Category Archives: Personal Thoughts

A Dickens Reminder

God bless us every one” is the plea of little Tim Cratchit in Charles Dickens’ immortal A Christmas Carol. Bobbi and I watched the Patrick Stewart version (George C. Scott is the best, just saying) last night. The lead character is Ebenezer Scrooge, a tight-fisted, always-grumpy banker who is visited by four ghosts. First, his deceased business partner, Marley, who warns of a mighty chain that Scrooge is weaving in the afterlife. Then three ghosts who come to prompt Scrooge to change before it is too late. Scrooge’s answer for the poor is to put them in prisons or workhouses. If they die, that will “reduce the surplus population.” Scrooge changes when he is forced to look upon the poor and downtrodden that fill 19th century London and when his own impending death is revealed.

A Christmas Carol was published in 1843 in London. Sharp socioeconomic divisions faced England. These divisions were the background for Dicken’s work. Mid-19th century London was not so different from early 21st century America. The lower economic class has grown poorer while the wealthiest have increased their assets.

The answer is not taxation, which only increases the wealth and the power of the political class, but true charity from Christians who give willingly and not by compulsion (2 Corinthians 9:7). Charity cannot be compelled.

Out of 230 nations, the CIA Factbook says the United States has the third-highest gross domestic product. In 2019, before COVID, Sally, elections, and divisions in the populace, just over 10% of our citizens lived in poverty.

Two-thirds of Americans report living paycheck-to-paycheck. Just one shutdown or one serious illness can destroy 110 million citizens.

Meanwhile, the stock market has soared almost 60% since its pandemic low in March (S&P index).

People become poor for many reasons. Sometimes it’s a layoff or termination, perhaps a sudden illness or accident. Some people are poor because of really bad decisions. Drugs, alcohol, and gambling hurt families at an alarming rate. Maybe surprisingly, the Bible doesn’t use a litmus test to determine who needs help. Maybe, because the victims of poverty often are not the cause of their poverty. Those who refuse to work are excluded (2 Thessalonians 3:10), but their children indeed are not.

Moses wrote, “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be” (Deuteronomy 15:7, 8). In verse 11, “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” God’s wrath burns against those who abuse the poor: “The LORD will enter into judgment with the elders and princes of his people: “It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?” declares the Lord GOD of hosts” (Isaiah 3:14 – 15).

Jesus’ command to the young ruler of Matthew 19:21 was clear: Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  This underlines what Jesus previously said about our priorities. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19 – 21).

Last night,  after watching A Christmas Carol, Bobbi heard of a family that had been thrown out of the house where the four of them had been “couch-surfing.” This morning, It dropped to 25 degrees. Can you imagine the mother’s fear?

Thousands of currently employed, hard-working people are facing possible termination because of government-imposed lockdowns.

Many are in your zipcode.

What a mismatch between the happy crowds at the store who buy frivolities for the holidays and those who have less than nothing.

Remember the poor. Do what you can to help, for your work is of the Lord.

What I Saw at 5:30 AM

It’s 5:30 AM and I am the only one awake in the house — the only human that is. Gideon is awake and patrolling the backyard. While I lounge on the patio, he is keeping me safe from evil squirrels and the occasional blue jay that sails into the yard.

The sky is growing brighter, slowly, but the moon still shines brilliantly against the backdrop of the heavens. A few translucent clouds waft lazily through the air as if they had just awakened.

The birds sing happily like tiny alarm clocks arousing nature from slumber. I count at least a half dozen singers greeting me this morning.

To cap it off there is my morning cup of coffee, a sublime gift from God created on the third day, one of the “plants yielding seed” of Genesis 1:11.

I am tempted to think that it doesn’t get any better than this.

I’d be wrong.

For all the glories of this present life, I know there is something far better. Something that supersedes everything eye can see or ear can ear.

There is a new place called heaven. It is the place of God. While God dwells within me (2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:22), Jesus is within me (John 17:23; Galatians 2:20 ), and the Spirit dwells within me too (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16), I await something brighter.

