Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Is Your Heart Ready For Christmas?

We are just a couple of days away from Christmas. There’s been lots of things happening to prepare for this special time with family & friends. Over the past month, Beverly & I have been decorating the house, buying gifts, sending cards, etc. Christmas is one of our favorite times of the year. There’s nothing like the joy that comes by sharing our love & what we have with family & friends in our own special ways.

Although this past year has been different & even difficult, God has kept us! Today, we reflect on God’s goodness in spite of the circumstances! This Christmas, we encourage you to remember that the true Christmas spirit is wrapped up in John 3:16 – “God loved us so much that He gave His Son, Jesus, so that we can have eternal life.”

Beyond the great food, beyond the lights, beyond the music & beyond the gifts…God reminds us of the most wonderful gift that has ever been given…this gift is Jesus. The babe in the manger. The Savior of the world, who brought the promise of unconditional love, unending hope & eternal life to every person who believes in Him!

As we reflect on the goodness of The Lord, I was reminded of Paul’s writing in 2 Corinthians 9:15 “Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!”

I feel like that many times. I run out of words to describe His incredible gift!

As we’ve made our homes ready for Christmas, we need to make sure our hearts are also ready…both to receive & to share God’s love with others. Allow your ARMS to be the arms of Jesus, “reaching in love!” Allow your VOICE to be His voice as you share words of encouragement & hope with others. Allow your HANDS to be His hands that bring healing & comfort to others.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas!

Russell & Beverly Hylton

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Don't Let Your Soul Freeze To Death

A man finds a goose that was shaking with cold & stuck to a pole in Montana. As he got closer, he realized that wrapped up in her wings was a tiny puppy she was shielding from the freezing temperatures. (According to reports, both the goose & the puppy have recovered, were adopted together & are doing well.)

We have so much to learn from God's creation.

This is just a glimpse of what the church looks like. We come together & find strength from one another.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 "Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken."

When you stop coming to church, your soul can freeze to death.


Monday, December 14, 2020




I remember when I first heard this word. I was sitting in a conference where ministerial tax benefits & laws were being discussed.  The idea is that an ordained minister performs "sacerdotal" duties such as weddings, funerals, baptisms, communion, worship, etc.

All of the above mentioned duties are definitely part of a pastor's work. However, Seminary, Bible College or Ministry School don't prepare you for the "sacerdotal" duties that AREN'T mentioned. 

I can't count the number of WEDDINGS I've officiated in 34 years of ministry. 
I can't count the number of FUNERALS I've officiated in 34 years of ministry.
I can't count the number of BAPTISMS I've officiated in 34 years of ministry.
I can't count the number of ...........

However, they don't teach you in Bible College how to pastor a church during a pandemic. 

As Covid-19 drags on, many pastors are finding themselves tired, discouraged & anxious regarding the long-term implications of this pandemic. Pastors are wondering how they can fulfill their "sacerdotal" duties successfully.  Pastoral burnout is a predictable outcome for those who are running the race at a sprinter's pace rather than what is more likely to be a marathon. 

Pastors are desperate to communicate the message of faith & hope, but the means of communicating that message is difficult to determine. With the responsibility of caring for their hurting flock, from a distance, the challenge weighs heavy on their shoulders. I must admit, it can all but deplete your emotional & spiritual reserves.  Not having access to the "normal tools" people find reassuring - eye contact, bedside manner & physical presence - when comfort is desperately needed can feel like a defeating task. 
Fortunately, we have a promise that The Holy Spirit will lead & guide us into all truth.  The past nine months have brought a variety of emotions, decisions, and ups & downs. We've fought for our faith & refused to let fear grip us. The core of the church has held steady & witnessed spiritual & numerical growth in our covenant family.  God has kept us as we've pulled together to shoulder the weight of ministry. 

Pastoring during a pandemic has taught me the following...

1. Be Innovative. 
Look for creative ways to share the Gospel. You're not obligated to continue to do the same ole' thing. Use this season as an opportunity to dismount broken or dead programs, approaches & unfruitful traditions. Some would call it a reset.  Make full use of technology & don't worry about having the best of the best to work with.  Even if you don't have professional cameras/sound/lighting, etc., use your iPhone & realize that most people appreciate the "raw" real you/message with or without the bells & whistles.  Strive for excellence & make full use of what you have.

2. Be Faithful To What You've Been Taught. 
Hold fast to the testimony of the saints. Don't backslide, ghost your church or drop out.  Good teaching will keep you...even during a pandemic.  Continue to be faithful to your church, even if it's online only. Continue to be faithful in your tithes/offerings. Continue to serve where needed. Continue to communicate.

3. Be Compassionate. 
Everyone is fighting a battle. This season has brought new causes for despair all its own: more parishioners are facing physical illness, more of them grieving lost loved ones, more of them teetering on economic despair, anxiety & depression. Pray more & check on people who are struggling. In order for pastors to have sustainable, healthy relationships with their congregations, more lay leaders - not pastors - must take spiritual responsibility for the growth & maturity of others. 

