Monday, April 16, 2012

The turtle on the fence post.

I once saw a picture in a rural setting. In the center of the picture was a fence post and on that fence post sat a small turtle. The purpose of the picture was to pose the question, “What is unique about what you see?” The not so obvious answer is the turtle could not place itself on the fence post. Someone had to place it in that position.
The lesson for the observer was succinct. If we have any place of prominence, it is because someone (or someones) helped us get there. No one is a proverbial lone ranger. And no one, in spite of the traditional myth, ever really pulled themselves up by their own boot straps.
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Anyone who has accomplished anything in life has done so because of encouragers, mentors and gate keepers, that collections of perhaps unknown personalities who used their experience, influence and wisdom to assist others, who have helped us get down the road, or, if you desire to maintain the metaphor, get up on the fence post.
When I look back on my journey, I see a group of men who helped me at pivotal moments in my life. Here are some people who came to my assistance in years gone by. These are some of the influences, gatekeepers and encouragers whom God used in my life.
When I was in high school, one of my student pastors (once called youth directors) was Larry Yarborough. I remember his contagious laugh and his sweet family. Eventually, he had a stellar career at what we now identify as LifeWay.
The man who instilled in me a passion for biblical preaching was Fred Wolfe. To this day, I still hear in the echoes of my mind his words of challenge and encouragement.
When I attended Southwestern Seminary, I had the privilege of serving as Roy Fish’s grader over a period of five years. He had a passion for God and His Word. He was a molder of men who had hearts for God. I was blessed!
At the same time I graded for Dr. Fish and then moved into a teaching role at Southwestern, I had the honor of getting to know Dr. James Eaves. He came to teach at Southwestern from a series of successful pastorates. When I had a ministry challenge, he would provide wisdom and insight beyond my years.
At a crucial point in my study at Southwestern, I recall the summons to Dean Huber Drumwright’s office. He was a man everyone loved and feared, After all, he was “the Dean.” He gave me an opportunity to teach evangelism full time for several years. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity he gave me.
During my seminary days Don Miller was a consistent prayer warrior on my behalf. Oh how he could pray down Heaven! When he prayed, you felt like you had just entered the Throne Room….you had! Like so many others, I am forever grateful for his intercession on my behalf.
As a young pastor who epitomized the term “green” James DeLoach at Second Baptist Church in Houston permitted me to come down and spend the day on multiple occasions. I would write page upon page of questions and in my periodic visits, we would take them one at a time and discuss what a godly pastor should do. I will forever be grateful for the mentoring relation I had with Dr. DeLoach.
As the years passed and we transitioned to Tennessee and Two Rivers, I became fast friends with a wonderful group of people, some staff, others laymen. My greatest friend and encourager was a layman, Sam Mallory. He eventually joined our staff as Minister of Pastoral Care. He has a gift of helps and a  gift of encouragement. I thank God for Sam.
When Jimmy Draper was President of LifeWay, I had the privilege of being his pastor for about 15 years. Yet, the truth is, he was my pastor. I have heard it said  “every pastor needs a pastor.” And he was mine. Oh how I hated to see him retire and move back to Texas!
In some dark days of ministry, the man used more than anyone else to encourage me was Tom Elliff. He must have called me hundreds of times and prayed hundreds if not thousands of prayers. To this day, he is still the wisest man I know. I will forever be grateful for his counsel and encouraging words.
Space will not permit me to name so many others who have challenged me, encouraged me, prayed for me and been friends. Life is richer because of the Richard Stricklands, the David Cobbs, the Brad Rudges, the Harold Harpers, the Don Baskins, the Steve Gaines and so many more.
I encourage you also to pursue Paul’s admonition to “…encourage one another and build up one another…” (1 Thess. 5:11) And model your life after those about whom Paul said, “...they have refreshed my spirit” (1Cor. 16:18).
So perhaps I should ask, who is influencing you, encouraging you, and challenging you? 
And more importantly, who are you influencing, encouraging, and challenging?