My finite mind cannot comprehend what an infinite treasure God has in store for me. Jesus has gone to prepare that place (John 14:1-4) and will take me there. It is a place where God’s brightness shines and where nothing vile or decaying will enter (Revelation 21:27).

The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit will be there. And they will outshine the moon.

Christian Stress Relief

I’m thinking about family this morning; not physical family but the larger house of God. If you’ve been with us lately, we’ve talked some about being God’s people and he being our God. Those were his words through inspiration to the Patriarchs and later, to the Hebrews (Genesis 17:8; Exodus 29:49; Jeremiah 32:38; Ezekiel 37:27). Those words also echo to us from John’s report of the Revelation. Concerning our heavenly estate, the Lord declares, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” (Revelation 21:3)

The Bible also speaks of the adopted family that belongs to the Father (Romans 8:15, 23; 9:4; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5). The church is the family of God. Our physical attributes vary widely, but we have all been granted a place in the family.

It’s precious. It’s beyond value.

So when stress arises in the family, it ought to be dealt with fairly and quickly. Grudges have no place in this house. There must be no rivalry. We share a common mission, a common foe, and a common name: Christian.

[bctt tweet=”So when stress arises in the family, it ought to be dealt with fairly and quickly. Grudges have no place in this house.” username=”Preachers_Study”]

Christian Stress Relief: Know the Facts

Tension often comes because of cloudy facts or uncertainties. We owe it to our brothers and sisters to be clear on the facts related to any possible conflict. Rumors are like a nasty cold virus; they don’t require much to spread. When questions arise about a brother we must quickly learn the true facts before ever saying a word to someone else.

A man was once publically accused of a crime. He was arrested, jailed and brought to trial. The trial proved his innocence and he was set free. But his name had been tainted. He was ruined. His comment to reporters? “Where do I go to get my life back?”

Isn’t this the heart of the Golden Rule? Would you not want someone to inquire of you before raising unfounded suspicions among others (Matthew 7:12)?

[bctt tweet=”Isn’t this the heart of the Golden Rule? Would you not want someone to inquire of you before raising unfounded suspicions among others (Matthew 7:12)?” username=”Preachers_Study”]

Christian Stress Relief: Privacy

Privacy is the by-word of our very public life. If you have any kind of online presence you are subject to having private details about your life stolen. (As I write this, Facebook is trying to cleanup after 50 million users had their information stolen). We should respect the privacy of our brothers and sisters too.

None of us are without sin (c.f. John 8:7; Romans 2:1, 22) and ought be very careful about the way we deal with other sinners. Jesus offers the perfect principle in Matthew 18:15ff: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.”

“Alone” did not include others.

You did not take the rabbi, you did not take the ruler of the synagogue. You did not take a member of the Sanhedrin. You went alone. Such a singular approach protects the privacy and dignity of the brother, limits embarrassment, precludes the damage of a misunderstanding and prevents the offended brother from being publicly scorned for spreading rumors.

Family is too important to shatter over a misunderstanding. It is more than reasonable to take very step to thwart trouble among brethren.

There are times when a public approach is needed. We’ll talk about those next time. I suspect, I sure do not know, that over 90% of all family disagreements can be solved privately. We should at least try, don’t you think?



Old School: Lessons from My Daddy

Willis Bryant Evans, born November 28, 1921, to Arthur Lee and Roselle Evans. He was the third of three boys. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II and saw action in Europe, including at D-Day and at Bastogne, Belgium and the Battle of the Bulge. Upon his return to civilian life, he attended the University of Alabama but dropped out after two years. He began a sales career that ended with a very successful time as a new car salesman for Chevrolet. His parents were among the first Christians in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He would serve the church of Christ in Northport, Alabama as a Bible class teacher and deacon until his death in 1987. He was known as Mr. Evans, Clem, Bobo and the Big Tuna. I called him daddy.

I learned much from this wise man. I’d like to share some of that with you.

Pay Attention When You Shave.

Many mornings, dad would leave for work with small pieces of toilet paper stuck to his face. He’s cut himself shaving. Pay attention to what you are doing he would warn.

