Sunday, June 27, 2010

Taking The City

- Rev. Burton Barr, Jr. (Author of The Hoodlum Preacher & Amazing Grace: The Storm Is Passing Over.)

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Roadwork Ahead

I was driving to work one morning when I realized that I had plenty of time to spare. It was a beautiful day and there was hardly any traffic on the highway. Since it was so early, I thought about all of the things that I would be able to do before starting my day. I could get a cup of coffee, read the morning paper or maybe even stop for a nice, hot breakfast.

I was rolling along, enjoying the ride and anticipating a nice, peaceful morning when all of a sudden I saw that dreaded, orange and black sign that said, “Roadwork Ahead.”

In no time at all, that wide-open highway turned into a huge parking lot. I inched along in stop and go traffic for several, painful miles. I had to cancel the plans that I had because of the work that was being done on the road that I was traveling on.

Sometimes we have to cancel or change our plans because God is working on the road that we are traveling on. Maybe that is why that relationship did not work. Maybe that is why you didn’t get that job. Maybe that is why you could not move into that dream house.

Sometimes things don’t workout because God is preparing something better for us. Sometimes they don’t work out because God is preparing us for what He has in store for us.

We all want to find success and happiness as fast as we can, but God knows the dangers and the pitfalls that lie ahead. So when things in your life are not working out as quickly as you would like, don’t get discouraged and give up. Just look for the sign that says, “Roadwork Ahead.”

"Roadwork Ahead"

- Rev. Burton Barr, Jr. (Author of The Hoodlum Preacher & Amazing Grace: The Storm Is Passing Over.)

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

"A Message from Hell" Chapter 6 of "Amazing Grace: The Storm Is Passing Over" by Rev. Burton Barr Jr. & KOBALT BOOKS

When I was in prison, a Christian newspaper was circulated each month. There were a lot of nice articles in it along with some very interesting testimonies about inmates and former inmates that had accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and had turned their lives around.

What I remember most about that paper was a poem that I saw in it. The title was, “A Message from Hell.” I read that poem over and over again, but it would be years before the words that were recorded there would take on a very special meaning to me. In fact, it took the death of one of my oldest and dearest friends for me to understand what the “Message” was saying. Before I tell you the words of this poem, allow me to tell you a little bit about my friend, Fuzzy.

I was about 14 years old when Gip and some other friends of mine introduced me to a new kid that had just moved into the neighborhood. He said, “Hey Bub, this is Fuzzy.” I looked at Fuzzy and I said, “Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear. Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his hair. Then Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t Fuzzy was he?”

Everybody started laughing, except Fuzzy. He started chasing me down Christiana Avenue. I was laughing the entire time that he was chasing me. By the time he caught up with me, he was laughing too. We have been friends ever since.

Fuzzy lived on Roosevelt Road and Christiana Avenue above a tavern that was named, “The Heat Wave.” He lived there with his father, grandmother and his brother, Billy. He was about a year older than I was and very streetwise. His grandmother used their apartment as a gambling establishment and she also sold bootleg liquor after hours.
I was somewhat jealous of Fuzzy and the way he lived. He had complete freedom to come and go as he pleased and to do whatever he wanted. He didn’t go to school, he always had plenty of money, he was a sharp dresser and the girls were crazy about him. He was kind of like “The Fonz” on Happy Days.

Fuzzy and I had been through a lot together during our teenage years. We played together, fought together, and were almost killed together. Yeah, Fuzzy was one of my best friends.

We lost contact for a few years, when I was called into the ministry in 1965 and later moved to Cleveland, and then to Detroit. I eventually moved back to Chicago, but I backslid, leaving the ministry and the church. When that happened, Fuzzy was one of the first people that I ran into. We picked up right where we had left off, but by then we were both smoking marijuana.

As time went by, I started snorting and shooting heroin and cocaine. I convinced some of my friends to do the same. Fuzzy was one of them. In fact, I was the one that first stuck a needle into his arm.

Fuzzy and I got high together quite often. Eventually, I renewed my relationship with Jesus Christ and was delivered from my drug addiction. Nevertheless, I never told Fuzzy or any of my old friends about my deliverance. I kept putting it off, waiting for a more convenient opportunity. Unfortunately, it never came.
One day I received a phone call from my mother telling me that Fuzzy was dead. As bad as that news was, what Ralph told me hurt even more.

Whenever someone starts dealing heroin in a new neighborhood, they sometimes give away sample packets to potential customers in an effort to win their business. That’s what happened on Christiana one day, but that time, the heroin was laced with arsenic. Everyone that shot or snorted some of it died. That was someone’s way of getting rid of some junkies. Fuzzy was one of them. His grandmother found him on the floor in his bedroom with the needle still in his arm.

