Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
It is hard for a pastor to get away, although it is really important for him to do so. It is for anyone, and pastors are certainly no different. Unfortunately, we are always "on call", and even with associates, deacons, and other helpers, there are times when the pastor just needs to be there. Ministry responsibilities abound, and although we all know we can't "do it all" we seem to try. In extolling the virtues of time of retreat, a wise man once said, "If you don't take time to come apart, you are almost assured of COMING APART! Jay and Michelle understood that, and that is what prompted them to give us the thoughtful gift.
With the year quickly coming to a close, and the tremendous end of the year rush coming up in November and December it appeared that if we were going to use that gift this year, we'd better get to it by the end of October! While it is only going to be two nights, I have already enjoyed the little trip thus far.
The drive down US Route 23 from Ashland to Asheville was most pleasant. The five hour journey was uneventful, and rather peaceful. While there was plenty of traffic (and lots of coal trucks) it still was not nearly as congested as arteries like I -75 , I-40, and I-81 usually are. Linda drove the entire way and that suits me fine. I was able to snooze most of the way from Louisa, KY to Pikeville, and I caught a few more winks as we crossed the southwestern corner of Virginia.
The most impressive part of the journey was the beautiful scenery. The colors of the foliage were absolutely breathtaking. The sky was a beautiful shade of blue, marred only by the crisscrossing contrails left by jet engines 30,000 feet (or so) above the glorious arrayed mountains. I have had numerous opportunities to fly over this countryside myself. I could not help but think of the hundreds of people riding in those pressurized tubes that only appeared as a pinprick at the beginning of each contrail. I'm sure that for the most part, they were completely oblivious to the thousands of us who were hardly visible to them as we traversed the ribbon of highway so far below. I know their view of the earth from that altitude is magnificent, but I'll wager it was not nearly as spectacular as was ours from ground level.
The multicolored mountains, touched by the Master's hand and His palate at Big Stone Gap, Virginia, would have rivaled the most aesthetic scenery anywhere on the planet. It has been my privilege to fly across the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean a number of times. I have seen beautiful tropical islands, with volcanoes and sandy beaches. I have marveled at the sheer beauty of the mountains surrounding the harbor in Hong Kong. The amber waves of grain from the plains of the "breadbasket of America" are beautiful, indeed and are the inspiration of song. As are the glaciers and snow capped mountain peaks. There are tropical rain forests and deserts of dry, burning sand. The earth has canyons, and gorges, and lakes, and fjords whose beauty are awe inspiring. But I would not have traded any of those sites today, for the experience of driving along the Blue Ridge Mountains.
When I survey the glory of all the scenic topography of planet earth, I cannot help but to intone those familiar words, "Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee, How great thou art. How great thou art!"
The Psalmist must have felt those same stirrings in his heart when he penned the 104th division of the Hymn book of Israel:
"Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. 2 Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain: 3 Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind: 4 Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire: 5 Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever. 6 Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains. 7 At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away. 8 They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them. 9 Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth. 10 He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills. 11 They give drink to every beast of the field: the wild asses quench their thirst. 12 By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches. 13 He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works. 14 He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; 15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart. 16 The trees of the LORD are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted; 17 Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house. 18 The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies. 19 He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down. 20 Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. 21 The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God. 22 The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens. 23 Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening. 24 O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. 25 So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts. 26 There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein. 27 These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. 28 That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good. 29 Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. 30 Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth." (KJV)"
Sunday, October 26, 2008
For those who are not familiar with Upward, it is a youth sports ministry which was begun by Caz McCazlin at First Baptist Church of Spartanburg, SC over 20 years ago. Upward is now in over 2,000 churches around the country. Currently Upward offers Basketball, Cheerleading, Soccer, and Flag Football as Christ based outreach ministries for local churches. Westmoreland Baptist Church has sponsored Basketball and Cheerleading and Spring Soccer, and God has blessed those ministries this past year.
Ministry success is not based on numbers, but we are thankful for the scores of children who took part in both sports programs this past year. The important statistic is that each player gets a gospel message each week. Every game begins with prayer, and every person in the gymnasium hears a testimony and a gospel presentation at half time of each game. While some participants already attend this or other churches, we have found that many of the families involved are unchurched. Our goal is to reach those families with the Gospel of Christ, and to show the love of Jesus to everyone involved. The ministry has had an impact. In fact, on October 26th we baptized three members of a family who came to us by way of Upward Basketball last year.
