Sandwiches & Stories

“You used a Black & Decker drill to perform surgery on a man in jail?”  That was my response a few years ago as an OB-GYN doctor serving in medical missions in Africa told her story while we were gathered around our dining room table.  Even better was the fact that this man later came to believe in Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior (John 3:16; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 10:9-13).

This story was one of probably a thousand or more in my lifetime! Growing up in a pastor’s home provided many opportunities for evangelists, college presidents, pastors, and missionaries to put their feet under our kitchen table and/or sleep in our guest bedroom.

I can remember as a grade school aged boy sitting at the kitchen table after an evening church service listening to all kinds of ministry stories.  Those memories are also a part of my junior and senior high school days as well as college.

With eyes wide open and ears open even wider, those narratives told me that life was full of blessings, fun, hardships, trials, laughter, questions, burdens, answers to prayer, rich in Bible knowledge and application, and tears to name a few.  But no doubt about it, those stories from real Christians revealed a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ and an unshakable faith in an awesome, faithful, promise-keeping God!

Interesting enough, I did not learn until long after I had left home that it was my dad who invited most of those folks home.  My mom really did not like duty in the kitchen.  That was just not her “cup-of-tea.”  I share this to encourage you.  Our meals were usually very simple.  The table was not elaborately set.  Mom used what she had, and in our early days at home, that was not much.

You see, it was not the food at the table I remember or how the table was decorated that has left an indelible impression upon me.  Most assuredly, it was all those hours in the presence of simple servants of the Lord.

How grateful I am that many, many times, my folks would let me stay up on a school night way past bedtime to sit under the influence of such godly men and women.  The eternal influence in their eyes was always more important than the temporal influence.

May I encourage you to host missionaries, evangelists, preachers, and other servants of the Lord in your home?  How cool it is to have a faithful missionary from a far-away land while eating dessert share accounts of God’s grace, protection, and answers to prayer!  What an impact it is to listen to a preacher tell about a lost soul receiving Christ as his Savior or expound the Word while eating a grilled cheese sandwich!  Oh, how wonderful to hear a college president while enjoying a bowl of corn chowder share how the Lord provided the school’s needs at just the right time!

Parents, your children need to experience this!  They need to experience it often.

Prepare the guest room, fix some sandwiches and invite a servant of the Lord into your home.  By the way, be sure to open your ears, too!

Life Is Never Boring

Back yard

A peek into my Thursday:

Up at 5:30.

Dunkin Donuts coffee, time in the Word and prayer on my back porch while watching the fog roll in. . . and then out.

Write in my journal.

Send out a few texts to encourage others.

See pictures of a new grandbaby of one of our church family.

Take coffee to my wife.

Read the newspaper, my wife and daughter’s blog, and a few tweets.

Add a few pictures to our church Facebook page.

See what’s been happening in the world via World Magazine site.

Receive an encouraging word from an “everydayer” texter.

Communicate with a missionary concerning an upcoming visit in September.

Talk to a guest speaker who is coming this Sunday night to preach.

Send anniversary greetings to one of my dear friends.

Help my wife a bit in the kitchen as she prepares food to minister to a burdened soul.

Rejoice over answered prayer!!!  Watch God at work!!

Put some of the final touches on Sunday AM’s message.

Leave a “Love is . . . ” cartoon for my wife on the towel covering the freshly baked bread.

Receive a phone call that brings tears of joy!!

Lunch on the back porch.

Begin working on Ephesians study.

Hurt for the tragedy in Barcelona, Spain.

Get rid of a stack of stuff that is not necessary.

Answer emails.

See some church family in the parking lot of a local store.  The smiles on their boys’ faces was priceless.

Listen to, counsel and pray with two lives that are bent and broken under the load of sin.  Grateful for the healing balm of God’s Word.

Watch others minister to the hurting.

Disciple a new believer.

Listen to a song that causes my heart to rejoice because the song repeats the phrase, “In the middle of it all, there is Jesus.”

Share a few thoughts for Sunday’s bulletin.

Enjoy an Ale-8.

Count blessings.

Reflect on some of my reading from this morning in 2 Kings 3 where Elisha tells King Jehoshaphat, For thus says the LORD, . . . This is a light thing in the sight of the LORD (3:17-18).

