IT'S A NEW DAY
by Dr. Charles Walton
we've changed...He hasn't
May 21, 2017
Melvin Maxwell grew up in the Great Depression of the 1930’s. When he was six, his mother died. Melvin was not a hopeful child. But in his teenage years, he noticed that all the successful, happy people he knew had one thing in common: they always had positive thoughts and positive words about themselves and other people.
Melvin decided he wanted to be successful like them, so he began to change his daily thinking from negative thoughts that had dominated his early life to positive thoughts, which were, at first, foreign to him. But little by little, day by day, Melvin Maxwell changed his thoughts. And his positive thoughts transformed him from the old Melvin to the new Melvin.
In fact, the new Melvin Maxwell rose to a level of success that may have seemed above his potential. He became the most successful person in his professional circle and eventually became a college president who influenced the lives of countless people. Melvin would tell you that his transformation from hopeless to hopeful, from “loser” to “winner” wasn’t easy. Change is always a battle. In fact, real change is a life-long struggle. But the commitment is worth it.
Perhaps now I should tell you that Melvin Maxwell is the father of John Maxwell, America’s most well-known motivational teacher. John revealed his father’s history of changing from poor thinking to positive thinking in his book, Thinking for a Change. I recommend the book.
Poor thinking is driven by fear, bitterness, jealousy, anxiety, past bad experiences, or learned from negative parents. Poor thinking is the “default” choice. So how do we change our thinking from poor to positive? Positive thinking is “Faith” thinking. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” is in the Bible. Look it up.
James Allen said, “Good thoughts and actions never produce bad results; bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results.” The Bible says “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 27:7a, KJV). Change your thinking and change your life.
May 14, 2017
Today is Mother’s Day, but to tell the truth, I’m not too thrilled about it. Mother’s Day is stressful for preachers. For one thing, I’m always afraid I will say the wrong things (or the right things in the wrong way). Plenty of mistakes have been made by well-intentioned pastors on this special day. Unfortunately, some of the mistakes have been captured on video. At least that hasn’t happened to me, yet. I’m a big fan of motherhood in general and Christian motherhood in particular. I even had a mother - a Christian mother. In fact, my mother’s prayers for me likely saved my life. I may one day tell you the full story of why.
This is part of the story: My mother’s name was Eva, and Eva actually means “mother”, but she was almost not a mom. She and my father were childless for almost ten years before I was born. On the night I made a public decision in my church to commit my life to the ministry, my mother later came to my bedroom and, through tears, told me her story that also became my story.
“I wanted children,” she said, “but year after year my prayers for a child went unanswered. Then I remembered Hannah, Samuel’s mother. Hannah was childless, too. She promised God that if God gave her a son, she would give her son to God. Hannah’s prayer became my prayer. When you were born, I kept my promise and gave you to the Lord in my heart. I knew one day you would make public what I have known all along.” (Hannah’s story can be found in I Samuel, Chapters 1&2.)
How would you like to live up to that story? I’m glad I never heard about her prayers for a child until after I made my commitment. I’m sure I hurt my mother occasionally, through thoughtlessness, if nothing else. You may not believe this, but I actually had a streak of rebelliousness as an adolescent. (I think I got it from my mother!) What I’m confessing is that I made a good target for her prayers. I prayed for her, too. We were both imperfect.
My mother’s prayers changed my life, and I hope my prayers for her were a blessing too. May your Mother’s Day be completely stress free. I’ll be praying for you to say just the right thing.
May 7, 2017
I mentioned last Sunday that I was asked to speak at a funeral service in Orange, Texas, this past week. My friend, Elaine, died at the young age of 74 from cancer.
You may have met her if you ever shopped at the Horseman Store on Interstate 10 in Orange, just before entering Louisiana. She was also owner of several other boot stores in the Houston area and was one of the major suppliers of footwear for that area’s petro-chemical plants. Her hard work, love for people, and commitment to excellence made her a success in everything she put her hand to.
Elaine was a “detail” person. She impressed me at our first meeting, a Bible study group that met in a realtor’s office in Orange. My first thought was that this group could accomplish anything they put their minds to, so I wondered why they needed me. After that meeting, Elaine telephoned me in Conroe and we (she!) talked for an hour about the exciting prospect of starting a new church. I finally interrupted, “Elaine, you are wise and energetic. Why do you need my help?” She thought about my question and then spoke, “Because we need to do this right, Dr. Walton.”
The qualifications of real leadership focus on learning to be a joyful follower, willingly accountable to others, and have a concern for details that, if not properly done, can sabotage any organization. For the next sixteen months, Elaine taught me about “details”.