Good fathers teach their children about life. Our kids haven’t been down this road before, and we have. Despite the incredible level of intelligence many children possess, they are not always wise. They need a father to help guide them through the rough spots. Jesus had an earthly father who likely taught him about life. If our Lord needed a father in his youth, our children do too.

Pay Your Bills On Time

I will never forget daddy’s spiral bound notebook. Each month had a page, and on this page, he would record every bill as it arrived. When he paid the bill, he would circle it. He could tell you how much his water bill was from five years ago. You see, we were not wealthy, but we never wanted for anything important. When I got my first car loan, it was based only on his name. They didn’t even run my credit. In fact, the banker was not even there when I showed up. He left the papers with a note telling me where to sign. Why? Because he knew my dad.

The Bible teaches us that we should always be honest people (Matthew 5:37; Proverbs 6:1-5). We manage our money; not the other way around (1 Timothy 6:6-10). Good fathers strive to teach their children important lessons.

God Always Comes First

Daddy was sick for the last few years of his life and was hospitalized some. He couldn’t attend services. But I never remember a single time daddy missed services otherwise – not one. He was a picture of commitment and devotion to his Lord. If there was a gospel meeting, we were there every night. We attended on Sunday and on Wednesday for midweek Bible study. We went because it was a time to honor God and deepen our own knowledge of his word. Plus, we knew that there was extraordinary value in fellowship with God’s people.

Daddy’s dream was for me to preach the gospel. He never saw me preach fulltime, but he made sure I was prepared. Daddy died exactly one month before my graduation with a degree in Bible, but I assure you that today, he is with me every time I step into the pulpit.

I was blessed by such a great man as the leader of my family. His is a standard I shall never reach although I try. I pray that every father reading this will consider the vital marks of a great father and pursue them relentlessly. Our sons and daughters need fathers who are fully engaged in parenting. Are you?


Does Christmas Seem Empty to You?

Christmas EmptyAmidst the twinkling lights, snowmen, and the aromas of a Christmas kitchen, there seems to me an expanding emptiness during the holidays. As a child in Northport, Alabama, I recall the smell of a live Christmas tree in our living room. I would lay beneath its limbs like a giant Christmas present and watch the gentle glow of the lights. Mom would call me to help with the Christmas cookies, although my “help” was probably the last thing she needed. She would let me roll out the cookie dough using an old wooden rolling pin. Then, she would carefully guide me as used the cookie cutters to make Santas, reindeer, and Christmas trees.  I remember aunts, uncles, and cousins coming to our home for a great banquet. I don’t remember the food so much as I recall the laughter and love that adorned our table. There were gifts aplenty, but they were almost the afterthought. Our main reason for shopping was to see the decorations at Woolworth’s, Sears-Roebuck. and the Buick dealership.

It’s different now. Have you noticed?

Many writers better than me have bemoaned the descent of the holidays into a commerce laden period of buying and selling. But I am thinking of something slightly different. How do you feel when you cannot meet the standard set by advertisers for the best Christmas gift? Ads run the spectrum from a Bob Ross Chia Pet to the “Cadillac you’ve always wanted.” What if you still can’t buy that Cadillac? What if you’re so broke you can’t even pay attention? Do the holidays become less important to you? They shouldn’t.

It may be that you feel empty because you do not have, nor can you obtain, enough stuff. It seems the emptiness can only be filled by purchased items.

There is hope because the Bible teaches otherwise. When Peter and John encountered a lame man at the Temple (Acts 3:1 ff), they gave him something greater than silver and gold (Acts 3:6). Money could not buy the happiness that filled him after his healing (vs. 8).

Solomon, endowed with extraordinary wealth and wisdom, tried to find happiness in possessions. His conclusions? He said, “all was vanity and a striving after the wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11). The condition of a man with every possession, but unable to enjoy his wealth, is described as a “grievous evil” (Ecclesiastes 6:2). In summation, Solomon concludes that the whole duty of man is to “fear God and keep his commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Jesus says it better in Matthew 6:33, “seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” The secret of a fulfilled and happy life is found in serving and giving to others. Jesus said, “give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).

