Thursday, August 25, 2016

Happy New (church) Year!


Happy New Year, Westmoreland Baptist Church!

Before you decide that the old Preacher has completely lost it, please understand I’m talking about the “New Church Year” which begins the first of September.

Now, your question might be, “Why does the church year begin on September 1st, when our fiscal year begins on January 1st?”
And the answer to that is simple. 

I don’t know.

As the old saying goes, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”
There has got to be a reason that it’s always been done that way, but I’m afraid I am not privy to that information. I do know, however, that it seems to be somewhat common across the SBC (or at least with the SBC churches I know) to start the church year on the first Sunday in September.

Most State Conventions are held in late October or early November, so, the “Annual Church Profile” which is the uniform church reporting letter across the Convention, usually comes to the local churches by the end of August, so the information can be listed and sent to the State and National Convention offices in time for the State and Local Association’s Book of Reports.

Our Greater Huntington Association’s Annual Meeting is always in mid or late October, and the State Convention is always the first week end in November.  This year the State Convention Annual Meeting is at Oglebay Park in Wheeling, WV on November 4-5.

At any rate, it is the new church year, and this is the time when we elect Deacons to the three year active deacon rotation, as well as install new committee members to the rotating committees that make up our church’s Administrative Team.  Deacon Election took place on Aug 21st, and for some reason, we do not officially elect the other officers and teachers until the September Business Meeting, EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO TAKE OFFICE BY SEPTEMBER 1ST

I promise you, I will be working with our Nominating Committee and the Administrative Team to make sure this is the last year that this will happen!  We’re going to get that fixed!

There are some exciting things awaiting us in this next church year.  The 2015-2016 church year has seen more baptisms than the last two full years – combined, and we want to thank God for that.  With our new Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Student Ministries (Matt Maynard) now on board, we are already seeing new strides made in those areas.  In Matt’s first month we have seen the youth group increase from 3 to 12!  We have also had a Teacher Appreciation Breakfast, and seen the groundwork laid for periodic and regular departmental, teacher training and communication sessions.

Other good things are in store that I will be able to announce to you in next month’s Newsletter.  Let’s bathe all we do in prayer. Let’s “Cath-Up” on our tithes and offerings that have been way down over the Summer months, and let’s commit to be in our place, and in our respective places of ministry this year, for the sake of the Kingdom and for the Glory of our

Thursday, August 4, 2016

This 'N That

I thought I would share three articles with you which meant a lot to me this week.

The first is an article regarding "Unity in the Southern Baptist Convention".  It was written by Dr. David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church of New Orleans.  Dr. Crosby is a godly man who was a candidate for President of the SBC this past Summer.  He is a godly pastor, who most certainly believes in the inerrancy of scripture, and also understands and practices compassion in ministry and evangelism, while working in one of the great mission fields in North America, "The Big Easy".  Dr. Crosby understands the need for cooperation among those of us who profess to follow Christ - even when we may not totally agree on every little point of doctrine, but we can come together under the broad umbrella of our Baptist Faith and Message. We Southern Baptists will never have uniformity, but we most certainly need to practice unity!  Dr. Crosby's article appears on the New Orleans Baptist Association's website. It can be seen by clicking here

The second article is by Joe Carter and appears on The Gospel Coalition's website.  This article is entitled, " Why We Should Be Grateful For Flourishing Evangelical Seminaries".  Carter makes the point that new data reveal that the largest seminaries in America are the most orthodox and evangelical. It's an encouraging read for those of us who value the worth of quality and doctrinally sound theological education.  Without exception, it is the conservative evangelical seminaries that are growing and flourishing in these days when our culture is spiraling downward.  Having just finished 10 years of serving on the Board of Trustees of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, I have had the blessing to see, up close, the dedication, discipline and hard work that goes on in providing a world class theological education to students through various and constantly changing delivery methods.  Carter's article is a good read, and can be accessed by clicking here.

