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August 2013 entries

Preacher: Practice What You Preach!

The title of this entry may lead you to believe that I am about to criticize some Bible thumping preacher for hypocrisy. I would understand your reasoning, but you would be wrong. Actually, this is a positive word and not about some obscure TV evangelist. It's about me.

Sunday I spoke to the congregation about facing trials with joy. Tuesday I faced a huge trial of my own. It was immediately apparent that God was testing me to see if I believed what I preach enough to practice what I teach. 

James 1:2 says to "count it all joy when you fall into various trials." I shared with my folks that this sounds impossible until you realize what it actually says. To "count" or "consider" depending on your translation, means to look ahead or think forward beyond the trial to the purpose for the test. Jesus is our example in Hebrews 12:2 when the author says "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the the throne of God."

Did Jesus look at the cross with joy. No, it caused Him to sweat drops of blood. But the joy came from looking ahead of the trial to the blessing that awaited on the other side. The reality is that most blessings only come after the testing of our faith.

So, back to Tuesday. Many of you may know that I have been attempting to start a business to employ my sons and leave to them when the Lord calls me home. After searching for the right spot we came upon what we thought was an ideal location. I signed a letter of intent and began to invest thousands of dollars on furniture, advertising and renovations. On Tuesday we were to open. It was going to be an exciting beginning to a new adventure for my family. The landlord showed up to what I believed would be for the purpose of signing the lease. Instead, he was there to inform me there would be no lease. Suddenly, I was facing a trial.

Sunday I had encouraged people in the hallway that I knew what I had taught in the message would be true in their life, "If you look ahead of the trial to the blessing God will provide joy." It was all academic to me. I believe the Word of God to be true, but fortunately this truth didn't apply to my life. Up until Tuesday it didn't. Tuesday it did.

How was I going to respond? In the flesh, as I had instructed people not to do? I must admit it was tempting to get angry. I had potentially spent thousands of dollars that I may not be able to recoup. My oldest son, who was to manage the business, was once again out of a job. 

Then it happened. God reminded me of the words He had impressed upon me to share with the congregation on Sunday. Was I going to be a victim or a victor? It all depended on how I viewed the trial. I was overwhelmed with peace that I had not known. God was in control of the situation. He did not want us at that location. It was all ok. It was more than ok, it was good. (Romans 8:28) He has something greater planned for our business. 

We will proceed. Obstacles are not closed doors unless we allow them to be. Every trial is for our edification. God is sovereign all the time, not just when things happen the way we hoped they would. It's not over. I'm sure there are more trials coming my way. There are more victories too and they are going to be even sweeter than before. Yes, sometimes preachers have to practice what they preach.  

 


Just a Little Touch from Jesus

During a recent Monday morning meeting I ran an idea by my staff. I thought it would add a great deal to our church and put us more in touch with our community. The idea isn't important here, because their response had little to do with whether they agreed with the idea or not. They just weren't interested.

I quickly ended the silence by saying "I can tell you're too enthusiastic about it to talk right now, so I'll bring it up at a later time."(sarcasm bubbles to the surface when I'm agitated) It wasn't the first time I had sensed a lack of excitement in the staff. As a matter of fact, I've lost some zing in my step lately as well. If you aren't in ministry you probably won't understand what I'm about to say. Ministry is really exhausting and sometimes you just can't imagine having one more thing on your plate without throwing up your hands and walking away. If you are in ministry you're probably thinking Ididn't say that strongly enough.

So what to do? I thought about it, complained to my spouse about it, and fumed about it for a few days. Then it hit me, enthusiasm is more often caught and not taught. I began looking for ways to bring our staff into close proximity to spiritual enthusiasm. Thankfully, I still had some funds left from a generous church member who had given a sizable gift last year with this statement; "Preacher use this money wherever you think it's needed." And I have. I have fixed roofs, helped the less fortunate, supported missionaries and given scholarships. I still had a few thousand left and I decided where to use it for the good of the whole congregation.

So Monday at noon I'm taking all the ministerial staff who can get away to Brooklyn, New York, more specifically to the Brooklyn Tabernacle. On Tuesday we are meeting with Pastor Jim Cymbala. Tuseday evening we are going to prayer meeting. Not just any prayer meeting, but this is the prayer meeting people line up for two hours to get into. It is one of the most spirit filled services in the country. We will be rubbing elbows with former and current drug addicts and prostitutes. Businessmen and women along with homeless men and women will be there to get in touch with the Lord. So will 9 ministers from Southeast Tennessee who need that same touch. Pray that God will meet us there.