Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Keep Your Fork

There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things "in order," she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in.

Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her. "There's one more thing," she said excitedly. "What's that?" came the pastor's reply.

"This is very important," the young woman continued."I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand."

The pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say.

"That surprises you, doesn't it?" the young woman asked.

"Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request," said the pastor.

The young woman explained. "My grandmother once told me this story, and from there on out, I have always done so. I have also, always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement."

She continued, "In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, 'Keep your fork' It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming, like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!"

"So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder "What's with the fork?". Then I want you to tell them: "Keep your fork, the best is yet to come."

The pastor's eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye.

He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She KNEW that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the young woman's casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the pastor heard the question "What's with the fork?" And over and over he smiled.

During his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her.

The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either.

He was right.

So the next time you reach down for your fork, let it remind you ever so gently, that the best is yet to come.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

illegal dumping

One bright four year old prayed, "And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets."

People who put trash in our baskets! Ever met someone like that? These are people who don't seem to mind telling you what you neither wanted to hear nor expected to hear. Yet, they see it as their God ordained lot in life to illegally dump on other people without any regard to feelings or otherwise.

There are those that are illegally dumping 'by speaking the truth.' They have read the scripture that you are to speak the truth in love, but somehow miss the 'in love' aspect. It seems that this interpretation of that scripture allows them to say unrestrained whatever they have on their heart regarding you. Because after all they are 'speaking the truth!' There is no concern for your feelings, how you are going to receive it, and by the way, if it is really true!

There are also those that are illegally dumping by speaking 'constructive criticism' to you. It is their intent to inform you of how wrong you are by hiding it under the disguise of 'constructive criticism' rather than destructive criticism. No matter how you wrap it, it still is destructive.

Then there are those that illegally dump by 'just criticizing' for criticisms sake. They are predisposed in life to be negative about everything and everyone. I don't have time nor grace for these people!

Regardless of which of the three someone is using to illegally dump on you, the results are devastating to say the least. It is so easy to sound superior when we talk to others about their shortcomings. It makes us appear a little holier than they! But God says that we are to approach others with meekness, since we are subject to the same weaknesses that they are. True meekness is the fruit of the Spirit's control in our lives; we ourselves are to be filled with the Spirit. When He is in control we will sound neither harsh nor unkind, nor will we imply for a moment that we are faultless ourselves.
Eph 4:29
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. NIV

Oh, that God's people would learn to shut their mouths from illegally dumping and only use them to bless and build others up!

Only speak words of life!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Walk a Different Street!

I ran across this in some of my studies on 'Recovery' and felt like it was something that needed to be shared.
Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson

I. I walk down the street.
There's a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost.....I am helpless;
it isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

II. I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place;
but it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

III. I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall's a habit.
My eyes are open
I know where I am..
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

IV. I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

V. I walk down a different street.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. Lord, may we be ever mindful of the snares that are out there and not repeat mistakes again and again. Pastoring is often about getting people to go down a different street.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Baptist No More?

A man talking about the church he attended as a youth said the following, “It hasn't changed that much, except in Saddleback fashion they dropped Baptist from their name a few years back. Now that caused quite a commotion. My mom still can't believe "we aren't Baptist anymore" (her interpretation of them removing Baptist from the church sign).”

Does removing the name 'Baptist' mean you're not Baptist anymore? Don’t you believe it! Because being Baptist (or any other denomination or movement) has to do with the heart and mind more than it does a sign or designation. I know people who were raised Baptist and became Charismatic that in their hearts are still bound by their Baptist years. How do I know, well just mess with some ingrained Baptist teaching and that Baptist spirit will raise it’s ugly head. And what is that spirit- a spirit of legalism and traditionalism.

