Friday, March 29, 2013

The Message Is Simple

It is heartbreaking to observe the false teachings, pseudo religion, paganism, "churchianity" and faulty traditions, and the generally "jacked up theology" that is so prevalent in our culture today.  The Christian faith has become so diluted by ignorance, opinion, tradition, and lack of true discipleship, that the church (which ideally is the Body of Christ) has become an impotent entity, many of whose members  have never even been truly regenerated. The absence of power in our lives, power in the pews, and power in the pulpits is symptomatic of the larger problem.  Lack of RELATIONSHIP with God.

Many of us who call ourselves evangelicals (heralds of good news) have devolved into group of loosely associated fraternal organizations.  Much of our time is spent in arguing, bloviating, and pontificating in reaction to the powers of darkness that surround us.  Some of us have  exhibited more zeal in partisan politics than in what we have been called to do in proclaiming Christ - who alone can bring light powerful enough to dispel the darkness of sin.

We Baptists especially have done a better job in letting everyone know what we are "against" than what we are "for".  Shame on us for that!

We are called upon to simply tell the story of Jesus.  He alone is worthy of our faith and devotion.  He alone is capable of bringing lost people into relationship with God the Father.  He alone is the vehicle of Grace and forgiveness of sin.  He alone is worthy of our love and obedience.  He alone (through the power of His Holy Spirit) to empower us and produce His fruit in our lives (Galatians 5).

On this Good Friday, as we meditate on what was done for us on the cross of Calvary, may we be challenged, as His followers, to focus on what is true.  May we get back to the basics of what matters most. May we boldly proclaim His Gospel.  His story is capable of bringing convicting power on the lives of those who are living in the bondage of sin.  That message alone is infinitely more powerful than any arguments, debates, and militancy we may be able to muster.

This is the day that we should get "back to basics" in what we know to be the truth.

The "Five Solas" are five Latin phrases that emerged during the time of the Protestant Reformation.  They stand today, as they did five centuries ago, in simply proclaiming the redeeming message of salvation that the world needs to hear.  The Latin word "Sola" simply means "alone" or "only".  In the likely event that some of our readers may not be familiar with the Five Solas, let's take a quick abbreviated look at what they say to us today.

"Sola Scriptura" - (By Scripture Alone) The Bible is the only inspired and authoritative Word of God.  It interprets itself, without need for addition or alteration.  It is "God breathed" and has no errors in the original manuscripts.  It is our only rule of faith and practice.  It reveals to us the heart of God, His attributes, His message of redemption, and the plan of salvation.

"Sola Fide" (By Faith Alone)  the teaching that we are justified (brought into right standing with God) through faith alone.  Not by any works of righteousness that we have done or can do, yet being justified by faith, good works will naturally follow.  Like Abraham of old, when we "believe God" it is counted unto us for righteousness.

"Sola Gratia"  (by Grace Alone)  The truth that salvation comes only through the unmerited favor of God. Ephesians 2:8-10 sums up both points of Sola Fide and Sola Gratia. We can never do enough good deeds to earn God's favor.  The fact that salvation is even available to fallen man is Sola Gratia!

"Solus Christus"  (Christ Alone)  The important teaching that there is "only one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ the righteous".  This teaching also uses the words "Solo Christo" or "by Christ alone" in explaining that there is no other way to salvation than through Jesus (John 14:6).  Take a moment and listen to this beautiful song (one of my favorites) that explains it so beautifully.  Click here to listen

"Soli Deo Gloria" (Glory to God Alone)  Since salvation is only by the work and will of God, He alone is worthy of all praise, honor, and glory. None can ascribe glory to any man, or institution.  He alone is worthy.

May we be challenged to think about what our message to the world really is.  We cannot force those who are spiritually blind to adhere to a certain moral code.  It is against their unregenerate nature.

May we focus on what is relevant, and not on foolish arguments.  We will never win the world to Christ by arguing with lost people, belittling their behavior and exalting ourselves or our church.  May we exalt the Savior!  He will take care of the rest of the work.  We can teach and disciple others AFTER He has done the atoning work in their lives.  His Holy Spirit will come in and open their hearts to the truths of the Scriptures.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

"What If...?"

