Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Blessings

The gifts have all been opened.

Our big family dinner was held on Christmas Eve.

Cleanup is progressing nicely.

The grandsons have created some new "Christmas memories" for us to treasure.

The church was full for Christmas Eve Candle light Communion Service, and it was a wonderful time of Worship.

It's now very early Christmas morning. Linda is still sleeping soundly. She deserves it. This is our 40th Christmas together, and the lion's share of all the shopping, decorating, gift wrapping, cooking, and spreading of Christmas cheer in this family can be traced to her. Mine is simply a supporting role to the one who has "made" this season of the year so special to our widespread family.

Jay, Michelle, Quint and Canon are celebrating in their home in New Orleans. We plan to have a "late" Christmas celebration with them next week. Benji, Leigh Anne, Will and Asher (having been with us yesterday) will spend Christmas day with the Clantons and Craces today. Mom and Dad will have Christmas dinner today with Bruce and Sandi and their families. Carl, Sarah, Kate and Alex are in Atlanta. Linda's Dad, Burgess, missed our family dinner yesterday, suffering from some type of virus. Hopefully we will see him today. The rest of her family is spread from Ashland to Lexington, to Pike Co. Kentucky and from Hampton, VA to Florida and northern Ohio.

So, today, Christmas Day, Linda and I will spend quietly together.

No sadness. No Holiday Depression. Just the two of us, celebrating our 40th Yuletide together.

It will be a day to reflect on all of God's blessings to us. Our home. Our family. Our innumerable friends. And how God has spared our lives to enjoy it all.

It will be a day to reflect on His greatest gift to us.

A Savior.

A Savior who was born so very long ago in an obscure place on another continent. He came to show us the Father (His Father) in Heaven. He became Immanuel, God with us! His life magified the Father. His death purchased our pardon and redeemed us from the slave market of sin. His resurrection grants eternal life to all who receive Him.

Above all, He brings us into a loving relationship with the Father, who loves us more than any imaginable type of earthly, human love. He brings peace, joy, love, hope, contentment, and meaning to life - and it is only found in Him.

This is the Christmas Story. This is the Good News that everyone needs to hear.

So, when the lights are all unplugged, the decorations come down, trees and garland discarded, we hope to keep the "Christmas Spirit" alive throughout the coming year.

Christmas is Jesus. Our Savior. Our Lord. Our dearest friend.

Join with us, and let's make every day "Christmas".

Thursday, December 17, 2009

We'll Miss Her Around Here!

The panic is beginning to set in.

Well , maybe not real panic, but the unpleasant knowledge that I will be losing my "right arm" on January 1st. That is when our Church Secretary, Sonia Jones, begins her new employment with a local law firm. Sonia has accepted an offer that she couldn't refuse. It involves full time employment, higher wages, and retirement benefits. I certainly don't begrudge her taking advantage of this offer and I certainly wish her the best, but things just won't be the same around here without her.

Sonia is the pleasant first voice one hears when calling Westmoreland Baptist Church. She came to the church just over seven years ago, after a number of years working for another large law firm in Huntington. In fact, she began her duties at WBC just a few months before I was called to be Pastor here. I continue to marvel at how deftly she handles her duties and how she manages to get everything done between 8:00 AM and 3:00 PM, Monday through Friday. But she does it well, and her duties are much more than just answering the phone.

Sonia serves as both the Administrative Secretary and Financial Secretary at Westmoreland. While keeping up with the innumerable tasks I give her to do everyday, she still finds time to run the office; paying bills; doing payroll for the church and Mother's Day Out; keeping all of the church's financial records and bank accounts current, updating membership lists; typing up the weekly bulletin and the monthly newsletter; processing numerous requests for help from needy families; taking care of all outgoing and incoming correspondence; ordering office supplies; computer troubleshooting; handling incoming phone calls; keeping the church calendar updated; answering questions and helping church members with various needs; etc, etc, etc.
Get the idea?

Her office can seem like Grand Central Station at times. It can get crowded and noisy. It can be confusing. Yet her efficiency in getting the job done - often under great stress and looming deadlines is second to none. Very seldom does she make a mistake. Once a task makes it's way to her "To Do" list, you can count on it being accomplished. I never have to ask twice. She manages to take care of all her church obligations while at the same time being a wife and mother, and helping her husband, Philip, manage the numerous rental properties that they own. She is a busy girl...

She has also come to be considered a friend to many members of our church family. I am sure they will all join me in wishing Sonia the very best on her new job, and also in feeling the loss here at Westmoreland Baptist Church. Obviously, I am not looking forward to the transition, and she will leave some big shoes to fill, but I know that God has the right person out there for us. We'll make it through of course, but we'll miss her.
So, Sonia, we wish the very best to you, and Philip, and Nathan in the future. Thank you for a job well done.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Something to Consider This Christmas

This post is not original with me, but I certainly like what it says. I received it from Cathy Howerton, who received it from Daina Reger Hamlin. I appreciate it being sent along to me. With all our "well meaning attempts to do the right thing" it would probably benefit all of us (and bring more glory to God) if we would simply practice the truth of the message of this imaginary letter. Think about it…

Letter from Jesus about Christmas --

It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. Maybe you've forgotten that I wasn't actually born during this time of the year and that it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate My birthday on what was actually a time of pagan festival. Although I do appreciate being remembered anytime.

How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn If all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1 - 8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it:

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of writing the President complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up. It will be nice hearing from you again.

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, life, death, and resurrection, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.

5 Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.

7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping thereon Sunday. If the store didn't make so much money on that day they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families

8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary-- especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.

9. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the City Mission, Salvation Army, CAReS, River Cities Harvest, The Dressing Room (Federated Charities), Community Kitchen or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.

10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.

Don't forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember:


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Perhaps You Can Help

I want to use the blog today in the unusual way. I want to share a great need with you, and I am asking each reader to pray about how they might be able to help in some way to meet this need.

I just returned from a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and have a strong leading to share with you the most pressing need that this great seminary has today.

NOBTS has experienced an amazing recovery since Hurricane Katrina flooded the campus in 2005. The campus is beautiful again, operations have fully recovered, and quality young men and women are flocking to the campus to follow God's calling on their lives. However, since the storm, the critical shortage of housing has hampered the seminary's ability to offer housing to all the students who come to New Orleans to study theology and prepare for ministry, missions, and other Christian vocations.

Ninety Two apartments were destroyed by Katrina. As a result of the lost two bedroom units, the seminary routinely places 20-30 student families on a waiting list for on campus housing at the start of each semester. Seminary President, Dr. Chuck Kelley has routinely said that replacing the 92 apartments is the most pressing need we face today.

To further the problem, since Katrina, the city of New Orleans has a much lower amount of housing available, and rents in the area are tremendously high. This is very difficult for Christian families, many of whom have left comfortable conditions at home, to follow God's will for their lives.

Our Board of Trustees approved construction of two new student apartment buildings at our Fall Meeting this past October 14,2009. The cost of the construction is $2.7 million, and ground was broken later that month on the project.

This intuitive will result in a total of 16 new two bedroom apartments (eight two bedroom units in each of the two new buildings). Financing has already been approved for these buildings, construction is underway, and these units should be available to those who come to New Orleans for the 2010 Fall Semester.

While Dr. Kelley was thankful for the opportunity to realize the 16 new apartments, he stated that another eight units are urgently needed, just to meet the immediate student housing demand.

The Trustees approved a motion concerning a third, eight apartment building. The full board authorized the trustee officers to approve the construction of a third building, but only if funds can be raised withing the next year. One of our new trustees, challenged us in October for each trustee to seek to privately raise funds to meet the urgent need for these housing units. Our trustee fundraising goal is $800,000. After two months, we have actually received $18,300 which represents 2% of our goal.