Elaine’s focus on “doing things right” was mentioned at the Celebration of her life. I was not surprised to hear she had planned her service, including the family meal in the fellowship hall later that day. She left instructions: “I want to have Popeye’s Chicken with the breasts cut in half, bar-b-que brisket from The Hut with baked beans, and I want GOOD potato salad!”
No wonder this lady was successful. She cared about the details of life, and people loved her for it. Do you care about the details of your life and the lives of others? My friend, Elaine, always reminded me that small things can make a big difference.
April 30, 2017
In 2008, I read a book entitled, From the Heart of a Country Preacher. Bro. Clarence Howell preached for 75+ years in East Texas churches. His son-in-law compiled almost 450 pages of Bro. Howell’s sermons and had them published. I have to tell you I was impressed with the book, though I was a little frustrated.
I was frustrated because years ago I threw away all my old sermons. Quite honestly, some of my old sermons were embarrassing to read. Some of them needed theological “tweaking”. Others were shallow and predictable. A few were old when I preached them. More than one of my old sermons was negative. But now no one can compile them into an “exciting” book for the masses to “enjoy”.
Bro. Tom Clawson, famous evangelist, a faithful church member at FBC Conroe, and father of gospel singer Cynthia Clawson, told me I would be sorry for throwing away my old sermons, and he was right. I should have boxed them up and put them in the attic with all my other precious valuables. If I had put them away, my kids would have had so much “fun” going through those yellowed sermons (looking for cash) before they crammed them all into black plastic bags and then into the garbage. Now I have deprived them of that joy. At least I won’t be judged by something I said in 1972.
If I want to be judged, I’ll run for public office. If you ever want to know what a low-life, sorry outfit you are, just throw your hat in the ring. Someone you have never met will tell the world what you did 25 years ago that makes you totally unfit for public service (or even unfit to attend Sunday school where Baptists will usually forgive people so they can be counted in the attendance numbers).
I’m especially glad I got rid of that sermon I preached in 1971, in which I said only an idiot would run for office. Who knows. One day people might call me “Mr. Mayor”. Unless, of course, someone is digging in the landfill right now looking for that sermon. (Hey, it wouldn’t surprise me!)
Do you have anything you need to get rid of? It’s not too late. And it might let you sleep better at night knowing your secret is buried in the local landfill. Thank you, God, for your marvelous forgiveness through your Son, Jesus Christ (Revelation 20:12).
April 23, 2017
Dr. E.V. Hill, now in heaven, was one of America’s great preachers. However, most people remember him for the sign in front of his church. It read: CONSERVATIVE, LIBERAL, MILITANT. When people asked what the sign meant, he explained, “Conservative means we believe every verse in the Bible. Liberal means we’ll give our coat to anyone who needs it. Militant means we aren’t waiting for the devil to bring the battle to us; we are assaulting the gates of hell.”
Most churches understand what the “conservative” and “liberal” parts of his church sign meant. We just have problems with the “militant” part. How do we become more aggressive in the doing of God’s work? What is our “mission agenda”?
A frail patient in a hospital was visited by a local minister. The preacher said, “If you want to get well, you must renounce satan.” The weak old man replied, “In my condition I don’t want to make anybody mad.” The church is not, nor has it ever been, without God’s power. The question is, where is God’s power most needed in our community.
Dr. Lenny Boughton is credited with literally praying the Georgia Baptist Hospital in Atlanta into existence. A reporter asked him how one person could start a hospital. “Do you have any land?” “No, I don’t,” he said. “Do you have any money?” “No, I don’t,” he replied. “Well, what do you have?” asked the reporter. Dr. Boughton whispered, “Sick people.”
Churches may not have many resources. A church may not yet even have vision. But a church always has God’s power to accomplish God’s mission. And God always has vision. What are the needs of our community? Whatever they are, THAT’S GOD’S MISSION, and it should be the mission of our church.
Every church in America should be “CONSERVATIVE, LIBERAL, and MILITANT.” Let’s pray into existence the things that ought to be and pray out of existence that which ought not to be. Amen.
April 16, 2017
Easter Sunday is called “Resurrection Day” in some churches to remind us of the meaning of Easter. Early Christians transformed the pagan culture around them by changing the meaning of pagan holidays. Over time, pagan meanings diminished as the Christian message increased. Pagan “Easter” became the day Christians celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The church of modern culture is facing an even more difficult task. Many non-church go-ers are “inoculated” against the Christian message because they have had an experience with a church or an individual Christian that was less than satisfactory. As one young man said to me, “What the church preaches doesn’t match what it practices.” Every survey I have studied has revealed that people really are seeking an authentic spiritual experience. But what the church says it is must match what it actually is. The label has to match the contents.
