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Pastor’s Ponderings: When it’s Hard to Forgive

Written by Staff on July 22, 2018 – 7:09 am -

When it is hard to forgive

When it is hard to forgive

Okay this one is the hardest for me,  because people have hurt me, and it’s natural to want revenge but that’s not what Jesus said for us to do.

Ephesians 4::32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.” (NIV)
The word “forgive” or a form of it is mentioned 95 times in the Bible.
48 times in the Oid Testament.
47 in the New Testament.
With that kind of repetition, we know that it is important to God.
Question 1: What happens if I don’t forgive?
Answer: Heb. 12:15 tells us if we don’t forgive, then bitterness takes root inside us and defiles us, changes us.
Question 2: Have you heard this? “I’ll forgive but I won’t forget!”
Answer: I have heard it often. Jesus tells us in the model prayer, “The Lord’s Prayer” as we call it, ( Matt. 6:12-15; Mark 11:25-26; Luke 11:4) to forgive. If we don’t, then our prayers won’t get past the ceiling.
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians to settle any issues we have with our brothers and sisters before we pray. It is called “reconciliation.” If we don’t, (Matt. 5:23-24) Jesus won’t hear us.
Forgiveness begins with you, on the inside. You have to be willing to forgive. Why? As I said, we are told in Hebrews 12:15, that bitterness takes root if we are unwilling to forgive. I’ve seen bitter people and the world is full of them. The churches are full of them too! Yes, I said it – because I’ve seen it.
And finally, forgiveness heals. Not only the one you forgive, but you, too. It starts on the inside and works its way out. Healing takes place and miracles can happen.
When Jesus healed someone in the gospels, (read them,) he forgave that person,  and they were made whole.
Think about it, then do it.
Forgive.
Stephen Widener: When it's hard to forgive

Stephen Widener

By Pastor Stephen Widener

 

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Pastor Stephen Widener responds to Selena Day’s Open Letter about Musicians in Church

Written by Staff on June 1, 2018 – 10:07 am -

Selena Day

Selena Day

Several weeks ago, author Selena Day, a regular contributor to SGNScoops Magazine and wife of Chuck Day, Christian Country vocalist, wrote an open letter to pastors regarding outside Gospel artists being invited to sing at churches. To read it in its entirety, click here. Selena gives pastors valid reasons for inviting musicians to their services, including drawing new people into that assembly.

Pastor Stephen Widener, from Lenoir, North Carolina, who also writes for SGNScoops and SGMRadio in the column “Pastor’s Ponderings,” responded to Selena Day’s open letter. He writes,

The open letter that was in Scoops had me thinking because I have been on almost all ends of that situation.

As you know that as a singer/musician (with the Gospel group Faithful,) I don’t charge churches to sing and most of them give us a love offering. Now if we do travel more than, say, two hours, we may ask for enough to take care of expenses but that’s it.

As a minister of a small country church, I have been asked to bring artists in and I am glad to do this, but my dad (senior pastor) has final say about who comes because they are an extension of the ministry we (the church and its leaders) have. Plus, I have had a lot of groups ask how many people might attend their concert. I may say I don’t know because there are less than 300 people who live in that part of the world!  Yes, this has happened on more than one occasion.

Pastor Stephen Widener responds to Selena Day's Open Letter about Musicians in Church

Stephen Widener

Then there are people like Mylon Hayes, who don’t have a problem coming to where I am for a love offering and I love people like him. I have packed places out when that happens.

But then there is also the concert promotion side, of which I am also familiar, because of my work with Tony Greene for years. Last year, I was working on bringing the Talleys to a local church. This country church is losing members left and right, due to age and other issues. So, to try to bring people in, they asked me to speak to the Talleys, a group who would certainly fill the church. I spoke with them and Harper Agency (talent representative) to bring them in, but when the current leaders talked to them, they only promised the group a very low love offering. Now, I knew the Talleys would have gotten a much larger offering easy with a full house of 500 people. I even went to Lauren and had her waive the fee for the gas expense for the bus, but the promise of the low amount, which was insufficient for the Talleys to make the trip, ended the whole thing. I was saddened because they don’t even get 50 people on a regular Sunday night. The concert would have brought new people in, had the leaders been more farsighted.

