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Every year during the month of January many in Christian churches spend time fasting as a first fruits offering, a way to give God the first of the new years. The church where I serve has done this for many years. I thought I would share with you two, only two important points about fasting, points that will help you.
One: It’s not supposed to be hard. Our bodies need food and when we don’t give it to them they rebel with hunger pangs, dizziness and other negative side effects. In addition to the need to have food for health and survival we Americans are accustomed to eating, eating a lot and eating a variety. Our social lives surround food. We sit at the lunch table talking about what we will eat for supper. It’s harder in our culture because food plays a bigger roll here than in many places.
Two: It’s not for your glory. If you’re drawing attention to the fact that you are fasting then you have your reward. Your reward being that other people know you’re fasting and possibly admire you or feel sorry for you. J
esus is recorded in the book of Matthew chapter six saying, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
We fast for the Glory of God. Read Isaiah chapter fifty-eight and see the results of fasting. Here is the list.
- To loose the chains of injustice.
- To untie the chords of the yoke.
- To set the oppressed free.
- To break every yoke.
- To give food to the hungry
- To clothe the naked.
- Your light will break forth.
- Your healing will appear.
- You will call and the Lord will answer.
Wow. That’s pretty impressive but there is no way a man can get or take glory for those results. The glory goes to God. If your fasting for attention or for your glory, STOP and go get something to eat. You’re wasting your time. That’s it! I believe in fasting and I believe that it brings great results in our lives. Blessings on you.
Below are links to good books on fasting.
- Fasting:Opening The Door To A Deeper, More Intimate, More Powerful Relationship With God. Jentzen Franklin
- The Fasting Edge, Jentzen Franklin
In the line ahead of me was a young mother. I assume she was a mother because she had a baby with her and I am guessing she had other, older children because of the items she had in her buggy (which was loaded). She was buying toys and a lot of them. She was also buying several things in two’s. Two toy guns, two dump trucks and two of several other things. My guess is that she was Christmas shopping and there were either twins or two boys close together in age involved.
Our society gets so caught up in the commercialism of Christmas, me included. We think we have to buy expensive gifts for children who don’t understand the value of the gifts their getting..
I have three grandsons and the oldest of them is only twenty-eight months. I am crazy about those boys and love being their Papa. I’ve got a feeling that as they grow older I’ll be spending a lot of money on stuff for them that they will not appreciate the value of. I want to buy them things. I want to spoil them. Isn’t that what grandparents are supposed to do? I’m sure right now I could give the two youngest empty boxes for Christmas and it would suffice. But as they get older….
Back to the young mom in the Dollar Store: Her buggy was loaded down. One by one she placed those toys on the counter and one by one the clerk scanned them. Finally he scanned the last item and gave the young mom the dreaded total that she would have to pay. $45.46 was her total. I couldn’t help but grin as it dawned on me that this young mom knew the secret of a happy commercial Christmas. That may have been her complete shopping list for the kiddos in her life and she did it for $45.46. The kids will be happy and she will not be stressed because she didn’t spend too much money trying to keep up with society.
Maybe we could all learn something from that young mom. Maybe.
It’s 10:50 in the morning. I’m sitting in a booth at the local McDonalds. I’ve been here since about 9:00. My seat is next to a window. I can see the traffic going by and the sun is pouring in. Some days this McDonalds is my office. Why McDonalds? Because my community doesn’t have a coffee shop with deep arm chairs and low light. That would be nice.
A very precious lady from my church came by about an hour ago and expressed to me that she knew I was having a hard time getting anything done with all these people around me. It’s quite the opposite. I don’t do it often but it seems that I can get more done in McDonalds that in the supposed sanctity of my office. There my desk is populated with notes, invoices, clutter and more. Things that distract me and draw my attention away from what I need to be doing. Here at McDonalds the only thing on my desk are a salt and pepper shaker, my phone, my coffee and of course my computer.
