I Thank YOU and I Wish YOU Enough!

This is just a note to thank you for reading and following this blog! Since our first post at the end of April of this year, we have gained over 250 followers and have had nearly 3,200 visits from nearly 40 countries, all over the world! That might not sound like much to you, but it is overwhelming and humbling to me!

Again: THANK YOU! Now, let me now share with you, a little story someone shared with me on Facebook and I have since shared it with others on my Facebook Page. It is called:

“I Wish You Enough”

Mom and DaughterRecently, I overheard a mother and daughter in their last moments together at the airport as the daughter’s departure had been announced. Standing near the security gate, they hugged and the mother said: “I love you and I wish you enough “The daughter replied, “Mom, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Mom.” They kissed and the daughter left. The mother walked over to the window where I sat. Standing there, I could see she wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on her privacy but she welcomed me in by asking, “Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?” “Yes, I have,” I replied. “Forgive me for asking but why is this a forever good-bye?” “I am old and she lives so far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is the next trip back will be for my funeral,” she said. When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, “I wish you enough.” May I ask what that means?” She began to smile. “That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.” She paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail and she smiled even more. “When we said ‘I wish you enough’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them”. Then turning toward me, she shared the following, reciting it from memory;

“I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright. I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more. I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive. I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger. I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.”

She then began to cry and walked away. They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them and an entire life to forget them.

To all of you who read this and are followers of this blog; you are special to me and I appreciate everyone of you! Again, I thank you and I wish you enough!

Every Day Is A “New” Year’s Day!

Happy New YearNew Year’s Day: 2014 is only a couple of days away. But have you ever stopped to consider the fact that, in a sense, every day of the year is a new year’s day? On January 2, my wife and I will celebrate a wedding anniversary! In February, one of my sons will celebrate a birthday!  In March, the church I serve will celebrate my pastoral anniversary and my wife will celebrate a birthday! In August, I will celebrate a birthday! Of all the things an anniversary or a birthday is, it is primarily a day that marks the passing of another year since the event celebrated or remembered occurred and the beginning of another year before it is observed again. Now, since there is not a day of the week in any month of the year when someone somewhere is not celebrating an anniversary of some sort, and anniversaries and birthdays mark the beginnings of a new year, then in a sense, every day of the year a “new” year’s day!

Now, many people make vows and commitments to do better, to be better, and/or to live better on New Year’s Day! In other words, for many people, New Year’s Day is a day to start over again! But, why wait until January 1 of the year to do that? Since every day of the year marks the beginning of some “new” year, why not celebrate New Year every day? Now, I don’t mean celebrating every day with fireworks and parades, but rather, celebrating each day with the understanding that with the dawning of each new day, there is an opportunity to start new! Each new day is an opportunity to reaffirm and renew dedication and commitment and each new day is an opportunity to start over again!

Therefore, why restrict yourself to just one day of celebration for a new year? Every day of the year marks the beginning of a “new” year of some sort! Therefore, every day of the year is a day to celebrate! Now for the sake of my wallet, I am thankful that the celebration of Christmas (buying presents and giving gifts) only comes once a year! But I am grateful, that life has been so arranged that with the arrival of each new day, comes the opportunity to start a “new” year! A new year of sobriety! A new year of marriage! A new year of loving relationships! A new year of business success! A new year of spiritual growth! You name it! Whatever it is you want to accomplish and celebrate in life; every new day presents the opportunity to inaugurate and celebrate a new beginning!

As I said, January 1, 2014 is a just a couple of days away, but I’m not waiting until then! I’m going to celebrate a “new” year today and every day, because every day of the year marks the beginning of a “new” year!

How To Have A “New” Year!

CalendarAs I sat down to write this post, I intended to write about: “How to Have a Happy New Year!” But then, I thought about it: We would be happy or happier only if next year was indeed really “new.” Let me show you what I am talking about! This time of year (the days after Christmas), people normally think about plans for the New Year. However, no matter what or how many new resolutions are made, most of the time, the New Year eventually ends up being a replica or a repeat performance of the old year! The reason is because, in most cases, nothing is truly new except the year! It’s a new year; but it’s the same old person! It’s a new year; but we do the same old things! It’s a new year but we think the same old thoughts! I preached a sermon once and I think repeating the title would be appropriate for the thought I am trying to convey. The title of the sermon was: “I Don’t Need a New Year: I Need a New Me!”