I have been praying for an opportunity to have a summer sing here so we can bring other groups in, as Tony Greene did for years in Boone.

So I feel for her and know what she is experiencing.

God bless,

Stephen Widener

For more by Stephen Widener, click HERE.

READ The latest PDF Version Of SGNScoops Magazine here.

Download The latest PDF Version Of SGNScoops Magazine HERE

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Memories of Tony Greene on his induction to the SGMA Hall of Fame by Stephen Widener

Written by Staff on September 26, 2017 – 2:18 pm -

Tony Greene and The Greenes. Photo by Lois Quinn Clardy

Tony Greene and The Greenes. Photo by Lois Quinn Clardy

I got the call a few weeks ago that Tony Greene was going to be inducted into the SGMA Hall of Fame posthumously on September 26.

I’m sure he would have been beside himself about what to say and who to thank.
I would like to share some memories with the readers of some things that some probably don’t know.  This might be a more tender-hearted than a lot of the stories you may have heard.
Tony always wanted to make someone smile or laugh, or both. Whether it be wearing “bubba” teeth to Wednesday night prayer meeting or sharing a ‘Dinky’ story.
The Greenes. John Jeffrey, Tony Greene, TaRanda Greene and Jeff Snyder

The Greenes. John Jeffrey, Tony Greene, TaRanda Greene and Jeff Snyder

One year at the Greenes’ Jubilee outdoor singing, he decided to take up an offering to help build a church in Panama.

I had a certain section along with 11 others, and carrying two KFC buckets through the tent was my job.
A little girl came running up to me as I was starting to go back to the stage and said, “All I have is 35 cents; can Jesus use it to help those people build their church?” I said, “Yes dear. Jesus will do more with 35 cents than we can imagine.”
Later, I told Tony what happened and he said, “Not only did she put a smile on my face, but on Jesus’ face also.”
Luke 21:2-4 Jesus tells of a widow who put in two mites. All she had. With all her heart.
[The following is reprinted from an earlier story published July 2, 2011 on SGMRadio.com by Stephen Widener]

We first met The Greenes in ’95. I knew of them and had heard them perform in concerts with my Aunt and Uncle. I first heard Tony sing when he was ten and he stole the show then.

In 1995, my brother Jonathan and I started singing and we were going faster than we could keep up. It wasn’t long until we were going from North Carolina into Tennessee and Virginia and other states to sing. We were glad but overwhelmed. People wanted us to record, so after much prayer and searching, I went to talk to Tim Greene and met all three of the Greenes. (Pictured: Jonathan Widener, George Younce, Stephen Widener).

Tony seemed to know me all my life, but that’s how he was. He didn’t know a stranger.

Jonathan got to meet the Greenes as well and started to going to Westview, the church they attended, on Wednesday nights. My brother told me about the meetings at Westview, and how he and Tony had become fast friends. In ’98, I changed jobs, and soon began going with Jonathan to Westview where we became part of the congregation. We still love Westview even though we don’t attend quite as much.

Jeff Snyder and Tony Greene

Jeff Snyder and Tony Greene

It was there where we became friends with Tony and Tim, and many others. Tony and Jonathan and I became best friends, and our stories are too numerous to tell. In the many adventures from the Greenes’ autobiography “Hold On”, my brother and I were there as well, living out several of those stories. The memories we have will live in our hearts and minds forever.

I’m glad Tony could talk personally with me, even before I became a preacher. We were close and I ended up helping him with his concerts and promotional efforts, so that’s how a lot of people came to know me. I always called Tony’s mother, Carolyn, “Mama” and still do.