In Upward, every child plays, (no tryouts or cuts), every child learns, (caring Christian coaches and referees teach them the concepts of the game, teamwork and sportsmanship) and every child wins. We take boys and girls from four years old through sixth grade. While the older kids might be a little more competitive than the younger, the emphasis is not on winning. It is on doing your best. Post game awards go to the children for categories like, “Best Offense”, “Best Defense”, “Best Sportsmanship”, and “Most Christlike”. Upward is not your typical youth sports league. While sports is the vehicle, Upward is a first and foremost a ministry.
Volunteers are needed for such tasks as Prayer Team Members, evaluation and registration helpers, concessions workers, set up, post game gym cleanup, coaching, officiating, devotion and testimony, cheerleading helpers, and general encouragers. Will you pray about what God may want you to do in this growing ministry of Westmoreland Baptist Church? If you would like to volunteer, contact me at 412-0352 or Basketball Commissioner, Jim Bailey at 429-8003.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
The following is the text of the letter and the list of signors to it:
The Hon. Joe Manchin, III
Office of the Governor, State Capitol
1900 Kanawha Blvd., East
Charleston, WV 25305
October 16, 2008
RE: An Open Letter to Gov. Manchin from the Pastors of West Virginia
We, the undersigned pastors of churches in the State of West Virginia, stand united in support of the institution of marriage.
As you set the agenda for the remaining special sessions of the 2008 West Virginia Legislature, we ask that you include legislation that would allow the citizens of West Virginia to define marriage as between one man and one woman within the Constitution of the State of West Virginia.
The time to defend marriage in West Virginia is now. Our common belief is that marriage is
between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a society that can be home to all human
beings, the reflection of our relationship with God, and a cornerstone of our society. This
compels our humble request.
Courts, legislatures, and even governors from around the country have placed marriages in West Virginia in immediate jeopardy. We believe that an amendment to the state constitution is
necessary in order to prevent the redefinition of marriage by judicial pen, legislative whimsy, or
Our names below reflect our affirmation of the following:
First, God created marriage for the good of His creation (Matthew 19:4-7). Scriptural Truth,
followed by centuries of tradition, reminds us that the union of one man and one woman is much
more than a contract (Genesis 1). It is a sacred, lifelong union that creates an intimate
community of life and love that, in turn, supports all of society.
Second, same-sex unions are not the same as opposite-sex unions. To believe otherwise is to
ignore the uniqueness of each gender’s design and undermines marriage (Genesis 2:18). The
break down or weakening of the institution of marriage has devastating moral, spiritual,
economic, and social effects on the whole of society. Marriage protects children by giving them
an opportunity to grow up in the ideal environment: with a married mom and dad. Knowingly
depriving children of that opportunity exposes our children to a great social experiment that is in no one’s best interest.
Third, marriage mirrors God’s relationship with us, thus completing, enriching, and perpetuating humanity (Ephesians 5). Any other pairing disrupts that relationship and is not marriage. As ministers of the Gospel, we are compelled to defend the institution of marriage as created by God– in church and in culture.
Fourth, as children of God, equally possessing the human dignity of being created in his image, our stand for marriage in no way disparages others – even if they disagree with us. As recipients of God’s grace, we are committed to demonstrating the love of Christ to those living the homosexual lifestyle.
Fifth, we commit to pray and humbly work toward a just resolution of this issue, which is of
grave importance to the well-being of the human family.
Sixth, as Christians, we cannot ignore our duty to speak the Truth to culture (Matthew 5:13-16). As citizens of West Virginia, we avail ourselves of the opportunity to affirm the historic, legal, and reasonable definition of marriage by making this request.
Seventh, we will strongly encourage Christians throughout West Virginia to engage in the civic process in defense of marriage and in support of the government’s leadership in defining
marriage as the union of one man and one woman (Romans 13).
Eighth, we commit to earnestly and regularly pray for our governor, our state senators and
delegates, judges, and all of the leaders set in positions of human authority over us (I Timothy
2:1-2). We pray for God’s wisdom to be imparted to each of them as they work to strengthen
marriages in this state.