Have you ever thought about the "What If's" of life?  Surely you have.  I suppose by the time one goes deeper into his sixth decade on the planet (as I have) those thoughts have been entertained numerous times.  I don't dwell on them, but now and again in quiet moments, the questions have come to my mind.

There are some "What If's" that I have had no control over.

What if Caudle Adkins and Patsy Stidham hadn't met at Franklin's Dairy Bar in downtown Logan, WV back in the late 40's? She thought about it a long time, so what if Patsy had said "no" to his proposal of marriage?  What if Dad had been given a company house in the coal camp, and had remained in the coal mines of Logan County?  What if he had not moved to Huntington, WV in 1952?  Etc, etc, etc?  As I said, I had nothing to do with any of those decisions - but each of them had a tremendous impact on my life - even my very existance.

But then there are the choices that we ARE called upon to make.  Educational choices. Vocational choices.  Choices regarding marriage.  Spiritual choices.

As we make our choices along the way in life, we may think, that we can mark the trail and always go back for a "do over" - but that is rarely possible. For one decision leads on to other decisions, and it all works together as our course continues.  As Robert Frost wrote in his classic work that follows, "Oh, I marked the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back." 

Frost's "The Road Not Taken" has always been one of my favorite poems.  You may already be familiar with it, but I thought I would share it with you today anyway.  It's natural that we may look back from time to time and wonder what might have been.  But there is nothing like the satisfaction of knowing that one is happy with the decisions and choices he has made along the way.  Live life to the fullest, and do not dwell on the "What If's".

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Great Aunt Lena

Another link to the past has left us.

My father's Aunt by marriage, Lena Adkins, was buried today near Chapmanville, in Logan Co. West Virginia.  Aunt Lena was just a few days shy of her 94th birthday when she went to be with the Lord late last week.  She was quite a special lady who left her mark upon all who knew her.  She lived a long and productive life.  Her full obituary can be found  Here

I had the privilege of being one of  five (that's right) FIVE ministers who had part in the two hour service today.  In fact it was actually SIX who were involved - counting another pastor who is a family friend who happened to be in the congregation - who was called upon to dismiss us in prayer.

Now that's not a bad as it may sound, as my Dad, Rev. Caudle Adkins, Jr., and Aunt Lena's Pastor, Rev. John Godby, did the eulogy and the message, respectively. The rest of us had only smaller roles in reading the obituary, reading scripture passages, and introducing songs.

Aunt Lena was a faithful member of First Baptist Church of McConnell (WV) for many years.  Until her illness over the past five years, she had been very active in many ministries of the church.  Her Pastor had done the funeral services of her son Kenny (five years ago this week) and her husband (my Grandfather's brother) 25 years ago.

Dad, of course, was her nephew.  It was Dad who was preaching in Revival Meeting at the old Dehue Community Church in 1949 the night when Uncle "Crutch" and Aunt Lena accepted Christ as Savior and Lord. My Grandfather's brother, Millard "Crutch" Adkins had been a bad alcoholic, but when he gave his life to the Lord, he had a complete turnaround.  A few months after Crutch's conversion, Dad ran into Lena's mother on a bus ride from Logan to Dehue.  In her thick Italian accent, Mrs. Carrere asked Dad, "Do you think the Crutch is a good man now?"  Dad assured her that he thought there had been a big change in his uncle.  "Well", Mrs. Carrere said, "He no whip-a my Lena no more!"

Dad always seemed to be a favorite of Lena's and he would always visit her whenever possible on trips to Logan Co.  I was included, I'm sure, because I am his son, and I was the little boy that used to play around their house at Dehue.  I was several years younger than her sons Skeeter and Kenny, but they were always good to their little 2nd cousin.  I have many fond memories of time spent back in the 50's with all of my Grandfather's brothers and sisters and their children in that close family and their tight knit coal mining community.  I'm glad Skeet asked me to be involved in the service today.  It was an honor.