I think the employees here think I’m homeless. Or maybe the owners of this establishment might want to charge me rent for this space. Or, I might get the gossip lovers fired up. I can hear it now. One gossiper is talking to another fan of gossip saying something like, “I’ve been by McDonalds several times this morning and that preacher’s truck has been sitting there all morning. Surely we’re not paying him to hang out at the coffee shop.” Please excuse my limited grasp at humor. I don’t have any people in my church that are like that (wink).
The truth of the matter is I’ve had a quite productive morning. Life is full of distractions. Sometime escape is discovered in the most unlikely place.
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I looked at Felicia and she looked a bit concerned too but as I looked around the cabin no one else seemed to notice the popping noise at all. There was a gentleman across the isle from me, dressed in a suit and tie. He was reading the sports page of the Pensacola News Journal. He never looked away from his paper. Apparently Felicia and I were the only ones who seemed to be concerned. I felt pretty stupid when it dawned on me that the sound I was hearing was the landing gear. We were approaching the Atlanta airport. The aircraft sped up and then slowed again. Faster, then slower as the pilot lined up for a landing. Moments later we were taxing to our gate.
Looking out the window it was much different than Pensacola. At the Pensacola airport there were only four aircraft parked at the one concourse. In Atlanta there were hundreds parked at many concourses.
We didn’t have to change concourses in Atlanta and there was about an hour in between arriving and leaving for New York’s JFK Airport. Felicia and I found a snack bar and had a diet coke. It was all new to us. We were tired but excited.
Our flight from Atlanta to New York followed the East Coast. It took two hours but it seemed like moments and we were landing at JFK. We were in New York City. Well at least at a New York Airport. I must admit to you that I never saw even the skyline of Manhattan but it was still New York.
It wasn’t even lunch time yet and we were in for a long wait for our nine o’clock flight. To make things harder we had to keep up with our four large suitcases and our carry on bags during the wait. With the load there was no need to try and leave the airport so we found seats in our departure concourse and waited. I don’t remember much about that time except it was long. We had a nine hour wait which would be followed by nearly thirty hours of flying and layovers before landing in Bangalore. I do remember having my first Nathan’s New York Hotdog for lunch. It was pretty good.
After a long wait the Air India ticket counter finally opened. It was so nice to finally get rid of those four large bags for a while.
Arvind had given me the dress code for preaching in India. “Suits! All Suits!” he said. I’m not sure that was the custom as much as that’s how Arvind wanted me to dress. Having never flow commercial and having heard horror stories about lost luggage I prepared for the worst. Most of my clothes, including all of my suits and a pair of dress shoes were framed into a roll up garment bag that I was using as carry on luggage. If our luggage was lost I’d still have suits.
Just a little over a decade before our trip an Air India 747 went down in the Atlantic ocean because of a bomb detonation at 31,000 feet. Not long before our trip TWA Flight 800 went down just off the coast of New York because of an explosion. The security at the gate of our flight was extremely tense and thorough. Every cary on bag was being searched. I didn’t know this was going to be the case or I wound not have so overpacked my roll up garment bag. When the poor lady unzipped it, Well lets just say, we had a mess on our hands. It took me a while to get everything back in place and force the zippers but it was done and we waited in a large waiting room to board.
We were already lonely. At least ninety percent of those waiting with us were of some eastern decent. They all appeared to be Indian. We hadn’t left New York yet but we were already in India. It sure would have been nice to have had Arvind with us. Even the promise of an American missionary waiting in Bangalore would have brought some level of comfort. We were about to fly over eight thousand miles to a foreign country where there would be no familiar faces. It doesn’t seem like such a big deal now but it was then. We were leaving the country for the first time in our lives, alone.
This is Part III in the India series. Please read parts 1 and 2 first.
The preparation was completed and the time arrived that we would actually fly to the other side of the planet. The morning of departure started extremely early. An international flight starting in Pensacola required an early arrival. The flight from Pensacola to Atlanta would depart at seven which meant we had to be there by six. I’ve never made it a practice to be anywhere right on time. I had to be early so we were there by five thirty. Felicia was already tired and now aggravated at me because we were the first people in the airport that morning. The ticket agents were not even on the job yet.
