Saturday, June 30, 2007

Making Memories

The cycle of life is absolutely fascinating.

My youngest brother, Carl, and his family are here this week on vacation. Last night he and his twin daughters and our Dad joined me, my younger son, Ben, and two of my grandsons for an evening at Camden Park.
Some of my happiest childhood memories revolve around Camden Park ( which is West Virginia's only amusement park. The park is over a century old, and was originally built as a destination to boost ridership on the early street car line. In the era of huge theme parks, Camden Park is a quaint throwback to more simple times. It has more than 20 carnival type rides including the "Merry Go Round" which is 100 years old this year.

As a child growing up in the east end of Huntington, it was always a treat for us to make the trip down to the western city limits for a day at Camden Park. My earliest memories of the park are of the brightly colored lights against the black night sky. Eating "Pronto Pup" corn dogs and cotton candy and riding the rides with my dad was special. I still remember his big hand holding on to me as we zoomed around the ends of "The Whip" and into the big drop on the old wooden roller coaster, "The Big Dipper." As I grew, the memories include the special times I had there with my brothers and friends. We would visit the park a couple of times per summer, and sometimes more when we had cousins visiting from out of town. Later it became a place to take a special girl for a great date. I have lots of wonderful memories of Camden Park.

Once Linda and I married and our family grew, the Camden Park tradition continued. Now I was the Dad and I was holding on to my own boys as the rides zoomed, spun, and dipped. Jay and Benji grew older and now have families of their own. Soon we were making the trip to Camden Park with GRANDSONS! Where have the years gone? The visit to the park last night brought s many memories and a flood of emotion.

I spent five hours with some special people. There was my baby brother and his 13 year old twin daughters, Kate and Alex, whom I get to see maybe once a year. My younger son, Ben was there, along with his two sons, Will (6) and Asher (2). Kate, Alex, and Will had a ball - running from ride to ride - squealing with delight - eating nachos and popcorn and just having a great time. Asher rode some of the Kiddie Rides but he was pretty anxious about all the new sights and sounds. It was sensory overload for the little guy. He alternated between delighted smiles, and screaming bloody murder. Yet when I asked him today if he would like to go back to Camden Park, his face lit up as he gave me an emphatic, "Yes!" The same reactions I remember from my little brothers, my own sons, and now my grandson.

Then there was Dad. He is 80 years old now, and hobbled by broken ribs and legs that don't carry him as fast as they once did. Still you could see the satisfaction on his face while watching the kids having such a great time. He rode a few rides (the train, merry go round, and the whip) but he spent most of the evening moving from bench to bench, watching the kids. I thought the highlight of the evening was seeing the joy on his face when Asher decided to help him eat his ice cream cone. Sure wish I had brought my camera.

So there we were - me, my dad, a brother, two nieces, a son, and 2 grandsons. Four generations of my family - doing one of those special things we've done for over fifty years. Making more memories.

Life is good.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tim Russert Had It Wrong

The second story on NBC Nightly News last evening involved the U.S. Senate’s sound defeat of the President’s Immigration Bill. The controversial legislation dealt with increasing border security as well as providing a guest worker program, and a “path to citizenship” for several million immigrants who are in this country illegally. Proponents of the bill (like Ted Kennedy, D. Mass, and Lindsey Graham, R. S.C.) claim that it is the right thing to do and the only way to rectify the illegal immigration mess that has gotten completely out of control. Opponents (also on both sides of the aisle) maintained that the proposed legislation simply amounted to amnesty, rewarding those who have broken the laws of this country by coming here illegally. The majority who defeated the bill maintained that existing immigration laws are sufficient and simply need to be enforced.
The simple lesson of 9/11 has taught all of us the importance of border security.

Surely all of us realize that we are a nation of immigrants - the great melting pot. After all, Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus” engraved at the Statue of Liberty says:

“…"Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Most of us are the descendents of that of those tired, poor, wretched refuse immigrants of years past. The difference is that most of our ancestors came here legally. While we do welcome those from foreign lands, “longing to breathe free”, we ARE a nation of laws, and those laws must be observed by our citizens, and those who would be Americans. Hence the absolute public outcry against the proposals of the new Immigration Bill

NBC correspondents Brian Williams and Tim Russert were discussing the bill’s demise on the evening newscast. Russert, NBC’s Washington Bureau Chief and moderator of “Meet the Press”, gave his take on the defeat of the controversial measure.
Although I don’t always agree with Tim Russert’s analyses, he is well informed and articulate. While not always completely “fair and balanced” I do respect him and his opinions. However, one statement he made jumped out at me and spoke volumes as to the common misconception of the role of our Congress.

