Friday, October 31, 2008

Now THIS Is Rich!

The Democratic Ticket can't seem to agree on what constitutes "rich". First, Senator Obama said that his tax package would only raise taxes on those making $250,000 per year. Then in a more recent interview he stated that only those making over $200,000 per year would see an increase in their taxes. A day later, VP Candidate, Senator Biden, said that Obama's plan would only raise taxes on those making over $100,000 per year.

It seems as though they can't decide on what "rich" really is. While I don't fall into any of the above income levels, it does seem that the threshold keeps falling lower and lower. I, for one, am thankful that the election is only four days away. If the campaign goes any longer, I might eventually fall into the rich category, myself!

Today we visited a house of a REAL rich guy - the late George M. Vanderbilt. It's The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, and it has the distinction of being the largest house ever built in the United States of America. This house has over 240 rooms including 55 bedrooms and 47 bath rooms. "Opulent" is not quite an adequate adjective to describe this "humble abode". The old saying is that "A man's home is his castle". Well, George Vanderbilt really DID have a castle for a home.

While taking a two hour tour of the house (and that tour only included 60 rooms!) I could not help but think, "How much house does a guy really need?" One can easily imagine a plethora of needs and causes that Mr. Vanderbilt's fortune could have helped. But then a study of that family reveals that they were very much the philanthropists that their wealth demanded them to be.

Surely it seemed so unfair that a king's ransom could not have paid for the cost of building and maintaining such a monstrosity. The Vanderbilts and hundreds of house guests over the years reveled in the luxury, while thousands - even millions did all they could do to eke out a living and put a roof over their heads. Still it should be noted that the Vanderbilts created hundreds of jobs in the construction alone of Biltmore. They employed more than three dozen full time staff with living quarters that were far better than most of the homes they had come from. They paid the rural North Carolinians in their employ wages far above the local rates for domestic help, and comparable to those paid to their employees in New York City. They helped bring a boom in the economy to this rural mountainous area, and the estate is the greatest tourist attraction in this part of the Tar Heel State. The economic impact still "trickles down" in the form of an economic gusher to the economy of Greater Asheville.

Furthermore, even though the magnificence of the home is so much overkill, one needs to remember that Mr. Vanderbilt's father, "The Commodore" made his money the old fashioned way. He earned it. He took risks and made investments. He employed men to build and run his railroads. He purchased equipment and rolling stock that caused manufacturers to increase production, creating jobs and adding to the economy. It was his money and he could do whatever he wished with it.

Am I jealous of the success of the Vanderbilts? Would I like to own Biltmore?

Heck no! I couldn't pay the electric bill for that place.

All of this begs the question, Why are some folks given more money than they know what to do with, while others can't put enough together to rent a sleeping room in a flophouse on Skid Row? Should we be envious and bitter that there are people who live in mansions, and some sleep in doorwways and on park benches? (I have some dear friends who live in bamboo huts and have trouble keeping the monsoon rains out of their homes) No, I've learned that life is much, much more than where we live, or even what we eat and wear. The Bible assures me that my needs will be supplied by a benevolent Heavenly Father, and I am content with that. Let me close with a verse from God's Word that pretty much gives me all the comfort I need:

"Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Hebrews 13:5

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What A Glorious Day!

Linda and I are enjoying a short (2 night) getaway at LifeWay's Ridgecrest Baptist Conference Center near Asheville, NC. The stay was last year's Christmas gift from Jay and Michelle and the boys. I first thought, "When am I going to be able to use this?" Two short term Mission Trips to the Philippines, a scheduled revival, SBC and West Virginia Convention meetings, the Building Bridges Conference, Upward Basketball and Soccer seasons, and some other obligations this year made it hard to plan to get away, much less, actually do it!

It is hard for a pastor to get away, although it is really important for him to do so. It is for anyone, and pastors are certainly no different. Unfortunately, we are always "on call", and even with associates, deacons, and other helpers, there are times when the pastor just needs to be there. Ministry responsibilities abound, and although we all know we can't "do it all" we seem to try. In extolling the virtues of time of retreat, a wise man once said, "If you don't take time to come apart, you are almost assured of COMING APART! Jay and Michelle understood that, and that is what prompted them to give us the thoughtful gift.

With the year quickly coming to a close, and the tremendous end of the year rush coming up in November and December it appeared that if we were going to use that gift this year, we'd better get to it by the end of October! While it is only going to be two nights, I have already enjoyed the little trip thus far.

The drive down US Route 23 from Ashland to Asheville was most pleasant. The five hour journey was uneventful, and rather peaceful. While there was plenty of traffic (and lots of coal trucks) it still was not nearly as congested as arteries like I -75 , I-40, and I-81 usually are. Linda drove the entire way and that suits me fine. I was able to snooze most of the way from Louisa, KY to Pikeville, and I caught a few more winks as we crossed the southwestern corner of Virginia.

The most impressive part of the journey was the beautiful scenery. The colors of the foliage were absolutely breathtaking. The sky was a beautiful shade of blue, marred only by the crisscrossing contrails left by jet engines 30,000 feet (or so) above the glorious arrayed mountains. I have had numerous opportunities to fly over this countryside myself. I could not help but think of the hundreds of people riding in those pressurized tubes that only appeared as a pinprick at the beginning of each contrail. I'm sure that for the most part, they were completely oblivious to the thousands of us who were hardly visible to them as we traversed the ribbon of highway so far below. I know their view of the earth from that altitude is magnificent, but I'll wager it was not nearly as spectacular as was ours from ground level.

The multicolored mountains, touched by the Master's hand and His palate at Big Stone Gap, Virginia, would have rivaled the most aesthetic scenery anywhere on the planet. It has been my privilege to fly across the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean a number of times. I have seen beautiful tropical islands, with volcanoes and sandy beaches. I have marveled at the sheer beauty of the mountains surrounding the harbor in Hong Kong. The amber waves of grain from the plains of the "breadbasket of America" are beautiful, indeed and are the inspiration of song. As are the glaciers and snow capped mountain peaks. There are tropical rain forests and deserts of dry, burning sand. The earth has canyons, and gorges, and lakes, and fjords whose beauty are awe inspiring. But I would not have traded any of those sites today, for the experience of driving along the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When I survey the glory of all the scenic topography of planet earth, I cannot help but to intone those familiar words, "Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee, How great thou art. How great thou art!"

The Psalmist must have felt those same stirrings in his heart when he penned the 104th division of the Hymn book of Israel:

"Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. 2 Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain: 3 Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind: 4 Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire: 5 Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever. 6 Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains. 7 At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away. 8 They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them. 9 Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth. 10 He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills. 11 They give drink to every beast of the field: the wild asses quench their thirst. 12 By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches. 13 He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works. 14 He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; 15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart. 16 The trees of the LORD are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted; 17 Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house. 18 The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies. 19 He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down. 20 Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. 21 The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God. 22 The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens. 23 Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening. 24 O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. 25 So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts. 26 There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein. 27 These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. 28 That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good. 29 Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. 30 Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth." (KJV)"

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Our Second Season Of Upward Basketball

Upward Basketball and Cheerleading will enter it’s second season of Ministry to Children and their Families this month.

