finding your orientation. There is real practical help throughout. By that I mean, thoughtful pointers about how it is done. I especially enjoyed him expertly leading us through harvesting and presentation. His thoughts on making application and closing are balanced.

I have the privilege of owning and having read most of the well known volumes on preaching and this book is worthy of taking its place beside them to me. Five stars all the way!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

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Books On The Ministry #10

Here are three more books for the preacher—two to help us preach by learning from great preachers of the past, and one to remember the place of worship in the churches we pastor.

1. The Expository Method of G. Campbell Morgan by Don Wagner

Campbell Morgan is an acknowledged master of the pulpit. Anyone who dreams of really being an expositor of the Word would have to love to be able to handle the Word as he did. Probably we never will, but at least we can learn all we can from him. Mr. Wagner has done us a great service by perusing all his works and biographies and distilling his method for us.

We learn that he never went to Bible College but was self-educated. He was a hard worker who held every morning inviolable for study. For him the key principle was: master one book! He made his guiding principle, or the boundary of what he did, that the Bible is the Word of God.

He took great pains to avoid proof texting. He admonished that we stay in and figure out your context. He says proof texting is just me picking my own way instead of surrendering to the Word.

His method was going from the telescope to the microscope on a passage. The steps involve: survey, condense, expand, and dissect. It is a truly helpful approach.

2. The Sacred Anointing: The Preaching of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones by Tony Sargent

Another volume on the preaching of a master preacher. A fascinating study that delves deeply into the man and his preaching, this volume serves as a great boon to those in ministry. It begins by describing the necessity that a preacher have unction, or the “smile of God.” This is an often overlooked, yet essential element, in effectively preaching the Word of God. As you see in the title, Mr. Sargent sees this as the key explanation of the amazing ministry of Lloyd-Jones.

The book moves from these things into the more specific issues about the sermon. There are riches here.

3. Return To Worship by Ron Owens

This volume begins by explaining what worship is. That discussion is critical in our generation that no longer grasps what worship even is. We live in a day that makes worship about us while the reality is that it is all about Him! His quote by John Moore—“We’ve humanized God, deified man, and minimized sin”—succinctly illustrates where we are.

The book is helpful and discusses how we talk and sing of God, the use of His name, and the glory of God.

About halfway through the book he specifically deals with all parts of the service: prayer, Scripture reading, preaching, music, even the offering. It is really good stuff.

The book is a winner because it brings the real issues that must be addressed before us. This book will guide us the right way and needed.

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All reviews in this series hound here.

Personality Cults (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #3)

Berlin, III. Weltfestspiele

This problem is touchy. Independent Baptists rarely speak of it, but if you think it over, you couldn’t deny its existence. Not that the problem of personality cults are unique to us; they have actually plagued Christianity back, at least, to Corinth.

Remember the scene in I Corinthians 1? It was a mess and Paul finally said, ‘…that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I am of Apollos; and I am of Cephas; and I am of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?….” Can you hear the bickering?

Make no mistake. It wasn’t over a doctrinal issue at all. No doubt they all claimed it was, but Scripture won’t agree with that assessment. Somehow it wasn’t even named by issues, but by personalities. One group even used Paul’s name!

What is the issue? It is about which man I follow. Whose back am I scratching? Whose politics am I pandering to? Which team am I on? Instead of Apollos or Paul, if you lowered the volume you might think you hear them saying, “I’m a Tennessee Vol”, or “I’m an Ohio State Buckeye”; or perhaps, “I’m a Republican”, or “I’m a Democrat”, and on and on. It’s like bringing a sports-fan mentality to our Christianity! It’s not now about truth and right, or what the Lord actually said, if it ever was.

That is not to say that these weren’t great men. Paul was the scholar, Apollos the orator, and Peter the practical he-man. You could make a case for any of them that would sound good on paper, but you would be wrong. In the Independent Baptist world it is always this preacher or that school. It is still wrong.

That is exactly what Paul was condemning. Even if your name of choice was his. In this case even those who said “I am of Christ” were no better. No doubt it was just the old standby of super-spirituality. We are just claiming that our team is the one Christ is on and that is rather over-the-top, wouldn’t you say?

Could it be true too that we revere our heroes too much? Have you ever heard someone brag on knowing one of the big names personally as if that proved an advanced spirituality? Like they now had the more direct line to Heaven? Do we hang on their words as if they carried apostolic weight?

I am not suggesting the big-name preachers are bad just because they have become well known, or that all of them even ask for this reverence. Some do ask for it, but that shame is on them. How do we view them? That is the question. Of course we might glean wonderful things from them, or appreciate their ministry, if we can just remember that they put their pants on one leg at a time just like we do. As I once heard it said, “There are no great men of God, just regular men who serve a great God.”