I had never flown commercial so even the simple task of checking in with the ticket agent was nerve racking to me. I didn’t want to look green, even though I was. I managed to check the four large suitcases and get our boarding passes without any unbearable embarrassment. It was just a little after six in the morning but because of a late night to bed, less than good sleep, an early alarm, a forty minute drive to the airport and the stress of getting checked in we were already exhausted. I had no idea that it would be nearly forty hours before I would get another moment of sleep. I guess in some cases it’s good to not know the future.
We said bye to our family members who had come to see us off and our kids. I don’t think the kids really understood what was going on but they seemed sad. Felicia and I were extremely nervous and excited about our trip be we too were a bit sad knowing that it would be fifteen days before we saw them again. I can’t imagine the emotions that military parents deal with leaving their children for such long times. I also think of the early days of world missionaries, especially the “One Way” missionaries who packed their belongings into coffins, leaving family and friends behind knowing they would never see them again. All for the sake of the Gospel.
The Delta MD-80 was not a huge aircraft but fairly large coming out of the small Pensacola airport. Every seat was occupied and my seat was more than occupied.
I have always been a lover of thrill rides so takeoff was exhilarating for me. I had been in the air many times in small private aircraft but had never felt the G-Force of a jet takeoff. As I said, exhilarating.
The flight to Atlanta was to take less than an hour. Just long enough for the flight attendants to serve beverages and then pick up the trash. I had managed to relax and enjoy the view outside the window until I heard a loud popping noise and then felt the aircraft slow dramatically. To say I was concerned would be an understatement.
This is part two of the India series. Please make sure you have read part one first.
We lived at least fifteen minutes from the nearest restaurant and Sunday lunches in one of them were not the norm. Felicia was home long before me that Sunday preparing lunch. I must have had a look of shock on my face because she immediately knew something was up. When she asked I told her that Betty had given us a donation for our trip to India.
“How much is it?” I handed her the check. She looked at it for what seemed like eternity then looked up at me and said with a twinkle in her eyes, “we’re going to India.”
We needed three thousand dollars for the tickets and the check as you have already guessed by now was three thousand dollars.
I stayed in a state of shock and awe for several hours. Where did Betty get that much money? My shock and awe was followed by shame. I hadn’t really trusted that God would provide. He did it in spite of my lack of faith. Why is it so hard to believe that God will make a way? Not only did God make a way for us to get the tickets purchase He used the most unlikely source. There were people in our church who had lived well and planned well. They drove luxury vehicles and lived in nice homes. It wasn’t them. It was Betty, the widow who lived in the small house and drove an old car. It taught be a valuable lesson. A lesson I’ve had to learn again and again. I keep forgetting but God keeps reminding me that He chooses who He will use and it’s not usually the one with the most money, talent or pedigree. God chooses the foolish things to confound the wise.
The date was set, the airline tickets with Air India purchased and preparation was in full swing. There was so much to do. We would be gone for fifteen days. We had to make arrangements for our kids. That was the easy part. Our moms agreed to take turns staying with them at our house so they wouldn’t miss school. There was more money to raise the cost of the airline tickets was half of what we needed for the trip. I had faith now. I knew God had provided for the tickets. Now I was sure everything else would be ok.
Everything was not okay. Arvind came by to see me one day to inform me that he would not be going to India with us. “Pastor Scurlock,” he said. “God has something else for me to do. I will not be going to India with you but there will be people who will greet you and take you to places to preach.”
“Hold on just one minute. You invited us to go to India with you. We have spent three thousand dollars on tickets, made plans and now your telling me this?”
“It will be fine pastor Scurlock. You don’t need me. God will go with you.”
In the years since going to India I have traveled and made many missions trips. Now I know how it works. You hook up with an American missionary. He or she makes your arrangements in country and you spend your time with them. That would not be the case on our first trip out of the country. We would arrive in Bangalore India at 3 am local be greeted by an Indian man whom we had never met, and he would take us to our hotel. After that we were to be greeted by T.c. George who was the General Superintendent of the southern India Assemblies of God. He would make our preaching arrangements. It brought some comfort that an Assembly of God brother would be with us but it was still our first trip out of the country and it was India and we had no American contacts there.