The point of the sermon and the point of this post is that we can’t expect next year to be a “new” year if we don’t do anything to make it new! The year will not be new if we don’t change! Next year will be just like this year, which was just like last year, which was just like the years before, unless and until we make a change! Well, what changes can we make to truly make next year a “New Year?” First of all, we can change our thinking! We can change the way we think and change what we think! Everything that happens in our lives is produced by what and how we think; our thoughts and thought patterns! Change your thinking and you change your life! Now some might think this is “new age” thinking, but it is not “new age” nor is it really new! The Biblical author wrote centuries ago: “As a man thinketh in his heart; so is he!” John the Baptizer and Jesus of Nazareth both preached: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” What many modern Christians fail to comprehend is that the Greek word that is translated as “repent” in the statements of John and Jesus means; “to change the way you think, or to change your thoughts.” What Jesus and John were saying was that God’s Kingdom is not a just a place and future event at the end of time, but rather it is also a present reality! And the Kingdom of God as Jesus preached it was not Heaven in the sky, when we die, bye and bye, but rather the present reality of the rule and authority of God in our lives! So in order to have a “new” year, we must also repent! We must change what we think and change how we think!

What thinking and thought-patterns do we need to change in order to have a new year? Well there are several, but I’m only going to touch on a few. First of all, we must quit thinking of life as happening “to us” and realize that life is really what “we” make it! Everything that has happened in your life up to this point; you caused it to happen! You caused it either by what you did or what you didn’t do! You caused it by your actions, in-actions or thoughts! So, if next year is really going to be new, then you must accept personal responsibility for the circumstances and conditions in your life! You must also quit the blame game! I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone say that somebody “made” them mad! But the truth of the matter is this: No one can “make” you angry! Your anger is an emotional response that is controlled by your thoughts or your thinking. Since no one can control your thoughts but you and your thoughts control your emotions, then if you got angry, it was not because that person “made” you angry, but rather it was because you chose to respond with anger! Your emotional response of anger was a choice you made! You could have chosen to respond differently! Quit the blame game! Losers fix the blame: winners fix the problem!

That’s another thing you’ve got to quit if you want to have a new year! You’ve got to give up the idea that you have no choice! You always have a choice! I’ve heard people say that they go to work because they don’t have a choice! But they do! They could choose “not” to go to work! It’s really not a matter that they have no choice; it’s really a matter of not liking the consequences of the alternative choice! By the way, if you are working a job only because you feel you have no choice, you really need to choose to do something else!

If you want to have a new year, then you must also quit complaining and grumbling about the circumstances of your life. Whatever your circumstances; you directly or indirectly created them! So, if you don’t like the circumstances of your life, accept personal responsibility for the fact that you created or caused them, and then change them! Whatever situation you’re in, accept the fact that you were the major cause, and then understand that you have a choice! You can change it or you can accept it! But by all means, don’t constantly complain and grumble about it! Constantly complaining and grumbling does nothing to help the situation, in fact it makes it worse! The more you complain and grumble; the more you’ll have to complain and grumble about!

The bottom line is this: If you really want next year to be a new year, then you’ve got to be “new” next year! You’ve got to do differently! You’ve got to think differently! You’ve got to respond differently! Things will not change unless and until you change! You can’t have a “new” year with the same “old” you!

Disclaimer: I realize that there are and have been circumstances and situations in which a person may have not been a contributor and/or had/have no control such as conditions of slavery or poverty. This post is directed toward those of us who have a fair amount of freedom in our lives. But, to any person who may be suffering because of the actions of others (such as an oppressive government) this post is not an attempt to blame those who are truly victims.