My first funny story was the first time I was at their church on Wednesday night. Tony didn’t go out on the road until Thursday. Tony and his cousin, Gina, came in wearing false ‘Bubba’ teeth. No one knew he was wearing the teeth until the fourth song. Toward the end of the song, Tony was grinning like a ‘mule eating sawbriars’ and the whole church was rolling in laughter. Then Gina turned and was wearing them too. Six months later he did it again, but this time he was wearing vampire teeth with fake blood.

We would go out to eat and Tony would sing ‘Elvira’ driving up the road at a modest 90mph, and slow down to sing Conway Twitty’s ‘Linda on My Mind’.

The Greenes. Jeff Snyder, Tony Greene, TaRanda Greene, John Jeffrey

The Greenes. Jeff Snyder, Tony Greene, TaRanda Greene, John Jeffrey

When TaRanda first joined the Greenes, she and Tony fought like cats and dogs. We wouldn’t have known they would end up married at the time, except Tim and Carolyn somehow knew.

Tony had gotten out of a relationship that was difficult for him, but he hid it well. There were other girls he was interested in, but once TaRanda or ‘Daisy’ started taking a liking to ‘Buck’ (Tony), she would buy him Mountain Dew and mark her territory.

Tony was a great undertaker, he helped with my Grandma’s funeral, and the Greenes were there when she passed.

I remember when we were at Kirk Talley’s house and Kirk threw a great birthday party for himself. Tony saw a tie of Kirk’s he liked and nagged Kirk to death until Kirk finally let him have it. That was just Tony.

No one was safe from Tony’s humor. When Nic Holland first took Tim’s place, they sang at Providence Baptist outside Hickory. Poor Nic went up onto the platform first in front of Tony and TaRanda and tripped onto the stage. Tony and Taranda laughed so hard that the whole church was in laughter too.

One of the biggest nights in Tony’s life was the night he proposed to Daisy at the National Quartet Convention. My brother Jonathan and I were there. We knew about the proposal from Greg Crowe because he was carrying the ring and daisies. Greg was wearing a suit and he never wears a suit, so we knew that this would be the night. Tony was scared to death!

Tony came to me beforehand and asked me, “Stephen, what if she says no?” I told him not to worry; he could trip like Nic, fall flat on his face, make a total fool of himself, and she would still say yes. They had tried to hide the relationship, but we knew they were an item for five months. (Pictured: Front – Tony and TaRanda (Kiser) Greene, NQC on ‘The Proposal Night’. Back – (unseen) Stephen Widener, James Kiser (Taranda’s father). )

One of Tony’s best-known stories is the tale of “Jingle Bells”. I know it’s true because I encouraged him to tell it. We went out to eat after church one evening and he related what had happened that day at a funeral. Tony said, “I just gotta tell ‘youinzis’ (that’s a word, really. That’s mountain for Y’all, which is southern) this story…”

“I got into work today, this lady asked me to sing at her husband’s funeral. I said, ‘Why, yes, anything I can do for you. What would you like for me to sing?’

“She answered, ‘He requested that you sing, Amazing Grace, Beulah Land, and Jingle Bells.” Tony’s eyes were as big as 50-cent pieces when he said that. “’Jingle Bells?’ She said, ‘Why yes Tony, you just got to sing it.’ So I said ‘Yes, ma’am, whatever you need, I’ll do.”

Tracy Stuffle and Tony Greene. 2010. Photo by Libbi Perry Stuffle

Tracy Stuffle and Tony Greene. 2010. Photo by Libbi Perry Stuffle

That’s was one thing about Tony, he would go out of his way to help someone, if there was a way for him to do it. His heart was twelve times bigger than most people’s.

“So, at the start of the memorial service, Tony sang, ‘Amazing Grace’ and sat down. The preacher said a few words, a prayer, and Tony got up and sang Squire Parsons’ song ‘Beulah Land’. He sat down and waited for the next preacher to say a few words and pray.

