Tuesday, August 23, 2011

God's Call

Watching Dr. Chuck Kelley today live, online form Leavell Chapel at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary brought back vivid memories from nine years ago. As he spoke from Hebrews 11 today in the opening Chapel service of the 2011-2012 school year, my mind raced back nearly a decade ago.

Back in August, 2002, my oldest son, Jay, had been in pastoral ministry for five years. He had been wrestling with God's call on his life to further his theological education. He had looked into the possibility of attending seminary in our home state, and was praying for God's guidance. A mission trip to France, earlier in the year, however, changed all that. During that trip (a musical mission trip - Jay is a percussionist) he became acquainted with Gary Halquist. At that time, Gary was a professor of music at New Orleans Theological Seminary. Although Jay was interested in Biblical Languages and Theology more than music, Gary talked Jay into considering NOBTS.

Concerned about ministry, Jay wondered aloud about the possibility of serving a church in the area, and Gary assured him that numerous churches in the area were always ready to call seminary students. He sent Gary a resume' and things began happening soon. He was called to come for a weekend revival service and went thorough an interview process, and was soon called to be pastor of the church he continues to serve today.

We had always hoped that both of our sons would serve God in whatever way He chose for them. Jay had served my previous church by leading music and working with the youth group. I was thrilled when he answered God's call into a preaching ministry, and he was soon called to be the pastor of a mission church in South Shore, Kentucky. Under his five years of work in the South Shore area, he helped lead the church to self supporting status. I had visions of Jay continuing to serve God in the general area and we rejoiced when his firstborn son arrived. Jay grew in his ministry and and had gained a lot of respect from the other pastors in our local association.

Then in 2002 the unthinkable happened.

Our prayers had been answered, and God was calling him somewhere far away. That was not what I had in mind when I prayed for God to use him. My vision was more local - God had other plans. So amid tears and heartbreak, Jay and Michelle took our two year old grandson and moved 1,000 miles away!

Selfishly, it was tough for Linda and I. Jay's wife, Michelle, was no more thrilled than we were, as she was not too crazy about going to an area that would not have been of her choosing. However, Michelle is a devout Christian and was open to whatever God had in store for her and her little family.

The past nine years has brought a lot of change - for Jay, Michelle, Quint, and Canon. First Baptist Church of Westwego has changed a lot as well! About three years into their stay there, a storm named Katrina came ashore, and New Orleans was changed as never before. Jay's disaster relief work and tremendous ministry opportunity in the area was a great blessing to many. It was after Katrina that I finally came to peace with the fact that Jay was exactly where he needed to be. The last nine years have been jam packed with pastoral work, school work, and ministry in an area that is one of the greatest mission fields in North America.

Jay completed his undergrad degree at NOBTS and immediately enrolled in the Master's Program. He's earned his M. Div. in Biblical Languages and is now enrolled in the Ph.D. program. Jay and Michelle have New Orleans in their hearts. Eleven year old Quint has grown up there, and six year old Canon was born there and it is the only home he has ever known. When he finally completes his doctorate program, he has no other plans but to continue to minister in the area.

It is an understatement to say that we miss them, and at times our hearts ache that we are so far away from two of our grandsons, and not able to be involved in their lives as we would like to be, but seeing the big picture, I wouldn't have it any other way.

I am glad that Jay and Michelle have been obedient to the Lord's direction in their lives. As Michelle use to sing, "The will of God won't lead you where the grace of God can't keep you. You will never be out of His care..."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Bit Of Twisted Humor

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Busy Week For The Adkins Family

The first week of August has been quite a time of transition for our son, Benji, and his family. Last Friday morning he and Leigh Anne welcomed their third son, Nathaniel Ray Adkins, into the world. Little Nathan checked in just before 8:00 AM at Kings Daughters Medical Center in Ashland, KY. (That's the third of our five grandsons who was delivered at KDMC. Grandson number two discovered America at a Naval Hospital on Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base in North Carolina, and number three arrived at Oschner Medical Center in New Orleans.)