That is why I am writing you today in this edition of "For What It's Worth".

After our tithes to our local church, Linda and I have made it a practice to financially support NOBTS each month. We realize that we are living in economically depressed times. The giving has not been easy, but we have been blessed for it.

I believe there are a number of readers of this blog, who could help in some way. Some are financially blessed and could give a very healthy sum to this urgent need. Some may only be able to spare "the widow's mite". No gift would be too small (or too large)! Anything given to this need can be multiplied in the hands of a God who fed more than 5,000 people from a little boy's lunch bag. One could give monthly, or a one time gift. Some might consider including NOBTS in their will. Whatever is given will go directly to the serious housing need.

Our son is working on his Doctorate at NOBTS, but he and his family are blessed to be living in a parsonage supplied by the church he pastors. Many other students are not as fortunate. In fact, it is likely that our church will have two newly married couples on the NOBTS campus next fall. Your gift to this initiative could very well help them to find affordable housing on campus.

Will you pray about what God might have you to do?

For more information, you may contact me via email or by phone at (304) 412-0352. I'll be happy to share an informational packet with you. Checks should be made out to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (marked "Trustee Housing Project" in the memo section). May God lay it on the hearts of many to do what they can to give a gift that will go on giving for the furtherance of the Gospel, well beyond our own lifetimes!

Monday, December 7, 2009

When the Saints Go Marching In

I'm sitting at gate B13 at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, awaiting departure on US Airways flight 1613 to New Orleans. Purpose of the trip is related to my duties as a New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Trustee, but I get to combine business with pleasure and spend a couple of nights with my son, Jay, and his family while in the Big Easy.

It appears that the flight is full. Seating in the gate area is severely inadequate and some of us are sitting in the row of seats marked, "Special Assistance Passenger". (In my case that may be appropriated). There seems to be an awful large number of New Orleans Saints fans awaiting boarding, and with good reason. The Saints are 12-0 for the season, one of only two teams that are undefeated in the NFL this year. In fact it is the first time in NFL history that two teams are undefeated after the twelfth week of play. The Saints almost blew it Sunday as it took an overtime field goal to secure the win against the Washington Redskins in DC.

There are a lot of Saints fans out there across the fruited plain today. Moreso than ever before. The last couple of seasons have been good for the Saints. In fact, Hurricane Katrina seemed to be a turning point for the team formerly known as the "Ain'ts" (as in "ain't going to the playoffs") The 12-0 darlings of New Orleans have picked up thousands of new fans since their convincing beat down of the powerful New England Patriots at the Louisiana Superdome a week ago, seen nationally on Monday Night Football. My friend, Greg Hamby, a pastor in the Boston area, (and a long time Patriots fan) has decried the sudden number of "bandwagon fans" tha the Saints seem to have picked up. But isn't that usually the case?

When things are going well, everyone loves a winner. And the Saints are just that this season. Big time winners.

That seems to be the way it is in life in general. There are always folks who jump on the bandwagon when someone is winning, and winning big. We want to identify with winners.

It all reminds me of the huge number of people you can find (my age and older) who are Cincinnati Reds fans (or I should say WERE Cincinnati Reds fans). They all remember those great teams we called the "Big Red Machine" back in the 70's. You remember. The guys who beat the powerful Boston Red Sox in seven games during what many have called the greatest World Series ever. The same bunch, led by Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, George Foster, et al, came back the next year and swept the Bronx Bombers in four games, for back to back titles.

Where are all the "Big Red Machine Fans" now? In fact, where were they before, back in the days before Sparky Anderson and Don Gullett? Where were they when Gordy Coleman, Joe Nuxhall and Leo Cardenas were just an average run of the mill bunch of Redlegs?

It's the bandwagon phenomenon and it is not just related to sports. You'll find the same situation with politicians, and celebrities of many stripes. When they are winning and popular, everybody wants a piece of the action. When things go south, the bandwagon empties quickly.

It was the same way in Jesus' time. Huge multitudes were following Him for His controversial teaching, his miracle working actions and for the sheer curiosity aspect of it all. His popularity was tremendous. In John chapter six, Jesus began to declare who He truly was and for what reason He came. The bandwagon began to empty quickly. When many "turned away and walked with Him no more", He asked His disciples, "Will you also go away?"

Simon Peter spoke up (as he often did) and said "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!"

Those are not the words of a bandwagon fan. Those are not the words of a fair weather friend. Those are the words of an individual who recognized Jesus as the Way the Truth and the Life, and realized that apart from Him, there is no hope of forgiven sin, eternal life, and a relationship with God. Peter had found that in Jesus. Millions of others have, too.

Do you have such a relationship?

I'm convinced that most of the Saint's fans here at gate B13 are true fans, not the bandwagon variety. Many of them are talking about the long years of losing, and the wonderful fulfillment that the team brings today.

I hope that they, and you, have your full trust and faith in the one who has already won the greatest victory of time and eternity.

Will YOU be in that number... "When the Saints Go Marching In"?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Most Uncomfortable Position

Straddling the fence is a most uncomfortable position!

Several months ago General Stanley McChrystal, the commanding officer of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said that he needed another 40,000 troops to accomplish the mission in that ongoing war. McChrystal had made that request to the President public, and it immediately became fodder for every television news cast, talk radio program, and cable news show's talking head. The debate has raged for months now. Should the President give the General the number of boots on the ground that he felt he needed? Or should we just clear out of that God forsaken place, having already lost more American lives than we should have in a war that seems to have no end in sight?

The President said he would not make any quick decisions on such a weighty matter - and he didn't!

Finally, after several meetings with his "war council", the President revealed his decision in a nationally televised speech. Speaking to the country from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he announced that he would be sending 30,000 fighting men to Afghanistan. He further said that he had set the date of July 2011, as the target for beginning the pull out of our troops.

Fire erupted on the President from both the left and the right.

The anti war liberals (his political base) raged that not one more soldier should be sent to Afghanistan. They would accept nothing less that a plan for an immediate withdrawal. On the other hand, the hawkish right applauded his committing more troops, but were incredulous that he announced a pull out date at the same time.

Our President, like many other politicians, was trying to have it both ways. Appearing to try to please everyone, he pleased virtually no one. He appeared to be straddling the fence, and as anyone who has ever literally done so knows, that is a most uncomfortable position!

Warfare planning is a polarizing thing. When waging war, there are basically two acceptable choices. Either totally commit the personnel, strategy, and resources required to win the conflict - or get out! It's really pretty simple. Any other choice is unacceptable and disastrous (anybody remember Viet Nam?).

Straddling the fence is terribly uncomfortable - and generally speaking - unacceptable.

The same concept is true in our spiritual lives.

Nearly 2,000 years ago, Pontius Pilate, the Roman Procurator of the province of Judea, found himself in a political no win situation. Faced with a howling mob, demanding him to take action against a prisoner in whom he could find no fault, Pilate asked the question, "What shall I do with this man, Jesus?" It's the same question that thoughtful people have been asking themselves for twenty centuries.

Jesus is the most polarizing figure in human history. He presents Himself to us as the ONLY way to Heaven, and to a right relationship with God.

In our current culture, a common philosophy is that there are surely several paths to God. Jesus is only one of many. Jesus, however, said that there are only two spiritual roads that a human may take. One is broad, with easy access, and heavily travelled. The other is narrow and somewhat difficult. It has only one on ramp, and many folks miss it. Jesus said that the first way leads to destruction but the second road leads to life everlasting. (Matthew 7:13)

Two choices.

Jesus said He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Him! (John 14:6) Accept Him and His sacrifice for our sin, or reject Him and futilely try to make it on your own.

Two choices.

In Matthew 12:30, Jesus said, ""He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad."

Two choices.