Have watched God at work all day through the mundane and the important.  Nothing is too hard for our God. It is always a light thing for Him because “in the middle of it all, there is Jesus.”

Clippin’ Grace Coupons in Ministry

Every week ministry is filled and enriched by God’s grace.  No matter what kind of week it has been, grace has been sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9) and overflowing (2 Corinthians 9:8).  Here’s another peek into some of the grace coupons I clipped in recent days.

COUPON #1:  COUPLES’ ADVANCE

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Several years ago, I attended my first Men’s Prayer Advance, and I have never been the same since.  The MPA is the highlight conference for me each year.  Last week, my wife and I attended our first Couples Advance.  The fact that is was held in Pigeon Forge, TN, made the event that much sweeter!  How we love East Tennessee and the Smokies!  More importantly, how wonderful to come apart for three days and intentionally work on our marriage by the grace of God.  This past June we celebrated our 35th Anniversary, and we both love the gift of marriage and love being married!  Seriously, sometimes I feel like we are still on our honeymoon.  But, because we are two sinners saved by grace (Ephesians 2:1-9) and accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6), we need the searchlight of God’s Word to show where we must grow and change to be more like Christ (Ephesians 5:18-33). Of course, the Word works (Hebrews 4:12)!  What a blessing to get honest with God and each other.  The marriage triangle says it all:

marriage-triangle

COUPON #2:  PREACHING THROUGH REVELATION


He that can toy with his ministry and count it to be like a trade, or like any other profession, was never called of God. But he that has a charge pressing on his heart, and a woe ringing in his ear, and preaches as though he heard the cried of hell behind him, and saw his God looking down on him–oh, how that man entreats the Lord that his hearers may not hear in vain! – Charles Spurgeon

Preparing to preach from this awesome book every Sunday takes considerable time, prayer, and digging.  To mine out the truths and deliver them without a sensational spin as well as be true to the text is a chore but a delightful one. I often think of a line from the movie, Sheffey, when he preaches his first sermon and runs out of the church in fear.  Shed McCombs, in the face of Sheffey’s protests and not willing to let him quit, declares, “Tis a fearful thing to preach the Word of God!”  Indeed it is, but I must say, how grateful to be grace-enabled to preach Revelation in these last days!

Clippin’ Grace Coupons in Ministry

Returning to the Place I Meet with God and Study His Word:  How blessed to be able to take advantage of the grace gift of a place to study and prepare messages for each Sunday!  A place of no distractions, very limited cell service, a place to be still and listen to the voice of God speak through His Word and in prayer.  Why do I go there?  The greatest burden I bear each week is the preparation to preach the Word on Sundays and Wednesdays.  My wife asked me yesterday, “When have you stepped out in faith?”  I said, with a chuckle, “When I married you!”  And that is the truth because we have had to lean on the Lord every day of our married lives. Then I followed it up with a more serious answer, “Every week when I prepare to preach.”  Handling God’s Word is no light assignment, and I want to give the sheep I shepherd good grain each week.  Therefore, this new place of study has become very, very dear to me.

Pastor’s Pals:  For years I’ve had the children in the Sunday morning service come up front and sit on the floor with me while I share an object lesson, work with Buddy Bear, sing songs, and teach truths for life.  How precious are these kids . . . many of whom are now in college and/or married. What an awesome privilege and responsibility it is to minister to these little hearts.  My passion is for them to serve the Lord today and to grow up to be more than just good.  I want them to see them be godly and follow the Lord all their days!

A Day With My Wife Getting Our “Batteries” Recharged:  Since coming back from our August Sabbatical, the ministry calendar has been full of the expected as well as the unexpected that is not unexpected with the Lord.  Having planned for this day back in the summer, it came at a great time.  How wonderful to go to one of our favorite get-away places, Dollywood, and hear good Southern Gospel music from two of my favorite groups, Greater Vision and Karen Peck & New River.  How our hearts were stirred and revived as we listened to music that pointed us to Christ, His atoning work on the cross, His power to save and heal, as well as the promise of Heaven.  One song, among many, that encouraged my heart was written by Rodney Griffin. Here are the lyrics and a link if you desire to listen to it.  As a pastor, you’ll understand why it ministered to my heart.
Preacher, Tell Me Like It Is
Preacher,I’d say it’s been a while since you heard this request,
but my spirit is tired and I need rest.
I want to hear from Heaven a clear word from God,
A sermon of conviction straight from the heart.

