Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Help Needed. You May Just Be The One God Is Calling!

Jesus told his disciples not to prohibit little children from coming to Him.  In fact He said that they should welcome the presence of little children, and to share the Good News with them.  Westmoreland Baptist Church has been attempting to do just that through Children’s Ministry on our campus at the corner of Hughes and Court Streets for the past 99 years.

We have been granted a tremendous opportunity to do just that, outside the setting of our local church.  God has richly blessed this opportunity, but we are at a point now where we need help. I believe there are some readers out there who God is preparing to step in and help us carry out a tremendous ministry to children at Central City Elementary School located in the West End of Huntington, WV.

In past years many of us have lamented judicial decisions to “take the Bible out of the public schools”.  However, through His providence, (and a ruling from the Supreme Court) God has, indeed, allowed us to take the Bible and the Good News of Jesus into the public schools through after school programs.

This September we will be beginning our second full year of reaching the children of Central City Elementary by partnering with Child Evangelism Fellowship and a neighboring church (Sunshine FWB) with a Good News Club.

We began our Good News Club during the last five weeks of the 2012-2013 school year.  In that short time we were able to minister to 10 children who stayed after school for an hour on Thursday evenings. Those kids were treated to delicious snacks, a fun time of recreation, songs, a Bible memory verse each week, along with a Bible lesson, missionary story, and a Gospel presentation.  Several children made professions of faith during those few weeks. 

Last school year we were blessed to enroll 27 children in our Good News Club.  But along with the blessing of an enrollment that nearly tripled in number, came the problem of a shortage of helpers.  For the ministry to be successful and to grow in number, we MUST enlist some new workers for the coming school year.

We desperately need to have enough helpers to split the children into two age groups. The future effectiveness and success of this ministry rests solely on God providing us with enough helpers to make this work.

The requirements and qualifications for workers and helpers are simple.  The workers must be born again followers of Jesus Christ.  They must love children, and be able to pass a criminal background check, and attend a brief training session offered by Child Evangelism Fellowship.  And they must be willing to give about an hour and a half of their time on Thursday afternoons in serving the Lord through serving these children.

Would YOU be willing to help?

You do not have to be a gifted musician or Bible teacher (although we can always use more of those), you just need to be willing to help.  Beside the obvious teaching and singing folks, we need helpers who are willing to serve in any of these other ways:
  • Refreshments
  • Games and recreation
  • Passing out materials
  • Greeting parents when they pick up the children
  • Provide a loving presence for the children during the club hour
  • Help with keeping order and attention
  • Taking care of records
  • Helping prepare materials
  • Prayer support
  • And other tasks as needs arise

We need to be there by 2:45 when school dismisses, to greet the children, and stay till the parents pick them up at 4:00.

We have had a wonderful crew of workers since day one, but during the last school one has passed away and two have had health situations that have limited their availability.

Would you be willing to help us this year? I will be glad to share more information with anyone who may be interested in being part of what God is doing at Central City.

Feel free to contact me via private message through Facebook, or by email at pastoradkins@frontier.com, or by calling the church office at 304-429-1348.  If you get voice mail, just leave a message with your name and number.  We will get back to you.

I pray that God will raise up individuals who will be willing to help in some way.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Finishing Well

This photo jumped out at me from the Facebook app on my iPad this week.Three generations of the Dyar family stood smiling in this beautiful outdoor setting.  Linda's cousin, Joyce, and her husband, Monty were a young couple I married "a few years ago" in Mingo County, WV.

In this photo the family had gathered to celebrate Monty and Joyce's 40th wedding anniversary. I smiled when I remembered that ceremony on that hot Summer afternoon when I was blessed to unite that pretty young West Virginia girl and the handsome young United States Marine from Purvis, Mississippi at a little white frame church in Sprigg, WV.

Then it hit me.

Their FORTIETH anniversary?

How could that be possible?

I remember back in the 60's when my Grandmother and Grandfather celebrated their 40th in Logan Co. WV. I remember marveling at how old they were, and how long they had been husband and wife,. 40 years!
And now I was faced with the reality that it had been 40 years since I had tied the knot for Monty and Joyce.  And further more they were not the first couple I had married, there had been several before them.

Surely I couldn't be that old - could I?

