I’m TIRED…

“Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

For some time now, I’ve been blaming it on my lack of sleep and too much pressure from the ministry — but I have finally found out the real reason I am so tired.

I’m tired because I’m overworked!

The population of this country is 237 million.

104 million people are retired.

That leaves 133 million to do the work.

There are 85 million in school.

That leaves 48 million to do the work.

Of this there are 29 million employed by the federal government.

That leaves 19 million to do the work.

2.8 million are serving in the Armed forces.

This leaves 16.2 million to do the work.

Take from that total 14.8 million people who are employed by the state and city.

That leaves 1.4 million to do the work.

At any given time, there are 188,000 people in the hospital.

That leaves 1,212,000 to do the work.

There are 1,211,998 people in prison.

That leaves just two people to do the work.

You and me.

You are sitting at your computer reading this devotional thought!

NOW do you understand why I am so tired?

Seriously, rather than thinking about how I’m the only one working, perhaps it would be better for me to realize that everything I do is done to glorify God. If we all had that attitude, can you imagine what we might be able to accomplish for the Lord?

As believers, you and I must do everything we do as if we are doing it for the Lord. We don’t work for pay or for ambition or to satisfy an earthly boss — we work so that we can take every job we do and offer it to Christ. ALL work is one for God so that His world may go on and His people have the things they need for life.

If you are someone’s BOSS — remember you too are accountable to God. As Christians we believe that the BOSS and the EMPLOYEE are working for GOD and that real rewards are not seen in bigger paychecks but in the rewards we will ultimately receive from God.

Gordan Dahl once said, “Most middle-class Americans tend to worship their work, to work at their play, to play at their worship. As a result, their meanings and values are distorted. Their relationships disintegrate faster than they can keep them in repair, and their lifestyles resemble a cast of characters in search of a plot.”

As we pause to celebrate this Labor Day weekend, remember that God has given us the privilege of work, play and worship. We cannot neglect any of them and we cannot switch the purposes of them. As a believer, I want to work my hardest, play at the right time and ALWAYS be in an attitude of worship and thanksgiving to the God who created me!

Instead of complaining about the work you have to do — thank God you have work you CAN do!

I hope you have a safe and happy Labor Day weekend.

Liberty and Justice for ALL People…

“My brothers, do not show favoritism as you hold on to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.” (James 2:1)

Fifty years ago today (August 28), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous “I Have a a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. In that speech, Dr. King said, “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” Over the last 50 years, we have made great strides in race relations in this nation — but we still have a ways to go. And this is not just a black or white issue. It is a HUMAN issue.

The Bible is opposed to prejudice of any kind. In our verse today, James said, “Do not show favoritism.” The Greek word for “favoritism” is prosopolepais and it literally means, “to lay hold of one’s face” — that is to judge by how one appears to be on the outside. 

It’s easy to make judgments based on what we see on the outside. But James was saying, “Do operate like this.” Prejudice is not just prevalent in politics, business and social circles. Unfortunately, it is present in many churches. People are judgmental based on what kind of clothes someone wears or whether they have tattoos or the color of their skin or how much money they make. We continue to judge people based on how they appear on the outside. 

James says that we should be like Christ and judge people on the condition of their heart. We are to love the rich and poor alike. We are not to judge a person on the basis of their skin color. Whenever the church gathers, everyone should be equal. No person in the church is one bit better than any of the others. There is absolutely NO PLACE in the Christian faith for prejudice.

Prejudice and discrimination is a sin – plain and simple. James 2:9 says, “But if you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”  So, 50 years later, I don’t believe the answer to the racial tensions and prejudice in this country will be found in Washington, DC or Raleigh, NC. The answer to this sin is the same answer we use for every other sin — REPENTANCE.

I believe that instead of gathering on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial today, Americans should be gathering in their churches at the altar on our knees. We must confess our sin and repent of our sin and seek the forgiveness of God. When there is a change of heart on the part of people, the problems created by racism, discrimination and prejudice will begin to disappear. No amount of government intervention or speeches will ever accomplish what the grace of God accomplishes in the hearts and minds of men, women, boys and girls.

Perhaps the most famous line from Dr. King’s speech is this — “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character.” You know — I was just crazy enough to believe this — and I have done my best to treat every human being in a way that recognizes human dignity and respect. I’ve not always been perfect in that attempt, but I am thankful for the grace of God. I’m thankful that when I confess my sin, He forgives me and gives me the strength to not do it again.

