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My Pre-Salvation Testimony

Testimonies

I’m a Christian. So, when I talk about my testimony, I’m talking about my personal story, not what’s given from the witness stand.

You see, we Christians, particularly we church-going folk, like to talk about what God has done in our lives. We like telling others about where the Lord has brought us from, how he’s changed us, and what He’s currently doing in our lives. We like to “testify.”

But as I say that, it seems to me that more Christians than not are pretty silent about what God has done to transform them. To be honest, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve been to a “testimony service” where there’s no preaching, just people telling their stories – their testimonies.

The “Great” Testimonies

But maybe it’s because so often what gets the most press, so to speak, are the testimonies that wow the audience, the “great” testimonies of how God delivered a horrible sinner and turned him into a saint. …Yeah, I know, that’s what salvation is, but work with me for a moment

What people really want to hear are the salacious details of debauchery and crime, the drugs and alcohol, the millions blown on a life of sin … you know, sort of like Kanye … and THEN how God miraculously saved them from all the excitement.  You don’t draw a crowd with a boring testimony like, “I was saved as a small child and lived a relatively God-honoring life the last 40 years.”

Why would the average Christian want to stand up in front of people and watch them yawn? For the most part, a lot of people who are born again by faith in Jesus Christ think their story isn’t worth telling, at least not worth making a big deal.

That’s why I want to share, for the very first time, my pre-salvation testimony… to encourage the average believer who’s never been a murderer, a drug dealer, a dope addict, a wifebeater, a famous musician, or a politician.

My Story

I’ve written before about my life after God saved my soul, but I’ve never written about what I was like before I gave my heart to Jesus. I didn’t want to give the devil too much credit or make my past life look attractive to those who might be tempted by the depravity to which I was bound.

Honestly, some people talk about their lives before Christ like salvation was only something they resigned to. It’s like: “I had everything money could buy – women, drugs, fast cars, airplanes, houses on the beach, and a modeling contract – but then I got saved, and now I go to church.

But not me… I was a true sinner, lost and on my way to hell, and I’m glad Jesus saved me!

Before I got saved, I was an immature, unpredictable, maladjusted mess. For a few years, I was in such a world of my own that nobody could understand me; my vocabulary was horrible, worse than a sailor’s. My language was so bad I’d even make up words to express the neediness inside.

For at least a year I drank all the time. Rarely ate a bite of food.

I never cared about my own well-being, but lived every day without any thought of life or death. I took every risk, broke every rule, and in trouble with authority on a regular, sometimes daily basis.

Before Jesus saved me, I was self-centered, self-serving, and entitled; I felt everything should be done for me, that I shouldn’t have to do anything for myself. For a couple of years, I didn’t even try.

I was like the homeless in San Fransisco; I’d defecate anywhere and anytime I wanted. Once, while attending a party at my parent’s house, I literally walked into the middle of the living room where the church people were sitting, and urinated into an ashtray on the coffee table!

The face of an unrepentant sinner full of unholy potential.

I took advantage of everyone who loved me, especially my mother. Fortunately, I had good parents who loved me through those unredeemed years, even though it seemed like every paycheck of theirs was meant to keep me alive.

That is why I could never thank God enough for what He did when He saved me on September 26, 1973… when I was only six years old!

God spared the world from what I could have become.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christianity, Church, Humor, self-worth, Witnessing, worship

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: the Gnat Line

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Gnats

I had never heard of such things growing up in Tennessee. And when living in Kentucky, there was nothing like it in the blue grass. But down here in middle Georgia there are these critters called eye gnats, or simply “gnats.”

You see, where we are is where the soil is just right for a particular kind of pest that will quite near make a non-native preacher cuss. These things will fly (no disrespect intended) into your eyes, your nose, your ears, and even your mouth. They’re dreadfully-annoying flying flecks of near demonic frustration.

But however annoying these little critters can be (and one just flew by my computer screen), at least they are not flies. Annoying is one thing, but at lest they’re not disgusting and deadly.

Believe it or not, the average fly is much worse than a hundred of these ear-buzzing hellions.

Flies

I don’t want to gross you out with all the stuff that flies do, but I could.