The reality is, however, that indeed I am that old.  After all, Linda and I observed our 43rd anniversary last month.  Even though I honestly don't feel any older than I did 30 years ago (except for the issues with my right foot which has been surgically diminished twice in the past 3 months), I am older than I often realize. Truth of the matter is that I am only 14 months away from Medicare!  That is a shocking reality.

It's one that I am reminded of every morning by the stranger who peers back at me from the mirror. That can't possibly be me - but alas, the truth bears witness in:
  • the lines, wrinkles and creases in the face, silently speak volumes...
  • the white hairs that now dominate my once black beard bear witness...
  • the ever increasing area of bare scalp where thick curly hair once flourished tells the story...
All serve to remind me that time passes on - it sneaks up on us, and soon we realize the true brevity of our lives.The Bible is full of reminders of how quickly our years pass.
  • Job 7: 6  "My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle..."
  • Psalm 90:5-6 "... In the morning they are like grass which grows up: In the morning it flourishes and grows up; In the evening it is cut down and withers."
  • Psalm 90; 9-10  "... we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away..."
  • 1 Peter 1:24  “...All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man[a] as the flower of the grass. The grass withers,And its flower falls away..."
  • James 4:14  "... For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away."  
Now, that being said, please understand that I am NOT planning my funeral services just yet.  With the recent passing of my 87 year old father, and other aforementioned reminders, I am just stating the fact that for each of us, time is marching on and there is no turning back the clock.

When I was a boy growing up on Gallaher Street in southeast Huntington, WV back in the 50's, there were several multigenerational families in our neighborhood.  Often there was a grandfather living in the home with a family, or next door to them.  The elderly men in the family were usually known as "Old Man (so and so)".  It wasn't a term used disrespectfully, but rather, one of honor and affection.  On our street alone we had "Old Men" Black, Midkiff, Dick, Osborne, and Adkins.

After Dad's funeral service last week, it hit me that I am now the patriarch of our Adkins clan. Suddenly (it seems) I am now "Old Man Adkins".  I'm the old guy with 44 years in pastoral ministry (longest in ministry in our association).  I'm the old guy with grandchildren in High School.  I'm the old guy who has lived on my street longer than anyone else except a couple who are in their late 80's.  I'm the guy who realizes that I don't have nearly as many years left as I have seen pass.

I'm not ready to lie down and die.  After all, I am a 10 year survivor of "incurable" fourth stage colon cancer that had permeated my liver and was in several lymph nodes when discovered.  

I'm not ready to quit.  I hope to remain in active ministry at least 6 or 7 more years, if God gives me the health to do so.

So what shall I do?

According to psalmist I need to be aware of my status and follow this sage advice, "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." (Psalm 90:12)

My prayer is that I might finish well.

I can look back over the years that have slipped up on me unawares and see times of victory.  I can also see time of defeat.  But the saddest thing I see are missed opportunities, seasons of complacency, and lack of a sense of urgency.  That's why I want to "Redeem the time".  I can't get any of it back, but I can surely be resolved to make the most of the days, months and years that God may still have reserved for my time of service to him.

Like Paul of old, who wrote in Philippians 3:10-14, I want my resolve to be as follows:

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Old Man Adkins is making that commitment today.

My Dad was fond of an old country style gospel song that contained these words:

"Time has made a change in the old home place.
Time has made a change in each smiling face.
And I know my friends can plainly see,
Time has made a change in me."

My prayer, as I head down the home stretch, is that the change my friends may see in me, would not be the limp in my walk, the stoop of my shoulders, the wrinkles in my brow and the balding gray hairs of my head. I pray that the change they see in me will be the commitment to finish well.
The commitment to follow Jesus more closely and magnify him in my life.
The commitment to be about my Father's business and advance the cause of God's Kingdom until He calls me home.

Will you join me?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Our Final Time Together As A Family

bit’-ter-sweet, adjective
  1. both bitter and sweet to the taste.
  2. both pleasant and painful or regretful

My 87 year old father lay heavily medicated in St. Mary’s Medical Center in Huntington, WV.  He had begun his descent into the “valley of the shadow of death”.  Now we knew that it would be only a matter of days until he would slip away to his eternal home.

Like the psalmist, Dad had no fear of death because he knew the Shepherd was with him. He also knew that he was going THROUGH the valley – ultimately coming out on the other side.