A case in point is some of our Bible conferences. (Please don’t misunderstand—I have enjoyed many conferences). At a few conferences I remember hearing from the host and several of the speakers numerous glowing praises of our Independent Baptist heroes living and dead. The problem? Those praises outnumbered praises of Jesus Christ in those same services.

Yes, that is the problem! Don’t minimize or assume it is a harmless, little thing, not worth making a big deal of. Actually it is a crime of the first degree–giving the praise that should be our worthy Lord’s and giving it to others not so worthy. It tarnishes us to belittle the Name by giving the glory to names that, at best, are frail sinners just like us. No wonder preaching suffers in such an environment as the word of man steals the spotlight from the Word of the Almighty God. Because of all Jesus is, let us just say that these personality cults are shameful and corrupting. Let us remember that the whole point of church is to hear God’s Word and worship Him. Anything else is a fraud.

FIND ALL POSTS IN THE SERIES HERE:

It’s Time For An Independent Baptist Truth Revolution

We Preach The Word Of God! Really? (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #2)

How often have we heard the boast in the Independent Baptist world, “We preach the Word of God”? It is said as if we were the only group left that could make the claim. Can that statement hold upon careful examination? Is a honest preaching of the Bible the true description across the majority of the group? I really don’t see how that statement could be defended. There is much noise, but little exposition of what God’s Word actually says. There’s plenty of heat, but I fear, little light!

What is really going on? Don’t just take my word for it, or look only at your own church. Look at the sermons in the more well-known Independent Baptist periodicals, or listen to the sermons in the more popular and well-attended conferences. Listen or read and be honest–how many really take a passage of Scripture and expound and develop a message from just what is said there? I don’t deny that many begin with a good text, and even if it draws out a point or two, it often just deteriorates into these ideas that the speaker thinks we need. If you don’t believe me, take the main points of many of these messages and see if you can find them in the text.

What you often get is 10 points you should follow, or 7 steps to Christian living, or a call to give and go soul winning, etc. It might make a dandy blogpost, but it’s a pitiful sermon. What is the word of man should be presented as such, not as the Word of God. Attaching your words to a text does NOT make it the Word of God! Preachers are not at liberty to throw out all their ideas as God’s Word. You can’t hide under the “topical” label either as a real topical message will still be only what God said.

Let’s give an example. I have been reading in Ezekiel, so I just picked a spot and looked for a verse to illustrate my point. Here is the verse and a preaching outline I made:

Ezekiel 44:4 “Then brought he me the way of the north gate before the house: and I looked, and, behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord: and I fell upon my face.”
Sermon title: The Glory of the Lord Filled the House
I. The Glory of the Lord Fills the House in our Praise
II. The Glory of the Lord Fills the House in our Prayers
III. The Glory of the Lord Fills the House in our Person ( a point on faithful church attendance)

So what do you think of my little outline? Here’s what I think. 1. It is asinine. I put it together in a few seconds without even studying the passage. I fear far too many sermons are put together in the same fashion! 2. It is absurd. There is nothing of praise, prayer, or faithfulness in the passage. Even if we used these as stretched applications, these points could in no way said to be what the passage is about. 3. It is accuracy deficient. (You see I am a poor at alliteration and my Alicia isn’t home to do it for me! This is why I rarely alliterate and don’t allow the first letter of a word to dictate my next point!) In that sermon I substituted my word for God’s Word and that is always a sorry trade.

Sometimes this kind of preaching just gets worse! We hear personal preferences given as if they came straight from Heaven. Why is the preacher’s preference on all these little things not mentioned in Scripture any better than anyone’s sitting in the audience? I have heard, for example, why we shouldn’t have a guitar in the church, or a screen, or a chorus instead of a hymnbook. It often spirals from there to things like why we shouldn’t have a purple shirt, or not have a beard, and on and on. It would help if some started speaking up and telling such preachers to get over themselves!

Then there are personal agendas and petty politics. Under some feigned flight of righteous indignation, how often do we hear some slamming of another Independent Baptist preacher, church, or college right from the pulpit? When you stand to rise a little higher if they fall a little lower, your sincerity is hard to swallow. Whatever you want to call that, it is not preaching as the Lord views it. There is often a pushing of a platform (most cliques in the Independent Baptist world have a distinct one) at the expense of God’s Word. Instead of First-Century Christianity, it sounds like Twenty-First Century American politics! That is not a step in the right direction I assure you!

What we are left with is little of the Word. I believe wholeheartedly that this is the greatest issue before Independent Baptists today. Most of the other issues are merely symptoms of this issue. To fail in our key duty of giving the Word of God is to but fail across the board.