The worst part is that in order to eat they have to regurgitate stomach acid onto their food source (your food), dissolve it, then suck it back up. In the process, whatever was left in the gut of the fly from its last meal (road-kill or doggie poop) just got puked onto your burger or ice cream.

Now THAT is DISGUSTING!

Because flies are so nasty, annoying, and ever-present, the writer of Ecclesiastes chose to use them (not gnats) in an illustration. He said,

Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savor: [so doth] a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom [and] honor (Ecclesiastes 10:1).

What does that mean?

Well, an apothecary was someone who made perfume, or a medicinal ointment. Some of these ointments could take a long time to create, not to mention use a lot of costly ingredients in the making. If left uncovered, the sweet smell would attract flies. Only one fly landing in the ointment could cause it to spoil and create a foul odor.

Losing its beautiful smell, the ointment was no longer capable of doing what it was designed to do.

Like the ointment of the perfume maker, our reputations (testimonies) are hard to come by, but easy to ruin. All it takes is just one little mistake, misstep, or sin to cause a big stink. So, watch out for the little sins that can ruin your hard-earned reputation.

Keep the lids on and the screens closed.

“The Fly Song” (Dead Flies)

A few years ago, in a moment of creativity, I stayed up late one night putting a song together on my 8-track Tascam. A while later, my friend (Roy Cavender) came and laid down the lead guitar track.

I’m going to let you listen to it, but you need an open mind and a sense of humor. Maybe one day I will have the time and money to take it to the studio and do it up right, along with some other works recorded late at night when I should have been asleep.

Click the link below to listen! Then, by all means, be thankful if all you have buzzing around are middle-Georgia gnats 🙂

Dead Flies

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Filed under Christian Living, General Observations, Life Lessons, Uncategorized

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Not Just a Pretty Building

Precious

Do you remember the pretty pictures of the last church building where I was the pastor? It was the “little white church with the red door” that so many people in our community raved about. It was an historic edifice to a by-gone day when old-fashioned 7-day revivals were still a thing and people went to church because it was expected.

Everybody thought it was a “precious little church [building],” but they had other places to be come Sunday.

Unfortunately, because the outside of a building does not reflect what goes on inside, the admirers who drove by in their cars every day did not know that looks alone couldn’t keep the red doors open for business. The cute little building, despite desperate injections of love and effort, was destined to close.

Picturesque

Now, let’s talk about Georgia…

I didn’t intend to look mean, it was just the sun in my eyes and I was looking down at my phone 🙂

The church I now pastor gathers in one of the most beautiful structures around! Not some wedding-chapel-like building, Bethlehem Baptist Church is known all over the area as a picturesque, post-card-worthy example of 19th-century architecture. I have no idea how many times the building has been photographed, but I know of three framed pieces of art depicting the structure hanging on different walls inside!

I mean, seriously! It’s one thing to know your church building is special, but it’s a whole different level when you’ve got three paintings of the outside on the inside! Needless to say, you’re not likely to forget where you are on your way to Sunday School.

As a matter of fact, the building itself was built in 1890 as part of the church’s centennial celebration! It’s listed, as you might imagine, as a protected historical site, too.  The structure is so well known that when I tell people where I work, if they don’t immediately recognize the name, they remember the building when I describe it.

People know Bethlehem Baptist Church.

Or do they?

(To prove the point, I am sitting at McDonald’s using their WiFi to write this. I asked the lady sweeping the floor, “Do you recognize this building?” She did. She’s from New York, not been here long, but remembered seeing it when driving by – and she’s looking for a church…so I invited her.)

Whited Sepulchers 

Before I go any further, and before anyone here at Bethlehem who’s reading this gets upset with me, I think Bethlehem Baptist Church is more than a building; it’s a fantastic congregation of Jesus-followers who love each other and their community. However, somewhere along the line the fame of the building outstripped the fame of the congregation’s deeds.

Jesus said that we should let others see our good works so that the ones seeing them might glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Jesus also said the following:

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead [men’s] bones, and of all uncleanness. – Matthew 23:27

Is the building where I pastor a whitewashed tomb?? NO! It’s not! But if our church is known more for our outward beauty, more needs to be done to express the Life that is inside.