Finally, we believe the union of one man and one woman, in the institution of marriage, is
foundational to our society and cannot be compared with any other union.
Rev. Seth N. Polk,
Cross Lanes Baptist Church,
Cross Lanes, WV
Rev. Keith Wiebe, Sr.
Grace Gospel Church,
Rev. Darrin Wright,
First Baptist Church of Wheeling,
Terry Harper, Executive Director
WV Convention of Southern Baptists
Teays Valley, WV
Pastor James R. Wright, Jr.
St. Albans, WV
Rev. David Lemming,
Lewis Memorial Baptist Church,
Pastor Nathan Cherry
Rev. Richard Mahan
St. Timothy’s Lutheran,
Rev. Keith Cobb
Perrow Presbyterian Church
Cross Lanes, WV
Rev. Greg Varndale
Fairlawn Baptist Church,
Rev. C.J. Adkins
Westmoreland Baptist Church
Rev. Kevin Prevett
First Baptist Church of Fairlea
Rev. Todd Hill
Grace Baptist Church,
Rev. H. Kenneth Stidham, Jr.
Good Shepherd Baptist Church,
Scott Depot, WV
Rev. Bernard Toppings
Witcher Baptist Church,
Rev. Dan Jividen
Immanuel Baptist Church,
Rev. Dave Buckley
Cross Lanes Bible Church,
Cross Lanes, WV
Rev. Kevin Dennis, District Superintendent
West Virginia North District,
Church of the Nazerene,
Rev. Mark Johnson
Independent Bible Church,
Rev. Van Marsceau
Fellowship Bible Church
Charles Town, WV
Rev. David Goodin
Chaplain, Mepco, Inc.,
Pastor Jonathan Rinker
Crow Christian Church,
Dr. Daniel Anderson, President
Appalachian Bible College,
Mt. Hope, WV
Rev. James Morton, Jr.
Freedom Baptist Church
Rev. Donald E. Knotts
Wayside Baptist Church,
Rev. Eddie Henson
Highlawn Baptist Church, Chinese Mission,
Rev. Tommy Knotts
Brenton Baptist Church,
Rev. Daniel Gunnoe
East End Baptist Church,
Rev. Bill Hines
Parkersburg Broadway Church of
Rev. Chad Harvey
Little Sandy Church of the
Bruceton Mills, WV
Rev. Dave Turner
Terra Alta Church of the Nazarene,
Terra Alta, WV
Rev. Scott Mapes
Ravenswood Church of the
Rev. Matthew Bates
Colliers Church of the Nazarene,
Rev. Everett Clay
Newell First Church of the
Rev. Robert Kniley
Blennerhassett Church of the
Rev. Dennis Yingling
Wellsburg Church of the Nazarene,
Rev. Jerry Dooley
Mannington Church of the
Rev. Keith Miller
Canaan Baptist Church,
Mill Creek, WV
Pastor Jesse Wisnewski,
Perrow Presbyterian Church,
Cross Lanes, WV
Rev. Dana Snodgrass
Weirton First Church of the Nazarene,
Rev. Danny Linger
Parsons Church of the Nazarene,
Rev. Tom Fletcher
Spencer Church of the Nazarene,
Rev. Tim Bess
Shinnston Church of the Nazarene,
Rev. Brett Phipps
Summersville Nazarene Camp,
Rev. David Edwards
Paden City Church of the Nazarene,
Paden City, WV
Rev. Steve Cummings
Chester Church of the Nazarene,
Pastor Dean Brdlik
Emmanuel Community Church,
Pastor David Johns
Winfield Baptist Church
Rev. Darrell L. Clark
Southern Baptist Church,
Rev. Vernon Beachum
First Baptist Church,
Fort Ashby, WV
Pastor Mike Hager
Faith Missionary Baptist Church
St. Albans, WV
WV Convention of Southern Baptists,
Teays Valley, WV
Rev. David Spence
Cornerstone Community Church
Friday, October 17, 2008
The vital statistics indicate that the widest clean span is 790 feet (240 m) long and sits 135 feet (41 m) above the water. There are three navigation channels below the bridge, the widest being 750 feet (230 m). The distinctive rail structure is 22,996 feet (7,009 m) long and extends as a rail viaduct well into the city. The highway structure is 8,076 feet (2,462 m) long with extremely steep grades on both sides. Each roadway deck is a precarious 18 feet (5.5 m) wide, with 2 9-foot lanes, but because of the railroad component, is unusually flat for a bridge of this height. Normally, bridges this high have a hump to accommodate the height but this bridge is flat to accommodate rail traffic.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
Friday, October 3, 2008
Is that what's bothering you, Bunkie?
