Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Shhhhhhhhhhh! It's A Surprise!

We are excited about a special day coming up for our Dad, and we would like to ask for your help in making it extra special.  Many of our friends know him, and it's ok for us to communicate with you this way because he is not online.  We want to surprise him with your help.  He will never know about this ahead of time, unless someone let's it slip, so PLEASE, let's keep this between us!
On Saturday, May 11th, just 6 days before his 86th birthday, our Dad, Rev. Caudle Adkins, Jr. will be joining more than 130 other WWII and Korean War Veterans on an “Honor Flight” to Washington, DC.  The flight will leave Tri State Airport at 6:00 AM and will return near midnight on the same day.  The veterans will tour the WWII, Korean, and Viet Nam Memorials and the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, VA.  They will travel with a team that includes a Medical Doctor, three nurses, and a registered physical therapist.  Wheel chairs will be provided for those who need them.

We are thrilled that Dad was included in this trip and we want it to be a great experience for him.  We are asking family and friends to help make this a very special occasion for him. Here is how you can help.

As those of us who have been in the military remember, Mail Call was a very special time of the day or week.  The organizers of the Honor Flight are going to have a surprise “Mail Call” on the flight back to Huntington for the honorees.  They are asking for friends to send a note of appreciation to the veterans for their service to our country.

Besides Dad serving our country as a WWII veteran of “The Greatest Generation”, he has spent all of his postwar life in service to the Lord.  During these last few years he has devoted himself to being the primary care giver for our Mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease.  It has not been an easy road.  We would love for Dad to receive notes of love, appreciation and encouragement. 

Would you be kind enough to take a few minutes to write him a note of appreciation for his service?  You could also include a birthday greeting if you like.  It would only take you a few moments, and the cost of a postage stamp, but it would be a wonderful surprise for a man who we all love, and would cap off a very memorable day.

If you would like to be part of this surprise for him, please address the envelope as follows:

Caudle Adkins
c/o Auto Flight
54 County Road 67
Scottown, OH 45678

To be included, letters must be received no later than May 8th.
The letters will be delivered to the Veterans on the flight home from Washington.
Thank you for your consideration.  And remember, It's to be a Surprise!


C.J., Bruce, and Carl Adkins

Monday, April 22, 2013

How's Your Relationship?