Nathan weighed 7 pounds and was 21 inches long. He's a perfect little guy with delicate features, and as a real change for an Adkins newborn, he actually had some hair! Leigh Anne was blessed with a rather easy delivery this time. In fact, the boy arrived before the Doctor did! Thank God for the great Labor and Delivery nurses at KDMC!

On Sunday, Nathan and family came home to a new residence. It was the official move in day in the home that has been completely remodeled over the past 10 months. Benji, Leigh Anne, both grandfathers, and several other folks have worked hard on that house, and it was a sweet day for them to move in, with a brand new baby in tow. The older boys had mixed emotions. They are happy to have a bigger house, and to be living close to their school, but still hated to leave behind the house they had grown up in out in a more rural area of the county. Oldest son, Will, told me seriously, "I'm not too crazy about change". (Although only 10 years old, Will is obviously a great Baptist!)

Then on Monday morning, Ben began his new job as a Freshman and Sophomore English teacher at Greenup County High School. He's happy to have the job, along with a new principal and many new teachers at GCHS this year. Teaching High School Freshmen and Sophomores will be different than his previous Middle School experience, ("Some of those guys are bigger than me!" he said after the first day for students) but he is ready for the challenge. He'll be coaching the freshmen basketball team this year, and he is excited about this edition to his coaching experience.

The summer has ended on a busy note for that part of the Adkins family. We are very happy for them, and are praying for a smooth transition in this new chapter of their lives.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Just Who Exactly Are We?

Our family has been privileged to vacation several times at a getaway mountain retreat, long owned by my daughter in law's family. The property, which includes a big two story house, is at a place called Cloverlick. It sits beside the Greenbrier River in the beautiful mountains of Pocahontas County, West Virginia.

Our grandchildren love to swim and play in the shallow waters of the river. They have caught numerous bluegills, and small mouth bass in the deeper areas of its cool waters. and trapped many a crawfish near its banks. I have always been impressed by the purity of the water there. Fish are easy to spot, and one can usually see clear to the round stones and river gravel lying in the bed of the stream.

Sometimes, however, the waters get muddied. Perhaps it is because of recent storms and flooding. Other times it may result from someone stirring up the bottom, thereby creating clouds of mud and silt. It is always comforting when the cloudiness subsides, and the clarity returns to the stream.

At times, our spiritual lives get cloudy. It spreads into our church, and one finds himself wondering if we may have lost clear perspective of our mission. The cloudiness and murkiness of lost vision begs answer to the questions, "Just who exactly are we?" and "What on earth are we here for?" It is then that we need to let the sediment settle, look through the clear waters of the Word of God into the workings of His church and get a renewed and clear perspective of just who we are.

I am amazed as I look around us, and as I look into our own community of faith at times. I read a church website yesterday and was puzzled by exactly who they were and what they stood for. One quote said, "We don't care as much about doctrine as we do about people." I find that shocking. Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. That means people - all people. He is concerned about them and so should we be. We should be concerned that without Christ, people are lost. They have no hope. If that is the case, then we MUST care about doctrine - Bible Doctrine! It is the Word of God that shows us our lost state. The Holy Spirit uses it to convict us of sin and to show us the Savior. If we care about people, we must care about sound doctrine. Friends, there is a lot of false doctrine out there, and God's church must speak with a clear voice.

As pastor of Westmoreland Baptist Church, I want to share a clear vision with you today, regarding just who we are (and in some cases, what we are not!)

We are a brotherhood - but not a fraternal organization.

We are a body of believers - not a building or a campus of buildings.

We are followers of Christ - not followers of men.

We are called to be fishers of men - not keepers of the aquarium.

We are to Magnify God - and not ourselves.

We are called to Make Disciples - not to be "seeker sensitive".

We are called to Minister to People - not to market our organization.