For those who are not familiar with Upward, it is a youth sports ministry which was begun by Caz McCazlin at First Baptist Church of Spartanburg, SC over 20 years ago. Upward is now in over 2,000 churches around the country. Currently Upward offers Basketball, Cheerleading, Soccer, and Flag Football as Christ based outreach ministries for local churches. Westmoreland Baptist Church has sponsored Basketball and Cheerleading and Spring Soccer, and God has blessed those ministries this past year.

Ministry success is not based on numbers, but we are thankful for the scores of children who took part in both sports programs this past year. The important statistic is that each player gets a gospel message each week. Every game begins with prayer, and every person in the gymnasium hears a testimony and a gospel presentation at half time of each game. While some participants already attend this or other churches, we have found that many of the families involved are unchurched. Our goal is to reach those families with the Gospel of Christ, and to show the love of Jesus to everyone involved. The ministry has had an impact. In fact, on October 26th we baptized three members of a family who came to us by way of Upward Basketball last year.

In Upward, every child plays, (no tryouts or cuts), every child learns, (caring Christian coaches and referees teach them the concepts of the game, teamwork and sportsmanship) and every child wins. We take boys and girls from four years old through sixth grade. While the older kids might be a little more competitive than the younger, the emphasis is not on winning. It is on doing your best. Post game awards go to the children for categories like, “Best Offense”, “Best Defense”, “Best Sportsmanship”, and “Most Christlike”. Upward is not your typical youth sports league. While sports is the vehicle, Upward is a first and foremost a ministry.

Volunteers are needed for such tasks as Prayer Team Members, evaluation and registration helpers, concessions workers, set up, post game gym cleanup, coaching, officiating, devotion and testimony, cheerleading helpers, and general encouragers. Will you pray about what God may want you to do in this growing ministry of Westmoreland Baptist Church? If you would like to volunteer, contact me at 412-0352 or Basketball Commissioner, Jim Bailey at 429-8003.

Evaluations will be held on Monday evening, November 10 from 6:30-8:00 PM, Friday, November 14, 6:30-8:00 PM and Saturday, November 15, from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM. Practices will be one hour per week beginning on Monday January 5, 2009 and the first game of the 8 game season will be Saturday, January 24, 2005. The Award Celebration will be here at the church Monday, March 16, 2009. Please join me in praying for the success of this ministry.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Here We Go Again!

Amy Daugherty seemed to have everything going her way.

I have never met Amy personally, but I certainly have heard of her. Her father, D.B. Daugherty was a well known former Circuit Judge in Cabell County, WV. The attractive young lady is a candidate for Magistrate in Cabell County in the upcoming November 4th general election. In fact, she was the leading vote getter for the open Magistrate's seat in the Democratic Primary in May. Her campaign yard signs are all over Huntington and Cabell County and her smiling face beams from big red billboards along the major thoroughfares of the city.

In the primary election campaign, records indicate that Amy's war chest included $17,465 in contributions and a personal loan of $18,700. Her campaign has spent $31,436.66 thus far. Her closest competitor in the 10 candidate field spent less than one third of Amy's totals. Furthermore, five of the candidates spent less than $3,000 in their campaigns. Financial records indicate that Amy's list of contributors include many Cabell County Attorneys, a local automobile dealership, and numerous local and state level politicians. She also had the coveted endorsement of the Huntington Fraternal Order of Police. Things looked pretty good for Amy as the election campaign came down the home stretch.

That all came crashing down on Tuesday evening, when the 41 year old candidate was arrested by West Virginia State Troopers and charged with purchasing crack cocaine with intent to deliver. Court documents indicate that Ms. Daugherty is charged with brokering the crack cocaine deal, admitting to five similar transactions in the past six months, and tried to bribe a Huntington police officer. After her arrest, the "Herald-Dispatch" ran criminal record checks on all the other candidates for the Magistrate's position, and found none listed. The check did, however, turn up a 2007 arrest and conviction of Amy Daugherty's campaign treasurer, Tresha Burns, on a misdemeanor drug possession charge.

Personal scandal and brushes with the law, are sadly commonplace in American politics today. We are all familiar with the likes of Idaho Senator Larry Craig, Florida Congressman Mark Foley, Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank, Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards, Alaska Senator Ted Stephens, former presidential candidate John Edwards, and numerous former West Virginia Governors. The list is not exclusive to politicians either. Other well known celebrities, business tycoons, and yes, even pastors and evangelists are added to the scandal lists daily.

Each possession count against Amy Daugherty (if convicted) carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. The bribery charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. If federal charges are added to the case, longer sentences are likely. With the election less than two weeks away, it is still entirely possible that Amy could be elected. If so, she would be barred from taking office until after the disposition of her case. Should she be convicted, she would be ineligible to serve, and, of course, would probably be headed for prison.

What can these high profile people possibly be thinking? Do they think they are immune from detection?

The truth of the matter is that we are ALL seriously flawed individuals. When one of these public figures "goes bad" it gets all the headlines, but the fact is that we all share the same penchant for getting in deep trouble. It is something that is inherent in everyone. Theologians call it the "Old Sin Nature". The ancient Hebrew Prophet, Isaiah put it this way, "But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousness are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away." (Isa. 64:6)

That sinful nature separates us from a desperately needed relationship with a Holy God.

Paul, the Apostle expressed his frustration with the battle that raged within his body in this way - "For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me. So I discover this principle: Or law when I want to do good, evil is with me." (Romans 7: 18-21 HCSB) He cries out in verse 24 "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?"

The answer to that, of course, is Jesus. Sin always takes us farther than we want to go, keeps us longer than we want to stay, and costs us more than we are able to pay. The only hope we have is forgiveness through God's Grace.

Amy Daugherty's political career has most likely come to a screeching halt. But more importantly, her life is in turmoil. Even though she is facing public humiliation and possible prison time, pray that she might find peace with God through Jesus Christ. Everyone needs that hope. We all live with the consequences of our sins, but forgiveness and peace is available to those who will come to Jesus. Those who are set free by Him are free indeed!

I hope you know Him.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Wonderful Birthday Present

Today is my 58th birthday. Basically after 57 of these, the next birthday is just another day. Doctor's appointment at 10:15, Lunch at noon, radio programs to record this afternoon, and sermon preparation to do. No celebration planned. In fact, Linda is even out of town for a work related conference in Louisville and she won't be back home till late this evening. Just another day, but considering my prognosis about four years ago, it's a day I relish. (Just like EVERY day!)

Church members and other dear friends have been very kind with cards and various gifts, both for birthday and Pastor Appreciation month. I am so blessed to have so many wonderful friends and loved ones. To borrow from Frank Capra, "It's a Wonderful Life". In the midst of all the cards and expressions of love, one special gift stands out.

Linda and I are blessed with two fine sons, two godly daughters in law, and four wonderful grandsons. Two of the boys live here in the Ashland area, and two live in New Orleans. We have the two local boys most every Friday night for a sleep over at our house, but we rarely get to visit with the two from Louisiana. This year I have been blessed to be with all four grandsons within four days of my birthday. That is a present that is worth more than anything I can imagine. True, it would have been nice to have them all together (that may come at Thanksgiving - hopefully) but for now, being with the New Orleans boys on Thursday and the Kentucky boys on Friday was a very special thrill for me at birthday time.

I am so thankful that God has spared my life one more year, allowing me to watch Quint, Will, Canon, and Asher grow. I am blessed beyond measure and can certainly relate to what the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 127: 3-5. "Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate."