Try as they might, advertisers cannot supplant Jesus as the giver of a full life. They tell us that happiness comes in a new car, diamonds, video games, and such. They knowingly produce guilt to drive us to purchase more and more stuff; none of which satisfies for long.

Jesus, however, teaches the opposite. Try Jesus’ way and shun the advertiser’s claims. Stop! Listen! What do you hear? The sound of an advertiser’s jingle or the sound of a loving family? The latter, I pray.


Mercedes Drive Church of Christ

My thanks to the good people in Vance, Alabama and the Mercedes Drive Church of Christ for their marvelous hospitality during my stay with them this week. I was invited to conduct their summer gospel meeting which was held in the Vance Civic Center not far from the Mercedes Benz plant near between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. This congregation is in its third year and is already growing. Their first building loan has been approved and their is an air of excitement throughout the area. 25,000 people live within a 10 mile radius of the new church building so their is ample evangelism work to be done.

Doug Milligan is the preacher there and also serves as the prinipal of West Blocton High School. He is supported by many in the area who are working to plant a viable, growing congregation. I appreciate Doug and the invitation to be with them. I am also indebted to Jay and Kitty Waldrop and their family for providing my meals. Their daughter Kelli and husband David, along with Teri and her husband John provided meals during the week as well. I was warmly received and cared for. Thanks!

If you are eve in the area visit Mercedes Drive. You will be wonderfully received.

Where It Began

Paul asked the Corinthians to bear with him in a little foolishness (2 Corinthians 11:1) and so I ask you to bear with me a bit over a very special story.

In the summer of 1986 I met a young Tennessee girl who happened to be in an English literature class I was taking at Freed-Hardeman College in Henderson, Tennessee. We seemed to hit it off well and soon we were dating one another exclusively. Now Freed-Hardeman has often been called a shoe factory where people come out in pairs. Such was to be the case for my bride Bobbi and me. The rickety old swing you see here was where I officially proposed to Bobbi about a year and a half later. Six months after that we were married.

Old Swing at Hall-Roland Residence Hall...Where it All Began
Old Swing at Hall-Roland Residence Hall...Where it All Began

Bobbi lived in the dorm just behind the picture and so this was a convenient place where we could sit under the watchful eye of her dorm mother.

As you can see, the swing is broken at one end. I guess that was where I was sitting!

Almost 21 years later I think we have done well. When I look at the three boys I know we have done well. I must say that when we sat in this swing neither of us had any idea where the Lord would take us. We have simply trusted in him and will continue to trust in him for the next 21 years and beyond.

Among the important and influential people we met at Freed-Hardeman was brother Winford Claiborne who, at the time, was our favorite instructor. Among his classes was Marriage and the Family, a course that we both took under him. (Bobbi made a better grade but that’s not surprising!) Because of our love for brother Claiborne we we asked him to perform our wedding at the old Northport church of Christ building in Northport, Alabama. Through the years it has been our privilege to stay in touch with him.

Winford Claiborne and Bryant, 2009
Winford Claiborne and Bryant, 2009

Among the many blessings I have enjoyed from our association with brother Claiborne is a love of books and reading. This fine gentleman is never far from at least two our three books that he is reading simultaneously. I can say with no fear of contradiction that he is the best and widest read man in our brotherhood. In fact, he is the only man I know that has published a book on books. That little volume offers guidance to the best books on a variety of social topics which impact our culture today.

Brother Claiborne is a staunch defender of truth and has often challenged the wrong-headed thinking of many in our word today. His International Gospel Hour is heard throughout the world and has often raised the ire of many who would subvert our morals.

I think he would quickly tell you that his life was powered by the strength and grace of his bride, Miss Molly, who passed this life a few years ago. He misses her dearly but continues his efforts to defend the cross of Christ in the knowledge that he will see her again. Unfortunately, the words which he loves so dearly are not enough to express our love and honor for this great man.

So, to brother Claiborne and to the unknown craftsman who built that swing, we say “Thank You!”