Feb 09

More Than A Game

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Credits: Fox News 9

Question: When does a player on one High School basketball team get excited when a player on the opposing team scores? Answer: When they’re brothers.

Last Friday night, February 5, 2016, Franklin Road Academy was playing University School of Nashville. With 90 seconds remaining in the game, Franklin Road Academy inserted Robert Lewis into the game. For the past four years, Robert, who has Down’s Syndrome, has served as the team manager for Franklin Road Academy. But this was “Senior Night,” and Franklin Road Academy’s coach decided to put Robert in the game.

With just five seconds left in the game, Robert Lewis, being guarded by his younger brother, Matthew, sank a three-pointer from deep in the corner! A picture that was snapped just as he released his shot, shows the unmistakable hope that it would go in on his younger brother’s face. And “go in” it did; nothing but net!

Immediately, Matthew congratulated his brother, and the court was rushed by fans. Robert was hoisted up and carried off the court on the shoulders of his peers. What a beautiful scene! After the game, Robert was interviewed and he said, “I was so happy that everyone loved me so much, and after the game, everyone was crying with joy and I saw it through people’s eyes. And I loved it!” Robert also said he gained a new nickname by his friends. He said, “They now call me ‘Money’ because I make three-pointers.”

I’m constantly amazed by the power of compassion and kindness. It’s life-changing! It etches events so deep into our memories, they last a lifetime. May I challenge you today? Acts of life-changing, life-long lasting memories aren’t just created on the basketball court. They can be created anywhere; at home, school, and work. Let me challenge you to purposefully show compassion to someone this week. Not only can it be life-changing, it can actually become eternity-changing!

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Feb 09

“Honor to Whom Honor is Due” Series – Kim Higginbotham

kim This will be the final installment in this “Honor to Whom Honor is Due” series. The goal of this series was to recognize and thank those who helped and encouraged me to “begin” preaching. There are a myriad of people I could list who have been and continue to be encouragers to me after I began preaching, (to whom I am greatly indebted), but who are outside the scope of this particular series.

There is no way I could even contemplate a series like this without mentioning my wife, Kim Higginbotham. We met in school before I ever became a preacher, and she encouraged me to preach then, and has stood beside me, being my greatest encourager for the past 32 years.

I like to tell people that we married on “blind faith” — Prior to getting married, I had never once tasted her cooking and she had never once heard me preach. :-) I need not say that I got the better end of that deal! I have a copy of the very first sermon I preached when I began my local work, and it’s so embarrassing I can barely bring myself to listen to it. But, from the way that Kim encouraged me in those early years, I would have thought I was actually good.

A preacher cannot have a fragile disposition or spirit. Every time he preaches, he makes himself vulnerable to the critique of the entire assembly. He will find that the “greeting line” at the door is much longer when he misspeaks, or inverts a Scripture reference, than when he executes flawlessly. At times he will wonder if anyone ever heard the 99% of his sermon wherein he didn’t misspeak. When I’ve wanted to go home and “pull the covers up over my head,” Kim has been the consummate encourager.

I can also say without hesitation that I really did marry up. Kim really is a better person than I am, and has helped me be a better preacher. I often refer to her as my “better judgment.” I solicit her advice and counsel and couldn’t imagine life without it. Her advice, her requests, and her gentle corrections have helped me become a better person, a better father, and a better preacher. She makes me realize just how important it is to marry someone who loves the Lord. Her love for God has made my work easier and has made me so much of a better person than I otherwise think I would have been.

There have been several times in our lives when I had opportunities to move and preach in places that would have drastically increased our salary and would have been good for Kim and our children in a variety of ways. Yet, for one reason or another, in my best judgment, I declined those offers. Never did I have to deal with pouting or angry wife who felt she was being deprived. Rather, she has always been on the same page with me, supporting and agreeing with my decisions, even at great personal loss.