Please indulge me for a moment on my birthday, while I pull out my "electronic wallet" and show you some photos of Caudle Jerry Adkins V, William Benjamin Adkins, Canon Josiah Adkins, and Matthew Asher Adkins. I'm proud of these guys!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

West Virginia Marriage Ammendment

It is hard for many of us to imagine, but the accepted definition of marriage is changing right before our eyes. Five states have passed laws which allow "same sex marriage" and the ramifications are powerful for the remaining 45 states. Even a Defense of Marriage Act in California, (defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman) which was signed into law, was struck down by a four judge panel. A number of state legislatures have passed laws defining marriage in the traditional, Biblical way. These acts have been nullified as unconstitutional by judicial activists with a personal agenda. The only way to prevent liberal activist judges from legislating from the bench is to pass a constitutional amendment, and that is exactly what we are hoping to do in West Virginia.

A number of states have passed such amendments to their constitutions. Since it appears that a hostile U.S. Congress, is highly unlikely to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, action must begin at the state level. I have joined with 52 other pastors and religious leaders across the Mountain State who have signed an open letter to W.Va. Governor Joe Manchin, requesting that he include a Constitutional Amendment proposal on agenda of the upcoming November Special Legislative Session. Thus far, Manchin has said that he "doesn't see the need" for such an amendment at this time. My question is, if not now, when?

This should not be a "Democrat/Republican" issue. This is a moral issue. Will you join us by adding your voices to this request? If the legislature would pass the amendment, then it would go to the ballot and let the voters of West Virginia decide. I think we all know how that vote would shake out! West Virginians can call the governor’s office at (304) 558-2000 to encourage Manchin to place the subject of a marriage amendment on the agenda of the November 2008 special session. The link at the bottom of this post will provide more information to those who are interested in getting involved.

The following is the text of the letter and the list of signors to it:

The Hon. Joe Manchin, III
Office of the Governor, State Capitol
1900 Kanawha Blvd., East
Charleston, WV 25305

October 16, 2008

RE: An Open Letter to Gov. Manchin from the Pastors of West Virginia

Gov. Manchin:

We, the undersigned pastors of churches in the State of West Virginia, stand united in support of the institution of marriage.

As you set the agenda for the remaining special sessions of the 2008 West Virginia Legislature, we ask that you include legislation that would allow the citizens of West Virginia to define marriage as between one man and one woman within the Constitution of the State of West Virginia.

The time to defend marriage in West Virginia is now. Our common belief is that marriage is
between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a society that can be home to all human
beings, the reflection of our relationship with God, and a cornerstone of our society. This
compels our humble request.

Courts, legislatures, and even governors from around the country have placed marriages in West Virginia in immediate jeopardy. We believe that an amendment to the state constitution is
necessary in order to prevent the redefinition of marriage by judicial pen, legislative whimsy, or
executive inaction.

Our names below reflect our affirmation of the following:

First, God created marriage for the good of His creation (Matthew 19:4-7). Scriptural Truth,
followed by centuries of tradition, reminds us that the union of one man and one woman is much
more than a contract (Genesis 1). It is a sacred, lifelong union that creates an intimate
community of life and love that, in turn, supports all of society.

Second, same-sex unions are not the same as opposite-sex unions. To believe otherwise is to
ignore the uniqueness of each gender’s design and undermines marriage (Genesis 2:18). The
break down or weakening of the institution of marriage has devastating moral, spiritual,
economic, and social effects on the whole of society. Marriage protects children by giving them
an opportunity to grow up in the ideal environment: with a married mom and dad. Knowingly
depriving children of that opportunity exposes our children to a great social experiment that is in no one’s best interest.

Third, marriage mirrors God’s relationship with us, thus completing, enriching, and perpetuating humanity (Ephesians 5). Any other pairing disrupts that relationship and is not marriage. As ministers of the Gospel, we are compelled to defend the institution of marriage as created by God– in church and in culture.

Fourth, as children of God, equally possessing the human dignity of being created in his image, our stand for marriage in no way disparages others – even if they disagree with us. As recipients of God’s grace, we are committed to demonstrating the love of Christ to those living the homosexual lifestyle.

Fifth, we commit to pray and humbly work toward a just resolution of this issue, which is of
grave importance to the well-being of the human family.

Sixth, as Christians, we cannot ignore our duty to speak the Truth to culture (Matthew 5:13-16). As citizens of West Virginia, we avail ourselves of the opportunity to affirm the historic, legal, and reasonable definition of marriage by making this request.

Seventh, we will strongly encourage Christians throughout West Virginia to engage in the civic process in defense of marriage and in support of the government’s leadership in defining
marriage as the union of one man and one woman (Romans 13).

Eighth, we commit to earnestly and regularly pray for our governor, our state senators and
delegates, judges, and all of the leaders set in positions of human authority over us (I Timothy
2:1-2). We pray for God’s wisdom to be imparted to each of them as they work to strengthen
marriages in this state.

Finally, we believe the union of one man and one woman, in the institution of marriage, is
foundational to our society and cannot be compared with any other union.

Respectfully submitted,

Rev. Seth N. Polk,
Cross Lanes Baptist Church,
Cross Lanes, WV

Rev. Keith Wiebe, Sr.
Grace Gospel Church,
Huntington, WV

Rev. Darrin Wright,
First Baptist Church of Wheeling,
Wheeling, WV

Terry Harper, Executive Director
WV Convention of Southern Baptists
Teays Valley, WV

Pastor James R. Wright, Jr.
Maranatha Fellowship,
St. Albans, WV

Rev. David Lemming,
Lewis Memorial Baptist Church,
Huntington, WV

Pastor Nathan Cherry
Central Chapel,
Hedgesville, WV

Rev. Richard Mahan
St. Timothy’s Lutheran,
Charleston, WV

Rev. Keith Cobb
Perrow Presbyterian Church
Cross Lanes, WV

Rev. Greg Varndale
Fairlawn Baptist Church,
Parkersburg, WV

Rev. C.J. Adkins
Westmoreland Baptist Church
Huntington, WV

Rev. Kevin Prevett
First Baptist Church of Fairlea
Lewisburg, WV

Rev. Todd Hill
Grace Baptist Church,
Parkersburg, WV

Rev. H. Kenneth Stidham, Jr.
Good Shepherd Baptist Church,
Scott Depot, WV

Rev. Bernard Toppings
Witcher Baptist Church,
Belle, WV

Rev. Dan Jividen
Immanuel Baptist Church,
Princeton, WV

Rev. Dave Buckley
Cross Lanes Bible Church,
Cross Lanes, WV

Rev. Kevin Dennis, District Superintendent
West Virginia North District,
Church of the Nazerene,
Morgantown WV