As we remember the August 1963 dream of Dr. King, let us all remember that God has created all of us in His image and we are to show NO FAVORITISM ever. A simple but profound truth is found in the little children’s song we still sing — “Red and yellow, black and white — they are precious in His sight.” 

Heaven is going to be a place where we are colorblind! Every race, every tribe, every nation will be represented and we will be singing praises to the Lamb of God who has freed us from our sin. THEN, will be truly be able to sing — “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.” Until that day, I pray God will give me the ability to truly look past the outward appearances of people and simply love them by the grace of God.

That’s my dream.

Do It TODAY

“whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14)

The Old Testament equivalent to this verse in James is Proverbs 27:1. It says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” In other words, we should be very careful about making statements about what we intend to do in the future. The lesson I have learned and want to pass on to you is a simple one. If there is some kindness we should show, some word of encouragement that should be spoken — NOW is the time to do it! If we put it off, we may not have another opportunity. Some wise person said, “Tomorrow, today will be yesterday.”

There is an old story about a king who decided to divide his life into four periods. He felt he would be better able to reach the goals that he had set for his life and in so doing, he could live life to the fullest. He specified the first period as a time for travel; the second he decided would be devoted to the affairs of state; the third was for friendship and relationships, and the final period was for God. As the story goes, the king died unexpectedly at the end of the first period. His plans were never fulfilled and the most important part of that plan was neglected altogether.

A simple story with a very important truth. Do what you should while you can. If there is a letter that needs to be written — write it. If there is a phone call to be made — make it. If there is a hospital visit you should make — do it. What about that word of testimony you’ve been intending to share with your unsaved friend? You’d better take care of that today. What about that relationship that needs mending? Don’t put it off one second longer. If you do, it may never get done. NOW is the time.

In his book, Seasonings, Vance Havner wrote, “With all our time-saving devices we have less time than ever. A friend of mine visiting a nearby town was told by one of the older residents, ‘I used to visit your town in the horse-and-buggy days. It took me all day to do it then. Now I can come over in thirty minutes — but I don’t have time.'”

“whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow” — so do it TODAY!

HE’S Got This Too!

“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Some time around the middle to end of August in 1990, Edna and I got in our car, drove a few miles to Aycock Elementary School in Henderson, North Carolina to take our daughter Danielle to kindergarten. Her teacher, Miss Kinsley, met us at the door. It was a beautiful room, decorated exactly the way a 5 year old would like. Miss Kinsley was a wonderful teacher and immediately made Danielle feel right at home.

That was one of the toughest days of my life! It was repeated a few years later when we took Dustin to his first day of school at Hertford Grammar School in Hertford, NC. I cried BOTH days. I thought after taking Danielle to school and having 3 years under my belt that I would have been better prepared to take Dustin — but I wasn’t. 

Today, I’ve seen the beautiful pictures on Facebook of the many children who are starting school. It is an exciting time for them and a stressful time for their parents. I see the smiles of kindergarten students all the way to seniors in high school. I wonder where the time has gone because I remember some of these parents as teenagers!

I just wanted to encourage you parents today. It’s hard to leave our children at a new school or send them to middle or high school. It’s even harder to watch as they go to college. And although you’ve had years to prepare for these transitions, you find that when the day arrives, you aren’t quite ready. And yet, the thing that continually amazes me is this — God was ready for it. In fact, according to the Scripture, He had it planned all along.

You never know why God puts you in certain places. As I look back across 30 years of ministry, I can see how God has led me and my family to certain places in order to get us where He wanted us to be. I get up some days and say, “Lord, why on earth did you bring me here?” You know what? God always answers that prayer by showing me something He wants me to do for Him. I’m here because this is where God wants me to be at this stage in my ministry. If you are truly following the Lord, you are where you are because God has a plan for you and your family.

Today, I sent a text message to Danielle to tell her I was praying for her on her first day of school. This time, she is the teacher at Hunter Elementary School in Raleigh, NC. She is welcoming a brand new class of 3rd graders today. I’m sure some of those parents are a little anxious to leave their children with a new teacher. But GOD’s got this — He’s prepared.

Taking Danielle and Dustin to school for the first time was hard — but it was also very exciting. When our children were born, Edna and I gave them to the Lord. We have been and continue to be so thankful that God has blessed us with our children. And today, I thank God that Jeremiah 29:1 is absolutely true. God KNOWS the plans that He has for us. And those plans, when followed, provide us with a future and a hope that is beyond our wildest dreams!