Because of my job, I’ve been thrust into violent situations. I’ve been robbed at gunpoint. I’ve been threatened to be shot by an abusive husband. I’ve had a man threaten to burn our house down while we slept, and a host of other similar situations. Such unpleasantries have never caused Kim to suggest that I might want to do something “safer.”

Someone may be tempted to say, “Sounds like Kim’s the perfect ‘Preacher’s Wife.'” No, that’s not so, and she and I will tell you why. There’s just no such thing as a “Preacher’s Wife.” (That’s an invention of brethren who want to place extra-biblical expectations on a woman married to a preacher). Of course there are women who are married to preachers, but don’t speak of a “Preacher’s Wife” as if it is a position. It’s not. Being a “Preacher’s Wife” is no different that being a “Plumber’s Wife,” or a “School Teacher’s Wife.” Let me tell you what makes Kim so great.  It’s because she is a model Christian woman trying to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Period. That’s what makes me so indebted to her and thankful that she’s my wife.

Whatever good I may be able to accomplish in my life will be accomplished by God’s grace and the help, support, strength, and encouragement I’ve received from Kim.


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Feb 08

“Honor to Whom Honor is Due” Series – Rose Higginbotham

mom As I recognize people who have influenced me to preach, I must include my mom along with my dad as the two most influential people in my life. I really feel like I could not have been raised in a better home or by better parents.

I don’t have any memories of either my mom or my dad trying to convince me to become a preacher when I got older. But they had everything to do that with decision. You see, as I said before, “Preachers aren’t born, they’re made,” and from the time I was born, my mom and dad instilled in me a love for God and his word.

Being married to a preacher is not always the easiest thing. It was even more difficult living next door to the church building and all the interruptions that brought, including weekly use of our basement by the church. How many of you would want the church invited to your basement every week for meetings, meals, etc.? But mom dealt with all that with grace. I’ve heard some mothers married to preachers say they would never encourage their sons to preach.  How sad, and how thankful I am that my mom did not have such a disposition.

Some of my earliest memories of home were with my mom and me saying bedtime prayers. I have memories of sitting on her lap as she read from a red Bible story book that had stick figure illustrations on the inside. I remember mom teaching us how to make puppets out of brown lunch bags and watching my sister and me re-enact Bible stories. I remember my mom inviting neighborhood children to our home for Bible studies. I remember mom checking my weekly Bible class lessons on Saturday to make sure that I had them done for Bible class. I remember being so proud when I walked into my 1st & 2nd Grades Bible class to have my mom as a teacher. In my mind, I can still see her using the flanelgraph for lessons, and a house made of Styrofoam in which the lame man was let down through the roof ( it doubled through the week as a fortress for my army men). I remember when it was bedtime and the house would get quiet, I’d hear my mom and dad reading their Bibles aloud together. This is the kind of mother I had.

My mom and dad did without so that they could send me to a college wherein they thought I would get the best Bible education. And you know what I discovered when I arrived at Freed-Hardeman? I discovered the my mom and dad had prepared me well by helping me to have a good foundation of Bible knowledge.

Those of you who know me know how proud I am of my dad, but as proud as I am of my dad, I am every bit as proud of my mom. I don’t know what or where I’d be today if it weren’t for the godly mother I had who tried to instill those values into me.  Not everyone could say this, but I’d give anything if I could turn back the clock 50 years and relive just a week in my home. But since I can’t do that, I’ll just have to savor the memories. Thanks, Mom! I love you!

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Feb 07

“Honor to Whom Honor is Due” Series – David Roach

roachAs I consider people who have helped and influenced me in my early decision to preach, up to this point, I have talked about older people. However, in this article, I am going to add a peer to this list. David Roach grew up in the same home town as I did. However, we weren’t friends. In fact, all I knew of David was that he was a guy you wanted to steer clear of.

However, around the years 1978-1980 (I don’t remember exactly), David and his wife, Pam were converted. And suddenly David’s life changed; and changed in a way that I had never before witnessed. David became passionate about serving Jesus. During this time, we became good friends, and as I went off to Freed-Hardeman to be trained to preach, David and his wife went to the East Tennessee School of Preaching for the same purpose.

