Monday, June 30, 2008

Reason To Rejoice

As reported here last Monday, I had my scheduled abdominal and pelvic CT Scans and my semi annual PET Scan. These tests are routine in following up on my treatments for stage four colon cancer. When Linda and I saw my oncologist, Dr. Jain, on Friday, we were pleased to hear the news that "nothing remarkable" showed on the scans and that my blood work showed the CEA level to be in the "normal" range with a reading of 1.6. (When my chemo treatments began in January, 2005 the CEA level was nearly 1500). All of this indicates that the "incurable" cancer is not presently active. This, of course, is news we had certainly hoped to hear, although I was prepared to hear otherwise. Dr. Jain's previous comments have made me understand that there is a very good likelihood that the malignancy will return a third time. So far, so good.

I immediately made some phone calls to family and close friends to share the news, and sent out an email to many friends. Many of them were aware of the tests, and wanted to hear the results. Naturally, I was happy to have good news to share with them. A number of friends replied to my email, advising of the fact that they were rejoicing with me - which I certainly appreciate. While I am happy to get a clean report (and I certainly don't relish any more chemotherapy) I began to wonder if we were all really placing the right take on the whole thing.
Today marks three years and seven months since my malignancy was discovered. I have survived a good deal longer than the "average" survival time of 18 - 22 months. For this I am truly thankful. I have had more time to spend with my wife. I have seen two little grandsons growing into bright, handsome young men, and have come to know and cherish two others who were not even here when I was diagnosed. God has given me more time and opportunity for ministry. The sky is bluer, the grass is greener, the sun is brighter, and my friends are more dear to me. Every day is precious, and I am so thankful for all of God's blessing.
My question is this - do we judge success by how long one survives the disease - or is it more than that? I am of the opinion that success in the fight is not based on how many days one survives, but in HOW one lives each day of that survival time. Not quantity, but quality.
It's very easy to get things out of perspective. In the Bible we read about Jesus sending out 70 disciples to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom. He gave them supernatural power for the journey and for the task. When they returned to Jesus they were jubilant! "Even the demons were subject to us!" they told the Master. (certainly reason to rejoice - one would think). But do you remember how Jesus replied to their fantastic report?
"Don't rejoice because the Demons were subject to you." Jesus said. "Rejoice because your names are written down in Heaven."
How often do we rejoice over "victories" that He sends our way? We are not wrong to speak of them, but should we dwell on these victories? Absolutely not. Jesus makes it plain that the greatest victory is to KNOW HIM. Nothing trumps having a personal relationship with Almighty God through Jesus Christ. THAT is what we have to rejoice in. THAT is what matters most.
The cancer survival is a wonderful thing, but that in itself is not the greatest blessing. The one who has chosen to leave me here a little longer is the one who is worthy of praise, honor and glory. Paul tells us that "we glory in tribulations". He reminds us that the "light afflictions that we suffer is only for a short time" and that God is using those things to bring about a greater glory. He tells us that "God's Grace is sufficient for us and that His strength is made perfect in our time of weakness."
The fact is that all of us are "terminal". We just do not know the date, the time, or the circumstances of our home going, but the fact is that we ARE going! Therefore, will you join me in committing the remaining time we have (however long or short that may be) to serving God like there is no tomorrow?
Veda Young was a precious lady who went to be with the Lord at the very end of last year. Veda had a long battle with cancer. She knew suffering, blessing, set backs, and the eventual final victory of going home. Several years ago, I heard Veda's testimony that went like this, "I'm not going to spend the rest of my life dying!"
Now that's what I'm talking about!
I thank you for your prayers on my behalf. I thank God for granting me these extra years and months, and will certainly relish every day He grants me in the future. But I also look forward to that day when my "change" is coming. In the mean time, I rejoice. Not because I can attend the Cancer Survivors Picnic - but because my name is written down in Heaven!
I'm not going to spend the rest of my life dying. How about you?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Cold War MUST Be Over!

Enough with the heavy stuff, already. It's been a pretty rough week (no need to go into a lot of details) and I have really needed a good laugh.
Brother did I find it.

Check out the "Leningrad Cowboys and the Red Army Choir". I laughed till I cried. This clip defies comment. You have got to click on the link below!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Welcome to the Harvest

Our nation has been on a slippery slope for some time now - in the words of Robert Bork - "slouching toward Gomorrah". Slowly slipping away are the standards of decency which have defined us as a nation for over 230 years. Over one hundred years ago, Alexis de Toqueville wrote, "America is great because America is good." Our "goodness" may be in the process of being called into question. The moral fabric of our society has been unraveling ever more rapidly as each day goes by as we as a culture seem to be sliding down a hill into a moral abyss.

The "slippery slope" just got slicker on Wednesday when the United States Supreme Court issued it's ruling on the case known as Kennedy v. Louisiana 07-343.

The 5-4 decision of the high court ruled unconstitutional a Louisiana law allowing for the death penalty of convicted child rapists. This ruling also nullifies similar laws on the books of Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Georgia.

The case stems from an incident in Harvey, LA (suburban New Orleans) in 1998, when then 43 year old Patrick Kennedy was accused of raping his eight year old stepdaughter. Kennedy was convicted in 2003 by a jury of his peers and was, under Louisiana statutes, sentenced to death for the brutal assault on this innocent eight year old girl. The Supreme Court of Louisiana, and the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the convition upon appeal. Many of us would agree that a heinous crime of this nature should evoke nothing less than capital punishment.

But not five Justices on the United States Supreme Court!

"Swing Justice" Anthony Kennedy joined the four most liberal members of the court (Ruth Bader Ginsberg, David Souter, Stephen Bryer, and John Paul Stevens) in ruling that execution for the crime of child rape falls under the 8th Amendment prohibition of Cruel and Unusual Punishment. Justice Kennedy, writing in the majority opinion said this, "However devastating the crime to children, the death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child."

If that is the case, then what, in the name of God is a proportional punishment for the brutal rape of an innocent child?

Justice Kennedy continued, "Evolving standards of decency must embrace and express respect for the dignity of the person, and the punishment of criminals must conform to that rule." He said that the Justices had determined that, "there is a distinction between intentional first degree murder on the one hand and non homicide crimes against individual persons, even including child rape, on the other. While these crimes may be devastating in their harm they are not comparable to murder in severity and irrevocability."

This ruling just baffles the mind. The phrase "evolving standards of decency" speaks volumes. That is the "slippery slope" to which I earlier referred. What about the stolen "dignity" of the innocent victim? How can the rape of a child ever "evolve" from an act of sheer depravity, to something that is relatively not so bad? Where will the "evolving standards of decency" eventually take us? Only God knows - but I for one do not want to go there.