Williams asked if the sound defeat of the issue were a result of the American people speaking out en masse against the legislation. Russert replied, “Brian, these people go to Congress to do what they think is right…” The rest of what he said was not really important. He missed the point. Although I respect Mr. Russert, he couldn’t be more wrong! The members of the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives are just that – our representatives.

The framers of the Constitution brilliantly constructed our bi-cameral legislative body. The upper house was designed as a deliberative body that would give each state equal representation. The Senators would serve six year terms, with one third of the members being elected every two years. This gives stability and continuity to the legislative process. Whether large or small, each state has two senators to represent their constituents.

The lower house is a house of the people. Each state is divided into congressional districts based on population and the House is made up of those elected representatives. Their shorter two year terms of office, allow for easier changes as the opinions of the constituents may evolve. The entire House membership is elected every two years. It goes to the “one man, one vote” concept which is a great defining mark of our Republic. Men and women who go to Capitol Hill do not go there to “vote their conscience”, as Tim Russert indicated. They go there to represent us. They should hear the voice of the people, and vote the will of the people to the best of their abilities. That is why I believe they should live in their district and have regular contact with their constituents.

Abraham Lincoln described our government as one “Of the people, by the people, and for the people.” No one could say it better. When elitists and professional politicians lose sight of that fact, we are in serious trouble. Mr. Russert and other media types need to report fairly and state the case correctly.

Matthew 19:14 - A Mandate From The Savior

50% of the world’s population is under the age of 25. That amounts to over 3,000,000,000 people! There are more than one billion teenagers in the world, with 34 million in the U.S. alone. These are staggering numbers. Were you aware that 95% of all believers in Christ are saved before age 21? And yet the average church spends about 2% of its budget to reach teens for Christ, and less than 2% to reach pre-teens. We’re doing a little better than that here at Westmoreland with roughly 5% of our budget going toward children and youth ministries, but that is still woefully short. Children and youth must become a focal point of our ministry.

Did you know that John Calvin was a pastor at age 17? George Whitfield preached to great crowds by age 21… Charles H. Spurgeon was a well known preacher by age 16 and pastored London’s great Metropolitan Tabernacle by age 20…Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego were probably 21 or younger when they made their stand. Jerry Falwell was 22 when he founded Thomas Road Baptist Church. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and one of the world’s richest men was once known as the “boy wonder”. Just look at the impact the boy king, Josiah, had in bringing a nation back to God. Young people need Jesus. Furthermore, young people have in the past, and still can, can impact their world for Christ.

Our church must reach children and students for Christ. If ever there were “sheep having no shepherd” the lost young people of our community and nation fit that example. We must be moved with compassion as Jesus was! You see, there is a lost generation under 25 years of age. The problem is a spiritual one. All around us we see examples of youth violence, youth depression and despair, youth without a moral compass. Satan makes a full frontal assault on values, he uses music, entertainment, video games, the Internet, and peer pressure. This is enhanced by lack of parental care, concern, and discipline. We have a lost generation of teens, the pre-teens are right behind them, and precious little children are beginning to walk the same path.

Gun control laws, security cameras, metal detectors, and drug dogs are not the answer. This is a Satanic attack and it is spiritual warfare manifesting itself in the “gothic culture”, violent movies and games, ungodly music and entertainment, easy pornographic Internet access and chat rooms, and simply a lack of a moral compass. But friends, there is a solution. We must be aware of the problem. We must pay attention to the things to whicour children are exposed. Here are some solutions:

  • Pray for childrden and students
  • Seek to win children and young people to Christ
  • Bring them hope and disciple them in the Word!
  • Seek to win their parents to Christ
  • Parents must take responsibility and take control, but exercising loving discipline, being the right kind of role model, and by letting the public schools know that we support fair and responsible discipline policies.

Above all we must teach our children Biblical values - that is the job of the family and church, not the schools!

My prayer is that our parents will take the lead. Like Joshua of old. Let us say, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” I pray that Westmoreland Baptist Church will redouble its efforts to win children and young people to Christ. We rejoice along with the Angels in Heaven when any adult comes to Jesus, but remember that 95% of all believers are saved before age 21. That shows the urgency of child and youth evangelism. We must not let a single child “fall through the cracks” because the alternative is an eternity without hope for our precious children.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

It's A Bad Bet

Gambling is picking up momentum as it rolls down it’s slippery slope here in West Virginia. A couple of horse tracks have been in business here for decades. A few years ago, the dog track was built at Cross Lanes, and the gaming industry gained a stronger foothold. The institution of the West Virginia Lottery was ballyhooed to be the sure fix for all the financial ills of the Mountain State. Obviously this has not been the case.