Did you see that article in the Houston Chronicle about the people who found a dead, decomposing bat in their pre-packaged salad? Don’t panic. You can’t buy “bat salad” around here. Apparently it was sold in Florida and labeled “Organic Marketside Spring Mix.” The salad might also be found at Walmart stores in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Louisiana. (To be fair, bat salad is considered a delicacy in Louisiana. Ha!) Other than Cajuns, most people would be disgusted, if not totally revulsed, by a bat in a food item. When you open up a Walmart salad, by golly, you don’t want bat, you want balsamic. (Again, to be fair, I’ve had many Walmart salads for lunch and never once found a bat. Heck, I’ve barely found salad.)
Today is Easter. Resurrection Day. On Friday past, Good Friday, Jesus, by His atoning death on the cross, paid the price for our sins. Today, we celebrate the truth that death could not keep Him and the grave could not claim Him. And, because of Christ, all that is dead within us has been made alive again. We are God’s people, forgiven and restored. Easter Sunday says to the church and to the world that amazing, miraculous things still happen when we trust God. Our task is to make sure that what comes out of us is what our label says we are. Amen.
Looking forward to seeing you not only on Easter, but every Sunday. Same bat time. Same bat channel.
April 9, 2017
Someone gave me a copy of Dr. Oz’s “Five Day Feel Great Plan” and said I should try it. “This will give you renewed energy and better overall health.” My weary expression and drooping eyes that day likely caused their concern. I thanked them and walked away aware that I no longer possess the boundless energy of youth that I once had – and some days it shows.
I know almost nothing about Dr. Oz, except that Oz is his last name and his father must have been some sort of Wizard. Apparently, a few years ago Oprah Winfrey made him a superstar doctor. Now he has his own television show where he promotes his books on “renewed energy and better overall health.”
The plan, I guess, is that those of us who are the poor, the down-trodden, the unwashed, and the lactose intolerant (you and me) are supposed to consume Dr. Oz’s “Green Drink” in order to get back up to speed. The green drink formula includes spinach, cucumber, celery, ginger root, parsley, apples, lime juice, lemon juice, and any expired Walmart coupons lying around, mixed, pulsed, and vibrated in a blender of your choice. This concoction produces 3 or 4 cups of greenish elixir so powerful even the blender is hard to turn off. Quite frankly, with a nickname like Rusty, I’m surprised anyone would offer this stuff to me. I could backfire.
Seriously, if Dr. Oz’s green drink helps you, great. Use it and be thankful for spinach. In fact, I will likely try this stuff eventually. If Dr. Oz’s formula can make me healthy and energetic, count me a customer. I’d rather be “half-full” than “half-empty”, if you understand the distinction.
But Christians and churches are often more in need of Spirit than spinach. God’s plan is for His people to soar like eagles, not gather like buzzards.
So the next time you are “too pooped to pop”, ask God to let you minister to someone, help someone, or speak to someone about Jesus. You may no longer have the boundless energy of youth, but you will always have the indwelling strength of God’s Spirit and the promise of His daily presence. And not even a wizard can promise that.
April 2, 2017
In my sermon series The Christian Bucket List, one of the sermons is entitled Enjoy Your Days. The theme of this message is to learn to enjoy each day the Lord gives us, even if our days are not especially joyful.
If you need help smiling this week, perhaps these little gems can start the process.
I’m not sure if life is passing me by or trying to run me over.
I’m out of estrogen and I’ve got a gun.
You can’t take it with you, but you can make everybody wonder where it is.
Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes.
Having a child makes you a parent. Having more than one child makes you a referee.
Grandchildren are God’s preview of heaven.
We’ll miss you, Oprah...NOT!
I’m wonderful. Just ask my mother.
For teachers: “The dog ate my lesson plan.”
In a coffee shop: “Unattended children will be given an expresso and a free puppy.”
Scientists know that laughter produces endorphins in our bodies that can bring healing. But the writer of Proverbs knew about inner healing long before modern science. “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22a). The Psalmist added, “Weeping may remain for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:56).
As successful pastor Chuck Swindoll says, “Life is all about attitude.” It’s no secret. People who generously help others and who laugh every day are much healthier than those who don’t. So turn on your joy. Hey, did you hear about the duck that walked into a drug store and asked for a tube of Chap Stick? He said, “Just put it on my bill.” (Now that’s funny, I don’t care who you are.)