4. Be Fruitful. 
Don't let Covid, or anything else, cause you to be unfruitful.  Increase your witnessing. God expects a fruitful church.  Burying your gift (failing to develop & use it) is frowned upon in the Kingdom because it robs those for whom the benefit was intended. 

5. Be Truthful. 
Some of the same folks who say they can't come to church due to health concerns...YET are out there living their best life at parties, gatherings, work, stores, get-to-gathers, sports, shopping, etc. can be aggravating...especially when you're exhausting yourself to pour into people who are hiding behind excuses. Friend, no matter who's being be honest.  The Scriptures teach us to let your Yeah be Yeah & your Nay be Nay. (Matthew 5:37)  Walk in truth & God will reward you.

6. Reproduce Resources & Train.
By necessity, most churches are putting their services online.  However, without the feedback of an in-service response or post-service conversation, preaching to an iPhone leaves many wondering how to discern whether the message is effectively reaching those who are in their homes.  Such a void can leave pastors dismayed.  We have been challenged to produce Children's Ministry Resources that parents can download & share with their kids. This requires a lot of time & energy from our teams who may wonder if their work is even being utilized.  I believe we must continue to plant the seed & allow God to bring the increase. 

The task of a shepherd is never easy. But we need not despair, nor should we attempt to carry the weight ourselves. Our HOPE in Jesus is our greatest comfort. We do not shepherd alone.  The Good Shepherd - the one who gave His life for the sheep - loves His church far more than we do, and He is, at this very moment, leading His church & beckoning us to have FAITH & FOLLOW wherever He leads. 

I'm praying for pastors & parishioners alike. Don't let a case of the "Monday Blues" beat you up! You are where you're supposed to be!  Be yourself. You don't have to compare yourself with anyone else. Hold your head up & take one day at a time. You're not alone!  Others are experiencing the same emotions - up or down - as you. God believes in YOU!

Monday, November 2, 2020

Dear Young Preacher

The need to prove your worth can stem from a lack of affirmation.

When you recognize this & you're willing to process it, you will realize ultimately that your worth comes from Christ IN you...not the opinions of other people.

Obviously, we all desire someone to believe in us. (e.g., parents, friends, employer, teachers, pastors, mentors, leaders, family, etc.)

But what if you never have the affirmation of those people? Can you still walk in confident humility, reach for your goals & be your best without their support? Can you reach down within yourself & tap into your God placed seed of value?

As a parent, it is my responsibility & desire to prepare & promote my child to discover their God-given greatness! I affirm my child with positive reinforcement, discipline & opportunities that cultivate their self-esteem, tenacity & awareness of God's DNA in their life. Parents desire their children to exceed their own limitations by enabling them to see farther & go further.

This is also one of the reasons we are in desperate need of SPIRITUAL FATHERS. Sons need Fathers/Mothers in The Kingdom of God who will LOVE them, HELP them, PREPARE them, BELIEVE in them & SHOW them the way.

In the United States - 19.7 million children, more than 1 in 4, live without a father in the home. Consequently this crisis has affected our children in the following ways:

• Poverty
• Teen Pregnancy
• Behavioral Problems
• Child Abuse
• Substance Abuse
• Incarceration
• Child Obesity
• Crime
• Education

These are mere "natural" effects. But what about the Spiritual effects? The one I above mentioned is the "Need To Affirm" ourselves. See, when you haven't been affirmed by a father, you'll spend a lot of your energy trying to PROVE who you are by the THINGS you do. You end up deriving your worth based on WHAT you do rather than WHO you are.

I have determined to be a Spiritual Father...even when there have been times that I felt like walking away from that role. One of the qualifications for being a FATHER is that you are also a SON. Sonship births Fatherhood. (Spiritually speaking). If you can't or won't be a SEATED SON then serving in the Kingdom of God as a Spiritual Father is beyond your reach.

One thing that a Spiritual Father does is that they remain on the porch. They don't go chasing after sons. They make a path for sons to find their way to & from home. (Launching Pad / Home Base) It's under the covering of a Spiritual Father that ministries are birthed & sent. The DNA of a Father must be in the sending & birth of any qualified ministry. This is the way God builds generationally. Apostolic Alignment stems from this principle. Without it, at best we masquerade a bastard ministry under the sheer veil of a renegade zeal.

Be yourself.
Allow others to brag on you.
Be comfortable in your own skin.
Don't name drop.
Take care of unfinished business.
Receive correction.
Be patient.

See, when you know WHO you are & WHOSE you are, you're able to settle in your own skin. You won't need to SHOWBOAT by bragging on your ACCOMPLISHMENTS, trying to get more FANS on Instagram or name dropping WHO you know. When you know WHO you are & WHO your FATHER can sit on the back row & be comfortable without being asked to be seated in the VIP section. :)

There is great PEACE & FREEDOM in processing this in your life. In fact, I think it's one of the things you'll have to master on your journey.