Dad struggled to make us understand that he was lucid, even though he was slipping in and out of consciousness throughout the afternoon.  He told us he wanted to go to Heaven.  He had read of that place and preached about it for more than 65 years, and now he knew he was nearing his crossing.

Not one to show a lot of public affection, Dad came from a close family who preferred to show love through actions, rather than words.  Now on this Sunday afternoon as his three sons (from West Virginia, Kentucky and Georgia) gathered by his bedside, he told us he loved us and that he looked forward to seeing us in Heaven.  He groggily offered hugs to all who came to visit that afternoon, and told each of them he wanted to see them again in Heaven.

“I just wish Pat was here”, he said quietly, as a tear rolled down his cheek, “but it would be too hard on her”.  This hospital stay was the longest he had ever been separated from his bride in 65 years of marriage.

Mom has been a resident of a local nursing home since just a few days before Christmas of last year.  Although, in her late stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, Mom had adapted well to her new surroundings.  She has been well fed and cared for there, but the past six months had been hard on Dad.  As his physical condition had deteriorated, he still sought to be independent.  Each day he would drive his Mercury to the nursing home and spend time with Mom, helping feed her in the dining area, and sitting with her in her room until she fell asleep.

Now as he knew his life was slipping away, and only a few days away from their 65th wedding anniversary, Dad simply wished to have his lifetime companion together with him and their three sons.

We began plans to try to make Dad’s wish come true.

We couldn’t work it out that evening. It was determined that Dad would be transferred to the nearby Emogene Dolin Jones Hospice House. There were delays in getting his release papers completed at the hospital, and the transfer didn’t take place until after 10:00 PM.  That was far too late to check Mom out of the nursing home, so we determined to try to make it happen the next day.

Dad ceased to be able to communicate verbally that Sunday night.  One of the last things he told my brother Bruce was “I sure love her”.

After arriving at Hospice and getting settled in, we decided we would try to make Dad’s wish come true.

Late yesterday afternoon, Bruce was able to check Mom out and bring her to the Hospice House where our family would be reunited for the first time since July of last year.

Mom was confused, and didn’t comprehend the situation.  Dad could not open his eyes, but she held his hand and said “he needed a nap”.  For what must have been about an hour our family was together again for one last time.  We believe Dad knew she was there.  Although he was unable to join in, we believe he was able to hear our voices as we laughed and spoke of many happy times together.

My sister in law, Sandi, snapped one final family picture just before we had to part for the last time.

It was the most bittersweet moment of my life.

Such a joy for all of us to be together once again.

Yet heart rending to know that this would be the last time we would ever be together as a family in this life.

What a blessing to know that even though the circle will be forever broken here, that the message is true that closed each of Dad’s radio broadcasts for the past 35 years.  “Christians will NEVER see each other for the last time.” 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

As the Month of May Approaches...

I cannot read Proverbs 31 without thinking of my precious mother.  Verses 26-30 could just as well have been written specifically about my Mom.

“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

The month of May not only brings May Flowers, but it also brings the Mother’s Day holiday (originated by the way, here in West Virginia), but also the 85th birthday of my mother, Patsy Ruth Stidham Adkins.  This year, for the first time, we will be recognizing those two special days in the Alzheimer’s Unit of the Huntington Health and Rehabilitation Center. As happens with many other milestones in life, since December 22nd of last year, things will never again be the same in our family.

My mother was a wonderful example of a Christian woman and the ultimate minister’s wife.  All the characteristics of the “virtuous woman” of Proverbs 31 were present in her life, but these few verses pretty well sum up the impact she made in this life.

I could write volumes on the things of eternal value I have learned from my mother, but let me just use the words of “King Lemuel” to say it succinctly and powerfully.

Mom doesn’t know that Mother’s Day is coming up soon.  She doesn’t know her birthday follows shortly afterward.  Furthermore, although she can name the names of her three sons, she rarely recognizes us, and cannot comprehend who we are when we tell her. She does, however, think she is in church most of the time.  She travels about the 4th floor greeting nurses, aides, and fellow patients with a handshake, or a kiss on the cheek, and a hearty “God bless you!”

