MY FEET HIT THE FLOOR

MY FEET HIT THE FLOOR                                                                                                            Andy Hollifield 7-16-19

Mark 7:37 “And were beyond measure astonished saying he hath done all things well.”

(ALL SCRIPTURE USED IS KJV)

I may have written on this subject before but it is always good to have a reminder. Let me begin by saying I am not really big on comparing oneself to others. That being said, I have always been one that, when I start trying to throw myself a pity party, I try to look at the condition of others. I don’t really do that for the purpose of comparison but it does help me put my problems in perspective.

I have told the story of the chocolate milkshake that made me put in proper perspective the blessings of God in my life by looking at the problems of another. I have  been taking somewhat of an inventory. Just counting my blessings and the more I count, the more undeserving I feel.

I wrote once about the phrase, “That Other Disciple, Standing By” It got me to thinking about how that needs to be my attitude. After all that God has done for me, I need to do all I can for him and also be “standing by” waiting for instruction. That is an easy statement to make but a lot harder to follow through on.

I remember one week after I had a kidney transplant on October 6th, 1983, my kidney rejected. I had been told that was likely to happen and it did. What I didn’t know until years later was that my doctor had already written up the order to remove that kidney if their treatment hadn’t worked in a specified amount of time.

On the 25th anniversary of my surgery at my annual checkup, I asked my doctor a question. I told her that I knew I was living on borrowed time because they had told me before surgery that a transplant might last about 20 years. My question was how much longer she thought I might keep my kidney. Now before I tell you her answer, let me tell you what my thinking was and still is.

I have always believed that something other than kidney trouble will be the reason for my demise. I have never believed that God would work that miracle in my life only to let me lose it a few years later. My doctor said if I took halfway decent care of myself, she didn’t see any reason it wouldn’t last the rest of my life. My current doctor told me recently that after all this time, I wasn’t going to lose it.

I figure God preserved my life for a purpose. But I got to thinking about all those years and the fact that I am now near the top of the longevity list for kidney transplants worldwide! From a hopeless rejection in 1983 to a select few in 2019. I am not bragging except on the Lord. I don’t mention that in arrogance but in humbleness. I have known others who haven’t been blessed to the extent I have and I can’t help but wonder; why me and not them? I stand amazed at how much God has blessed me in that one aspect of my life along with everything else.

I stop and think of all he has done in my life and I can’t believe how good he has been to me. I have always been an optimist, you know “glass half full” type of person. But the older I get, the more I am convinced mine is all the way full and running over. I understand what the psalmist meant when he said “my cup runneth over” in Psalms 23. From my kidney to the success with my joint replacements and many other things, I can say I am truly blessed beyond measure.

When I look at my life I have to conclude with the words of Mark 7:37 I am “beyond measure astonished saying he hath done all things well.” He really has done all things well.

I have said for years when someone has asked how I am doing, my reply has often been ” I can’t complain, I jumped out of bed this morning and my feet hit the floor so I must be doing all right.” Any day your feet hit the floor is a good day. I hope this helps bring a little cheer and perspective to your day. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

 

THAT OTHER DISCIPLE STANDING BY

THAT OTHER DISCIPLE, STANDING BY                                                                                    Andy Hollifield 3-2-17

John 20:8 “Then went in that other disciple, which came first to the sepulcher, and he saw, and believed.”  (ALL SCRIPTURE USED IS KJV)

Everyone wants to be front and center like Peter, but no one wants to be that other disciple. Five times that phrase is used in the bible. Four times in chapter 20 and the other in John 18:16. In that case, he was known of the high priest and spoke with them and they allowed Peter to enter the palace courtyard. In John 19, Jesus saw the disciple whom he loved “standing by”.  I had totally missed something in that verse when I have read it. If you continue to read, it goes on to say “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture should be fulfilled, saith “I thirst.” Do you realize that the last thing Christ done was to make sure his mom was taken care of? That thought is free for the benefit of you ladies. The main part that stuck out to me was the other disciple. It was John, and he was also the one leaning on Jesus’ breast at the last supper.