We all have hard days. We raise our children and prepare them to leave home, only to discover that we aren’t nearly ready for that day to come. Perhaps you are going through a hard day today. Maybe you just left your son or daughter at school for the first time. Maybe your hard day has to do with your family or your job. Your hard day may involve your health or the death of a loved one.  Just remember Jeremiah 29:11 — God KNOWS the plans He has for you and they are plans “for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

Good luck to all our students this year. I pray you have a great year — from pre-school to college — I’m praying for you! To all the parents — I’m praying for you too. It’s hard to watch them grow up — but that’s what supposed to happen. To all the teachers (especially one very special 3rd grade teacher) — I’m praying for you. I pray that even in the midst of difficult situations, you will be able to show the love and grace of Jesus Christ to your students. You aren’t just imparting knowledge about the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic — you are impacting the lives of young people for years to come!

And to all who may be having a hard day — remember GOD’S GOT THIS! He never has an “Ah-Ha” moment. Nothing surprises Him. As Dr. Adrian Rogers used to say — “Has it ever occurred to you that nothing has ever occurred to God?” He’s in control and He has a plan — follow it!

Have a great day.

How About a Little “FAITH-Lift”

“Then He touched their eyes, saying, ‘It shall be done to you according to your faith.” (Matthew 9:29)

If you have read much of anything that I write, you will know that I firmly believe that the answer to human need is still found in the Word of God. “According to your faith” is a truth that many people in our world have forgotten. In Matthew 9, there were two blind men who followed Jesus in hopes of gaining their sight. When asked if they believed He was able to help them, they replied without hesitation, “Yes, Lord.” Jesus touched their eyes and immediately they were healed. They believed “according to their  faith.”

For 18 years, Dr. Harry Ironside was the pastor of the historic Moody Church in Chicago. He told the story of visiting a Sunday School class while on vacation. The teacher of the class asked, “How were people saved in the Old Testament times?”

After a pause, one man said, “By keeping the Law.” The teacher said, “That’s exactly right.”

Dr. Ironside interrupted. “My Bible says that by the deeds of the Law shall no flesh be justified.”

The teacher was a bit embarrassed, so he said, “Well, does someone else have an idea?”

Another student said, “They were saved by bringing sacrifices to God.” The teacher said, “Good answer. That’s right.” He then tried to go on with the lesson.

Again, Dr. Ironside interrupted. “My Bible says that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin.”

Obviously, this teacher was unprepared and was also very much aware that this visitor knew more about the Bible then he did, so he said, “Well, then sir, why don’t YOU tell us how people were saved in the Old Testament.”

Dr. Ironside stood to his feet and said, “they were saved by faith — the same way people are saved today.”

I hear many sermons and see many things written today that suggest that somehow the works of man can be added to the requirements of salvation. Instead of fully trusting the Lord, we think that our good works will somehow bring God’s blessing. However, my Bible is very clear. Our assurance of salvation is based on two words — “by faith.” Our petitions and prayers given to God are based on His will and His Word. When we pray “by faith” believing that God will accomplish His Will — His Way — according to His Word — we receive His blessings. Twenty-one times in Hebrews 11 alone you find the same words — “BY FAITH.”

Maybe what we need in modern Christianity is a “FAITH-LIFT”! Charles Spurgeon said, “A little faith will bring your soul to heaven; a great faith will bring heaven to your soul.”

Vance Havner said, “The Quakers got their name from the fact that they trembled under the power of the Spirit. At least their faith shook them! Too many of us today are shaky ABOUT what we believe but not shaken BY what we believe.”

Dear Lord — I pray that I will walk BY FAITH according to Your will and Your Word. I pray that instead of being shaky about what I believe — I will be shaken by the power of Your Holy Spirit!

Have a great day.

The Whole Truth

“But turning around the looking at His disciple, He rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind Me, Satan, because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns, but man’s!'” (Mark 8:33)

Several years ago, the IRS received the following letter: “Dear Sirs: Enclosed you will find a check for $150. I cheated on my income tax return last year and have not been able to sleep ever since. If I still have trouble sleeping, I will send you the rest.”

We can chuckle because the writer of that letter was willing to be honest…up to a point. He was willing to go just far enough so he could sleep. He was willing to go just far enough to relieve his guilty conscience, but not far enough to send in the full amount.

