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Category Archives: Prayer

The Bible Belt – “The Land of Never Enough”

After 30 years or so in the ministry there are things you start to notice, things that stand out. There are patterns of thought and behavior that seem to be deeply woven into the fabric of Bible Belt mentality. One such pattern that runs very deep among born again believers is that one can never do enough to get,….or stay, in good standing with God. If you wonder why I say that, here’s why; I hear it all the time; “I don’t go to church enough”, “I don’t pray enough”, “I don’t read the Bible enough”, “I don’t have enough faith”, “I’m not a very good Christian”, I hope I”m going to heaven”. I just heard this from a man yesterday, “I think God has given up on me”. I refuted that lie as quick as I could!

It’s a prevalent attitude with many people always thinking they can never do enough, or be good enough to satisfy the Lord. It gives the feeling they’re trying to serve a God that’s unreasonably demanding and impossible to please. It’s like being on a treadmill of performance in an effort to earn their righteousness; A state, in fact, that many never seem to arrive at. This is a problem of the highest order, in my opinion, because it gives an incorrect image of ‘Who’ God actually is. It’s one of the greatest misportrayals the world has ever seen. There are many out there who’ll live their entire lives believing they were never quite acceptable or good enough to please God. And, what’s worse is that it leads one to believe that the Father’s love based entirely on our behavior.

Sad,…. Sad,…. Sad!

The danger of ‘never enough’ exists anytime a mixture of law and grace are preached. And, sadly enough…..that’s what happens most of the time in the Bible Belt. Paul spent the last half of his life contrasting law and grace. He knew them both well….in fact better than anyone on the planet in his generation. He was a staunch defender of grace even after it caused him to be beaten more than once and left for dead. It was controversial then….it’s controversial now…..but only to those who believe their behavior is what makes them righteous.

So, tell me, what’s on your list of things to do that make you righteous? And, while you’re at it explain to me where the line is of, enough….or not enough. Truth is, if you never read your Bible, if you never went to church your righteousness isn’t diminished one bit. I’m not advocating that….just pointing it out! You’re not righteous because of what you do…..you’re righteous because of what He did! The Father doesn’t love you because you’re good…..He loves you because He’s good!

THAT, in itself, makes me want to do good!

Good fathers would never keep their children in limbo over such important things! So, pack your bags, enjoy your relationship with the Father….. and get out of the land of never enough!

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The Lessons I Learned from Jeff

The last year we lived on the ranch in the Texas Panhandle I had the responsibility of taking care of 2500 head of cattle. About 1800 of those were close to 40 miles away north of Canadian, Texas on the expansive Urschel Ranch. I’d go up about three times a week and spend the day horseback checking the cattle; getting a decent count on them, making sure they had water, making sure none of them were out of the pastures they were supposed to be in. It’d make for a long day but it was enjoyable to me.

I was about three years into my walk with the Lord. Didn’t know much but I was learning a lot. I had given my testimony a couple of times and was already feeling the call for ministry…even though I had no idea what all that might mean. A friend and I had a cowboy church service (years before anyone ever heard that term!) at the Hemphill County Expo Center in Canadian and I preached the message. That was a first! I have no idea what I preached about but I do remember that one of my friends since childhood (a few years older than me) got saved that day. Let’s just call him, Jeff.

Jeff was a cowboy and had been in some of the very worst combat fights in Vietnam. In three different battles there were over a hundred US troops under fire….and all three times less than fifteen came out alive. Jeff was one of the ones each time. But, it had left an indelible mark on him. He struggled with deep depression, was separated from his wife, had trouble sleeping and agonized over the things he was ordered to do in Vietnam. Jeff was a scary looking guy, well actually if you weren’t friends with him….he just didn’t look scary….he really was scary. He’d done plenty of crazy things and the locals weren’t sure what he might do next! He hair was cut short on the top but long in the back…..way down past his collar. He had about 6 top front teeth totally gone! He wore denim shirts with the sleeves cut out of them and he had lots of tattoos; something not that common in those days. He spent a lot of his spare time at the gym pumping iron and was quite a specimen of a man.

