Monday, May 28, 2012
However, in our culture it was also a time set aside to honor the memory of all of our loved ones who had passed on. I have written before about how our Memorial Days were spent, driving the 69 crooked miles down State Rt. 10 to Logan, WV. There, joining up with other relatives from the Adkins and Stidham clans, the day was spent visiting cemeteries ranging from the overgrown hillside at Foley (near Ethel), to the better preserved family plot on the hillside at Chauncey (on Island Creek) to the neatly manicured grounds of Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens (at Peck's Mill). The old graveyards at Foley and Chauncey would need their annual brush cutting. After the hard work was done, there was always a picnic presided over by Papaw Stidham. Those Memorial Days spent with my parents, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents are some of the most precious memories I have in all my 61 years.
Visiting the graves of my father's grandparents and other relatives would come a little later. On the second Sunday in June, the Adkins clan would gather in force at the "old home place" near the Sulphur Spring on 14 Mile Creek in Lincoln County. There, a huge meal would be prepared for everyone, then most of the men and kids (and some of the ladies) would make the difficult trek up the hill to decorate the graves on the hill top Adkins/Lucas graveyard. We drank cold water from a well on the front porch of the house, and we had a great time chasing the geese around the barnyard, and catching crawdads in the creek with paper cups.
Then on the second Sunday in August we would travel to Wayne County and make the exciting drive up the old dirt road to the scenic ridge top Press Friley Cemetery, were my Mamaw Adkins' Pack clan were all laid to rest. Again, there would be a huge spread of food, and the Old Regular Baptist preachers, took turns preaching in the makeshift amphitheater overlooking an old, rough wooden platform that had been built on the side of the hill in the distant past.
This year, as he has done for several years now, my brother, Bruce, took Mom and Dad to Logan for "Decoration". In their 80's now, they only visit Forest Lawn. That is where both sets of their parents are now interred, as well as a couple of their brothers. I would love to have made the trip with them again, but busy schedules just wouldn't allow it. I miss those "Decoration Days" so many years ago.
Linda and I made the alternate trip down to Pike County Kentucky to take flowers to the graves of her mother, Orpha Bowling, and her older brother, Burgess Ray. He was known to the family as "Buddy Ray", but to most of his friends as "Sarge". He had done 14 years in the United States Marine Corps, but opted to forego a full career in the Corps to come back to the mountains to go back to school, work in the coal mines, and raise his family where he had grown up. Tragically he was killed in a mining accident in 1991. He was a great brother in law to me, and after all these years I still miss him.
Mamaw Bowling, on the other hand, was with us until we lost her to a stroke early in the morning of Christmas Eve, 2003. It's hard to believe she has been gone nearly nine years. Time has shown she was the glue that helped hold her family together. Was she perfect? Of course not. No one is. But Mamaw was a mother who loved and cared for her children, grandchildren, and the few great grandchildren she had the privilege of knowing. As a son in law, I can testify that she loved and treated each of us "in laws" as her own children. She was a good neighbor, one that was respected by all who knew her. She followed the "golden rule" treating others as she would want to have been treated, and modeled that type of behavior to her children. She was a good cook, and there was never a visitor to her home that was not offered a meal - whatever time of day or night it may have been. She and my father in law had 61 years together. He worked hard to earn the paycheck, and Mamaw took care of all the details. Naturally, he has felt lost since that sad Christmas Eve nearly nine years ago.
She had a temper, but it was almost always under control. The one way I know she could be riled up was if someone had done something to take advantage of a member of her family. I can only imagine how heartbroken and angry she would be if she knew what has been done to Burgess in the past year. We can take comfort in knowing that God knows, and He will make all things right in his time.
Mamaw, we love you and we miss you. This "Decoration Day" we take comfort in knowing that you are not in that grave in that beautiful setting at Ransom, but that you are with our Heavenly Father, who loved you, and adopted you to be His own. In your lifetime here you traveled many dusty rough country roads. It won't be long till we see you again - on streets of gold!