(verse 2)
I’ve been hearin’ other preachers say I don’t have to change.
The most eloquent of speakers tell me I’m okay.
But it hasn’t eased my conscience and I know it’s not the truth.
So when you stand before us, can I count on you?

(chorus)
Oh Preacher, you say you want to be my friend,
don’t be afraid to call my sin what it is.
And Preacher, tell me I can overcome,
but it’s only by the blood of the Lamb.
Don’t tell me like I wish it was, Preacher tell me like it is.

(verse 3)
So open up the Word and let the Spirit lead,
Preach until I’ve heard God speak to me.
Don’t worry ’bout my feelin’s, don’t worry ’bout my shame,
Just preach the cross of Jesus and that I’m to blame!

(chorus)

(bridge)
Life is quickly passing, the world is fading fast
and the foolishness of preaching is the only hope we have.

(chorus)

http://www.letssingit.com/greater-vision-lyrics-preacher-tell-me-like-it-is-7d3h74r#ixzz4NgBsMm6S

YouTube video: Preacher, Tell Me Like It Is

 

Just continuing to clip “grace coupons” every day!!!

Clippin’ Grace Coupons In Ministry

A Place to Meet with God and Study His Word:  Since returning from our time away in August, I have rearranged my schedule.  As a pastor who has been preaching the Word for 41 years, it would be real easy to coast along in sermon preparation.  Recognizing the need of keeping my heart on fire and hearing directly from the Throne of God, I have made it a point to give Monday and Tuesday to digging in the Word, sitting at Jesus’ feet, seeking God’s face for my messages.  I do not want give the congregation I love so dearly “leftovers” or a “fast-food” sermon.  My sheep need good grain that comes from the hand of God.  So, with that in mind, the Lord has graciously provided a place that has become very dear to me.  A place where my cell phone has almost a non-existent signal; a place of extreme quiet; a place removed from the distractions of home where my study is located; and a place that causes me to be very intentional.  This is a huge grace coupon!!

Mentoring:  Our neighbor’s two children attend Pioneer Club, our Wednesday children’s ministry.  If a child has to miss a night, they can make it up during the week.  So, what a thrill to help my little buddy next door with his assignment.  I had a hard time holding back the tears.  He is so precious, and like a grandson to us.  He is all boy!!!  Thank You, Lord, for another grace coupon!!  God, you are so good to me!!

Country Living:  Our home is a genuine gift of God’s grace.  The story behind it and how He has used it in these three years for ministry has been and is awesome!!  Here’s the view yesterday morning.  I never tire of the quiet, the cattle across the way, the sunrise, and the time spent in prayer and in God’s Word . . . here in the country!!  Love those grace coupons!!

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8).

The Influence of “Pasters”


Last Friday, the memorial service was held for a man, Dr. Rod Bell, that I looked up to as a young preacher boy.  He was a force in the pulpit with his booming, West Virginian voice accompanied with an extreme passion for souls, convicting preaching of the Word, and staunch fundamental stand.  As I contemplate his influence on me, I am greatly reminded of my own influence on younger men and boys . . . and it brings a solemn, soul-searching note to my own heart.  You see, many of the men I have looked to for guidance and wisdom have already gone to Glory. Often I find myself saying, “I wish I could ask my Dad a question.”  Or, “Wonder what Dr. Williams would have thought about that?” Or, “Sure wish I could hear Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., preach again.”

Now at my age, young pastors calling to talk with me, asking how I interpret a passage of Scripture, wanting to spend some time in prayer with them, and/or just to be their friend.  I remember those days . . . and I’m struck by the intense burden of being a godly, biblical influence; something that can only happen by the grace of God, the power of the Holy Spirit and Christ living in me.

