Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Thursday, May 1st is designated as the National Day of Prayer.
The concept was born in colonial America, when in 1775, the Continental Congress designated a "time of prayer in forming a new nation." The issue created an immediate controversy. Thomas Jefferson (always a champion of separation of church and state) objected, saying that religious groups could designate a day of prayer and meditation, but that it was not the place of the government to do so.
1952 was the year that President Harry S. Truman signed into a law a bill proclaiming a National Day of Prayer. Theoretically, the idea was to set aside a day when people of all faiths would come together for prayer. It was twenty years later, in 1972, when a National Prayer Committee was formed. Later that year, a group called the National Day of Prayer Task Force was formed to schedule events and activities for a National Day of Prayer. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law that set The National Day of Prayer to be observed on the first Thursday in May.
Today the National Day of Prayer has basically become a project mostly publicized and observed by evangelical Christians. The NFOP Task Force has national offices in Colorado Springs at the home of James Dobson's Focus on the Family. Dr. Dobson's wife, Shirley, serves as the Task Force's National Chairman. Volunteers around the country organize programs in many cities and towns, with special speakers, patriotic music, and public assemblies and marches. Many of the observations are held in the steps of Municipal Buildings and Court Houses in big cities and small towns alike.
While it is a good thing to call believers everywhere to prayer on this particular day, one day of focusing on prayer is not nearly enough. Prayer is to the soul as Oxygen is to the body. Believers must have contact with their Heavenly Father. Regular contact. He speaks to us through His Word and His Holy Spirit. We speak to Him through prayer. Prayer is not a position of the body. Prayer is a condition of the heart. Paul the Apostle reminds us to "Pray without ceasing". To always be in an attitude of prayer.
Prayer is not a magical formula to get the things we want from God. Prayer is not designed to get the Almighty to see things our way. Prayer helps us to see things from God's perspective. Prayer does not cause God to take our side. Prayer helps us align with His purposes. The old saying is that "Prayer changes things". Actually, prayer changes us!
We might pray publicly, with eloquent speech, and moving language. Or we might pray silently. One might go on his face before his God, or stand with arms outstretched and hands upturned expectantly. Perhaps you pour your heart out to God behind closed doors (as Jesus suggested). Sometimes we are so burdened and overwhelmed that we cannot verbalize the words. Perhaps we can't say anything at all - but the petitions can still go up to God with the aid of His Holy Spirit who "makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered".
The important thing is that we pray. Earnestly... Often... Persistently... Believing the promises of God. Pray specifically. Pray big! We have a big God. He knows what we need - before we do. He knows what we need - better than we. Yet he encourages us to bring our needs to Him in prayer. Since He has no need of our input, it would seem to me that God designed prayer for our benefit. Are you getting your benefit?
I have often described prayer by using a hand for a pattern. The little finger would represent "Confession". That is what clears the static from the line. Confession brings us into the presence of the Lord and confesses our need for His forgiveness.
The next finger would represent "Thanksgiving". An important component of prayer has us thanking God for his gifts and mercy on our behalf.
The next finger - "Praise", extends past all the others. Praise is somewhat akin to Thanksgiving, but the difference is that thanksgiving focuses on what God has done for us. Praise focuses on Who God Is!
The index finger would represent "Intercession", which allows us to bring the needs of others before the Throne of Grace. We should only bring our personal "Petitions" to the Lord after we have spent time in confession, thanksgiving, praise, and intercession. Our own problems and needs seem much smaller in consideration of the other "four fingers". The thumb of "Petition" helps us grip the needs as we hand them to a loving Father.
Growing one's prayer life should be an ongoing activity in the life of a believer. I want to be a student of prayer, a practitioner of prayer, and a believer in the power of prayer to change my life. The National Day of Prayer will be an important event tomorrow, but prayer is something we must practice on the other 364 days of the year as well.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Jay Adkins is Pastor of First Baptist Church of Westwego (New Orleans metro area) and he holds an M.Div. in Biblical Languages from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. This will be Jay's second short term mission to the Philippines. He has also done mission work in France. Jay has over ten years experience in the pastorate, leading churches in Kentucky and Louisiana. Jay is vice president of Beacon Ministries and serves on the Board of Directors of the Global Maritime Ministry in New Orleans. He was recently elected as chairman of the Administrative Committee of the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans.