Like Pilate of old, each of us must face that question, "What shall I do with this man, Jesus?"
There are only two choices one may make.

Be careful to make the right one.

Fence straddling is not an option. It's not only uncomfortable, but in this case, it's eternally disasterous!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Don't Count On Crashing This Party

The White House is embarrassed by a major security breach pulled off this week at President Obama's first State Dinner. Seems as though a couple from northern Virginia, Michaele and Tareq Salahi, walked right in to the 5 star, black tie affair even though their names were not on the authorized guest list. The Secret Service, which is tasked with protection of the President and the first family, have been mum so far concerning the November 24th shocker. No wonder! How embarrassing must that be - not at some non secure public venue, but right in the White House no less?

NBC Evening News anchor man, Brian Williams (who was, himself, an invited guest) said that he witnessed the arrival of the couple. Williams recalled that he thought it odd, how this couple got out of a limousine with their own photographer snapping photos, and a personal make up person who gave Mrs. Salahi a last minute make up and hair touch up before making their grand entrance. The Salahi's posed for photos with Raham Emmanuel, Vice President Biden and numerous other VIP's who WERE invited guests.

It must take a lot of nerve, and an abundance of gall, to try to pull off a stunt like this. Apparently these folks got what they were looking for - their 15 minutes of fame - and the opportunity to hob nob with international big shots in the home of the leader of the free world. More information is coming out on this couple daily as news agencies look into their past. It seems that they are no strangers to our justice system, with over 17 court appearances in various lawsuits in recent years. Furthermore, one Internet source has also revealed that the couple spent the hours preceding their successful security breach, accompanied by a television crew from a proposed reality program. This couple is a real piece of work and they may be facing prosecution for their actions.

Gate crashers have been around for a long time. Do you remember that guy back in the 80's who was always showing up at sporting events, infiltrating the players ranks in uniform and even got on the court as part of an NBA officiating crew? A friend told me once that in many situations, one can gain access to just about any area, "If you just act like you belong there and you know where you're going". There is obviously an element of truth to that, but I can think of one "party" that one need not even think about crashing. Very simply stated, it ain't going to happen.

John the Apostle gives us a glimpse of this still future event as he writes in the Book of the Revelation, (the last book of the Bible) in chapter 19, verses 6-10. Please note what verse 9 says:

"And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are
invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

The Bible plainly states that there is but one way to be included on that invitation list, and that is through a personal relationship with the host. Jesus tells us that He is the key. He alone controls the guest list. Apart from Him you will not gain access:

"Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No
one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6 ESV)

Are you on that guest list? God wants you to come. He has sent you a personal invitation and provided the way, but there is only one way. You can bet your eternal destiny on the fact that the security for that event will be impenetrable!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What's Your "Agent Code"?

Back in the 50's, TV host Art Linkletter authored a book entitled "Kids Say The Darnedest Things!" Anyone who has ever raised (or even been around) children can verify that title. While they certainly may say the unexpected, there is usually an element of honesty and truth to their pronouncements. Little Canon Josiah Adkins (grandson #3), who celebrates his 5th birthday this Sunday, is a perfect example.

His mother tells of a recent event that, while I it find hilarious, really spoke to my heart.

Michelle and Canon's older brother Quint were playing in the kitchen floor with Rudy the Cocker Spaniel. For some reason, Canon limped into the room holding a piece of paper in his hand. Michelle said he acted like he was reading some sort of official dispatch as he announced seriously, "Our agent code is 'Latcherated'".

"What?" said Michelle.

Canon repeated the message, "Our agent code is 'Latcherated!'"

"What is Latcherated?" she asked.

"Never give up." he answered seriously, then exited the room.

The kid is a real hoot. What makes the story funny to us, is that no one knows where he came up with the word and it's definition. What makes it poignant is that it speaks so strongly of Canon's character.

For nearly half of Canon's young life he and his family have been dealing with a measure of adversity. The problem first surfaced when, Canon began to limp, and to complain about pain in his lower leg. A trip to the ER and resulting x rays indicated that the tibia was fractured just above the ankle. Everyone was baffled. There had been no trauma of any type. The ER doctors at West Jefferson Parish Hospital referred Canon to New Orleans Children's Hospital where an MRI was ordered. The test showed that a tumor had formed inside the bone and grown large enough that the tibia had been weakened to the point of fracturing under normal activity.

It is a long story, but I will shorten it to the point that surgery was done to dig the tumor out of the bone. Shavings from a cadaver bone were used to fill the void left by the removal of the growth. Canon wore a cast to the hip for a number of weeks. Later a walking cast. Still later a protective boot. Just about the time he was getting accustomed to walking without the boot, the bone broke again. Further MRI tests showed the tumor had returned and was larger than before.

More surgery - this one more extensive. Another cast. A wheel chair. A walker. Eventually another "Moon Boot". Late this Summer the boot was removed and Canon was back to wearing matching shoes again. When I was there in early October, I was saddened to see how much smaller his "problem leg" was than the other. Lack of use had caused the muscles to atrophy and he was limping pretty badly, always under the encouragement of his parents to use the leg and "build up the muscles".

In all, Canon has had tree surgeries on the leg, several MRI's, numerous hospital and doctor visits, and a good bit of pain. Throughout the entire ordeal, Canon has had the sweetest spirit, and shown a maturity that is far beyond his years. He has often thanked God in his bedtime prayers, for his doctors, and even for his cast and his wheel chair. He is a picture of perseverance in a five year old boy.

A couple of weeks ago, in a followup visit to the surgeon, Jay and Michelle were numbed by the news. The leg was broken again. Canon is back into a cast for the third time, and they are awaiting further instructions from the surgeon. No word yet on whether or not the tumor has returned. Only an MRI will determine that. Until that, the question remains unanswered.

We know that Canon's situation could be much worse. There are children suffering all around the nation and the world in more serious condition than he. Our hearts still hurt for him, but we thank God for Canon and for his attitude in adversity. He's a pretty good role model for all of us in that respect. But, why should that surprise us?

After all, his "agent code IS 'Latcherated'".

What is yours?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Class Act

On July 3rd this summer, Rick Gunnell and I (along with his son, Ricky and my grandsons Will and Asher) visited Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati for a game between the Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals. That particular game was, I believe, the turning point in the season for my Reds. They were only a game and a half behind the division leading Cards, and had been hitting on all cylinders. It all changed that day, as July and August became a nightmare for Redlegs fans everywhere.

The Reds had a comfortable (we thought) three run lead going into the 8th inning when the wheels began to come off. With two outs and the bases loaded, Cardinal first baseman Albert Pujols stepped into the box. I told Will, "This guy can change this whole game with one swing of the bat."

That is precisely what he did.

He drove reliever, Carl Weather's, pitch deep into the leftcenterfield stands, one section over to our left. Long story short, the Cardinals won, and the Reds began a downward spiral, and the Cardinals never looked back. That is the kind of player Albert Pulols is. The kind that can carry a team on his strong shoulders. And that is exactly why he was named National League Most Valuable Player yesterday.

This is the third time in Pulols' career that he has won the MVP award. He joins an exclusive club of only 9 men in both major leagues to be named MVP thrice. This list includes Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmy Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Alex Rodriquez, and Mike Schmidt. Pretty lofty company, heh? Only the alleged steroid king, Barry Bonds has more MVP trophies (7) on his mantle.

While not a Cardinal fan, myself, I still have great admiration for "El Hombre". Not just for his tremendous athletic accomplishments, but because of his unapologetic testimony of his faith in Jesus Christ.

Several years ago, while attending a breakfast for State Convention Presidents at the LifeWay building in Nashville, I met Fred and Cindy Winters. Fred, as you will remember, was the Illinois pastor who was fatally shot in his pulpit during a Sunday morning worship service last year. The conversation was wide ranging that morning, and somehow the subject of baseball came up. Fred and Cindy lived in the metro St. Louis area, and were Cardinal fans. I joked with them about the division rivalry between the Cardinals and my favorite team from Cincinnati.