Doing Ministry is NOT the Pastor’s Job!

preacher with head downAs I am writing this post, there have been three known suicides among pastors in the last two months! Last month (November 2013), Pastor Teddy Parker, Jr. of the Bibb Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Macon, GA shot himself at his home in his driveway one Sunday morning between services. In early December, Pastor Ed Montgomery, who served a Gospel Assembly church in Hazel Crest, Ill shot himself in front of his mother and his son in their family home. The pastor said he had been hearing footsteps and the voice of his dead wife, who had died in December of 2012. Pastor Isaac Hunter, the former pastor of a mega-church in Florida shot himself in the head just two weeks prior to the writing of this post. Pastor Hunter resigned from the pulpit of his church a year ago after it was revealed that he had had an affair.

I’ve been reading the responses from well-known pastors, ministers, and mental health specialists to these shocking suicides. The prevailing response is that pastors and ministers are engaged in a stressful calling and they need to be able to talk to someone and to get professional help if they need it without being looked down upon.  I read a recent report that cited the Schaeffer Institute’s findings that: “70 percent of pastors constantly fight depression, and 71 percent are burned out. Meanwhile, 72 percent of pastors say they only study the Bible when they are preparing for sermons; 80 percent believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families; and 70 percent say they don’t have a close friend. The Schaeffer Institute also reports that 80 percent of seminary and Bible school graduates will leave the ministry within five years. It’s not clear how many commit suicide, but it is clear that pastors are not immune to it.” These are shocking statistics, considering the fact that the pastor/preacher should be the first to proclaim that whatever the problem; Christ is the answer! I agree with the need for Pastors and ministers to seek help from mental health professionals if needed, but I want to make some suggestions as to why so many of them would need to seek help in the first place. I think part of the problems is that through a combination of tradition, cultural pressure and biblical ignorance, the church, particularly the church in America, is doing ministry wrong! Let me show you what I am talking about!

Doing ministry is NOT the pastor’s job! Now, I hope to substantiate such a radical claim by appealing to scripture, particularly Acts 6 and Ephesians 4. In Acts 6, the Bible records what is believed by many to be the inception of the Deacon Ministry. Verses 1-4 reads: “Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (ESV) Do you see that? The disciples were the pastors in the Jerusalem church at that time and they said in the Miller Translation: “Our job is preaching and teaching the word; that’s our calling! It don’t make sense and it’s not in the best interest of the church that we get side-tracked from preaching to serve tables! So you need to find some people among you that we can appoint to serve tables so that we might dedicate ourselves to prayer and the ministry of preaching and teaching the word!” I think that much of the stress that pastors are enduring today is because too many pastors, because of the mentality, the lack of spirituality, and the lack of biblical knowledge of many church members, are being forced to serve tables in addition to being devoted to prayer and the ministry of the word! The pastor shouldn’t have to change light bulbs or mow the church lawn! Not because he or she is too good or that it is beneath them to do it, but rather because it is a gross misuse of their calling, training, talent and time! (You wouldn’t want your surgeon to be splitting time between surgery and cutting meat in the butcher shop would you?) Besides that, those activities would be a good avenue for ministry by providing work for that kid down the street that doesn’t know Jesus and needs some spending money! And if the church doesn’t want to or can’t afford to pay, it is a good avenue for ministry for the members of the church who feel inadequate to teach a Sunday School class or to lead a small group! My point is this: The pastor should be free to effectively do what he or she has been called and commissioned by God to do! Making sure the lawn is cut while at the same time making sure a sermon and a lesson is adequately prepared is un-needed and avoidable stress! The pastor needs the time and energy for prayer and the ministry of the word! Anybody can cut the yard, but only the pastor/preacher has been charged to lead in doing the ministry of prayer and the word!

The next passage is Ephesians 4:11-16, which reads: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (ESV) The main point I want to stress is found in the first two verses; 11 and 12: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Pastors were given to the church not to do the work of the ministry, but rather to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry! The pastor’s job is not to do the work, but rather the pastor’s job is to equip the saints (the church members; all Christians) to do the work! The problem in many churches today is the fact that one person (the Pastor) is expected and in many cases actually tries to do the work that the whole church is supposed to be doing! It’s not a wonder that those pastors who are not committing suicide are still quitting or dying  much too soon because their churches are literally killing them! Too many church people have a “Wal-mart mentality” about church. Instead of following the biblical model of using their abilities, talents and spiritual gifts in ministry to serve others in the name of Christ, they expect the church ministry staff to serve them! For them, church is not about service (ministry) but rather; “serve-us” (serve me and mine!)! The question is not what it should be, which is: What can I do for the church and the cause of Christ? But rather the prevailing question today in the American church is: What can the church and Jesus do for me? Therefore, everyday pastors in the pulpit are thinking about quitting, experiencing burn-out or contemplating suicide because of laziness and selfishness in the pew! But then, in many cases it’s not completely the people’s fault! Sometimes, people would do better if they knew better, but their pastor just hasn’t taken the time or made the effort to teach and train them any better!