Bobby Wood is also a South Carolina native. Bobby serves as Education Pastor at FBC Westwego, through the "Unlimited Partnership" program that is sponsored by NOBTS, the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans, and the Louisiana Baptist Convention, which pairs outstanding Christian Ed majors with local churches in the New Orleans area that were impacted by Hurricane Katrina. First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas is Bobby's sponsoring church in partnering with FBC Westwego. Bobby will be involved in witnessing, house to house evangelism, scripture distribution, construction projects, and other aspects of the mission trip agenda. This trip comes at a unique time for Bobby, as he was just married in early April! (I wonder how homesick this newlywed is going to be, halfway around the world from his new bride, Lindsay???)
Billy Cox is making his first overseas mission trip, and he is "rearin" to go. Billy is an active layman in the Brotherhood ministry at First Baptist Church of Westwego. An accomplished carpenter, Billy looks forward to doing some light construction and remodeling work at the New Life Church building in Dumaguete while the seminar is in session in town. He will also be involved in our other ministries and will help us with scripture distribution. Billy is a "Barnabus" type encourager and is not afraid to get his hands dirty working for the Lord.
Daniel Savage has been the Worship Pastor of First Baptist Church of Westwego since January, 2007. Daniel has served as Worship Pastor of Mission Lab on the NOBTS campus, and he worked last summer for LifeWay as worship leader of the M-Fuge project in Mobile, Alabama. This talented young man writes music and plays five instruments. Daniel will lead our worship music in the outdoor crusade and at the two day seminar. He will also be involved in every aspect of music ministry on this trip as well as other areas of our mission. While this will be his first trip to the Philippines, Daniel will be making another overseas mission trip later in the year. Danil is pursuing his Master's Degree at NOBTS, where he also works part time as a barista in the Cafe' New Orleans in the Hardin Student Center on campus.
These two young ladies will also be making their first trips to the Philippines. Janna Johnston (top) and Amanda Lindsey are room mates at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and will also be rooming together in Dumaguete.
Both of these young ladies are active members of FBC Westwego and serve in Music and Children's ministries there. in music ministry in the Philippines, and they will help with the worship duties in the seminar and at the crusade
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Finally, I have something in common with the Apostle Paul -
I have preached in Philippi!
Not Philippi, the Macedonian city of Acts chapter 16, (named for the father of Alexander the Great); but Philippi, the county seat of Barbour County in the hills of northeastern West Virginia. This is the Philippi of covered bridge fame - the one I first learned of in Mrs. Gertrude Stone's West Virginia History Class at Gallaher Elementary School in 1960.
(NKJV) . The gist of the message was, that like Jesus, we each have Important Obligations, ( "I must work the works of Him who sent Me...") ; Fleeting Opportunities, ( "...while it is day..." )
and a Crucial Outlook, ( "...the night is coming when no one can work." )
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Saturday, April 19, 2008
As you can see from the photo at left, Jay and family are alive and well and Linda sure was glad to be with the little guys she hasn't seen since last June. The photo was made on Monday evening (the day we arrived). Jay and Canon (the three year old) had come to meet us at the Seminary's Providence Guest House and had spent part of the afternoon with us there. When Michelle and Quint got out of school they met us at the Texas Roadhouse for dinner. Turns out that would be the only time we would see Michelle and Quint until Thursday after school. Jay had to attend a city council meeting on church business Monday evening but the rest of us enjoyed a meal at Texas Roadhouse and just spending some time together.
I know what you may be thinking. Texas Roadhouse? With all the great places to eat in the Big Easy, why would we go to Texas Roadhouse? The answer is simple. That's Canon's favorite place to eat! We had time to visit some of the other places as well, but that evening was for the kids...