The decision lets stand the death penalty for cases of the "most heinous homicides", and "crimes against the state" such as espionage, treason, and terrorism. While each of these crimes are worthy of their punishment - how can the physical and emotional terror of the rape of an innocent child deserve any less?

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the dissenting opinion (shared by Justices Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and Chief Justice John Roberts). Alito wrote - "Murder is unique in its moral depravity and in the severity of the injury that it inflicts on the victim and the public." But Alito also opined, "Indeed, I have no doubt that, in the eyes of ordinary Americans, the very worst child rapists - predators who seek out and inflict serious physical and emotional injury on defenseless young children - are the epitome of moral depravity."


Louisiana Governor, Bobby Jindal, said yesterday, "The opinion reads more like an out-of-control legislative debate than a constitutional analysis. One thing is clear: the five members of the court who issued the opinion do not share the same 'standards of decency' as the people of Louisiana."

We as Americans are faced with many choices as our national, state, and local elections roll around in November. The Presidential race has now come down to two presumptive nominees. Battle lines are being drawn, important issues are beginning to be addressed. We face a number of problems that the next Congress and Chief Executive must deal with - an unpopular war, where Americans are being killed daily; an economy that is in the tank; skyrocketing oil and fuel prices that seem to have no ceiling in sight; illegal immigration; and on and on and on. These are indeed major issues, and I do not want to diminish the importance of any, but I will not cast my vote for President based on any of the above issues.

In my humble opinion, the most important thing a President does during his term of office is to carry out his constitutional role of appointing Federal Judges and Supreme Court Justices. The next President will likely have opportunity to name as many as three Justices to the High Court, and dozens to the U.S. Courts of Appeals. These judges are not elected by the people and they serve for life! Yesterday's ruling (along with Roe v. Wade, Dred Scott, and other past infamous decisions) underline the cultural magnitude of those decisions, which plot the course of our nation for generations. While we cannot vote for Federal Judges, we do vote for the person who appoints them. Will we elect a President who will appoint Justices who legislate from the bench and hold to this hogwash of "evolving standards of decency"? Or will we elect a President who will appoint Judges that have a high view of the constitution and the original intent of the framers?

I am not especially enamored of either of our major choices for Chief Executive in 2008. But I will mark my ballot for the one who is least likely to appoint judicial activists to the highest courts in the land.

The law of sowing and reaping is a physical law. It is also a spiritual law. I believe it is also a social law. We reap exactly what we sow. Our society has been sowing to these "evolving standards of decency" for some time now. God has given us implicit instructions as to how we may avert His judgment and bring healing upon our land. 2 Chronicles 7: 14 "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

We have continued to ignore the warning signs and continue to "sow the wind and reap the whirlwind".

Welcome to the harvest.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Old Lefthander...

Bob and Becky Moses are two of the many kind and thoughtful people who I am privileged to know and serve at Westmoreland Baptist Church. They are always doing something nice for someone, faithful to be present at almost every service and activity, and always busy in some ministry of the church.

Several members of my congregation are forever bringing me some thoughtful trinket or gadget. Knowing my great infatuation with my boyhood hero, Superman, several of our folks (especially Becky, Pat Gunnell, Terry Perdue, and Rachel Lackey) regularly bring me some type of Superman memorabilia. A whole corner of my office is filled up with all that Superman stuff. I love it!

I think Becky might lay awake at night thinking of what that next project might be. The wheels are always turning in her mind, and she is forever coming up with some little thoughtful gift or idea. For example, a couple of years ago, in a morning message, I mentioned a rural area where I spent a lot of time as a child. To say things were dull around those parts would have been an understatement. I mentioned that the only thing folks had to do back then was "sit around the house, drink RC's and eat Moon Pies, and talk about who was going to die next."

The next Sunday morning, on my desk, the "gift fairy" had left a beautiful gift pack consisting of a 10 ounce bottle of Royal Crown Cola and a genuine Moon Pie. This wasn't a "do it yourself" gift pack, but something that had been done professionally. It was enclosed in a clear plastic wrapper, imprinted with RC and Moon Pie logos on it, with a little bow, tying it all together. Knowing this fit the MO of Becky Moses, I mentioned to her the item that had found it's way to my desk. The big grin gave her away immediately. "Where did you get that?" I asked. "Oh, I have my sources", was her reply.

She does that.

Just a couple of weeks ago, after church one evening, Becky handed me a book and said, "I though you might like this". It was a biography of Joe Nuxhall. Although far from being Superman, "Hamilton Joe" was another one of my boyhood heroes. Becky knew of my love for the Cincinnati Reds, and happened across this book (in mint condition) in a local Goodwill Store. I've been pretty busy in the last few weeks after returning from the Philippines, but a couple of nights ago, I picked up the book and began reading. Now it's not "War and Peace", "The Grapes of Wrath", or "To Kill a Mockingbird", but it opened a flood gate of memories that engulfed me to the point that I read the book in just two sittings.

Outside of Cincinnati and the surrounding areas, Joe Nuxhall is a name that is known only to the most hard core baseball fans. But in our part of this great country, Joe Nuxhall is a household word. While not enshrined in Cooperstown, Joe is one of the most beloved figures in the long history of the oldest professional baseball franchise in America. His association with the Cincinnati Reds ball club began during World War II (in 1944), and spanned SEVEN decades!

A whole generation of folks (like my boys) knew him as a broadcaster of Reds games on WLW and the Reds Radio Network. I remember him as a solid major league pitcher in the 50's and 60's. My Dad's generation remembers Joe as the youngest player to ever appear in a major league baseball game - a fifteen year old!

The book, "Joe" written by Greg Hoard, chronicles the life and times of the life of the boy growing up in Hamilton, Ohio, who was thrown into the spotlight by fate and World War II when he was called upon by Warren Giles, General Manager of the Cincinnati Reds, to fill a spot on a roster that had been depleted by the war. The greatest players of the game, in the very prime of their lives, had temporarily left baseball to serve their country in the various branches of the military. This left major league baseball clubs scrambling to fill their rosters with, shall we say less than stellar talent?

Nuxhall seemed to fit the bill for the Reds. He was a local boy that was already a legend in Butler County. Amazingly, baseball may not have even been his best sport. He was an all state fullback and was without a doubt the best schoolboy basketball center in Ohio. But Joe loved baseball, and he was good at it. He had pitched ten no hitters by the time he was 15 years old. And although he was taller than both men, he had to have the permission of his father and his 9th grade principal to ride the bus to Crosley Field where he became the youngest person ever to wear a major league uniform.