 The third article is of personal interest to me, as it involves my youngest brother, Carl Adkins.  It comes from the "Atlanta Journal and Constitution" website.  There are big doin's coming up in Atlanta over the next few years that will take the spotlight in the sporting world, and my little bro is right in the middle of it.  After going 3-for-3 in bids to host marquee sporting events over the next few years — the College Football Playoff national championship game in January 2018, the Super Bowl in February 2019 and the Final Four in April 2020 — Atlanta sports and hospitality officials are assembling organizations to plan and manage the events locally. Carl has been named executive director of the local host committees for both the college-football title game and the Final Four. 
Carl is no stranger to hosting big events.  As long time General Manager of the Georgia Dome, he has been heavily involved with hosting the Olympics, Super Bowls, Final Fours, Atlanta Falcons home games, concerts, and other large events.  
We are all very proud of Carl, who began his arena management career as a Huntington East High School student, working at the Huntington Civic Center (Now the Big Sandy Superstore Arena) as a door guard and usher at it's opening event, a concert by Frank Sinatra.  His career path has taken him through moving up the ladder at the old Civic Center to progressive "upward moves" into supervisory and management positions at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, the Nashville Convention Center in  the Music City, on to the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, and eventually across the street to the Georgia Dome.
I invite you to read more about the big events coming to Atlanta and my brother's role in two of them. Article can be accessed by clicking here.
 

Why We Should Be Grateful for Flourishing Evangelical Seminaries

Monday, July 18, 2016

"It Only Hurts On Monday"

I thank God for encouragers. God, in His great mercy, always sees fit to send a Barnabas our way when we need one.

Thamer Calhoun is a personal Barnabas of mine. Now, Thamer is a real character.  He's an old Marine.  He's rough around the edges. He'll kind of remind you of Grumpy the Dwarf, only taller. He's tough. Quick to tell you what's on his mind. He's got an opinion on everything, and he'll share that opinion with you at the drop of a hat.  He'll even supply the hat!

He's a little scary at first encounter, but once a fellow comes to know Calhoun, one understands that under that gruff exterior beats a heart of gold.  He loves God. He loves his church.  And he loves his pastor.

Thamer is not the only encourager in our church, but he regularly comes by the office to check on me and often has prayer with me before he leaves.

Several years ago, Thamer came across a book entitled, "It Only Hurts On Monday: Why Pastors Quit And What You Can Do About It" by Dr. Gary L. McIntosh and Dr. Robert L. Edmondson. Thamer gave me a copy of that book when I first came to this church He told me that he had read it, and he was going to do everything within his power to keep me from being discouraged.  For every new Deacon we ordain, Thamer gives them a copy of this book. He encourages them to read it and to take it to heart.  He tells them all, "We need to pray for our Preacher".

Now that is an encourager!

Fact of the matter is that pastors DO get discouraged from time to time, and Monday is always a prime opportunity.  Every pastor understands that.  You work all week, reading, studying, praying, and preparing that message (or messages and Sunday School lessons sometimes as well). By the time Sunday is over, you are spent.  But beside what is expected of us in our teaching and preaching ministry, there is often an outpouring of other "stuff" on Sundays. "Crises" large and small often are brought to our attention - sometimes just before worship service. Sunday is often a grueling day for pastors.

That is why so many pastors take a day off on Monday. The book quotes one pastor as saying, "I always feel lousy on Monday.  That's why I work on Monday because if I'm gonna feel lousy, I'll do it on church time - NOT on my day off!"

I usually work on Monday, myself, but not for that reason.  There are usually a number of issues I followup on that have popped up on the Lord's Day.  I feel more comfortable getting those things addressed and following up on visitors, etc. while all is still fresh on my mind.  I try to take a day off later in the week when I can.

Another great encourager of Pastors whom I know is Joe McKeever.  Joe has been a pastor much of his adult life, and had served as a Director of Missions (and sort of a pastor to pastors) in the Greater New Orleans ares for a number of years.  Like Barnabas of the Church at Antioch, Joe is a true "Son of Consolation".  I am thankful to have met Joe personally and I so appreciate his blog and the daily cartoons he draws for Baptist Press.

Today, Joe posted the following list to Facebook and every pastor should be able to relate.  But you don't have to be a pastor to get a kick out of this post!

Hope it gives you a chuckle - and hope you have a tolerable Monday!

PASTOR, YOU KNOW YOU'RE TOO TIRED WHEN..
1) The threat of being fired sounds great! 

2) You visit patients in the hospital and envy them. 

3) Your goal for today is to get through it without serious damage. 

4) People ask if you've been sick and you answer, "Not yet." 

5) A senior runs by the church to bring you a chocolate pie--your favorite--and you try to avoid her. 

6) The personnel committee offers you a six-week sabbatical and you turn it down because you can't make a decision on what to do with all that time. 

7) You don't recall all the words to "Jesus Loves Me." 