As part of my board of trustee meeting, there is lunch with the Seminary family on Tuesday; a seafood buffet for trustees, faculty and spouses on Tuesday evening; another lunch in Wednesday with students, faculty, and staff, and a "country buffet" on Wednesday evening with the Trustees, Seminary administrators and their spouses in the smaller Creole Room off the cafeteria. One benefit to being a Seminary Trustee, is that one certainly eats well! After a week in New Orleans I'll need to get back in the gym every day for a couple of weeks to try to lose some of the pounds I know I've gained.
New Orleans is famous for a number of things and food is way up there on the list. We had lunch at the Camillia Grille in the Uptown section of the Big Easy. The Po Boy was delicious and the server (a guy named Marvin) was hilarious. He was as entertaining as the food was delicious. Thursday evening we dinned with Jay's family at Copeland's Cheesecake Bistro on St. Charles. It is Linda's favorite. We have been there several times in the past but this was our first visit there since Katrina. The place didn't reopen until this past January, but it is back, and the locals and tourists alike are pleased! The atmosphere is tops, and one can sit in the window booths and view Emeril's Delmonico's down the street, and watch the green Trolley Cars going up and down the St. Charles line.
There are so many great places to eat in New Orleans, that I'll never run out of new treats. I could never afford to eat at some of the places there, but there are so many great restaurants to choose from, there is no danger of ever running out of options. The Cajun and creole food is in abundance and I have learned to love it. Red Beans and Rice is a local favorite, as well as Gumbo, Shrimp, Catfish, Jambalaya, and Crawfish (prepared any number of ways). Oyster Bars abound, and the seafood in New Orleans is the best anywhere. The blackened redfish will make your mouth water.
My personal favorite places to dine are "Mother's" in the central business district, "Cafe Mespero" in the Quarter, and "Snug Harbor", on Frenchman Street in the Faubourg Marigny District. For Po Boys, "Sammie's" and "LaFitte Cafe" (both on Elysian Fields out near Lake Pontchartrain) are hard to beat. Visitors love the Beingnets and Coffee at "Cafe DuMonde". If I lived in New Orleans, I would weigh 400 pounds (or go broke trying).
The best hamburger I have ever tasted is at a place called Port of Call on the corner of Esplanade and Dauphine Street. They serve a cheeseburger and baked potato to die for. I love to have lunch there, but it is not always an easy task. We tried to eat lunch there Thursday, but to no avail. They open at 11:00 AM (sort of). We were there after 11:00 and there were several employees inside milling around but the doors were locked. We asked one of the employees who stepped out on the street when they were going to open up. "I'm not sure" he said. "We're having some issues." Jay tells me that is not unusual for that place. He laughs about a time when he and Robby Gallaty went by for lunch about noon and found the doors locked. A guy with a Port of Call T-shirt was standing by the door, smoking a cigarette.
"Are you open?" Jay asked.
"Not yet" the fellow replied.
"When will it be open?"
"Not sure", the guy shrugged.
"Why not?", Jay asked with some exasperation.
"They had a party in there last night, and we haven't got the place hosed out yet.", he explained.
That's life in the Big Easy!
Thursday, April 17, 2008
- Traditional on campus degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels
- Off Campus programs through our hubs and extension centers
- Internet classes (for anyone, anywhere with access to a computer)
The high level of Internet courses that are now offered, came, primarily as a result of Hurricane Katrina. As you know, Katrina hit on August 29, 2005, only one week into the fall semester. The school was devastated and the main campus was shut down for a full year. The administration opened temporary offices in Atlanta. Faculty were spread over six states as they evacuated the campus, and students fled to 23 states. Yet, under the leadership of President Dr. Chuck Kelley and Provost, Dr. Steve Lemke, within just a couple of weeks, EVERY class that had been offered that semester (including Biblical languages) had been posted online, and every NOBTS student was able to continue his or her course of study as long as they could get access to a computer. This was an absolutely monumental task, and one that was not duplicated by any other institution of higher learning in the entire Katrina "strike zone". Graduation was held, on schedule, that December in Birmingham, Alabama. Again, the only college or university affected by Katrina to finish out that fall semester.