His first outing for the Reds was hardly auspicious. He was thrown into the game in a relief appearance against the league leading St. Louis Cardinals. It was a blowout, and Reds' manager Bill McKechnie figured this would be as good a time as any to bring in the big left handed kid. Joe got two outs pretty quickly and then stepping up to the plate came Stan Musial. "Stan the Man" ranks as one of the greatest hitters in National League history. He was an MVP and is revered in the Hall of Fame as one of baseball's all time greats. Musial drove a double down the right field line, and the wheels came off at that point for Hamilton Joe. He never finished the inning, and after his first Major League appearance he had an earned run average of 67.50!

In fact, Joe says that it took him eight years to record his third out in the Major Leagues.

Joe Nuxhall's life is a picture of what a little talent, a lot of hard work and persistence, and the right attitude can do in a person's life. One of the things Joe struggled with early on, was his lack of control - in his pitching, and in his hot temper. Eventually he was able to get a handle on both (although his tough competitive nature gave him trouble with the latter off and on throughout his career).

I don't have the time or space to go into all the memories that this book brought back to me. Those names of legends, with whom he played as a youngster, those boyhood heroes of mine in the 50's and 60's that were Joe's teammates and the Big Red Machine of the 70's and the many Redlegs who followed.

Joe Nuxhall passed away in 2007. But he made a lasting impression on those who knew him, and those (like me) who felt they knew him through his many years as a play by play announcer for the Reds.

Joe's partner in the broadcast booth since the 70's, Hall of Famer Marty Brennaman summed it up this way:
"In a business that breeds egomaniacs, Joe Nuxhall is the rarest of the rare. I've never seen him be anything but nice to his fans, and their numbers are beyond comprehension.... In all the years we have been together, I have never heard one person, not one, say anything negative about him. Thank about that, and then ask yourself if you know anyone in the public eye you can say that about. Take it from me, the 'Old Lefthander' is special."

Most of us remember how Joe signed off on each broadcast.

"This is the Old Lefthander, rounding third and heading for home. Good night everyone!"

That saying has become so familiar and special to Reds fans, that it is emblazoned in lighted letters on the side of Great American Ball Park. A fitting tribute to a great guy.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ever Had One Of These?

Here is where I will spend the better part of two hours on Monday morning. This is a PET scan machine, like the one I will use at the Ashland - Bellefonte Cancer Center later this morning.
PET is short for Positron Emission Tomography (ain't that a mouthful?) It is is a nuclear medicine imaging technique which produces a three-dimensional image or map of functional processes in the body. My Oncologist, Dr. Kirti Jain tells me that this machine will pick up any tumors in my body the size of the head of a pin. Wow!
Most of my readers know that I was diagnosed with colon cancer in December, 2004. The prognosis was not good. "Stage Four - and Incurable" were the sobering words used to describe my situation. 18 - 22 months average survival time was what I could expect for my type of malignancy. However, after two surgeries, a radio frequency ablation, and two six month courses of chemotherapy, I am (to the pleasant surprise of Dr. Jain) still here!
Part of my ongoing followup involves periodic CT Scans (every three months) and a PET Scan twice per year. The combination of the scans and the monthly blood work (which measures certain CEA markers in my blood) help Dr. Jain determine whether or not I continue to be in remission. Today I am scheduled for the scans, and Linda and I will see Dr. Jain on Friday for the results.
This will be my fourth or fifth PET Scan. (I've kind of lost count) The whole thing takes about two hours to complete. First they check my blood sugar. It seems that the test can only be done if the blood sugar level is less than 150. They then inject me with a radioisotope, and for the next hour, I will sit in a recliner in a dark room behind a lead screen, while the magic juice circulates throughout my body. Then it is on to the machine for approximately another hour while the images are taken from head to toe. Obviously it is a slow process. Your body moves through the "donut" and slow increments, and it is not painful (except for the one time when I wasn't exactly straight on the table and I had a lot of discomfort as my elbows and shoulders moved slowly through the machine pinching them severely for several minutes). The toughest part is simply lying so still for such a long time on the little narrow belt.
As soon as the PET is completed, I will then go to down the hall for the CT Scans of my abdomen and pelvic area. One scan will be done without contrast and one with. These only take 20 minutes or so. The combined images from the PET and CT will allow Dr. Jain to determine whether or not the cancer is back, and what course of action (if any) should be taken.
What a blessing it is to have this type of nuclear medical technology at our fingertips. A generation ago, much of the technology and treatment options we have today, were not available. Certainly not locally and outside places like Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, or M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. I am so thankful for Dr. Jain - for his experience, and for his kind, caring treatment. It means a lot to have a doctor like that.
More than anything else, I thank God for the "Great Physician" who has been on my case since day one. It's only by God's grace and His sovereign will that I am still here today. Every day is precious. I have come to appreciate the everyday things more than ever before. There is always that few days of anticipation between the scans and getting the results, but I have learned that worry and anxiety will accomplish nothing. Whatever the outcome, God knew the results before the world began. None of it come as a surprise to Him. He has a plan for my life, and I can rest assured in it no matter how long - or how short.
I will praise His name, no matter what the outcome may be.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

What To Do When The Outlook Is Bleak and Circumstances Are Beyond Your Control

Did you ever experience a drastic turn of events in your life? You’re doing the right thing… everything is going well… no reason to worry about anything… then comes a sudden reversal.
Suddenly you are facing an overwhelming problem… something over which you have no power or control.
Asa, King of Judah experienced such a turn of events as recorded in 2 Chronicles chapter 14

After the death of Solomon the “Golden Age” of Israel came to a close. The kingdom split into two separate kingdoms (10 northern Tribes called “Israel”) under Jeroboam I with a capital in Samaria, and the Southern Kingdom “Judah” (made up of tribes of Judah and Benjamin) under Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, with the capital in Jerusalem. Rehoboam was succeeded by Abijah and Abijah was succeeded by his son, Asa as the third King of Judah.

Verse 2 says “Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God.” Asa stands out in his support of the Worship of God and his opposition to idolatry. Some of his accomplishments are:
Ø Removal of altars of foreign gods
Ø Removed the high places
Ø Broke down the “sacred pillars” and wooden poles used in the pagan worship of Ashtoreth
Ø He commanded Judah to worship God and observe His law
Ø He built fortified cities in Judah
Ø The land enjoyed peace for 10 years…
Ø Then trouble arose

Even though Asa had a large and skilled Army
Ø 300,000 from Judah (who carried spears and shields)
Ø 280,000 from Benjamin (foot soldiers and archers)
Ø 580,000 total “Mighty Men of Valor”

They were attacked by Zerah of Ethiopia:
Ø 1,000,000 soldiers
Ø 300 chariots
Ø Outnumbering Asa’s army nearly 2 to 1 (with advantage of having chariots)

Asa was faced with a terrible prospect… What could he do?
Ø Strategize and seek to outmaneuver the enemy?