I know this post is a bit longer than usual, I didn’t mean to make it into a sermon! So let me close (Oops! That’s the Baptist preacher in me coming out: I feel a “preach” coming on! Can I get a witness? You don’t hear me!) by saying to any pastor who might read this post: YOU CAN’T DO IT ALL AND GOD DOESN’T EXPECT YOU TO! Learn to take care of yourself! Periodically take some time away! Take the Lord’s advice. Read Mark 6:31: “And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while” (KJV). If you don’t take the time to “come apart” you will eventually “come a-part!” And then teach and train the people of your congregation the biblical mandate and the importance of their involvement in ministry! Warn them to get off of their “blessed ass-urances” and get busy with the work of the ministry! The harvest is great, the laborers are few, it’s late in the evening and the sun is almost down! In the long run,not only will you be saving yourself, but their lives will be enriched and the work of the Kingdom will be greatly multiplied! Can I get an Amen? You don’t hear me!

Premature Death and Social Suicide

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As I am writing this post, I am grieved and saddened over the senseless violence that is strangling too many communities in our nation. Recently, in our own locale, we have been reeling from the tragedy of a young business entrepreneur murdered by a 17 year old for an iPhone in a Craigslist transaction! Another young father was killed trying to purchase an iPad for Christmas from a private seller! Then, there is the case of a young lady killed in a shoot-out over a hair weave sale! It breaks my heart when any one dies seemingly before their time, but it is even more heartbreaking when the death is caused by senseless violence! With all of these senseless killings happening all across our country on a daily basis, our society is, in a sense, committing social suicide! Let me show you what I’m talking about.

I believe that the God who created this world is a God of purpose. Therefore, whatever God did, does, and will do, was, is and will be for a reason and a purpose. Every individual’s birth and life means that they have a purpose ordained by God. All of us are here for a season for a reason. The primary objective for each and every individual’s life is the discovery and fulfillment of the purpose for which they were created and born. I also believe that the lengths of our lives are also tied to our purpose for life and that we are given the gift of time specifically for the fulfillment of that purpose. Therefore, there really is no time to waste or kill!

Therefore, when an individual’s life is cut short by a violent premature death, not only is it tragic that the individual will never fulfill their life’s purpose, it is also tragic because all of us will suffer loss because of that premature death! The reason we all will suffer loss is because whatever that person’s purpose was, it really wasn’t for them; it was for the rest of us! Whatever a person’s purpose; it is primarily for the benefit of others and not for themselves. In other words, my purpose is for you and your purpose is for me!

Premature death is the ultimate tragedy because it forever negates a person’s chance to fulfill their purpose! They will never make the contribution they were born to make! And because they will never make that contribution; we all suffer! But a premature death is not the only culprit that kills purpose. Many times a person’s destiny and purpose remains unfulfilled even in life because of a lack of discipline, a lack of favorable opportunities, a lack of strength and resolve or simply ignorance and selfishness. So, a person does not have to die for their purpose to die! I am convinced that many of the answers to many of societies’ ills are, even now locked up in the minds of some persons who are strung out on drugs or alcohol. The answers may be in the minds of individuals who are convinced that their lives don’t matter and therefore, they have no hope of rising up from their dire situation and making the contribution they were born to make.

But whatever the case, I beg you to make a conscientious effort to make a positive impact upon the lives of the people around you however, whenever and wherever you can! You may not be able to reach everybody; but you can reach somebody! Talk to that kid down the street! Encourage that single Mom who is about to give up on life! Be a mentor for that young man who is searching for meaning! The life you save may not be just theirs; it could very well be your own! You never know, that person’s purpose may be directly tied to your very survival! And even if there is no direct connection, there is an indirect connection because we all were put here for the benefit and well-being of one another!