This year, our Governor and legislature pushed through a bill that would allow voters of four counties where racetracks already exist to vote in a local option election on the question of allowing casino style table games at those facilities. They have done this under the guise of being under the umbrella of the lottery. Anyone with a lick of sense knows that when the lottery concept was brought to us, it had noting to do with having casinos here in our state. The legality of the whole process is still being questioned.

A statewide vote was not allowed, only the local options. To date, the voters in Ohio County in the northern panhandle have approved the proposal, but the question was defeated in Jefferson County. The voters of Kanawha County are next and the gambling industry is hitting the airwaves hard with slick, well done commercials that tout the possibility of more jobs, and all the benefits to families in West Virginia. The latest TV commercial ends with the tag, “Even if you don’t play, you win”.

I doubt it.

Gambling is a bad bet. Now, many will say that gambling is not forbidden in the Bible. This is true. However neither is pornography, cheating on taxes, or computer fraud, but I think most of us would recognize that these are areas that should be avoided by the Christian. Even though not specifically prohibited in the scriptures, there are certain ethical principles that are found in the Bible that should cause believers in the Lord Jesus Christ to abstain from and speak out against such practices.

Dr. Hershael York addressed the issue of Gambling a couple of years ago in “The Western Recorder” when he was President of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. The points Dr. York makes speak well to my personal conviction against gambling. Space will not allow me to reprint the whole article, but allow me to list his main points:

"Working and investing for a living is based on a win/win scenario, but gambling is always win/lose. (for someone to win there has to be many losers)
Gambling is motivated by greed
Gambling is a wasteful use of the Lord’s money
Gambling shows a lack of love for your neighbor
Gambling fails to consider innocent families
Gambling shows no concern for God’s glory
Gambling is not an act of faith – it’s a game of chance"

I would also add that gambling can also be addictive. I pray that the voters of Kanawha County will not be fooled by TV con men who say that the future economic impact of the area depends on putting a casino at Cross Lanes. There is an ancient Hebrew expression that applies to that line of thought. Baloney!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

We Need Each Other

I recently had dinner with Rodney Hale between the Tuesday afternoon and evening sessions at the SBC Annual Meeting in San Antonio, TX. Rodney and I had crossed paths a couple of times earlier in the exhibit hall. During small talk we determined that we should get together for a time of fellowship.

My son, Jay Adkins, who was serving as a Teller, was busy counting ballots during the dinner hour on Tuesday, so I was available. Rodney was too. All of the eateries around the Convention Center were packed at meal time. Folks were lined up out the doors. Neither of us relished the idea of standing in line for over and hour so we began to explore alternatives. (Any one who knows Rodney and I will testify that we do like to eat!) Rodney had arrived in San Antonio a couple of days earlier than I , and he mentioned a steak house he knew on the River Walk several blocks away at the Drury Hotel. Sounded good to me, so we caught the trolley and traveled downtown to sample the genuine Texas Chili and one of the best steaks I have had in a long time.

The dinner was great, but the fellowship was better. The churches where Rodney and I serve are geographically about three miles apart in neighboring communities. Yet, here we were, 1,200 miles away from home before we seemed to find the opportunity to spend a little quality time together. Rodney and I had roomed together at our state convention several years ago, and have enjoyed a round or two of golf together in the past. Of course we see one another at our local associational events, and when ministry schedules allow, sometimes hook up at our monthly Greater Huntington Baptist Association pastor's lunch. But it is just not often enough.

As pastors, my colleagues and I are always busy tending to the needs of our flock, and the time we spend together is rare. I don't know about others, but I NEED that contact - that time of fellowship. I just don't get enough of it. Not only do our pastors need that type of fellowship, but our churches need it too!

My son, Jay, is serving in his fifth year as pastor of First Baptist Church of Westwego in suburban New Orleans. Seems as though time in New Orleans is now identified in "Pre Katrina" and "Post Katrina" measurement standards. Pre-K, the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans had over two hundred member churches. Post-K, the number of BAGNO churches was drastically reduced. Many church buildings were destroyed and most of the others were damaged by the wrath of the storm and resulting levee breaks. All of the churches felt the human toll of the tragedy. Some members died. Hundreds were scattered in evacuation to safer locations and many never returned. Many pastors actually lost their place of ministry. Incomes were adversely affected, routines were disrupted, families were in crisis, and all of their lives were changed forever.