Well there is good news.
In a world where situations change and new crises arise daily, there is good news. No matter what happens in the economy - no matter who wins the election - no matter what publicity stunts are pulled by some Hollywood bimbos - there are some predictions that I can assure you that you can count on. No matter what happens tomorrow, here are the top ten assured predictions:
- The Bible will still have the answers
- There will still be power in prayer
- The Holy Spirit will still be at work
- God will still inhabit the praises of His people
- There will still be God anointed preaching on Sunday morning
- There will still be singing of praises to God
- God will still bless His people
- There will still be room at the cross
- Jesus will still love you
- God still wants everyone to have a personal relationship with Him through Jesus
When we do not know what tomorrow knows - isn't it comforting to know who holds tomorrow?
Thursday, October 2, 2008
I first became acquainted with them about 12 years ago. The two young ladies were sisters who, along with their brother, attended the church where I served as Pastor. They were pleasant young adults, unmarried, quiet, and only spoke when spoken to. The older sister was a Veterinarian who had a clinic in a nearby town in the next county, and the younger sister was her assistant in the clinic. The brother worked as a mechanic and body man in the shop owned by their uncle, who, along with his wife, had been bringing them to church since they were teenagers. Their mother and father were Christians who attended another church - but not on a regular basis. Something had happened in that church years ago that hurt the parents, and while they were good, godly people, their church attendance was sporadic.
The girls lives revolved around their work - seven days a week. Even though the clinic didn't have regular hours on Sunday, there were emergencies from time to time, and just like a hospital for humans, the Vet clinic had patients that needed to be cared for daily. As soon as church was over on Sunday morning, the two sisters were off for the next county, where they would faithfully care for the animals in their charge.
The kids had come from a Pentecostal background in the same small town church where singer and actor Billy Ray Cyrus had grown up. The brother had accepted Christ as a boy, but his two sisters had never made professions of faith in Jesus. Although they were good folks and had high moral standards, much like the Rich Young Ruler in the Bible, they only lacked one thing - a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus. There are a lot of people out there like that. Good moral folks. Often more circumspect in their lives than some professing Christians. Unable to comprehend why, when they do their best to be a good person and upright citizen, that they need a Savior. Such folks often feel that their good works are enough. Yet the Bible tells us that "there is none good but God". "All of us have sinned and missed the mark" and even at the best we can do, "our righteousness is like filthy rags" (literally in the Hebrew, menstural cloths) in the sight of a Holy God. We all need a Savior.
I had lost track of the young ladies several years ago, when I accepted a pastorate in another city across the river in a neighboring state. I saw their brother on occasion, when I would have reason to bring my car by his uncle's shop from time to time. I always asked about the girls and his reply was always, "They're fine - still living at home with mom and dad and staying busy at the clinic". These girls were devoted to their work and their family. In fact, their 68 year old mother regularly helped them in the clinic every day and they were very close. Their mother had recently given them Bibles and had been encouraging them to give their lives to Christ, but - they were very busy helping people with their pets and farm animals. There just wasn't much time to think about things like that at the present.
This past Sunday morning, I got the call from their Uncle.
On the previous morning, the mother and both daughters had been on their way to the clinic for the usual Saturday work. Mom was driving the Jeep at about 65 miles per hour on the interstate highway when she announced, "I feel faint" and immediately slumped over the steering wheel. As the Jeep headed for the median, the daughter in the back seat tried to lift her mother back off the wheel while her sister in the front seat attempted to steer the vehicle from the passenger side. As a result of the over correction of their course, the car veered off the right side of the highway, rolled up an embankment, and landed on its roof. The girls sustained minor injuries but miraculously survived the accident. Sadly, however, their mother was gone. She had suffered a massive fatal heart attack.
The Uncle who called me said the girls had asked him to see if I would be able to officiate at their mother's funeral. They knew of my battle with cancer and since they had not seen me in some time, were unsure of my physical condition. I assured him that I would certainly do what I could to help.