8) You make an extra effort to attend denominational meetings guaranteed to be boring just so you can get some rest. 

9) Your nighttime prayer is "Lord, I'm tired. Amen." And ...

10) along about the time you begin to recover from last Sunday, it hits you that another Sabbath is on its way and today is Thursday. God bless you, preacher!



Thursday, July 14, 2016

"Unity In Diversity"

My oldest son, Jay Adkins, moved to New Orleans 14 years ago to attend New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and to serve as Lead Pastor of First Baptist Church of Westwego, just across the Mississippi River from the beautiful Audubon Park in the Crescent City.  Through Jay's contacts, and in the three or four years before Hurricane Katrina, I began to become acquainted with several of his fellow pastors in the New Orleans Baptist Association (or NOBA as it is called now).  After Katrina, along with many other volunteers, I made other trips to New Orleans to assist Jay's church and others as part of the SBC Disaster Relief ministry.  That experience led to meeting more NOBA pastors through the work of the Director of Missions at that critical time, Joe McKeever.  Joe, who is a talented cartoonist, and a long time pastor, himself, helped hold things together for those pastors and their families and churches in the aftermath of that terrible tragedy.

The next year, 2006, I was blessed to be elected by the SBC to serve as a Trustee at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in that beautiful city.  I have now  just finished up my second five year term on the Board at NOBTS and was privileged to see many great improvements to the campus and to its ministry over the past ten years. During that decade, I was also blessed to come to know more and more of the pastors of local churches there in metro New Orleans.

I have always been impressed with the challenges involved in doing ministry in that great city. It is a mission field in America!  New Orleans is certainly not part of the Bible Belt, and is well known for wickedness, and even violence in some areas of "The Big Easy".  Many pastors labor there full time.  Others are bi-vocational.  Even some of the professors and administrators at NOBTS also do extra duty as pastors, in that great city and its outlying areas.

The churches they serve are as diverse as the culture. There are the large, well known Congregations like Fred Luter's Franklin Avenue Baptist and David Crosby's First Baptist Church of New Orleans.  There are church plants like Ryan Melson's West Bank Baptist in Marrero and Vintage Church in the Garden District where Rob Wilton serves. There is the beautiful FBC Kenner where Mike Miller ministers, and Dennis Watson's multi campus Celebration Church.  Ken Taylor's Gentilly Baptist came back after Katrina, merging with another congregation whose building had been destroyed. Jeffrey Quentin Friend shepherds the Suburban Baptist flock., a primarily African American congregation.  Mid sized churches like Jay's Weswego congregation, and Ames Boulevard Baptist where Bob Steward and Rhyne Putman serve, dot the landscape up and down both sides of the Mississippi River.  One church, Canal Street Mosaic is pastored by NOBTS professor Page Brooks, who is also a US Army Chaplain.

I could go on and on, but hopefully you get the idea.  The pastors in NOBA are an ethnically, culturally, and theologically diverse group.  Some are reformed, others are not.  The large church pastors are as involved in the local association as much the smaller churches are - and that is truly unusual. At least it is from my personal experience in other associations around the country.

These pastors do not minister in a "homogonized" culture as do many SBC Shepherds.  New Orleans is a "gumbo" of various cultures, and the NOBA pastors have had to learn how to focus their ministries very differently than most of us other Baptist pastors have had to do.  Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about them teaching anything heretical, but some of their methods might be a bit unusual sometimes, and to succeed in that cultural crossroads they have had to learn to "be all things to all men that by all means they may win some."

The thing that makes NOBA special to me - observing from 900 miles away in the Ohio River valley of West Virginia, is the fact that in spite of the many differences between pastors, their personalities, and the peculiarities of their respective churches, they seem to work so well together to get the job done.  The goal is to reduce the lostness of their area, and they don't seem to let "labels" hinder their work. "Calvinists" and "Traditionalists" alike, working hand in hand are laboring to fulfill the Great Commission, without falling out over it.  They don't seem to let secondary and tertiary issues keep them from fellowship in the ministry.  As I once heard Frank Page describe himself several years ago, they are "conservatives, but they're not mad at anybody!"

Jay has referred to their cooperative efforts as "unity through their diversity".

Don't you wish Southern Baptists all over the USA would view our work in that same way?