The dictionary.com definition of a disciple is not only followers of Christ but also a person who is a pupil, or adherent to the doctrines of another. John truly was adherent to the doctrines of Christ. Very little is written of John personally. Three other times we find John referred to as “the disciple whom the Lord loved.” John was usually found in the company of Peter but it was very obvious that when all the disciples were gathered with Christ, Jesus was definitely the top priority. When they were all together, Peter was usually found right in the middle of any conversation or activity going on. If you notice when reading about their activities, Peter, James, and John were usually listed in that order. That combination is listed 10 times in the gospels and always in that order. They were the ones present at the transfiguration, and the raising of Jarius’ daughter. James and John were nicknamed by Jesus ‘the “Sons of Thunder.”

Also, their mother created a little division among the disciples when she asked for them to sit on either side of his throne. Jesus, of course, didn’t accommodate her wish. You never read anything really about either of them by themselves. They are almost always in the company of Peter.

John’s big moment by himself was at the crucifixion when Jesus entrusted him with the care of his mother and also as an old man when the Lord allowed him to see the visions and write the book of revelation. He was also the last of the disciples to die according to historical accounts.

John never had an standout moments after the ascension of Christ. John 19:26 says “And when Jesus saw the disciple standing by, whom he loved….” He was always listed either second or third but he never seemed to mind. He just quietly went about doing his job for the glory of God. The impressive thing about John is that he was always standing by.

“Standing by”. That is a term that simply means: Ready, and awaiting further instructions. That was kind of the story of his life. Just standing by. Wouldn’t it be great to have a bunch of close friends just like that? Wouldn’t it be great if Jesus had a few more like that? Just think how much simpler our life would be if we were just “standing by” awaiting God’s command. Ready to do whatever he said just for his glory. Think how victorious our spiritual life would be if we were willing to be that other disciple just standing by. If we didn’t have to be out front. If we didn’t have to grab the headlines. If we could learn to be satisfied with what he wants US to do for his glory.

I hope I am getting this across like it is in my heart. If we didn’t think of ourselves more highly than we ought. If we were content to let Peter go in first like he did at the tomb. If we were just willing to go that last mile and just “stand by” in case we were needed. If our name didn’t have to be known. If we were “that other disciple standing by.” Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?                                                                                              Andy Hollifield 7-14-19

1 Samuel 30:6 & 8 And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God. (8) And David enquired at the Lord saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? Shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all. (ALL SCRIPTURE USED IS KJV)

Have you ever been to that place in your life when everything had just gone to pot so to speak and you just didn’t know what to do? That was the place where David found himself in chapter 30. He had apparently gone down to Aphek where the Philistines had gathered a great army to fight against Saul. David was preparing to go with the Philistines into battle against Saul. King Achish of Gath had given David a place of refuge for him and his men and their families. Isn’t it odd that Gath was where Goliath was from? The giant that David had slain to start his career as a warrior and now his hometown was a refuge for David. That’s just a little nugget for you. It is funny how God has a way of doing those unlikely little things just because he can. Anyway, it was the country town of Ziklag that the king gave to David. David and his men went there before going with the Philistines because they did not trust David and his men to go into battle with them. One day while David and his men were away from Ziklag, the Amalekites invaded and took captive all the families of David and his men. When they returned they found the town deserted and all of their families and possessions gone. David found himself in the position that he was responsible for having been gone while his family and the families of his 600 men had been taken. Now they had turned on him, after having lost everything that meant anything to them ripped away in their absence. In their anguish, they planned to stone the very man that they had risked their lives in battle to defend.

One of my favorite verses in the bible was written about this time in David’s life. In verse 6 of 1 Samuel chapter 30, the bible says this: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” I have written before about the word “but” and how it is always indicative of a complete and opposite change. In this case, rather than wallow in self-pity and discouragement, he turned to the Lord which was the only place he had left to go. It would do us good in times of discouragement if we would just remember who our God is and turn to Him as David did. If you will notice, I keep saying “us”. That is because I am as prone to forgetting that as anyone. It is easy in those times to react without thinking and decide for ourselves what course of action to take. David thought it through and realized how much he needed the Lord’s help and enquired of him. I am glad when everyone else has turned on you or just walked away or in some way has let you down, the Lord is still “our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble” as it says in Psalms 46:1.