The man sat in my office with tears welling up in his eyes.
He was a member of the church.  At least nominally so.  His name had been on the membership roll since long before I came to that church and so had the name of his wife.  They were a couple who had grown up in the community and had also grown up in the church.  Yet to say that they were detached from the fellowship would be a huge understatement.  They readily told anyone who might inquire, that they were members of the church, yet their actions belied any appearance of really being part of the body.
Every church has folks just like these, and every pastor is familiar with them.  They faithfully attend services – on Easter, Christmas, and Mother’s Day!  On the remaining 49 Lord’s Days they are the ecclesiastical equivalent of the military’s MIA.  Along with their absence from corporate worship, they take no part in any of the ministries of the church.  There are little or no relationships with other members, so they are missing out on the fellowship aspect of being part of the “family”.  Financial support of the church and its mission in the world is virtually non existent.  Membership Committees and visitation participants initiate most of the contact they have with the church – that is until there is a tragedy or crisis in the family – or someone is in the hospital or a family member dies.
Then the call comes to the pastor.
 This gentleman sat across the desk from me and poured out his heart  “Pastor, I’m at the end of my rope!”, he said desperately.  “I work hard to provide for my family.  I make a good income.  My wife also works to supplement our income.  We should be living the good life, yet we just can’t seem to make ends meet.  We just keep getting farther and farther behind on our bills.  We live in a nice house, but it’s really smaller than what we want, and we would like to be in a more prestigious neighborhood.  Our vehicles are so outdated that I’m almost ashamed to drive them.  We love our boat, but it seems like I’m spending every dollar I have on repairs.”
 He went on to talk about other family issues.  “The wife wants more. My job situation is very difficult and I’m not sure how long I may be able to stay there.  Our son is becoming more rebellious, and I just don’t understand why we are not prospering.” 
 He went on with a laundry list of other problems.
He seemed broken, and my heart hurt for him and his family. 
 “Tell me ___________ , how is your personal walk with God?” I asked.
 “Your personal relationship with the Father.  How is your walk with Him?”
 “You mean do I pray?”
 “I mean what kind of relationship do your have with Him?  How often do you pray – really pray?  What do you ask for in prayer?  How much time do you spend with Him in His Word?  Do you value a relationship with Him and His church?  What are you truly looking for in life?”
 “I just want to be happy”, he said.  “I just want to feel like I can provide for my family and that we have the things we need.  I just want my family to get along.  I don’t understand why God is not taking care of us and meeting our needs.  Doesn’t the Bible say He will supply our needs?”
 I sighed to myself.  How many times have I heard similar questions from people who profess faith in Christ?  It was painfully obvious through his behavior over the years, that the material things of life were of much more value to this man than his was his personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  It was borne out by his fixation on stuff rather than the Savior.  He had no time for the Lord or for His church.
 My thoughts went back to the earlier question I had asked. “What are you looking for?”  That is a question that every believer should consider from time to time.  Are you looking for “the good life” or abundant life?  It’s a valid question each of us should consider!
 Jesus addresses the same subject in the midst of the passage of scripture that we know as The Sermon On The Mount.  In Matthew chapter six (just after revealing the right way to give, the right way to pray, and the right way to fast) the Great Teacher goes into a discourse about how we relate to God and to material things.
He talks about treasure.  He compares and contrasts the value between laying up treasures in the temporal, terrestrial realm, as opposed to investing in the spiritual.  Are your treasures laid up in Heaven, or on earth?  You can’t have it both ways.  Jesus sums it up by saying, For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (v. 21)
 He shows us a comparison of light and darkness in our lives, and then He moves on to talk about the futility of trying to serve two masters.
 Many years ago, I worked as a buyer trainee in the retail clothing business.  The way the Men’s Department of that great store was structured, I was required to learn all ends of the men’s clothing division, and the men’s furnishings section.  Each of the two sections had a department manager/buyer, and I answered equally to both of them.  Both were great guys.  I enjoyed my personal and business relationship with both men.  But it was virtually impossible to divide my time, attention, and allegiance equally between them.  I just couldn’t.  One would give me certain tasks to perform, the other would do the same and it was impossible to give 100% to either.
 Jesus uses the same example when it comes to our relationship to material things and to the things of God.  You can only have one master!  Our utmost loyalty cannot be divided between the material and the spiritual.  You will always show preference to one or the other.  Jesus nails down the truth very succinctly in v. 24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
 Then He comes down to the teaching that the gentleman in my office needed to learn, and the lesson that we all should receive:
 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Vs. 25-32.
 The words of Jesus, here, need no interpretation.  They plainly set out the premise that unfettered concerns about the material are both foolish and futile.  God most certainly is aware of our needs.  Trusting Him in every aspect of our lives is mandatory.  We cannot change a single thing with worry and fixation on what we will wear, eat, or drink.  In our day the same principle also includes what we drive, where we live, and what we want.
 Jesus gives a very simple yet profound formula of how you can know that you will receive all the material blessings you require in this life.
 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  v. 33.
 How about it?  What are you seeking?  Is all of your time, effort and worry focused on the natural material things, or are you seeking first a close intimate relationship with Christ?  Are you focused on His Kingdom?  Are you wearing His righteousness through faith?
If you are a true Christ Follower, your loyalties cannot be divided.  If He is not Lord OF all in your life, He is not Lord AT all!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Food For Thought!

Somebody posted a link to Facebook today that made me stop and think a bit about a problem that many (if not most) Baptist churches are facing today.  I'm talking about the exodus of young people from the church.  I have been disturbed by the weakness of our discipleship ministry in our own church for some time.  Not so much the adult classes, where 40 somethings and older take the ministry seriously and generally do a good job of communicating the truth of Scripture.

That's not to say that our Children and Youth teachers are lacking in talent or dedication to the task. But teaching children and youth is a much more difficult task than dealing with adults - most of whom are there because they want to learn more of the Word of God, and because they enjoy the fellowship of other believers.

Certain traditions have evloved that have led us to have to do student and children's ministries in a "certain manner".  Take a few minutes and read the following article which I have copied and pasted from it's website.  (its a little easier to read this way as the website is full of ads and the article is broken up over several pages).  In the article that follows, Marc Yoder brings some ideas to the table that might surprise you in his article entitled:

10 Surprising Reasons Our Kids LEAVE Church

by Marc Yoder

"The American evangelical church has lost, is losing, and will almost certainly continue to lose our youth.