Some of the leadership in the Louisiana Baptist Convention seem to look upon the pastors and leaders of NOBA with disapproval as they don't always "fit the mold".  In fact, Jay has jokingly told his colleagues that the NOBA guys are sort of the "island of misfit toys" in the Louisiana Baptist Convention.  There has been some obvious tension, and some behind the scenes political wrangling toward NOBA, all over "non essential" doctrinal issues, and that is sad.  One of my colleagues here in the Mountain State recently said, "Well, the SBC won the battle for the Bible in the Conservative Resurgence several decades ago.  But instead of putting our guns down, now we're pointing them at one another!"

Jack Hunter (a very gifted layman) leads the pastors and churches of NOBA. as their Director of Missions. Jack, along with seven pastors who make up the Association Administrative Team, have written and published a most interesting blog post calling upon Louisiana Baptists - as well as all of the rest of us - to work together in the Kingdom Business that we have been called to by Christ. The call is to avoid contention and needless criticism, name calling and mud slinging, and to keep the main thing the main thing.

The article can be found by clicking this link. Which Way Forward: Toward Unity or Division?

I know five of the seven men who have signed this post.  They come from all over the spectrum of conservative, born again, Bible believing, Bible teaching pastors.  They are men of integrity. They are men with big shoulders and tough skin, but hearts of compassion.  I know that they love God, they love His Word, His church, they love lost people, and they are committed to looking past small differences of opinion and extrabiblical traditions to seek unity in ministry and to accomplish the mission.

We should go and do likewise!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

It Is A Matter of Conscience

I love politics.

It's in my blood.

Both of my grandfathers were Roosevelt New Dealers.  Both held local offices and one served a couple of terms in the West Virginia House of Delegates.

I have a cousin who has run for elective office, and I have done so myself in two local (nonpartisan elections). I lost in a bid for City Commissioner in the city where I live, and I won in an election for the Board of Education.  I loved having that privilege go serve our community and to do the little I could do personally to enhance the learning environment of the children of Ashland, KY.

The term I served was full of challenges, and although some situations were very difficult, I was thankful to be part of the solutions.  When time came to file for re-election, I had begun to make plans to purchase yard signs, look into local advertising and begin the campaign until the Lord impressed on my heart, "I didn't call you into public service.  I called you into ministry!"

No, He did not speak to me in an audible voice. It was much louder than that!  So from that point on, I have focused more fully on the pastoral ministry where I am called. I am an American and thankful for that fact, but my eternal citizenship is in a Kingdom - not of this world.

That ministry, however, does not keep me from exercising my franchise to cast my ballot when the opportunity arises.  When I registered to vote (about 100 years ago) I registered in WV as a Democrat.  Dad was a Democrat. My grandfathers were also.  About EVERYBODY in WV was at that time.  As time passed and I began to realize that my civil duty of voting should be influenced fully by my Biblical world view, I began to realize that the platform of the National Democratic Party was not compatible with some of my core beliefs, By the time I moved to Kentucky in 1980 I felt that it was a good time to change parties. I registered Republican, since the national party's platform was more in line with my social and fiscal conservative viewpoint.  Ronald Reagan led the party, and I bought into the "morning in America" thing. I took an active role in local politics and supported candidates (usually Republicans) whom I believed to share my values. Only one time in my life did I ever vote a straight ticket - but that is another story for another time.

Eventually  I became a bit convicted that a Pastor should be more careful even in the political realm of life.  I minister to people who belong to both major political parties. We seek to win lost people to Christ, and that involves EVERYONE.  While I still hold strong to my Biblical world view, I will not let partisan politics be a stumbling block to those I seek to win to Christ, or to those that I am responsible to shepherd in the local flock.  Knowing that Almighty God does not ride on the backs of Donkeys OR Elephants, I changed my voter registration to Independent.  Although I do have strong personal political views, I purposed to publicly stay away from endorsing political candidates in partisan races.  I have my opinion and I will share it, and debate (in a gracious manner) with anyone who would like to do so, privately.  I will not bring partisan politics into the pulpit.

Now that doesn't mean I won't address moral issues that have become politicized (ie. Abortion, Same Sex Marriage, etc) but I will address such issues from the Biblical standpoint - NOT to endorse political candidates.  So I walk a fine line between my interest in politics in general (as my wife can tell you) and my mission to proclaim the Gospel.

That brings me to the subject of our upcoming Presidential election this November.

For whom should I vote?