March 19, 2017
In a course called “Music Appreciation” in college, I experienced a miracle. The professor was an old dude who smelled funny and had been teaching numbskulls like me for thirty-five years. The class was in a large theater-type room with about 150 students. In addition to the miracle, the one thing I remember is that the teacher believed that listening to classical music could cure any disease, IF you really listened.
The class was two hours long on Tuesday nights. One night, I had a cough but went to class anyway. When my cough continued, I got up to leave. The professor asked me where I was going. “I’m coughing, sir, and I didn’t want to disturb.” “Go back to your seat,” he ordered. “Now class, we will see that this music is miraculous. It will cure him, IF HE LISTENS. If his cough continues, he will get an ‘F’ for not listening. Sit down,” he again commanded.
When he turned his back to play Mendelssohn or Mozart, or something, I noticed a wave-like motion of hands passing along something toward me. By the time it reached me, it had passed through at least two dozen other hands to mine without the professor noticing. When I examined the object, I discovered an unwrapped cough drop. Leaning forward, I turned my head and looked at the students on my row. Everyone was smiling, and a nice young lady on the opposite end nodded knowingly. I offered a quick prayer to the Smith Brothers Cough Drop Company and popped the medicine into my mouth, trying not to think about how many bacteria were on that cough drop. Finally, my cough stopped.
Later, the professor announced with great pride that I had listened well, was miraculously cured by the music, and would receive an “A” instead of an “F”. It was one of the few courses I made and “A” in. Miraculous!
Of course, the real miracle was the concern and generosity of a stranger. She left the classroom before I ever had a chance to thank her, and that was our final class of the semester. And I never thanked the two dozen other people who helped make that night’s blessing possible. But I think of them from time to time and that miraculous night.
And I always keep a cough drop in my pocket. A wrapped one!
March 12, 2017
There are many pastors that are about to take a new church, and many churches that are seeking a pastor. This advice is from Dr. Jim Garlow as he was leaving Metroplex Chapel in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, (which he had planted 13 years earlier) to go to Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, California. This is good advice for every church.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR A CHURCH WHEN THE NEW PASTOR ARRIVES
Let him be himself. If he is hilariously funny, let him be funny. If he is unusually serious, let him be somber. Appreciate his uniqueness.
Commit to stand with him through the hard times. The honeymoon will eventually end. Be committed to him for the “long haul”. Put a defense around him. He will be attacked. Make sure you’re not one of the attackers.
Let him lead. If you are part of the old staff that remains, give him your loyalty. If you are a member who remains, give him full allegiance. Be committed to follow him.
Support him even when he can’t publicly explain why he had to make a certain decision. Bear in mind that pastors frequently cannot defend themselves in order to protect the guilty. They have to remain quiet about issues. Consequently, the pastor receives criticism. If people know the truth, they usually support their pastor.
Release him from being your “best buddy”. If the church numbers above 100, he can’t be close to everyone. Let him love you – and he will – but don’t try to spend large amounts of social time with him. He can’t spread himself around that thin and still be pastor to all the congregation.
Let his wife be herself. If she is hilariously funny and outgoing, let her be that way. If she is unbelievably quiet and shy, don’t attack her for not being friendly. If she is incredibly stylish, don’t criticize her. If she is non-stylish and looks out of date, it’s okay. The church will survive that too.
Look for opportunities to encourage and affirm him. Find every opportunity verbally, by written notes, or other ways to encourage your pastor. The church will reap huge rewards.
Stay focused on the big picture. With the single exception of a pastor denying the reality of Jesus, there has never been a church fight that was really worth it. Don’t leave the church over any issue, unless he stops preaching that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, died on the cross for our sins, was physically resurrected, and is coming back again. As long as he preaches that, love him and stay with him. Bottom line: chill out!
Stand by your church. By all means, don’t leave the church during this time of transition. Of course it will be a difficult period. Transitions always are. But your church stood with you during your difficult times, so . . . stand with your church during her difficult times. While you are in the transition, it feels like it will last forever. But it won’t. When it passes, you will be glad you stayed put. If you expect your church to stand with you, then stand with it . . . no matter what!
March 5, 2017
When our oldest granddaughter, Taylor, was five years old, she attended the preschool at the church where I served as pastor. She would regularly come by my office to say hello. One of the secretaries, Ms. Nancy, kept a dish of chocolate candies on her desk. Little Taylor could never hide her attraction for anything chocolate. Unfortunately, Taylor’s mother had a strict rule about not eating candy without parental permission. So even though she loved chocolate, mostly she just looked at the candy dish without taking any, priding herself on being obedient.