The picture you see in this post is a sobering, but encouraging reminder of the influence we have on others, especially young ones.  A few Sunday nights ago, a 10 year-old boy handed this post-it note to me at the close of the service.  I stopped, read it, put my arm around him, and thanked him for his encouragement.  When I got home, I sat down and read it more thoughtfully.  How moved to understand what a 10 year-old sees as his “paster.”  If I can fulfill those six things by God’s grace, I’ll look forward to the Bema (2 Corinthians 5:10-14), . . . and will be with my dad, Dr. Bell, Dr. Williams, Dr. Jones, and a throng of other “pasters.”  “What a day that will be . . . !!!”

Clippin’ Grace Coupons in Ministry

Looking back over this past week, there are so many grace blessings that my heart is overflowing.

Andrew, Dale and Mike


Last Friday, I had the privilege of participating in the funeral, and on Saturday, the burial committal service for a precious lady, Dixie Gouge. I wrote about it in last week’s post.  Another grace blessing from this event was serving together with two other pastors.  Mike Garland was baptized as a young man by father when Dad pastored Forest View Bible Church, Johnson City, TN, of which Ralph and Dixie Gouge were members.  Mike is also a nephew of the Gouge’s.  The other pastor is my son-in-law, Andrew, who is our assistant pastor at BCBC.  What a joy to stand between these two men that have special ties to my heart!  God is so good to let you clip such blessed grace coupons! 

Two hams!


What a special treat to minister to our neighborhood, especially the family next door to us. Their two precious children come to our home every week for Bible club.  They are our adopted “grandkids” and are such a blessing to our hearts.  Here we are having some silly fun time!

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Mr. D doing what Mr.D does best!!

Pioneer Children’s Club, Wednesday nights: How grateful to be in the midst of people who love children and demonstrate a passion to see them be more than just good kids; better yet, godly kids.  Even better is the passion of Mr. D who wants to see these precious children and their parents come to Christ for salvation!  He is faithfully out knocking on doors and doing bus visitation on Tuesdays in preparation for Wednesday nights!

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Apples of Gold Decor

Apples of Gold Ladies Mentoring Ministry: Last Saturday, we hosted twenty people at our home for the AOG Celebration Dinner. My wife had every decorated so beautifully.  She and her helpers prepared delicious soups, salad and desserts. What a special blessing it was to eat outside, and then to be gathered around the fire pit sharing testimonies and singing songs under a starlit sky.  God is so good!

Clippin’ Grace Coupons in Ministry

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Life is all about the grace of God.  We do not deserve anything except hell because of our sinful state.  But in His grace, God has provided salvation for all men (John 1:12; 3:16; Ephesians 2:1-4, 8-9; Titus 3:5).  Then, in and through His grace, He provides so many undeserving gifts everyday of our lives (John 1:16-17; Ephesians 2:4-7).  How easy it is to dwell on all the bad around us that we forget to focus on the grace of God which is transcendent over all (Romans 5:20).  So with that in mind, my goal for Friday’s blog is to share with you from a pastor’s heart some of the “grace coupons” in ministry that I’ve been able to “clip” over the past seven days. So here we go!

  1. Worshipping on Sunday at Boones Creek Bible Church! One of the many true blessings of a Sunday at BCBC is joining with our congregation as they sing.  With raised voices, uplifted hands and glowing countenances, praise is abundant!  Many Sunday mornings on my way to church I find myself saying, “I can hardly wait to sing with my brothers and sisters in Christ today!”   Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).
  2. Seeing ladies cry out in prayer, singing, and worship as they joined together for three hours in the presence of the Lord at BCBC. You can read a bit more about it on my wife’s blog post Friday Favorites.
  3. When I was an earlier teen, my dad pastored a church here in south Johnson City, TN. Words cannot describe what a grace blessing it is to be living and pastoring in the same area that has always been so special to me.  When we moved here from Bluefield, West Virginia, two men, Stacey Tester and Ralph Gouge, came from Johnson City to assist us.  They made a huge impression on me.  Stacey and Ralph have since gone on to Glory, but today, I have the privilege of participating in the funeral for Dixie Gouge, Ralph’s precious wife.  Furthermore, Ralph and Dixie’s daughter and three of their children are part of the BCBC family.  Also, I saw Ralph and Dixie’s son this week which was the first time since we moved away.  As we sat in the Gouge’s living room and reminisced about our time here and about my parents, I thought, “Lord, how good you are to me, and how good to be still connected to my dad’s ministry in such a blessed way!”
  4. Joy in ministry is often mixed with sadness and sorrow as even mentioned above. Yesterday I stood by the bedside of a dear man whose body is riddled with Alzheimer’s. His wife has faithfully stood by his side and cared for him with love and great compassion for several years.  With Bernice on one side and me on the other, we shared Psalm 23 and then sang several songs:  In the Sweet By and By, When the Roll is Called Up Yonder, Heaven Is a Wonderful Place, Until Then, I Have Found a Hiding Place, and others.  As a pastor, I am so grateful for the opportunity to minister the balm of God’s Word and the blessed encouragement of song that gives encouragement for today and expectation for the future.  It is all by His grace!
  5. Finally, there’s the blessing of preaching and teaching the Word of God!! Currently, I am preaching through Revelation . . . the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ.  How timely; how sobering; how hope-filled!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ . . . . To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.  (Ephesians 1:3, 6)

