Friday, September 24, 2010


There are some strange traditions when it comes to anniversaries. Some traditional person, a mindful female who had her act together I’m sure, decided once and for all to put the order of required anniversary gifts into stone. Of course, this is a bane for those of us, especially men, who do not have our acts together. I have no idea what the story is behind every year’s traditional anniversary gifts but they seem a little, well . . . odd.

For example paper is the traditional gift for a first anniversary. I think this can be misinterpreted. I can see some hillbilly in Johnson County right now, “Here ya go honey, I got this here roll of Charmin for ya.” We might need to clarify.

Cotton is what you’re supposed to get your bride on your second anniversary. Here comes the hillbilly again, stomping in the house with his muddy boots holding a big rooted green plant with cotton balls on it. “I picked this up between Cleburne and Hillsboro, Baby.”

The traditional gift for a third year anniversary is leather. “I know we don’t have a horse, but you’ll look good on this saddle, Sweetie.”

The traditional gift for a fourth year anniversary is linen. “Heres a copy of the White Album by the Beatles. I know that John was always your favorite.”

I could go on, but when you get to number 15, it turns out to be crystal. The number 15 stands out to me this week and not because I’ve been watching Sesame Street. This time of year marks our anniversary at Open Door, and it turns out that this is 15 years.

I’ve got a crystal clear view of the past 15 years: living from sermon to sermon. There are so many things I would love to do over and so many things that I don’t think I could ever make happen again. There is nothing boring about starting up a church, and I think ministry is a lot like getting old. It is not for wimps.

So here is my list of Top 15 things I have learned about life , church and surviving as a pastor for the past 15 years.

(1) Most of what we teach, isn't taught on purpose.

(2) Never compliment anyone on being pregnant unless they tell you they are pregnant.

(3) God did not put any of us here to change or control people. We have full time jobs judging ourselves.

(4) There is no correlation between the price of a brand of batteries and how long they last.

(5) You see people’s glory but you don’t see their story. Victorious people make it look easy to live that way.

(6) As long as there are zippers, Plexiglass pulpits can be a powerful tool for the devil.

(7) If you know lots of people, a lot of those people will be with you for only a season in your life.

(8) A little bit of Jesus can make up for a whole lot of stupid

(9) God doesn't do great things through a church service. He does great things through the relationships of the people in a church service.

(10) It takes hard work to be a blessing.

(11) Church doesn't make God love you more. A good church helps you love God more.

(12) The Great Commission is not the Great Commandment, and preaching is not a priority over loving God and loving people.

(13) It is necessary in Johnson County, Texas, to have no smoking signs on the church doors.

(14) If you tell your own stories people will not have anything on you.

(15) Every single one of us are in desperate need of a savior.

I have needed a lot of grace in my life and continue to need it all the more. A big shout out to everybody who has been a part of my personal journey. Wherever you are, whether we have ever met or not, I thank God for you, and may all of us remain teachable people willing to move forward.


Fifteen years ago, when I was thinking about starting Open Door Ministries, my wife and I had a major disagreement. Oh, she was 100% supportive and on board with me starting the church, it was just that she didn't think she would be a very good Pastor’s wife.

“Why Not?”, I asked. “Your like the perfect Pastor’s wife. Heck, your the perfect any kind of wife.”

“No I’m Not.”, she said with tears. “I can’t sing or play piano.”

I thought that was hilarious. See, I didn't need her to play piano or sing because God gave me an awesome set of pipes and I can play guitar like Davey Crocket.
The bottom line is that Leanna didn't think she had any gifts or talents and of course she was drop dead wrong.

One of Leanna’s highest giftings has to do with kids. She loves kids. she works well with kids. She connects with kids and turns out, there has always been a greater need in our children’s church then on stage with musicians. The people at Open Door tend to be extremely fertile.

A big part of you and I fulfilling our destiny has to do with the recognition of how we are different. There is something about you that really stands out. There is something you are a ten at where the rest of us tend to be a two. There is something God has anointed you to do that He hasn't others. The rest of us need you to be different.

In this United Nations, cookie cutter day of political correctness and we are the world love songs, it is refreshing for you to be authentic and genuine. It is not your sameness to the rest of the world that causes people to be attracted to you, it’s what makes you different. You don’t have to be the same as everybody else, in fact, God didn't make you to blend in but to stand out.

There is something God has stored within you that He has not put within the rest of us and your contribution could be the missing piece that connects the rest of the dots for us.