I have never faced a more challenging personal decision in the political realm.  It IS a matter of conscience to me, and at this point I cannot bring myself to vote for EITHER of the major party's candidates.  Certainly there is a third party option, but with Gary Johnson polling at about 10%, he is not likely a viable choice, and I really don't know enough about him at this point to make an informed judgment.

It really comes down to the choice between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, and that is where I come to a screeching halt. With 300 million people living in this land, do you mean to tell me that THESE TWO are the best candidates we can come up with for the position President, the highest office in the land?

God help us!

Hillary Clinton's social and fiscal policies are abhorrent to my conscience.  Besides the flip flopping she has done throughout the years, the corruption and dishonesty, and absolute disregard for the truth that she has displayed goes beyond what I think that any person who shares my beliefs could possibly support. Her campaign and personal actions reflect the political crony-ism and corruption that one would witness in the "House of Cards" series on Netflix.  I cringe at the thought of  Hillary Clinton sitting in the seat of Washington, Lincoln, Truman, and Reagan.  Commander in chief of our military, and leader of the free world.  She represents so much of what is wrong in American politics, creating the backlash that has brought about the phenomena of Bernie Sanders and yes, Donald Trump.


Now, I know that some of my high profile pastoral brethren have jumped on the Trump bandwagon, if for no other reason than "He's not Hillary!"  But I have to take a stand otherwise.

"The Donald" is basically running on celebrity status, fear mongering, and name calling.  I admire his business acumen.  He inherited a fortune from his father, and although filing for bankruptcy several times in some of his companies, he has grown his fortune, and has employed thousands in his various business endeavors.  That being said, economics, business and jobs are not all that is involved in this election. There is the matter of morals. He criticizes the abysmal personal behavior of Mrs. Clinton's husband, when Trump, himself is a serial adulterer, and has bragged about it.

We long for someone of character to lead us. It's just not there.  Clinton is a proven liar, whose stand on the issues change however the winds blow. Her actions and those of her cronies have proven that she thinks she is above the law.   Trump is an amoral nightmare.  Other than "building a wall" and making Mexico pay for it" I have not heard a single specific idea he has advanced as to he intends to deal with the problems that face our nation and our world. His bombastic style and arrogance may appeal superficially to those who are disenchanted with the status quo, but folks, name calling, race baiting, fear mongering, and arrogance are not qualities I am looking for in a candidate for the highest office in the land.

I could go on and on, but it just comes down to this.  I cannot in good conscience, vote for either of the two major party candidates.

I will certainly go to my polling place at Charles Russell Elementary school this November and exercise one of my most valuable rights as an American citizen.  I will cast my vote for men and women (both Republican and Democrat) in local, state and national races, who I believe are people of character, and those I feel I can trust to faithfully execute the duties of their office in an honest and trustworthy manner.  But I cannot in good conscience vote for either of the two major party candidates at the top of the ticket. I'm not sure yet exactly what I'll do, whether I'll vote for the 3rd party candidate, or even write in the name of someone. But I cannot in good conscience push the button for Clinton or Trump.

It's a matter of conscience.  You do what you think is right, but it comes down to this for me.

The lesser of two evils - is still evil.

It Is A Matter of Conscience

I love politics.

It's in my blood.

Both of my grandfathers were Roosevelt New Dealers.  Both held local offices and one served a couple of terms in the West Virginia House of Delegates.

I have a cousin who has run for elective office, and I have done so myself in two local (nonpartisan elections). I lost in a bid for City Commissioner in the city where I live, and I won in an election for the Board of Education.  I loved having that privilege go serve our community and to do the little I could do personally to enhance the learning environment of the children of Ashland, KY.

The term I served was full of challenges, and although some situations were very difficult, I was thankful to be part of the solutions.  When time came to file for re-election, I had begun to make plans to purchase yard signs, look into local advertising and begin the campaign until the Lord impressed on my heart, "I didn't call you into public service.  I called you into ministry!"

No, He did not speak to me in an audible voice. It was much louder than that!  So from that point on, I have focused more fully on the pastoral ministry where I am called. I am an American and thankful for that fact, but my eternal citizenship is in a Kingdom - not of this world.