Sometimes I think we act that way toward God. When the Bible talks about the Kingdom, love, joy, peace, and hope, we all love that. That is great! We can easily jump on board with Christ. But when you start talking about things like rejection, suffering, being hated, crosses and all those negative things that may accompany true discipleship — we don’t want to hear about that.

In Mark 8, you will recall that just prior to our verse for today, Simon Peter actually took Jesus aside when He started talking about things like this and rebuked Him! That’s when Jesus said, “Get behind Me, Satan, because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns, but man’s!”

Peter didn’t want to hear the whole truth. He only wanted to hear the good things. And yet, in our Christian life, there are going to be hurts and disappointments. We may actually suffer unjustly and things will probably not always be happy and fun.

Remember this…when you hurt, God understands your hurts! Jesus completely understands the hurtful things in life. He was rejected by His very own family. Jesus’ family actually accused Him of being crazy! Jesus’ friends hurt Him by rejecting Him. He went to the cross nearly friendless. Don’t ever think that God doesn’t understand our hurt and pain. He does!

I’m fully aware of the individual suffering in this world. I know there are people all around us who suffer physically, mentally, emotionally, financially and in various other ways. I know there are churches that are suffering. Church arguments lead to church splits and congregations suffer. I know the temptation is there to say “Where is God?”

The truth is God is right there with us. He understands our hurts and struggles better than anybody else could.  God gives us hope when all others fail to give hope. He helps us to understand how to deal with life — and death. He protects, preserves, surrounds and fills us with His peace.

One of my favorite hymns contains this verse: “Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed, for I am thy God and will still give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.”

You want me to Praise the Lord? Sing words like that! That’s something to be thankful and to praise God for. That hymn goes on to say, “That soul, tho all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never no, never, no never forsake!”

OH BOY! I’m about to shout up in here! Tell me the whole truth! Not just good times — but when I suffer — God is right there with me — He never, no, never, no never forsakes.

Excuse me while I worship!

Friends…Who Needs Them…I DO!

“I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer.” (Philippians 1:3)

One of the many downsides to our frenzied, fractured culture of today is that it has become harder in recent generations to develop the kind of deep, abiding friendships that used to sustain people and enrich their lives. 

In recent days and weeks, I have been “waxing nostalgic” a bit in my own life. After 30 years of ministry, I’ve come to the realization that I probably will never be the pastor of First Baptist Atlanta. For those of you who know me — that’s a BIG DEAL! I’ve also begun to spend more time reflecting upon the people and places that have impacted my life over these 30 years. From my first church in rural Johnston County, NC to my current place of service in Cary, NC — God has placed in my path many wonderful and often interesting characters. 

I’m especially thankful for the young people who called me “Pastor” while I was serving in the ministry of Primary Focus and Living Proof. I have a picture in my office of this group of young people (along with my friend Terry Hendricks) and EVERY time I look at it — I smile. I understand what the Apostle Paul meant when he said, “I thank my God for every remembrance of you.”

There are too many to start calling names, but many of these young people remain in contact with me on a consistent basis. One example…last Wednesday night before my mid-week service, Reid called me. He had a quick question but then said “PK — how are you?” That’s what friends do. When Lucas calls me, the conversation ALWAYS starts with “Hey, it’s my best friend Lucas” or “Hey, it’s my best friend Keith” depending on who calls who. These friends don’t call just in a self-serving manner — they call because they value your opinion and they are genuinely concerned about your wellbeing. 

If you know me, you know I don’t like to talk on the phone. It’s a necessary evil in life and ministry. And yet — EVERY time the phone rings and it is one of the young people from my Primary Focus days — I smile and remember something special we may have shared. When I get Facebook messages from them, I remember some conversation we had. I remember something funny we shared and I smile. When I get a call in reference to one of these young people entering a ministry position, I gladly share my recollections of them — and I smile.

To be honest, I haven’t smiled much recently. I’m not seeking sympathy or anything like that — I’m just admitting that life is often difficult for all of us — in ministry and in other professions as well. I have my fair share of “pity parties” — but somehow God brings to my remembrance the lives graciously impacted through my feeble attempt to serve the Lord — and I smile. And when I pray, I often pray for folks in places I’ve not visited in a long time — but God brings them to my mind. And when He does, “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you” — from Pauline Baptist Church in Four Oaks, NC to Cary Baptist Church in Henderson, NC to Hertford Baptist Church in Hertford, NC to Arlington Baptist Church in Knoxville, TN to Valley Grove Baptist Church in Seymour, TN to Good Hope Baptist Church in Cary, NC and especially to “my kids” from Primary Focus and Living Proof — all over the world. When I think of you all, I smile and say “Friends…Who Needs Them? I DO! Thank God for them.”