When I heard that, I was devastated. My best friend was gone. I kept thinking that if I had only had the chance to talk to him and tell him about how God had delivered me from drugs, my friend would still be alive. Then I realized that I had had more than one chance but I kept putting it off. Now it was too late. My friend was gone.
When I got home that night, I walked into my bedroom and sat down without even turning on a light. As I sat there, my mind went back to the poem that I had read years ago while I was in prison. I seemed to visualize a dark, gloomy figure walking towards me with a piece of paper in his hand. He said, “I am a messenger from the damned. This is a letter that I was asked to deliver to you. It is from a friend of yours who is in Hell now. It says:

Dear Friend,
I stand in judgment now, and feel that you are the blame somehow
While on earth, we walked day by day, but never did you lead the way
You knew the Lord in truth and glory, but never did you tell the story
My knowledge then was very dim. You could have led me safe to Him
We were together here on earth, but you never told me of your second birth
Now I stand this day condemned, because you failed to mention Him
You taught me many things, that’s true. I called you friend and I trusted you
Now I know, but it’s too late. But you could have kept me from this fate
We walked by day and talked by night, and yet you showed me not the light
You watched me live, and let me die, and you knew I’d never live on high
Yes, I called you friend in life. I trusted you in joy and strife
And yet in coming to this end, I see you really WERE NOT my friend.


I don’t know if Fuzzy is in Hell or not. Only God knows that, but what I do know is that I saw my friend headed down the path of death and destruction and I did absolutely nothing about it.

Unfortunately, too many Christians are guilty of that very thing, and millions of people are suffering because of it. We have all been delivered from something. None of us were born holy, but we sit in church Sunday after Sunday, hiding behind our sanctified walls and stained glass windows while singing, “Send me, I’ll Go” and then we go to our favorite buffet after the benediction and do nothing. We cannot make anyone change the direction that they are going, but we can let them know that there is a better way, and Jesus is that way.

I have that poem and a copy of Fuzzy’s obituary on the wall in my office. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see his face. It serves as a reminder for me to tell somebody about Jesus that day.

Sometimes I get tired of seeing Fuzzy’s face, but there are so many other faces that I am even more tired of seeing. I’m tired of seeing the faces of teenagers who are behind prison walls and will be there for the rest of their lives. I’m tired of seeing the faces of grieving parents and grandparents whose children are riding in the back of a hearse instead of riding in the back of a school bus. I’m tired of seeing the faces of all of those men and women who stand aimlessly and idly on street corners everyday looking for their next drink or their next fix.

Many of them feel like they are living in a world of hopelessness. They think the church is a social club for perfect people or they have done too much wrong for God to forgive them, but we must help them understand that no one is perfect. There is none righteous, no, not one. (Romans 3:10)

- Rev. Burton Barr, Jr. (Author of The Hoodlum Preacher & Amazing Grace: The Storm Is Passing Over.)

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Devil Made Me Do It

Satan was sitting on the steps of a church one day with his head hung down. A passerby noticed him and asked what was wrong. With tears in his eyes, Satan looked up and said, “The people in that church are always lying on me.”

I know that Satan is the father of lies, but sometimes we lie on him and blame him for some of the bad decisions that we make. We give Satan more power than he actually has. He can tempt us, but he cannot make us do anything. It is human nature for us to make excuses or look for someone or something to blame when we mess up.

I was a career criminal for twenty-two years. During that period, I spent a lot of time in courtrooms. You cannot imagine some of the excuses that I have heard when people stood in front of the judge. I have told some doozies myself. Some of them worked. Some of them didn’t.

My favorite plea in court was, “Guilty, with an explanation.” In other words, I did it, but let me tell you why. Then I would attempt to shift the blame on circumstances that were beyond my control. I guess that was my way of saying, “The devil made me do it.”

It has always been hard for me to accept responsibility for my failures. When I flunked in school, I said the teachers didn’t like me. When I was on the baseball team and made error, I said the sun was in my eyes. When I didn’t make my quota as a salesperson, I said our prices were too high. When I stepped outside of the will of God and did something that I knew was wrong, I said the devil made me do it.

We must accept responsibility and learn from our failures. I flunked in school because I didn’t study. I made the error on the field because I took my eyes off of the ball. I didn’t make my sales quota because I didn’t qualify the customers. I sinned against God because of a prayerless life.

Let’s stop making excuses and strive to do our very best. Don’t goof off at work just because your boss is not looking. Don’t cheat on a test because you didn’t study. Don’t sin against God because He is merciful.

My father’s favorite saying was, “If a task is once begun, never leave it till it’s done. Be the labor, great or small, do it well or not at all.”

The Apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” The devil never made me do anything. I did it because I wanted to.

AUDIO: "The Devil Made Me Do It"

- Rev. Burton Barr, Jr. (Author of The Hoodlum Preacher & Amazing Grace: The Storm Is Passing Over.)

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