Doug Virgin (our local Associational Missionary), a fellow pastor, John Freeman, and a layman from Kentucky, Mike Dixon, and I took a truck load of supplies to my son's church about five weeks after the storm. On Wednesday of that week Jay invited us to go with him to a weekly BAGNO pastor's meeting. Because of the storm damage to most of the churches in the lower parishes, the meeting took place at First Baptist Church in LaPlace, LA, about half way between New Orleans and Baton Rouge on I-10. That meeting made a lasting impact on my life (and my ministry). Our hearts were moved as we listened to the testimonies of these pastors. There were many tears, there were times of laughter, there was an intense season of prayer and there was needed fellowship. These guys needed each other. They have met together every week since the storm.

Joe McKeever is the Director of Missons for BAGNO, and I believe God brought him to that position "for such a time as this". He has been a pastor to these pastors during the most difficult time of their respective ministries. Joe shared with us that before Katrina, it was like pulling teeth to get the association's pastors together for much of anything. Most of them were preoccupied with performing their ministerial duties, doing church, staying busy, and protecting their turf. No time for fellowship. No need for one another. That all changed on August 29, 2005. Suddenly the fellowship became important. Suddenly the focus changed from "my church" to "God's church".

Now, BAGNO has fewer churches, but they have pastors who value one another and recognize the need for close personal contact. There is a closer bond between the smaller churches and the larger churches. The anglo churches and the ethnic churches are closer partners now. Old rivalries are no longer as prevalent. They are cooperating - in continuing recovery efforts, and in expanding the Kingdom of God. Joe says that there is a much greater percentage of pastors and churches represented now in all association efforts. All of this was facilitated by a tragedy.

The time that Rodney and I spent together last week made me think of all that again. I hope it will not take a tragedy like Katrina to bring our churches together for Kingdom work and for the type of fellowship and cooperation that we need among churches and pastors here. We may do things differently from one church to another. We may have different worship styles. We may each reach out to different elements of our culture. Different is ok as long as we are focused on the Great Commission. That's why they make Chocolate AND Vanilla - but it's essence is the same. It's still ice cream.

I think we need each other. What do you think?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Confessions of a Former Pharisee

The Pharisees are some of the more interesting characters in the Bible.

They are a conflicting study in both what is good, and what is not so good about how we practice our faith. Pharisees were very devout in their devotion to God. They believed in the inerrancy of the (Old Testament) Scriptures. They were zealous to observe the Law of God – 613 commandments by their count. In short, they were the ultimate “rule keepers”. The written law, along with the unwritten laws passed down by the “Tradition of the Elders” (Mark 7:3) became an obsession with the Pharisees. The Nelson Bible Dictionary says the following regarding the practices of the Pharisees:

“According to the New Testament, the Pharisees were concerned about strictly interpreting and keeping the law on all matters (Acts 26:5), including the Sabbath (Mark 2:24), divorce (Mark 10:2), oaths (Matt. 23:16–22), the wearing of Phylacteries and Fringes (Matt. 23:5), and so on. But they showed special zeal in insisting that laws of tithing and ritual purity be kept (Matt. 23:23–26; Mark 7:1–13; Luke 11:37–42; 18:12)”

They looked down their spiritual noses at those who they considered to be sinners. Furthermore since they determined that other Jews might not be careful enough in keeping those laws, they felt it necessary to place limits on personal contact with non observant Jews and with Gentiles. This was carried out to the point that they would not even eat in the home of a non Pharisee, for fear that the food may not have been properly tithed or kept pure according to all the traditional rituals.

When we call someone a “Pharisee” today, it usually has a negative connotation, and for good reason.
Pharisees were often quite unfair to Jesus during His ministry. In fact, some of Jesus’ most withering comments were reserved for the Pharisees. The only folks I can find that Jesus harshly rebukes as hypocrites, were none other than the Pharisees. They tried to keep the Law “religiously” but often their hearts were far from God. They were all about keeping the rules by the letter of the Law, but they generally missed out on the blessings of understanding the spirit of the Law.

Don’t misunderstand me in this. I am not discounting the Law of God. Heaven forbid. God’s Law is holy, perfect, and unchanging. It shows us a holy God, and by comparison how sinful we are in relationship to Him. His Law has not changed, and His commandments are just that – commandments, not “suggestions”! However, often we, like the Pharisees sometimes tend to focus on the rules, seeking to justify ourselves in God’s sight. That is a losing battle. All of us have missed the mark. There is none righteous in ourselves, for to break one small point of God’s Law is to be guilty of the whole thing. That is why I am thankful for Jesus.