That ministry, however, does not keep me from exercising my franchise to cast my ballot when the opportunity arises.  When I registered to vote (about 100 years ago) I registered in WV as a Democrat.  Dad was a Democrat. My grandfathers were also.  About EVERYBODY in WV was at that time.  As time passed and I began to realize that my civil duty of voting should be influenced fully by my Biblical world view, I began to realize that the platform of the National Democratic Party was not compatible with some of my core beliefs, By the time I moved to Kentucky in 1980 I felt that it was a good time to change parties. I registered Republican, since the national party's platform was more in line with my social and fiscal conservative viewpoint.  Ronald Reagan led the party, and I bought into the "morning in America" thing. I took an active role in local politics and supported candidates (usually Republicans) whom I believed to share my values. Only one time in my life did I ever vote a straight ticket - but that is another story for another time.

Eventually  I became a bit convicted that a Pastor should be more careful even in the political realm of life.  I minister to people who belong to both major political parties. We seek to win lost people to Christ, and that involves EVERYONE.  While I still hold strong to my Biblical world view, I will not let partisan politics be a stumbling block to those I seek to win to Christ, or to those that I am responsible to shepherd in the local flock.  Knowing that Almighty God does not ride on the backs of Donkeys OR Elephants, I changed my voter registration to Independent.  Although I do have strong personal political views, I purposed to publicly stay away from endorsing political candidates in partisan races.  I have my opinion and I will share it, and debate (in a gracious manner) with anyone who would like to do so, privately.  I will not bring partisan politics into the pulpit.

Now that doesn't mean I won't address moral issues that have become politicized (ie. Abortion, Same Sex Marriage, etc) but I will address such issues from the Biblical standpoint - NOT to endorse political candidates.  So I walk a fine line between my interest in politics in general (as my wife can tell you) and my mission to proclaim the Gospel.

That brings me to the subject of our upcoming Presidential election this November.

For whom should I vote?

I have never faced a more challenging personal decision in the political realm.  It IS a matter of conscience to me, and at this point I cannot bring myself to vote for EITHER of the major party's candidates.  Certainly there is a third party option, but with Gary Johnson polling at about 10%, he is not likely a viable choice, and I really don't know enough about him at this point to make an informed judgment.

It really comes down to the choice between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, and that is where I come to a screeching halt. With 300 million people living in this land, do you mean to tell me that THESE TWO are the best candidates we can come up with for the position President, the highest office in the land?

God help us!

Hillary Clinton's social and fiscal policies are abhorrent to my conscience.  Besides the flip flopping she has done throughout the years, the corruption and dishonesty, and absolute disregard for the truth that she has displayed goes beyond what I think that any person who shares my beliefs could possibly support. Her campaign and personal actions reflect the political crony-ism and corruption that one would witness in the "House of Cards" series on Netflix.  I cringe at the thought of  Hillary Clinton sitting in the seat of Washington, Lincoln, Truman, and Reagan.  Commander in chief of our military, and leader of the free world.  She represents so much of what is wrong in American politics, creating the backlash that has brought about the phenomena of Bernie Sanders and yes, Donald Trump.


Now, I know that some of my high profile pastoral brethren have jumped on the Trump bandwagon, if for no other reason than "He's not Hillary!"  But I have to take a stand otherwise.

"The Donald" is basically running on celebrity status, fear mongering, and name calling.  I admire his business acumen.  He inherited a fortune from his father, and although filing for bankruptcy several times in some of his companies, he has grown his fortune, and has employed thousands in his various business endeavors.  That being said, economics, business and jobs are not all that is involved in this election. There is the matter of morals. He criticizes the abysmal personal behavior of Mrs. Clinton's husband, when Trump, himself is a serial adulterer, and has bragged about it.

We long for someone of character to lead us. It's just not there.  Clinton is a proven liar, whose stand on the issues change however the winds blow. Her actions and those of her cronies have proven that she thinks she is above the law.   Trump is an amoral nightmare.  Other than "building a wall" and making Mexico pay for it" I have not heard a single specific idea he has advanced as to he intends to deal with the problems that face our nation and our world. His bombastic style and arrogance may appeal superficially to those who are disenchanted with the status quo, but folks, name calling, race baiting, fear mongering, and arrogance are not qualities I am looking for in a candidate for the highest office in the land.

I could go on and on, but it just comes down to this.  I cannot in good conscience, vote for either of the two major party candidates.