The Faculty of NOBTS pulled this off in spite of the fact that everyone of them were literally rendered homeless by the storm. I'm telling all my Southern Baptist friends, that you can be proud of this dedicated group of men and women. One just can't say enough about the dedication of the faculty and staff of this institution! We trustees have ample opportunity to interact with them while we are here, through lunches with them and the students in the Campus Cafeteria. The Tuesday activities always conclude with a large dinner for Trustees with faculty members and their spouses, and there is plenty of time to interact with them and the students all around the campus. This institution is committed to training men and women to fulfill the Great Commission and make an eternal impact on this world for the cause of Christ. Our next generation of church leaders, pastors, missionaries, and Christian educators are being trained here. I wish everyone had the opportunity to see the love, dedication, and vision for World Evangelism that is prevalent at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Besides the academic matters, Trustees also had t (o approve several recommendations involving financial matters and a host of Building and Grounds issues. As mentioned in my previous post, restoration work is pretty much complete, but there is still a severe shortage of housing for students. This is the number one priority right now. Please pray that we will be able to raise the $7,000,000 needed to build the first of the desperately needed three two bedroom apartment buildings.
This is the first Trustee meeting, Linda has been able to attend with me. Spouses are always welcome to come to the meetings (at our own expense) and several spouses are usually in attendance. On Wednesday, Dr. Rhonda Kelley, who is the wife of Seminary President Chuck Kelley, usually has an activity planned for the wives who are present. Yesterday morning they had prayer and coffee time in the President's home from 9:00 till 10:30 and then went for a "cooking class" at the famous William Sonoma's on Canal Street. Then they were taken for a "taste of New Orleans" at a restaurant on the top of the World Trade Center overlooking the city. They had a great view of the surrounding area, including the Mississippi river which is at flood stage and very near the tops of the levees! The wives who went had a great time of fellowship, and got a really good meal in the process...
Last night, when the Trustee meeting ended, I had the opportunity to have ANOTHER meeting. This one was with the New Orleans area's young men and women who will accompany me and Joseph Spurgeon on our upcoming short term mission trip to the Philippines. This was our last opportunity to get together to answer questions and tie up loose ends before we depart in one month. The group who will be joining us in LA on the evening of May 19th includes, our son, Jay, and several of his seminary friends and church members. Billy Cox is the senior man of the group. Billy is in his 60's and is rearin' to go on his first overseas mission trip. Janna Johnston and Amanda Lindsey are seminary students and members of Jay's church in Westwego. Janna and Amanda will help us in worship time and will work in children's ministry while in the Philippines. Robby Pearson is the third preacher in the group, and he will obviously help us in the seminar and crusade and at other preaching opportunities. Daniel Savage is worship leader at Jay's church and Bobby Wood is his Christian Education minister. Both of these young men will be an asset to our team.
Today is my "vacation" day before we head home on Friday. Jay and Canon will be coming over about 9:00 this morning and we will make a visit to the French Market to pick up a few things Linda wants, and we'll take the usual walk through the French Quarter and probably have some bingnets at Cafe' DuMonde. (how can anyone go to the Quarter and not get a bingnet?)
Then at 1:30 this afternoon, Jay and Robby, Vernon Henson, and I have a tee time for my first round of golf since July 4th last year! Linda will be taking care of Canon until Michelle and Quint get out of school. The whole family should be able to get together for one last dinner tonight. There is a crawfish boil on campus tonight, and I would like to go, but I don't think you could drag Linda there with a team of wild horses.
I am certainly looking forward to getting back home. It's nice to get away every now and then, but I do have responsibilities that God has given me at Westmoreland. This week has been a time of work but also a time of refreshing that I believe will help me perform those duties with more energy than before. I also want to thank Rick Weber for filling in at the Wednesday evening service for me, and to thank Charley Dygert and Darrell Clark for taking care of some hospital visits I would have done if in town. Thanks guys!
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Today was the first full day of the semi annual meeting of the New Orleans Baptist Seminary Board of Trustees. The various committees (Investments, Buildings and Grounds, and Instructional) had their individual committee meetings, discussing recommendations we will make to the full Board of Trustees tomorrow. One of the things seminary President, Dr. Chuck Kelley did with each particular committee, was to share the "Executive Summary of The Economic Impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary".
