Sunday, November 28, 2010

What Did The Turkey Do?

A lady went into a pet store one day to purchase a parrot to keep her company. The shopkeeper told her that the only parrot that he had was once owned by a sailor, and his language was very filthy. The lady believed she could change the parrot’s attitude and vocabulary by showing him love and affection. But when she got home, she found out that the parrot’s profanity was worse than she had thought.
She became so frustrated; she put the parrot in the freezer for several minutes hoping that would teach him a lesson. When she took him out, she asked the parrot if he was sorry for the way he had acted. He said he was and promised not to use that kind of language anymore.

The lady came home from work one day and the parrot started cursing at her. She put the parrot in the freezer again, this time for an hour. When she took him out, he was cold and shivering. She asked him if he had learned his lesson this time. The parrot said that he had, and again, he promised never to use that kind of language again.

A few weeks later, the lady was late getting home from work. The parrot was upset because his supper was late, so he cursed the lady out, using words that she had never heard before. She became so angry; she threw the parrot back in the freezer. Then she went to the grocery store to finish shopping for her Thanksgiving dinner. She returned a few hours later and remembered that the parrot was in the freezer. When she took him out, he had almost frozen to death.

She put him in his cage and asked, “Have you learned your lesson this time?” The parrot said, “Yes Ma’am.” She said, “Are you going to be good?” The parrot said, “Yes Ma’am.” She asked, “Are you going to use that filthy language anymore?” The parrot said, “No Ma’am.” The lady said, “Don’t make me put you in that freezer again.” The parrot said, “Yes Ma’am.” As the lady was walking away, the parrot said, “Excuse me Ma’am. Can I ask you something?” The lady said that he could. With a shaky voice, the parrot asked, “What did the turkey do?”

When misfortune falls upon someone, some of us tend to think it was brought on because of something that person had done. If you lose your health, your house or your happiness, some people will speculate and wonder what you did to deserve such adversity. If you are not careful, you might find yourself wondering the same thing.

Troubles, heartaches and pain are a part of life. God never promised you carefree living. But He did promise never to leave you alone. Sometimes, like the parrot, we bring things on ourselves because of our disobedience. But sometimes we get caught up in situations that are beyond our control. Job was going about his daily routine and lost everything that he had. Joseph was looking for his brothers and was sold into slavery. John The Baptist was preaching the Gospel and was beheaded. The turkey went for a walk when it was too close to Thanksgiving and ended up in a freezer. Stuff happens.

When you see someone who is going through some kind of hardship, instead of wondering what they did to deserve it, ask God for wisdom and strength to help them.

"He's Only A Prayer Away: 9 Examples Of Praying Until Your Breakthrough" Book in Stores Now!!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Keep Fighting Until The Bell Rings

My church had our Christian Education Institute last week and I was one of the instructors. Each night, there was a lecture period before the classes began. There was a timekeeper in the front office that rang a bell when classes were supposed to end. It was a long, busy week; therefore, many of us were extremely tired.

On Thursday night, the lecture period went over a little. Since the classes started later, someone went to all of the classrooms and told the instructors that we were going to dismiss a little later. She said, “Just keep going until the bell rings.” Although we only went over a few minutes, it seemed more like it was a few hours. I kept thinking to myself, “When is the bell going to ring.”

When I got home that night, I thought about my brief boxing career while I was in the U.S. Marines. During one of my fights, my opponent gave me all that I could handle, and more. Since he was smaller than me, I thought I was going to have an easy victory. Nothing was farther from the truth. We went toe to toe during the entire fight. When the final round was about to begin, my corner man said that I was ahead on points. To win the fight, all I had to do was fight until the bell rings.

That was the longest round that I had ever fought. I think my opponent turned into Popeye and his corner man gave him some spinach before the last round started. I was hitting him with everything I had, but my punches no longer fazed him. His punches felt like giant boulders, coming from every direction. I was ready to quit, but I kept hearing my corner man yelling, “Keep fighting until the bell rings.” I was thinking to my self, “When is the bell going to ring?” When the fight was over, I found out that I had barely won. That was my third and final fight.

The Apostle Paul wrote most of the books that are in the New Testament, but he had some major battles and suffered quite a few disappointments during his Christian journey. But at the end, he was able to say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). Paul didn’t stop fighting until the bell had rung.