We are a Church - not a community center.

We are here to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with Lost people - not the "unchurched" (after all, nobody will ever enter Heaven by being "churched", but only through faith in Jesus Christ)

We are called to develop Christ followers - not to "gain members".

We do this by proclaiming the Word of God - not by tickling ears and providing "warm fuzzies".

Our preaching and teaching must be done in the anointing of the Spirit - not through human wisdom and gimmicks.

Our message is Grace - not the extremes of license nor legalism.

We hold a high view of Scripture

We believe in its inspiration

We believe its principles are unchanging

We believe that people are hopelessly lost without Christ

We believe in a literal Heaven and a literal Hell

We believe that God hates sin, but loves the Sinner

We believe that Jesus died to pay the debt for our sins.

We believe that He rose from the dead.

We are commanded to Go with the Gospel

We believe the Great Commission

We support missions through giving, going, and doing.

We practice believer's baptism by immersion

We open our doors to anyone who wishes to attend our services.

We expect our members to be regenerate, to be committed to an ever closer walk with God, to take part in the ministry of the church, and to support it with their presence and their finances.

We expect our leaders and teachers to exhibit Christlike behavior.

We seek to honor God

We want our members to practice prevailing prayer

We will not be bound by empty traditions, but we will also not fall for every fad that comes along.

We will seek to communicate the gospel clearly without old "religious jargon" or the latest "buzzwords".

We do not exist to tout nutritional programs - we are here to offer The Bread of Life!

Worship honors God. It's all about pleasing Him, and not about pleasing ourselves.

Worship is not about any certain type or style of music.

Worship is NOT entertainment.

We want the Holy Spirit to lead in our lives and in our meetings.

The Church is the Body of Christ made up of individual members.

We don't "go to church" or "do church", we must "be the church".

We believe God calls us to be holy. (that message seems to get lost in much of popular theology)

We believe that Christians are eternally secure in Christ.

We believe that Jesus is coming again - and probably very soon.

We believe that judgement is final, and eternity is forever!

Our message must never change.

Our methods to deliver it must be able to change as needed.

Our power will come from prayer and not from programs.

We want to be culturally and ethnically diverse - but one body in Christ.

We will not yield to a hierarchy.

The local church is above every denominational entity.

We practice congregational polity.

We choose to associate with other like minded congregations for the purpose of missions.

We will take orders from no one individual or office.

We will not depend on denominational ties for our identity.

The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is not here for partisan politics and there is no place for that in the pulpit.

We will stand firm for Biblical and moral truths and proclaim them publicly, but we must be reminded that Almighty God does not ride on the backs of Donkeys or Elephants!

We will pray for the leaders of our nation, state, and community.

God's church has no need to employ lobbyists.

If a Sovereign God cannot "turn the heart of the King", what results could we possibly expect from a guy in Gucci shoes, gladhanding Senators and Congressmen, or being a talking head on cable news channels?

We are a church!

It's not my church. It's not your church. It's Christ's church.

His church is built on the Rock, and the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.

It's a church that cares about children, teenagers, young adults, middle agers, and old folks alike!

It's a church that (like God) does not wish to see any perish, but for all to come to repentance.

We are a church!

A 96 year old church.

A church that was planted as a mission in Westmoreland in 1915.

Our mother church is gone, but we are still here.

We're a church with a great past, and a bright future.

A church that has successfully planted other churches in nearly a century of ministry in this community.

But it's a church that needs to get healthy today, to put on it's big boy britches. and get back to the basics we have been called to do!

We Baptists have done a great job of telling the world what we are "against". Perhaps it's time we let it be known what we are for.

We're for repentance. For grace, mercy, love, fellowship, evangelism, discipleship, and holiness!

We are for Christ - and it's all about Him!

Just for the record, that's who we are.

With God's Grace and His help, we hope to be busy at the work until the whole world hears, or until Jesus comes again.

Are you with me?