When people hear the name Bethlehem Baptist in Warthen, GA, I want the first thing to come to their mind is how much like Jesus the people inside are! I want the beauty of His grace to pop into their minds, not the memory of some architecture made with hands.

We’re NOT just a pretty building; we’re a living body of believers who gather in a pretty building. There’s a difference, and the difference is critical.

What’s in YOUR walls?

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Filed under Church, General Observations, ministry

How Do You Want to be Known?

It’s not often I post a video of me preaching, but I hope this one is a blessing.

A couple of years ago, not long before I became pastor of South Soddy Baptist, I was invited back to Mile Straight Baptist Church to preach for the evening service. It’s always an honor when Dr. Tom Goss extends the invitation.

That night I felt led to preach a sermon based on one of my personal ministry objectives. The title of the sermon was “How Do You Want to be Known?”

So, if you’ve ever wondered what I looked like preaching, this is me! I don’t look any different, today, by the way. 🙂

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Filed under Preaching, Southern Baptist

Which Would Surprise You More?

It may come as no surprise to you that I have some pretty unique students who ride my school bus. I’m sure the same could be said for any school bus.

However, today, following a conversation in which a middle school girl was laughing about some creepy things she’d done, like stabbing her stuffed frog, I posed a question to the students surrounding her.

“Of the following,” I asked, “which of these two things would surprise you more if you found out they were true about (the girl)? First, that she had a bedroom full of unicorns and rainbows, and that she wrote poetry about flowers… Or, secondly, that in her bedroom she had a black pot, under which sat a burner…and that she used the pot to boil water, into which she would put the severed extremities of creatures she gathered from outside after midnight while her parents slept?” 

“Unicorns and rainbows,” replied the other students. A creepy cackle of approval came from the seat behind me. Then she added, “But the poetry could have been about dark, magical flowers that kill.”

Uh, yeah. 

Anyway, this got me to thinking. What would surprise you more, if you heard it about me? 

  1. That I could bench press 500 pounds, or…
  2. That my biceps look like chicken thighs.

How about this?

  1. That I have a fondness for burning things, or…
  2. That I have a fear of getting burned. 

Now, try these on for size. Which would surprise you more?

  1. That I was a spy for the U.S. government, or…
  2. I was a draft dodger. 

You see, how we answer these questions reveal our perceptions of people. So, here’s one more. Which would surprise you more if you learned it to be true about me? 

  1. That I’ve never offended a single soul with my preaching, or…
  2. That someone got so offended by something I preached that he left the church and personally threatens me…and he wouldn’t be the last. 

I hope you picked #1 on that one (read John 15:18-20). Otherwise, I need to reevaluate what I’m doing. 

Why not give it some thought and ask others some questions about yourself? You might be surprised with their answers. 

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Filed under Christian Living, Christianity, General Observations, Life Lessons, Uncategorized

How Do You Want to be Known?

It’s not often I post a video of me preaching, but I hope this one is a blessing. A couple of weeks ago I was invited back to Mile Straight Baptist Church to preach for the evening service. It’s always an honor when Dr. Tom Goss extends the invitation.

That night I felt led to preach a sermon based on one of my personal ministry objectives. The title of the sermon was “How Do You Want to be Known?”

So, if you’ve ever wondered what I looked like preaching, this is me…who needs to lose a little weight.

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Filed under Preaching, Southern Baptist

Comparing Testimonies?

Lunchtime Chatter

It was only after I had downed my turkey chili, and Haley (my daughter) had almost finished her brownie, that the conversation started with a fellow Panera Bread patron. She was a godly-looking lady sitting all alone in a quiet booth across from us, Bible to one side of her table, eating some soup.  I asked, “So, how many people do you think come in here for Bible studies?”

“A lot,” she answered with a smile. For the next few minutes we talked church stuff, especially who her pastor was.

Now, I am not going to name any names, but her pastor is a local dynamo of a leader. This guy is a great speaker, is in great shape, has a powerful voice, has seen fantastic growth in an already large congregation, and has his book for sale at Lifeway (well la-ti-dah). What’s more, once a year, due to overwhelming demand, he shares his testimony to overflowing crowds which are stunned to hear of God’s working in this man’s life (he was a former drug lord, or something).