Ø Retreat?
Ø Compromise?
Ø Surrender?
Ø No, he chose to PRAY!
Ø A simple prayer of only 51 words as recorded in verse 11

11 And Asa cried out to the LORD his God, and said, "LORD, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O LORD our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!"

What do we see about Asa’s prayer in a time of crisis? How can we apply these truths in our lives when the problems are overwhelming and the solution is beyond our control? Pray like Asa!

His Prayer Was Earnest – he “cried out”

Asa “Cried Out” to the Lord – he knew the situation was beyond his control.

1 Peter 3: 12-13 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”13And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?

He was not ashamed to call upon the Lord. Sometimes we are too proud to admit that we can’t handle a situation on our own. After all, Asa was a King, well respected, and powerful in his own right. Yet help was needed and he knew it. He cried out to God in earnest prayer.

Hebrews 4: 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

There is power in prayer!

James 5: 16-18 The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

When I was a child there was a plaque that hung on our living room wall that bore the legend, “Prayer Changes Things”. As a child, I thought that prayer was a tool to help God see things our way. I have learned that effectual fervent prayer actually helps us to see things from God’s perspective.

His Prayer Was Personal – “unto the LORD His God”

Asa prayed to “Yaweh” – the Personal name of the Lord. When you see LORD (all capital letters) in your English Bible, it is indicative of God’s personal name. The name He revealed to Moses on Mount Horeb at the burning bush.

Exodus 3: 13-15 13Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” 15Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’

Although he is the self existent one – the great “I AM”, He can be known Personally. Consider the 63rd Psalm.

Psalm 63: 1 O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.

If He is to be known personally, WE must make that commitment. We must seek Him, Our souls must thirst for Him. Our flesh must long for Him. We must seek the refreshment of a personal relationship with Him.

Genesis 28: 20-22 Then Jacob made a promise. He said, “I want God to be with me and to protect me on this journey. I want him to give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so I will be able to return in peace to my father’s house. If the Lord does these things, he will be my God. 22 This stone which I have set up on its end will be the house of God. And I will give God one-tenth of all he gives me.”

His Prayer Was Discerning - "LORD, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power”

God has delivered Nations, and God has delivered individuals. He specializes in doing the impossible and showing His might and power to help those who are weak – yet willing to trust Him completely. He is a sovereign God, who can and does allow Himself to be approached by those who seek to experience His help! Consider Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian Christians.

Ephesians 3: 17-20 17that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,

His Prayer Was Definitive – “Help us”

Asa did not “beat around the bush” or mince words. He asked for Help! Help is Available, even among the most dire circumstances.

Psalm 46: 1-3 God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling.

God will never fail you. This is one of my favorite promises in all of His Word!

Isaiah 41: 10-13 Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ “Behold, all those who were incensed against you Shall be ashamed and disgraced; They shall be as nothing, And those who strive with you shall perish.
You shall seek them and not find them—Those who contended with you. Those who war against you Shall be as nothing, As a nonexistent thing. For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’

His Prayer Was Believing – “We rest on you”

Matthew 7: 7-8 7“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8“For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

On who else can we call? To whom shall we go? The promises of God stand sure. Look at the results of Asa’s prayer:

His Prayer Was Answered (vs 12-15)
12 So the LORD struck the Ethiopians before Asa and Judah, and the Ethiopians fled. 13 And Asa and the people who were with him pursued them to Gerar. So the Ethiopians were overthrown, and they could not recover, for they were broken before the LORD and His army. And they carried away very much spoil. 14 Then they defeated all the cities around Gerar, for the fear of the LORD came upon them; and they plundered all the cities, for there was exceedingly much spoil in them. 15 They also attacked the livestock enclosures, and carried off sheep and camels in abundance, and returned to Jerusalem.

Asa simply asked God for help. God gave him complete victory over the enemy! Are you facing difficulties beyond your control? Pray like Asa! Let go of depending on your own abilities and devices, and Let God prove His promises to you!

Life is short.

Pray hard!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More Today Than Yesterday

On June 18, 1970, sitting on the steps outside her apartment house on Division Street in the Highlawn section of Huntington, WV, I asked Linda Bowling to be my wife.

On a scorching day, one year and one day later, she became my bride at Thomas Memorial Free Will Baptist Church - the place where I had first laid eyes upon her nearly two years earlier. June 19, 1971 was the second best day of my life, topped only by the night I gave my life to the Lord.

She has never been less than my dearest friend and life companion. Since there are only so many ways to say "Happy Anniversary" and "I Love You", I have decided to share the words of a song, by the Spiral Staircase, that was popular while we were dating. I couldn't say it better in my own words.

I don't remember what day it was
I didn't notice what time it was
All I know is that I fell in love with you
And if all my dreams come true
I'll be spending time with you
Every day's a new day in love with you
With each day comes a new way of loving you
Every time I kiss your lips my mind starts to wonder
And if all my dreams come true
I'll be spending time with you
Oh I love you more today than yesterday
But not as much as tomorrow
Oh I love you more today than yesterday
But darling not as much as tomorrow
Tomorrow makes each springtime just a day away
Cupid we don't need you now be on your way
I thank the Lord for love like ours that grows ever stronger
And if all my dreams come true
I'll be spending time with you
Oh I love you more today than yesterday
But not as much as tomorrow
Oh I love you more today than yesterday
But darling not as much as tomorrow
Every day's a new day, every time I love ya
Every way's a new way, every time I love ya...
Every day's a new day, every time I love ya
Every way's a new way, every time I love ya...
Every time I love ya...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Free Soccer Clinic In Wayne County

Our mission church in Wayne, West Virginia will be having a "Mission Blitz" this coming week. The Southern Baptist Church at Wayne will be hosting several community activities designed to identify potential prospects for the mission. They are seeking to find, reach, and disciple unchurched individuals and families in the Wayne area. A team of approximately 15 brothers and sisters from two churches in the Augusta, GA area are coming to help with these outreach activities. Besides the door to door canvassing they will be doing, the group will also be having Back Yard Bible Clubs and an Outdoor Crusade.

One of the outreach activities that Church Planter Darrell Clark has planned is a free Soccer Clinic for children in grades one through five. The two hour clinic will begin at 2:00 PM on Friday, June 20th at the Huntington Police Farm. The Police Farm is located on State Route 152 just south of Lavalette and north of Wayne, WV. This event promises to be a first class event for the kids.