So I don’t only discuss the bad side, I should tell you there are a number of younger guys who see this problem and are dedicating themselves to actually preaching His Word. May the Lord increase their number! Likely, the future of Independent Baptists will be decided here.

FIND ALL POSTS IN THE SERIES HERE:
It’s Time For An Independent Baptist Truth Revolution

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Wild At Heart– A Modern Classic

Here is an influential book by John Eldredge that no new book for men can fail to take into account. I am sad that I am only now reading this book that has helped so many men. Having read other later books for men I see the fingerprints of this volume all over them. That surely defines a classic.

He goes after “discovering the secret of a man’s soul.” He argues that we have been moved away from what God wants us to be, or what a man really is. We have been emasculated, turned into something not masculine at all. He, then, sees the irony of people, particularly women, asking where have all the men gone. We are bored and have our God-given desire demolished.

He says men must have a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. Not just any battle as “God has a battle to fight, and the battle is for our freedom.” As for adventure, “God is a person who takes risk”‘ and love is the ultimate risk. As for the beauty, “Eve embodies the beauty and the mystery and the tender vulnerability of God.”

He gives incredible insight. He says, “Men are angry, and we really don’t know why.” He speaks of our underlying fears. What is our deepest fear? He says it’s “…to be exposed, to be found out, to be discovered an imposter, and not really a man.” He says every man feels this and I expect he is right. We find it easy, he says, to turn into posers. It is not that women don’t have some of these issues (read his perceptive comments on Eve and helpmeet and her issues, but he is on the trail of men. He wants us to drop the fig leaf!

This book could be a crises! We may have left the real battle and lost the desire for adventure. That makes us unfulfilled. Even if we are married, we may have failed to win the beauty. Still, he counsels us on how to go forward.

He reaches men’s hearts when he said “Choose the path of humility; don’t be a self-promoter, a glad-hander, a poser. Climb down the ladder….” He went on to say “The world of posers is shaken by a real man. They’ll do whatever it takes to get you back in line–threaten you, bribe you, seduce you, undermine you. They crucified Jesus. But it didn’t work, did it?”

There is so much more. Every man should read it!

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It’s Time For An Independent Baptist Truth Revolution!

I’m going out on a limb. You may want to rev your chainsaw before you reach the end of the blog post and take care of that limb for me. But I am compelled. Three months of prayer and thought precede this introductory blog post of a series calling on we who march under the flag of the Independent Baptist Battalion in the Lord’s army to shape up our sloppy group. We are a passionate group with a high number soldiers decorated for valor and about as many needing time in the brig. I am as convinced, though, that we are a most valuable battalion that is greatly needed in the battles ahead. When I say battles, I mean some of the most ferocious ever, particularly as we see developments all around us.

Two theories must be dispensed with immediately:

1. God is finished with Independent Baptists.

If you think so, you simply don’t know some of them as I do. Many of them are kind, giving, and passionate for Christ. Their lives are wrapped up in Him. Even though some may carry a few traits that are worthy of reevaluation, they are sincere. Many of them have an undaunting zeal. Some of them would charge Hell with a toothpick and a squirt gun. Though some of it might be zeal without knowledge, I think we would be worse off if it all went away.

2. The Independent Baptist Movement is perfectly fine.

Our excesses are finally catching up with us. Our being convinced that we are the greatest blessing the Lord ever had is blinding us to glaring failures. The bitter poison of pride boils in a cauldron of conceit as many of us are now convinced that we are the only group that actually pleases the Lord, follows His Word, or has His blessing. Many on the outside looking in can easily see what has never occurred to us–we have a superiority complex. We aren’t the first, likely we won’t be the last, but we have got it good. It makes a mockery of the label “independent” as it is classic denominational pride.

Why Write?

I write because I care. I want Independent Baptists to succeed, but I would love to see them address the critical issues demanding attention. Actually, that is the only pathway to success left!

To ignore the issues only deepens the problem. To claim there are no problems is to disconnect with reality. We cringe when a 20/20 or CNN exposé comes out, but besides some skewing there are ugly truths in them. We lambaste the critical or mocking posts on sites like stufffundieslike.com, but we sadly give them material that comedians salivate over.

I write because, perhaps, it would be better to hear it from within. I guess that remains to be seen, but I will make a stab at it.

Why me? No special reason. I am not an “important person” within the Independent Baptist movement, but that might be a plus too. If I were, I likely would be thought to be associated with one clique and so have all my comments interpreted though that filter. No clique in the Independent Baptist world has any power over me. On the other hand, I have been around almost all of them at some point. I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly– I mean the really good, the really bad, and the really ugly!