Great crowds came out to see a man we know as John the baptist, not because he was like the Pharisees or the “Reverend Doctors” of his day, but because he dared to be different. He dared to be authentic and genuine and it was out of him being real that his greatest gift was exposed. Jesus himself talked about how brilliant John was and that his greatest contribution came from him not being like a common reed on the river bank or a prophet in an Armani suit. (Luke 7:24-25)

No, John was really different and his prophetic gift turned out to be the greatest contribution. Thats’ the way it is with you too. Discover how God made you different and you will discover some of the greatest ways you can make a difference. But you have to have the courage to be you in a world that wants you to conform to their....whatever.

Today my wife, is not just a Pastor’s wife. She heads up an orphanage Ministry that does amazing things throughout the world. It’s called Spark world wide. SPARK is an acronym for Serving, Protecting And Raising Kids. She has orphanages in Uganda, India, Mexico and the Amazon. The difference she makes is amazing and if she had not stayed true to who she was, she would of never discovered her greatest gift.

A man’s gift makes room for him, And brings him before great men. Proverbs 18:16 www.opendoorministries

Friday, September 10, 2010


Near downtown Honolulu, Fritz Vincken owned a bakery and handed out a smile along with hot buns and fresh bread to his loyal customers. He has lived in the Hawaiian islands for many years, but he is not just famous for his bread. He tells a story from his childhood that has since been told around the world.

December 1943 was a harsh winter in the Ardennes Forest near the German-Belgian border. Two months had passed since Hubert Vincken brought his wife and his son Fritz to the country for saftey after the family's home and bakery had been destroyed in a bombing raid.
"We were isolated," Fritz recalled. "Every three or four days, my father would ride out from town on his bicycle to bring us food." They could also tell the war was moving closer to their little house.

As suspected, The Germans surprised and overwhelmed the Allies on December 16, turning the nearby forrest into a killing field. It was a terrible time of fear and uncertainty. On Christmas Eve, Elisabeth and Fritz tried to block out the distant sound of gunfire as they sat down to their supper of oatmeal and potatoes.

"At that moment, I heard human voices outside, speaking quietly," Fritz remembered. "Mother blew out the little candle and we held our breath.

"There was a knock at the door. When my mother opened it, two men were standing outside. They spoke a strange language and pointed to a third man sitting in the snow with a bullet wound in his leg. We knew they were American soldiers. They were cold and weary.
"I wondered what in the world my mother would do. She hesitated for a moment. Then she motioned the soldiers into the cottage, turned to me and said, 'Get six more potatoes from the shed.'"

Elisabeth and one of the American soldiers were able to speak French, and both of them gathered as much news as the could. Separated from their battalion, they had wandered for three days in the snowy Forest, hiding from the Germans. Hungry and exhausted they decided to take a chance and knock on a door for help.

Not long after everyone began to warm up there was another knock at the door. Four more tired and frozen soldiers came to the cottage. The problem is that these men were German.

"Now I was almost paralyzed with fear," Fritz recalled. "While I stood and stared in disbelief, my mother took the situation into her hands. "Frohliche Weihnachten," Elisabeth said to the German soldiers, wishing them Merry Christmas. She then invited them to dinner. But before allowing them in, she told them, like only a German mama can, that she had other guests inside that they might not consider as friends.”

"She reminded them that it was Christmas Eve," Fritz said, "and told them sternly there would be no shooting around here." These soldiers, all four of them teenagers, listened respectfully and cautiously agreed.
The German soldiers agreed to store their weapons in the shed. Elisabeth then quickly went inside to collect the weapons from the American soldiers and locked them up securely.

"At first, it was very tense," Fritz said. “Every one just sat looking at each other.”
Two of the German soldiers were sixteen years old and another was a medical student who spoke some English. Fritz was sent outside to fetch the rooster he had captured several weeks earlier.

"When I returned," Fritz recalled, "the German medical student was looking after the wounded American, and one of the Americans presented instant coffee to share. The tension broke and by the time the food was ready, the men were more than eager to eat. Elizabeth invited them to the table and they all sat and said grace together.

"'Komm, Herr Jesus,'" she prayed, 'and be our guest.'
"There were tears in her eyes," Fritz said, "and as I looked around the table, I saw that the battle-weary soldiers were filled with emotion. Their thoughts seemed to be many, many miles away. They had been in war for long, they had forgotten what it was like to sit with a family.

"Now they were boys again, some from America, some from Germany, all far from home."