Part of my regular routine the times when I’d go up to check cattle was to make it back to the Dairy Queen on my way home and catch Jeff after he got off work. I made it a point. I was doing my best to encourage him and give him good, sound advice. I’d pray with him every time before I headed home. One particular time we were in the DQ when a Greyhound bus made its stop there. The place was completely full of people. Jeff got there before I did and saved me a spot. His intimidating look had the attention of just about every person in there. Bear in mind that when he talked, Jeff talked really really loud; maybe louder than anyone you’ve ever known! I asked him that day, as I always did, “Jeff, how are you doing?” He replied in his loud voice, “Andy, I’m doing really good!”. I knew that I needed to press in a little more. “But, Jeff, …..how are you really doing?” And in a voice a lot louder than you need to be talking in Dairy Queen he said, “Yep, Andy, …….I’m doing so good I got rid of all my plastic explosives yesterday!!” You could’ve heard a pin drop! Every eye in the house was on us! It was funny, ….in a crazy kind of way; all those people started gathering up their food without saying a word and getting out the door as fast, but as inconspicuous as they could. It was like they didn’t totally believe him. I bet some of them are still telling that story today!

I learned a lot in my experiences with Jeff. I made it a mission of mine to help him. I wanted him to be OK; I wanted him to be well. Julie and I had planned a little vacation and were planning on being gone for about a week. I got real worried that if I wasn’t there to check on Jeff that he wouldn’t be alright. I even told Julie as much. I was actually afraid to go on vacation fearing he would implode. But, the Lord spoke clearly to my spirit at that point and said, “It’s Ok, Andy, …..you’re not the one that’s taking care of him anyway.” That put it in perspective for me. God always knows the right thing to say, and always at just the right time.

I wish this story had a happy ending….but it doesn’t. Several years later Jeff was living downstate in Texas and took his own life. I can’t help but believe that the Lord has lots and lots of grace for people like Jeff. 

I’ll never forget the things I learned…and I look forward to seeing him in Heaven.

Try these:

“It’s Not Your Job to Fix Them!”

Identity Theft

The Thing About Unconditional Love

Double Check Your “Invitation List”!!

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“Good Will Toward Men”

The heavenly angel, on a mission from the most High God, appeared with the heavenly host (multitudes of other angels) to announce to the world that a Savior had been born. Oddly enough this angelic sighting didn’t take place before a crowd of people….but to the shepherds who were watching over their flocks by night.  *(read “Good Tidings of Great Joy”) The angel didn’t say much….but what he did say was ultra important!

But, just what does the angel mean when he says,“Good will toward men”? I’ve been thinking about it all week. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone talk about that part. After pondering it for awhile…here’s where I landed. It’s an extremely important part of what the angel had to say. I’d even call it a great revelation. A Savior is born! And He came to the earth to “do us good”! It’s as clear a picture of Who God is that you’ll probably ever see. It reveals His heart toward all mankind. I don’t think it takes some kind of sophisticated commentary to figure this one out; it’s pretty simple. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believed in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

That phrase, “good will toward men”, reveals God’s absolute determination to be good to, and bless, all mankind…and in an almost unbelievable way! In ‘it’ He would do the only thing possible to redeem every single person that would ever live. He’s that good!

All other religions focus on how a person can get to God….but Christianity is vastly different. Yep, Christianity is about our God ‘coming to us’! He loved us so much that He came in the likeness of man, laid down His own life to, once and for all, forgive us of our sins! And the icing on the cake would be that, now,…..plain old people like you and I can have a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe! I I don’t know if you’ve figured that out by now but …that’s one heck of a deal!

“Good will toward men”……..

It’s God……willing (wanting, desperately desiring)…..to do you good!

More “good news”:

Maybe He Saved More Than Your Life!

If God Has Your Heart, He Can Get Your Feet Where They Belong!

What If It’s Not to ‘Break’ You,….but to ‘Make’ You?

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A Place Where People Get Well

We started Trinity Fellowship back in 1989. Julie and I knew we’d heard the Lord about the work in Sayre. There was a little small group of about 8-10 people coming from the whole spectrum of backgrounds. Baptist, Church of Christ, Pentecostal, Charismatic….and a few who didn’t know what they were….but just knew they wanted to go on with the Lord.

From the very start it has been a place ‘where people get well’! “Well from what”, you might ask? Some of them get well physically; we’ve always believed in the miracle working power of God. There’s story after story of how the Lord defied all the doctor’s reports and someone was gloriously healed. It still isn’t rare  for me to ask someone, “How’d you find us?” and their reply, “I’ve got cancer and I heard God heals people here!” Some of them get well emotionally; Trinity has been a place where hurting people come. The word is out! Because of the “good news” there’s hope for the hopeless. Some get well from the ill effects of dead, lifeless and mean-spirited religion. There’s droves of those people out there that have been plowed under by religion and religious people. Many will never darken the door of a church again. But a lot of those people give us a try….and you know what? They get well, too! Some get well from the clutches of addiction, others from heartbreak, grief and lots of other things. It hardly ever happens overnight…..but it nearly always happens!