Rev. Mark Johnson
Independent Bible Church,
Martinsburg, WV

Rev. Van Marsceau
Fellowship Bible Church
Charles Town, WV

Rev. David Goodin
Chaplain, Mepco, Inc.,
Morgantown, WV

Pastor Jonathan Rinker
Crow Christian Church,
Beaver, WV

Dr. Daniel Anderson, President
Appalachian Bible College,
Mt. Hope, WV

Rev. James Morton, Jr.
Freedom Baptist Church
Charleston, WV

Rev. Donald E. Knotts
Wayside Baptist Church,
Buckhannon, WV

Rev. Eddie Henson
Highlawn Baptist Church, Chinese Mission,
Huntington, WV

Rev. Tommy Knotts
Brenton Baptist Church,
Brenton, WV

Rev. Daniel Gunnoe
East End Baptist Church,
Bluefield, WV

Rev. Bill Hines
Parkersburg Broadway Church of
the Nazarene,
Parkersburg, WV

Rev. Chad Harvey
Little Sandy Church of the
Bruceton Mills, WV

Rev. Dave Turner
Terra Alta Church of the Nazarene,
Terra Alta, WV

Rev. Scott Mapes
Ravenswood Church of the
Ravenswood, WV

Rev. Matthew Bates
Colliers Church of the Nazarene,
Colliers, WV

Rev. Everett Clay
Newell First Church of the
Newell, WV

Rev. Robert Kniley
Blennerhassett Church of the
Parkersburg, WV

Rev. Dennis Yingling
Wellsburg Church of the Nazarene,
Wellsburg, WV

Rev. Jerry Dooley
Mannington Church of the
Mannington, WV

Rev. Keith Miller
Canaan Baptist Church,
Mill Creek, WV

Pastor Jesse Wisnewski,
Perrow Presbyterian Church,
Cross Lanes, WV

Rev. Dana Snodgrass
Weirton First Church of the Nazarene,
Weirton, WV

Rev. Danny Linger
Parsons Church of the Nazarene,
Parsons, WV

Rev. Tom Fletcher
Spencer Church of the Nazarene,
Spencer, WV

Rev. Tim Bess
Shinnston Church of the Nazarene,
Shinnston, WV

Rev. Brett Phipps
Summersville Nazarene Camp,
Summersville, WV

Rev. David Edwards
Paden City Church of the Nazarene,
Paden City, WV

Rev. Steve Cummings
Chester Church of the Nazarene,
Chester, WV

Pastor Dean Brdlik
Emmanuel Community Church,
Lewisburg, WV

Pastor David Johns
Winfield Baptist Church
Winfield, WV

Rev. Darrell L. Clark
Southern Baptist Church,
Wayne, WV

Rev. Vernon Beachum
First Baptist Church,
Fort Ashby, WV

Pastor Mike Hager
Faith Missionary Baptist Church
St. Albans, WV

Greg Wrigley
WV Convention of Southern Baptists,
Teays Valley, WV

Rev. David Spence
Cornerstone Community Church
Reedsville, WV

NOTE TO OUR READERS: for more detailed information on this effort, check out the website of The Family Policy Council of West Virginia by clicking here -

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bridging the Gap

I never cease to be amazed by the Huey P. Long Bridge which spans the mighty Mississippi River just north of New Orleans. The Huey P. is an absolute marvel of engineering which is now over 70 years old, yet performs admirably in a world that was not even imagined when it was constructed in the first 1/3 of the previous century!

Opened in December 1935 to replace the Walnut Street Ferry, the bridge was named for an extremely popular and notorious governor, "The Kingfish" himself, Huey P. Long, who had just been assassinated on September 8th that same year in the Capitol Building at Baton Rouge. Long was Depression era Governor and U.S. Senator who began a dynasty of political powers in Louisiana that included Governor Earl Long and long time U.S. Senator Russell Long. Interestingly enough, Earl K. Long gained infamy by having an extramarital affair with a stripper known as "Blaze Starr". Huey P. had captured the Governor's Mansion with a controversial populist campaign style. His stump slogan was, "Every Man A King!" and Huey P. was commonly known as "The Kingfish".

Quite a family, the Longs!

The bridge was the first Mississippi River span built in Louisiana and the 29th along the entire length of the river. What makes it so interesting to me is the fact that it carries four lanes of traffic between Bridge City and Metarie, and between the narrow traffic lanes run three railroad tracks! It is a sight to behold, and an adventure to cross.

The vital statistics indicate that the widest clean span is 790 feet (240 m) long and sits 135 feet (41 m) above the water. There are three navigation channels below the bridge, the widest being 750 feet (230 m). The distinctive rail structure is 22,996 feet (7,009 m) long and extends as a rail viaduct well into the city. The highway structure is 8,076 feet (2,462 m) long with extremely steep grades on both sides. Each roadway deck is a precarious 18 feet (5.5 m) wide, with 2 9-foot lanes, but because of the railroad component, is unusually flat for a bridge of this height. Normally, bridges this high have a hump to accommodate the height but this bridge is flat to accommodate rail traffic.

To imagine what a huge project this was in the 1930's simply boggles my mind. The designers and the hundreds of men who labored on this huge bridge could never imagine what type of world this bridge would serve in the 21st Century. The narrow traffic lanes were designed for the small vehicles of the early 20th Century, and are a far cry from what is needed today to service full size automobiles, trucks and SUV's, today's delivery vehicles, and the huge tractor trailers that dominate our highways. Train engines are much more powerful and pull longer and heaver loads. Yet, all these years later, the Huey P. Long Bridge stands as a monument of engineering brilliance and longevity.

I am reminded of an even more amazing marvel. A bridge that is 20 centuries old, which is just as strong and effective today, as the day it came into being way back in the "30's". Please note that I'm not referring to the 1930's but, rather, the actual 30's! The bridge I reference is the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is an engineering marvel of love and grace that will never grow old, and will never lose it's power to bridge a gap that cannot be humanly spanned.

An uncrossable chasm exists between The Creator and His beloved Creation (mankind) because of the first man's rebellion against God, and the resulting sinful nature that we have inherited from our corporate father, Adam. This is a gap that could not be crossed, no matter how hard we might try, nor how many good deeds we might do. Our sin separates us from our loving Heavenly Father and we cannot bridge that gap. Without a remedy, we are dead in our trespasses and sins, and have no hope of eternal life. Thankfully God did for us what we could not do for ourselves.

How did God do that? Here is how Paul the Apostle puts it in Romans 8: 1-4 "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."

In 2 Corinthians 5: 17-19 and 5:21 Paul states it this way, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, ... He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

When Jesus' arms were outstretched, and his hands were nailed to the cross beam of that old rugged cross, he symbolically took us by our sin stained hands and God by His Holy Hand, and brought us together - at least those who would accept that great sacrifice!

In the old hymn, "At Calvary" these true words ring out - "Oh, the love that drew salvation's plan. Oh, the Grace that brought it down to man! Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span - at Calvary!"

That is a bridge that is unrivaled in it's magnificence and power. I hope you know Jesus today as your bridge to the Father. If so, why not take a moment to offer a prayer of thanks to our Savior. If you have not found that bridge personally - Come to Jesus and live!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Last Full Day In New Orleans

The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Trustee Meeting really had a rather light agenda - as far as taking any action. The April meeting will be crammed with more decisions that will need to be made by Instruction and Building and Grounds Committees. We will also approve the Budget in April. However, yesterday was still a full day of hearing reports from the President, Provost, Financial Controller, Deans of the undergraduate school (Leavell College) and from the graduate program. We heard from several staff members in various areas of the Seminary operation. I am so impressed with the administration, faculty, and staff. They are all dedicated to delivering quality Biblically strong, Theological Education to the future leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Enrollment figures are good, as they are still coming up from when Hurricane Katrina decimated the largest enrollment figures in the history of the "School of Providence and Prayer". It is interesting that the number of students enrolled in the Certificate Programs has increased by 500 over last year! Due to our extensive system of Hubs and Extension Centers, and the high number of Internet courses offered, NOBTS has far more off campus students than the other five Southern Baptist Seminaries. On one hand, this is great. We're delivering quality theological education to a wide variety of students who, for one reason or another, may not be able to move to New Orleans to study on this beautiful campus. On the other hand, NOBTS receives a smaller portion of funding from the SBC Cooperative Program due to the nature of the (I believe) outdated system by which the seminaries receive their funding. This is because the funding formula for the seminaries is based on the number of on campus students. For this reason, NOBTS faces greater challenges for accomplishing the mission.