Cindy's eyes lit up when she talked about the Cardinals. She was truly a FAN, and Pujols was her baseball hero!

"Albert is a believer, you know", she said with a big smile.

I was unaware of that fact at that time. I only knew he was a good first baseman, and an opposing pitcher's worst nightmare.

When my son, Jay, and I had breakfast with Fred and Cindy later that year at the SBC annual meeting, Cindy had something she wanted to give me. It was a little "baseball card" of featuring Albert Pujols, but it wasn't the type that comes with statistics on the back. The front of the card had a color photo of Albert pounding one out of the park, and the reverse side, told of his conversion and of his life as a follower of Jesus Christ.

"If this doesn't make you a Cardinal fan, nothing will", said red haired Cindy.

Well, I'm still not a Cardinal fan, but I did become a fan of Albert Pujols. Since then I have read several times of his outspoken Christian faith, and have heard him interviewed by Dr. James Dobson on "Focus on the Family". His personal testimony is compelling.

The MVP award couldn't have gone to a more deserving player, who is also a wonderful role model for young people and adults alike.

In the professional sports arena, where side stories of drunkenness, drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, gambling, and violence abound, isn't it refreshing to know that it is possible to be a hero, and still have a personal relationship with God.

Thank God for men in all walks of life who are not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, but it's always exciting when sports stars like Albert Pujols and Tim Tebow use their celebrity as an opportunity to exalt their Savior.
Real men love Jesus!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tribute To An Old Friend

Tandy's eyes lit up at the challenge. With that big grin all over his face he shouted, "I'll supply the mule!".

It must have been 8 or 9 years ago, and I was issuing a challenge to the members of Ashland Baptist Church to fill up the house for High Attendance Sunday. I had told them how my son had made a deal with his congregation down the river in South Shore, KY that if they broke the attendance record for Homecoming, that he would kiss a pig! The Ashland Baptist folks got a big laugh at the story of how Jay had been forced to pucker up for a porcine smooch. Someone in the congregation asked me, "Hey C.J., if we hit the goal for High Attendance Sunday, will YOU kiss a pig?" I thought about it for a moment but then my eyes fell on Tandy Kemper in the third row.

"No", I said firmly, "But if we get 120 in Sunday School or 150 in morning worship, I'll ride a mule home from church."

I knew Tandy Kemper had a couple of mules among the other animals he kept out on his Crane Creek, KY farm. I also knew that Tandy was always ready to load up old Kate and Barney and put them on display. He took the bait immediately. "I'll supply the mule!" he said.

The sanctuary at Ashland Baptist could seat 160, max, without putting out folding chairs. A crowd of 150 would pretty much fill up the building, and the folks rose to the task. On High Attendance Sunday, we missed the Sunday School goal by about 10 folks, but the tally for the worship service was 155.

The event was on. I would ride the mule home after church the next Sunday.

The crowd that day was even bigger than the previous Lord's Day. Folks were chomping at the bit to see me ride a mule. (Strange what some pastors will do to get a houseful of people to preach to). Tandy had brought both mules, and it was agreed that my Sunday School Director would ride the second one.

Earlier in the week, Floyd Paris (pastor of nearby Unity Baptist) had asked me the big question.

"Have you ever ridden a mule before?"

"No" I admitted, but I allowed that it couldn't be too hard.

"Well when you get up on his back, scoot as far back on it as you possibly can."

Being a total novice at mule riding, I agreed to follow Floyd's advice.

The big day came and the crowd outside the church was buzzing with excitement. Someone had called the newspaper and a photographer was present (front page - slow news day!), and the police were there to ride slowly along, lights flashing, for our protection as we covered the 1 1/2 mile trek up US Rt. 23 toward my home.

Tandy threw a blanket over Kate's back and boosted me up on her. (I never realized that some mules are darn near big as a horse.) Remembering Floyd's bogus advice, I scooted back toward the mule's hindquarters. Tandy, standing along side the mule, kept pushing me forward, "Move up! Move up!" he continued to say. When I told him of Floyd Paris' instructions, Tandy glared at me and said sharply, "He's trying to get you killed! You listen to me!"

I listened to Tandy. It was always good to listen to Tandy.

He was quite a guy. A bachelor until he was nearly 40 years old, Tandy had built a body shop and scrap yard business, and sold used cars on the side. He was a good business man and a work-a-holic, but his true love was for the horses and mules he prized so dearly. Tandy and his mule drawn covered wagon was a fixture in all of the local holiday parades. They tell me he was quite the rounder in his younger days. He was a body man by day but a cowboy at heart.

He met his wife Judy on a trail ride or a hay ride (I don't remember which for sure) that he sponsored on weekends out in Carter County. She was an attractive young widow who worked in one of the city's finest ladies clothing stores. They fell in love (an odd couple to say the least), got married, and embarked on the trail of holy matrimony. Judy brought out the best in Tandy. She cajoled him into attending church on a regular basis with her, and sure 'nuff he eventually accepted Christ as his Savior and Lord. His life was changed forevermore.

The story is told that when Pastor Phil Haney baptised Tandy, it was the biggest crowd that had ever been in the old church building. They were standing around the windows on the outside of the packed building, peering inside to get a glimpse of what many people thought would never happen in a million years. Tandy Kemper was being baptized! "Who'd a thunk it possible?", many said. "Do you think he really got it?" was the common question.

Well, Tandy must have got it, because from that day on he was faithful to his Lord, and became a stalwart member of Ashland Baptist. He served for years as the church treasurer - using the talents of his own book keeper to do the church books, on his dime and his time. Many were the times he'd send a group of his employees down to work on some project at the church, while they were still on the time clock at the body shop. He kept the church van serviced and in top shape, and he practiced the grace of tithing to his church, while often helping other worthy causes or families in need.

He loved and supported his pastors (of which I was one for a little over 7 years). He was generous, almost to a fault. Eventually Tandy was ordained into the office of Deacon, where he served faithfully for many years. His work ethic, generosity, and friendly manner made Tandy one of the best known men in all of Boyd, Greenup, and Carter counties. Even though his health had been slipping in the past couple of years, he still kept up his gruelling work schedule until about six weeks ago. He was a well known fixture in the community, and you might see him anywhere in the area driving that red and white tow truck with the words, "Here Comes Tandy" emblazoned across the front of the truck and "There Goes Tandy" over the back window of the truck. He was an American original, and it was my pleasure to have called him "friend".

Early this morning, Tandy escaped the non responsive body that lay quietly in the hospital bed in his living room for the past eight days. He left a world that had given him more than his share of good times and bad, pleasure and pain. He simply cast aside the worn out 81 year old garment that he no longer needed as he was going into the presence of the Lord.

One can only imagine the gatekeeper of Heaven calling out to open the Gates of Pearl for his arrival.

I can almost hear it now...

"Here Comes Tandy"!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Difficult Aspect Of Pastoral Ministry

Those of us in pastoral ministry work in a myriad of situations. Besides the obvious need for prayer and preparation for our preaching and teaching ministries, there are numerous other areas in which we serve. A church congregation is often called a "flock", and just as a flock of actual sheep require a shepherd, so does a church body. A shepherd's duties basically fall into two main categories - to feed and to lead the flock. But the care of the sheep also requires individual attention from time to time.

One of the most sobering responsibilities of a pastor involves ministering to individuals and families in times of critical illness or death.