Thanksgiving and Black Friday

Black Friday

I purposely delayed in writing this post because I didn’t want you to think that I am a “scrooge!” Even now, as I am writing this post, there are presents under the Christmas tree in my den. But I think we have lost the real meaning of Christmas! It seems that for many people, Christmas is about receiving, but it really should be about giving. Now, you might be saying; Isn’t all the shopping about giving? Well, in a sense it is, but how many of you know that most people shop and give in the hope that someone else is doing the same thing for them!

But, that is not the real reason for my writing this post. I am writing because of the irony that surrounds Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. By definition, Thanksgiving Day is a day to be thankful. And to be thankful is to express gratitude for what you already have. But isn’t it a bit ironic that the very next day, after a day of being thankful for and content with what we have, we are encouraged to go out and shop and that shopping is motivated by the discontentment of what we don’t have? Think about it! On Thursday, we sit at the table surrounded by family and friends and express thanks for what we have. Then on the very next day, we go out and shop among the maddening crowds, motivated by discontent, to get the things we don’t have!

I would like to suggest that perhaps the Thanksgiving holiday for many people has degenerated into just a day to rest up for Black Friday! And this year, an increasing number of merchants were not content to leave Thursday alone! In order to get a leg-up on sales and take advantage of the holiday, some stores were open Thanksgiving Day! We already have Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber-Monday, now we are being introduced to Gray Thursday! Who knows, perhaps there will come a time when we will no longer celebrate Thanksgiving by sitting around the table being thankful with our families but rather spend the day shopping in the mall. I don’t know about you, but I think it is a bit much! The only ones who will be truly thankful for that will be the turkeys! What do you think?

The Best Gift!

best gift ever

The best gift you can give this Christmas or at any other time cannot be found at a sale on Black Friday, Gray Thursday or even on Cyber Monday! On Christmas morning, you will not find it neatly wrapped in pretty paper and bows beneath the Christmas tree. It cannot be found in the electronics, toys, jewelry, or the hardware departments. In fact you will not find it in any store and it is not for sale at any price! What is the best gift you can give? The best gift you can give is yourself!

The Apostle Paul commended the church at Corinth in II Corinthians 8:5b by saying; “. . .but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.” (NASB) Although this church was also in need, they gave beyond what they could afford in Paul’s effort to bring relief to the Jewish saints who were suffering in Jerusalem. The reason Paul gave for their unselfish sacrificial giving was because they first gave themselves to the Lord and then to the Apostles! Once we give ourselves to the Lord, all other giving is secondary.

So, what can you give the person who already has everything? You can give yourself! Give your time and your attention! Many times giving yourself is really not dramatic or expensive. You’d be surprised how valuable and appreciated a smile is to a person who is downcast and hasn’t seen one all day! Or what about even a quick visit to the nursing home to spend a few minutes with an elderly person just to talk or perhaps read a book to them? Even in your own home, you can give the gift of authentic family and love! The truth of the matter is this: Your children really don’t need that X-Box or the Play-Station II you just spent your hard-earned cash for! What they really need is you! They need you to spend some quality time with them to guide them, to teach them, to love them! Jared’s Jewelry might tell you all will be well if you went to Jared’s, and Kay’s Jewelry might tell you that every kiss begins with Kay’s, but actually your wife’s or your significant other’s real happiness begins and ends with you giving yourself! Your husband doesn’t need any more tools; wife, he needs you! Children, your funds may be limited and you might feel bad that you can’t get Mom and Dad an expensive gift. But the best gift you can give your parents is to honor them with your obedience! You should determine to make them proud by growing up into your fullest potential.

Well, the list could go on and on, but I hope you get my point by now. The best gift doesn’t cost you any money, but yet it is more valuable than all the money in the world because it will cost you yourself! The best gift you can give this Christmas or at any other time is the gift of giving yourself to the Lord and to others by the will of God! Be sure to give yourself this Christmas; it’s the gift that keeps on giving!