He always did the will of the Father. He kept every point of the Law – because it was HIS Law. He fulfilled the righteous demands of the Law, and then gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins that whoever would accept Him by faith, might be justified in God’s eyes. Wow!

That’s what Grace is all about. That is why John Newton called it “Amazing”!

I think it would do us all well to take note of what Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matthew 23: 23
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.
When we sometimes tend to focus more upon rule keeping than upon Grace, let’s remember this. It is important for us to live according to the revealed will of God, but the weightier matters (in the words of Jesus) involve justice, mercy, and faithfulness, not just blind rule keeping. The 23rd chapter of Matthew carries some strong indictments against the Pharisees. Read it at your leisure, and take it to heart. I want to be honest enough to admit that I have been guilty in the past of some “Pharisaic” behavior. Chances are you have too. My prayer today is that I may be a person of Grace. Again, not ignoring the Holiness that God expects of us, but, having been a recipient of God’s Grace, may God allow me to be a conduit of that Grace to others.

That is the only way we will ever be able to effectively share the Gospel with others – by allowing Jesus to live through us, and exhibiting His Grace and mercy to needy sinners.

How about you? Will you join me in that prayer?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Ish Hayner 1912 - 2007

We buried Ish Hayner yesterday.

Ishmael Hansford Hayner was 95 years old. All but eight years of his life were spent here in the Westmoreland section of Huntington. Ish was one of the first individuals I came to know here at Westmoreland Baptist. When I met him, 4 1/2 years ago it was at a Sunday School class Christmas Party. I was immediately impressed by the old guy who squeezed my hand like a vise. "How about that grip?" he said as he grinned at me. "Not bad for a guy 90 years old, huh?"

Ish talked to me at length on that December evening. He spoke of his love for the Lord and for his church. He told me of his beloved wife, Honey, who passed away after 63 years and 4 months of marriage. He told of two sons (one of whom was a preacher) who had also passed on. He bragged about his two surviving sons, 11 grand children, 19 great grandchildren, and his great, great grandchildren. He talked of his life work which included a few years in the grocery business in the coal camps of southern West Virginia, and of 33 years at the local Owens - Illinois Glass plant. His experience of teaching a boys Sunday School class for many years was part of the discussion that night. He spoke in reverent terms about having been named a "Life Deacon" after years of service to his church. His ordination had taken place on New Year's' Eve, 1945, and he launched that big grin when I told him, "That was five years before I discovered America!"

No one was a stranger to Ish. His quick smile and firm handshake greeted everyone with whom he came in contact. With that, always came the offer to feel his rock hard bicep, and the perennial question, "What about that grip?" He was like a grandfather to everyone, and although he claimed he couldn't do much for the Lord or the church any more, I always bragged on his ministry of faithfully calling each church member on their birthday to sing "Happy Birthday". Westmoreland Baptist Church is full of people whose lives had been touched by Ish Hayner, and his faithful service to Jesus Christ.

I could go on and on, but if I could sum up the life of Ish Hayner in two words, they would be "integrity" and "faithfulness". He understood the office of Deacon as well as anyone I have ever known, and he modeled that spirit of service all of his life.

Although several of the men of our church looked in on Ish on a regular basis, his health eventually deteriorated to the place where he required someone to be with him 24 hours per day. In January, his family in Cincinnati finally had to make arrangements to place Ish in a beautiful assisted living facility near them, but Ish never got over leaving Westmoreland and all of his friends here. His son, Ed, said that it was hard to make the decision which would leave Ish to either "die of a broken neck in Huntington, or a broken heart in Cincinnati." However, it was a decision they had to make.

Ish went to be with the Lord on Tuesday afternoon, June 19th. Now I have said for years that I believe that when we first come into the presence of the Lord, surely we will go on our faces before Him in worship and adoration. But, if it is permitted to shake the Savior's hand, I can just picture Ish with that twinkle in his eye and that smile on his face saying, "How about that grip?"

I last saw Ish in May when a group of us made a trip to visit him in Ohio one Saturday. We look forward to seeing him again in his new home!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Two Journal Entries From Last Year

For those who do not know, I was diagnosed in November, 2004 with colon cancer. When they found the malignancy it had already metastasized to my liver and a number of lymph nodes. The prognosis was not good. In fact it was pretty bad. "Stage 4. Incurable, but hopefully treatable." After much prodding, the oncologist told me that the "average survival time for my type of cancer was 18 - 22 months". Pretty sobering news.

After three surgical procedures and two six month courses of chemotherapy, thanks to the Grace of God, next week marks my 31st month of survival! I thank Him for every day He has given me to live with Linda, to serve my church, to do my mission work in the Philippines, to spend more time with my sons, and get to know my grandsons better. I thought I would share a couple of my journal entries with you from last year.

