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 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."

" 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..."

" 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."

" 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!)