This challenge falls at the feet of Dr. Jerry Garrard, who directs the Office of Development, and Rev. Bill Hughes (a native of Ironton, OH), who works for Jerry in heading up fundraising for The Annual Fund. The Annual Fund is the primary funding mechanism that the Seminary has to meet it's budget. Last year the Annual Fund collected a quarter of a million dollars, but it was far below the amount needed to meet the needs. Jerry and Bill (and their dedicated team) have done a tremendous job this year. The goal for the Annual Fund for this year was One million two hundred forty thousand dollars - a mind boggling threshold! But on the last day of the Fiscal Year, God provided the necessary funds to top the goal. To Him be the praise, honor and glory!

The new year has begun, and Jerry and Bill begin their work anew. I would encourage any readers of this blog who are interested in helping young men and women receive quality theological education to consider giving to the Annual Fund of NOBTS and become a "Friend of the Seminary". Linda and I give a monthly gift to the Annual Fund. No gift is too large or too small. One time gifts from individuals, churches, Sunday School Classes, and other groups are appreciated, as well as regular periodic giving. Many people have blessed NOBTS by including the Seminary in their estate planning. I encourage you to help if you can financially, and to help regularly with prayer.

I did have opportunity to get away and have lunch with my son, Jay, yesterday. After lunch we met his wife Michelle who had an appointment for a haircut at a shop on Veterans Boulevard, and we picked up the boys. I sure enjoyed that special time with Grandsons #1 (Quint) and #3 (Canon) until I had to leave them for the afternoon sessions. Now that the Trustee work is over, I'll get to spend the rest of the day with them. I'll be staying in their home tonight, and get up way before the chickens in the morning to be at Louis Armstrong International Airport in time for my 6:00 AM flight back home.

It will be nice to get back home and about my pastoral duties, but I'm sure looking forward to the rest of the day today!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Update From NOBTS

The first day of the Fall meeting of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Board of Trustees is in the books. It was a long, full day, which ended about 8:30 last night with a powerful musical worship service in beautiful Leavell Chapel.

The day began with breakfast at 7:00 and an opportunity to visit informally with our fellow trustees before the pace quickened. Building and Grounds Committee had their meeting from 8:30 till 10:30, which gave each of the rest of us a couple of hours of free time. I used mine to do an hour's work on Sunday morning's message, and another hour visiting with students and a staff member or two in the Hardin Student Center and browsing the adjacent LifeWay Christian Store. I also had opportunity to visit briefly with Robby Pearson, who now works in the Registrar's Office. Robby was one of the Preachers who went with us to the Philippies this past May. Robby is a great guy and it was sure good to see him again.

Chapel Service began at 11:00 AM with a great time of worship led by a student musical group which included Daniel Savage. Daniel is the Worship Pastor at my son, Jay's, First Baptist Church of Westwego. I also had the privilege to have Daniel as a member of our Philippine Mission Team this past May. He is a multi-talented and spiritually gifted young man. Dr. Searcy, a professor who had just returned from a mission trip to Nepal, shared a word about what God is doing in that formerly "closed" country and led us in a time of prayer. Dr. Chuck Kelley was his usual upbeat self, welcoming the Trustees to the Chapel Service, and casting the vision of the "School of Providence and Prayer" before the students and faculty assembled in the beautiful chapel.

Dr. Preston Nix, Professor of Evangelism and Preaching, brought a stirring message on our need for Revival - personally and corporately. Dr. Nix is a great preacher, who came to NOBTS after years in the Pastorate. His story is a touching one, as he and his family moved onto the campus of NOBTS in mid August, 2005 - just two weeks before Katrina and the resulting broken levee on the nearby Industrial Canal inundated the Gentilly area. The entire personal library which he had acquired over 30 + years in the ministry was still packed in cartons which were stacked in his garage. Since he had not had time to move them to his office, they were all lost when the flood waters engulfed the faculty housing area on Seminary Place. Along with his library, Dr. and Mrs. Nix lost most all of their personal belongings and had to start all over again in an unfamiliar place, among colleagues that they barely knew. Preston Nix is only one member of a dedicated faculty that accomplished a world class feat in getting the instructional mission of NOBTS back on track in almost no time, when other colleges and universities in the New Orleans area simply went out of business for nearly a year. All of their accomplishments came in the face of catastrophe and massive personal loss. These folks are heroes.

The Seminary provided free lunch for the Trustees and the entire Seminary Family in the beautiful and spacious cafeteria on campus. The meal had a genuine New Orleans flavor as the menu consisted of Red Beans and Rice, Sausage, Fried Okra and cornbread. The "family" lunch gives an informal setting for Trustees to mingle and eat with students, faculty members and staff people. The large round table where I sat accommodated a professor, Dr. Carter, a lady (whose name I'm afraid I have forgotten) who works in one of the offices, four students and fellow Trustee, Marvin Rose. Three of the young people, Amanda Lindsay, Bryan Scholl, and Bobby Wood are all members of Jay's church in Westwego. Bryan and Bobby are on staff there, as Student Pastor and Education Pastor, respectively. Amanda and Bobby were also part of our
May, 2008 mission team to the Philippines. It was great to visit with them again.

I mentioned that Marvin Rose was at the table. Marvin is Pastor of Baker Road Baptist Church of Baytown, Texas, and he and I were elected to the Board of Trustees the same year. The last four months have been a time of terrible trial for Marvin, his family, and his church. Just after I had seen Marvin in June at the SBC Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, we got word that his mother perished in a house fire at her home in Virginia. Then, just a few weeks ago, Hurricane Ike came ashore with Galveston and Baytown sitting at ground zero, destroying the Sanctuary of First Baptist Church and leaving heavy damage to Marvin's home. While thankful for the personal safety of their family and congregation, Marvin is facing a long and difficult task of recovery. Please pray for the Rose Family and the congregation of FBC Baytown.

At 1:30 PM my committee (Instruction) had it's two hour meeting. We received an update from Dr. Kelley, and Provost, Dr. Steve Lemke, on enrollment figures, degree and certificate programs. We were also updated on some faculty vacancies and heard reports on a few Presidential Faculty appointments that Dr. Kelley has made in the interim. These will be probably be brought to us for official faculty election at our Spring Meeting in April. Dr. Kelley advised us that the production and the professional level of their performance has been excellent this semester, although made more difficult by the Hurricane Gustav evacuation, and the preparations for a second possible evacuation a couple of weeks later as Hurricane Ike roared into the Gulf Coast. Fortunately for the folks in the New Orleans area (and to the dismay of the residents of the Texas Gulf Coast) Ike turned west and spared the Crescent City.