We all go through difficult situations. You might be going through something right now. You might be in the toughest fight that you have experienced as a Christian. You might even be questioning your faith or wondering it the Lord is with you. Just remember, Jesus is your corner man. He is saying, “Keep fighting until the bell rings.”

"He's Only A Prayer Away: 9 Examples Of Praying Until Your Breakthrough" Book in Stores Now!!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Shattered Dreams

It was the day before Thanksgiving in1975. I was on a small-chartered plane that was flying over Amarillo, Texas. The pilot had just announced that we were going to make an emergency landing. I can remember thinking to myself, "I don't want to die like this. Not here. Not now. Then again, what difference does it make if my life is over with anyway".

You see, the plane that I was on was headed to the Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth. As I sat there, chained and shackled to eight other prisoners, my mind began to wonder. What happened? How did I mess my life up so badly? What happened to all of the hopes and dreams that I had once had? I began thinking that it might be better if the plane did crash, and shatter into a thousand pieces, just like my dreams had. Shattered Dreams.

I was at the lowest point of my life. I was a high school drop out with a drug problem and a bad conduct discharge from the Marines. Now, I was sitting on a plane headed to one of the most notorious prisons in this country on the day before Thanksgiving. I thought to myself, "What do I have to be thankful for?” Shattered Dreams.

Oh yes, just like everyone else, I had dreams, but now, all I could do was just sit there, almost in a state of shock, wondering how I had gotten to this point. What had I done to deserve a seat on this plane?

I was not a hardened criminal, and I wasn't a bad person. I had grown up in a nice Christian home with a mother and father who loved me. My father was even providing for my college education while I was still in grammar school. So why was I sitting on a plane, on my way to prison with a federal record, instead of sitting on a plane, on my way home with a college degree. Shattered Dreams.

After we made the emergency landing in Amarillo, we sat on the plane for several hours while the mechanics made the necessary repairs. While we were sitting there, my mind went back to the Rose of Sharon Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago. I could see myself sitting there on the front pew with my grandmother and listening to Rev. Murphy.

I could see myself standing in the Baptismal pool at age nine, staring into Rev. Murphy's face as he was about to baptize me, and thinking to myself that one day I was going to be like him. I must have been dreaming because I could just feel the pride that I had as I stood at my post as a junior usher.

I could even remember the feeling I had years later, when at age 17, I stood in the pulpit of the Galatians Missionary Baptist Church and preached my trial sermon about Daniel in the lion’s den. I was so desperately hoping that this was not a dream, because there I was, a teenager again, fellowshipping and hanging out with all of my Christian friends.

My life had meaning again. I felt like I could dream again. Dream of being a doctor. Dream of being a lawyer, an engineer, or anything I wanted to be, until I felt a sharp pain in my right knee. When I opened my eyes, I saw one of the prison guards standing over me holding a nightstick in his hand and telling me to fasten my seat belt. We were about to take off again.

When I looked around I quickly realized that I was not a teenager again. I was not in Church and these were not my Christian friends. I could forget about the dreams I had about becoming a doctor, or a lawyer, or anything else for that matter. It had all been just a dream. Now the plane had been repaired and I was on my way to Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary where I would have to trade my dreams in for a uniform with the numbers 59698. Shattered Dreams.

I want to ask you something. Do you have a dream? What is your destination in life? What are your goals? What are your objectives? Do you have a dream?

In the 37th chapter of Genesis, we see that Joseph had a dream, and he went through slavery and prison, but even with all that, he still knew that he was going to be somebody. Some of you have gone through some difficult situations as well. Maybe it was in your home. Maybe it was at your school. Maybe it was on the block while you were hanging with some of your partners. Maybe you’ve been experimenting with some things that you know you had no business messing with. Or you’ve been doing some things that you know is wrong. Now you are confused because your life is in shambles and you don’t know what to do.

Well I want to tell you something. Your life is not over with. I don’t care what anybody tells you, you can still be somebody. So don't let anything stop you from dreaming and don't let anyone discourage you from perusing your dreams.

If there was ever someone who should have been discouraged from dreaming, it was Joseph. Let us take just a minute or two and look at a portion of his story. Some people probably thought Joseph had no business dreaming in the first place. You see, in Israel, it was the firstborn son who was loved in a special way by his parents and he inherited special rights and privileges.

