Tag Archives: experience

“The Miracle Moment” 20 Years Later

January 17, 1993

William Jefferson Clinton was preparing for his inaugural, the Cowboys beat the 49ers, and God showed Himself powerful and contemporary in a Sunday School class at Houston’s First Baptist Church in Houston, Texas.

The lesson that morning was from Psalm 103, primarily verses 1-5.  David is talking to himself and instructs himself to “Bless the Lord” which means give praise or thanks to God.  He then lists some reasons for himself to do so.

He (God) forgives all my sin; He heals all my disease; He redeems my life from the grave, the pit, destruction; He crowns me with love and compassion, loving kindness; and He restores my youth like the eagle.

I stood to teach the class of 150 or more on that morning.  I had never been more emotionally drained than I was that morning.  I had never had less faith than I did that morning.  The pit David described was swallowing me.

But God (aren’t those great words from the Scripture?) changed everything.  Let me explain…

The Back Story

In 1990, I was serving as the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas and had been for some time.  First Baptist was a great church and an historical Southern Baptist Church. In January, I contracted a flu virus that ultimately penetrated the mylan sheath of my vocal folds and damaged the nerve tissue beyond repair.

Over the next three years I was seen by over 63 specialists and their teams (totaling over 200 doctors) as they tried to diagnose and treat me.  I had been left with a voice that sounded like the worst case of laryngitis you have ever heard, and could only make that if I screamed at the top of my lungs.  My daughters were both students at Baylor and I could not even call their dorm because I sounded like an obscene phone caller.

Though the congregation had been incredibly patient with my disability, I had resigned for obvious reasons in 1991.  Everything I had ever done to earn a living had been connected to my ability to speak and suddenly my “tool kit” was gone.

We had moved back to Houston and my wife had become the primary breadwinner in our family.  A dear friend gave me a job as a private investigator working in an area where my voice was unimportant, but I ached to do the ministry to which I had been called.

The Catacombs Class

First Houston had a Sunday School class that had first met in the basement of the church, hence “The Catacombs.”  A wonderful group of folks that I had been privileged to teach before I went to Brenham and with whom contact was never lost.  When they learned that we were moving back to Houston, they came to Brenham with bodies and trucks and moved us…or, as one of our directors said, “Retrieved” us.

It was to Houston’s First Baptist Church that we returned and to that class as members.  Their support and fellowship was (and is) more valuable than words can express.

In April, 1992, the teacher of the Catacombs had to take some time away for personal reasons.  Our directors (a husband and wife) asked if I would fill in while a permanent replacement was sought.  I protested that I was too hard to understand which was met with “we’ll listen REALLY carefully.”  I have come to understand that they asked, not because I was such a profound teacher, but because they loved me and knew how desperately I needed to teach.

The female half of our director team was persistent about me becoming the permanent teacher even when the educational staff of the church expressed their reservations because of my voice.  She told them that she was as certain that God wanted me to teach that class as she could possibly be and they ultimately relented.

Little did she, they, or me truly know what God was preparing.

The Moment

As I mentioned before, I was in a horrible pit as I took to the platform that morning.  Two days previous, I had sat for hours in my living room with a shotgun in my mouth and I had come to the end of myself.  “Blessing the Lord” was difficult for me.  In truth, the only reason I was there was because I could not find a substitute and I could not simply not show up.  So my teaching that morning was perfunctory, nothing more.

As I began the outline I discussed the word “all.”  It literally means “every single one without exception.”  Christ’s forgiveness of all my sin is what makes the Good News GREAT.  I had no problem with that discussion.

But, when I began to talk about healing, my words were, “I still believe God heals,” while my thoughts were, “but why not me?”  I moved through that discussion as honestly as I could and began my third thought…”He redeems my life from the pit.”

I began my discourse, “I have had, and you have had, in times past, pit experiences.”  On the word, “pit,” the pressure that had been in my throat for three years was gone as if someone had removed their hand from choking me.  I continued, startled, “We’ve all had times when our life seemed to be in a pit, in a grave, and we didn’t have an answer for the pit we find ourselves in.”  While I was speaking, I was swallowing choke-free, and I’ll never forget my thought…”is that what I think it is?”

Since Then

Doctors confirmed that it was what I thought it was when I saw them the following days.  My voice has been totally restored, and to quote my lead physician, “I can’t find any evidence that you ever had a voice problem.”

The event happened on January 17, 1993, the third Sunday of the month…today.  The event was caught on tape in the most casual way.  The event changed my life and has affected literally millions of people worldwide.

The Catacombs Class started recording lessons decades before that Sunday.  In a large group, 100% attendance is impossible.  In order to be of service, a cassette recording was made no matter who taught, and one or two copies would be made available the following Sunday.  The cassettes would simply be on the back table and if you wanted one, it was there.  When I say, “no big deal,” I mean, “no deal at all!”  But in that church with over 20,000 members that was the only class that recorded their lessons.  Anywhere else would not have had the impact that God intended.

I didn’t ask to teach the class, our director fought to have me teach.  I didn’t write my own material, I was using what used to be called, “Bible Book Series” material that was used Convention-wide.  And, don’t forget, I didn’t want to be there.  Coincidences?  I think not.

From that day to this I celebrate the restoration of my vocal ability.  I wrote of the experience the following week and described it in terms that likened it to Lazarus coming from the grave.  My gratitude and my emotions have not waned in 20 years.

I have crisscrossed this country and the world telling the story of that moment.  God has used me as an object lesson of His grace and power.  I have appeared on the Oprah show and have shared my story with one little lady in a nursing home who could not speak, but wept as I related the timeless story of His Goodness.  I still go wherever the opportunity is given to share the story and I will do so until I am physically unable to do so.