In the 90’s you could check in two large suitcases per passenger and take a carry on bag. Arvind asked us to smuggle some Christmas decorations in to some of his family. “Smuggle?” I asked.
“Pastor Scurlock the authorities will frown upon you if they find you have these decorations but it will be fine because God will get you through customs.” Ok, now I’m worried. This man of God is suggesting to me that I do something that would be frowned upon and that I should trust that God would get me through.
It was the late 90’s. We were serving a church in North West Florida as their pastor. It was a church of less than 200 people in a small community near Pensacola. The salary was modest. We had three small children, a dog and one car.
Felicia and I had never even flown on a commercial flight much less left the country. We were pretty much home bodies, so when our Indian friend Arvind suggested that we should go to India with him to preach the gospel we didn’t really take it seriously.
Some time passed by, we were hosting Arvind and Susan in our home, he was cooking Indian food, helping Adam with his math and chasing our little girls around the house to the sound of squeals in a game of hide and seek. Our children loved Arvind. The food was awesome and they loved the way he loved to play. In a moment of stillness he looked into my eyes and said with his perfect English but with a heavy Indian accent, “pastor Scurlock you and Felicia should go to India with me to preach.”
“Ok,” I said and he smiled. While the smile was still large and his eyes sparkled with happiness I’m already having a personal conversation with myself inwardly. “Jeffrey! What are you thinking? India?”
I was certainly no missionary. As a matter of fact I entered the ministry with the hope and expectation that God would never call me to a foreign country.” I encouraged my church to give to support missionaries, we gave to all kinds of missions endeavors and the monkey was off my back,. I thought.
Arvind immediately began putting the wheels in motion for our trip. Before I could say “now wait a minute and slow down,” the date was set. A few days later the phone rang and when I said hello I was greeted with Arvind’s usual telephone greeting, “Praise the Lord pastor Scurlock.” Then he pushed us another step closer to India with, “I have reserved your airline tickets and I need $3000 to pay for them.”
“I don’t have three thousand dollars right now.”
“Pastor Scurlock, God will provide.”
I knew God was a miracle worker but three thousand dollars to me might as well been three hundred thousand. I agreed with Arvind vocally, “Amen, God will provide,” but I had major doubts. After all I am human and three thousand dollars to fly to India seemed a little extravagant for me.
My congregation knew I was planning a trip to India. What they didn’t know is how little faith I had that it would ever actually happen.
A couple of days later it was Sunday. Sunday’s are stressful for most pastors. I’m one of those. I’ve often said that my least favorite time of the week is Sunday morning before service begins. Most Sunday mornings were spent dealing with the anticipation of what the day would bring, some stress usually accompanied by an upset stomach and coffee with men from the church. The morning rocked along, pretty much normal. The morning service must not have been anything special because I have absolutely no memory of it. What I do remember is Betty walking to greet me at the pulpit when the service ended. She was a middle-aged widow. Her husband had been killed a couple of years earlier in an accident. She lived a simple life, a small home and old car, a couple of dogs on her front porch and her kids, mostly grown by now. “God told me to help you with your trip to India,” she said while reaching out to me with a folded check in her hand. I immediately began having one of those personal conversations in my head. As I’m reaching out to receive the check the conversation in my head goes something like this. “She’s a widow lady! What could she do? I know Betty doesn’t have much so Jeffrey don’t let your expectations of what that check amount is exceed common sense because you might be setting your self up for disappointment.” As the conversation in my head continued I reasoned in myself that Betty could probably donate a hundred dollars and that would be extravagant for her.
Now with the check in my hand I embrace Betty to say think you and then she walks away. I didn’t want to seem to eager so I waited until she had exited the building.