I will certainly go to my polling place at Charles Russell Elementary school this November and exercise one of my most valuable rights as an American citizen.  I will cast my vote for men and women (both Republican and Democrat) in local, state and national races, who I believe are people of character, and those I feel I can trust to faithfully execute the duties of their office in an honest and trustworthy manner.  But I cannot in good conscience vote for either of the two major party candidates at the top of the ticket. I'm not sure yet exactly what I'll do, whether I'll vote for the 3rd party candidate, or even write in the name of someone. But I cannot in good conscience push the button for Clinton or Trump.

It's a matter of conscience.  You do what you think is right, but it comes down to this for me.

The lesser of two evils - is still evil.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy Birthday USA!


Today marks the 240th Anniversary of the founders signing the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia.

The world is vastly different than it was in the City of Brotherly Love on that hot Summer week in 1776. And yet in many ways it is very much the same. 

Different when it comes to conveniences, technology, and dissemination of information. 18th century communication relied on handwritten documents, rudimentary printing operations, and mail delivered domestically by foot and horseback, and internationally by sailing ships.  Today it is electronic, cellular, and satellite assisted.  News spread by word of mouth, then and by heralds in the public square. Now we have 24 hour news cycles, with events happening 12 time zones away being piped into our living rooms in real time.  Most of us carry small hand held communication and information devices that were not even dreamed of in those days.

Yep.  Different world.

And yet the same in so many ways.

People still long to be free.  Free to control their own destinies and to enjoy the inalienable God given rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We detest tyranny and will only take so much until we rise up and overthrow the grip of tyrannical governments.  We are willing to pay reasonable taxes and share mutual responsibility, but will not bear unreasonable burdens. We desire a government that is open to and responsible to the voice of the people.  The Declaration of such to King George signaled the beginning of the "great experiment" that soon brought about the necessity of citizen soldiers to bear arms against the invading armies and Navy of our mother country. Farmers, craftsmen and business men, alike, put to risk their lives, property, and personal fortunes, to create a sovereign nation from 13 loosely connected colonies stretching north to south along the Atlantic coast of the great North American wilderness.

Eventually our new leaders forged a Constitution, a founding document designed to "provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare, and to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity".  Our Republic was formed.  Consequently added amendments, allowed for ideas not addressed in the founding document. Clarifying and codifying such rights as freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to peaceably assemble, the right to keep and bear arms. Over the next two centuries other amendments were added as needed to clarify the freedoms and responsibilities shared by our population.

Our nation expanded in size, moving westward through the bravery of explorers and settlers. Our borders expanded with the Louisiana Purchase and the Doctrine of Manifest Destiny that led us to possess outlying territories reaching all the way to the Pacific Coastline.

American history is fascinating. It is ripe with stories of bravery, heroism and greatness. We have been called upon to send our sons and daughters into harms way to protect our own homeland, and to fight for freedom for enslaved persons in nations around the world.  Our history also contains shameful chapters such as slavery, a Civil War in which 600,000 Americans died, literally at the hands of their brothers.  There has long been the ugly spectre of bigotry and racial segregation, Even now the current American Holocaust continues, in which the innocent lives of more than 4,000 unborn Americans are snuffed out every day inside what should be the safest place on the planet - their mother's womb.

Alexis de Toqueville once wrote "America is great because America is good.  When America ceases to be good, it will cease to be great."

I believe that God has graciously blessed the United States of America down through the years, but we have fallen far from where we once stood for general morality, and an inherent desire to follow the principles taught in what we call the Judeo/Christian ethic.  I don't labor under the delusion that America was ever a "Christian nation", but I do know that we were founded with a reverence for, and a desire to follow the ancient teachings of the Bible.

Those days are gone. It is no wonder that America is no longer great.

I pray that there will be a resurgence of that spirit in our nation, but alas, as a nation we have generally forgotten God.  I believe we are living in a post Christian culture here, and apart from a mighty movement of God, our nation will likely never return to those original parameters of belief, and to the principals laid out in our founding documents.

My ultimate citizenship is not of this country, nor even of this planet.  By Grace, I am a citizen of God's Kingdom.  During this life I have been blessed to have been born and have lived in the greatest country on Earth.  One day I am moving to my eternal home.  Until then, I am praying for my temporary home, the United States of America, to return to the lofty goals that were signed onto by our founders 240 years ago.

My prayer could be expressed in the words of Irving Berlin:

"God Bless America, land that I love
Stand beside her and guide her,
Through the night, with a light from above.
From the mountains to the prairie
To the oceans, white with foam.
God bless America. My Home, sweet home."

Happy Birthday U.S.A.