Have a great day.

What is Weighing You Down?

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

If you are looking for a classic Bible passage on the Christian life, then read Hebrews 12. As Paul penned these words (yes, I believe Paul wrote Hebrews), he was looking into the future and he saw the probability of persecution coming down on the lives of those who would read these words. I’m sure our brothers and sisters in Egypt would find comfort in these words today as they face untold persecution at the hands of Muslim terrorists.

Hebrews 12 encourages us to stand firm in our faith — even as those who have gone before us stood firm in their faith regardless of the circumstances. I think we can see that what was required of the witnesses of the past will most likely be required of our generation as well. In fact, Jesus told us that we shouldn’t be surprised when we are persecuted for our faith. He said to expect it! (John 15:20)

In the middle of our verse for today, we come to the words “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us.” I believe American Christians need to be reminded of the damage that can be done by weights — things that may not necessarily be wrong in or of themselves but which become hindrances to our spiritual growth.

Let me illustrate. I read about an Indonesian Christian who discovered that his hunting bow was affecting his spiritual life. He had purchased it to shoot wild game, but his excursions into the woods were becoming so enjoyable that he became lax in his church attendance. Then one day someone wronged him. He felt a strong urge to settle the score with his bow and arrow just as he would have done before he was a Christian. He recognized that his reaction was an evidence of spiritual decline in his life. So he took his weapon to an outdoor service, and in the presence of fellow Christians he broke it in pieces and threw them on a pile of wood for burning. His bow and arrow had become a spiritual weight that had to be given up.

I hesitate to draw this conclusion, but here goes. Maybe it’s fishing equipment or golf clubs. Maybe it’s a vacation spot or a television set. But ANYTHING that keeps you and me from being faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ is a weight that needs to be discarded. There are definitely some things in all our lives that need to go because they are coming between the Lord and us. Cast it off and regain the fellowship with Christ that will enable you to grow spiritually.

Have a great day.

Three Words to Help You Be a Better Witness

“but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” (I Peter 3:15)

I heard someone ask the question recently that if Jesus were still physically walking around on the earth, would He be witnessing to lost people? I believe the answer to that question is an unequivocal YES! The Bible clearly says that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).

One of the greatest failures of modern Christians is also the reason why so many of them are ineffective in their witnessing — Christ does not have the undivided loyalty of our hearts. Here’s what the Apostle Paul said to the church at Corinth about this very thing. “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (I Corinthians 11:3). If we are truly going to impact our world for the Kingdom of God, then devotion to Christ is not optional — it is essential.

In our verse today, Peter lays out three things that I believe are necessary ingredients for you and me in our attempt to share the Gospel and win people to Christ. You can remember it with three simple words…

YEARN

LEARN

EARN

Let’s begin with a question. Do you truly YEARN to give your answer? In other words, do you have a burden for lost people? Are you committed to sharing your faith in Christ? Do the words zeal, enthusiasm, and joy describe your heart? I’m convinced that most of the people in the world have a greater desire to know Christ than most Christian people have in sharing Him. That’s sad. Peter says that we should BE READY.

Suppose you do have that burden. Suppose you YEARN to be able to share your faith with others. Then what?

LEARN what you believe. Peter says, “…to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.” You and I need to KNOW the Gospel and we must be aware of our audience. We must know how to speak with clarity so that even a child can understand how to know Christ personally. In order to do that, we must study our Bibles and KNOW what the Bible teaches. Proverbs 15:28 says, “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.”

You want some help in that area? Let me suggest that you pick up a couple of little books that will dramatically help you. The first is called Know What You Believe by Paul Little. This book will systematically lay out for you the basic doctrines of Evangelical Christianity. The second book is called Share Jesus Without Fear by William Fay. This book gives practical guidance that will help make you comfortable sharing your faith with anyone at any time.