If the pastor is fortunate enough to have the seminary educational experience, some of his ministry classes will have taught the basics of counseling and grief ministry. However, nothing in the academic realm truly prepares the young pastor for the real thing. When that call comes in the wee hours of the night, it could be a number of possibilities. Perhaps there has been an accident. Perhaps a stroke or heart attack. A loved one has died, or is lingering near death, and the family calls for spiritual support. It could be an elderly person. It could be a child. It might be someone in the very prime of his life. Every situation is different, but no matter the particulars, there is grief, sorrow, and fear - and the pastor is being called for support.

The hardest thing this young pastor faced in early ministry has probably haunted nearly every other pastor in similar circumstances. "What can I say? What can I do? How can I possibly help these people?

The feeling of inadequacy is overpowering.

We know how to pray. We have memorized certain scripture references which are prescribed for the various situations we may face. We know that we must certainly depend on God for guidance, but the fact remains that we often feel the human pressure to "perform". After all, we tell ourselves, the patient or the family is depending on us. None of us relish these particular ministry situations, but I found myself dreading them terribly. The pressures I was putting on myself were crippling my efforts and I just wanted those situations to disappear, but of course they will not go away. They are a very real part of what a pastor has to do.

On a particular day, about 20 years ago, God finally got an important point across to this pastor. I was on my way to an emergency hospital call. The father of one of my church members had suffered a severe stroke, and was lingering near death in the local hospital. "Can you come?", the lady cried into the phone. I assured her that I would immediately be on my way.

In the car, the feelings of inadequacy were again flooding over me. "What does she expect me to say or do? How can I possibly ease her pain?" Then God spoke to me. Not personally, but this time through the radio ministry of Chuck Swindoll. My car radio was tuned into a local Christian station and "Insight for Living" was on at the time. Swindoll was teaching on the subject of being a steward. Although his message had nothing specifically to do with what I was facing at the moment, God used 1 Cor. 4: 2 to speak to my heart. That familiar verse says, "Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful."

Suddenly the light bulb came on over my head! It wasn't up to ME to handle the situation. I didn't have to provide all the answers. Yes, I was the lady's pastor, but I didn't have to be brilliant, charismatic, or perform in any profound way.

All that God required of me was to show up!

If I was faithful to be there, He could use me to help the grieving church member. We prayed together. I shared scripture with her and I held her father's hand as he slipped away from this life and into the presence of His Savior. The prayer was important. The scripture references were comforting. But I truly believe that the most effective thing I did that day was just simply showing up and being there for someone who was hurting beyond human understanding. We sat quietly, and I'll admit that I shed some tears with the lady myself. God used that experience that summer afternoon to radically change how I perceive that aspect of my ministry. I've spent hundreds of hours since then in hospital rooms, ICU waiting areas, private residences, and funeral homes with individuals and families who were dealing with unbearable grief. It's never easy, but the dread is gone.

Do I look forward to those emergency calls now? Of course not! But, I thank God that the "pressure to perform" is gone - replaced by the assurance that it's not about me at all. It's not about what I choose to say or do. It's just about being God's undershepherd, and caring for His sheep.

Every pastor, young or old, needs to understand that simple truth.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Solemn Anniversary

It's hard to believe that it has been 39 years since most of the young men pictured here perished in a fiery crash near Tri State Airport. Dying with them on that rainy night were a number of fans, community leaders, university officials, and the flight crew. It was a tragedy that forever changed Marshall University, and our community. To those of us in the Huntington area, November 14, 1970 (much like December 7, 1941; November 22, 1963; or September 11, 2001) is a date that is forever etched in our memories. The motion picture, "We Are ... Marshall" has helped an entirely new generation understand the magnitude of the loss to the school and the community.
I lost classmates, neighbors, friend's parents, and my own medical doctor. The University lost student athletes, administrators, and key supporters. The community lost civic leaders, media figures, and valued professional members. More than 70 families lost their nearest and dearest loved ones. It all happened so quickly, so unexpectedly, and the shock was felt throughout the nation. Now, after nearly four decades, the images of that night are still vivid in our memories.
It's been a long time since the crash. How long? The Viet Nam War was still going full blast. Eight different Presidents have sat in the Oval office. It was 19 years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Cell phones were unheard of, MTV and personal computers were non existent, and the USSR was our greatest threat. Most of us who were college students then, are grandparents now! Yet, as long as it's been since the news broke it still seems like only yesterday.
Today at noon, a crowd will gather behind the Memorial Student Center. Speeches will be made, tears will be shed, and the Memorial Fountain will be turned off until the beginning of spring football practice next year. The crowd will disperse from campus, and gather in at the stadium at 4:30 for today's game with Southern Mississippi. Life goes on.
Today's ritual is one we've repeated for 39 years. It is an appropriate memorial to our friends who left us way too soon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11, 1919 to be Armistice Day to observe the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice Agreement which ended World War I. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice). On November 8, 1954, the Congress officially changed the name of the holiday to "Veterans Day" to honor all the veterans who have war or peacetime service, not just those who served in WWI.

My Grandfather, Caudle Adkins, Sr, continued to refer to it as Armistice Day. He did so until he died in the Veterans Hospital in Huntington, WV in 1959. He had been one of the Doughboys who fought in France during "The Great War". He was seriously injured in a German gas attack, and I believe that injury eventually contributed to his death to lung cancer at the age of 64.

The grandson of a Civil War veteran, Papaw Adkins was one of many veterans in our family. He served in the U.S. Army as did Linda's grandfather, Cornelius Bowling (WWI) and her Dad, Burgess Bowling (WWII). There have been several Navy vets in our family as well. My Dad, Caudle Adkins Jr, served in the U.S. Navy during WWII as did his older brother, M.J. "Buster" Adkins. My younger brother, Bruce, also had Navy service during the Viet Nam era.

I joined the Air Force (also during Viet Nam era) but never saw overseas duty like my uncles who were also Airmen. Jerry Stidham served in the USAF during the Korean War, and Sammy Adkins did much of his Air Force peacetime service in France during the mid 50's. My brother in law, Danny Joe Bowling also served in the Air Force as did my nephews Chris Bennett and Dan Bowling.

The United States Marine Corps celebrated its 234th Anniversary just yesterday. We've had our share of proud "Leathernecks" on both sides of our family. Linda's Uncle, William Smith, died during his service to the USMC, and her brothers, Burgess Ray and Bob Bowling were also proud Marines. Our younger son, Benji, enlisted in the Marine Corps, and served with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, taking hostile fire in Kosovo, and doing earthquake recovery work and humanitarian aid in Turkey during his four year tour of duty.

Veterans are all around us. There are some well known and easily recognizable ones, like local Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Woody Williams. However, most of them are just average guys in every walk of life. They may come from various backgrounds, separate branches of the service, and differing military experiences, but they share one thing in common. They're Vets. Some made a career of it, some just served their hitch and came back home, but they all served. There is not much about them that makes them stand out in a crowd, but it is nice to have a day set aside when we can say thank you to those who have served, and for the Veteran to be honored for his or her service to our country.

Later today, I will be privileged to sit with Benji and twenty or thirty other veterans at Charles Russell Elementary School. There my grandson, Will, and his school mates will perform patriotic songs and readings, to honor the assembled veterans. The program will close as every student and teacher, will come by and shake our hands and thank us for our service. Just seeing those little ones and knowing that they live in freedom that has been provided by trained fighting men and women makes one thankful to be a small part of the big picture.

Veterans Day is one of those holidays that we sometime take for granted. It's that little holiday between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, when the banks are closed and their is no mail delivery. There are ceremonies here and there and even a few small parades, but it's not a day that the family goes out on a picnic, or gathers together for a huge feast at Grandma's house. There are no fireworks, but there should be. It is a day that is set aside to honor those who serve. The men and women who have served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard (and their families) have sacrificed to serve us and to protect the constitution of the United States which guarantees our freedoms and secures our way of life.