The first is from January, 2006 as follows:

"What a difference an hour makes!

Sixty minutes ago I was on top of the world. I had been in remission since the procedure in September that “burned out” the three remaining tumors from my liver. The last four months have been some of the best of my adult life – celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Will’s fifth birthday. I made my 5th mission trip to the Philippines, and enjoyed watching many games of Benji’s first basketball team’s successful 24-5 season – all happy times! Physically, I feel better than I have in years. I walked two miles this morning at a brisk pace in the fitness center. I had increased the reps on the Nautilus machines, and I was actually looking forward to my scheduled appointment with Dr. Jain – although I really thought it somewhat of an aggravation, and probably not the best use of my time.
When he asked how I felt, I filled his ears with all of the above. Linda, who had left work to join me there, echoed the joys of “remission”. Then he dropped the bomb! The cancer was back.

Remission is only a pleasant memory.

Time for chemotherapy to begin - again!

Thud! That, my friends is the sound of formerly rising hopes hitting bottom.

Linda took it hard. It’s tougher for her. Don’t get me wrong. There are a couple of million things I would have preferred to have heard him say, but I truly have a deep, settled peace about it in my heart. Obviously, it is often on my mind, but is not a source of anxiety. Whenever I hear someone talking about an event that is scheduled in the next year or so, I automatically wonder, “Will I be able to attend?” When I look at my four precious grandsons, I ask myself, “How much of their future will I be able to share?” When I think of my life with Linda, the question arises, “How many more anniversaries will we share?” (the one this June will be our 35th). But then the Holy Spirit reminds me that we are ALL terminal. We just don’t have the luxury (or the curse) of knowing exactly when God has scheduled our appointment. A dear lady I know, who is similarly afflicted, has hit the nail squarely on the head. She said, “I am not going to spend the rest of my life dying!” Neither am I. If God chooses to give me ten months or ten years, I want it to be spent in His service.

My faith sustains me in knowing that I have given it all to God. With Linda it’s a little different. She already has her elderly father to care for. Not that she has no faith. Absolutely not! She has strong faith in God, and is one of the most optimistic people I know. However, my 35 years in ministry has led me to understand that it is always tougher on family members and caregivers. I hate the thought that whenever the time comes, she will have to carry so much of the load. She doesn’t deserve that. Wives never do, but sadly it often falls to them.
Your promise: And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Corinthians. 12: 9)
My Prayer: “Dear God, please abundantly supply Linda with your promised sufficient Grace – both now and then. She needs it day by day. We all do.'"

The second journal entry I want to share with you is from six months later in June, 2006:

"This week marks a milestone of sorts in my life, and that of my family.

Eighteen months ago, after tests were done to determine where I was losing blood, I learned that there was a large, dangerous looking growth in my colon. One week later, when surgery was done to remove thee and a half feet of my intestines the solemn faced doctor came to my hospital room to share the bad news with us. “Colon cancer”, he said. While those words were shocking enough on their own, that wasn’t the worst of it. It had spread to several lymph nodes and there were at least seven malignant tumors in my liver. “Your cancer is in the fourth stage”, he said, “and it is incurable, but hopefully manageable.”

INCURABLE. What a word! One that I never dreamed of hearing, yet there it was. Most of you know the story. Seven months of chemotherapy. Another surgical procedure. Five months of wonderful remission, then the gut wrenching news that the cancer had come back with “several” lesions detected in my liver. Back to chemotherapy and all that goes with it.

My purpose of writing today is not to rehash all that stuff, but simply to share with you a verse of scripture that God has used to speak to my heart during these last eighteen months. It is found in the middle (and longest) chapter of the Bible.

“It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
That I may learn Your statutes”.
– Psalm 119: 71

A few verses earlier the Psalmist writes that before he was afflicted he had gone astray. Now he says that the affliction has caused him to come closer to God in hearing and doing His Word. The affliction has brought the writer closer to God and to an understanding of God’s goodness and the wonderful treasure of His revealed Word to us.
I hadn’t “gone astray” from God in the strictest sense, but over 34 years of ministry there were times when I was not as immersed in His Word as I should have been. You all know the feeling. There is work to be done. Family matters and job situations to attend to. Ministry to be performed. Needs to be met. Meetings to attend. Scores of things to distract us from the importance of getting alone with God and listening intently to what He has to say. I can identify with this writer when he says, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted…”.