Really? That’s cool,” I said. “That’s awesome.” Then, with a matter-of-fact tone that probably sounded something like, “Yeah? You think I’m impressed?” I told her, “My testimony is pretty boring…I was just the most self-righteous son-of-a-gun you’d ever meet, that’s all.”

Ahhh, really?” she replied.

“Yeah, nothing that special…pretty ordinary.” Then, after she showed me her pastor’s book, the one that her whole dadburn multi-thousand-member church uses for discipleship studies, I made sure she heard that I had also written a couple of books – one of which was 350,000 words long – and both are for sale at Barnes and Noble (insert adolescent-like tongue flapping sound).

It made her raise her eyebrows, so I was happy. Childish, I know.

Who’s Is Better?

Here’s the thing…why is it that we are so prone to jealousy? Here’s another thing…why is it that one testimony of God’s grace will draw a crowd, but others are thought of as run-of-the-mill and boring?

Here’s another ‘nuther thing…I can’t be you, and you can’t be me, and God knows what He’s doing….and every testimony of God’s saving grace cost Jesus the same amount of blood; it took the same cross to save this preacher’s kid as it did that big drug dealer who now pastors thousands.

No “testimony” is better than another. Sure, to our ears it may sound more dramatic to hear how God delivered a person from a life of gross sin and debauchery, but the real miracle is not about us – it’s about Him. The simple truth is that it takes just as much of a miracle to save a person who doesn’t think he’s ever done anything wrong as it does to save a man who knows he deserves hell.

Were you saved from sin? So was I. “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Galatians 6:14).

Testimony of Grace

Some of us have some great stories to tell, but all of us have a unique story to tell. Even though some pieces of the puzzle may seem bigger, no puzzle is complete without the smallest piece in place.

Don’t compare yourself to others who draw crowds with their stories; you are not them – you are YOU. You are you for a reason only God knows, and even though you may not be the one getting all the attention, you still play a critical part in God’s plan.

God created you for the sole purpose of bringing praise and glory to the name of Jesus Christ through your own, uniquely miraculous testimony. No one else can live your story; no one else can have your testimony.

The only one we need to compare ourselves to is Jesus. When we do that, it’s a miracle any of us are where we are today; we’re all a testimony of God’s grace.

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Filed under Christian Living, Depression, Do not judge, Life Lessons, ministry

Here Come Da Flies

Warm weather is just around the corner, you know. And with warm weather comes one of the more annoying things in life…

FLIES!

I don’t want to gross you out with all the stuff that flies do, but I could. The worst part is that in order to eat, they have to regurgitate stomach acid onto the food source (your food), disolve it, then suck it back up. In the process, whatever was left in the gut of the fly from its last meal (road-kill) just got puked onto yours.

Now THAT is DISGUSTING!

Because flies are so nasty, annoying, and ever-present, the writer of Ecclesiastes chose to use them in an illustration. He said, “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: [so doth] a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom [and] honour” (Ecclesiastes 10:1).

Now, what does that mean? Well, an apothacary is someone who made perfume, or ointment. Some of these ointments could take a long time to create, not to mention use a lot of costly ingredients in the making. If left uncovered, the sweet smell would attract flies. Only one landing in the ointment could cause it to spoil and create a foul odor. Losing its beautiful smell, the ointment was no longer capable of doing what it was designed to do.

Like the ointment of the perfume maker, our reputations (testimonies) are hard to come by, but easy to ruin. All it takes is just one little mistake, mistesp, or sin to cause a big stink. This is what the writer of Ecclesiastes was trying to say. Watch out for the little sins that can ruin your hard-earned reputation. Keep the lids on and the screens closed.

The Fly Song (Dead Flies)

A few years ago, in a moment of creativity, I stayed up late one night putting a song together on my 8-track. A while later, my friend Roy Cavender came and laid down the lead guitar track. I’m going to let you listen to it, but you need an open mind and a sense of humor. Maybe one day I will have the time and money to take it to the studio, along with some other works recorded late at night when I should have been asleep.

Click the link below to listen! Then, by all means, tell me what you think!

Dead Flies

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Filed under Christian Living, General Observations, Life Lessons, Uncategorized