Freedom is never free, and for that, we can all thank the veteran. May we honor them all on this Veteran's Day.

"It Has Always Been The Soldier"
by Father Dennis O'Brien, Chaplain, USMC

It is the soldier, not the President,who gives us democracy.

It is the soldier, not the Congress,who takes care of us.

It is the soldier, not the reporter,who has given us Freedom of Press.

It is the soldier,not the poet,who has given us Freedom of Speech.

It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,who has given us the Freedom to Demonstrate.

It is the soldier,who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag that allows the protester to burn the flag.

Thank you, to all veterans, for your service to our country!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Are You A "Church Member"? - Really?

Call it a pet peeve if you wish. Actually it is more of an outrage to me. Every time I hear it, it just goes right through me, and the older I get, the more it bothers me. What am I talking about? The sad concept that some people seem to have about "church membership". While I am not what many would consider an expert, and I certainly am not highly trained in ecclesiology, I do have some experience in the field. Growing up as a PK (Preacher's Kid) and having been in pastoral ministry, myself, for more than 38 years, give me some perspective in the matter.

It is strange how some professing believers view the church and it's purpose. Furthermore it is really weird how some relate to church membership.

First of all, if we are true Christ Followers, church is not something we "go to". The church is what we are. The church is WHO we are. It's the Body of Christ. The Bride of Christ. Not an organization, but an organism! Christ bought it with His own blood and gave his life for it. The word "ecclesia", translated church, appears roughly 100 times in the New Testament. Since it is used 90 percent of the time in the context of a local body of believers, one can only surmise that the "local church" is very important to our Lord. That is why we should take it seriously too!

The Great Commandments (Matthew 22:37-40) and Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) cite the responsibility of the church when it comes to:

  • Worship - " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'"

  • Ministry - "... 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' ..."

  • Evangelism - "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations..."

  • Discipleship - "... baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you..."
Why then, do some take their relationship to the church so lightly? I run into it all the time, and I'm sure every other pastor does as well.

"I'm a member of ______________ Church", folks will proudly announce. Yet many times the same people (although in good health and living in the community) never darken the door, give no money to accomplish the mission of the church, and don't even know the pastor, or other church members. But their name is on the Roll Book, and that's good enough for them.

Maybe they think their "membership" status gives them a certain standing in the community. Perhaps in their minds, their "membership" ensures a beautiful place for their kids to get married, and guarantees a minister for their own funeral service. Some may even mistakenly think that baptism and church membership is their "fire insurance policy" for eternity. Folks with this mindset are missing the whole point.

Having served in pastoral ministry over half of my adult life, I have heard the the following comments, ad nauseum.

"I grew up in that church." (Apparently not spiritual growth)

"I was baptized when the church was still meeting in the basement." (but they haven't been back many times since that blessed event)

"Mom really loved that church. She took us there every Sunday". (Now they faithfully show up EVERY Easter Sunday morning and on Christmas)

"We're not going anywhere right now, but we sure do love the folks down there at the church. Is 'Brother So and so' still going there? He was my Sunday School Teacher." ("Brother So and So" has been dead for 20 years)

"I learned a lot of Bible verses back in Sunday School." (How have you applied them to your life?)

"I know my church will always be there for me." (But when was the last time they were there for the church?)

"I know we need to get back involved, but the kids have something going on just about every day of the week." (Remember when parents taught children that it was important to put God first in their lives - and then modeled it in their own behavior?)

"My name has been on that roll book for a long time!" (The big question is, "Is your name written down in the Lamb's Book of Life?")

Yadda, yadda, yadda. You get the idea.

Now, don't mistake what I am saying here. Sitting in a church building does not make someone a Christian any more than standing in a garage will make them an automobile. But our relationship to the Lord and His church IS important.

Here is the question, nay rather the questions, I would ask these so called church members. If you are a follower of Christ, wouldn't you want to spend a little time each week with other believers? Don't you think it is important to love the church that Jesus loves? Where else can you go for public worship, and fellowship with other believers. Where else can you get such a steady diet of the Word of God? What other place can better serve as a base for personal service, and provide better resources for evangelism? Does Hebrews 10:25 mean anything to you at all? How about Malachi 3:10? (Look 'em up)

Our church has two categories of members - "Active" and "Inactive". Sadly the "inactive" list is nearly as long as the "active" roll. The "Active" list is subdivided into "Resident" and "Non Resident" members. Some provision should be made for "non resident" members who are in the military, away at school, or on the mission field or doing some type of ministry out of our area. However, if it is just someone who has moved away permanently, they should unite with a local church where they now reside. After all, that is a tenet of our church covenant.

The biggest shame of all, in my opinion, is the "inactive" category. These folks aren't shut ins or home bound people. These are folks who have allegedly accepted Christ as their Saviour, been baptized, and added to the church roll, but yet for some reason they take no part in the work and ministry of the church.

I have tried to simplify and clarify to the members of Westmoreland Baptist Church, what I believe the MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS should be to call yourself a member of our church.

  • A born again experience with Christ and a personal relationship with the Father through Jesus.

  • Scriptural believer's baptism (immersion) - publicly identifying with the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus.

  • Regular attendance at Worship Service

  • Belonging to a small group (Sunday School or other small groups) for informal Bible Study and relationship building - relationship to God and other believers.

  • Taking part in at least one ministry of the local church. (many from which to choose)

  • Giving systematically and proportionately of your finances to the work and mission of the church.
Is that too much to ask of a "church member"? I think not. If you need scriptural references for the above list, just let me know and I'll be happy to provide them for you.

It's not about "going to church" or how we "do church". It's about BEING the church. If your name is on the "Heavenly Church Roll", you should be no less than an active member of a local body of believers.

Anything less is shameful.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Random Thoughts On Saturday Morning

Headlines in a story in today's "Herald-Dispatch" - "Figures show toll hikes boost Turnpike revenue". Ya think? Who could have foreseen that result from increased toll fees?
We preachers are an odd sort. Each of us so different, yet all working for the same boss, a former Jewish carpenter.
This week, Maine voters overturned a state law which had previously made so called "Same Sex Marriage" legal in that state. What makes this more interesting is that Maine is a very, very liberal state on social issues. Voters in Maine on Tuesday, and twice in California (another very liberal state) have spoken out in favor of traditional marriage, in spite of the laws thrust upon them by social engineering legislators. Isn't it interesting that in the 31 states where the people have been allowed to vote on the issue, they have all come down on the side of the traditional definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman? In the five states where same sex marriage is allowed, each of these laws came about by legislative action or judicial activist decisions - NOT by the vote of the people.

The most interesting thing about the Maine results to me, is that the action taken by those voters came down in spite of a two to one spending advantage by the gay rights crowd and the endorsement by the state's largest newspaper. This majority vote in the liberal state of Maine was not a reflection of "right wing, religious, homophobic bigots" but simply an understanding of the people that the institution of marriage involves one man and one woman. Period.

The West Virginia Legislature needs to man up and let the people of the Mountain State vote for a constitutional ammendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. This would ensure that no activist court could impose it's will on the people of West Virginia. C'mon. Let them vote!


Unemployment reached 10% in America today, the second highest total since World War II. The current administration continues to blame the former administration for the economic woes. President Bush and the congressional spending certainly didn't do us any favors, but at some point President Obama and the Democratically controlled Congress have to begin to take ownership in this situation. Enough excuses! It is their baby now, and has been since the corporate bailouts, government takeover of the automobile industries, and other elements of the "stimulus package". Where are the results of all the promises? Why do we seem to be hurling twoard socialism?

Question to the average American - "How's that hopey changy thing working for you now"?