God has used this time to draw me closer to His side. To speak to me afresh from the treasure of His Word. To remind me of the plans He has for me – plans to prosper and not to harm me. Plans to give me hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11). He has used His Word to remind me of that Peace of God that surpasses human understanding. (Philippians 4: 7) I have believed in that peace, and taught and preached about it for over three decades. Now I EXPERIENCE it daily!

His Word reminds me of the kinship we have as brothers and sisters in Christ, and as children of the Heavenly Father, and I have experienced the love and compassion of more friends than I ever knew I had. His Word reminds me that there is a lost world around us, and we must keep the fires of evangelism fanned into flame!

Now eighteen months have passed. I am still going through the treatments. One doctor recently told me I had “already outlived my prognosis.” That was certainly encouraging!

Oh, it’s been quite a year and a half. Not exactly pleasant… Many questions… Plenty of challenges… Lots of unknowns - but quite possibly the best year and a half of my life! God’s blessings come in some of the most unexpected ways."

Hopefully these thoughts may minister to someone who may be going through similar circumstances.

I have been blessed with and excellent Oncologist in Kirti Jain, and with a personal relationship with the Great Physician. I can't lose!

It has been a full year since my last chemo treatment. I am enjoying remission for the second time. How long will it last? Only God knows. My job is to strap in and take the ride.

Quite a ride so far!!!

Tribute to a Godly Mother

Since I included an article about my Dad, in the spirit of the fairness doctrine, here is a column I posted in our church newsletter in May, 2007. My brothers and I are blessed with great parents. Mom is suffering from Alzheimers, and the last 10 years have not been kind to her, but she still retains the same sweet spirit we remember for a lifetime.

The Apostle Paul makes quite a statement in 2 Timothy 1:5 regarding the impact that the faith of a Godly mother can have upon her family for generations. There he writes, “ I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. (NIV) Mothers have the power to make a tremendous difference in the lives of their children and grandchildren — good or bad. I thank God that I was blessed with a mother who, as a young girl, gave her life to Jesus Christ. She has faithfully served Him for over 64 years, and has been a positive Christ like force in the lives of her three sons and our wives; her grandchildren; and now four great grandchildren. I am more proud of, and thankful for my mother than words can possibly express. I have for nearly 57 years been witness of her faithfulness to her God, her husband and family, her church, and her many friends. As a child I could hear her, behind closed doors, praying for me and my two younger brothers. Even though I am not close enough to hear those prayers today, I know that she is still offering them up for us, and that Almighty God hears — and answers! Mom has cooked countless meals, done thousands of pounds of dirty laundry, washed a mountain of dishes, and spent many of her waking hours in a never ending battle against dirt. He has served as dietician and chief medical officer of the home, administering medicine as needed along with liberal doses of love. She could tend to a skinned knee, high fever, or little boys broken heart with equal skill. She has been a homework helper, chauffeur, PTA member, home room mother, and Little League fan, extrodinaire
Beyond all the jobs that naturally go with motherhood, Mom carried another load that would break many strong folks. Since 1949 she has been a preacher’s wife. Through all of Dad’s years in ministry (as a pastor and evangelist) Mom has been his faithful partner. Only a preacher’s family can understand what all that entails. Beside her duty to her own family she has been a friend, mentor, and counselor to many other ladies and young ladies. She’s taught Sunday School, labored faithfully in many Vacation Bible Schools, and been there for Dad both at home and in church and in countless revivals. All this while never shirking her responsibility to her children. I’ve seen her in joy and in sorrow; in times of victory, and seasons of hurt; good health and sickness — always faithful to God. She has been the most unselfish and loving person I have ever known, and through everything, she has always had a faithful testimony to the mercy and grace of her Lord and Savior. It is certainly not difficult for me to believe God when He says, “ My grace is sufficient for thee, my strength is made perfect in weakness” ( 2 Corinthians 12:11) because I’ve seen it proven in the life of my precious Mother.
It seems that Solomon must have known my Mom from what he wrote in Proverbs 31, “Her husband is known in the gates when he sitteth among the elders of the land...Strength and honor are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in the time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously but thou excellest them all. Favor is deceitful, beauty is vain; but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.”
Time takes it toll on all of us. We know that these bodies are mortal and are not able to live forever. That’s why one day, God will give his faithful children a new glorified body. But for now, we move ahead in this flesh. Eyesight dims for some us. Hearing fades, and our youthful vigor lessens as the years progress. Various illness and diseases seem to lay hold of us and we realize this is just a part of living. Mom has been facing a problem that cruelly effects the memory. Instead of being angry, or selfishly asking “why”, she is facing it with the dignity and grace that only God can give. In a moment of concern some time ago she told my brother, Bruce, that she was afraid the time would come when she might no longer remember her family. Bruce summed it up for all of us when he told her, “Mom, don’t you worry about that. Even if that did happen, we’ll never forget who YOU are.” So, in this month that holds both Mother’s Day and your birthday, let me just say “Thank you Mom. We love you.”