His Birthright was a double portion of the estate and the leadership of the family, but Joseph was not the first-born. As a matter of fact, he was the 11th of twelve sons. So what right did he have to dream? What made him think that he could possibly be somebody?

Some people feel that you don't have a right to dream either. They think you are just wasting your time dreaming of being a politician, an entrepreneur, or CEO of some major corporation. Your skin is the wrong color, your parents don’t belong to the right club, or you were born on the wrong side of the tracks.

Oh yeah, they will try to keep you from dreaming, but I dare you to dream anyway. Dream as big as you can, and then place your dreams in the hands of God and watch what happens.

There was another group of people who thought Joseph had no business dreaming. They were his brothers. In fact, they hated him because he had dreams, but you don't have to take my word for it. Just look at the last part of verse 8. It says, “And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said." He had told them that he was going to be somebody. Now, you would think that if anyone were going to be on your side, and want to see you succeed, it would be your family or those closest to you. Am I right?

However, there are some people who don't want anything out of life, and they don't want to see you with anything either. They are satisfied right where they are. Sometimes those are the ones that are closest to you, your friends, your family members or your classmates. They cannot see any further than where they are right now. They look at their surroundings and they believe that the only way that they can make it is by running with a gang, selling drugs, or ripping off their own people. They think that going to jail is a badge of honor. They have no hope. They have no vision. They have no dreams.

I once read that when a flea trainer is training his fleas, he places them in a jar. When he first puts them in there, they jump out because fleas are incredible jumpers. I mean, they can jump so high, that sometimes it looks like they can fly.

The training begins when he puts a lid on the jar. The fleas continue to jump, but when they do, they hit their heads on the lid over, and over, and over again. So after a while, the fleas continue to jump, but they no longer jump as high as they can, because they don’t want to bump their heads anymore.

Now the trainer can remove the lid from the jar, and when he does, the fleas will continue to jump, but they will not jump out of the jar. Actually, they won’t jump out because they no longer can jump out because they have conditioned themselves to jump just so high. Now, that is all they can do.

Some of you have conditioned yourselves to jump just so high because every time you have tried to jump any higher than that you have bumped your heads. You have bumped your heads on racism. You have bumped your heads on peer pressure. You have bumped your heads on people telling you what you could not do and what you could not be. You have bumped your heads over, and over, and over again because Satan had placed a lid over your dreams.

Well I want to serve notice on you. When Jesus died on the cross one Friday, Satan thought he had shattered His dreams too. But early that Sunday morning, when He stepped out of the grave, not only was the stone removed from the entrance to the tomb, but the lid was removed from above your dreams. That is why the Apostle Paul was able to say, "I can do all things, through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil 4:13)

So don't be afraid to aim high. Aim as high as you can. One of my former Pastors, Rev. Joseph Jones, used to say, “While you are aiming, aim for the stars, and if you fall upon the moon you will still be on higher ground.” So aim high.

Joseph was not afraid to aim high, but there will always be someone who is jealous of what they may see in you and they will stop at nothing to try to destroy you and your dreams. Just look at verses 19 and 20 says, "And they said one to another, ‘Here comes that dreamer. Come now, let’s kill him, and throw him into some pit, and we will say, some evil beast has devoured him. Then we will see what will become of his dreams.”

I want to let you in on a little secret. Sometimes you have to stop watching your enemies so close and start watching your back when your friends come around. Some of them are the real player haters. There are so many people whose dreams have been shattered by their friends.

I don't know of anyone who got their first cigarette or their first joint from one of their enemies. You never see a man standing on the corner drinking whiskey or wine with one of his enemies. It is not a person’s enemy who talks them into smoking crack. It is not a person’s enemy who gets them to cut class. It is not a girl’s enemy that gets her pregnant. It is not a boy’s enemy who convinces him to join a gang. It is not a person’s enemy that can destroy his or her dreams in such a way, because no one would let their enemies get that close to them.

Only a friend, a very close friend, someone that you love and trust can get close enough to you to destroy your dreams in such a manner. So what are you saying, preacher? I’m simply saying that sometimes you have to take a step back and take a real hard look at the people that you call your friends.