The clinic will be led by Peter Underwood (pictured at left). Coach Underwood is a former Marshall University Men's Soccer coach and brings years of experience to this event, along with a love for teaching the game to children. Underwood is presently the Executive Director of the Quantum Soccer Center in Hurricane, WV and he holds a UEFA Soccer Coaching License. This type of clinic is very popular, and can be a little pricey, but thanks to the generosity of Coach Underwood, there will be no charge for this particular session. It proves to be a great opportunity for the younger children to learn the basics and some of the finer points of the game that is quickly growing in popularity across the country. To participate, each child who attends must be accompanied by an adult for the two hour clinic - no "dropping off" of kids will be allowed - so adults are advised to bring a lawn chair and enjoy the afternoon.

Although registration will be allowed at the Police Farm on the day of the event, Pastor Clark urges possible participants to pre register if possible. Pre registration may be accomplished by contacting Darrell Clark at 304-634-5765. If any of our local readers have children, grandchildren, or neighbor kids who would like to learn more about soccer, from a professional coach, free of charge - this is the event for them. I certainly commend Darrell for putting this event together.

Speaking of Soccer, Westmoreland Baptist's Upward Soccer Spring League will have it's final games on Saturday, June 21st at Olympic Field Park in Huntington beginning at 10:00 AM. More than 70 children have been enrolled in this spring season. This initial season has been a wonderful success due to the hard work of Upward Soccer Commissioner, Jeff Lockhart, his wife, Tara, and many other dedicated volunteers. In Upward's sports ministry, every child plays, every child learns, and every child wins. An Award Celebration for the children will be held at Westmoreland Baptist Church on Monday, June 23rd at 6:00 PM. Our special guest on the program will be Todd Lovins - Christian Magician and evangelist. The kids will be treated to hot dogs, chips and soft drinks, and every child who participated in the league will receive a nice award that evening as they are recognized individually.

The Apostle Paul wrote in the Corinthian letter, "I have become all things to all men, that by all means I might save some." Sports ministry is a wonderful way to open doors to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those who may not know Him. Since surveys show that 70 percent of West Virginians have no affiliation with any Bible believing, Bible teaching churches, the harvest truly is ripe. We intend to use Sports Ministry (and any other appropriate opportunities available) to open those doors for evangelism.

Friday, June 13, 2008

I'm Very Pleased

For 28 years, my front yard has been a major headache.

There was a steep bank that was very difficult to mow. Several years ago, someone convinced me to plant juniper there for a ground cover. That was fine, but unfortunately, no matter how hard I tried and how many juniper plants I put out, it never did completely cover. My daughter in law helped me a couple of summers ago, planting about twelve more juniper plants, but all but two died. (the story of my horticultural life - this is the house where plants come to die!)

A former small retaining wall had buckled and the earth had shifted some and I was very concerned that the foundation of the house would eventually be damaged. A good retaining wall was obviously needed. Linda and I visited Lowes and Home Depot, intent on doing a do it yourself wall. You know, it is so easy with instructions provided. However the lay of the terrain at my house would require more professional expertise than either of us could provide. So we finally bit the bullet and scraped together the money to have it done professionally.

Here are some before and after photos. The job is not fully completed, but the wall itself is finished and I am very pleased with the outcome so far. So - primarily for my family far away - (and anyone else who might care, for whatever reason) here are the photos.

Great Video Slide Show

Joseph Spurgeon has posted a great video slide show of our May 2008 Mission Trip to the Philippines.
Click on the link below and enjoy the 15 minute video.
He did a great job...
We showed it in church on Sunday morning, but the sanctuary was so bright and the projector was so weak that one couldn't get the full benefit of it.
Hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Final Post From Indy

The 151st Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention is history.

This morning’s session began with a surprising announcement regarding the election of the Second Vice President. Balloting took place last evening to choose between four candidates, which had been nominated for that position. An old friend of ours, John Newland was among those nominated. John is pastor of the Fall Creek Baptist Church here in Indianapolis, and formerly served at First Baptist Church of Grayson, KY, while working on his doctorate at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The nominating speeches for John and two of the other candidates were rather non remarkable in their nature. However, the guy who nominated the fourth candidate, Charles Mulkey, hit the ball out of the park! It was one of the most humorous nominating speeches I have ever heard, and rivaled the one given to nominate Wiley Drake in his successful run for the same office in Greensboro two years ago.

John had gained some national publicity during the run up to the 2007 Super Bowl, when the NFL threatened legal action against the Fall Creek Church if they continued with plans to show the game on a big screen in their church during a special Super Bowl evangelistic event the night of the game. What they were planning was the same thing that many churches have done in the past, but for some reason the Fall Creek Church happened to draw the wrath of the NFL Commissioner. John handled the matter with grace and Christian love and although the church had to change their plans, he was a great witness under difficult circumstances. I believe his Christ like reaction and behavior was a big reason that the NFL relaxed the policy for the 2008 game.

As we left the hall last night, I ran into my fellow NOBTS Trustee, Donald Currence, who heads up the Tellers (who count all the ballots). Don asked, “Did they make the announcement about the 2nd VP results?” When I replied in the negative he grinned and said, “I would love to tell you, but I am sworn to secrecy on all of these results until they are announced in the convention hall.”

“Did Newland win?”, I asked, hoping he might give me a little hint.

“Can’t do it. I’m sorry” he smiled. (Don is indeed a man of integrity)

So I did not know the results until this morning. It seems that Mulkey and John Newland finished in an actual dead heat. A tie vote! Ballots were again cast, and I am pleased to announce that John won with 58% of the vote. This leaves the three top elected officials with a definite Kentucky flavor. John is a native of the Bluegrass State and served a pastorate here. First VP, Bill Henard, serves as Pastor of Porter Memorial Baptist Church in Lexington. New President Johnny Hunt’s father was living in Pikeville, KY a few years ago (but I am not certain if he is still there).

I have written on this blog concerning the business sessions, reports, etc. along with reports about the music and preaching, but I want to say a few words about the spirit of the meeting. The messengers conducted themselves with dignity and courtesy. In last year’s meeting in San Antonio, there was an obvious spirit of contention and division. There had been a touch of that the year before, in Greensboro. That, along with the unusually large number of candidates for President, gave me a sense of foreboding coming into this meeting.

Would our Convention become more divided? Over the past couple of years there have been some pretty divisive things written and said, regarding personalities and certain doctrinal differences. If there was a problem this year, I didn’t sense it. For the most part, I feel that this was a calm convention with a good spirit exhibited by its messengers.