During the time leading up to David and me going to school and while we were in school, we studied together. We read debates and argued with each other, sharpening our reasoning skills.  We read and re-read Brother Thomas B. Warren’s debates and books. We had Bible studies with a religious leader in a local religious sect. And through the years we have attended debates and lectureships together in pursuit of better equipping ourselves to serve the Lord.

Although David didn’t help me make the decision to preach (I had already made that decision by the time we became friends), David helped me to be more passionate about Bible study.  David taught me the power the gospel has to change lives. He taught me that I should never decide for another person whether they would be interested in the gospel. I would never in a million years have thought that the David Roach I knew of in High School would become a brother in Christ, and one of my most trusted confidants. But the gospel is powerful!

Through the years, if I had a Bible question, or if I needed to bounce a biblical matter off of someone, David Roach would the very first person who came to my mind. His careful, logical, analytical way of thinking, coupled with his willingness to follow truth wherever it leads, and whatever changes it may demand, has been a priceless help to me. We have spent hundreds of hours on the phone together (back in the day before cell phones and when you had to pay long distance charges), discussing biblical matters.

Through the years, we’ve encouraged each other in our respective local works. When the opportunity arose to move to Karns, David Roach was the first person I called to get his advice about the matter. I’ve never had a brother, but if I did, I would have wanted him to be like David; i.e. someone who would encourage me to think, study, and pursue godliness above everything else in this world. From the time that David and I became friends, I always thought the following passage was a good summary of our relationship: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

I’ve been fortunate to have a “David Roach” in my life. He has helped to refine my life and my understanding of Scripture. I hope you can find a friend like this too! Thanks, Roach!

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Feb 06

Honor to Whom Honor is Due – Johnny Ramsey

RamseyAs I give honor to those who helped me early on as I began preaching, I must mention Johnny Ramsey. Johnny Ramsey was affectionately known as the “Walking Bible.” In all my life, I have never known another man who had committed Scripture to memory like Johnny Ramsey had done.

Johnny Ramsey and his wife, Iris became friends with my mom and dad many years ago. In fact they stayed in our home several times as he preached in gospel meetings in Chester, WV.

To me, as a young man, Johnny Ramsey was right up there with the apostles. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to receive periodic mailings from him.  Whenever Johnny would would write a book, I would usually receive an unsolicited signed copy from him, along with an encouraging note. As I look back at his gifts, it even means more to me today than it did when I was in school. As busy as he was, he took the time to encourage and help me in my desire to preach.

Johnny passed away ten years ago, but before he died he spent some time with me when I was preaching in Glasgow, KY. I had mentioned to him in passing some trouble I was having with a lady who was pushing an agenda about which I had reservations. I’ll never forget the night this lady tried to enlist brother Ramsey to join “her side” on this issue. By the time brother Ramsey got done talking about her proposal, she had to have wished she would have never brought the subject up to him. She was left speechless. He said what I would have never have said, although I must admit that I had day-dreamed about saying those things ;-). Anyway, as we left the building that night and were walking to my car, he looked at me and winked saying, “There! I hope that puts that issue to rest for you.” No one ever accused Johnny Ramsey of not being straight-forward.

Through the years, I have listened to hundreds of sermons preached by Johnny Ramsey. But one of the more memorable sermons I heard him preach was in St. Albans, WV.  He told of a time in his life that he turned his back on God. He said that if he had died during that period of his life, he would have been lost. But he came to himself, repented, and committed himself to a life of service to the Lord. His humble admission of failure was not something I had heard many preachers admit to, but by sharing this story, he made himself more real to me. I have used his story through the years many times to impress upon people God’s grace and what can be accomplished by one who was once lost, but decided to change his ways.

I am indebted to Johnny Ramsey for his example, for all the ways he personally tried to encourage me to preach, and for all the insights that I still glean from listening to his sermons.

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