The other two ministers involved also had special links to Aunt Lena.  Rev. Mike Manuel was also a nephew, married to her sister's daughter.  Rev. Donnie Wells also grew up in the Dehue comunity, and Aunt Lena and Uncle Crutch had been like second parents to him as a child.  He had remained close to them through the years.

It was nice to see a number of cousins and other relatives who now live scattered around the eastern United States - even though the occasion was somewhat bittersweet.

I marveled as I sat there in the service and looked at the many faces in the crowd.  When did we all grow so old?

I began to think about the fact that Skeeter is 70 years old.  How'd that happen?  He and I both have grandchildren who are teenagers!  My "little" brother, Bruce (with gray beard and like myself, follically challenged) sat there with our Mom who now often does not even know who we are.  Dad is nearly 86, and aside from one living Aunt (Marie - only a few years his senior) on the Adkins side of the family, he is the oldest of all the surviving cousins.

Cliche' as it seems, I have to ask, "Where has the time gone?"

With the passing of Aunt Lena, another chapter of our past has drawn to a close.

She was a throwback to a different time - and a very different culture.

Lena was the daughter of Italian immigrants,who had moved from Philadelphia, to the rough mountains of West Virginia, lured by plentiful work in the coal mines. She spent her life there within a fifteen mile radius of where she had married, raised her childrne, and finally died last week.

She exemplified the virtues of faith in God, love of family and community, and hard work.  She was a wonderful sister, wife, mother, aunt, grandmother, and great grandmother.  She was a professional homemaker who eventually went to work outside the home.  She was a great witness to the love of God and her life changing encounter with Jesus Christ.  She was also a heck of a cook!  Oh, how I loved her meatballs, spaghetti, lasagna, and baked Ziti.  Her dishes always emptied first at the annual Dehue Community Reunion.

She leaves behind a great testimony, and a Christian heritage in a world that has changed immensely throughout her lifetime.

It was sad to say "farewell" to her today, but we have the assurance that we will see her again one day soon in the presence of our Lord.  We know Heaven is just a little sweeter today, because Lena Immaculate Carrere Adkins has moved into her mansion there on Golden Avenue.

"Precious in the sight of the Lord, is the death of His saints."

Rest in Peace Aunt Lena.  Thanks for the example and thanks for the memories.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

On The Way Home- Sunday Evening In Manila

We left Dumaguete City at 4:45 PM today (Sunday)  after a tearful goodbye from Five Filipino pastors, their families, and a number of members from the various churches that make up the Negros Southern Baptist Association of Churches (NESBAC).

We are presently sitting here in the ticketing area of Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.  We arrived here in Manila about 6:00 PM and our Delta Airlines flight home is not scheduled to leave for Detroit (via Nagoya, Japan) until 6:00 AM Monday.
It's 10:20 PM Sunday now, and we still have a long time to wait before we can get our boarding passes around 4:00 AM.

It was hard to say goodbye to those dear people at the Dumaguete Airport.  I have known several of them for more than thirteen years, and this was my eleventh short term mission trip to their area. I love them and feel as close to some as members of my own family.

I never cease to marvel at the scope of he work they are doing for the Lord in this country. With very few resources that we depend so heavily upon, the work goes on here without complaint or excuses.

Our team of six has had a great two weeks together.  Our eleven days in and around Dumaguete were extremely busy ones.  We traveled as far as 3 1/2 hours one way to do open air cruseades every night.  The roads were often rough and unpaved.  It was over more rugged terrain than even in the most rural mountainous areas of my native West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky.  Yet every where we traveled, we found a warm welcome from the native people.

The Philippines is a very "religious" country.  The Roman Catholic Church has been here since the days the first Spaniards arrived in the expedition of explorer Ferdinand Magellan centuries ago.  Although the people are quite religious in their traditions and activities, there is a hunger for a true relationship with God.  Some of the priests are hostile to our efforts, but the Filipino pastors and church planters continue the work day in and day out.  Our financial support and  our personal visits from time to time, help energize their efforts to make God known to a people who have a hunger for spiritual things.