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Friday, May 25, 2012
- They are Converted
- They have been Equipped - not Entertained
- Their parents have "Preached the Gospel to them"
Does that make sense? If these factors are valid, and I believe they are, It should be a wake up call to all of us, and a reason to re-evaluate our respective youth ministries.
The first and foremost things our kids need is Jesus! Not just a head knowledge about who Jesus was, where He went, what He did, or even what He said. Students, like adults, need to KNOW Jesus. To know Him as their Savior and Lord. They need a personal relationship with Him. The message of John 3:16 and John 14:6 is just as important to young people as it is to 30, 40, and 50 something folks. Our youth activities need to be built around Evangelism!
Secondly, as young disciples, students need to be equipped - not entertained. Many churches and youth workers seem to feel that we "have to keep them entertained or we'll lose them". Now, I understand that there does need to be activities that add fun and fellowship to our student ministry activities. But entertainment is not what its all about. It is very possible to plan enough entertainment and activities to keep kids coming out, but without conversion and a focus on building up and discipling these young folks, they will be gone as soon as the fun is over.
Just as important is the need for parents to model their faith before their kids. No youth pastor, no matter how talented, gifted, or imaginative they may be, can take the place of the parent in laying the foundation of the Gospel in the lives of their children. Parents must take on their God given responsibilities. Don't just send the kids to youth group. Don't just expect the "youth guy" to accomplish in a few hours a month, what you can and must do in the home.
At Westmoreland Baptist Church, these are the things we are going to focus on in our "Beneath the Surface" student ministry. Will Youth Pastor, Bub Amis, and his helpers have some fun activities planned for the kids? Sure. But we make a commitment to you as parents that in all of our activities, our goal will be to win these kids to Christ. It won't be all about activities and fun and games. We will seek to build them up as strong disciplined followers of Christ - to be young people who will not only have a rock solid faith in Christ, but will be growing in Him, and will be a witness to their friend as fellow students as well.
We ask the parents to back us in this, and above all to do your part. Teach them in your home. Model your faith in your life, so your kids will realize that their greatest role models are genuine in their beliefs and practices.
Kids need a shepherd the same as adults do.
We are going to commit that our efforts will be to model the Good Shepherd, rather than focus on being the Cool Shepherd. I'm convinced it will be of eternal value to the kids!
Thursday, May 24, 2012
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Tuesday, May 22, 2012
This story from an unknown author comes to me most recentlyin an email forwarded by Linda. I have seen it before, and perhaps some of you have as well, but the message isimportant enough that it merits repeating.
Law of the Garbage Truck
“One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the
airport. We were driving in the right
lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of
us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car byjust inches! The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was really friendly. So I asked, 'Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!'
This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, 'The Law of the Garbage Truck.'
He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they'll dump it on you. Don'ttake it personally.
Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don't take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets. The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day. Life's too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so
Love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don't.”
How do we, as Christians react when we are treated poorly or unfairly? How do we respond? The Bible gives us plain direction. Here are but three passages to consider:
Pro 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
In Matt 5:39 Jesus said, “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
Paul writes in Rom 12:14-21 “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends
on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the
wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Sound Biblical advice, don't you think? Is it ever easy to do this? Of course not! Yet throught the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, we should all put into practice! As Paul tells us in Romans 12, it's up to us in how we react to "getting dumped on... Aren't you thankful we have a helper?
Sunday, May 20, 2012
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
I have never stopped thanking my Heavenly Father, for bringing me and this special congregation together nearly 10 years ago. I answered the call of the church with an unprecedented 99% of the vote on that Sunday morning in November 2002. I have no idea what the vote would be if taken again today, but I would like to think that I still enjoy a good measure of support from the congregation.
We've had good times together, and we've had some challenges. The first two years were a period when I focused on ministry to people who were bearing hurts from years past. The next two years, the church rallied around me and Linda as they ministered to us during my battle with Stage 4 "Incurable" Cancer. God used my illness for blessings in many ways. One of those results was a spirit of unity and love at about the time a new pastor's "honeymoon" would normally be over.