My father tried to tell me that. He said, “Son. That crowd you’re hanging out with don’t mean you any good.” I wouldn’t listen. I said, “Dad. You don’t know what you’re talking about. These are my friends.” I found out that he was right, because when I was in Cook County Jail, there were so many times that I sat there wondering, “Where are my friends now?”

When the guards were passing out the mail and they would walk pass my cell because I did not have any, I wondered, “Where are my friends now?”

On visiting days, I wanted somebody to come and see me, but I just sat there, trying to pretend that I wasn’t hurting when my number wasn’t called because no one cared enough to come. Many times, I just sat there in my cell, fighting back the tears, and wondering, “Where are my friends now?”

Sometimes I would think about all of the money I had thrown away on drugs, alcohol and wild parties trying to buy somebody’s friendship. Now I couldn’t even afford to buy a bar of soap to wash my face. I wondered, “Where are my friends now?”

In verse 27, we read that Joseph's brothers decided not to kill him, but to sell him into slavery. They decided to compromise. That way, they could destroy his dreams without taking his life. We see in verse 28 that they sold him to the Ishmaelites and he was taken to Egypt.

Let me ask you something. Are you on your way to Egypt? Have you allowed your dreams to be compromised and now you have found yourself in slavery to some drug that’s ruining your life? Are you on your way to Egypt? Have you let someone convince you that you will never be anybody, or amount to anything? Are you on your way to Egypt? Do you think that it's OK to disobey your parents? Is it OK to lie, to cheat, and to steal, just because everybody else is doing it? Are you on your way to Egypt?

The last point that I want to make is that Joseph was not afraid to say no. In chapter 39, we see that Joseph had been sold to Potiphar, who was one of Pharaoh's officials and the captain of the guard.

The Bible says that the Lord was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. In the New International Version, Verse 7 says "and after a while, his master's wife took notice of Joseph and said, 'come to bed with Me.' but he refused." Joseph said, No. He knew what was at stake here. It was his relationship with God.

Oh yeah, Joseph was a dreamer, but he knew who gave him the ability to dream. It was God, and as long as he had a relationship with God, he knew that he could still dream, no matter what his situation or circumstances were. He knew that he had to make a choice. Either say no to Potiphar's wife, or say no to God, and to his dreams.

You have to make some choices too, and decide who you are going to say no to. Will it be to the temptations in life, or are you are you going to say no to God, and to your dreams? When your friends come to you trying to get you to do something that you know is wrong, who are you going to say no to?

Young ladies, when your “boo” comes to you, talking about, “If you love me you will go to bed with me.” Who are you going to say no to? Young brothers, when your dogs come to you with that joint or that blunt, who are you going to say no to? When they come with that “Player’s Pack” telling you how much money you can make selling dope and poisoning your own people, who are you going to say no to?

There are more than 2 million people who are in prison in the United States today. What happened to their dreams? Our streets are full of women and men who are addicted to crack and are selling their bodies for a ten dollar rock. What happened to their dreams?

So I want to ask you again, do you have a dream? What is your destination in life? Where do you want to be 10 or 20 years from now? Do you have a dream?

When the Dream Busters come at you, trying to make you lose your focus, what are you going to do? When things get so hard that you just can't see how you can make it, what are you going to do? Are you going to just give up and give in, or are you going to stand your ground and echo the words of the Apostle Paul? "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

You guessed it. It’s story time. Two fowlers went to a mountain to spread their nets so they could capture as many doves as possible. After they had set their traps, they left. When they returned, their nets were filled with doves. Desperately the birds flew back and forth trying to escape through the holes is the finely woven net.

At first the hunters were ecstatic over the large number of birds they had caught, but after examining them more closely, they were not very happy with their catch. You see, the birds were very small, and the fowlers were afraid that there would be no market for such skinny birds.

After thinking about it for a while, the men came up with a plan. They decided to buy some mash to feed the birds with, thinking that in a few weeks they would be nice and plump. Everyday the two men brought food and water, which the birds quickly devoured. Slowly, they began to grow in size, but there was one dove that refused to eat.

The other birds had gotten so comfortable in their situation, that they ate everything that the fowlers had brought them. They figured that since they were never going to get out of that net anyway, they might as well make the best of it. So they just laid around, eating and drinking, and getting bigger, and bigger.