I would ask you to remember these precious servants of the Lord in your prayers.  Please pray specificially for the following:

  • Josue and Cristy Cadiao in Bacong
  • Ernel and Elenita Agaban in Bacong and Dauin areas
  • Noco and Jocelyn Folio in Manjuyod
  • Joseph and Juvy Zerna in Lamdas
  • Roberto and Marissa Martin in Bais City
  • Benjamin and Emma Marcellino in Bayawan

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Last Night In Dumaguete

Today was our final full day in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, Republic of the Philippines.  Tomorrow we will attend a joint worship rally at the Bacong Church where Josue Cadiao is Pastor.  We will check out of the Bethel Guest House at 1:00 PM and then hang out with our Filipino friends at Robinson's until about 2:30.  At that point we will "transfer" as they say, to the Dumaguete Airport to check in for our 4:45 flight to Manila.

After arriving in Manila around 6:00 PM, we'll claim our luggage at Terminal 3 and then take the airport shuttle to the main terminal of Ninoy Aquino International Airport, where we will wait until 6:00 AM for our flight to Detroit, via Nagoya, Japan. If all goes according to planned schedule, we will arrive at Cincinnati International Airport at 4:49 PM on Monday afternoon.  We hope to see the smiling faces of Thamer Calhoun and Michelle Harris to take us back to the good old Tri-State area.

Today was a day of tying up loose ends.

Our American team was invited to the home of Pastor Josue and Cristy Cadiao for a delicious lunch with their sweet children, Bem Boy, Meg Meg, and I.C. (pictured above).  Cristy treated us to a great meal of rice, fresh fruit, the best chicken wings I ever put in my mouth, and the first pot of Chili she had ever cooked!  She told us that she had got the receipe from Richard Shields of Ashland when he was here about a month ago and cooked a big pot of the Chili for the Cadiao family.  Obviously Richard did a great job because Cristy's first effort at Chili was DE-licious!

After lunch, we were hustled back to Bethel Guest House where we began the job of packing for our long trip home.

Pastor Joseph Zerna and his wife, Juvy, came to pick us up about 3:45 PM for the Victory Celebration Service at the Bacong church.  That celebration brought pastors and members of five churches together to have a great time of worship, fellowship, and thanksgiving for the wonderful blessings the Lord poured out upon us over the past 11 days.

In that period of time, we had opportunity to sing and preach the Gospel to more than 4,000 people.  Our evangelistic activities included sharing with the students at three elementary schools.  We were able to share Christ with the faculty members of each of the schools, and also with more than 120 parents at a PTSA meeting in the first school.

We also preached, sang and testified in eight open air crusades in eight different barangays, stretching from the coastal areas of Bacong, Bais City, and Manjuyod to three remote mountain barngays in Mabinay, Pamplona, and Bindoy.

To God's glory, decision followup cards revealed there were 1,927 precious adults and children who publically professed faith in Jesus Christ!  The Pastors and congregations of the NESBAC churches now have a tremendous task of follow up and Bible Study scheduling to help disciple these many new believers in Jesus Christ.

The Victory Celebration tonight was a time of great joy, yet an undertone of sadness in knowing that tomorrow we will part ways as we all move on to our respective ministries and homes.  Gifts were exchanged along with hugs and some tears were shed. (there will be much more of that tomorrow afternoon at the airport).

The NESBAC Association presented each of us with a certificate of appreciation.  Pictured here from left to right are Elenita Agaban, Association Clerk, Nico Folio, Pastor at Manjuyod, Josue Cadiao, and the members of our team, Randall Robertson, myself, Bub Amis, Paul Harris, and Randy and Brenda Lincoln.

All of the Filipino pastors spoke of what a blessing we were to them.  However I can tell you that to a person, we on the American team can confess that the blessing was truly ours.

We offer our thanks to those who have partnered with us on this mission effort through financial assistance and in prayer.  I pray that you share in the rejoicing with us for the wonderful harvest of souls we have seen this week on Negros Island.  Please continue to remember us in prayer as we begin the long trip home tomorrow.