It’s nothing new nor relegated to just the Baptist. Jesus talked about the religious leaders in this way:
Mark 7:6-8; 13
6 "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.' 8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men."
13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that." NIV

We are no different today. Think about our great Biblical teachings on ‘no dancing,’ ‘no smoking,’ ‘no drinking,’ ‘no short hair (women)’ or ‘long hair (men),’ ‘wear no makeup (both men and women),’ ‘go to no movies,’ ‘play no cards (especially with dice),’ ‘wear no slacks,’ ‘King James Only,’ 'no tattoos,' 'no earrings,' and on and on. We have the various traditions of men that are so very often devoid of any scripture reference or at least strain a scripture to prove a 'conviction.' If the Bible is the Word of God, what happened to chapter and verse?

Today new forms of traditions are settling in: revival movement, seeker service, emerging church, apostolic and prophetic movement, etc., and all are destined to be the traditions today that men will die on tomorrow.

Tradition has an insidious way of becoming ingrained in a very short time.

Think about your own local expression of the Body of Christ- what are you doing that has become tradition? You can generally tell by beginning to tamper with it- watch and hear the response!

BTW- If one says I will die a Baptist (or put whatever you wish here ____________), it means I will die not changing. Period!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Why Church Is Important

Check out my friend, Bobby Lepinay's blog on

'Why Church is Important.'

Friday, March 17, 2006


A friend sent me this little pic and I remembered a story that Dr. Stuart Briscoe told. Here it is:

I was in the supermarket one day, and a lady came down the aisle whom I could barely see over the top of her groceries. I got somewhat frightened because she seemed to be heading straight for me. She screeched to a halt within a few feet of me, peered over her load and wagged her finger, and said, "I left your church. I left your church."

So I said, "Well, if it’s my church, I think it was a very wise decision. If it’s my church, I think I’m going to leave too."

She said, "Don’t you want to know why I left?"

I said, "No, not particularly, but I think I’m going to find out." And I was right.

She said, "You weren’t meeting my needs."

I answered, "I don’t ever recollect seeing you before, let alone talking to you, let alone knowing your needs. Did you ever tell anyone specifically what your needs were?"

She couldn’t recall that she had, so I raised another question. "Can you tell me, if we have 5000 people sitting in that church, all with your attitude, how anyone’s needs are going to be met? If you reserve the right to have that attitude, then you must give everybody the freedom to have that attitude. And if everybody has that attitude, who on earth is going to do all the need-meeting?"

Standing her ground, she demanded, "Then you tell me who will."

Relieved, I said, "I thought you’d never ask. This is what will work: when people stop sitting in the pew saying, ‘They’re not meeting my needs’ and start saying, ‘Whose needs can I meet?’ then needs will be met. When the servant spirit flourished in a congregation, then they minister to each other as unto the Lord (Hebrews 10:24-25)."

Boy, isn't that the truth. We now live in the age where consumer mentality runs rampant. We want it now and are willing to shop around until we get it. IT IS ALL ABOUT US! That mentality has carried into the church! People are willing to go from church to church seeking the gratification of their flesh and needs. I doubt that spirituality and loving God has much to do with it.

And even when you do ask you don't get it because your whole aim is wrong-- you want only what will give you pleasure. James 4:33 (TLB)

You're cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. James 4:34 (TMB)

Father, help us with those who have a 'black hole of needs!'

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Mean Spirited = "Acting Crazy in Church"

A friend had a link to this on his blog- thought you might enjoy it!?!
From WTOC11 Savannah, GA

A Vidalia (GA) pastor has called it quits after a fight and shooting Sunday. It started inside the church and spread outside with the pastor's brother now in jail on assault charges. We talked with church members today who say the pastor's resignation may not end the feud.

The police tape is gone from Mt. Zion Baptist after Sunday's shooting and brawl. Member Roosevelt Woodard and others say Pastor Willie Haynes has been locked in a power struggle with deacons over claims Haynes mishandled church money.

"He had a meeting that was out of order because he didn't call anybody but his people, and they didn't invite the deacons and he dismissed the deacons," said Woodard. "That was out of order."

The brawl Sunday started in the church's kitchen and quickly spread. Members say what complicates this issue is, among the people who want Pastor Haynes gone are his own in-laws, who've been here longer than he.