Soon after dinner, the soldiers fell asleep in their heavy coats. The next morning, they exchanged Christmas greetings and everyone helped make a stretcher for the wounded American.

"The German soldiers then advised the Americans how to find their unit," Fritz said. "My mother gave them back their weapons and said she would pray for their safety. They all kissed her as they left in separate directions. It was the last time Fritz or his mother would ever see any of them.
Throughout her life, Elisabeth Vincken would often say, "God was at our table that night" and I believe He was.

It wasn't until the story was featured on a March 1995 "Unsolved Mysteries" television episode that Vincken learned about a man at Northampton Manor Nursing Home in Frederick, Md., who had been telling family and friends the same story for years.

In January 1996, Vincken went to Maryland to meet Ralph Blank, who had served with the 121st Infantry, 8th Division, during World War II. "When he told me, 'Your mother saved my life,' it was the high point of my life," Vincken said of the reunion. "Now, I can die in peace.

Fritz Vincken died Dec. 8, 2002, in Oregon, 16 days before the 57th anniversary of well-publicized Christmas story but it was not the last time he sat down at a table with family. In the book of Revelation, Jesus Himself promises the same kind of sit down.

Rev 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Rwanda, East Africa is a place of mountains and red dirt roads. There is no way you can drive from one place to another without having a layer of red dust on you by the end of your journey. Even the dust in the air gets so red the moon, when it is full, looks red. I was in Rwanda last week and, during the full moon, I looked up — it was blood red. A blood moon over Rwanda.

There is a lot of red in Rwanda.

My wife, youngest son Luke and I, met Freda, a native Rwandan, survivor of the recent genocide and co-pastor of a church called Rwanda for Jesus. On an excursion from a busy schedule of conference speaking, she took us to the genocide memorial. It was a well designed walkthrough of what made the Hotel Des Mille Collins so famous.

The same man who built the genocide memorial also built the Jewish holocaust museum in England. He is a British Jew and is married to a Rwandan woman. The exhibit was amazing and complete with an earphone devise with English narration throughout the building.

Our driver, John — a good looking, quiet Rwandan man — stood silently beside me as we looked around the grounds at the back of the building. I didn't understand what we were standing on until the narrator explained — it was a mass grave.

There were so many bodies on the streets of Kigali after the three months of murder, that they piled them all into a single giant hole in the ground. They carefully documented every skull and, at the end count, there were more than 256,000 people. I stood on a grave with more than a quarter of a million murdered people in it. A quarter of a million people.

What do you say to something like that? I can’t even describe the confused feelings that went through me as I heard the words and looked down at the ground under my feet. It felt like the wind left my lungs and, as I struggled to find a stable emotional place, I noticed John, quietly looking at the same mound of dirt.

“Do you have family buried here, John?”

John lifted his brows a little before his eyes did and softly nodded his head in affirmation.

“Pastor Troy, all of my family is buried here.”

John’s mother and father, both sets of grand parents, his brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews had all been murdered during the genocide — and somewhere under our feet was the proof they had once lived.

“Oh John I am so sorry.” I began to muddle. “I can’t even begin to imagine. I can’t even begin to imagine what to say.”

I put my hand on his shoulder, “After 16 years of seeing this and after 16 years of living side by side with the very people who murdered your family, what do you say to all of this?”

“What Can I say?” he asked.

John looked up, closed his eyes and a big tear ran down the side of dark brown cheek. After a moment of trying to regain his composure, he looked at me and said some of the most amazing words I have every heard.

“I can say that God is good. He really is Pastor Troy, God is good, and for 16 years He has been taking me from hatred and misery into a grace for forgiveness and happiness”

Out of all things I expected to hear John say, a testimony of God’s goodness was not on my list. The revelation he had of God’s goodness shocked me even more than the realization I was standing on a mass grave. It hit me like Freda's Hutu attacker had clubbed her over the head and left her for dead.

For John, the horror of the genocide did not define his life. It certainly would have, except for the present reality of life he had found in Christ. The death was real but the life was greater. The hurt was constant but the healing undeniable. The facts were a reality but the truth far superseded the facts and, like Jesus once said, the truth had set him free.

What I saw in John can not be faked. What I saw in John was supernatural. His destiny was much greater than his history.

Like the red dirt that was so familiar to me on this trip, there is no way you can see what I saw in John without getting it all over you. I never want to wash it off.

“Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.” — 3 John 1:11

Troy pastor’s Open Door Ministries near Joshua and can be reached at