The focus of this meeting was (rightfully) on nothing but Jesus, and the task He has given us to reach the world with the Gospel. Missions was the theme from day one. Calls to brokenness and obedience to the mission were made from the Pastor’s Conference on Sunday and Monday until the final gavel fell on Wednesday night. We all agree that there is need for revival among God’s people, and an urgency to get the Gospel out to every people group.

It would be nice to see more and more younger people taking an active role in these proceedings, but I do believe we are making headway on that issue.

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday was in regard to some “unwelcome” visitors that showed up across Maryland Street from the Convention Center. A group of protesters from Fred Phelps “church” of Westboro, KS were on hand to protest and heckle the messengers. This is the same bunch who carry signs proclaiming “God Hates Fags”, and show up at the funerals of America’s war dead, to claim that those who have given their lives for freedom were killed as part of God’s judgement on sinful America. These people spew hate and bigotry, and obviously know nothing about Grace! To call them a church is a travesty.

I’ll be heading home tomorrow morning, and praying for safe travel along the way.
To my dear members at WBC, I want to thank you for allowing me to get away for a few days to “re-charge my batteries”. I do feel a new sense of urgency to get this Kingdom Business Son. To my Dad and Rick Weber I offer my thanks for filling in for me in my pulpit duties on Sunday evening and Wednesday evening services. To my “Sweet Baboo”, I’ll see you tomorrow – Lord Willing!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tuesday Convention Report

Tuesday night from Indianapolis

The 151st Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention was called to order by the President, Dr. Frank Page, with the drop of the gavel that has been used to open EVERY one of the Convention meetings since it’s inception. The gavel was presented to the first President, M.E. Dodd, of Shreveport, LA. It is said to be carved from olive wood taken directly from the Mount of Olives just outside Jerusalem. Wisely, Dr. Page didn’t hit the podium very forcefully with the old gavel!

It has been a long and interesting day that began with Jay, and Bobby Wood leaving at 7:00 AM for the airport to pick up three members of the Gaither Vocal Band. (who IS Jay Adkins?????). The Vocal Band was scheduled to sing about 8:30, during the morning session. Bill Gaither was not with them, as he was staying here in the hotel where we are residing. The Vocal Band did a terrific job, and they were well received by the crowd. They sang several southern gospel selections with tight harmonies that seemed to resonate well with the crowd. There was lots of toe tapping and hand clapping, as they sang several favorites. The theology was a little suspect in one of the songs called, “I’m Somewhere Between Jesus and John Wayne”, but overall it was a good start to the morning.

A number of motions were offered during three or four new business sessions through out the day – nothing real controversial, but some were interesting, nonetheless.

One of the highlights of the day came early in the day when the results of the “Crossover Indy” activities of last week were revealed. Thousands of houses in neighborhoods all over the city were visited by volunteers, sharing the gospel with anyone who would listen. 17 Block Parties were held with over 2,300 registered attendees and 500 volunteers. The result – 759 decisions for trusting Jesus Christ as Savior! Pretty good results for a blitz that was cut a couple of days short due to the terrible rains and flooding.
The State Convention Executive Director shared with us that 80% of the residents of Indiana have no relationship with any local church!

Jay and I had lunch today at a luncheon sponsored by Upward Unlimited. Johnny Hunt was the featured speaker and we got to meet Caz McCazlin (Upward’s founder and CEO). We were challenged by Caz and Johnny Hunt to reach our communities for Christ through Upward. The challenge was not to just have a “church league” but to use Upward to reach our communities for Christ. Speaking of Johnny Hunt, the Georgia Pastor was elected as our new President with 52% of the vote. This was fantastic, considering there were six candidates nominated, and no runoff election was necessary. First Vice President went to Dr. Bill Henard, Pastor of Porter Memorial Baptist Church in Lexington, KY.

Reports were given by the heads of various SBC agencies today, including Drs. Richard Land ( of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission); Phil Roberts, (Midwestern Seminary); Jeff Iorg (Golden Gate Seminary); Chuck Kelley (New Orleans Seminary); Thom Ranier (LifeWay); Paige Patterson, (North American Mission Board); and Morris Chapman (Executive Committee). Interspersed with these reports were several seasons of prayer, a number of special music and congregational praise, and challenges based on the themes of “Understanding God’s Plan”, “Engaging God’s People”, and “Sharing God’s Message”. The organizers and presenters of this convention never got off task in seeking to keep the focus on Jesus.

We also heard Dr. Frank Page’s Presidential Message.

7,290 messengers have registered, and the convention center is abuzz with activity. We had opportunity to visit again with many old friends like Joed Rice and Dan Russell (pictured here) Ric Frazier, and Jim Yates and his family from Rose Hill Church in Ashland, KY. Even said hello to A.J. Toney, who followed me at Ashland Baptist five years ago. He is in South Shore, KY now. Today was an interesting day…

We should have more of the same tomorrow.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Monday Report From SBC/ Indy

Today has been filled with lots of activity. There is the usual excellent preaching and stirring music, but it has also been a day to browse through the LifeWay store, and explore the exhibits in the exhibition hall. Seeing old friends is also a wonderful part of the Pastor’s Conference experience – and we sure did visit with lots of old friends today.

The worship time and preaching began about 8:30 this morning and concluded twelve hours later. The preaching was powerful and challenging and there is just something special about over 5,000 people lifting their voices in praise! Registration stood at over 5,000 this morning, and there will be many more messengers enrolled by noon tomorrow. Today I heard something that is very rare in these pastor’s conferences. Some guy several rows behind me was shouting during the worship time. I’m talking about shouting like I used to hear in those old fashioned revivals in little country churches, as the Spirit fell on the saints in the congregation. It’s not unusual to see people with their hands raised in praise, but this guy was really having church – and it felt pretty good to hear that kind of praise again. Shame on us, for letting the charismatics steal our Baptist shout!

One of the highlights of the afternoon was when Pastor’s Conference President, Michael Catt, introduced Tony Dungy, head coach of the local Indianapolis Colts, the 2007 Super Bowl Champions. Dungy is a devout Christian with a powerful testimony of his faith in Christ, which he gladly shared with the thousands gathered in the convention hall. He is really a class act and a great Christian role model in the NFL.

The morning started off nicely as I ran into Chuck Stewart and Jimmy Nichols, two pastor friends from Ashland, who were accompanied by their wives. I also had opportunity to visit with Stan Williams of Cannonsburg and my old buddy Joed Rice of Central Baptist in Ashland. One of Paul Schmidt’s young ladies from First Baptist of Inez, KY helped Jay register at the credentials windows. Floyd and Penny Paris of Unity Baptist were enjoying a meal in the concession area when we found them.