"It's a family thing they've got going on at Mt. Zion," said church member Tiffany Hunt. "They want him gone, I guess, so one of their people can come in and preach or whatever."

Neighbors wonder what will happen next. "Obviously they're not God's people if they're going to be acting crazy in church," said neighbor Autoya Bolden.

By phone Wednesday morning, Pastor Haynes told us he's done. He says he's resigned and wants to put Mt. Zion behind him.

"Haynes is a good pastor and whoever does pick him up, honey, I'm right behind you," said Hunt. "I'm going with you. I'm following my pastor."

The shooting remains under investigation. Woodard says church members will meet tonight to review the pastor's resignation. He says he and others still want to look at church checkbooks and other financial records.
Prov 20:3
It's a mark of good character to avert quarrels, but fools love to pick fights. TMB

James 3:14-16
But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. KJV (equal time for KJV only friends)

Lord help us as Your Church showing Your expression of love here on earth!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

SMASHES = Fiery Darts

Played our regularly scheduled tennis match this morning. I enjoy getting out with men from the church and playing a game I love. It was great, warm with a little cloud covering.

Today was a marathon match. Carlos and I finally won the first set 13 - 11 (should have played a tie break!). We also won the second set 6 - 4. During the course of the sets one of my opponents hit me twice with an overhead smash as I was at the net. One landed in my private parts causing no little pain. My voice went up many octaves- I could have sung soprano! The other hit me directly in the chest.

Generally getting hit with the ball is unintentional and just part of doubles net play. My opponent just happens to not have that much control on his overhead smashes and I seemed to be the only recipient of them today. He didn't mean too and I tried to encourage him to hit away from me. Please!!!!

I thought later how the enemy of our soul constantly makes repeated smashes against us trying to discourage us and knock us of out of the game. The Bible calls them fiery darts. And they are intentional!

... above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. Eph 6:16 NKJV

We are to surround ourselves with our shield faith in God and His repeated faithfulness to us. This shield is a big one that covers the body from head to toe. With it we are able to deflect those fiery darts and not allow them to land the destructive and death blows as intended. Not only deflect but 'put them out' as quench implies.

We become more than conquers in this life! As we remain in Him we are not defeated but victorious. We overcome the 'smashes' in this life!

Thank your Lord for not leaving us defenseless in this life! Through You we prevail!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

End of Victimization and Poor Me Attitude

I ministered to the SE Liberty Fellowship Conference on the topic- 'Stuck is NOT an Option.'

I said that as pastors we will be victimized with people hurting us and offending us. However, I stressed that we couldn't afford to get stuck. We had to overcome it.

I used an email sent to me by a friend from T. D. Jakes called 'Let It Go.' I want to make it available here.
There are people who can walk away from you. And hear me when I tell you this! When people can walk away from you: let them walk. I don't want you to try to talk another person into staying with you, loving you, calling you, caring about you, coming to see you, staying attached to you. I mean hang up the phone. When people can walk away from you let them walk. Your destiny is never tied to anybody that left.

The Bible said that, they came out from us that it might be made manifest that they were not for us. For had they been of us, no doubt they would have continued with us. [1 John 2:19]

People leave you because they are not joined to you. And if they are not joined to you, you can't make them stay. Let them go. And it doesn't mean that they are a bad person it just means that their part in the story is over. And you've got to know when people's part in your story is over so that you don't keep trying to raise the dead. You've got to know when it's dead. You've got to know when it's over.

Let me tell you something. I've got the gift of good-bye. It's the tenth spiritual gift, I believe in good-bye. It's not that I'm hateful, it's that I'm faithful, and I know whatever God means for me to have He'll give it to me. And if it takes too much sweat I don't need it. Stop begging people to stay. Let them go!!!

If you are holding on to something that doesn't belong to you and was never intended for your life, then you need to ..LET IT GO!!!