Then, as reverent as he can, Tony stood and bellowed out “Jing-le Bells, Jing-le Bells, Jing-le all the way…”. A song that usually takes two and a half minutes to sing went for 5 minutes, and Tony said, “You should have seen the looks on their faces! Their jaws dropped so fast and so far, you would have thought..” Here he paused to laugh and then continued, “…I’d have cussed someone in church or something…” By now Tony is laughing and we’re all in tears. “ And then I sat down,” said Tony.

Tony Greene. Photo by Elaine Reyes Harcourt. 2010

Tony Greene. Photo by Elaine Reyes Harcourt. 2010

“After the funeral, I went up to her and said, “I hope everything went the way you wanted it to.’ She said, ‘Tony, it was wonderful. You did a great job. But, I don’t know what I was thinking!’ I said, “What?” and my jaw dropped open. She said, ‘You see Tony, with so many people coming by and bringing food and staying all night, I haven’t slept in three days. I’m so tired, I don’t know why I said that you should sing ‘Jingle Bells’. What I meant to say was, ‘When They Ring Those Golden Bells for You and Me’.”

The thing is, Tony loved people. He wanted to see the lost saved, and he wanted to put a smile on someone’s face wherever he went. Now he’s in heaven and people somewhere are laughing at one of his stories.

My prayers are always with the family. I love them very much. I hope Tony’s girls will one day be able to see how great a dad they have and know that they were the apple of his eye.

Editor’s Notes: Tony Greene passed away September 28, 2010 at the age of 41 from Renal Disease. He is survived by his wife TaRanda Greene and their two daughters, Isabella and Jocelyn, as well as many other family members. For more on Tony and his music ministry, click on to http://www.thegreenesgospel.com/

The author of this feature, Stephen Widener, is an ordained Pastor, Southern Gospel Singer, Musician, and Youth basketball Coach from North Carolina. A fan of Southern Gospel, he has been in and around the industry for several years, as well as having relatives within the industry. Stephen can be found in many places on the web including Facebook and Twitter, but you can reach him personally at snwidener2000@yahoo.com.

 

 

SGNScoops salutes the family and friends of Tony Greene as he is inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Association’s Hall of Fame today, September 26, 2017.

For the latest issue of SGNScoops magazine click here

For more gospel music news click here.

For online gospel music click here.

 


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Praying the Lord’s Prayer

Written by Staff on May 1, 2015 – 9:21 am -

 

Karen Peck & New River Releases Highly Anticipated Album, PRAY NOW

Karen Peck & New River Releases
Highly Anticipated Album,
PRAY NOW

In respect of the upcoming National Day of Prayer on May 7, 2015 and the release of Karen Peck and New River’s album and video, Pray Now, we have posted this devotional on the Lord’s Prayer by Lorraine Walker and Stephen Widener. We encourage you to visit Karen Peck and New River’s website and view their video, “Pray Now.”

 

For several months now I have been praying Our Lord’s Prayer as part of my daily devotions. God has been teaching me and I’ve been trying to comprehend at least part of what Jesus was saying when He gave the disciples this prayer in Luke 11:2–4 and in Matthew 6:9-13.

 

I asked my friend Stephen Widener, an assistant Pastor in Lenoir, North Carolina, to give his thoughts as well. My prayer is that this will lead you into your own study as we take a deeper look into these words from our Lord.

 

Stephen: “Let me say this, it is the model prayer of how we’re to pray. The Bible clearly says to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). God wants to have an intimate relationship with us, as He did with Adam in the Garden of Eden before Adam sinned. This is why God sent His Son, Jesus to bring us back to the Father, God Himself.

 

“When you’re intimate with someone, not in a sexual way, but have a relationship where you talk consistently with them, it creates a special type of intimacy. That is what God wants and that’s what prayer is: talking to a Holy, Sovereign God. You are special to Him.

 

“Prayer is not getting God to do things for you, even though He wants to, but getting you to do His will. (v.10) His will does not go against His Word. When we are praying, we are to pray specifically.” Read more »


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