One day Taylor came by the office as usual to give me a hug, but mostly to see that candy dish. Her mother didn’t want her to have candy, but since my mother wasn’t around she asked, “Do you ever eat any of this candy?” When I said I occasionally enjoyed a piece of candy, she asked, “Do you ask permission?” I replied, “Yes. I always ask Ms. Nancy if I can have some candy.” Taylor’s five-year-old brain started wondering. “What if she says you can’t have any?” I motioned for Taylor to come closer, and I slowly looked around the room as if I were about to reveal an ancient mystical secret. Then I whispered softly, “If she says ‘no’, I ask her to go get something for me and then I sneak some while she’s gone.”
Taylor was acutely aware of right and wrong. She always wanted to do the right thing in every situation, so I was expecting (even hoping for) a stern lecture on ethical behavior and the consequences of bad decisions. But instead, her eyes grew big as saucers as a look of surprised delight filled her little face. “Awesome. Really Awesome,” she shouted.
I’m proud to say Taylor, now 13, is still aware of right and wrong and (most of the time) chooses to do what is right. But no matter how good any of us are, we can be charmed by evil. The Bible says there is pleasure in chocolate for a season. That’s not an exact quote, but the point is that this world is full of attractive things that promise more than they can deliver. All of us are better off when we get our Father’s permission instead of sneaking around to obtain things that aren’t any good for us.
February 26, 2017
Many of you asked for a copy of the letter I read about “cancer” last week. I decided to share it through this Sunday newsletter. A minister was greeting his congregation after Sunday worship. A stranger approached and pressed a note into his hand which read, “Please pray for me. I have cancer.” There was no name and no way to respond. Later, the pastor discovered the man’s name and address. The following is a portion of the letter the pastor wrote to this man:
“I will certainly pray for you. I know that a diagnosis of cancer is terrifying. I do not know what my response would be to that news. But I do know some things about cancer that you may not have thought about. Even though cancer is scary, we give cancer too much power. There are so many things cancer cannot do.
Cancer cannot cripple love.
Cancer cannot kill friendships.
Cancer cannot shut out precious memories.
Cancer cannot silence courage.
Cancer cannot invade the soul.
Cancer cannot quench the Spirit.
Cancer cannot diminish the power of the resurrection.
Cancer cannot reduce the length of eternal life for even one second.
Cancer must yield to the overwhelming power and wisdom of a loving God who will never leave us or forsake us.
We do not bow before disease but before the eternal God who Was and Is and always Will Be. Jesus Christ, the same Yesterday, Today, and hallelujah, Forever. We surrender our hearts and souls and our eternity to the Savior whose cross is a daily reminder that we are loved beyond anything we can possibly imagine. And cancer has no power at all over the love of God and the eternal joy of knowing Jesus Christ, our Lord.”
May we all know the sustaining love of God through every mountaintop and valley of life.
February 19, 2017
My wife, Brenda, and I have been married a long time and have shared so many of life’s experiences that we realize we are different in multiple ways.
For example, I know she doesn’t “camp out” very well, though I enjoy camping very much. She never asks to go to the deer lease. She refuses to watch old Dracula movies on television with me, and when lions are eating baby antelopes on Animal Planet, she changes channels. (I don’t blame her. I can’t watch it, either.) She still refuses to eat at any establishment the late Marvin Zindler may have mentioned in his “slime” report.
On the other hand, I refuse to watch “chick flicks” with her (we don’t both need to cry), or the 200th re-run of “Murder She Wrote” (though I am a big Angela Lansbury fan). And I am not wasting ten bucks on chicken salad with dill weed served on month-old bread. See, I told you we are different. Still, we have managed to live in the same house for almost five decades. “How?” you ask. Simple. We have ten rules:
At least one of us must be happy at all times. Some days it’s my turn. Some days it’s her turn.
We have agreed that the success of our marriage is simple: We both love Rusty.
Neither one of us is Jesus.
If one of us ever leaves, the other one has to go along, too.
We no longer care very much about what “other people” are doing.
When we are traveling, we stop to visit the “facilities” as often as we want to.
Neither one of us is Jesus.
When our bloomers are in a twist, we are not very happy. So we do not twist our bloomers, and no one else is allowed to twist them, either.
If one of us wants popcorn, the other one has to fix it.
Neither one of us is Jesus.
Hope these rules help you as much as they have blessed us.