Several years ago, shortly after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Mom went through the natural stages.  First she was in denial.  Eventually she fell into depression and worried about what the eventual outcome would be.  With tears in her eyes she told us, “I’m afraid I won’t know who my family members are.”  My brother, Bruce, told her, “Maybe so, Mom, but we’ll know who YOU are and we’ll still love you like we always have.”
She’s now at that place in life that she had feared.  And so are we. 

Much has changed since she cared for us as little ones, but this fact remains.  Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.’”

We love you Mom.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Big Changes Coming In California

The congregations who make up the Southern Baptist Convention own and operate six seminaries.  Three of them (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY; Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Wake Forest, NC; and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Fort Worth, TX) are distinctly within what we would call the Bible Belt.  Even Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Kansas City, MO is well within "traditional" Baptist territory. 

Two of the SBC Seminaries (New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary) are located in coastal communities, with their main campuses located in areas that are decidedly NOT traditional bastions of the Baptist faith.  Although NOBTS is obviously in the southern United States, anyone who is familiar with South Louisiana can testify to the dense Roman Catholic population and the Roman Catholic Church's powerful influence in that state from its formative past through the present day.  After all, Louisiana is the only state in the Union with Parishes instead of Counties!

Golden Gate Seminary is located out on the "left coast" with it's main campus at Mill Valley CA, (San Francisco bay area) and extension centers in Brea CA, Scottsdale AZ, Vancouver WA, and Centennial CO. Not exactly hotbeds of Baptist heritage. Like NOBTS, Golden Gate's funding through the SBC Cooperative Program is somewhat less than the other four seminaries due to the fact that the formula for that funding is based primarily on the number of on campus students.  Much of these two seminaries student bodies are spread across their various extension centers.  I have always viewed these two seminaries as being located in real American mission fields.

It was announced yesterday that Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary is selling their Mill Valley campus and relocating the main campus to the Los Angeles area in Southern California. Some might view this as a questionable move, since one of the most prestigious seminaries in America (BIOLA) is already located in that area.  Others see this move as a wise choice, due to various challenges that have faced the Trustees and administration of GGBTS.  All would agree that this is a MAJOR change an is a tremendous step of faith.  Dr. Jeff Iorg, President of GGBTS made the announcement public yesterday.

I am blessed to be serving in my second term as a Trustee of NOBTS.  I can only imagine the prayer and discussions that preceded the GGBTS Trustees in making this monumental decision. Dr. Chuck Kelley, President of NOBTS sent us each an email yesterday telling us about the upcoming change at Golden Gate and suggested that we share the information with our congregations and other SBC churches in our states.  Dr. Kelley, who understands many of the challenges facing Dr. Iorg, obviously thinks this is a wise move.  Here is the text of Dr. Kelley's email:

“Today Dr. Jeff Iorg, President of Golden Gate Theological Seminary, announced the signing of a purchase agreement to sell the property of Golden Gate. The final act of sale is not expected before July. The seminary will continue to have campuses in Northern and Southern California, but in different locations to be announced later. The seminary will remain in its present location for two years while necessary arrangements are made. It is a brilliant tactical move that will allow Golden Gate to continue its ministry to Baptists in the West from a much stronger position. The Providence of God is on brilliant display in the conclusion of so complex a sale. We congratulate Dr. Iorg for his visionary leadership in finding a way to secure and enhance the California heritage of Golden Gate for many years to come. This will always be remembered as one of the greatest days in the history of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.” - Dr. Chuck Kelley, President, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

Later yesterday afternoon Baptist Press released an article going into detail on the major change coming at Golden Gate.  If you do not subscribe to Baptist Press, you can read that article by clicking on this link.

Big changes have already come to all of our SBC Seminaries in particular and to theological education in general. Online courses have been around for a long time.  Now major accrediting agencies are approving the granting of degrees totally delivered online.  The times are changing, and Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary is making a major change.

The leaders of GGBTS obviously feel that this is the direction of God for them.  This pastor prays for great success in this move, for the sake of the Kingdom of God.  As that great philosopher, Dorothy, once said to her little dog, Toto, "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore!"  Well folks, we're not.  There are few Baptists who relish change.  I personally abhor change just for the sake of change.  However, when it comes to methods, locations, ideas, and principles concerning the work of the Kingdom we truly serve - we'd better be listening to the Holy Spirit, and be ready to be obedient, even if it means making some BIG changes!