As Mark Twain once said, "The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated". Some regular readers may think I have met my demise since I have been absent from this site for the past week. We'll it's been an incredibly busy week, what with Doctor's appointments, preparations for hosting the WV Convention of Southern Baptists Annual Meeting, and the actual convention itself. Busy week, but a really good one.


The news coverage on the tragedy in Fort Hood, Texas underscores the political correctness of the major media outlets. It is amazing how the perpetrator, who is a Muslim, is being portrayed as a victim himself. There is very little coverage on the fact that he is a Muslim and that he allegedly dressed in Muslim attire and shouted "Allah Akbar" (Allah is great) as he brutally killed 13 unarmed soldiers and injured many others. Had that dastardly deed been done by someone who claimed to be an evangelical Christian, the fact would be splashed across every newspaper headline in the nation, and the major broadcast news outlets would be trumpeting it 24/7. In the final analysis, it is not really just a "Muslim thing" it's an evil thing - and extremist Muslims simply fall in to that category. But one doesn't have to be a Muslim to be evil. The sinful nature of man is to blame. The prophet said it best. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)

The only remedy for our avarice is a personal relationship with God, and the only way to such a relationship is through Jesus Christ.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Convention Time

Three busy days coming up for us at Westmoreland Baptist Church as we will be hosting the Pastor's Conference and the Annual Meeting of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists today through Saturday.

It's going to be three 12-14 hour days for some of us, but I do look forward to seeing many of our Baptist friends from all around the Mountain State. They will be coming to enjoy good preaching and worship, great fellowship, and to conduct the business of the convention. They will spend time in the exhibit area, visit the LifeWay book store, approve the State Convention budget, hear report from state and national agencies, focus on missions, honor a retiring member of the state office staff, and elect a new President.

Jimmy Morton (a church planter from the Charleston area) is President of the Pastor's Conference. He has planned a great program for our Pastor's Conference on Thursday afternoon and evening. Cheryl Harper has put together an enjoyable time of fellowship and worship for pastor's wives, and the church will be hosting a Pastors and Wives Dinner between the sessions today. Then, on Friday morning the Annual Meeting gets underway as messengers from all around the state come together.

Mixed in among the reports, resolutions, and business sessions, Dr. Phil Roberts (President of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) will present several Bible studies. On Saturday morning we will hear messages from Dr. Hershael York, of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and West Virginia's own Jack Miller will bring the annual message. Music will be stirring throughout the Pastor's Conference and Convention. Some of the presenters and worship leaders will include Darrell Clark, Frances Skeens, a "West Virginia Bluegrass Gospel Band", The Jason Lovins Band, Crimson Flood from Liberty University, and our own Randy Spurgeon and Carla Bell.

I'm looking forward to a great time together.

We've been working like crazy for the past few weeks sprucing up the campus, and doing all those little maintenance things around the church that have been overlooked for a while. We're in pretty good shape, but unfortunately, we didn't get the gym floor completely stripped for waxing, but we will have it ready before Upward Basketball play begins. You know how it is when visitors are coming over to the house, you want everything to be clean and nice. Well that's how it is around the church as well, and I am so proud of the work our folks have done in preparation for our visitors.

Preparations started several months ago as a planning team was put together to prepare for the task before us. Carla Bell, Thamer and Jean Calhoun, June Ashworth, Charley Dygert, Jim Lackey, David Thompson, Mel Hicks, and Mindi Spurgeon all took on planning committee chairmanships. These folks have done a great job in recruiting volunteers and working to pull this thing off. I can't say enough about the folks who have worked so tirelessly to get the church ready for the upcoming events. Thamer Calhoun, Butch Cotton, Sam Wellman, Charley Dygert, and David Washington have done a tremendous amount of maintenance work inside and outside both buildings. Volunteers like Rachel Lackey, Steve and Rick Weber, Jim Bailey, Maxine Bias, David Curnutte, Bob Hall, Zach Bell, Bob and Mitzi Trout, and others have all pitched in to do important preparation work as well. Rosemary Wilks, Brenda Dingess and Mindy Spurgeon have decorated the church beautifully. Church Secretary, Sonia Jones ,has gone above and beyond the call of duty to help out with a lot of extra duties that this event has brought upon her. We have also had great cooperation from Kathy Bailey and the Mothers Day Out Program, whose regular weekly operating schedule has been disrupted this week.

We've had a couple of snags and challenges along the way, but our volunteers have come together to do a really great job.

Saying "Thanks" to the above mentioned folks (and others who have helped) just doesn't seem adequate to repay them for all their hard work, but Thank you nonetheless. Your efforts are deeply appreciated.

Next week we should get "back to normal", but for now, we are thankful to be able to host the wonderful folks from around the state who are coming together to do our part to advance The Kingdom. Hope to see many of you this week at Westmoreland Baptist Church, Hughes and Court Streets in Huntington!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Successful Community Outreach

Our AWANA Commander, Randy Short, was searching for opportunities to increase AWANA attendance, and pick up kids for Sunday School, Upward Basketball and Cheerleading, and other children's ministries at Westmoreland Baptist Church. His idea was to have a Fall Festival in the church gym on Trick or Treat night. It was a great idea, and a tremendous success.

One of our members last year suggested a "Trunk or Treat" project on the parking lot, but it was too late to pull it off when the idea was brought up. So we began to explore options for this year. Randy was willing to put this thing together, so I simply left it up to him, to make plans, enlist volunteers, and make it happen. I simply offered support. He and 4o other volunteers did a tremendous job!

A number of churches were doing "Trunk or Treat" this year, so Randy opted for the concept of having the event in the church gym. We weren't sure of what the weather would be like on Trick or Treat night, but we knew the climate would be under control in the gym. It was also bright, safe, and large enough to host a large group. We were able to offer free hotdogs, chips, and soft drinks to everyone who attended, and provide tables and chairs for them to eat at, and for the adults to rest while the youngsters took part in the various games, face paintings, and other activities. Various Sunday School classes had their own tables, where they gave treats to the children. The gym environment also allowed us to be able to control "foot traffic" and register each person in attendance, gaining valuable information on each person and family. By registering, the visitors became eligible for door prize drawings, and received tickets for the free food. Each registrant also received a Gospel tract, information brochure on the church, listing service times, ministry opportunities and other information. Each child also received a registration brochure for the upcoming Upward Basketball and cheerleading league.

Randy's records indicated that there were 513 registered visitors. 37 families were identified as not being part of any church family. These names were given to our G.R.O.W. teams and other outreach ministries for further contact. We don't know how many folks we may be able to reach for Christ as a result of the Festival, but we do know that six new children will be on the church van for Sunday School in the morning. For that, we praise God, and thank Him for the 41 volunteers who sacrificed their evening to accomplish two of our purposes - "Magnifying God and Ministering to People". Hopefully it will also provide inroads into the third purpose, "Making Disciples". Thursday evening was a nice ending to our "Spiritual Focus Week". In fact, our Revival Evangelist, Mike Osborne and wife Sue, stayed and extra night in town after the end of the Revival services and they attended the Festival along with their two grandchildren who live nearby!

Here are a few random photos we'd like to share with you.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

It’s Not What You May Think!

The stereotype still exists today. "The Deacon Board". You know the picture. A bunch of cranky old guys wearing suits; sitting around a table; laying out church policy, sometimes at odds with the Pastor; often with tempers flaring; the ruling body in the local Baptist Church. Is that the mental picture you have of the deacon?

Well, it's not what you may think.

That's not the way it is at Westmoreland Baptist Church; nor is it the biblical model for the "other" ordained office in a New Testament church. It may have been that way at WBC sometime in the past, but no longer. Sadly, the stereotype does still exist in many churches.

The Greek word "diakonos", usually translated as "Servant", is actually a combination of two Greek words – "dia" and "konos" – literally, "through the dust". The literal translation of the word indicates the very humble nature of the office. In biblical times the diakonos was the servant who washed the dust from the feet of the guest. He cleaned the dirty sandals. He was the humble character who served meals and saw to the welfare of others.