One of the buzzwords today in SBC circles is the term "Missional". Westmoreland Baptist has been a missional church since its birth in 1915. It was, itself, the product of a church planting vision. The work on the corner of Hughes and Court Streets in the most westerly neighborhood of Huntington was planted by the Washington Avenue Baptist Church. Washington Avenue Baptist later became Jefferson Avenue Baptist, and just a few years ago that congregation merged with Eastwood Baptist Church on East Pea Ridge between Barboursville and Huntington.
Over the years this congregation has begun missions all around the state of West Virginia. Some of the church plant attempts only survived for a few years. Our most recent church planting effort was in our county seat of Wayne. Not all of our church plant attempts might be called "successful" but only eternity will reveal what God accomplished through those efforts. However, there are several thriving healthy churches today in Huntington (Altizer neighborhood), Elkins, Logan, and Point Pleasant that were all church plants by WBC. At least one of those churches has also planted a successful church in Lincoln County.
Many of our members have served as missionaries - both vocational as well as volunteer. Cynthia Perdue Mikhail (who recently passed away in Ramallah) spent most of her adult life as a missionary to Palestinians and Jews in the West Bank territory of Israel. Steve Howerton spent time as an IMB Journeyman in the Caribbean, and it was there where he met his future wife, Cathy, who was there doing mission work herself. Jim Fugate and Kevin Howerton also served as BSU Campus Ministers. Randy Spurgeon gave up his position here as Associate Pastor of Music and Youth several years ago to serve as one of our State Convention Missionaries as well.
Many of our members have taken part in short term missions both at home and abroad, and we continue to do so. Recent trips have included ongoing work in the Philippines with native Southern Baptist Church planters there, as well as trips to Russia, Europe, India, and Haiti. Our youth do mission work around the country each summer, and a number of our people have served in SBC Disaster Relief work for years. I am proud that many of our people have the desire to Go personally. I am also thankful that they back up their missionary spirit through giving.
Beside numerous non budgeted gifts we give to various mission causes (ranging from the Huntington City Mission to several independent missionaries, and Gideons International) the church body has committed to return 13% of all undesignated receipts to Southern Baptist Mission causes. The breakdown of our mission giving includes:
- The SBC Cooperative Program (since 1925, one of the most successful mission sending vehicles ever created. Cooperative Program giving helps fund International and Home Missionaries, including our own West Virginia Convention work, as well as the six SBC Seminaries, and the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission)
- SBC International Mission Board direct giving to help bring the Gospel to the Kekchi People Group of Belize in Central America. This people group has been identified by the IMB as one of 3,800 unreached and unengaged people groups on the planet.
- Direct support for Filipino Church Planters of the Negros Southern Baptist Association of Churches (Visayan Baptist Convention SBC) in the Philippines. We have helped fund, construct, and furnish three new church buildings, and financially support one of the pastors and his family
- The Greater Huntington Baptist Association. We have reorganized and simplified the structure and ministry scope of our local association during this last year of transition, and we look forward to the coming year making a greater missions impact our our area than ever before.
It is also an area of pride to know that this church has produced many other individuals who have, and are currently serving as pastors and staff members in churches in West Virginia, and around the nation.
These last nine and a half years has been a real time of transition for Westmoreland Baptist. I have officiated 108 Funeral services since I have been here (not counting those done by other staff members during the same period). God is bringing new families in to replace the old, and the challenge before us is to make strong mature disciples, who can replicate themselves in other people through evangelism and discipleship.
Are we a "dead church" as someone once charged? Absolutely not! Are we dying? I think not. Are we as healthy and vibrant as we could be? Sadly the answer is no. We are not reaching our area for Christ as effectively as we could and should. We want to see more people saved and following our Lord in believer's Baptism. That will come as we focus on our three fold mission in this community and in the world. "Magnify God... Make Disciples... Minister to People".
A Sovereign God brought me to this place nearly 10 years ago. He matched us up as shepherd and flock, and I have no doubt it was of His doing. My prayer is today the same as it was then. "Lord, help me love them and lead them. And Lord, please do not let me do any thing to mess up your work here!
The best years are still ahead for Westmoreland Baptist Church. I pray that I can be a part of it as the His "undershepherd" here, until my ministry is concluded, or God calls me home.