We all know them, the kids who were raised in church.

They were stars of the youth group. They maybe even sang in the praise band or led worship.

And then … they graduate from high school and they leave church. What happened?

It seems to happen so often that I wanted to do some digging; to talk to these kids and get some honest answers. I work in a major college town with a large number of 20-somethings. Nearly all of them were raised in very typical evangelical churches. Nearly all of them have left the church with no intention of returning.

I spend a lot of time with them and it takes very little to get them to vent, and I’m happy to listen. So, after lots of hours spent in coffee shops and after buying a few lunches, here are the most common thoughts taken from dozens of conversations.

I hope some of them make you angry. Not at the message, but at the failure of our pragmatic replacement of the gospel of the cross with an Americanized gospel of glory.

This isn’t a negative “beat up on the church” post. I love the church, and I want to see American evangelicalism return to the gospel of repentance and faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins; not just as something on our “what we believe” page on our website, but as the core of what we preach from our pulpits to our children, our youth and our adults.

The facts:

The statistics are jaw-droppingly horrific: 70 percent of youth stop attending church when they graduate from high school. Nearly a decade later, about half return to church.


Let that sink in.

There’s no easy way to say this: The American Evangelical church has lost, is losing, and will almost certainly continue to lose OUR YOUTH.

For all the talk of “our greatest resource,” “our treasure,” and the multi million dollar Dave and Buster’s/Starbucks knockoffs we build and fill with black walls and wailing rock bands … the church has failed them.


The Top 10 Reasons We’re Losing our Youth:

10. The Church is "Relevant."

 You didn’t misread that, I didn’t say irrelevant, I said RELEVANT.

 We’ve taken a historic, 2,000-year-old faith, dressed it in plaid and skinny jeans and tried to sell it as “cool” to our kids. It’s not cool. It’s not modern. What we’re packaging is a cheap knockoff of the world we’re called to evangelize to.

As the quote says, “When the ship is in the ocean, everything’s fine. When the ocean gets into the ship, you’re in trouble.”

I’m not ranting about “worldliness” as some pietistic bogeyman, I’m talking about the fact that we yawn at a five-minute biblical text, but almost trip over ourselves fawning over a minor celebrity or athlete who makes any vague reference to being a Christian.

We’re like a fawning wanna-be just hoping the world will think we’re cool too, you know, just like you guys!

Our kids meet the real world and our “look, we’re cool like you” posing is mocked. In our effort to be “like them” we’ve become less of who we actually are. The middle-aged pastor trying to look like his 20-something audience isn’t relevant and the minute you aim to be “authentic,” you’re no longer authentic!

9. They never attended church to begin with.

From a Noah’s Ark themed nursery, to jumbotron summer-campish kids church, to pizza parties and rock concerts, many evangelical youth have been coddled in a not-quite-church, but not-quite-world hothouse. They’ve never sat on a pew between a set of new parents with a fussy baby and a senior citizen on an oxygen tank.

They don’t see the full timeline of the gospel for every season of life. Instead, we’ve dumbed down the message, pumped up the volume and act surprised when …

8. They get smart.

It’s not that our students “got smarter” when they left home, rather someone actually treated them as intelligent. Rather than dumbing down the message, the agnostics and atheists treat our youth as intelligent and challenge their intellect with “deep thoughts” of question and doubt.

Many of these “doubts” have been answered, in great depth, over the centuries of our faith. However …

7. You sent them out unarmed.

Let’s just be honest, most of our churches are sending youth into the world embarrassingly ignorant of our faith. How could we not?

We’ve jettisoned catechesis, sold them on “deeds not creeds,” and encouraged them to start the quest to find “God’s plan for their life.”

Yes, I know your church has a “What we believe” page, but is that actually being taught and reinforced from the pulpit? I’ve met evangelical church leaders (“Pastors”) who didn’t know the difference between justification and sanctification. I’ve met large church board members who didn’t understand the atonement. When we choose leaders based upon their ability to draw and lead rather than to accurately teach the faith, well, they don’t teach the faith.