So I plan to write an article and release it every Tuesday morning for this series. I will not give names as I do not want to be guilty of what I must criticize, but I will come hard at the issues. Even if you disagree with all I say, I pray after it is all over you will consider me a Christian gentleman.

Would you come along on this discussion with me? You can follow this blog via email or I will still share on Facebook and Twitter. In any event, join the discussion and leave comments. I won’t delete them unless you are vulgar or attacking of some individual.

Again, I know the risks. When I wrote a blog on dress standards last December, we went into a nuclear winter of sorts. People who play the game don’t want change. So I sending out an urgent call–a call to an Independent Baptist Truth Revolution!

Related Post:
The Dress Standards article mentioned above

Posts in the series:
2. We Preach the Word of God. Really?

3. Personality Cults

4. Jesus and the Old Paths

5. Self-Appointed Guardians of the Truth

6. The Weight of Omnipotence

7. Missions-minded Pastor or Tyrant?

8. Christmas–A Case Study

9. Peripheral Vision

10. Staffs Under The Gun

11. The Missing Ingredient

12. Letting Go

13. The Silent Majority

14. The Cost of Disloyalty

15. Join Me In This Revolution!

16. The Emptiness of Performance Based Christianity

17. Is There Hope For Our Children?

18. Plastic Christianity

19  Scandal

20. Why It It Pays To Be A Man In Our Movement

21. From The Pew

22. The Worst Crime

23. Is Shunning In The Bible?

24. Fringe Versus Mainstream

25. Are You Part of the Fringe or Mainstream?

26. The Idolatry of Success

27. So Jimmy, Why Do You Write This Stuff?

28. Grace Killers!

29. Why I Am Remaining An Independent Baptist

30. Soulwinning–The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

31. Truth Versus Tradition

32. Would Jesus Like It? 

33. Dishonesty In Preaching

34. Cannibalization In The Independent Baptist World

35. Crucifying Our Straw Men

36. Selfies

37. Academic Inbreeding

38. Win Them…To What?

39. Hopeless Inconsistencies

40. Spiritual Gestapos

41. Fake It Till You Make It

42. Stepping Down From An Abuse of Power?

43. The L Word–Liberal

44. The Ghosts of John R. Rice, Jack Hyles, and Lee Roberson

45. Spiritual Profiling

46. Urban Legends

47. Jesus For Sale

48. Standing Up To The World

49. Quarantined

50. A Cult?

51. The Greatest Motivation to be a Pharisee

52. Straining At Gnats and Swallowing Camels

53. The Inverted Spiritual Gift of Griping

54. The BJU Probe

55. Cookie Cutter Christians

56. Have You Left Doctrine?

57. Make Sure You Leave Right
58. Why I Don’t Like What My Husband Likes
(My comments and an article my wife wrote about how she feels about me writing this series.)

59. So You Must Be in Full Time Ministry?

60. It’s What’s Right, Not Who’s Right

61. So Who Is Your Lord And Master?

62. I’m Out!

63. Misconceptions About the Truth Revolution

64. Old-Fashioned Church?

65. Our Brand of Idolatry

66. Where Will Independent Baptists Be In 10 and 25 Years?

67. Are You a Narcissist?

68. A Truth We Baptists Should Never Forget

69. A Lesson In Light Of The Duggars

70. A Sword Or A Club?

71. Is This Really The Time For A Witch Hunt?

72. The Priority Of Bad News

73. Sola Scriptura–Is The Bible Our Only Guide?

74. Do You Have Your Own Spiritual Litmus Test?

75. The Five Key Issues Facing The Independent Baptist World Today

 

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Blog News and Reagan Family Update for November 2013

On occasion I just want to pause and thank every one who reads my blog. There are so many good articles online that for anyone to take a moment to read posts here is humbling.

I want to announce a series that I will be beginning soon–an Independent Baptist Truth Revolution! . There are issues on my heart that I feel must be addressed even if they are painful. I may be banished to the dog house, but I am going there! Watch for it if the Independent Baptist world is of interest to you. I plan to release one article every Tuesday morning.

The Books on the Ministry series is up to 9 posts and 31 books reviewed so far. You can find a complete list here in this Introductory blogpost.

We also appreciate the prayers that many are praying for our family in this time of transition. We were talking to a church in Maryville, Tennessee that has wonderful people, but the Lord had other plans for that situation. We trust it was the best.

We are now talking to a few other churches about a pastorate and are trusting the Lord here too. He has never failed our family and His perfect will is what we seek. Those prayers are still appreciated though. I am still working and preaching on occasion too. Alicia and our children are well. We thank the Lord for His incredible kindness and care! God bless….

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