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Giant

It’s been 50 years ago, or so, but I remember it like it was yesterday. It generally happened early on Saturday mornings. My little brothers and I would be on the living room couch watching black and white cartoons on TV when the big voice would boom out of Mom and Dad’s bedroom. “I’m the giant and this is my island!” That is all we needed to hear. We would make a mad dash for the bed where Dad had been sleeping and immediately upon jumping in the bed, we would find ourselves flipping off the other side. That was the nature of the game.

It was sort of a horizontal “King of the Hill” contest. Dad was the giant and the bed was his island. The challenge for us was to dislodge him from the island. It was a futile effort on our part, but was tremendous fun to wrestle with and team up on the big guy in the family. I’m not sure that we ever were able to move the giant from his island, but I wouldn’t trade the memories for anything.

Quality time with Dad then was precious and rare. He worked a 40 hour week at International Nickel Company, preached twice every Sunday, and held as many as 19 revival meetings a year. As a normal routine, Dad would rush home after work each day, jump in and out of the tub, eat a quick dinner, jump in the car and drive as far as Portsmouth, OH; Logan, Charleston, Point Pleasant, WV; or Wurtland, KY; preach to a packed house, drive back home, climb in bed and get up early the next morning and do it all over again. Back in those days, revival meetings always lasted two weeks, and often times went three or four. It was not uncommon to see from 25 – 40 people make professions of faith during those services. I remember one stretch when Dad was in church somewhere every night, for 100 straight evenings. I think it is safe to say that he burned the candle at both ends.

Busy as he was, he was always careful to spend quality time with his boys. Whether it be “I’m the Giant and This is My Island”, a game of catch in the back yard, the occasional trip to see the Reds at Crosley Field, or just the time we spent together in church (or on the way to or from) those times were very special to us. Many of you know Dad as the old guy in the McDonalds breakfast gang, or that fellow that never met a stranger, or the guy with a corny joke for every occasion, or the character on Row 9 at Edwards Stadium with a funny hat and silly glasses on to celebrate each Herd touchdown. He is all of those fellows, but Bruce and Carl and I remember him as the hard charging, fiery preacher, who was one of the busiest evangelists in the Tri State area. We know him as the orator that could paint a picture in a sermon so vivid that you could almost feel ground shake when Goliath fell hard from the blow of David’s stone, or see Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walking around loose in the fiery furnace. In fact one guy once yelled out during Dad’s message, “I can see them in there!”, but that is another story for another time.

Caudle Adkins, Jr. was born at Dehue in Logan Co, WV in 1927. He was often fond of saying that Charles Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic and Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs that year to celebrate his birth. Like many other young men, he quit school to join the military in World War II, and although a Sailor through and through, he never learned to swim! He had the good sense to marry Patsy Stidham, the best girl in Logan County, and to get out of the coal mines while he was young enough to move to Huntington and get a new career started at INCO.

Dad celebrated his 80th birthday last month. During his nearly 6 decades in ministry he has preached countless messages, married lots of couples, buried many friends, comforted the grieving, eaten lots of fried chicken, encouraged thousands of Christians, and won hundreds of people to Jesus. Aside from one aunt (who is only a few years older than him), Dad is the last surviving member of his family and has lived to see his grandchildren and great grandchildren, who all love and respect him. He has more friends than anyone I have ever known.

My younger brother, Bruce, has the Adkins looks and inherited many of Dad’s qualities, and keeps links with both sides of Dad’s family. Youngest brother, Carl, inherited his tireless work ethic and his easygoing manner and his ability to schmooze with anyone.

I am thankful that I got his name, although at times it has been hard to live up to all that goes with it! That name was passed on to his oldest grandson and great grandson as well. My son, Jay and I have followed Dad in ministry. Much of our family went down to New Orleans a couple of weeks ago for Jay’s graduation from Seminary. Dad seemed to be pretty proud that day.

Later, Jay told me something that really touched me. He said that during the graduation ceremony, while the congregation was standing and singing, he looked over and saw Dad standing there at the end of our family’s row. Jay said, “I looked over there and thought, If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be here now. That’s my Heritage. It brought tears to my eyes”, he said.

Physically, Dad doesn’t seem as big to me as he did on those Saturday mornings, way back when, but even now, to me – he is still “The Giant”.