Several friends from West Virginia were also on hand. I saw Danny Jividen having his blood pressure taken in the GuideStone health screening area. I got to visit with Dan Biser and Ken Owens and was pleased to get to talk to Terrell Bradley (the former pastor of Highlawn Baptist in Huntington). One of my most pleasant surprises was to visit with Ron McCoy, the pastor of Cameron Baptist Church in the Northern Panhandle of WV. Ron has been in a two year battle with cancer and I thank God that Ron has returned to his pulpit and was able to come to the convention. It was also great to talk with Jenny Hughes – formerly of Huntington, now of Princeton, WV. Jenny and her late husband Tommy were dear friends of ours who were a source of inspiration during Tom’s battle with an inoperable brain tumor. Jenny is now serving on the LifeWay Board of Trustees. Darrell Clark tells me that he and Paul Harris ran into Seth Polk of Cross Lanes Baptist Church and Jacob Atchley, our WV Director of Evangelism and Student Ministries. I’m sure I will see them before the convention is over – as well as Terry and Cheryl Harper, whom I am sure are here. We also saw Don Mathis – a former staff person in the West Virginia State Office and now a full time evangelist from Bowling Green, KY.

There was Asa Greear, our former Director of Missions in Ashland, who is now serving as a DOM in St. Augustine, FL – showing off photos of his brand new granddaughter. Bobby Wood, who just returned from our Philippine mission trip was working in the Executive Committee exhibit. Bobby and Jay are featured prominently in an Unlimited Partnership video, which will be shown to the entire convention tomorrow evening. We had opportunity to visit with a number of friends, faculty and administration people at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary exhibit, where I picked up our tickets for Wednesday’s “Friends of the Seminary” luncheon. Also had opportunity to wave to one of my “heroes”, Joe McKeever, Director of Missions from the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. I also had opportunity to visit with a few of my fellow NOBTS Trustees, including Don Currence of Missouri, and Marvin Rose, from Baytown, Texas.

Jay and I were joined for dinner by Darrell Clark, Paul Harris (church planters from Wayne and Barboursville, WV, respectively); Bobby Wood; and Shannon and Dee Dee Davis from Oxford, MS. Shannon and Dee Dee are about to become parents. They will be adopting a little girl who is due to be born August 2nd, and they are justifiably exited about the prospects.

The Convention LifeWay store was a beehive of activity. I bought a great book on Baptism that Stan Williams recommended, and found the “plan of salvation” bracelets that I think are a great witnessing tool. I happily bought several of them to replace the worn out one I have been wearing since October. The big bargain of the day was having the opportunity to purchase 20 boxes of Christian themed Christmas cards at 90% OFF REGULAR PRICE!

Tomorrow the actual business of the Convention begins in earnest. I am also looking forward to a luncheon for Upward partners. Should be an interesting day…

More to come.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Pastor's Conference Underway

The Pastor's Conference began this afternoon with the showing of "Fireproof" as mentioned in the previous post.

Then the preaching began at 6:30 with Dr. Johnny Hunt (shown at right), Pastor of FBC Woodstock, GA (who will also be nominated for Convention President on Tuesday). After Dr. Hunt, the crowd was treated to messages by Dr. Daniel Simmons of Albany, GA and Dr. Tom Eliff (above left) former Oklahoma Pastor, past Convention President, currently serving on the staff of the International Missions Board. We arrived in town too late to hear Hunt or Simmons, but Dr. Eliff blessed us and challenged us with his message from Hosea urging us to "break up our fallow ground." The theme for the evening session today was "Preparing Our Fields for an Outpouring - Prayer".

Tomorrow morning's session begins with the theme "Preparing our Hearts for An Awakening - Brokenness." The morning will include worship time, theme interpretation and messages from Dr. Alan Day; Dr. Hayes Wicker; Dr. George Harris; and Dr. Ed Litton.

Tuesday's afternoon session "Preparing Our Lives for Surrender - Revival" will also feature special music; theme interpretation, and speakers Dr. Jimmy Draper; Rev. Bill Stafford; Dr. Stuart Briscoe, and Dr. James McDonald.

The conference closes out with the theme on Monday evening being, "Preparing Our Churches for a Harvest - Evangelism" Speakers will be Doctors Charles Lowery; Kerry Shook, and Jay Strack. This looks to be a great time of preaching and refreshing for each of us.
Darrell Clark and Paul Harris are here for their first Convention and they seem to really be enjoying it so far.

Off For Indy

Over the next two days, several thousand Messengers, representing more than 43,000 Southern Baptist Churches across America and around the world, will descend upon Indianapolis, Indiana for the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Indiana Convention Center (pictured at right) will be the venue for the meeting. I'll be leaving for the 4 1/2 hour drive immediately following the morning worship service at WBC today. Darrell Clark and Paul Harris (mission pastors at Wayne and Barboursville) are also planning on leaving this afternoon. We are hoping for safe travel but unsure of what we might find in central Indiana, since that area received 11 inches of rain yesterday, spawning the worst flooding in that area in over 100 years. While the Convention will meet there this week, I would expect that the SBC Disaster Relief "machine" will move into that area immediately, in seeking to help minister to the thousands of individuals and families that have experienced severe losses due to the storms and flooding. Please pray for the many people of the 44 county disaster area, that there would be a minimum of loss of life, and that they would be able to quickly recover property and infrastructure from the flood waters.

The convention activities actually began last week with the "Crossover Indianapolis" effort that has become an annual event in the convention city, one week before the meeting convenes. Crossover involves various block parties, back yard Bible clubs, neighborhood canvassing and witnessing, tract distribution and other evangelistic activities. It is keyed by local Baptist Churches and the host Association and State Convention, and supported by hundreds of people arriving early for the Convention to take part in the evangelistic blitz. Crossover is a great event and will have seen many people come to Christ, and provide thousands of prospects and opportunity for followup for local Baptist pastors and congregations.
The SBC Pastor's Conference will begin this afternoon, while I am on the road. One of the features will be the initial screening of "Fireproof", a new feature film produced by Sherwood Baptist Church - the same church that produced "Facing the Giants" a couple of years ago. "Fireproof" will begin showing in theaters soon. Pastor's Conference activities will continue tonight and all day and evening on Monday. I always look forward to the Pastor's Conference, for it's fellowship, inspiring music, and powerful preaching. In my opinion, it is worth the trip to the Convention for the benefit of the Pastor's Conference alone.
The Convention, proper, will be called to order Tuesday morning by outgoing President, Dr. Frank Page, and will run through Wednesday. The two day event is full of reports from the various SBC entities, business sessions, elections of Convention officers and trustees for the various entities, special music, theme interpretations, and great preaching. There will be a great emphasis placed on the Cooperative Program, which is the primary funding mechanism for sending over 10,000 home and foreign missionaries, funding of the six seminaries, and the other ministries of the largest Protestant denomination in the world.
During the convention, there are always special get-togethers for the local associational Directors of Mission, Southern Baptist Conference of Evangelists, State Convention Presidents, etc. I've been invited to two special lunches - one for Upward Partners on Tuesday, and the other for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary alumni and friends on Wednesday. The exhibit hall and the huge on site LifeWay store are also always a popular site to learn more about what is going on at the various entities and to talk to the many other exhibitors. It's also always a great place to meet and fellowship with old friends from around the country.
Those who would like to keep up on Convention activities can pick up a live streaming broadcast on the SBC website, on Tuesday and Wednesday. I will also hope to be posting each day with my take from the convention, if I can get internet service on a regular basis.
Let us pray that all of the business, budget debates, and other activities will continue to focus on Jesus. As Doug Virgin says, "The main thing, is to keep the main thing, the main thing."