If you would like to hear The Moment for yourself, go to our website, www.nuvoice.org.  It can be heard on our Home Page.  Listen and believe this…if God could do that for me, He can solve whatever problem you have in your life.  He loves you every bit as much as He loves me.

We’ve been saying it for 20 years….and counting.

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A Nation Grieves

A Nation Grieves

Words to adequately describe the events in Newtown in the past few days do not exist.  For the heroes who did their best to protect the innocent children who were massacred, “grateful” is a woefully insufficient description.

It was an almost immediate response for many to politicize the tragedy, but this is not the time for the political discussion.  Whether the fault lies with “guns” or with the “moral decline” of this nation is a dispute in which we will gladly engage at another time, but it is appalling to use these beautiful, innocent, babies and their families to make points.  This is a time for compassion and support for those who have suffered the loss.

Today, we grieve.  We grieve for what the shooter did to others, but we also grieve for his family, who lost son, brother, and mother in the shooting, and must carry the family name for the balance of their lives.

I have a two adult daughters and a 9-year old granddaughter.  As I watched and listened to the news reports this past week, all I wanted to do was embrace all of them.  I wanted to tell each of them, one more time, how much love I have for them and that nothing else in the world mattered.

We know who, we know how, we know what, we know when, and we know where.  We will never understand the why.  The shooter’s personality and mental condition will be sliced and diced by the pseudo-experts over the days and weeks ahead, but, at the end of the day, their opinions may be “educated,” but they are just guesses.  Only he knew why he did what he did

Death is never an easy subject to grasp, even for adults.  The death of a child is, emotionally, even worse.   King David was a man of war.  He was accustomed to men around him dying.  But, when the death of Absalom, his son, was reported to him, the Scripture says he was “shaken.”  He wept, and cried out what every parent of every child who dies has said, “If only I had died instead of you….” (2 Samuel 18:33).

This tragedy comes in the midst of the celebration of the birth of a baby, a unique child, the Son of God.  He, too, was killed senselessly and without just cause.  But, His death was part of the plan of God, and he rose after three days as He had promised he would.  Paul reminds us that believers in Jesus Christ do not “grieve as those who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)  Note that he did not say we would not grieve.  The separation, the hopes, dreams, plans and futures that will not be realized, the senselessness of an untimely death, cause us to hurt, to grieve, to mourn.

It is right and appropriate that we do, however, because we believe that because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, we have hope that we will be reunited.  It is that hope to which we cling.  It is that hope we offer as comfort to grieving parents.  Innocent children were slaughtered, they are with God, and we live in HOPE.

To all in Newtown, and to all who grieve, we offer a prayer from the famous Christmas Carol, “Sleep in Heavenly Peace.”

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Experience Is Priceless

Experience Really Is The Best Teacher

I’m not sure who first said, “Experience is the greatest teacher,” but I know it to be one of the truest statements ever made.  Someone even took it to a higher level by stating, “Experience is the ONLY teacher.”  Problem solving is an integral part of all our careers, and personal lives.  Experience often makes us more confident in our decisions because our understanding of the situation is not brand new.

Researchers have found that infants who had an opportunity to use a plastic cane to get an out-of-reach toy were better able to understand the goal of another person’s use of a similar tool than were infants who had previously only watched an adult use a cane to retrieve a toy.

According to assistant professor of psychology and lead author of a study published in a 2008 issue of the journal Developmental Psychology, “Acting on the world is one way infants learn about the world, and only recently have there been studies showing that active, hands-on experience is a more effective way of learning than watching. This study indicates that there is a benefit to actual hands-on experience early in human development.” (Science Daily, October 9, 2008)

Executives who rise to the C-suite exude confidence.  CEOs and Chairmen are usually in their positions because of consistency in making good decisions.  In interviewing hundreds of them over the years, the one constant among them is that the confidence in their decision-making improved with age and experience.

Experience Produces An Excellent Spirit

One man, in particular, told the story of his growth.  He achieved success (financially) early in his career and seemed to have a Midas-touch.  Everything he did came easy and in his words he, “didn’t know the difference between confident and cocky.”  He had faced no hard decisions or failures according to his account.  Then things changed.  His industry had a cyclical downturn; something he had not experienced, nor had he planned for.  His fortune was lost and he was no longer regarded as he had been previously.

One thing he possessed was a strong faith in God.  He was shaken by his losses, but his faith in God and in his skills remained strong.  He began again.  He took an entry-level position in a company that would use his skills.  It was humbling, but it was a successful step.  Today, he owns the company.

As we talked, he made it clear that his stability and confidence came from his faith.  He had confidence in his skill set as it had clearly worked for him before.  He simply needed the opportunity to put those skills to use once more and he did not consider himself above taking a humble position.  My friend had an excellent spirit.

The Bible declares that Daniel had an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, a keen mind, and the ability to solve difficult problems (Daniel 5:12-13).  When called before Belshazzar to interpret a dream (a task none of his contemporaries could accomplish), he acted and spoke with absolute confidence.  His confidence was born out of his experience before Nebuchadnezzar and also his continued walk with the Almighty God.

My friend’s experience and Daniel’s experience are similar.  When my friend was given opportunity in a new situation, he performed with confidence.  Just as Daniel knew God and his employer, so did my friend.  And so can you.

Trust God…and Your Experience

Know, today, that those same resources are available to you.  Your experience has fit you for the “battle” of today and the same Almighty God can be trusted, not only with your eternal future, but with the hassles of the moment.  Daniel trusted God to assist him in solving difficult problems; God will assist you too!  You are up to the task in Him!  Know it!  Understand it!  It will create an excellent spirit in you.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (II Peter 1:3-8 NIV)

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