After the Instructional Committee meeting, I had time to meet with Bryan Scholl (pictured here)for a meeting to discuss a one week mission trip he is planning for next summer. Bryan wants to bring a group of 12 youth and 3 adults to the Huntington - Tri State area the week of July 20th. Bryan had the opportunity to come to Huntington with World Changers several years ago, and he looks forward to bringing his youth to our area for a week of ministry experience. I have already spoken with our Student Pastor, Rick Weber, who is excited about the opportunity for our youth group to host, and work with the Louisiana group next summer. This will be a special time, since our young people were hosted by Bryan and his church on their mission trip to New Orleans two summers ago. We are planning a number of joint projects which will include Back Yard Bible Clubs, neighborhood canvassing, light labor projects, a project with the City Mission, and a possible Block Party.

A few of the Trustees were accompanied by their wives, and we all met for fellowship and dinner at 6:00 PM. The folks I shared a table with included Trustees from Tennessee, Indiana, South Carolina, Illinois, and New York. We were also blessed to have Dr. Kelley at our table. His wife, Dr. Rhonda Kelley, was unable to attend as she was attending to a minor medical need for Dr. Kelley's elderly mother.

This morning the Investment Committee and Executive Committee meet after breakfast, and we will all join together for our three joint Plenary Sessions beginning just after lunch. These are the sessions where each committee gives their individual reports and all business is taken care of by the full Board of Trustees. Plenary Sessions 1 & 2 will take up the full afternoon. We'll break for dinner at 6:00 PM and then reassemble for Session 3 about 7:00 PM. It will be a full afternoon and evening.

Since I have the morning free, I will be attending a Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans Pastor's Meeting with Jay at the BAGNO offices on Lakeshore Drive, overlooking Lake Pontchartrain. These Pastor Meetings were begun by BAGNO Director of Missions, Joe McKeever, three years ago as an outgrowth of the Katrina disaster. Joe says these meetings have gone a long way toward uniting the New Orleans area pastors and building fellowship among them and their churches.

Should be a full, and hopefully productive day.

I have also told Jay that I'll buy lunch today - as long as we can either get one of those delicious burgers at "Port of Call" on Esplanade, or a Po Boy at "Sammie's" on Elysian Fields.

Have I ever mentioned that they have some pretty good food down here?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Where Are The Other Issues?

Tomorrow night Senators Barack Obama and John McCain meet for their third, and final formal debate. Thus far, in this writer's opinion, both debates have been underwhelming. Neither candidate has been able to really distinguish himself from the other, as moderators Jim Lerher (of PBS) and Tom Brokaw (of NBC) have basically asked different forms of the same questions, over and over for 90 minutes. The candidates give the same canned, over rehearsed, stock answers. Obama drones on about the evils of the Bush administration, and McCain proudly proclaims his "maverick" credentials, and his ability to "reach across the aisle".

Here's a thought, gentlemen. First, Senator Obama, you're not running against George Bush, and every conservative will quickly tell you that John McCain is NOT George W. Bush! And you, Senator McCain - please understand that we, who are conservative couldn't care less about how you have loved up to Ted Kennedy, Russ Feingold, or Joe Lieberman. We want to hear about issues. Real issues. ALL the issues that matter to voters - and those issues go far beyond the two horses of the economy and taxes.

The economic crisis IS important. Someone needs to come up with a real plan that would lessen the government's influence in economic matters and let the free market work. American businesses and her workers must make the major adjustments it takes to be effective in the global economy. Taxes ARE an important issue and there is no doubt that government has it's hand way too far in our collective pockets. While important to each of us, taxes and economic issues are not the be all, end all of the important questions that voters need to ask.

I am no longer identifying myself as a Democrat or a Republican, but rather as a Conservative. I do not vote as an "evangelical", I consider candidates (at every level) from the perspective of being a Conservative with a Biblical world view. I do not believe I am alone in this. In fact I KNOW I am not. I know Democrats and Republicans alike who fall into that same category, and that world view should go with us in every aspect of our lives - and yes - even into the voting booth. I refuse to worship at the altar of the economy only. I want to know where these guys stand on issues that are important to me, and to our culture.

Where do they stand on the definition of marriage? What would their policies be in regard to that important institution? What about the right to life? What would they do to protect the rights of the unborn - the most helpless among us? What type of Federal Judges and Supreme Court Justices would they appoint? Would they go with appointees that strictly interpret our constitution, or those who would be judicial activists - legislating from the bench? Where do they stand on their commitment to national security, and that of our allies in general? What would they do to support Israel in the face of the threat of annihilation from their radical neighbors? What about their personal character? My mother used to tell me that you are judged by the company you keep. Shouldn't these candidates be examined regarding their past and present associations with others?

Other issues are important as well. How will they lead in dealing with illegal immigration? Who or what type of individuals would they appoint to cabinet and advisory positions? Do they believe in more government or less? Do they think that the "separation of church and state" means there can be no expression of Christian faith in the public square? What about energy independence? Will they support policies that would allow us to tap into our vast reserves of oil or would we still continue to spend billions of dollars buying crude oil from foreign nations that really don't like us much? Would they support nuclear power and clean coal technologies? No hedging. No spin. Just give us opportunity to hear their answers to these and other important questions!

The list goes on and on, but I hope you see the point. Where are these questions during the debates? Rick Warren's Saddleback Forum asked many of these questions. We were able to see some real differences between the two candidates in that forum. John McCain's first boost in the public opinion polls came as a result of his answers to those questions at Saddleback. The other came when he named a rather unknown running mate who openly and un-apologetically states what she stands for. Her Democratic opponent does the same. One can easily see the difference between the two.

It's a refreshing breath of fresh air, that I think would be helpful for the candidates at the top of the tickets to emulate. And as for the Wednesday evening debate, I would urge CBS's Bob Schieffer (the moderator) to ask about SOMETHING besides the economy. Give us opportunity to see where these candidates stand on a whole spectrum of issues. Then, perhaps, we will see the differences, and make an informed decision as to how to cast our votes.