If you are holding on to past hurts and pains ...LET IT GO!!!

If someone can't treat you right, love you back, and see your worth...LET IT GO!!!

If someone has angered you ... LET IT GO!!!

If you are holding on to some thoughts of evil and revenge .. LET IT GO!!!

If you have a bad attitude...LET IT GO!!!

If you keep judging others to make yourself feel better... LET IT GO!!!

If you're stuck in the past and God is trying to take you to a new level in Him... LET IT GO!!!

If you are struggling with the healing of a broken relationship....LET IT GO!

If you keep trying to help someone who won't even try to help themselves...LET IT GO!!!

If you're feeling depressed and stressed .... LET IT GO!!!

If there is a particular situation that you are so used to handling yourself and God is saying "take your hands off of it," then you need to... LET IT GO!!!

Let the past be the past. Forget the former things. GOD is doing a new thing!!! LET IT GO!!! Get Right or Get Left .. think about it, and then LET IT GO!!! T. D. Jakes

Last year was a difficult year for me with the death of my father. No sooner did I return to Arlington after burying him that I heared that someone who had attended here for years, but left about 2 years ago, was starting a church not far from here. We proceeded to lose 6 families to him and his new church.

I felt hurt, victimized, and betrayed. I had to begin to walk out all the feelings that come with an event of this nature. It was an agonizing time but finally I received healing from the Lord as He ministered to me that we had gone through a pruning. Prunings are good, they bring about new growth. He got rid of those stuck in the past and is now gathering new people that are following the vision of the house for the future!

I 'Let It Go!' I am free from victimization and the 'poor me' attitude!

Life is good, God is Great!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Challenge to Communicate

A Sunday School teacher asked her class, "What was Jesus' mother's name?"

One child answered, "Mary."

The teacher then asked , "Who knows what Jesus' father name was?"

A little kid siad, "Verge."

Confused, the teacher asked, "Where did you get that name?"

The kid said, "Well, you know, they are always talking about Verge n' Mary."

This is a challenge to me as I communicate the Gospel, to remember that people do not necessarily always understand what I say.

Help me Lord to speak clearly so that all may understand!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

They Will Know Us By Our Love?

"A driver did the right thing, stopping at the crosswalk even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.

The tailgating woman behind him went ballistic, pounding on her horn and screaming in frustration as she missed her chance to drive through the intersection with him. Still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer.

The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up. He took her to the police station where she was searched, fingerprinted, photographed and placed in a cell.

After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects.

He said, "I'm awfully sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping the guy off in front of you, and cussing a blue streak at him. I noticed the "Choose Life" license plate holder, the "What Would Jesus Do?" bumper sticker, the "Follow me to Sunday School" bumper sticker and the chrome plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk.

Naturally, I assumed you had stolen the car."

Don't hide your light! Let it shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all to see, so that they will praise your heavenly Father. Matt 5:15(TLB)

Oops, someone is watching your life and conduct. Will they praise your heavenly Father for your example?

PS. If you're not going to live what you put on your bumper, I suggest you don't put anything on your bumper!

Monday, March 06, 2006

A Pastor's Home- A Christian Home?

After the christening of his brother in church, Mark sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong.

Finally, the boy replied, "that preacher said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, and I wanted to stay with you guys."

Ouch, kids say the must comical but yet sometimes real things. As pastors we need to ask ourselves are we raising our kids in a Christian home? With the stress and tension of ministry, what is our home life like?

If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: ... He must handle his own affairs well, attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God's church? 1 Tim 3:1-5 TMB

I have endeavored over the years of ministry to provide a home for my sons that they delighted living and being in. I have considered it my first important responsibility as a man of God to lead my family well. There are things I have done well and those that I haven't. Let me list the one's I think helped the most.

1. My wife and I never ever talked church issues in front of our sons. They never knew there were any problems and we never talked about church people in front of them.

2. My day off was a day spent some with them. We had the benefit of homeschooling so we could manage our time with them. I guarded that time with them even bearing the ridicule and anger of those needing help wondering why I couldn't help them 'right now.'