Blessings to you friends!
You are LOVED!
You are VALUED!

Remain humble, submitted & willing to serve wherever & whenever. You're right where God wants you! Make the most of every assignment! It's all rolled up into one journey of faith!

Monday, September 21, 2020

Watch Out For Charlatans!

“Walk with the wise & become wise; associate with fools & get in trouble.” Proverbs 13:20

We are living in a time where believers must guard themselves from spiritual charlatans.

What is a CHARLATAN? A charlatan (also called a swindler) is a person practicing quackery or some similar confidence trick or deception in order to obtain money, fame or other advantages via some form of pretense or deception. Synonyms for charlatan include shyster, quack, or faker.

Sadly, there are many self-proclaimed "apostles, prophets & pastors" who prey on weak minded believers by enticing their thirst & curiosity for the "supernatural" with a so called "WORD FROM THE LORD"...which really aren't words from The Lord, but rather flesh driven trickery to control, manipulate & keep a cycle of dependency on them rather than Christ.

This is one reason why we need true pastors & true spiritual fathers/mothers in our life. They help guide our discernment through sound biblical teaching. They protect us from charlatans & those who would take advantage of our good nature & innocence.

As a shepherd, you take great care in leading, feeding & protecting those whom you've been entrusted. It pains you to see folks fanged by the teeth of carnivorous wolves who make cloaked promises of positions, titles & familiarity. True spiritual discernment can see through the veil of appearances & anyone with even a natural eye can see a person's track record in both the natural & spiritual. God will reveal it & has.

I caution people to avoid associations with this spirit. It is "another spirit" masquerading around the body of Christ. It longs for the affirmation of fatherhood but was never legitimately birthed. It appears to have the structure of biblical theology but it's foundation is pride & self-promotion. Discerning believers should not let its poison have access to their life.

Romans 16:17-18 "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple."

You cannot cover what remains uncovered.
You cannot lead what will not be led.

However, you can continue to teach the truth, model & love unconditionally. Father's don't leave the porch. They remain on the porch with a watchful eye for prodigals on the horizon.

Some more information that is helpful...

Friday, July 10, 2020

Marriage Is Honorable

Beverly & I married very young. Looking back, we know that it has been MORE THAN LOVE that has kept us together for 29 years of marriage.  We've had our share of joys, tears, struggles & growth. JESUS has been the interwoven thread in our relationship. Without Him, we very easily could have been torn apart at the seam.  Marriage doesn't have to be PERFECT to be BEAUTIFUL.

A few things I'm still learning...

1. Husbands...God did not give you authority in your household so you can get your way. When God gives authority to you, it is ALWAYS for the benefit of those you are responsible for. If you want a great marriage, pursue your wife's well-being above your own.

2. You can get married in 30 minutes but it can take 30 years to have a marriage. 

3. The way a man TREATS his wife is a reflection of his strength or weakness.

4. Before you complain about your wife LOOK in the mirror & ask yourself, "Is God pleased with the way I'm being a husband?"

5. She's my wife, not my child. God took woman out of man's side (close to his heart). I don't rule over her & she doesn't rule over me. We walk TOGETHER in mutual respect, sacrifice, forgiveness & purpose. 

Beverly & I have been teasing back & forth, for a couple of weeks, by calling each other "King" & "Queen."  One thing that makes me smile is that we share a similar humor. We can hear something, see something or say something that will make one another laugh...and we could laugh about it for a few weeks. lol  

Marriage takes work. You have to be committed. You have to be willing to work through your personality differences & quirks. We don't claim to have a perfect marriage, by any means, but we have a GOOD marriage.  When you add the weight of ministry in the mix...we have to remember that God brought us together as husband & wife with an added benefit of a shared calling.  Sometimes the weight is extremely heavy...but God has always carried us through. :) 

These past few months have been tough on marriages. We've prayed for a lot of couples. The stress of what's happening in the world has been intense.  Friends, don't give up on your marriage. Be flexible, quick to forgive, refuse to hold grudges, learn to love one another the way that CHRIST LOVES YOU.

Marriage is honorable.

Friday, July 3, 2020

LIFE Will Happen To You Like It Happens To Everyone

LIFE will happen to you like it happens to everyone. When it does, be sure that you:
1) Have a relationship with the LORD in a personal way...not just a religious way. #NotJustSundaySalvation
2) Have FAMILY who you’ve invested your life into & are loyal. At the end of the day, family is all you have - because most everyone else will walk away from you. Stay close to your family - even with their imperfections! #TheyAreYourPeople
3) Are connected to FRIENDS who consider you a friend & understand what true covenant relationship is. #RideOrDie
4) Have a grateful HEART for all the Lord has done in your life. He's brought you through so many things!
5) FORGIVE quickly. Keep a short list & remember that it is UNFORGIVABLE to be UNFORGIVABLE. Just as Jesus forgave you of your trespasses & are you to do with others.