We would never take the credit for it; They’re not getting well because we’re good at this stuff.  People get well when they’re loved. We don’t have that perfected….but we’re working on it. But, anytime anyone connects relationally with the Lord….they stand a really good chance to get well. It’s His love that makes the difference. Love never fails, you know!

It feels good to be known as a ‘place where people get well’!

The People That Nobody Else Wants

What If I’d Said, No?

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Love People, Trust God!

Life is an endless sequence of learning experiences. As long as we’re learning we’re growing. I don’t think that ever has to stop, even as we get older. It does stop, however, for a lot of folks who, for one reason or another, just put it to rest and decide they don’t need to learn anymore. I guess that’s someting we’ll all have to face sooner or later.

I didn’t even start to learn about spiritual things until I was about 30 years old. Didn’t grow up going to church. I had heard a few of the Bible stories like David and Goliath. I believed in Jesus but I knew very little about Him. But, when my life made the turn, I pretty much hit the fast track. I had done so much in my life that didn’t work, and all of a sudden I got ahold of the one thing that does work and I pretty much gave my life to ‘it’!

I think it was the sovereignty of God that caused me to end up in the little Baptist Church in Allison, Texas. Looking back, there was a very profound move of God happening there. There were no less than 8 couples/families that are now serving the Lord in full-time ministry. Our pastor, Ronnie Chadwick, was a great mentor for all of us. His guidance and influence helped set the direction for our lives, and even continues to do so today.

After we’d been there a few years we took a trip down to Dallas to a James Robison conference. We were part of a good sized group that went that year. It was a life-changer for most of us. I was green as a gourd, didn’t know much but my heart was in a good place. After one of the morning sessions as we were exiting the Dallas Convention Center a homeless guy had walked in off the street. He was dirty, smelled of alcohol and was probably there to He had everything he owned in a little plastic Wal-Mart bag. What I saw broke my heart; The biggest part of the 8-10,000 people that were at the conference, supposedly to learn how to be a better Christian, made a big, wide swath around the homeless guy. I don’t want to judge but it appeared that they didn’t want to be bothered by him, and definitely didn’t want to come in contact with him.

I just couldn’t pass by without trying to help the man. I found out he’d been in some bad situations in Vietnam and had been on the streets for years. I really felt for this guy. I spent twenty minutes or so telling him about the goodness of Jesus. I felt like it was my responsibility to ‘lead’ him to the Lord. (that was back when I didn’t know better!) But after those 15 minutes he didn’t want anything to do with that but just whatever handout he could get. I gave him some cash and he was gone.

I met back up with our group and I was totally devastated. I was sobbing for the condition of the man I’d just met. I felt like I had let the Lord down (which wasn’t true, but I didn’t know!) because he had rejected anything to do with Jesus. My pastor, Ronnie Chadwick, gathered me up and gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received. “Andy, you just have do what you can and trust the Lord to do what, only He, can do.” 

It was a profound experience for me and a lesson learned that has enabled me to help hundreds of others since then. The Bible says, “Some plant, some water….but it’s the Lord that gives the increase.” As I have matured through the years I often think of that incident. In this journey of learning to serve the Lord we must come to the understanding that, “Yes”, we have a certain amount of responsibility…..but if anything significant is going to happen…..it’s gotta be God!

It was right there that I learned what my responsibility actually is,

“Love people, trust God”. 

 

VIP #3 – Ronnie Chadwick

“God, If You’re Out There, You Gotta Help Me!”

A Long Ways From the Lord

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They Don’t Call it ‘Test’imony For Nothin’!

Everybody has a story. And, I’ve decided after years of observation that everyone’s story is interesting; fascinating really. And it’s my opinion that those stories need to be told. Everyone’s story is significant but in the grand scheme of things its’s those stories of when, where and how we came in out of the darkness .….and into the Light that are the most significant stories of all.

Around the church those personal stories have always been referred to as ‘your testimony’. I guess that’s an accurate definition of a person’s life story. I will say that of all the stories that I have heard the ones that I like the most are from those who are scared stiff to tell their story….but somehow muster up the courage to do it anyway. Those stories, or testimonies, always capture my attention….and the storyteller always gets my admiration. I prefer those raw, real and rough around the edges testimonies over the professional sounding ones. Doesn’t mean they’re any more valid than the others; I just appreciate a person summoning up the courage to do it.

I don’t get too enthused about a testimony when someone emphasizes how smart they were, or how good they handled a situation. I guess there’s a place for those stories, …somewhere. But, I’m a lot more interested in those testimonies where a person was in a desperate, no-win situation, in a place that felt like there was no way out…..but God somehow, miraculously, rescued them! Then the story….becomes about Him…and not really about us.