Most Bible scholars believe that the ecclesiastical office of deacon had its origin in the church at Jerusalem, during a crisis that is recorded in Acts 6. An accusation arose against the Apostles that a certain group of widows were being neglected in the church's benevolent ministry. Peter, James, and the others were quite busy in fulfilling their ministry of proclaiming the Word of God – evangelizing all who would listen, and discipling those who accepted the Gospel message.

Realizing that unity in God's family was essential, Peter spoke to the assembled congregation, and proposed a simple solution. The believers were to look into their membership and chose out several men who would see to this business of waiting tables. The church was told to look for men who were honest, and of good reputation, and spiritually deep. There would need to be a sense of humility, in those chosen. Since the work was one of ministry (or service) to others, these men would need to possess a selfless spirit, not an attitude of authority. The Apostle Paul, writing to the young pastor, Timothy, later gave a general list of qualifications for those who would fill the office of deacon (1 Tim.3:8-12)

I think it is important to note that the seven men listed in the Acts narrative did not volunteer or "campaign" for the job. After all, who in their right minds would be chomping at the bit to go "through the dust"? The key is that they were CHOSEN by their church, and we see no scriptural evidence that any who were chosen, declined to serve.

Some people have a convoluted idea of what is expected of a deacon. Some expect spiritual "supermen" who are perfect examples of what the true believer should be. Perhaps we are expecting too much, and perhaps those chosen for the office sometimes feel unworthy of the high standards we often place on the office. Now don't misunderstand me here. There ARE standards for the office, but the standards are set by God and not by us! We sometimes add to the scriptural standards, and unfortunately sometimes deacons themselves get the wrong idea and evaluate the office to that of a "Board of Directors".

A wise old pastor once told a conference I attended, "If you guys don't want your deacons to act as a Board of Directors, then don't you act like a CEO!"

Good counsel, indeed.

I am thankful for the men who we have serving Westmoreland Baptist Church in the office of deacon. Are they perfect? No. I'm afraid not. Neither, I suppose, were Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas; but they did meet the basic scriptural qualifications, their church had confidence in them, and they were willing to humbly serve.

Our deacon meetings at Westmoreland Baptist are not "miniature business meetings". That is not the purpose. Our meetings are times of sharing prayer requests and discussing how we may more effectively minister to the needs of our people, and how we may preserve unity in the church when difficulties may arise. One thing that has impressed me about every deacon with whom I have served, has been their desire to preserve that unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. No personal agendas. No ego battles. No ugly confrontations. Even when opinions may differ on one point or another, there has always been a desire to come together in unity and to lead our church in that direction.

On November 15th we will again chose deacons to serve our church for the coming three years. My prayer is that qualified men will allow themselves to be considered; that the church will make wise choices; and that the men who are selected will serve in that same humble spirit working "through the dust".

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wonderful Gifts

Today begins my 59th year on the planet.

Yes, 59. That's only one year away from being a sexagenarian (which is NOT what it sounds like!). But all that aside, my 59th birthday is another special milestone for me and my family. Especially since, according to the "average statistics" it's a birthday I should have never seen. I had just celebrated by 54th when it was learned that I had fourth stage colon cancer. A large tumor, and a big chunk of my intestines, were subsequently removed. The doctors told me that the cancer was also in fourteen of the lymph nodes they removed, and was "scattered through my liver like grass seed". Eighteen to twenty two months are the average survival time, so, theoretically, I have been blessed with three extra birthdays that I should not have seen.

I am so blessed!

Birthdays, in general, are not big deals at our house. Basically it's just another day with a little celebration in the evening. The family comes over. There is a cake, some ice cream, a few cards, and usually some small gifts. The birthday person blows out the candles, and the occasion is noted for posterity with a few photos. Always a nice time, and a time for reflection.

My reflections this morning revolve around gifts. Not gifts like sweaters, and neck ties, and wallets, etc. Intangible gifts. Those gifts that cannot be held in one's hands, but gifts that really make life on this orb so special. I'm talking about gifts like:

  • Family. I was blessed to be born into a wonderful loving family, with Christian parents, and good, godly grandparents, loving aunts and uncles, and a great group of cousins on both sides of the family. I was the first grandson on both sides, and was totally spoiled by the Adkins and Stidham clans. I have two wonderful brothers and we were all born at five year intervals. We live in three different states and don't often have opportunity to be together, but there is a tie that binds us closely together in love and care for one another. My two nephews and two nieces are some of the finest young people you would ever meet.

  • Linda. One of God's greatest gifts to me. I met her forty years ago this month, and from that point on, she has been my love, my solid rock, my best friend, unwaveringly faithful and loyal, my chief supporter, my kindest critic, my sweet thing, and my prime rib. She has washed my clothes, cooked my meals, borne our children, and been the most loving wife, mother, and grandmother I have ever known. Ain't no woman like the one I've got!

  • My Sons and their Families - Jay is a pastor and theologian. Benji is a teacher and coach. They are both good at what God has called them to do. He has blessed them with wonderful Christian wives who have been pictures of unconditional love and grace. The four grandsons that they have given us have been the light of our lives for these past (almost) 10 years. Quint, Will, Canon, and Asher are blessings to me that I cannot begin to describe with mere words!

  • Friends. What can I say about the hundreds and hundreds of friends who have touched my life? They range from the boyhood buddies like Donnie Smith and Rick Hall, to school mates, military comrades, neighbors, kids I have coached, business colleagues, fellow service club members, band parents, athletic boosters, insurance clients, teachers, coaches, school administrators, friends of my children, and brothers in the ministry. The miracle of Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with some friends whom I haven't seen in more than 40 years. I love them all!

  • Church Family. Mom and Dad took me to church from nine months before I was born until I left home as a young adult, and I grew up with a loving church family at Thomas Memorial Church in Huntington, WV. It has been my pleasure to serve in pastoral ministry to six congregations since 1976. I was an Associate Pastor (under Rev. Carl Vallance) at Central Free Will Baptist Church in Huntington, WV, and served as lead Pastor at Sousannah FWB, and Pleasant Valley FWB in Cabell County, Wayside Baptist and Ashland Baptist Churches in Kentucky, and for the past seven years at Westmoreland Baptist Church in Huntington, WV. I am happy to say that I feel that I could go back to any of those churches, and still feel right at home, and I still cherish the love and friendship of each of those precious congregations. In fact, I'll be preaching at Wayside's homecoming service this Sunday afternoon.

  • Material Blessings. These are way down the list in importance, because they are temporal in nature, but appreciated nonetheless. I am thankful for a roof over my head, a comfortable home, the clothing I wear, dependable transportation, enough money to pay the bills (so far), and my library.

  • My Health. I still see lots of doctors, but I thank God for the health care I have received, and that I am able to function physically and mentally (although some may think I am somewhat suspect in the latter category)

  • My Savior. This is the greatest gift of all. The Grace of God reached all the way down to my fallen state, and brought me into a relationship with Him. He cleansed me. He forgave me. He brought me from death to life. Like the Psalmist said, "He brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay. He sat my feet on a rock and established my goings. He put a new song in my heart". The means of this transformation is Jesus the Christ. He took my sin upon Himself and gave me eternal life.

Eternal life. That sounds good doesn't it"? Especially once the years in this one begin to mount into the really big numbers! I believe in Heaven and I know I am going there one day, but I am also thankful for the Abundant Life God has given me in the here and now. A line from John Denver's "Poems, Prayers, and Promises" has long been a favorite of mine, and kind of sums up how I feel on this 59th birthday, "I have to say it now, it's been a good life all in all. It's really fine to have a chance to hang around..."