We need a YEARNING to share with others. We need to LEARN what we believe. Finally, we have to EARN the right to be heard. The last phrase Peter uses says, “…yet with gentleness and reverence.” We are called to be the salt of the earth. What does salt do? For one thing, it makes you thirsty. When you and I are being salt, people will be thirsty to meet Jesus. When you and I begin to “be salt,” people will actually ask you how to get saved! Now, when was the last THAT happened to you? More importantly, if it DID happen to you — what would you say? We are to be gentle and reverent in our witnessing.

Lately, I’ve met some people who have told me that their family members won’t come to Christ because they are not the “chosen” ones of God. Their rationale has been that they have witnessed to them and they haven’t gotten saved — so they must not be “chosen.”

I’m not going to get into that debate with anyone today, but I will say this — I sincerely believe that EVERYBODY is savable. We are to share the Gospel with every person with the belief that if they confess their sins and repent, they will be saved. The Bible again is clear — “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

The problem with these folks who have decided their family is not “chosen” is not God — it’s themselves. As I observe their life and the way they treat their families and talk to their kids and the lack of joy that is in their life — I understand why their family members have not been saved. The salt is not doing its job. Don’t blame God for not saving your family — look at yourself and make sure you are a “gentle and reverent” witness.

I believe that if we will follow these three simple steps, we will be a more effective witness for the Lord. I’m always interested and excited to hear about your experiences in witnessing for the Lord. Email me your story of how God has recently used you to tell someone else about Christ! I’d love to hear it.

 

For Such a Time As This…

“Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14)

The 1960s were turbulent times in America. The Vietnam War, racial tensions, and economic fears filled the news reports nightly. No part of America was able to escape the turmoil. I grew up in that world and in that time.

I specifically remember 1968. Martin Luther King, Jr. will killed in Memphis in April. Robert F. Kennedy was shot and killed in June. And the North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive, which proved to be a turning point in the war. Lyndon Johnson did not seek reelection as President and Hubert Humphrey was nominated to run against Richard Nixon. I may be the only 6 year old in the world who cried when Humphrey lost (and my parents voted for Nixon)! 

Something else happened in the fall of that year that forever changed my life. A decision was made by Mrs. Mary Beale Lee who, at the time was the principal at Woodland-Olney Elementary School in Woodland, NC. This is the school that I would enter as a first grade student. Mrs. Lee — in the midst of racial tensions and the civil rights movement — made the bold decision to hire a black teacher for the first grade that year. Her name was Doris Pope. I can only imagine the courage it took for Mrs. Lee to give Mrs. Pope that job and allow her to become the first black lead teacher at the school. I don’t remember any controversy — I suppose I was shielded from any of that, but I distinctly remember the impact this wonderful woman had on my life.

Mrs. Lee’s hiring of Doris Pope didn’t make the national news. Most people in the world still don’t know where Woodland, Potecasi, and George are. But there are countless men and women today who were impacted by the love and grace shown to us by Mrs. Pope. From the first day I walked into her class, I fell in love with her. Throughout my school career, she was always an encouragement to me. Because my class was her very first class, she kept up with us all through high school and even college. She taught us and modeled for us the Biblical mandate to love all people. She taught us to relate to others based on the content of their heart and character — not the color of their skin.

A few months ago, I had the privilege of talking with Mrs. Pope once again on the phone. She called me to tell me she had been listening to my sermons on CD. She told me how proud she was of me and I smiled. I was also able to tell her of the impact she made upon my life and ministry. I told her of the all the nationalities and races who come to worship in our church on Sunday morning. I told her of all the children — red, yellow, black and white — who run to hug my neck on Sunday morning after church. I thanked her for not seeing colors but only seeing children and for teaching me to do the same. 

As usual, she was humble and didn’t think she had done all that great! I assured her that she had and we talked about some of her former students and where we were and what we were doing today. There were college professors, medical professionals, lawyers and at least one little preacher boy who will forever hold Doris Pope in the highest regard.

This week, at age 94, Doris Pope went to Heaven. Up until just the last few weeks, she was going to church on Sunday and going to prayer meeting on Wednesday nights. She was serving her Lord faithfully to the end. I’m so glad I had the chance to thank her and to tell her how much I loved her. My guess is she has been reunited with Mrs. Lee — the woman who took the chance in a tumultuous time to hire the best person for the job of teaching 1st grade at Woodland-Olney Elementary school.

Rest in Peace, Mrs. Pope. You have fought the fight and won the race. I know you have heard your Master say, “WELL DONE…good and faithful servant.” I love you and will see you soon. You certainly were in your position “for such a time as this…”