- Physical restoration of the campus
- Relief and assistance provided to the students, faculty and staff
- Operating the Seminary without the main campus for a year
- Loss of normal income streams, some of which are not back yet.
Obviously the disaster impacted the NOBTS annual budget, but the administration must be praised for doing all that was possible to keep the "per student costs" at one of the lowest levels of all the Seminaries in the United States.
Nationally, the average cost per student in Seminaries is $35,000.
Among SBC Seminaries the average cost per student is $14,000 (this difference is primarily due to the generosity of local Southern Baptist Churches in their gifts to the SBC Cooperative Program.)
The really amazing figure is the the "Pre Katrina" cost per student at NOBTS was $7,000! Even after the devastating losses due to the Hurricane, NOBTS still boasts the lowest cost per student at $9,000. We Southern Baptists can be thankful for what God has done for our theological students.
Dr. Kelley says that the greatest challenge the Seminary faces today is to replace the 92 two bedroom apartments that were destroyed and demolished after Katrina. There are now more students than there is housing. The Building and Grounds Committee has proposed three new buildings to replace those lost housing units, but it will be a long time before those kind of funds can be raised. Plans are underway now to try to build the first of those three, two bedroom apartment buildings, but the cost will be in the neighborhood of $7,000,000. We are praying that God will provide that amount through His people across the SBC. If you would like to help, gifts may be sent to the Office of Development, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 3939 Gentilly Boulevard, New Orleans, LA 70216.
There are many, many other needs, that we do not have time or space to mention here. I would be happy to provide you with the full written report if you would like a copy. It is truly an eye opener. Just contact me at email@example.com if you would like a copy, or if you would like more information. It is wonderful to see what God has done through His people to bring this great Seminary back from the brink of destruction.
As Joe McKeever, the local Director of Missions, says, "When you pray for New Orleans, pray big!"
Monday, April 14, 2008
Saturday, April 12, 2008
The simple answer is - you don't!
Randy "wore a number of hats" at Westmoreland Baptist Church, and his moving to Scott Depot to become Director of Music and Family Ministries for the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists is a real blow to our church. His departure creates a definite sense of loss for the congregation of Westmoreland Baptist, where he has served faithfully for ten years.
Randy's departure creates a number of challenges, but nothing that our God did not foresee, and prepare us for. While there is only one Randy, and we will miss him, it is comforting to know that our God is "Jehovah-Jireh", The Lord Who Provides! He has graciously provided two of our own members to step forward in our time of need to take on (in an interim role) two of the major duties Randy had performed as well as one other. They will be bivocational staff members, (I highly prefer the term "bivocational" to that of "part time") and Sonia and I look forward to working with them here at WBC.
Pictured on this page are Rick Weber, who will serve as our Interim Director of Student Ministries and Church Outreach; and Carla Bell who is taking on the duties of Interim Director of Music at Westmoreland Baptist. Both Carla and Rick come highly recommended by Randy, himself, and are very qualified to step into these positions. As Pastor, I cannot express how thankful I am that the church has voted to call these two individuals into these important roles of service at this time of transition.
Carla, whose full time job is at Huntington Federal Savings and Loan, brings many years of musical experience to the table. She is actively involved in our music ministry at Westmoreland, singing solos, and in various vocal ensembles, and in our Adult Choir. In fact, in Randy's past absences, Carla has led the choir in practice sessions and she is well respected and accepted by our choir members. Carla's family is also active at Westmoreland. Her husband, Scott, teaches an adult Sunday School class and serves as a deacon. Daughter, Mindi, is active in music ministry and serves on the team which decorates the sanctuary with flowers, etc. Younger daughter, Katie, teaches a children's Sunday School class and also plays guitar and sings from time to time in our services. Scott and Carla's son, Zach, is a student at Spring Valley High School and has already begun to sing in the choir and do part time duty in the sound booth. The Bell Family is an asset to Westmoreland Baptist Church, and we are blessed to have them.
Rick Weber brings years of ministry experience as he takes on these two important duties of Director of Student Ministry and Church Outreach. One of these duties was Randy's and the other is a newly created role. Rick is highly qualified and gifted for both. Rick's ministry experience ranges from the role of Senior Pastor (he has most recently served Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Wayne County), to full time positions in Christian Education and Youth Ministries. Rick basically grew up in Westmoreland Baptist Church, and, for one two year period in the 90's, even served as Interim Pastor here. As Outreach Director, Rick will oversee our G.R.O.W. outreach ministry which has faded a bit in the past year or so; and other outreach endeavors, such as the Men's Outdoor Ministry. One of Rick's great strengths is personal evangelism. He loves telling people about Jesus. This passion for Christ fuels Rick's ministry to the Middle School and High School Students of our community.
In his role as Director of Student Ministries, Rick will help cast the vision of reaching many unchurched young people for Jesus Christ, while seeking to disciple those who are already actively involved in our youth group. Since he is in a bivocational role, he will continue to depend heavily upon the help of our existing volunteers, like Jim and Kathy Bailey, Tara Lockhart, Angie Morris, and others, to accomplish these goals. He plans to attend Centrifuge with the kids at Ridgecrest this summer and get to know them and the volunteers better as they begin to plan for the Student Ministry activities beginning this fall. Rick understands the value of the Team Concept. He has long been an assistant football coach in Wayne County Schools, and is now serving as Chaplain of the Spring Valley High School football team. Rick's full time job is as a teacher at Spring Valley, where he works with teenagers every day. He knows students and is familiar with the challenges and issues they face in life. His affable personality and sense of humor easily wins the confidence of young people and adults alike. I believe Rick will be a huge asset to us in leading this important ministry.
Rick's wife, Connie, will be graduating from Marshall University next month and should be teaching in one of our local school system in the fall. We recently welcomed Rick, Connie, Steve and Trish back into our fellowship, and we believe they will be a blessing to our church family. Their adult daughter, Leeah, is actively involved in outside music ministry and she remains a member at Ebeneezer Baptist.
Well, there you have the basic introductions. Carla and Rick will assume their official duties on April 21st. Both are qualified and gifted for the positions which they have agreed to accept. Their most important attribute, however, is their love for Jesus. Please join me in welcoming Carla and Rick into their new bivocational staff roles - but most of all, please join me in asking God to bless them and use them for His glory and honor!
Let us never forget our three fold focus here at Westmoreland.
Magnify God... Make Disciples... Minister to People.
"The love of Christ compells us..." - 2 Corinthians 5: 14
Friday, April 11, 2008
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Debbie has faithfully served our church, by singing in the choir, caring for bed babies during the Sunday School hour, and working with the Sparks in our AWANA ministry. They have become very special friends to Linda and me, and are loved by the congregation of Westmoreland Baptist Church. Their three sons are also active at Westmoreland. Joseph is serving in his first year as a deacon, David sings in the choir and works in AWANA, and Joshua is our church pianist. As you can see, this family is an important part of our congregation, and therefore it is with mixed emotions that we must wish Randy and Debbie a fond farewell.
On Saturday, April 5th, Randy was elected by the Executive Board of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists to serve the convention as the State Director of Music and Family Ministry. He will be taking on the responsibilities of Tom Young, who retired from that position late last year. Beginning Monday, April 21st, Randy will begin his duties as a State Convention Officer. He will be submitting his resignation to the church this morning at the close of our worship service. It promises to be a very emotional time for all of us.
Randy's last official day as a member of our staff will be Sunday, April 20. However, our State Convention Executive Director, Terry Harper, has told Randy he would be allowed to finish out his obligations at Westmoreland. That means he will still be with us on Wednesday evenings and Sunday evenings through May 18th when he will conduct the Children's Musical and preside over the AWANA Awards night. Even though Randy's new duties with the State Convention will require him to travel about the state on Convention business, he and Debbie will remain members at Westmoreland, and will worship with us when he is not travelling. His family will continue to minister here as well.
All of us at Westmoreland Baptist Church will miss Randy. While we are thrilled for him to have this new opportunity, we realize this closes another chapter in the history of our church and begins a new one. This will be a difficult time of adjustment for us as well as for Randy and Debbie. I know that you will join me in wishing him much success and fulfillment in his new role of ministry. We need to be much in prayer as our church enters this new chapter of our work, and seeks the right person or persons to pick up all of the responsibilities that Randy has handled for us so well.
May God bless Randy and Debbie, and Westmoreland Baptist Church. We're not "losing" them, we'll just be sharing them with the Southern Baptists all around the Mountain State.
At Thursday's pastor's lunch hosted by Westmoreland Baptist Church, we were blessed to have thirty nine people present. This number included pastors and staff members from Baptist Churches in three states (2 churches from Ohio, 7 from Kentucky, and 11 from West Virginia were represented). A good number of other Kentucky pastors had planned to attend, but ministry constraints forced them to have to send their regrets. Besides representatives from the three "target" associations, we were pleased to have associational missionaries present from West Virginia's Monongahela and Coal Fields Associations as well. A delicious lunch was prepared and served by precious members of the host church. Fellowship around the tables was great. I was pleased to note that the guests didn't necessarily "bunch up" in their own state groups. There was a good mix at most every table. It was a time to make new friends and to renew many old acquaintances. Darrell Clark blessed us with singing "It Is Well With My Soul", and Eddie Henson (true to form) brought several boxes of books to share with the pastors present. Eddie is a blessing.
Dr. Chuck Kelley, our conference speaker was gracious to grant us a long session of Questions and Answers after our meal. As President of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Kelley was able to share much information and insight into the current state of Southern Baptist life. Questions ranged from queries about the Seminary and it's recovery from Hurricane Katrina, the state of New Orleans in general, current issues in our convention (Calvinism and bringing young leaders to the table in SBC life) etc. In every case, and on every question, Dr. Kelley gave reasoned and thoughful answers, and always brought the focus back to our primary objective - bringing Christ to a lost world. It is very rare for most local church pastors to have quality personal time with one of the heads of a Southern Baptist entity. Dr. Kelley's insights were truly helpful and appreciated by all who came. He closed out the session with a scripture lesson that blessed and challenged everyone present.
The Wednesday night worship celebration at Highlawn Baptist Church drew over 250 people who were treated to some excellent soloists in the pre service music time. Then during the worship time, we were blessed by a combined choir comprised of over sixty people from ten churches. Matt McKenzie of Highlawn directed the choir and Randy Spurgeon of Westmoreland Baptist Church lead the congregation in joining our voices in praise to God. Dr. Kelley preached a powerful sermon with an unusual title ('God Prepared A Worm") from an unusual text (Jonah 4:7). Heaven came down on Wednesday evening in east Huntington.
The Thursday evening service, hosted by First Baptist Church of Ceredo, WV was equally powerful! The combined choir and special music was inspirational, and the sanctuary was nearly full of folks who had come to worship. Dr. Kelley's message, reminding us that we can do so much more together than we can alone, was absolutely anointed by God. This was evidenced by the great response during the invitation portion of the service. The sweet Spirit of God was also evident after the service closed. Many people were slow to leave the building, visiting with brothers and sisters in Christ. Tears, smiles, and hugs were in abundance on Thursday evening.
Other than the anointed singing and preaching, two things impressed me the most about the two evening services. The first was the excellent representation from many of our local churches. This was one of our goals - bringing churches together for worship and fellowship. The other was the fact that over the two services EVERY department head from our West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists State Office was present - many of them were there both nights! What a blessing it was to have their support in this effort. I want them to know how much it is appreciated.
The Building Bridges Conference is a great kickoff, I think, for the West Virginia Evangelism Conference to be held next Thursday and Friday at Cross Lanes Baptist Church. Details, speakers, directions, etc are available on the state convention website, www.wvcsb.org . I hope to see many of you there.
I want to personally thank my fellow pastors and the Associational Missionary of GHBA for the planning, hard work, and prayers that went into this conference. Thanks also, to the members of the local congregations who supported the conference with your attendance and support (financially, technically, and otherwise). You are a blessing!
Well, that is the overview for Building Bridges (#1). The conference can serve as a "precious memory", or it can be the beginning of a new era of cooperative ministry among the churches in the KYOVA region. Thursday after lunch, a young pastor from Ohio and another young pastor from Kentucky both told me they would like to continue this effort, hosting events at their churches in South Point and Grayson. As Doug Virgin would say, "Well Glory!"