Yes, it really happened. Years ago at one of our previous churches a little older lady who was not a shut-in called our home. Felicia took the call and had a look of shock on her face as she held the receiver to her ear. Then came her response to the call, “no mam, I don’t think he will do that. I’m so sorry.” As I wait for the call to end curiosity is getting the best of me. Felicia put’s the phone down and said to me. “You are not going to believe this. That was (name not important) and she wanted to know if pastor Jeff would go to the store and buy her some panties.” It’s funny now but at the time I didn’t take it with such humor. Why? because folks will find any reason to become critical and put their pastors in difficult lose-lose situations. In twenty-nine years of pastoral ministry it never ceases to amaze me what good folks expect from their pastor.
- They expect him to know without being told.
- They expect him to always be there even if He doesn’t know that there is a there where he needs to be because he hasn’t been notified or he needs to be somewhere else.
- And they expect him to do the outrageous, like errands for panties.
Here are a few tips on some things you can do or not do to be a blessing to your pastor.
- Don’t expect the outrageous. Your pastor is not your errand boy, your delivery boy and certainly to the fetcher of panties. Now honestly I have found pleasure through the years serving folks who needed me. I have purchase the occasional gallon of milk because I asked if they needed anything or was just trying to minister to someone who I knew (because they told me) was going through a difficult time.
- Don’t expect your pastor to know without being told. It always gets me when I ask someone how they are and their response is,” better.” Why? Because most of the time I’m wondering, better that what? They have been sick and expect their pastor to know it. They didn’t call their pastor they just expect that some little bird told him. ‘t your sick let your pastor or someone in the church office know. If you want a visit for prayer say it. Something like this, “I’m sick and would like pastor to come by and have prayer with me.” Or “I’m sick, I don’t want anyone to come to my home or the hospital room but would love for my church family to be praying for me.” It’s really that easy. Communicate with your pastor. Let him know what the boundaries are. Some people don’t like having the pastor or anyone else come into their home or hospital room. Tell him that! Most of the time pastors are left guessing.
- Be understanding if your pastor can’t come right now. Many times I’ve had (even in small churches) multiple situations at one time and must choose where to be based on what limited knowledge I have.
- If you are missing church services, please, please, please take the responsibility to let your pastor know where you are and why your not attending church. Please don’t expect him to be pastorPI. A simple call, a voicemail, a text even a Facebook message to let your pastor know. That way he can take the appropriate action or non-action.
It all comes down to communication. Our world has never been more connected. Social media, land lines, cell phones, text messaging, email, etc. Your church may have one pastor or you may attend a church that has multiple staff members. Regardless of the size of your church communicate with your pastor or pastoral staff. It will be very much appreciated.
It all come from the memory of the lady who wanted me to buy her panties. Blessings!
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John Buchan said ‘The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already.”
At the church where I serve as lead pastor we are going through a staff transition. Two staff members, Chris and Alicia (husband and wife) who have served with us for over six years in extremely capable fashion are moving on. They have accepted the position of lead pastor in another church. When I knew for sure that they were leaving I began struggling with what would be the best move. What should I do? Should I immediately hire new full time staff to replace them? Honestly it is a stressful process.
Felicia and I had many conversations and agree that we believe that there is enough talent already present within our congregation that hiring new staff is not necessary yet.
The key to leadership is giving those you lead a chance to shine. To discover talents and abilities that you might not have been previously aware of and then utilizing those talents. I love the quote from John Buchan that I began with so I’ll share it again. “The task of leadership is not to PUT GREATNESS INTO PEOPLE, BUT TO ELICIT IT,…”
The danger for leaders is trying to put everything on yourself. I struggle with the it’s easier to do it myself than to take the time to teach someone else syndrome and that’s not good. Leaders must invest time and energy into discovering and teaching. Today is my new administrative assistants first day on the job. She’s being trained to do some bookkeeping by Chris, one of our outgoing staff members because he also did our books. It’s stressful for me but guess what, I know that as we elicit greatness from her and as she learns and grows that she will shine. Now that’s good.
Our student pastor (Chris) is leaving but we have a young adult leadership team of ten individuals who will work with our new, younger, inexperienced student pastor. They will all grow together and greatness will come from them. Our praise and worship leader (Alicia) is leaving but we have rallied the troops and now I’m confident that as we elicit greatness from them that they will shine. They already have.
Are you a leader? I hope this helps. What do you think?