If we are honest with ourselves, Psalms 124 tells that “had it not been the Lord who was on our side” we would have already been goners. He is the only thing that has kept the enemy from “swallowing us up quick” and our soul would have long ago been “overwhelmed”. We would have already been “a prey” to our enemies if it wasn’t for him. I can look at the “Ziklags” in my life where I had to remember who my God is and what he is capable of and encourage myself in him. Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:12 “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” Southern gospel recording artists Jeff and Sherry Easter sing a song I really love and it simply makes this statement: “over and over, again and again, God is faithful.” I am finding that to be more true the older I get. I know it has always been true but God has proved himself in my life to be faithful even when I am not. I am thankful that his faithfulness isn’t dependent upon mine because I would be in a mess.

To answer the question I started with, “where do we go from here?” That’s easy. Just run to him. The book of 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him…” Isn’t it good to know that he is “looking” to help us? Just as the Lord told Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “…My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” I like 1 Samuel 2:2 where it says “there is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.” Nobody like him. As a hymn writer once said, “what a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and grief to bear.” I am glad that we don’t have to be perfect but only have to have our hearts set upon him. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

 

 

WITH THESE WORDS

WITH THESE WORDS                                                                                                                    Andy Hollifield 7-13-19

1 Thessalonians 4:18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (ALL SCRIPTURE USED IS KJV)

A word is a powerful force. Have you ever thought about how much impact a word can have? I remember as a kid we learned the little saying; “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” That may sound good and I understand the purpose of it, but nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that you can recover from physical ailments but there are wounds made with words that will never heal. It is of little wonder that the “tongue” is spoken of 129 times in the bible and often not in a very flattering way. The entire third chapter of James talks about the tongue. It goes so far as to say in verse six that “it is set on fire of hell” and in verse eight, “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”

Can you imagine the hurt and conflict that would be avoided if we could only tame our own tongue? All of the emotional hurt started at some point with words. Words from doctors about ourselves or a loved one that has broken our hearts or words from a loved one that they were leaving to go somewhere else that have had the same effect. The words we speak can often cause problems not just for others but also in our own lives. Words are one thing that, no matter how much we may want to, once spoken can never be taken back. We can say, “I take that back” or “I didn’t mean it” but it doesn’t take our words out of the mind of those they were spoken to.

On the lighter side, I have heard an old saying that, although it may be comical, it contains a tremendous amount of truth. It simply says, “Make the words you say today tender, kind, and sweet for tomorrow they may be the words that you will have to eat.” That statement alone would keep us out of a lot of problems if we would only put it into practice. Another saying that would be beneficial to us is this; “Make sure your brain is engaged before you put your mouth in gear.” That’s easily understood, isn’t it?

We have discussed how words can hurt others or cause problems for ourselves but words can also bring joy. Actually, if you stop and think about it, words are the catalyst behind almost all of our emotions most of the time. Except for love, such as the first glimpse of a newborn baby or a new puppy, our emotions are triggered by words. Fear, anger, disappointment, joy, love, excitement, and sorrow are all based on the words of others and the effect they have on us.

God knows the power of words better than anyone else. He used them to speak the heavens and the earth into existence. He also spoke everything in them into being except for one creation and that is mankind. We sing songs about God’s hand carving the mountains and valleys and hanging the sun, moon, and stars, in their places. While it makes for a good song it isn’t really based in fact. The bible says in Genesis 2:7 “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” According to the bible which is God’s word, we are the only thing in creation that God ever put his hand to. Those words ought to make us feel special. His word also teaches that we are the only part of creation that he gave his Son for to redeem us out from under the curse of our sin and provide salvation.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:18 we find that Paul told the church of Thessalonica to “comfort one another with these words.” The words he was speaking of were the promises of God. The promise of Christ’s return to take us to heaven to be with him. Paul wrote words to encourage those that were in sorrow over loved ones that had passed on. He told them to “…sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” Twice the bible speaks in Titus 1:2 and 3:7 of the “hope of eternal life” for those that have died believing in the Lord and have accepted him as their Savior and repented of their sin. It is interesting to me that the word comfort is used as a command in 1 Thessalonians 4:18 and not merely as a suggestion.