3. We took a family vacation every year with them. We continue that tradition now that one of my sons has a wife and she is happy to join us. We will continue when my other son has his gift from God. BTW, I never preached on my vacation, as that was work in my sons eyes.

4. They knew they were loved as I took every opportunity to tell them so and tell them I was proud of them. That continues even to this day.

5. They were disciplined, but with love. We always held them afterward and reinforced our love for them. We never sent them away from our presence.

6. I made it a point to be at all their important activities.

7. They knew they were special and important to us. With us having them later in life and after a few miscarriages, we constantly expressed that they were God's miracle children to us.

8. When each one turned 13 years of age, I took them away for the night to a hotel, ate where they wanted to eat, and do with the evening what they wanted. After we returned to the room, with a compass and the Bible in hand, I introduced them into the world of being 'young men.' We never called them teenagers, but young men. I instructed them from Proverbs 5-7 on maintaining themselves in purity and sexually, from chapters in the Bible about having a passion for God, about respect for their parents, and to believe God for their life assignments. It was a great time with prayer, weeping, and hugging.

9. I never forced the Call of God. I did not want them to go into the ministry just because they were pastor sons. I told them not to do it unless God told them too, not their Dad. I would be pleased with whatever they did. Today they both are in the ministry working on Church staffs.

10. We had fun! We wrestled when they were young. I went out to lunch individually with them. We laughed a lot and still do.

11. I prayed with them and for them. They went to bed with their mother's and my prayers still fresh on their minds.

These are the things that we did to be attentive to our sons and gain their respect. We continue to enjoy the fruit of those important years we had with them.

Thank you Jesus for all your help. We are proud parents!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Paying Attention to God's People

"I knew what I wanted to do: I knew that being a pastor meant being a man of God. I knew that worship was the most important thing I was helping these people learn to do, and I knew that I had to pay attention to them and honor them with dignity, as people with souls made in the image of God. "

"But a pastor is somebody who is context-or place-intensive with a congregation whom he knows by name. There is so much depersonalization and functionalization in our culture. These people deserve to have their name known. They deserve to have somebody who is a spiritual guide and a preacher and a pastor to them who has had a cup of coffee in their kitchen. There is so much alienation, so much loneliness around us. Classically, that’s what a pastor does. We’ve lost that."

"This is a dangerous thing to say, but this is why —all other things being equal —the longer you can stay in one place, the better. You are countering the mobility of our country just by staying. The other thing —not being in a hurry, not rushing —is that people need somebody who shows them that it can be done. You can live this way. The pastor who keeps a Sabbath, who is leisurely about what he does, who has space in his day for people to interrupt him… If you stay in one place long enough, people start noticing. "

Thoughts on ‘The Un-Busy Pastor’ by Eugene Peterson (Cutting Edge-2002)

Lord, help me take time for your people!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Dreams DO Come True

I am at the Liberty Fellowship SE Regional Conference in Birmingham, AL, this week. I am up very early preparing for teaching at 10:30 AM this morning. I was told of this remarkable story this week and needed to share it with you.

The picture above is of 17 year old Jason McElwain, an autistic high school basketball team manager becoming a basketball star!

In his team's final home game of the season, McElwain entered with four minutes to go. It was his first and only appearance for the Athena varsity team in Greece, NY, a Rochester suburb. The 5-foot-6 manager hit six 3-point shots and a 2-pointer and was carried off the court on his teammates' shoulders.

It was a dream come true for him! Here's what he said afterward:

"I'm not really that different," he said. "I don't really care about this autistic situation, really. It's just the way I am. The advice I'd give to autistic people is just keep working, just keep dreaming, you'll get your chance and you'll do it."

His advice is not just for autistic people, we all can benefit from it!

Lord, we all have dreams for the future and we, like Jason, are anticipating them coming true.

To read more about this and see a video (in right column), go to this CBS link.