Surprised? And instead of the orthodox, historic faith …

6. You gave them hand-me-downs.

You’ve tried your best to pass along the internal/subjective faith that you “feel.” You really, really, really want them to “feel” it too.

But we’ve never been called to evangelize our feelings. You can’t hand down this type of subjective faith.

With nothing solid to hang their faith upon, with no historic creed to tie them to centuries of history, without the physical elements of bread, wine and water, their faith is in their subjective feelings, and when faced with other ways to “feel” uplifted at college, the church loses out to things with much greater appeal to our human nature.

And they find it in …

5. Community.

Have you noticed this word is everywhere in the church since the seeker sensitive and church growth movements came onto the scene? (There’s a reason and a driving philosophy behind it which is outside of the scope of this blog.)

When our kids leave home, they leave the manufactured community they’ve lived in for nearly their entire lives. With their faith as something they “do” in community, they soon find that they can experience this “life change” and “life improvement” in “community” in many different contexts.

 So, they left the church and …

4. They found better feelings.

Rather than an external, objective, historical faith, we’ve given our youth an internal, subjective faith.

The evangelical church isn’t catechizing or teaching our kids the fundamentals of the faith, we’re simply encouraging them to “be nice” and “love Jesus.” When they leave home, they realize that they can be “spiritually fulfilled” and get the same subjective self-improvement principles (and warm fuzzies) from the latest life-coach or from spending time with friends or volunteering at a shelter.

And they can be truly authentic, and they jump at the chance because …

3. They got tired of pretending.

In the “best life now,” “Every day a Friday” world of evangelicals, there’s little room for depression, struggle or doubt. Turn that frown upside down, or move along.

Kids who are fed a steady diet of sermons aimed at removing anything (or anyone) who doesn’t serve “God’s great plan for your life” has forced them to smile and, as the old song encouraged them, be “hap-hap-happy all the time.” Our kids are smart, often much smarter than we give them credit for. So they trumpet the message I hear a lot from these kids. “The church is full of hypocrites.” Why?

Even though they have never been given the categories of law and gospel

2. They know the truth.

They can’t do it. They know it. All that “be nice” moralism they’ve been taught? The Bible has a word for it: Law. And that’s what we’ve fed them, undiluted, since we dropped them off at the Noah’s Ark playland: Do/Don’t Do.

As they get older it becomes “Good Kids do/don’t” and as adults, “Do this for a better life”. The gospel appears briefly as another “do” to “get saved.”

But their diet is Law, and scripture tells us that the law condemns us. So that smiling, upbeat “Love God and Love People” vision statement? Yeah, you’ve just condemned the youth with it. Nice, huh?

They either think that they’re “good people” since they don’t “do” any of the stuff their denomination teaches against (drink, smoke, dance, watch R rated movies), or they realize that they don’t meet Jesus' own words of what is required. There’s no rest in this law, only a treadmill of works they know they aren’t able to meet.

So, either way, they walk away from the church because …

1. They don’t need it.

Our kids are smart. They picked up on the message we unwittingly taught. If church is simply a place to learn life application principals to achieve a better life in community … you don’t need a crucified Jesus for that.

Why would they get up early on a Sunday and watch a cheap knockoff of the entertainment venue they went to the night before? The middle-aged pastor trying desperately to be “relevant” to them would be a comical cliché if the effect weren’t so devastating.

As we jettisoned the gospel, our students were never hit with the full impact of the law, their sin before God, and their desperate need for the atoning work of Christ. Now THAT is relevant, THAT is authentic, and THAT is something the world cannot offer.

We’ve traded a historic, objective, faithful gospel based on God’s graciousness toward us for a modern, subjective, pragmatic gospel based upon achieving our goal by following life strategies. Rather than being faithful to the foolish simplicity of the gospel of the cross, we’ve set our goal on being “successful” in growing crowds with this gospel of glory.

Our kids leave because we have failed to deliver to them the faith “delivered once for all” to the church.

I’m not against entertaining our youth, or even jumbotrons or pizza parties (though I probably am against middle-aged guys trying to wear skinny jeans) ... it’s just that the one thing, the MAIN thing we’ve been tasked with? We’re failing.

We’ve failed God and we’ve failed our kids. Don’t let another kid walk out the door without being confronted with the full weight of the law, and the full freedom in the gospel. "
Food for thought folks.
Food for thought!