Here is an interesting fact about the word “comfort.” It is defined as to soothe, console, reassure, and bring cheer to. It is also used 66 times in the bible. The same number as there are books in the bible. I know the division of chapters and verses wasn’t ordained by the Holy Ghost at the time they were written but it sure makes for some interesting coincidences if you believe in coincidences. I personally believe that all things are in the control of God and therefore there is no such thing as coincidence. I also believe that God wants us to view his word, the bible, not only as a book of do’s and don’ts and instruction but also as comfort in our everyday lives.

It would pay us to keep foremost in our minds the power of the words we speak. They can be used to wound, injure, and anger but can and should be used to convey love, comfort, and consolation that we might bring joy, happiness, and peace to those around us that have need of those things. “Choose your words carefully” and “Think before you speak.” That is excellent advice for all people of all ages regardless of the situation. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

 

 

 

NOT A HOPE BUT THE ONLY HOPE

NOT A HOPE BUT THE ONLY HOPE                                                                                            Andy Hollifield 7-12-19

1 Corinthians 15:19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (ALL SCRIPTURE IS KJV)

Hope in Christ is not just “a hope” but it is “the only hope” we have. You only have to look as far as a lot of people in the public eye, such as athletes, entertainers, and politicians, to see misery. Not all of them but I dare say a lot of them have no other hope or purpose in their life most likely because they don’t have hope in Christ. Their only hope is in themselves and if that is where your hope is and you are not succeeding at what you are doing, it would make you miserable.

That is one of the many advantages of being a Christian. We don’t have to rely on our own success to find peace and contentment but we only have to look as far as the cross where Jesus successfully purchased salvation. I may fail miserably but my hope is in the one that never has and never will fail.

I hope you will indulge me for a few days because as you all know when you lose someone really close to you, you stop and evaluate everything in your life. After careful evaluation for a few days, I have concluded that God is still my hope and my rock and just because my world here has taken a hit doesn’t mean God has lost any power.

Aside from the Lord, I have always had two men that were my go-to people regardless of what kind of problem I was facing. One was my dad who passed away in 2007 and the other was my pastor Bruce West. Both were wise men and didn’t answer anything without thought. I have learned from both of them how to bite my tongue and engage my brain before putting my mouth in gear. I’m not really good at it sometimes but I am getting better. There have been times when I have had something weighing on my mind that seemed so hopeless that Diane would tell me I needed to go talk to my dad. Other times she would ask me if I had talked to Bruce yet. You don’t find men like them very often.

Another thing I have found that is important as far as talking to someone is that it needs to be someone that won’t talk about your issue with anyone else but you. I probably shouldn’t have said Bruce was my last one because I have another friend I have that kind of confidence in. He’s just younger and wiser instead of old and wise. The scary part is that I am now the old preacher and have become that kind of confidant for other people. I always tell someone that wants to talk about something privately that I have more secrets than Dear Abby. I try to be just like Bruce and my dad were for me. I discuss things only with the person whose issue it is. There is nothing more hurtful than to tell someone something in confidence and then hear it later from someone else.

I told Diane today that at 54 years old I was all alone in a great big world. That’s really more comical than true. I haven’t ever been alone since October 1973 when the Lord saved me. It is, however, a little bit unnerving when you no longer have the ones that you have counted on your whole life. But you know, there is comfort even in death. Just like David said in 2 Samuel 12:23 after the death of his baby, “Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” That is a comforting thought and should give us hope even in times of bereavement. Like my uncle said before dying of cancer, “I have more family over there than I have over here anyway.” That should give us hope and comfort but only if we have been born again.

To openly contradict some big-name preachers and entertainers, we are not all our own gods. If we were, I would be in serious trouble without hope. By the way, there is still only one pathway to God. That is the one that Jesus made from heaven’s throne to the womb of a virgin. From there to the cross, then to the tomb, and from the tomb to the mercy seat. No one else has ever done that or ever will. No one else can ever do what he has already done. That is exactly why he is not “a hope” but “the only hope.” Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

 

 

HOW FULL IS YOUR BOTTLE?

HOW FULL IS YOUR BOTTLE?                                                                                                   Andy Hollifield 7-11-19

Revelation 5:8 “And when he had taken the book, the four beast and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints.” (ALL SCRIPTURE IS KJV)

Our prayers are stored in heaven. Three times in the book of The Revelation, the prayers of the saints are mentioned as being in heaven. The first time is in 5:8 when the golden vials (bottles) are in the possession of the 24 elders that bowed down before the Lamb. Then in 8:3 they are in the hand of another angel at the golden altar before the throne. There the angel is to offer the prayers of the saints on the altar with much incense. Finally in 8:4 “And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended before up God out of the angel’s hand.”

Just think about that for a minute. Every time you have prayed, God has cared enough about you that not only did he answer your prayers but he kept those prayers in golden vials. Have you ever received a letter from someone that was dear to you that you kept in a special place as a special possession in your life? That is what God thinks of our prayers. Just as that special letter from that person was their communication with you in their absence at that time, so are our prayers to him. In his absence from us, he cherishes our prayers because they are all the things we have to say to him.

While it thrills me that God thinks enough of me to put my prayers in his own special place in his golden vials, it also makes me think about what I am putting in those vials. Think of our vials of prayers as a love letter to God from us. When I have received letters from some special person, although I was interested in what was going on in her life, that wasn’t what I was interested in the most. I couldn’t wait to get to the part where she told me how much she loved me and how much she missed me and looked forward to seeing me again. I already knew her feelings but I just liked being told over and over. If we are made in God’s image and the same mind that Christ has is supposed to be in us (Philippians 2:5), don’t you think he feels the same way?  Although he is interested in our day-to-day issues, don’t you think he probably wants to hear from us how we feel about him?

In Psalms 22, David speaks in verse 3 about how God “inhabitest the praises of Israel.” Who among us has not wanted to hear that special person talk about how wonderful they think we are? In short, God desires for us to praise him. The psalmists speak in 131 different verses, sometimes multiple times in a verse, about praising the Lord.

Do you realize the word “prayers” is only in the bible 24 times? That is the same number of elders that bowed before the throne. Also, the word “vials” is used only five times in scripture, all in the book of Revelation. We know that five is the number of grace in the bible and through prayer is how we obtain grace.

It just did my heart good and blessed me to realize that God loves my prayers to him enough to save them. I hope it does the same for you. The questions we need to be concerned with are these: What are we putting in those vials or bottles, praise or requests and also how full are the bottles with our prayers? God is waiting to hear from us. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

 

 

A TRIBUTE TO MY PASTOR

A TRIBUTE TO MY PASTOR                                                                                                         Andy Hollifield 7-10-19

A person just never knows each time you meet someone, where that introduction might lead. You don’t really expect a simple meeting to become a nearly five-decade friendship but I am one of a few blessed people that has one of those friends.

My life-long pastor, Rev. Bruce Howard West, is apparently nearing the end of his nearly 90-year journey. To begin to count the lives that this one life has impacted is an absolute impossibility. To begin to comprehend the depths of this man’s wisdom both in and out of the pulpit and in life in general, would most definitely be an exercise in futility. Ninety years of living can teach a person a lot of life’s lessons but it takes a true heart of compassion to share them with anyone willing to listen and learn.

Bruce knew me before I knew him I guess because he attended one of the first churches I ever went to in my life. I was only a toddler then and was taken to church a lot by our neighbor. It was in 1972 or ’73 when I first met Bruce to really know who he was. Little did I know then that not only would he be my Pastor three different times, but he would also years later become my mentor. Mentor probably isn’t a strong enough description of what he has been to me. A better way of putting it would be to say that he has been to me what Paul was to Timothy in the bible. I may have come up short on my end but he has always filled his position to the best of his ability. Any shortcoming on my part is not an indication of a lack of effort on his part.

Bruce had just recently started pastoring New Hope Baptist Church in Barnardsville, NC when I started going there. My mom’s first cousin who had known him from Fellowship Baptist Church in Newbridge invited mom to ride to New Hope with her and her kids one Sunday. We were a sight too. Eight kids under nine including four little toddler girls piled into that old blue Plymouth and headed to Barnardsville. No seatbelts, car seats, airbags, cell phones, or any of the other modern safety features we think we can’t survive without. Just two determined women that wanted to get their children into church.

Our moms became our Sunday School teachers and eventually the church prayed our dads back into church and both later became deacons. Unbeknownst to me at the time, was that little church on the head of North Fork was going to be the foundation that the rest of my life would be built on. It was in October 1973 in a revival at Pisgah Forest Freewill Baptist just down the road that I accepted the Lord as my Savior. Bruce baptized me in the creek just below the church the following June with the help of Garson Burleson, the pastor at Pisgah Forest.

I don’t want this tribute to be about me but it is hard to not mention myself when talking about the impact Bruce has had in my life. I remember when I first decided I wanted to sing at church, which was before I was even saved, Bruce would always encourage us kids. He didn’t put up with a bunch of foolishness during church, but outside was a different story. He would cut up and carry on with anyone who wanted to enjoy each others company and a good laugh. In the pulpit, he was all business. He even put a sign on the front of the pulpit that read; “If you must whisper, make it a prayer.” Apparently, everyone took that sign serious because God was so real in the hearts and lives of that church that we didn’t need a revival for the entire five years Bruce was the pastor. It was nothing unusual for the service to break loose during the singing and wind up having preaching, if we had any, before Sunday School if we even had that. People now would gripe about a preacher not having Sunday School for the little kids but believe me, we were definitely getting a spiritual education. We were being taught by example about the working of the Holy Ghost. I have heard it said that what you learn as a child you retain all of your life. I will have to agree with that because once you have church the way we did then and see the Lord move as he did then, nothing less will satisfy you.

I sat on the front bench once I was allowed to sit away from mom and dad. I sat mesmerized as Bruce would shout and run the aisle or hop from the front to the back of the church and back to the pulpit on one foot rolling his shoulders and blowing like a freight train the whole time. I even remember one Sunday morning while he was preaching, he took off down the aisle out the door, down the steps and out of sight. We could still hear him preaching but couldn’t see him. In a minute we saw him going through the cornfield above the outhouses with his arms going like a windmill and still preaching up a storm. In a few minutes, we could hear him coming up the steps still preaching, in the door, and right back into the pulpit and never missed a lick. When you see the power and demonstration of the Holy Ghost when you are a young kid like I was, it helps you realize at a young age what an awesome and almighty God we have that can make a man do that and not even remember it.

When I announced my calling to preach in June of 1986, I didn’t know it but it was within one day of when he had announced his calling fourteen or fifteen years earlier. He gave me some of the best advice I ever got about preaching when I called and told him. His advice was to get a good study bible, KJV of course, a Strong’s Concordance, and a Webster’s dictionary. He said those three things would be all I would really need and anything else would just be extra.

He also taught me to have something I could preach every time I darkened the door of a church. He said that the pastor could be sick or might have had to make an emergency visit to the hospital or something and I might be needed to fill in. He made sure I learned that one. He would sometimes get in the pulpit, open his bible and read something. About the time I slouched down in my seat to hear some good preaching when he hit second gear, he would close his bible and tell the church, “Pray for Andy as he comes to preach to us.” He then said, “Come on son and mind the Lord.” Then he would go sit down on the front bench and start praying for me. All throughout my ministry he always made himself available for advice, prayer, or just good conversation and passing the time.

When it came to making himself available, he didn’t have a watch. He was always on call 24/7 for anyone that needed him whether they were a church member or not or even a Christian for that matter. I have called in the middle of the night to get him to pray on a couple of urgent occasions. I wasn’t the only one either. There was the husband of a girl at our church that had never been saved that we were all praying for. He went to Texas with a man in our church that drove a truck. On the way back, this young man started asking questions about the Lord and about being born again. After a little while, he asked the man if they could go talk to Bruce when they got back. This young man was one that when you went to visit him he would always welcome you and treat you like his best friend. But when you mentioned church, he was pretty much done talking to you. When they got back to Asheville, they drove over to Bruce’s. After talking a few minutes, that boy got on his knees in the living room floor and prayed and got saved.

There was a Wednesday morning in November 1983 that Bruce really went above and beyond what anyone could have expected of him. I had just returned home a week earlier from having a kidney transplant in Winston Salem. I woke up that morning and was running a low-grade fever. A fever above 100 degrees meant I had to call the hospital immediately. When I did, they told me to come down a day early for my appointment. Mom had just got back to work after having a month off while she was sitting down there with me. Although I felt fine, she didn’t want me to drive down by myself. She would have taken off of work again if she had to but she told me to call Bruce and see if he could ride down with me. About an hour later I picked him up and headed to Winston. He made a call to his deacon at Chapel Hill Baptist in Skyland and told him he wouldn’t be there that night and to take the service and also to pray for me. He took off on a moments notice and went 150 miles not knowing when or how he would get back home. It just isn’t everyone that would do that for you and I have never forgotten it.

I mentioned earlier about how he obeyed the Holy Ghost in church. He also did it every day in his personal life. He always told me that giving a notice when you were fixing to resign as a pastor only prolonged the agony for you and the church. Every time he ever left a church, it was at the end of the message and I think it may have always been on Sunday morning. It wasn’t a family decision either. If Stella was at home sick, unless someone from the church called, she never found out until after the fact. He always said the church was dead in the water if the pastor knew from the Lord that his work was finished and didn’t immediately leave. He even left once when he had a 400 dollar a month payment on his van. He still owed a couple years or more on it and never was late or missed a payment on it and he wasn’t even working a public job at the time I don’t believe.

If Bruce or Stella ever got something on you, they would never forget and every time they told it to someone else they would both laugh like it had just happened. He always liked to tell everybody about the time I came to visit and Stella made a home-made Lasagna and invited me to eat while I was there. I didn’t think I had eaten that much of it but they tell a different story than I do and their’s is probably a lot closer to the truth. I wasn’t the worst one though. He also liked to tell a story about one of our younger preacher friends that came with a crew to do some work on their house one time. The story goes that this preacher ate so many of Stella’s apple fritters that he just laid out in the front yard under the shade tree moaning because he was too stuffed to move let alone do any more work.

Well, I guess I have to stop somewhere. You just can’t put nearly five decades of life into words much less in just a page or two. Few preachers ever have a pastor to take them under their wing the way Bruce did for me. I have always said that I learned as much from him out of the pulpit as I did in it. I also learned as much by watching him as I did by listening to him. Bruce and Stella have always been my go-to people no matter what I was facing in life. He preached when I got saved, baptized me, married Diane and me, and also preached the dedication service for my son. He even scheduled me to preach in his church one time so a pulpit committee could come to hear me. He would have preached my ordination service in 2007 but he was having voice issues and couldn’t talk above a whisper after just a couple minutes. When I was pastoring, he came pretty often to Malvern Hills to be in service with me. It is both intimidating and encouraging to see your pastor come in to support you.

I know I am very biased but I sincerely hope that each of you have the privilege once in your life to have a pastor like Bruce. I am also thankful for every mile and minute we spent together that I had the opportunity to take him to a service somewhere. I have always said that I felt sorry for any preacher that didn’t come up under Bruce West because I know what they missed out on. I still feel that way even more than when I started preaching. I hope you have enjoyed my little stroll through time and I also hope you have enjoyed a little glimpse into the life of this great soldier of the cross, my pastor, mentor, and my friend; Bruce West. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!