Read Psalm 23, Proverbs 31, John 13:21-38
Many of you know the story of the birth of Branches. It came out of my own failure, the pain that Doris and my family endured because of me, and the healing that Jesus brought to us. Here’s a little anecdote that you may not have heard.
Doris and I were painting the building that God had given us for Branches. A businessman in town had heard some of our story, invited us to meet him in a building he owned on Armory Drive (Just past Freedom Road. You can’t make this stuff up!) He graciously offered us the building at no charge until we could get on our feet. So, Doris and I were painting the inside of the building, not knowing for sure what it was supposed to be or what we were supposed to do.
One afternoon, while we were painting, a small, black man (we found out later, from Sierra Leone) came wandering into the place. He introduced himself as Shadonkeh Johnson. We learned, again later, that he was a prominent minister in Africa, a bishop over 400 churches, and he has spoken to a small church that was meeting in this building many years before. He just walked in to see if the church was still there.
We talked for a few minutes when suddenly he said, “God has given me a Word for you.” Now in my more skeptical days, I thought, “Oh brother. This is going to end up with me giving him twenty bucks.” But I smiled and said for him to go ahead. He suggested Doris write this down and the words that Shadonkeh spoke over me in June of 2006 are hanging on the wall of my office today.
“You believe your ministry is finished and you are a failure,” he said. (I had just written the little book, Failure and How I Achieved it.) “God wants you to know that He is not finished with you. You will have a ministry greater than you have ever had before. You are to put a hammer and nails on your wall,” (Did it. Still there today.) “for you will be a carpenter. Ministers will come and tell you their stories, stories they cannot tell anyone else. You will fix them and send them back out to ministry and in that way, your ministry will have a greater impact than it would have if you had not gone through this.” Then he said what has become to me the most precious of all his statements. “You will do all of this and NO ONE WILL KNOW YOUR NAME.”
My pastor, Eddie Turner, used to say Branches is the best-kept secret in the mid-south. I say it is supposed to be. I spent the first 45 years of my life trying to make a name for myself. It has been such a privilege for the last 20 to give that up and just watch God work. Having a name is not all that it’s cracked up to be.
In John 13, this beautiful story of the last supper, (It will actually take place tomorrow but it is the scripture reading for today.) there are only two disciples named. All of them are there. Thirteen men, including Jesus, sitting around the table, but only two are called by name. Peter is mentioned twice. At the beginning, he is prideful and arrogant and refuses to let Jesus wash his feet. At the end, Jesus predicts that Peter will deny Him 3 times. (He does, by the way.) The other name listed is Judas who will betray Jesus. Two guys have names, Peter the denier and Judas the betrayer. When I had a name, it was one of these. Well, actually it was both of these. At different times in my life, I have done both. A name is not all that great.
Oh, there is one other guy that is kind of mentioned. He is “the disciple that Jesus loved.” (John 13:23) I have been that guy too. Still am. I like that “name” the best. (Revelation 2:17)
See you tomorrow.