I was at the funeral home yesterday afternoon when the family arrived about 5:15. There were only the three of them - the father, son, and two sisters, broken and grieving. After the initial hugs and words of consolation we stepped into the parlor for them to have private time at their loved one's casket before the general public would begin arriving at 6:00. After several minutes of quiet time, I mentioned to the family that their loved one had kept an appointment that God has made for each of us. The most important thing we can do in this life is to be ready for that appointment, and the only way to be prepared is through a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus. "If your mom could speak to you right now" I told the girls, "I believe she would uge you to come to Jesus."
The older daughter looked at me through her tears and said, "You know, we have been talking about that a lot lately. Could we be saved right now?"
My heart lept with joy. "You surely can" I said.
Very simply explaining the plan of salvation to them (which they had heard many times before), I asked them if they understood. They did. I asked them if they acknowledged their sin and if they were willing to turn from their way to God's way, and accept Jesus and His sacrifice for their sins. They did.
While the four of us stood there arm in arm in front of their mother's casket, Kim and Aimee prayed to accept Jesus as their Savior.
Jesus said that there is rejoicing in the presence of the Angels when a lost soul is found. At 5:30 yesterday evening there was a double reason for having a rejoicing party in Heaven!
New life had begun in the very presence of death.
I'm actually looking forward to this afternoon's funeral service!
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Dr. James Dobson's "Focus on the Family" magazine lists October as Pastor Appreciation Month throughout the United States. When most folks think of their pastor, it probably conjures up images like the one at left. However, other than the three hours a week (or so) that we are in the pulpit, pastors have many other duties and responsibilites as well.
We're a strange lot. Paul the Apostle advised young Timothy that, "If a man desires the office of Bishop, he desires a good work." On the other hand sometimes people (and pastors themselves on Monday) wonder why that is. In fact, Charley Dygert has asked me on several occasions, "What in the world possesses a guy like you to WANT this job?"
Well, the answer is that while we often think of it as a job, in fact it is a calling. The amazing thing is that God calls men into the pastorate who are just that. Men. Human beings, with all of the strengths and weaknesses that go with being part of humankind. Now, I don't want you to disrespect the office your pastor holds, but I hope each of you will realize that in many ways, the guy behind the pulpit, is not a lot different than the guy in the pew. He just has the responsibility of being a shepherd. Sometimes the task is difficult, but a truly God called Pastor will find joy and happiness in no other.
Recent research statistics show that pastors are leaving the ministry in larger numbers than ever. Some leave do to moral failure. More leave due to financial burdens and the generally low pay. The great majority leave from burnout or as a result of church conflict. It is easy to criticize your pastor, no matter who he may be, but remember that he does have a difficult job. One wise man once said, "If you want a better pastor - pray for him!"
I have been blessed to serve as an associate pastor in one church, and as lead pastor in five churches over the 38 years of my ministry. It hasn't always been a "bed of roses" but I have dear friends today in each of those churches and a multitude of precious memories. The past six years at Westmoreland Baptist have been some of the most wonderful years of my ministry, and I would not trade the past 38 years with anyone!
Now, with all that serious stuff said, let me share something a little more lighthearted with you. A long time friend and fellow Pastor, Phil Warren sent this message to me yesterday, and I got a good chuckle out of it. I'm sure Phil wouldn't mind me passing it along to you today. It may give the average church member a humorous look into the psyche of your pastor.
YOU MIGHT BE A PASTOR IF...
- You hesitate to tell people what you do for a living.
- You've ever dreamed you were preaching only to awaken and discover you were.
- You've ever wondered why people couldn't die at more appropriate times.
- You find yourself counting people at a sporting event.
- You're leading the church into the 21st century, but you don't know what you're preaching on Sunday.
- A church picnic is no picnic.
- You jiggle all the commode handles at the church before you leave.
- You've ever spoken for free and were worth every penny of it.
- People sleep while you're talking.
- Instead of getting "ticked off," you get "grieved in your spirit."
- You've ever been tempted to take an offering at a family reunion.
- You read sermons to your kids at night instead of bedtime stories.
- You'd rather talk to people with every head bowed and every eye closed.
- You've ever wanted to "lay hands" around a deacon's neck.
- You often feel like you're herding cats rather than shepherding sheep.
- Your greatest joys have been in the church.