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting

Next Tuesday and Wednesday, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, IN will have an amazing number of announced candidates to consider for election as Convention President. Six (count 'em - 6!) candidates have allowed their names to be placed in nomination for the top spot. Up until two years ago, I would have guessed that Johnny Hunt, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, GA would have been unbeatable. Now - who knows?

Convention politics began to take a noticeable change two years ago at Greensboro, when Frank Page, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Taylors, SC won a stunning upset over Ronnie Floyd of Springdale, AK. As the convention plowed into the third decade of the Conservative Resurgence, the Annual Meeting had pretty much become a "coronation" of some "anointed" candidate. All of the presidents since Adrian Rogers begin to turn things around have been excellent, and I certainly have not had any problems with any of them. However, in the last 10 years or so, convention attendance began to drastically decrease. There seemed to be an unspoken philosophy that the "Battle for the Bible" had been won, and there was really little need of the messengers to be heavily involved.

Many of us assumed in Greensboro that Floyd would be successful in his presidential bid. He had "paid his dues" as a loyal trooper. He pastored a two campus mega church in Arkansas and has a national television ministry. Even certain SBC entity heads went public in their endorsement of his candidacy - much to the chagrin of Executive Committee President, Morris Chapman. Chapman released a pre convention statement basically stating that he thought it inappropriate for any SBC entity heads to "campaign" for any particular candidate. I tend to agree with him on that one. Now, any agency head who happens to be a local church messenger, certainly has the right to vote for and support whomever he pleases. However, as a convention employee, each entity head (in my humble opinion) should probably let discretion be the better part of valor, and refrain from "politicking" for a particular candidate.

Also, greater focus has been placed upon the candidates and the percentages given to the SBC Cooperative Program by the churches they serve. While Floyd's church (FBC Springdale) gave multiplied thousands of dollars to SBC causes, their actual Cooperative Program giving was less than 4 percent. Page's church, on the other hand gave over 13 percent of their undesignated receipts to the CP. This, I think, is what helped to sway the opinions and votes of many of the messengers, who look at the Cooperative Program as our "life blood" in funding missions.

Several issues have begun to come to the forefront over the past two or three years that have begun to fracture the previously monolithic mood of the messengers. The rising influence of Reform Theology (Calvinism) is becoming more of an issue of debate, as are certain policy changes adopted by the International Mission Board. The blogging of a number of concerned messengers (most notably Wade Burleson of Oklahoma) have multiplied around the country, drawing attention to differing opinions on some of these issues. Criticisms of certain SBC entity heads has been fierce in some cases. The somewhat confusing "Garner Motion" (which would appear to limit SBC entity Trusee Boards in their policymaking) in last year's meeting only added to the chorus of differing opinions, and as a result, this year's convention proves to be very interesting.

This truth is most notable in the unusually large number of candidates for President this year. Baptist Press has formulated a group of questions for each of the announced candidates. Following, are links to several Baptist Press stories, asking questions of the six announced presidential candidates. If you are interested in reading these questions and the candidate's responses, just click on the links below.

Frank Cox's Answers to BP's questions:

Wiley Drake's Answers:

Johnny Hunt's Answers:

Les Puryear's Answers:

Bill Wagner's Answers:

Hopefully I will have internet access in Indianapolis and I hope to post from Indy every evening. For those who would like to watch streaming coverage of the SBC meeting on the net, you may do so from the SBC website,

It should be two interesting days in Indianapolis...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

June 3rd, A Special Day

This is the one day of the year I am sure to hear from my friend, Joed Rice. He and I share a (some would think) twisted type of attachment to old song lyrics. Especially those from our younger, wilder days. I don't know what it is about this particular song, but we never forget to remind each other of the importance of June 3rd every year that day rolls around. What is so special about June 3rd? Read the first line of the song. "Ode to Billy Joe" was a haunting ballad written and sung by Bobbie Gentry in the late 60's. It was also the inspiration for a (less than inspiring) movie based on the song in the early 70's. So on this special day of the year, let us pause to remember the early and tragic demise of Billy Joe MacAllister, and the mysterious reasons that caused him to take his fatal leap.

"Ode To Billy Joe"

It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day
I was out choppin' cotton and my brother was balin' hay
And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat
And Mama hollered out the back door "y'all remember to wipe your feet"
And then she said "I got some news this mornin' from Choctaw Ridge"
"Today Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge"

And Papa said to Mama as he passed around the blackeyed peas
"Well, Billy Joe never had a lick of sense, pass the biscuits, please"
"There's five more acres in the lower forty I've got to plow"
And Mama said it was shame about Billy Joe, anyhow
Seems like nothin' ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge
And now Billy Joe MacAllister's jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

And Brother said he recollected when he and Tom and Billie Joe
Put a frog down my back at the Carroll County picture show
And wasn't I talkin' to him after church last Sunday night?
"I'll have another piece of apple pie, you know it don't seem right"
"I saw him at the sawmill yesterday on Choctaw Ridge"
"And now you tell me Billie Joe's jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge"

And Mama said to me "Child, what's happened to your appetite?"
"I've been cookin' all morning and you haven't touched a single bite"
"That nice young preacher, Brother Taylor, dropped by today"
"Said he'd be pleased to have dinner on Sunday, oh, by the way"
"He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge"
"And she and Billy Joe was throwing somethin' off the Tallahatchie Bridge"

A year has come 'n' gone since we heard the news 'bout Billy Joe
And Brother married Becky Thompson, they bought a store in Tupelo
There was a virus going 'round, Papa caught it and he died last Spring
And now Mama doesn't seem to wanna do much of anything
And me, I spend a lot of time pickin' flowers up on Choctaw Ridge
And drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge