Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Some Thoughts On Christmas Day

Today marks my 62nd Christmas on the planet.  I don't pretend to know it all.  In fact, in the vast scheme of things, I know very little.  However, in the six decades of my existence I have learned a few things.  Some of them come to mind this Christmas morning (but they are not all about Christmas).

  • The best Christmas memories I have involve family, rather than gifts.
  • Some acquaintances may let you down, but real friends are for life.
  • The framers of our Constitution never envisioned "career politicians".
  • Some folks (sadly even some family members) are motivated by greed.  They are to be pitied
  • Christmas brings out the best in most folks.
  • It would be nice if the Christmas spirit would last all year long.
  • Human life is precious - from the unborn to the very old - and everything in between.
  • It is the height of hypocrisy to morn for 26 innocent children who were senselessly killed in their school room, and yet ignore the tragedy of the 4,000 who are senselessly killed each day in their mother's womb.
  • All Children are precious. (Jesus said we should be more like them)
  • One's own children are the best.
  • Grandchildren are even better!
  • Snow makes Christmas seem more "christmasy" - but it is not necessary for one to have a blessed holiday.
  • Jesus wasn't born on December 25th, but the Good News is that one day He WAS born - the initial step toward God's plan of redemption. 
  • I feel sorry for boys who never knew their grandfathers.
  • I only wish I had known mine longer.
  • Football is a great game.
  • Basketball is even better.
  • I believe Baseball is divinely inspired. I hope they have it in Heaven.
  • I have come to support the idea of term limits for all politicians - especially at the congressional level.
  • I have received the love and support of a good woman for 43 years.
  • Linda Bowling, Patsy Adkins, and Mary Stidham are the finest human beings I have ever known.
  • The blessings of my life are far better than I deserve.
  • Some people have the gift of giving. How many of them do you know?
  • Following Christ is the most fulfilling way one can live his, or her life.
  • The guy we call Santa Claus, really lived, and once punched out a heretic!
  • Mom and Dad have lived in the same house on Gallaher Street for 60 years. Only one neighbor there has been there longer than them.
  • Girls are rare in our family.  My twin nieces, Kate and Alex are very special. 
  • College football doesn't get any better than the Southeastern Conference variety.
  • Our neighbors on 49th Street are wonderful folks.
  • My time in the U.S. Air Force was a fulfilling experience. I believe military service is beneficial to every young American. It is an honor to serve.
  • There is nothing like the delight of a child opening gifts at Christmas.
  • The piles of discarded boxes and wrapping paper on Christmas day is mute testimony to how materially blessed we are.
  • I like the way the lights of a Christmas tree reflect in the eyes of my grandsons.
  • Bruce, Carl and I were blessed to be born to Patsy and Caudle Adkins.
  • It IS more blessed to give than to receive.
  • New Year's Day gives us a new canvas on which to begin the painting of the rest of our days.
  • The greatest gift that one can possess is a true personal relationship with God.
  • Linda's Christmas Dinner is one of the highlights of the year.
  • My thoughts and rambling could go on and on,m but there is a time to quit blogging, and sit down to Linda's turkey, dressing and all the fixin's.  That time has come.
Linda joins me in wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, and fruitful new year in 2013!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Christmas Letter To My Grandsons

Well, it looks like Christmas is finally just about here!  I remember how, when I was your age, it seemed like Christmas would never come.  But now it's here, and I wanted to write you a little message that I think is very important for you to read and remember.

Mamaw and I are giving you the best gifts that we can afford to give.  We hope that you will enjoy them and be grateful for whatever you receive this Christmas.

The greatest gift we can give you, however, is a gift that money cannot buy.  It is the gift of love and a Godly heritage.  We love Jesus and we received Him as our Savior many years ago.  Your parents also know and love Jesus, and they are actively involved in serving Him and following Him as one of His learners.

They have also taught each of you the Gospel message from the time you were babies.  Four of you have also trusted Jesus as your Savior.  We are so thankful for your faith in Christ and we pray that little Nathan will do the same as soon as he reaches an age that God begins to speak to his heart.

I hope you will always be faithful to God and His Word.  Make it the principal focus of your lives and you will never go wrong. 

You will grow up in a world that is very different from the one your Mamaw and I grew up in.  There is much evil and there are many temptations you will face that will be a great challenge to your faith. Take some wise words of advice from your old Papaw.  Never compromise the truth, even if all your friends say it is OK to do so.  Just trust God and follow the teachings of Jesus.  It won't always be easy to do that, but His Spirit will help you!

Mamaw and I pray that the spirit of Christmas will abide in you every day of your lives, and not only in the month of December.

We hope you will have a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2013.  Obey your parents.  Do your very best in school and in your extracurricular activities.  Love your brothers and be kind to them. They are your first and very best friends for life.

We are more proud of you than you can imagine.

Mamaw and Papaw

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wow! Every Christian Should Read This

I don't know who wrote this, but I heard it read in Chapel by Roc Collins at NOBTS yesterday.  Got back to my room and found it on a Google search and had to share it. Oh, that I, and all other Christ followers would live with such resolve!

I Am A Soldier
(author unknown)

I am a soldier in the army of my God. The Lord Jesus Christ is my Commanding Officer. The Holy Scripture is my code of conduct. Faith, prayer and the Word are my weapons of warfare. I have been taught by the Holy Spirit, trained by experience, tried by adversity and tested by fire.

I am a volunteer in this army, and I am enlisted for eternity. I will not get out, sell out, be talked out or pushed out. I am faithful, reliable, capable and dependable. If my God needs me, I am there. 
I am a soldier. I am not a baby. I do not need to be pampered, petted, primed up, pumped up, picked up, or pepped up. 

I am a soldier. No one has to call me, remind me, write me, visit me, entice me or lure me. 

I am a soldier. I am not a wimp. I am in place, saluting my King, obeying His orders, praising His name and building His kingdom! No one has to send me flowers, gifts, food, cards or candy, or give me handouts. I do not need to be cuddled, cradled, cared for or catered to. I am committed. I cannot have my feelings hurt bad enough to turn me around. I cannot be discouraged enough to turn me aside. I cannot lose enough to cause me to quit.

When Jesus called me into this army, I had nothing. If I end up with nothing, I will still come out ahead. I will win. My God has and will continue to supply all of my need. I am more than a conqueror. I will always triumph. I can do all things through Christ. 

The devil cannot defeat me. People cannot disillusion me. Weather cannot weary me. Sickness cannot stop me. Battles cannot beat me. Money cannot buy me. Governments cannot silence me, and hell cannot handle me. 

I am a soldier. Even death cannot destroy me. For when my Commander calls me from His battlefield, He will promote me to captain and then allow me to rule with Him. I am a soldier in the army, and I’m marching claiming victory. I will not give up. I will not turn around.

I am a soldier, marching heaven-bound. Here I Stand! Will you stand with me?

Friday, November 16, 2012

What It's All About

In chapter 23 of the book of Acts, the Apostle Paul was hustled out of Jerusalem and placed in protective custody after an uproar in the Temple and a plot to kill him became known.  Learning that Paul was a Roman citizen, a Roman army officer by the name of Claudius Lysias, conveyed Paul to the Roman fortress at Caesarea late at night.  To ensure Paul’s safe arrival there, the officer sent a contingent of 200 foot soldiers, 70 cavalry soldiers, and 300 spear men to bring Paul safely to  the Roman Procurator, a fellow named Felix.  Felix was married to a Jewish woman named Drusilla, who was the great grand daughter of Herod the Great.

Prosecutors, who included the Jewish High Priest, Ananias and an orator by the name of Tertullus, soon followed and brought charges against Paul in the presence of the Roman Governor. The particular false charges and Paul’s defense are found in Acts 24.

Felix heard both sides of the case and told Paul privately that he would make a decision on his fate at a later date.  Several days later, when Drusilla joined her Roman husband, the two sought an audience with Paul to hear more from him regarding the Christian “Way”.  The Apostle never missed an opportunity to share the Gospel, and this was an opportunity to tell the Roman Procurator and his Jewish wife, three simple things that truly matter most.

Dr. Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, tells us very simply in Acts 24:25 that Paul reasoned with them regarding “righteousness, self control, and judgment to come”.  I think there is a very simple, yet important lesson here for all of us who would seek to be more effective witnesses for Christ, when given opportunity to share our faith.

These few words (righteousness, self control, and judgment) make the simple outline of three concepts that every human must consider.  The first involves the problem of “yesterday’s sins”.  We know from the scriptures that “there is none righteous, no not one!”  How then may sinful men and women come into relationship with a Holy God?  This comes only through the righteousness of Christ being imputed to those who would accept Christ’s sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sins.  (2 Cor 5:21)

Secondly, Paul spoke of “self control”.  This deals with “today’s temptations”.  Warren Wiersbe writes “Man is able to control almost everything but himself.”  Isn’t that the truth?  Not only can we save ourselves from the penalty of yesterday’s sins, in our own power we are helpless against temptation today.  Again, Jesus Christ is the only answer to that problem.  Apart from the power and indwelling of His presence in our lives, we are hopeless in the face of what Paul speaks of thirdly – the Judgment to come.

As Paul shared these truths, the power of the Holy Spirit overcame  the Roman Governor.  He may have been Caesar’s representative in the province of Judea, but when he heard the message of the Gospel delivered by a man of God, the Bible tells us Felix “trembled”.  A more accurate translation is “he became terrified”.  My friends, that is the power of the Gospel when shared under the anointing of God’s Holy Spirit.

Although frightened, Felix did what many people today do.  He procrastinated.  How sad.  Further reading tells us that Felix thought he might be able to extort some money (bribery) from Paul, and he left the Apostle held in custody for two years!

Felix told Paul that he would hear him again at “a more convenient time”.  There are many who will turn us off with a similar excuse.  However the scriptures tell us there is no better time to hear and react to the Gospel than right now.  “Behold now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation”. (2 Cor 6:2)

This brief history lesson reminds me that the simple message of Paul goes right along with the “A,B,C’s of Salvation” that we teach our children.  “A” Admit our sin, and our need of a Savior.  “B” Believe that Jesus Christ died and rose again for us.  He takes up residence in the life of every believer and provides the power we need to face the enemy of our souls.  “C” Confess Him as your Savior and Lord.  “For with the heart, man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation”.

Most of our congregation knows I like to add that 4th letter to the equation.  “D” Do it now! 

As we enter this blessed Christmas season, let us not just relegate Jesus to the little baby in the manger.  Let us use this God given opportunity to remind others “What It's All About”.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Letters From Our Doughboys

My grandfather, Caudle Adkins, Sr., served in the U.S. Army in France during World War I.  My brother and I often wondered what it must have been like for him, a country boy who had never been out of the hills of Lincoln County, West Virginia, to be transported across the Atlantic to fight the dreaded Huns of Kaiser Wilhelm in "The War To End All Wars".  I am a fan of the old Gary Cooper movie about Sgt. Alvin York.  Bruce and I have often wondered aloud if our Papaw wasn't a lot like the boy from the mountains of east Tennessee, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery in battle.

Surely their rural backgrounds were very similar.  I can only imagine what it must have been like for them to walk away from their homes and families to answer the call of their nation.  Their orders came from General "Black Jack" Pershing, whom after liberating Paris from the German forces, repaid our nations 147 year old debt to France for their assistance to us in our war of independence against England, by placing a wreath on the grave of an old French ally with the words, "Lafayette, we are here!"

My grandfather died in 1959 just before my ninth birthday.  I remember him well, but he rarely spoke of the horrors he had seen during the great conflict.  Perhaps he felt a child didn't need to hear that stuff, or perhaps he just didn't want to relive the experiences again.  His death in the Huntington, WV VA Medical Center came from Lung Cancer.  One can only assume that his experience of being gassed by the German Army in the Argonne Forest was a contributing factor to the malignancy.

I have always been facinated by the World War I soldiers.  When I was a kid in the 50's they were the "old men" in the neighborhood.  The retired guys.  The grandfathers.  Now, as I rapidly approach the age of my Grandfather at his passing, it is sad to realize that there are no more WWI veterans alive in the world today.  They are ALL gone.  Time marches on.

In memory of these men, and in honor of Veterans Day holiday, I thought I would pass along some lines from letters, which I recently found on some obscure website, written home by lonely, homesick (and perhaps frightened) Doughboys during the Great War.

Food for thought and reflection, indeed:

"I am in a Motor Truck Co. in the Army and I expect to be up north soon, as we have everything ready to leave at a moments notice."

"...takes 2 pieces buttoned together to make a tent, your rifle being the front pole and your bayonet the rear."

"...this war is flooded with human nature."

"...lots of ridges around here...you always want to see what's beyond it...may be a Tommy, may a general...may be living, he may be dead..."

"And for my return, I pull no hero stuff...I never sleep in dugouts, I am never bombed or shelled, I don't even stand a chance of starving to death."

"...got into some action...doing bridge reconnaissance...we were ahead of the front lines and I had some narrow escapes."

"...we moved up the trenches about 12 days ago..."

"We are in the 1st Army and that means we will go to Germany..."

"It is a mystery to me how the Tommies get so drunk on such weak beer."

"If you go far enough, and in the right direction, you will find trees that aren't shelled or cut down and sick-like."

"...I may get around to sending you some souveniers...some high explosives...or a few aircraft searchlight beams."

"...was so damned interested in the war ending that I am just writing now...I dont think the French Army will sober up for a month."

"...I buckprivated into the ambassadors 4th of July Reception in Paris...bowed to the Colonels, shook the hands of diplomats and chatted with a countess..."

"...you asked if my hand was off. No, but I can't write very much. I was shot through the left wrist and it almost tore it off but will get better maybe sometime.">

"The last time I saw him he was going over the top. I don't know if he got wounded or not."

"Russell is in some hospital shot in his left leg just above his ankle, it is not very bad but he will be laid up for a couple of months. I am in another hospital, almost blind from a gas attack from the Boche but I will be o.k."

"...am sorry to say taht he is in the hospital again. He just got out before in time to go in the battle at Soissons, and while there a piece of shrapnel hit him in the arm and the rumor is that they had to take it off.."

"If you can send me some candy or cigarettes, I would certainly appreciate and thank you very much for it is almost impossible to get either here."

Monday, November 5, 2012

What's In A Name?

As I remember, there was a lot of discussion, time, and effort expended over the last year and a half or so, regarding the subject of a name change for the Southern Baptist Convention. 


Former SBC President Bryant Wright bowed to great concerns allegedly from church planters and others around the country who seemed to feel that the moniker “Southern Baptists” was a challenge to the task of planting churches in the Northeast and other areas of the USA.  Surely a new name was needed for the tired old convention.  So Dr. Wright appointed a task force made up of many familiar names to look into this terrible situation and to make their learned recommendations to the convention messengers when we met at our annual meeting in New Orleans this past June.


After much research, soul searching, and discussion, it was finally decided that rather than changing the legal nomenclature of the Convention (too expensive and too much red tape) what we needed was a new “descriptor” which would more accurately describe who we are.


Let me say at this point, that I personally had no problem with changing the name of the Convention to more accurately define the more global nature of our work.  It had been brought up at other Convention meetings in the past, and I felt there was some merit to the thought, but alas nothing had come of it.  I might add that previous attempts had come from the floor of the Convention, which in my opinion, was the proper way to bring up the matter.


In recent years, however, there have been “needs” that have behooved SBC Presidents to appoint special committees to look into serious situations such as the need for a “Great Commission Resurgence” and the perceived urgent need to change our Convention’s name to make it more palatable to those in other regions of our nation.  Some have questioned if the two former Presidents even had the authority to do such a thing, but as my buddy Joed Rice’s late father might have said, “…That’s another thing!”


So at any rate, the Ad Hoc Committee in their wisdom did not deem it incumbent on us to change the official name of the Convention, but still felt that it was imperative that we add the descriptor, “Great Commission Baptists”.  The upbuilding of the Kingdom demanded quick action.  The recommendation came to the Messengers of the Convention, and like obedient sheep we passed it, thereby taking the terrible curse of the “Southern” term out of the equation – and presumably making folks in the northeast and great northwest much more open to the Gospel message.


The news went out from New Orleans in June, and now we were free to use the new descriptor in hopes that the lost world would like us better now that we had a nickname.


I really don’t intend to beat a dead horse, but in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the “Frankenstorm” that pummeled the eastern seaboard, our SBC Disaster Relief volunteers kicked into action as usual, moving hundreds of volunteer chainsaw crews, mud out crews, and feeding units into New Jersey, New York, and other hard hit areas.


How interesting it was to note that as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie held a recent news conference, he was high on his praise of the first responders along with the National Guard, American Red Cross, and the SOUTHERN BAPTISTS who were already on site.  The SBC North American Mission Board tells us that SBC Disaster Relief Crews are cranking out more than 400,000 meals per day which are being delivered by the Red Cross to those who are in need.  Southern Baptists.  Imagine that.  I doubt that very many would turn down those hot meals, or send away the chain saw and mud out crews just because “Southern Baptist Disaster Relief” was written in blue across their bright yellow T-Shirts and caps.


Perhaps what we do for the Lord in the way of ministry to others carries a whole lot more weight than what we call ourselves. And just maybe, this visible manifestation of God’s love and grace may have more of an impact on lost people than any descriptor a committee might come up with. 
(And that’s another thing!)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Golden Nugget From The Sermon On The Mount

Matthew, chapters five through seven cover a discourse by Jesus commonly known as The Sermon on the Mount.  This passage of scripture, which begins with “The Beatitudes” and concludes with the contrast of the outcome of identical houses built on different foundations – caused Jesus’ hearers to be “astonished at His doctrine” and impressed at the authoritative manner of His teaching.  Jesus’ radical teaching in this message was never intended to be a “How To” formula to earn salvation.  Rather, the principles found in this sermon are Kingdom Principles.  These are the attitudes, practices, and motivations that should be the fruit produced by a life of the true follower of Christ.

The middle chapter of this message starts out like this.  "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (ESV)

This teaching was in stark contrast to the common practices of the day by those Jews who were deemed to be deeply religious.  In verses 1-18 Jesus deals with the right (and wrong) ways to give offerings …  to pray … and to fast.  He starts out the thought by reminding His hearers that much of the reward we receive from our Heavenly Father is based on the motives and methods we as His children employ in our spiritual activities.

He first deals with our charitable giving.  Jesus says,  "Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” (v.2)  Jesus says that our giving in His name is such a private act that one should never draw public attention to it.  In fact, He indicates that if it were physically possible this act should be so private that we would  “… not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,“ (v.3)

He then moves to the subject of the spiritual discipline of prayer.  "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” (v.5)  Now, this is not a blanket condemnation of public prayer in worship services, etc, but again, it involves our attitude and actions in practicing the wonderful God given gift of prayer.

 The Master warns us that our prayer life is not for public impressiveness or an exhibition of oratorical skills.  It’s not about generalities and meaningless phrases, but rather as a private communication with the One who already knows all about us and all about our needs. Consider verses 7-8.  "And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”   He then goes on in verses 9-15 to teach us the nature of what our honest communication with God should involve.  He speaks of our relationship to the Father…as well as our reverence of Him… our obedience to Him… our dependence upon Him.  He also speaks about forgiveness and deliverance which can only come through Him.

After teaching us the manner in which to pray, Jesus moves on to another spiritual discipline that is always linked with prayer – Fasting.

Again He stresses the private nature of the purpose of fasting.  In Jesus’ day, the “religious folks” often made a big deal and public display regarding fasting.  Jesus deals sharply and simply with the subject.  "And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” (v.16)  Jesus refers to those who would make a public spectacle out of the very private practice of fasting, are simply “play actors”.  In verses 17-18 He tells us the right way to behave during a time of serious fasting and self denial. “But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret.”  Like giving and prayer, our fasting is something that is not to be done for human recognition, but is intended to be a very private thing between us and God.

I think it is striking that in pointing out the wrong motives, attitudes and practices of these spiritual disciplines, Jesus plainly says that the only reward given will be the temporary praise of men.  Yet when we follow His example and teaching, the promise is that the God who hears and sees that which we do for Him in secret will one day reward us openly for our Christlike actions.

Speaking for myself, I would much rather have the reward of my Father in Heaven than any temporal recognition in this perishing earth.  How about you?

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Sobering Reminder

My dear friend Bill Barker is director of Appalachian Regional Ministries. ARM is a ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board. Bill is a West Virginia native who has a heart for God, and for making Him known to the people throughout the mountains and hills of the Appalachian region of our nation, which runs from parts of New York to northern Georgia.
Bill posted the following article on Facebook this morning, and I felt compelled to share it with our readers. The context of the scriptures cited here is, of course, surrounding the dedication of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. It is written to the people of Israel and regards that special house of worship and prayer that had been constructed to God's specifications. God warns His people, Israel that He stands ready to protect and provide for them, but that He will withdraw His blessings from those who fail to respond to Him in obedience and love.
Even though that unique situation was very different from what we face today, I believe we can draw a correlation to the spiritual situation of God's people today in our region. Our culture has basically forgotten God and His commandments. Houses of worship all around us are closed, locked, mildewed and rotting. Small remnants try to keep other buildings open, and our convention spends money time and other resources on planting new churches. What we need is true revival among God's people. It is a sad commentary on our complacency, our priorities, and our lack of zeal in fulfilling His Great Commission. Here is Bill's article. May God use Bill's post to be a compelling challenge to each of us today!
For the past six days, I have been traveling and working in the coalfields of Appalachia, driving through towns that once brimmed with people and affluence; driving pass churches that once were filled to capacity every Lord’s Day. I paused as I passed a church were over 650 people once gathered to worship and today a dozen or so people struggle to keep the doors open.
I drove by another church that in its heyday was one of the ten largest churches in their denomination and today is just an empty shell of a building.
I drove pass churches with For Sale signs on them, pass others that showed years of neglect, and pass others that were boarded up. Yet, there was one thing in common at each site; men and women, teenagers, boys and girls desperately needing of being reached with the gospel of Christ surrounded the abandoned or nearly empty church buildings.
This reminded me of the store with a “Going out of business” sign on the front window under which someone had scribbled, “we forgot what business we were in.”
While frequently, we quote 2 Chronicles 7:14, we seldom read on to verses 19-22. "But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, and worship them, then I will uproot them from My land which I have given them; and this house which I have sanctified for My name I will cast out of My sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And as for this house, which is exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and say, 'Why has the LORD done thus to this land and this house?' Then they will answer, 'Because they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and embraced other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore He has brought all this calamity on them'" (NKJV).
That same truth applies to the church today; accordingly, I pray with the sons of Korah, “Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?”(Psalm 85:6).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Of Buzzards, Bats, and Bumblebees

I had seen this illustration before, but it has been some time ago. Recently someone sent it to me in an email, and I thought it was something I should share with you. Keep in mind that this is not original with me, and the author is unknown.

The Buzzard-

If you put a buzzard in a pen that is 6 feet by 8 feet and is entirely open at the top, the bird, in spite of its ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner. The reason is that a buzzard always begins a
flight from the ground with a run of 10 – 12 feet. Without space to run, as is its habit, the buzzard will not even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner for life in a small jail with no top.

The Bat –

The ordinary bat that flies
around at night is a remarkably nimble creature in the air. Yet it cannot take off from a level
place. If it is placed on the floor or
flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about helplessly and, no doubt,
painfully, until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw
itself into the air. Then at once, it takes off like a flash.
The Bumblebee -

A Bumblebee, if dropped into an open jar, will be there until it dies, or until it is taken out. It never sees the means of escape at the open top of the jar, but persists in trying to find some way out through the side or bottom. It will seek a way out where none exists, until it completely destroys itself.

People -

In many ways, we are like the buzzard, the bat, and the bumblebee. We struggle about with all our problems and frustrations, never realizing that all we have to do is look up! That is the
answer. The escape route and the solution to any problem is to look up.
When the problems of life arise. When there seems to be no way out. Look up to the God who has said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you”.

The old saying goes, “Sorrow looks back… Worry looks around… but faith looks up!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Preach, Die, and Be Forgotten

Nicolaus Zinzendorf, 1700-1760, theologian and Bishop of the Moravian Church has been quoted as saying, "Preach the Gospel, die, and be forgotten".

Pretty powerful words! Words that go against the main stream of popular thought.

33 years ago in an interview for a secular job, the Human Resources Manager asked my what my goal was if I should be selected for the position. I told him I wanted to "make a good living to support my family, to serve my community well, and to be remembered for having made a difference".

Sounds pretty noble, huh?

Three decades later, those are similar words that might be spoken by nearly anyone. We live in a time where we would like to feel that we have made a difference in the world. Some speak of leaving a legacy, and that is a very human desire. Presidents save all of their papers, photos, and memorabilia for their presidential libraries. As they serve, we often hear about how they want to be remembered by historians. That is fine and proper, but it's really nothing new. Many today are seeking celebrity status. Some of us are looking for what Andy Warhol called our "15 minutes of fame". Everyone seems to want to be remembered when they are gone. This desire manifests itself in great projects endeavored and monuments left behind.

But again, that is nothing new. Human nature really hasn't changed much in millennia.

The first four verses of Genesis 11 records the following:

"Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” (ESV)

When I was a child, my understanding of this text was more along the lines of the idea that people wanted to build a tower so high that they could get up to Heaven. This is far from the message of this passage! Notice in that fourth verse they said, "... let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth". The idea was that they wanted to "make a name for themselves" and to leave a monument to their achievements.

Aren't we all like that to some extent?

Christians in general, and those of us in the ministry in particular, should be very careful not to allow ourselves to be forced into that mold! Great care should be taken, because we are NOT immune to that temptation. A cursory look around us will reveal that there are numerous "ministries" and monuments around us to mark the work of various pastors and evangelists.

God help those of us in the ministry to take heed to the advice given by Zinzendorf to Moravian Missionaries in the mid 1700's:

“The missionary must seek nothing for himself: no seat of honour, no report of fame. Like the cab-horses in London, the Count said, he must wear blinkers and be blind to every danger and to every snare and conceit. He must be content to suffer, to die and be forgotten.”

Such teachings of Zinzendorf had great influence on John and Charles Wesley, and William Carey. It should also have the same effect on us.

John the Baptist gives us one of the great Biblical examples of such a philosophy as recorded in John 3:30 " He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Oh! That we might remember that our task is to lift up Jesus and not ourselves!

May we be quick like the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 2 to lay aside opinion, philosophy, politics, personalities, partisanship and earthly wisdom to take on this attitude:

"And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."

Our challenge is today as it has always been - "Preach the Gospel, die, and be forgotten". God has a record of our service. His reward will be much greater than any monument we may leave here.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Buzzy's Mom

This afternoon at 5:30 PM, at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, IL (near Chicago) it will be my privilege to unite Jim "Buz" Salyer and Debby Thomas in marriage. That's Buzzy and his mother, Anna Lee Salyer pictured here to the left.

I've known Buzzy since about 1957 or so. His family lived on Midvale Drive, up the hill from the house where I grew up on Gallaher Street. He was one year younger than me, and trailed me by one school year all the way through Gallaher Elementary, Beverly Hills Junior High, and Huntington East High School. We were't close friends through school, but mostly just a couple of guys who grew up in the same neighborhood, and had a number of mutual friends. After I graduated in 1968 I lost track of Buz for a decade.

Our paths crossed again in the late 70's as Providence brought us to the same employer at an automobile dealership in Ashland, KY. From that point on, a close friendship developed that has lasted for three and a half decades. After our time together at Steenbergen Oldsmobile, his work in banking and finance eventually led him to the Chicago area, and I opened an insurance agency in Ashland. I continued to work in Bi-vocational ministry as a business man and a pastor until called to the full time pastorate in 2012.

Buz and his late wife, Amy, who also grew up in our old neighborhood, were not only my insurance clients while they lived in Kentucky, but were great friends to Linda and I. They were also great benefactors of our Philippine Mission work and the ministry of Westmoreland Baptist Church. There was a genuine love between our families - even though we were eventually separated by many miles and different career paths.

What a joy it was last night to meet Debby who will now share her life with my old friend, and to be reunited at the rehearsal and dinner with Buz and his family. His twin son and daughter Jamie and Jacqui and their children are a precious family. It was great to see Buzzy's younger sister, Jennifer and meet her husband as well. However, one of the best treats of the evening was to be able to spend some quality time with Buzzy's mother, Anna Lee Salyer.

During the 1967-1968 school year, Mrs. Salyer (that is all I will ever be able to call her) was my Senior English teacher at Huntington East High School. I had not seen Mrs. Salyer since that hot night in early June, 1968 at my graduation ceremony at Veterans Memorial Field House in Huntington. All that was on my mind that evening was celebration, a date with my girl friend, and an upcoming trip out of town with one of my buddies. In hindsight, I wish I had taken time to seek out Mrs. Salyer and one other particular teacher that evening just to tell them "Thanks". However, as teenagers are wont to do, I failed to take that opportunity. Last night, forty four years later, I had the opportunity again, and seized the moment.

By my best count, in my twelve years as a student in Cabell County public schools, I had upwards of 50 teachers. Two of them were bad - really, really bad (that's all I'll say about that). One tried hard, but was outside of his calling. Most of them were excellent professionals, from whom I learned a great deal. Seven of them helped change my life.

Buzzy's mom was one of the "Magnificent Seven".

Mrs. Donaldson, a dear Christian lady, started it off right in first grade. Beside teaching us "Jolly Numbers" and reading with the adventures of Dick, Jane, and Sally ("See Spot. See Spot run. Run Spot. Run!") Mrs. Donaldson actually interspersed our secular lessons with Christian values. The first song I ever learned in school was "Tell Me The Story of Jesus". Imagine that!

Gertrude Stone, my fifth grade teacher, challenged me to work hard and never settle for mediocrity. That challenge lay dormant for two years in High School, but the seeds Mrs. Stone planted eventually bore fruit. Susie Jimison taught us music and life lessons. She dared us to be different and inspired us to think for ourselves and not to just follow the crowd.

In Junior High Miss Harold stoked my interests in learning about the world around me. Her passion for Geography and World History fanned the flame that Mrs. Stone had ignited in me during the fifth grade. Linda Giles' 9th grade English class deepened my love for literature and poetry, and infected me with the joy and satisfaction that comes from creative writing.

My first two years of High School were unremarkable to say the least. I coasted. I declined. My school work was average, at best, and poor on occasion. I had feelings of inferiority and began to doubt my self worth. Then came my senior year with Catherine Cummings' Speech class and Anna Salyer's English. These two ladies were a godsend to me.

Mrs. Cummings brought me out of my funk and out of my shell. She inspired me to think creatively and to communicate. Over the years, I had "locked up" when forced to get up in front of the class and and speak. Whether it was "Show and Tell" in grade school, or oral book reports in Jr. High, the fear of public speaking was debilitating. Mrs. Cummings forced me to abandon my fear of speaking before a crowd. She helped us understand that we each did have something of value to say, and coached us as to how to say it.

That all kind of comes in handy for what I do today!

Mrs. Salyer embodied all of the above qualities. She was a consummate teacher. She loved her students and it showed. She wasn't "easy" quite thee contrary, but she made learning fun. She was passionate about literature and it was infectious. She even made grammar lessons interesting. I may not have completely mastered its finest points (as evidenced my writings even today) but I understood it much better due to her efforts. She not only taught us English, but she taught us lessons in life. Her class was the best hour of the day, and I looked forward to it each school day.

Most of all, I think Mrs. Salyer saw potential in each of her students. She was tough when necessary, and compassionate at all times. She told me last night about a boy (whom I remember well) who was thrown out of his original English class. The former teacher said she would not allow him back in her class, and Mrs. Salyer was asked to take on this "problem student". She agreed, and it didn't take long for her to see that this guy was gifted in writing. His spelling was atrocious, and all the other teacher had done was mark up his papers for spelling until it looked like a chicken had bled to death on the page. Mrs. Salyer told me, "I read his work, and it was outstanding. He just couldn't spell." The previous teacher had no patience with him, and had constantly berated him over his poor spelling. "Apparently she had never taken time to read what he had written" Mrs. Salyer said. "I began to work with him on his spelling. Soon he was carrying a dictionary with him on a regular basis. His spelling improved and his work was excellent." She further said that she had lost touch with the young man after high school, but happened across his mother many years later. When asked about where her son was and what he was doing, the mother related that he was now a college English professor!

That is the kind of story that makes it all worthwhile for a teacher.

The common traits of my "top seven" - and other great teachers - are a genuine love for their profession and for the many and varied lives they touch. They often answer questions with another question. They challenge the student to think! They challenge the student to look inside themselves, and to work hard to reach their potential. They help mold and change lives.

Buzzy's mom was one of the best.

I'm sorry it took so long to be able to tell her face to face, but I am so glad I had that opportunity last night.

Thanks Mrs. Salyer! You are loved and appreciated.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Riding The Rails

As I write this, Linda and I are on the Amtrak “Cardinal” somewhere in Indiana. The land is as flat as a skillet, and we are passing rows and rows of seemingly endless cornfields. The sky is milky blue above the scattered white farmhouses, barns, other outbuildings and silos.

I am quite accustomed to loud train whistles near my home, but from our seats aboard the coach, the horn sounds strangely distant as it blows at each crossing.

It’s our first train ride together and her first, ever – if you don’t count the Cass Senic Rail Road that climbs Bald Knob back in Pocahontas County, West Virginia.

We are headed to Chicago, where tomorrow I will officiate at the wedding ceremony of a lifelong friend, and former co-worker.

The familiar swaying of the train brings back pleasant memories from my childhood days, but the rails are bumpier than I remembered – or had expected. The Conductor has just announced that from our next stop in Crawfordville through Lafayette, that the train will be full. I have been a bit surprised by the number of folks who are taking this means of transportation. The Cardinal even added two cars to the train at our early morning stop in Indianapolis.

It’s been a multi ethnic and multi cultural experience as well. In our car there are several folks speaking Spanish. The young Hispanic mother sitting across the aisle from us has two beautiful children, and a lady sitting two rows back, who appears to possibly be her sister also has three little ones. The kids are having a great time playing with each other as the miles roll by.

There are two couples and a family who (from the native dress of the ladies) appear to be from India. There are Caucasians and African Americans of all ages, and at least five Amish people have walked by us on their way to the dining car. The Conductors and other staff members are friendly and helpful, and it has made for a pleasant experience.

As someone who flies several times a year, I have been impressed with the wide comfortable seats on this train, and tremendous leg room between them. The seats are markedly larger than the coach seats of most planes, and they recline much further. The seats also have a small leg rest that can be extended, and there are foot rests and electrical outlets for each passenger’s use. The aisles are wide, and the two restrooms in each coach are a good bit larger and somewhat more comfortable than the tiny lavatories in the airliners.

The Amtrak fares are also very reasonable. Linda and I are both traveling round trip for roughly half of what one plane ticket would have cost for me, alone.

The drawbacks of rail travel, of course, do exist as well. For example, this particular route does not have daily service. The three times per week regimen makes travel scheduling more of a challenge. Obviously the trip by rail takes much longer than a flight to the same destination. There are several stops along the way, and (much the same as with the airlines) there can be unexpected delays. Our train was scheduled to leave Ashland, KY at 10:08 PM on Wednesday evening, but it did not arrive until much later. We actually got underway at 12:45 AM on Thursday morning!

When delays happen, being stuck in an airport situation can be much more comfortable than in many Amtrak venues. No one really likes spending long hours waiting in an airport terminal, but in contrast to the Amtrak “station” in Ashland, KY (which consists of two benches under a small shelter that look like a school bus stop) it makes an airport waiting area feel like a creature comfort center!

All in all, it has been a pleasant experience thus far. If your town has access to rail travel I would encourage you to try it some time. With the clattering of the wheels, the sound of the whistle, the swaying of the cars, and the passing scenery, there is just something traditionally “American” about the train experience.

I’ve been humming “train songs” to myself all morning!

“And the sons of pullman porters

And the sons of engineers

Ride their father's magic carpets made of steel.

Mothers with their babes asleep,

Are rockin' to the gentle beat

And the rhythm of the rails is all they feel.”

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Persecution and Suffering

Follower's of Jesus Christ in America had better be prepared.

Persecution is coming.

It's nothing new for the follower of Christ.

Just read the Book of Acts in the New Testament, and you will begin to get an appreciation for what early Christ Followers endured.

Believers in this country should spend some time in Foxes Book of Martyrs and let the sobering reality of persecution begin to sink in to their "spoiled by our religious freedoms in the USA" minds.

Educate yourself as to the dire straits that Christians are in TODAY around the world in places like Indonesia, China, Iran, and Nigeria.

For far too long we have been the spiritual equivalent of an ostrich, sticking our heads in the sand of OUR Bill of Rights. Blessed to have been born in this wonderful country, most of us are oblivious to the plight of Christ Followers around the world, but the inconvenient truth of the matter is that persecution exists, and it is coming here, faster than most people realize.

I am thankful to be an American. I cherish our Constitution and our Bill of Rights. As a citizen, I expect to have those rights protected. Yet I would be a fool to believe that this will last forever. Look at one of the heroes (and human authors) of the New Testament - a fellow named Saul of Tarsus. You might know him better as Paul the Apostle. Paul was a Roman Citizen. He did not earn that citizenship nor purchase it at a price. Like many of us American Christians, he was simply born a citizen of Rome, and expected to enjoy the privileges and perks that came with it. Yet listen to his testimony regarding the persecution and suffering that he endured for his faithfulness to Christ:

"Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure." (2 Corinthians 11:22-27)

He even counseled his young Greek protege, Timothy, that he (and all other Christians) could and should expect more of the same:

"You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." (2 Timothy 3:12)

That's not exactly what we would put on a recruiting poster, is it? ("Hey! Come to Jesus and get persecuted!") Yet the warning is there for every believer to see, "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus WILL be persecuted..."

Why can't we just go along our merry way, and live a life in Christ that will cause everybody to love and adore us? Why is the entertainment industry so brutal to Christians? Why are those who preach "tolerance" so loudly, so intolerant of those who follow Christ? Why is it becoming more and more unpopular to be a real Christian in 21st Century America?


Here is what Jesus, Himself, said about the subject:

"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. " (John 15:18-21)

So, there you go, my friend. Better get use to it.

This is one pastor who is tired of hearing American Christians whine about being mocked and treated with intolerance. It's time to put your big boy britches on and be prepared, because it is only going to get worse. We ain't seen nothing yet!

But here is the good news from Jesus, regarding the suffering and persecution that we will one day surely face:

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Markers All Around Us

In Bible times, when God did a wonderful thing for His people, often an altar would be built on the site and the place was given a special name to commemorate the event. Even in today's culture there are historic markers along highways and byways throughout our country, marking the sites of famous battles, early settlements, or historic events that have taken place there. There are spiritual markers also in our lives where we can point back to the the place and time that God saved us, or situations when He has proven Himself to be Jehovah-Jireh (The LORD Provides), or Jehova-Rophe (The LORD Heals) in our lives.

The two little boys pictured in this post are special markers in my life. They are Grandsons #3 (Canon, in the Cub Scout Uniform) and #4 (Asher, in the All Star cap). Each time I see them, I am reminded anew of the tremendous miracle that God has done in my life.

These boys were born six months and 1,000 miles apart - one in New Orleans, LA and the other in Ashland, KY during one of the darkest times in my life.

Canon was born on the Monday after Thanksgiving, 2004, the very week, a large malignant mass was found in my colon. Up to that point, I had no idea that I had cancer. The only symptoms I had experienced were general physical weakness and dizziness from time to time. Routine blood work by my family doctor showed that my hemoglobin level was just under 7 (normal range would be 12). So, while Michelle and newborn Canon were still in Oshner Medical Center in New Orleans, I was admitted to Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital in Ashland for tests to determine the cause of my blood loss. A colonoscopy on the second day of testing revealed a large mass in my right ascending colon. Surgery was scheduled for the following Monday.

During the surgery to remove three feet of my intestines, it was obvious to the surgeon that the tumor had escaped the colon. While I was "open" the surgeon also removed my appendix, several lymph nodes, and did a biopsy on my liver. The biopsy revealed that the cancer had metastasized to my lymph nodes and the liver. Consequent CT scans and MRI's showed that the tumors were "spread throughout my liver like someone had sown grass seed". The cancer was also in the lymph nodes that the surgeon had removed.

The diagnosis was simple and shocking. Metastatic Colon Cancer - Stage Four. The prognosis was stark. "incurable, but hopefully manageable with chemotherapy". Average survival time 18-22 months!

The next few weeks and months were a flurry of activity. There was a Christmas week visit to see our family in New Orleans, and a week later, a previously scheduled two week mission trip to the Philippines. Upon return from the Philippines, exhausted, I had surgery to implant a Medi-Port in my chest to enable chemotherapy infusions without the aggravation and complications of having to deal with a "pic-line". A six month course of chemotherapy commenced the next week. Every other week I visited the Ashland Bellefonte Cancer Center for treatments on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The treatments included the standard 5-FU, along with a newer drug called Oxaliplatin and a drug called Avastin (which had some very dangerous side effects in one out of 30 patients). In addition to the in office infusions, which took up to 5 hours on Wednesday, 3 hours on Thursday, and 1 1/2 hours on Friday, I also wore a chemo pump, overnight on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

It was in the 4th month of my chemotherapy regimen that Asher was born at King's Daughters Medical Center here in Ashland. I was on my way to a chemo treatment that very day, and Leigh Anne was kind enough to deliver the little guy early that morning, in time that I could be there for the big event, and still make my treatment on time!

Well, this coming November will be 8 years since my cancer was found and diagnosed. With the prognosis, I felt that it would be unlikely that I would ever really get to know these two new grandsons, nor would they ever have any memories of me. However, a Sovereign God had other plans. My medical doctors and oncologists are astounded that I am still here. Only 15% of cancer patients with my situation ever survive for five years. By God's grace, I will soon reach the 8th anniversary.

It has been a long road these past 8 years or so, but God has been with me all the way. I still see the oncologist on a regular basis, and have my port flushed and blood work done each month. I am scheduled for another series of scans in the next few weeks, and the specter of the cancer returning is always out there. However, when I had opportunity to go to Canon's Cub Scout meeting with him this spring, and have enjoyed watching Asher play his first season of Little League Baseball, I have been reminded anew of how good God has been to this old preacher. Even their names have a special significance to me. "Canon", reminds me of the promises that are mine in God's Holy Word, and "Asher", Hebrew for "Happy", speaks of the joy that God has given me through a very difficult time.

Every time I see their beautiful faces, hear their names, and marvel at how much they have grown, it's another marker along the way to remind me that Jehovah-Rophe is still in business!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Safe and Secure

A couple of weeks ago my grandsons were at the house, and while surfing the channels they came across a live event that glued our attention to the TV screen for the next 30 minutes. A man named Nick Wallenda (of the famous daredevil circus performing Wallendas) accomplished one of the most daring feats ever accomplished by man. I sat fascinated as he walked a tightrope from New York to Canada high above the great Horseshoe Falls of the Niagra River. As he placed one foot in front of the other, carrying a 40 pound pole for balance, he accomplished something that no man had ever done before.

Wallenda had put lots of planning into this event, He had a plan, special shoes, electronic communication equipment, a ground team on each end of the cable, appropriate clothing and eye protection…20 foot balance pole, etc. But perhaps the most important piece of equipment he had was the safety line that tethered him to the cable.

This safety line allowed him to concentrate on the dangerous walk before him, without worrying about falling to his death.

If you and I will ever accomplish any great work for Christ, we need to be able to focus on the task at hand, instead of worrying about falling. This type of fear and doubt cripples us and prevents us from enjoying the fullness of life as a believer in Christ.

This fear also prevents some folks from ever being saved.

Note with me a text from the teaching of Jesus as recorded in John 10: 27-29

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”

Next to the assurance of Salvation, the greatest blessing we have as believers is knowing at we are eternally secure in the hands of the Savior!

If you have truly trusted Jesus as your Savior and Lord, do not let the fear of falling paralyze you in your work. Move ahead, one step at a time, looking unto Jesus, who is holding you safe in His powerful hands.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Christian Boot Camp

I spent the Summer of 1973 doing “Basic Military Training” at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and more technical trainingfor my chosen military career path at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. This basic training helped prepare me for the tasks that would lie ahead during my time of U.S. Air Force active duty, and the years that would follow in the West Virginia Air National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve. Of course there was further training I picked up along the way to help further prepare me for service, but the “Basic Training” taught us just that – the basics of what we needed to know to be effective in our service to our country.

Christ Followers need much of the same, as we seek to follow the Lord in every aspect of our lives.
The Word of God tells us so. Consider how the scriptures implore us to prepare ourselves for service to God through the learning of His Word, for:

* Christian Growth

1 Peter 2:2-3 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation-- if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

2 Peter 3:17-18 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

* Mediation and Teaching

Deuteronomy 6: 6-7 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way,and when you lie down, and when you rise.

2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

* Guidance

2 Timothy 3:14-17 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

* Facing persecution

1 Peter 3:14-15 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being
prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

For these (and other reasons) I am preparing and preaching a series of messages on Sunday mornings this Summer in “Basic Doctrines for Christian Growth and Service”. We will be looking at topics such as “Assurance of Salvation”, “Eternal Security”, “Repentance and Restoration”, “Dealing With Temptation”, “Fellowship”, “Christian Maturity”, “The Spirit Filled Life”,“Knowing the Will of God”, etc.

I hope you will join us in worship as we explore these and other basic Christian doctrines in Christian Boot Camp (no pushups or running required!)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Notes From The SBC 2012

History was made yesterday in the city that was once home to the largest slave market in North America. The Southern Baptist Convention elected its first African American President. This is huge when you think that one of the factors that helped form the Convention in the 19th Century was the slavery issue. Just as the rest of the country was so deeply divided in those days, Baptists in the south split from fellowship with their Baptist brethren in the north, over the issue. Now, a man who is most likely the descendant of black slaves, has been chosen to be the leader of the largest protestant denomination in the world.

About one sixteenth of the SBC's 16 Million members are black. The SBC Annual Meeting has long been a sea of mostly white faces. This week the complexion has changed visibly. It is a beginning (long overdue) but a beginning none the less. The election of a former street preacher from the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans to be the leader of the Southern Baptist Convention is a major step toward racial reconciliation, and toward pounding the final nails in the coffin of an ugly chapter in our history.


One of the things I love about attending the SBC Annual Meeting, is the opportunity to see so many friends and colleagues from all over the country. We have had opportunity to see many of our friends from back home in Kentucky and West Virginia, and that is always a blessing. It is also sweet to renew old acquaintances with friends from all over the country. The fellowship is fleeting, but so sweet, whether it be spending a few minutes together in the Exhibit Hall, stopping to talk briefly in the concourse, or sitting down to have a cup of coffee or to break bread together in one of the crowded restaurants.


It is also a tremendous blessing to sit under the preaching of a number of Godly men, young and old, in the Pastor's Conference which precedes the two day business sessions. It is not often one can hear the likes of Tony Evans, David Jeremiah, Johnny Hunt, and David Platt in one venue. The speakers vary in age and style, and come from various types of ministries, but each one's message will compliment the others. In the Monday afternoon session alone, Dennis Swanberg made us laugh, David Platt made us cry, and Herb Reavis made us shout. Fred Luter brought the house down on Monday evening!


Despite the euphoria surrounding Fred Luter's election, there is still some controversy here as we Baptists gather in the Big Easy. There is the Calvinism debate. Some are saying that now is the time for this "conversation to begin". Friends, this conversation has been going on for several centuries in Baptist life. The debate is an old one, and it is not going to be settled today. There are some things that we just need to leave up to God, determine that we are going to love one another despite some of our differences, and get on with fulfilling the Great Commission given to us by our Lord. We have the Word of God to guide us, and the Baptist Faith and Message as our consensus statement of faith, now let's get on with the task!


I never cease to be amazed that in spite of our differences, in spite of controversies, large and small, God continues to bless this work. It is a tribute to His power and glory alone!

I have enjoyed being here this week. I even got to have dinner with two of my precious grandsons last night! We'll wrap things up here today, and I look forward to getting home and back to work in the place of service where God has placed me.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Power Of A Personal Testimony

It's 12:30 AM and I am crying like a baby. The tears are tears of joy and thanksgiving to our Father in Heaven, and believe it or not, it is from something I've just seen on The Tonight Show!
As I sometimes do in the evenings, by 10:00 or so, I had fallen asleep in my recliner. Linda has learned that when I do such things it is futile to try to wake me. She knows I will eventually regain consciousness and make the climb up the stairs to my comfortable bed. So, she makes sure the doors are locked and all the lights are out, and leaves me in la la land with the flickering light of the television on until I snap back to reality.
Well, I did... and the Tonight Show was in its last few minutes. The beautiful Catherine Zeta-Jones was sitting to Jay Leno's far right, and a little bent man with a red baseball cap, and blue jacket was in the chair next to Leno's desk. He appeared to be in his 90's, and was in the process of recounting his World War II prisoner of war experience. With him being a member of my Dad's "Greatest Generation" I immediately took note of what he was saying.
His name was Louis Zamperini. He was a native of Torrance, California, where he was a juvenile delinquent in his younger years. However, he had been given a wonderful gift of athletic ability which led him to world fame as a track star. He had even competed for the USA in the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin. After World War II broke out, Zamperini joined the Army Air Corps and became a bombardier on a B-29.
As I roused from my slumber Zamperini was telling about the events that followed the crashing of his plane in the Pacific Ocean on May 27. 1943. He told about how he and the badly injured pilot and one other crew member were the sole survivors of the eleven man crew. The story that followed was absolutely fascinating. He told of how the three or them survived for 47 days on the raft, badly injured and surrounded by sharks. The one plane they saw during the ordeal, turned out to be an enemy aircraft. It made two passes at them firing machine guns at the three airmen. Miraculously, no one was hit, and he allowed that as they "played dead", the enemy pilot must have been low on fuel and returned to their base or aircraft carrier.
As the story went, Zamperini and the other survivors eventually washed ashore in the Japanese controlled Marshall Islands. When captured, Zamperini weighed only 67 pounds (he had lost 100 pounds during the 47 days as a castaway). The three Americans were taken as prisoners of war, where Zamperini was tortured for more than two years. Much of that time was at the hand of a cruel Japanese prison camp guard, known to the prisoners as "The Bird". The guard made Zamperini his personal project, but in over a year of his torturous treatment, the young American refused to break. The story is told in a book by Laura Hildenbrand, entitled "Unbroken". I'll be ordering that book from Amazon in the morning!
As riveting as Zamperini's story was, I wasn't prepared for what came next, and that was what brought the tears to my eyes.
Leno mentioned, "I understand that you have gone back to Japan, and that you have forgiven your captors, including "The Bird" who had nearly killed you with his torture".
The old man smiled as he told the rest of the story. "They didn't know what it was called back then, but we know now it is called post traumatic stress disorder" he recounted. He told about the nightmares he suffered for years after his freedom. He drank heavily, tortured by the demons of his memory. Each night in his dreams he dreamed of strangling the life out of "The Bird". Eventually, he said, he "met the girl of his dreams and married her". After his marriage he began to cut back on the drinking but the nightmares continued to haunt him. His wife urged him to seek help, but he maintained he could handle it on his own.
One night, while choking "The Bird" in his dreams, Zamperini awoke to realize he had his wife by the throat, choking the life out of her. Terrified and injured, she told him she had come to the end of her rope and that she would file for divorce. Needless to say, he was devastated.
Then, he said, Billy Graham came to town. Zamperini's wife had gone to the Crusade one night and had given her life to Christ. She came home that evening a new woman, telling her husband that she was not going through with the divorce, but was committing her life to Christ and trusting Him to take care of the situation. She encouraged Zamperini to attend the Crusade, which he did, but he "left the meeting angry and terribly under conviction". However, he went back the next night, and after hearing Graham say, "When you get to the end of your rope, and you have no where else to go, turn to God", he knew what he had to do.
Zamperini's mind went back to his 47 day ordeal at sea, and the two and a half years in captivity, and to how he had promised God that if He would spare his life, that he would live for Him and serve him faithfully. "I realized that night, that God had kept his promises to me, but I had not kept mine to Him. The next thing I knew" he said, "I had come forward, and was in the prayer room, committing my life to Christ. I told Him I was sorry and I asked Him to come into my heart and I would live for Him."
Zamperini said, from that moment on he had never had another drink of alcohol, and that the nightmares ended forever. He was able to forgive those who had treated him so horribly, and had opportunity to visit Japan and meet some of his captors, showing them the love of Christ.
The audience erupted in applause, and Zeta-Jones was noticeably moved. Jay Leno stood and shook his hand and simply said, "God bless you".
Obviously God already has done just that!
Now that is far from what one would normally see and hear on late night television, but what a blessing to hear that little bent man, a war hero from another generation, tell that young studio audience (as well as the millions watching on television) about the saving, life changing power of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was powerful, and terribly effective. I was reminded of the words from John Newton's immortal song, "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind but now I see." People can argue about churches, denominations, and doctrinal differences, but no one can argue with the reality of a changed life!
There is nothing stronger than the power of a personal testimony of what Christ has done in an individual's life. May we be as quick as Louis Zamperini to share the Good News at every opportunity.