But the truth of the matters is that there’s not a testimony…..without a ‘test’! Yeah,….you had to know there was gonna be catch to it! But, it’s true; life is full of tests of every kind. Financial tests, relationship tests, physical tests, tests on the job….and the list goes on and on. In fact, I’d almost be willing to bet that you’re going through some kind of test right now. God doesn’t test us so He can find out where we are; He already knows that. No, we’re tested so ‘we’ can find out where we are.

These tests have a unique way of forming and shaping us.…and if we will just keep trusting the Lord through them our character is being strengthened as well. And, if you’re in a place that looks utterly impossible…..congratulations! The Father is watching…and He’s poised for an incredible rescue.

Your test is about to be your testimony!

I’d love to hear some of your stories!

Try these, and “Share” ’em if you like ’em!

“You Are Here”

He Won’t ‘Put More On Ya’ Than You Can Stand

Making the Best of a Bad Situation

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Mexican Food and Prophecy! They Go Great Together!

I was in Edmond, Oklahoma a couple days ago on my way home from a trip to Tulsa. Sitting with a friend having Mexican food, I was reminded of an incident 10 years ago, or so, that occurred only a block or two from where we sat.

Julie and I were in Oklahoma City Christmas shopping and took a lunch break at On The Border. Mid way through our meal a threesome came in and sat in a booth twenty-five feet away from us. It was a couple and, what appeared to be, their college aged son; handsome looking family. While we were eating the Lord drew my attention to them. I didn’t know exactly what it was but what I was feeling from the Lord was very, very strong. If we’re being sensitive He will often do this with us when He wants to, somehow, touch other people through us. (I think He would like to do this with all of us!) And, as He often does with me,…I didn’t feel like He’d given me anything specific about them….or ‘for’ them. ….which makes it pretty hard to know what to do. But the feeling was strong!

I considered just getting up and going over to their table….but that seemed really awkward seeing that I didn’t have any prophetic word at all. And, ……we’re right in the middle of the Mexican restaurant, they’re eating……double awkward! (I’m thinking, “Really, Lord?! Right here?!) So, I kinda talked myself out of doing anything. We finished our meal, got in the car and headed for the mall. I got no more than a quarter mile away and the feeling came on even stronger than before. And, then I got the feeling that I had really missed the Lord on this one. “I gotta go back”, I told Julie….who I hadn’t even mentioned any of this to as of yet. “I think I missed the Lord”. Well, we were in some intensive road construction so I couldn’t just turn around and go back. I had to go nearly a mile before I could exit and go back.

In my mind I was kinda hoping that they’d be gone….but that didn’t feel good either. I made it back, went in and they were nearly finished with their meal. I walked up to the table and said, “Excuse me, we were sitting right over there and the Lord brought y’all to my attention. I really feel like He has a ‘word’ for you but I wouldn’t dare give it without your permission.” *(I still had absolutely nothing specific from the Lord!) If they had said, “No”, then I’m off the hook. I’d been obedient to the Lord. But they said, “Sure, please do!” At that precise moment the Lord showed me that he had something for their son.

It’s been ten years but to the best of my recollection it went like this, “You’re the kind of guy that makes decisions on the spur of the moment. That’s the way God has made you and He loves that. You’re kinda like a ‘gunslinger’ in that respect. It’s a good thing.” At this point all three were nodding their heads in agreement. “But, you have a decision in front of you that the Lord wants you to know that you can’t make like that!” At this point they were still nodding but got very serious. I asked, “Is any of this making any sense?” And, in unison they replied, “Oh, yes! We know exactly what this is about!” I finished up, “The Lord wants you to move seriously, slowly and prayerfully before you make this decision.”

I said, “Well, that’s it.” By now all four of us knew that the Lord had intervened; it was clear! They were extremely grateful and said, “Thank you so much for the word….and thank you for being obedient to the Lord!”

We left there for the mall. Julie went in and I stayed in the car. A feeling I still can’t explain came over me and I began to weep. The only way I have of explaining it is that maybe there was something so very important to the Lord….and to this family that had some enormous spiritual implications. 

To this very day when I tell the story it’s hard for me to tell it without breaking down in tears. Still don’t have any idea ‘why’! Even writing it today I’m having to wipe away the tears to finish it. All I know is….something pretty important happened!

And, I came really close to missing my part in it.

Why not check these out:

I’ve Never ‘Led’ Anyone to the Lord……and I Ain’t Planning on Doing it Anytime Soon!

You Can Live in the Past if You Want To…..But There Is a ‘Downside’

Virtual Reality

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