It may be baby steps but it is a start...
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Things have been plenty busy around the church this past month, taking my time and attention, and slowing any kind creative time I would like to spend in writing. One of the issues that has consumed my thoughts and time, I cannot discuss until next week. The other is quite open and I am happy to share with our readers right now. Our Upward Soccer spring league has completed three of it's four registration/evaluation sessions this week, and final registration and evaluation will be this Saturday morning from 9:00 till 10:30 AM. To date, 43 children, age four through 5th grade have signed up to play. We have had a group of FAITHFUL volunteers who have braved cold (Saturday), rain (Monday evening), and mud and wind (Tuesday evening) to be there for this important ministry to children and their families. I thank God for people who are willing to serve. I know that God will bless them richly as they serve in blessing these Children with the good news of Jesus, in a sports ministry setting.*****
Remember the "Duct Tape Bandit" from Ashland, Kentucky? About the time you think it's safe to move on and forget such a character, he pops up in the news again. Today's copy of Ashland's "Daily Independent" reports that Boyd County Judge C. David Hagerman has ruled that Kasey Kazee is mentally capable of standing trial for first degree robbery and second degree persistent felony offender charges. Kazee, 24, drew national attention on August 10, 2007 when he attempted to rob the Shamrock Liquor Store on 13th Street in Ashland. He entered the store with his head completely wrapped in duct tape, with only room for his eyes and mouth exposed. He relieved the clerk of the money in the cash register, only to be tackled on leaving the store, by another store employee who was hosing down the parking lot.
Kazee was held down until the police arrived. Local television station, WSAZ, interviewed Kazee in the Boyd County Detention Center, and he gained lots of national attention as the interview was picked up by CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. In the rambling interview, Kazee asserted that the police had the wrong man as he asked the reporter, "Do I look like a duct tape bandit?" "Do the math", he said. "They got the wrong man." Never mind that the police videotaped his "unwrapping" after his arrest. Kazee continued to maintain his innocence.
The whole situation created lots of laughs locally and jokes on the late night talk shows, but Kazee faces some really serious jail time if convicted. The charges for the robbery count could earn him 10 - 20 years and the persistent felony offender rap could buy him 20 years to life! I know Dave Hagerman. He is a good judge and has a great sense of humor, but nobody will be laughing in his courtroom when Mr. Kazee comes before the bench. His trial is scheduled for May 12.
Local boy, Brandon Webb got the win Monday as the starting pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks in their opening day game against our Reds at Great American Ballpark in the Queen City. Brandon, who owns a sinkerball described by the TV announcers as "The most wicked sinker in major league baseball" was masterful in his six inning performance. He won the Cy Young Award two years ago, and was runner up last year. Hard to believe that's the same little boy who played for my "Adkins Insurance Agency" little league team in 1984, or the one I watched play for the American Little League White Sox, Ashland Tomcats, and Ashland Athletics Connie Mack Team with my younger son, Benji. Brandon is a class act, from a great family. With all the garbage going on in major league baseball, he is a breath of fresh air, and someone the whole tri state area can be proud of.
The Kentucky General Assembly has come down to it's last week, and it has really been a do nothing session thus far. New Governor Steve Beshear, who campaigned on a platform of allowing casino gambling in the Commonwealth, was unable to get enough votes to even get the proposal out of committee. Beshear had argued that expanded gaming was absolutely necessary to take care of the revenue shortfall Kentucky is facing. As the session came down to the last days there was still no budget. Finally, after a 21 hour marathon session, the House and Senate negotiating committee came up with a budget proposal. It contains no new taxes but adds about $150 million in additional revenue. It also assumes a savings of $85 million from the anticipated retirement fo 3,000 to 5,000 state employees. School teachers and state employees will receive a 1% pay increase.
The group began working to hammer out this agreement at 19:00 am on Monday, and worked overnight until 7:00 AM Tuesday, breaking only for meals. Why is it that legislatures, like pro football teams, don't seem to really get serious until the two minute warning?*****
Just a few thoughts on a Wednesday morning...