Monday, October 13, 2008

People On the Go

Monday, October 13, 2008
Charlotte Douglas International Airport - 11:45 AM
I arrived safely and on time in Charlotte, for my 1:10 PM flight to New Orleans. With about an hour and a half until my US Airways flight leaves for the Big Easy, I have been fortunate enough to grab one of those high backed white rocking chairs that line the main concourse and food court area of the Charlotte Airport. Every time I change planes in Charlotte I can't help but think of Christmas Day (and night) that Linda and I spent here in 2004. A rare ice storm had closed the New Orleans Airport (and a number of other airports in the south) and we, along with hundreds of other travelers had an unexpected (and uncomfortable) stay in a place where nobody wanted to be on Christmas.
To make matters worse, I was just three weeks removed from my colon surgery, and although the doctor said we could travel, none of us had expected being stranded in North Carolina on the most special holiday of the year. My time was spent in a wheel chair, while Linda had to push me from place to place. At one point she stood in line for over 2 1/2 hours, along with hundreds of other harried travelers, trying to make arrangements to rebook flights. I felt so sorry for her. Her feet and legs had to be killing her as she stood, pushing my wheelchair ahead inch by inch as the line moved slower than a snail's pace. The whole time she was worried about me. As those great philosophers (the Four Tops) put it, "Ain't No Woman Like The One I Got!". Even with that experience fresh in memory, I decided to treat Linda to another Christmas visit with the grandchildren in New Orleans this past Christmas, and (you guessed it), she spent Christmas Day in the same airport, never getting to complete her trip to New Orleans.
Well, that's water under the bridge today. No ice storms. No holiday delays, I'm just sitting here watching the world go by and waiting for my boarding call. I am reminded about what a mobile society we have. In fact, what a mobile world we live in! While in the air looking down at the beautiful fall foliage of the Appalachian Mountains, one could see the highways far below with steady streams of traffic headed in several directions. A glance upward revealed numerous contrails left behind from the engines of other aircraft heading in every direction. Here in the main terminal building of Douglas, I guess several thousand folks have walked by my position here in the rocker. All of them headed somewhere, most of them in a hurry. There are business men, military personnel, families, elderly folks, and students. I can only imagine where they all are going.
The truth of the matter is, that the are ALL truly headed somewhere... Not just to their flight destinations, but to an eternal destination. Everyone of them! I'm sure each of them have made special preparations for reaching their flight destinations. Plans have been made, bags packed, special attention given to make sure no details are missed. Many will have people waiting to meet them at the airport when they arrive. I can only wonder how many of them have "made preparations" for their more important eternal destinations.
One destination is easy to attain. Jesus said, "Broad is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction." He tells us that the vast majority of folks are on that track. What do they have to do to get there? Nothing. Just have to keep doing what they're doing. Jesus told a man named Nicodemus those famous words that "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever would believe on Him would not perish, but have everlasting life." He went on to say that "Those who believe on Him are not condemned but those who believe not are condemned already, because they have not believed upon the name of the only begotten Son of God." You see, our sinful nature, and no relationship with God guarantees those who have not made preparations will reach that sad destination.
Jesus said there is another gate (it's somewhat obscure) and another way (it's narrow) but it leads to life everlasting. The destination is not just "Heaven". That's the ultimate stop, but the true destination is a personal relationship with the God who created us and loves us more than we can fathom. The sad thing is that Jesus said "few there be that find it". Jesus is the way. He is the Truth. He is the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him.
Which way are you headed?
My prayer today - "Lord, many of these people are headed the wrong way. I can not hope to reach them all. Please help me to help someone today to find the right way".

Friday, October 10, 2008

Where Are Your Treasures?

Well, it's been quite a week, hasn't it?
The Stock Market has been in an absolute free fall, and the "domino effect" has had financial markets plunging to new depths around the world. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has taken hit after hit every day this week, plunging from an average of over 14,000 just a few weeks ago, down to an eight year low of less than 8,000. The frightening thing is that no one seems to know where the bottom is.
The sub prime mortgage lending practices of "Fannie Mae" and "Freddie Mac" seem to have been the culprit in causing the dominoes to begin to fall. One thing led to another. The government sponsored lending corporations had to be bailed out as the chickens of their ridiculous lending practices finally began to come home to roost. Some huge investment banks were next, great brokerage houses began to fail or be swallowed up by other firms. The insurance giant, AIG, was on the verge of going belly up until the government came to the multi billion dollar rescue.
Just ten days (or so) ago, the august leadership of our House and Senate told us that the only hope for a market correction lay in the seven billion dollar "rescue" measure put forth by the President , the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. When the House voted down the measure, The Speaker of the House, her Democratic leadership team, and the mainline news media screamed gloom and doom. "Unless this measure passes" they warned us, "We are in for the most terrible financial crisis since the Crash of 1929." The Senate rushed to pass their own version of the bail out and sent it to the House. Conservative Talk Radio hosts warned against the huge bail out, and even though calls and emails to House members ran 3-1 against the package, the measure passed and was rushed to the President's desk for signature into law. The nation breathed a huge sigh of relief. The crisis surely was nearly over.
The next day, the Stock Market fell 500 points. The giant Charlotte based Wachovia Bank revealed they were on life support, and Washington Mutual (the nation's largest Savings and Loan went belly up. The market has plunged 500 points or so, each day since the "rescue package" was passed. There is a lot of finger pointing going on and this writer figures that there is plenty of blame to go around. Those of us whose 401k's and other retirement programs are are funded in the Stock Market have seen our funds drastically reduced. Many are beginning to panic, and the world financial markets seem to be in serious jeopardy. How are you reacting to the crisis? It all depends on where your treasures are.
All of us will feel the effect of this financial crisis, but none of us should really be surprised that it has happened. We live in a world where money is king. In civilized nations around the globe, greed has the upper hand. Life seems only to revolve around Euros, Dollars, Pounds, real estate, investments, and financial security. Yet nearly 2,000 years ago, we were warned by a miracle working teacher in an obscure corner of the world that life is more than money, possessions, and earthly investments. Jesus taught that while all those things are deemed to be important by most of us, they are, in fact, only temporal. Life's best investments are of the eternal value - those who go far beyond any earthly ability to be measured.
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus advised His hearers in that day, and those of us who would read His words today:
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; "but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt. 6: 19-21)
Financial experts often talk about periodic necessary "market corrections". Perhaps God is trying to get our attention with the current financial crisis, to make us understand our culture needs a course correction itself. While James Carville might tell us, "It's the economy, stupid!" Almighty God wants us to understand, "It's eternity, stupid!" THAT is what is important.
Critics might say, "Well, what will you do if you lose everything? Don't you think you should be worried about the financial crash? What if you lose everything you have worked for?"
Consider what Jesus went on to say, "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? "Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? "Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? "So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; "and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. "Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' "For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." (Matthew 6: 25-33)
Wow! Isn't that a refreshing viewpoint?
First focus on the Kingdom of God, and the earthly needs we have will be graciously supplied by a loving God. God said He would supply all our need, NOT all our greed.
Please understand that I'm not downplaying the seriousness of the global financial situation. I'm simply asking the questions:
Where is your focus?
Where are your treasures today?
Perhaps many of us may need a personal "market correction".

Friday, October 3, 2008

What Does The Future Hold For Us?

Are you getting a little tired of the political overload? Is the dreary economic news keeping you awake at night? Do you fear what may be coming in the future? Are you equally concerned about the lack of experience of both Barack Obama and Sarah Palin? Are you depressed that three of the top four candidates are U.S. Senators (that's Greek for "professional windbags")? Are you torn between the philosophical question of whether Iran or Pakistan is the most dangerous country on earth? Does the quality of leadership of the U.S. Congress send you into seizures? Does $4.00 per gallon gas have you seriously thinking about buying bycicles for the whole family? Do you agonize over choices like "credit or debit"? Are the Cubs going to blow it again? Do you worry whether "Head On" can really cure a headache? Where in the world is Matt Lauer?

Is that what's bothering you, Bunkie?

Well there is good news.

In a world where situations change and new crises arise daily, there is good news. No matter what happens in the economy - no matter who wins the election - no matter what publicity stunts are pulled by some Hollywood bimbos - there are some predictions that I can assure you that you can count on. No matter what happens tomorrow, here are the top ten assured predictions:

  • The Bible will still have the answers
  • There will still be power in prayer
  • The Holy Spirit will still be at work
  • God will still inhabit the praises of His people
  • There will still be God anointed preaching on Sunday morning
  • There will still be singing of praises to God
  • God will still bless His people
  • There will still be room at the cross
  • Jesus will still love you
  • God still wants everyone to have a personal relationship with Him through Jesus

When we do not know what tomorrow knows - isn't it comforting to know who holds tomorrow?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

In The Presence Of Death - New Life!