Presidential Candidates & Church Ministry

69 and 70.  That’s the ages of our current United States of America presidential candidates.  That’s retirement territory.  That’s well within the AARP range.  I have to step back in a bit of amazement that one of these two older people will hold the highest office in the land with ALL of its responsibilities and expectations.

That brings me to an interesting set of comparisons between a man chosen for the presidency of America and a man chosen for the pastorate of a local church.  It all begins with this thought—

  • For a man to be president, he must have years of experience; but for a church seeking a new pastor, they usually want a man who is young, energetic, educated, and full of new ideas. By the time a pastor reaches his middle fifties, most churches seeking a pastor are not interested because he is too old, and the pastor is not interested because he is too tired.
  • For a presidential candidate, he is not even thinking of retirement. He is, in his sixties and seventies, crisscrossing the United States with “guns blazing” ready to win the election.  An older pastor is slowing down with an eye on retirement.
  • For the presidential candidate, he has fresh ideas of how to “make America great again.” For the older pastor, he tends to just want to hold on to tradition, to what’s comfortable and just bide his time.

This also has application to the members of the local church.  I have never understood the mentality of when you reach your 60’s and start attending the Senior Saints class that it is time to stop serving and “let the younger folks do it.”  Oh, how wrong!  Look at the following passage:

But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: 2 that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; 3 the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— 4 that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. 6 Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, 7 in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, 8 sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you. 9 Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.  (Titus 2:1-9)

I do not see anything here that even gives the impression that when a believer reaches a certain age he is entitled to come to church and just sit.  Very clearly, though, we see that the older are to teach the younger.  And that is precisely the biblical model . . . older individuals training, discipling the younger. Sure, many folks in their 60’s-90’s cannot keep the pace of a younger individual, but they have much wisdom to impart.  Therefore, invite a younger man or woman to your home to disciple and train in

  • Teaching a Sunday School class
  • Cooking and hospitality
  • Serving as a deacon
  • Ministering to children
  • Parenting
  • Wood-working or some other skill
  • Finances
  • Being a godly husband or wife

So, my encouragement is, older pastors, keep on keeping on!  Stay fresh in the Word and on your knees!  Don’t grow old and stiff and “stuff-shirted.” Find a young man and pour your life into him.  Love him and show him the blessings of ministries.  My dad always said he like to have younger people around him because they made him feel younger.

Aged believers in Christ, “be like a presidential candidate.”  Invest in the lives others rather than believing you are entitled to retirement in your “rocking pew.”

So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come. (Psalm 71:18)

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. (Psalm 92:12-15)

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16)

Friday’s Findings

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Every Friday, I am sharing some blog posts that I have come across in the past few weeks that I trust will be beneficial to you.  As I’ve noted on my blog site, what I am doing is from my heart.  I want to help and encourage us to keep on for the Lord and to enjoy all that He has for us here while we wait for the best life to come!

Three Simple Pastoral Priorities – Excellent counsel and transparency from Cary Schmidt for pastors.

13 Ways You Waste Your Money – Tim Challies give some very practical thoughts and cautions about money.

Husbands Pray With Your Wives – Good article and so helpful.  Men, please read.  Thanks, Wendy, for your insight and help in homeschooling years ago.