However, that one obstinate bird was determined to make it. He refused to get comfortable. He refused to eat their food and he refused to quit struggling.

Then on the day the hunters came back to take all of the birds to market, the dove who refused to eat had become so skinny, that with one last mighty struggle, he was able to squeeze through the net and fly away. He was the only one that made it.

Are you going to be the one who makes it? Are you determined that you are going to do whatever it takes to achieve your dreams? Have you made up in your mind that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you?

Oh yeah, Joseph achieved his dream. No matter how difficult his situation had gotten, he never gave up, and he always trusted in God. So no matter how rough the road may become, never lose sight of your dreams.

Always give it your very best, because one day you are going to stand before the Almighty God of the universe and He is going to ask you, "What did you do with the dreams I gave you?" What will your answer be? Are you going to say, "Lord, they wouldn't let me---? They wouldn't let me do anything. They wouldn't let me be anybody." Or will you be able to say, "Lord, I took advantage of every opportunity that you placed before me, and I did my very best to achieve every dream that you gave me."

So no matter what it is that you are called upon to do, do it with a spirit of excellence. My father used to say, “If a task is once begun, never leave it until it is done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.”

So if you're called upon to build buildings, build the best buildings that have ever been built. If you are called upon to design clothing, design cloths so well that even kings and queens will be wearing your labels.

In the words of one the greatest dreamers of all time, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., "If you are called upon to sweep streets, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures. Sweep streets like Beethoven composed music. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote plays. Sweep streets so well, that all of the hosts of Heaven and of earth will pause and say, ‘There goes a great street sweeper, who swept his job well’.”

Dream on.

Excerpt from "Amazing Grace: The Storm Is Passing Over" Book in Stores Now!!!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Stop Worrying

When I was a child, we used to travel from Chicago to visit our relatives in St. Louis every summer. I always liked going to my Uncle Johnny’s house because he had a big back yard with swings, apple trees and grass to play on. The rest of my family lived in flats, apartment buildings or projects and we had to play in the streets and alleys.

One summer, my brother and I made some sling shots out of some clothe hangers and rubber bands. We went to the back yard and started shooting rocks at apples, soda cans, or anything else that we could find. I was a terrible shot. I missed everything that I shot at.

Then I saw a bird that was perched on one of the branches. I put a rock in my sling, aimed at the bird and let the rock fly through the air. To my surprise, the bird fell to the ground. When I looked at his lifeless body, a feeling of guilt and shame came over me. I went in the house to tell my mother what I had done, hoping I would feel better. But what I saw made me feel worse. My mother and my aunt were standing in the kitchen, crying. The hospital had just called and told them that my grandfather had died. I thought God had killed my grandfather because I had killed one of his birds. There was no way that I was going to tell my mother that her father was dead because of me.

During the funeral, I was seated in the chair that was next to the aisle. Since the casket was closed when we marched in, I didn’t know that my grandfather’s body was already in there. I thought they were going to roll him down the aisle on a gurney and put him in the casket after the sermon. I spent the entire service worrying that he was going to grab my arm when they rolled him past me because I had killed him. When they started opening the casket, I looked over my shoulder and started crying and shaking uncontrollably. When I saw my grandfather was already in the casket, I realized that I had been worrying for nothing.

You might think that I was just a crazy, mixed-up child for worrying about something that was so silly. But most of the things that we worry about are just as silly, if we are Christians. Jesus said, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” (Matt. 6: 25) In verse 26, He said, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Finally, in verse 34, He said, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”
But we still worry about things that we have no control over. We worry about our health, our jobs, our bills, our children, our parents, the economy, the elections and many other things. Some of us have become sick because of worry. Did you know that 80% of the things that we worry about never happens?

Peter told us to cast all of our cares on Jesus because He cares about us. Worry doesn’t rid tomorrow of its sorrows, it just robs today of its joy. So stop worrying and enjoy the life that God has given you.

He's Only A Prayer Away: Examples Of Praying Until Your Breakthrough
In Stores Now!!! by Rev. Burton Barr Jr.

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Love you all,
Rev. Burton Barr Jr. (Author of "He's Only A Prayer Away", "The Hoodlum Preacher" and "Amazing Grace: The Storm Is Passing Over") & Cedric Mixon

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