Friday, March 28, 2014

A Sad Commentary On Baptist Life

Someone once asked veteran Kentucky pastor, Chuck Stewart, "Brother Stewart, what would you be if you weren't a Baptist?"
The old preacher answered, "Why, I'd be Ashamed!"

It's a funny story, and I've used the joke several times.

However, there are times when I honestly have to say that sometimes I am ashamed of us Baptists.

Now understand it has nothing to do with Baptist doctrine and the Baptist's high view of scripture.  And certainly not the time honored view of he autonomy of the local church.  Baptists believe that there is no organization on earth higher than the local church.  However, we also believe that we can accomplish Christ's Great Commission more effectively when we voluntarily associate together with other like minded congregations for the purpose of taking the Gospel to every people group on the planet.

What I am ashamed of, is unfortunately, that sometimes in the local church, or the local association, or in the state convention, or even on the national level, there will always be those who seek to consolidate power.  A desire for power and authority sadly is part of the fallen human condition, and unfortunately it can rear its ugly head at every level of the work.

I'm ashamed of the politics, dirty tricks, good old boy networks, threats, shunning, and the drive to stifle anyone who has the audacity to question actions of those who seek to consolidate power.
Such is the case now in the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

Before I go any further in this blog, let me offer this caveat.  I am not a Louisiana Baptist, but I am a Baptist.  Southern Baptist to be exact.  I do have numerous friends who ARE Louisiana Baptists, and a son who serves as pastor of a Southern Baptist Church in Louisiana.  Providence has placed him in the middle of a controversy that is brewing among the brethren in the Bayou State.  It started with the actions of the President of Louisiana  College (a Baptist institution in Pineville, LA) but now reaches into the office of the Executive Director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.  It is a story of ineptitude, mismanagement, personal vendetta, cover up and possible criminal misdeeds.  But it grows from that to a story of power, protection, conflict of interest, undue influence, and threats used to stifle the voices of those who in their fiduciary responsibilities as Board Members who would have the temerity to ask questions regarding ethics.

You see, in Baptist life, we have had the wisdom to build the Board of Trustee system into our various state and national Convention entities.  I personally have the privilege to serve on the Board of Trustees of one of our SBC Seminaries.  The Trustee system is designed to give oversight of the various convention entities into the hands of the local churches.  Ideally power is then decentralized and spread to those whose tithes and offerings (or a portion thereof) go to support these various entities.  However, in Louisiana, the power of the Board, whose members represent the many Baptists in that beautiful state, has fallen into the hands of one very powerful person and a few supporters.

The frustration level has reached the place that a third of the Board Members have written an "Open Letter to Louisiana Baptists From Concerned Trustees".  You can read that letter here.
Another caveat, my son, Jay, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Westwego, LA is a member of that Board of Trustees. He has written in depth in his blog about the history of the situation at Louisiana College, and he has even attempted to bring the situation regarding the undue influence of the State Executive Director to the floor of the Louisiana Baptist Convention's annual meeting last year, and run into a dead end there as well. For those who are interested, his blog contains a lot of background information in earlier posts.

This battle has been going on since 2012.  Smoke screens and straw men have been put forward to confuse the issue.  Jay, and the other minority members of the Board have worked hard behind the scenes to try to do what's right.  He hasn't spoken to secular media until this week.  He hasn't released any confidential information from Board Executive Sessions.  His first allegiance is to his family, his flock, and his own Ph.D. work in seminary, but the thing has come to a head in Pineville. He is a Trustee and he has to do what he feels is his fiduciary duty to the Baptists of Louisiana who put him on that Board.

While these things are issues that must be dealt with, it is sad how much time and energy we Baptists must expend to try to right wrongs among us when the Mission is to reach a lost world.  It's happened before, this time it just happens to be in Louisiana.

Pray for Louisiana Baptists. For everyone involved!

We've Passed A Milestone

Now, I know it's small potatoes compared to a lot of blogs, but earlier this week, this humble site "For What It's Worth" received it's 100,000th visitor.

I just want to say thank you to those who have visited, left comments, shared posts, or walked away shaking their heads.  Thank you for stopping by for a visit.

My blogging has slacked way off over the past year or so, but it is nice to know that there are folks who visit do the site from time to time.  All viewers are appreciated!