I first became acquainted with them about 12 years ago. The two young ladies were sisters who, along with their brother, attended the church where I served as Pastor. They were pleasant young adults, unmarried, quiet, and only spoke when spoken to. The older sister was a Veterinarian who had a clinic in a nearby town in the next county, and the younger sister was her assistant in the clinic. The brother worked as a mechanic and body man in the shop owned by their uncle, who, along with his wife, had been bringing them to church since they were teenagers. Their mother and father were Christians who attended another church - but not on a regular basis. Something had happened in that church years ago that hurt the parents, and while they were good, godly people, their church attendance was sporadic.

The girls lives revolved around their work - seven days a week. Even though the clinic didn't have regular hours on Sunday, there were emergencies from time to time, and just like a hospital for humans, the Vet clinic had patients that needed to be cared for daily. As soon as church was over on Sunday morning, the two sisters were off for the next county, where they would faithfully care for the animals in their charge.

The kids had come from a Pentecostal background in the same small town church where singer and actor Billy Ray Cyrus had grown up. The brother had accepted Christ as a boy, but his two sisters had never made professions of faith in Jesus. Although they were good folks and had high moral standards, much like the Rich Young Ruler in the Bible, they only lacked one thing - a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus. There are a lot of people out there like that. Good moral folks. Often more circumspect in their lives than some professing Christians. Unable to comprehend why, when they do their best to be a good person and upright citizen, that they need a Savior. Such folks often feel that their good works are enough. Yet the Bible tells us that "there is none good but God". "All of us have sinned and missed the mark" and even at the best we can do, "our righteousness is like filthy rags" (literally in the Hebrew, menstural cloths) in the sight of a Holy God. We all need a Savior.

I had lost track of the young ladies several years ago, when I accepted a pastorate in another city across the river in a neighboring state. I saw their brother on occasion, when I would have reason to bring my car by his uncle's shop from time to time. I always asked about the girls and his reply was always, "They're fine - still living at home with mom and dad and staying busy at the clinic". These girls were devoted to their work and their family. In fact, their 68 year old mother regularly helped them in the clinic every day and they were very close. Their mother had recently given them Bibles and had been encouraging them to give their lives to Christ, but - they were very busy helping people with their pets and farm animals. There just wasn't much time to think about things like that at the present.

This past Sunday morning, I got the call from their Uncle.

On the previous morning, the mother and both daughters had been on their way to the clinic for the usual Saturday work. Mom was driving the Jeep at about 65 miles per hour on the interstate highway when she announced, "I feel faint" and immediately slumped over the steering wheel. As the Jeep headed for the median, the daughter in the back seat tried to lift her mother back off the wheel while her sister in the front seat attempted to steer the vehicle from the passenger side. As a result of the over correction of their course, the car veered off the right side of the highway, rolled up an embankment, and landed on its roof. The girls sustained minor injuries but miraculously survived the accident. Sadly, however, their mother was gone. She had suffered a massive fatal heart attack.

The Uncle who called me said the girls had asked him to see if I would be able to officiate at their mother's funeral. They knew of my battle with cancer and since they had not seen me in some time, were unsure of my physical condition. I assured him that I would certainly do what I could to help.

I was at the funeral home yesterday afternoon when the family arrived about 5:15. There were only the three of them - the father, son, and two sisters, broken and grieving. After the initial hugs and words of consolation we stepped into the parlor for them to have private time at their loved one's casket before the general public would begin arriving at 6:00. After several minutes of quiet time, I mentioned to the family that their loved one had kept an appointment that God has made for each of us. The most important thing we can do in this life is to be ready for that appointment, and the only way to be prepared is through a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus. "If your mom could speak to you right now" I told the girls, "I believe she would uge you to come to Jesus."

The older daughter looked at me through her tears and said, "You know, we have been talking about that a lot lately. Could we be saved right now?"

My heart lept with joy. "You surely can" I said.

Very simply explaining the plan of salvation to them (which they had heard many times before), I asked them if they understood. They did. I asked them if they acknowledged their sin and if they were willing to turn from their way to God's way, and accept Jesus and His sacrifice for their sins. They did.

While the four of us stood there arm in arm in front of their mother's casket, Kim and Aimee prayed to accept Jesus as their Savior.

Jesus said that there is rejoicing in the presence of the Angels when a lost soul is found. At 5:30 yesterday evening there was a double reason for having a rejoicing party in Heaven!

New life had begun in the very presence of death.

I'm actually looking forward to this afternoon's funeral service!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Some Humor From A Pastor Friend

Dr. James Dobson's "Focus on the Family" magazine lists October as Pastor Appreciation Month throughout the United States. When most folks think of their pastor, it probably conjures up images like the one at left. However, other than the three hours a week (or so) that we are in the pulpit, pastors have many other duties and responsibilites as well.

We're a strange lot. Paul the Apostle advised young Timothy that, "If a man desires the office of Bishop, he desires a good work." On the other hand sometimes people (and pastors themselves on Monday) wonder why that is. In fact, Charley Dygert has asked me on several occasions, "What in the world possesses a guy like you to WANT this job?"

Well, the answer is that while we often think of it as a job, in fact it is a calling. The amazing thing is that God calls men into the pastorate who are just that. Men. Human beings, with all of the strengths and weaknesses that go with being part of humankind. Now, I don't want you to disrespect the office your pastor holds, but I hope each of you will realize that in many ways, the guy behind the pulpit, is not a lot different than the guy in the pew. He just has the responsibility of being a shepherd. Sometimes the task is difficult, but a truly God called Pastor will find joy and happiness in no other.

Recent research statistics show that pastors are leaving the ministry in larger numbers than ever. Some leave do to moral failure. More leave due to financial burdens and the generally low pay. The great majority leave from burnout or as a result of church conflict. It is easy to criticize your pastor, no matter who he may be, but remember that he does have a difficult job. One wise man once said, "If you want a better pastor - pray for him!"

I have been blessed to serve as an associate pastor in one church, and as lead pastor in five churches over the 38 years of my ministry. It hasn't always been a "bed of roses" but I have dear friends today in each of those churches and a multitude of precious memories. The past six years at Westmoreland Baptist have been some of the most wonderful years of my ministry, and I would not trade the past 38 years with anyone!

Now, with all that serious stuff said, let me share something a little more lighthearted with you. A long time friend and fellow Pastor, Phil Warren sent this message to me yesterday, and I got a good chuckle out of it. I'm sure Phil wouldn't mind me passing it along to you today. It may give the average church member a humorous look into the psyche of your pastor.


  • You hesitate to tell people what you do for a living.

  • You've ever dreamed you were preaching only to awaken and discover you were.

  • You've ever wondered why people couldn't die at more appropriate times.

  • You find yourself counting people at a sporting event.

  • You're leading the church into the 21st century, but you don't know what you're preaching on Sunday.

  • A church picnic is no picnic.

  • You jiggle all the commode handles at the church before you leave.

  • You've ever spoken for free and were worth every penny of it.

  • People sleep while you're talking.

  • Instead of getting "ticked off," you get "grieved in your spirit."

  • You've ever been tempted to take an offering at a family reunion.

  • You read sermons to your kids at night instead of bedtime stories.

  • You'd rather talk to people with every head bowed and every eye closed.

  • You've ever wanted to "lay hands" around a deacon's neck.

  • You often feel like you're herding cats rather than shepherding sheep.

  • Your greatest joys have been in the church.