The Gospel For Chocolate Lovers

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The first time Carl Hubbert came to our church, he filled out a visitor’s card inviting us to call. That week, I sat in his apartment and welcomed him to Kenner and First Baptist Church. I asked, “What kind of work do you do?” He said, “I sell candy for Russell Stover.” I did the same thing you would. I said, “Got any samples?”

He opened the door to a spare bedroom where boxes of candy were stacked to the ceiling. “Take as much as you like,” he said. “It’s dated. After Valentine’s Day, we have to remove this from the stores. It’s still good, but we aren’t allowed to sell it.” I left Carl’s apartment that night loaded down with heart-shaped boxes of chocolates.

A year or so later, the company got smart and opened an outlet in our city to sell the candy Carl had been giving away. For a while, he was easily the most popular man in town. Once he brought boxes of candy to place on the lunch trays of the entire student body of our school. I’m not sure what the parents thought, but that was one cafeteria meal the kids raved about.

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What Every Pastor Needs: A Good Buddy

I tell pastors, “You need a good friend in the ministry. Someone who is a lot like you. Someone who may be going through the same things you are.”

You need a Jonathan for your David. One who has been where you are and knows what you are experiencing.

Oh, you say the Lord is that for you? That’s good. He should be this and a lot more. But I’m talking about someone in the flesh. It is not unspiritual or disloyal to want another human being as our best friend.

After all, there must be a reason the Lord sent His disciples out two by two.

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How to Know Jesus Christ and Live Forever

The most important thing in all the world is to come to know Jesus Christ personally. We call that salvation. When it occurs, God wipes away all your sin and writes your name down in His “Book of Life” in Heaven. His Holy Spirit enters you and begins to work within you to guide you, strengthen you, and help you. From that moment on, you are a full child of God and bound for Heaven.

How can it happen? How can I know Jesus Christ personally?

1. The short answer is by REPENTING of your sin and ASKING Jesus Christ to come into your life and become your Lord and Savior. How do you do this? By praying. Just stop what you are doing and speak out loud to Jesus. Something like this:

“Lord Jesus, here I am. I need you. Today, I repent of my sin.

I ask you to forgive me for all the wrongs I have done. You died for

my sins and I sure don’t won’t to have to do it myself. Please cleanse

me and make me pure. And, Jesus, come into my life. Take over my heart

and soul. Rule over me as Lord and Master, from this moment on. Help

me to love you and to serve you for the rest of my life. Thank you for

hearing my prayer. Amen.”

2. If you need a longer answer, it could be because you need to do more “ground work” before praying this prayer. Perhaps you have questions you need answers for, or feel you do not have faith enough. Then, the solution is to open the Bible and start reading. Not just anywhere, but in places that address the matter of faith and belief.

John chapter 3 is a great place. In fact, the entire Gospel of John

is excellent. Why not get a New Testament, and turn to the fourth Gospel

(that’s John) and begin reading. Read for understanding, not to cover

ground. Before you begin reading, pray this little prayer: “Dear Lord,

help me to listen to what you are saying to me.”

If you finish the entire Gospel of John, I suggest you repeat it. It’s so deep with so many insights, I promise you will find more there the second time than the first.

3. Send me an email and let me know either that you prayed the prayer and received Jesus, or that you are reading the Scripture and “on your way.” I will promise to pray for you. That’s all. “No salesman will call,” as the saying goes. I’d just like to know.

Paying My Vows

Some years ago, while I was enduring a trying time in my church, the Lord spoke to me out of Psalm 66. (Leadership Magazine’s website has the full article I wrote on that subject, which ends with the story of how Psalm 66 ministered to me.) Sometime later, as I reflected on Psalm 66, I realized that the last part talks about “paying my vows” to the Lord. I had received God’s blessings, but had not vowed anything in return. So, I began to reflect on exactly what promises I want to make to the Lord. Three seemed to stand out in my mind, and I made them at that time.

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20 Things I Wish I Had Known As A Young Pastor

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I found this list the other day, written perhaps a dozen years ago. As a veteran of 42 years in the pastorate, I have made my share of mistakes and have compiled a lengthy list of regrets. See what you think of these twenty things I wish I had known early in my ministry.

1. To take care of my family first.

2. To say no without feeling guilty.

3. How to be quiet.

4. How to introduce someone to Jesus.

5. How to get a sermon from a text.

6. How to lead a worship service.

7. How to do a funeral and feel good about it afterward.

8. How to do weddings and give young families a head start.

9. To say ‘I don’t know’ when I didn’t.

10. To apologize quickly and simply without rationalizing or justifying.

11. How to find a mentor.

12. How to help my wife feel good about what I was doing and to find her own role.

13. How to work with the deacons.

14. How to preach without imitating the last good preacher I heard.

15. How to counsel the troubled.

16. How to take criticism without losing my confidence.

17. How to respond to troublemakers the way Jesus would.

18. How to choose staff members wisely.

19. How to be prepared for temptation ahead of time.

20. How to give up jobs in the community to church members so I could stick with my own priorities as pastor.

Take the first one on my list, looking after my family. I have painful memories and my wife carries a scar on her soul from the time we moved from our seminary pastorate 300 miles north into the Mississippi Delta to a larger, more challenging church. I walked out and left her in our new home with boxes to unpack, pictures to hang, and a dozen other chores–and her with two little boys, ages 1 and 4–while I went to the hospital to check on church members. It was a misplaced sense of duty on my part. “It’s a bigger church,” I rationalized. “I have to hit it at a run.”

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Searching For Eden: I’m Not The Only One

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I got down the North Carolina map and looked up Siler City. There it lay in the center of the state, about an hour’s drive from the conference center where I would be spending three days. I knew then that I would be taking an afternoon and driving to Siler City to find Aunt Bee.

Frances Bavier had played the aunt to Andy Taylor and son Opie in the 60s sitcom “The Andy Griffith Show.” Over the years, along with much of America, I loved the program more in reruns than when it was fresh. By the late 1980s we were living in Charlotte and I learned that Miss Bavier, perhaps in her 80s by now, had retired to Siler City. I might not be able to actually meet her, but one never knows about these things, and I surely would not if I did not try.

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That Killer, The Deadly Inferiority Complex

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As a second-grader, newly relocated with our family from the rural South to the coal fields of West Virginia, I felt vulnerable and misplaced. When the children laughed at my backwoods accent, I shut up. On the playground, when the students chose sides for games, being the smallest boy in the class meant I was picked last. When the prettiest girl in the class could never remember my name, I was hopelessly sunk.

I am well acquainted with feelings of inferiority. I know intimately the sense that everyone else is better, stronger, bigger, and smarter. Inferiority complexes are killers–destroyers of hope and joy and vision, striking victims with a paralysis preventing them from taking any kind of action.

That’s why I was surprised to learn that churches have them.

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