Monday, June 29, 2015

Thank You Matt Shamblin

Yesterday, Matt Shamblin accepted the call of Rose Hill Baptist Church of Ashland, Kentucky to serve that congregation as their Senior Pastor.

This West Virginia pastor truly has mixed emotions in light of this development.

As a 35 year resident of Ashland, myself, I am thrilled that the Lord has opened this wonderful door of opportunity for Matt to advance the cause of Christ in our city.  I have many close personal friends at Rose Hill, and my younger son and his family are members of that great church.  Two of my grandsons were baptized there and both are actively involved in their Student and Children’s Ministry groups.  I am thankful that my family members will have the blessing this godly young man, who has a pastor’s heart, as their undershepherd.  There is no doubt in my mind that Matt, Chrissy and the girls will be a great asset to Rose Hill church in particular, and to the Ashland community in general.

On the other side of the coin, I am saddened for our State Convention at our loss that will result from Matt's coming departure.  He has grown to love West Virginia, and served us admirably at Good Shepherd, North Charleston, and (interim) at Witcher Baptist Churches.  In his last few years as our Director of Evangelism, his love for lost people and zeal for evangelism has been evident, and he has been a true asset helping our pastors and churches as we seek to penetrate lostness in the Mountain State. 

At the end of last year, he was called upon to take on a responsibility that he did not seek.  Following the retirement of our State Executive Director, the hand of God was evident in the events leading up to bringing Matt into the position as Interim State Exec.

Saying that he inherited a very difficult situation would be an understatement.

Financially our State Convention was in a free fall.  Over the past few years Cooperative Program giving from the churches had taken a nose dive.  At the end of 2014 our State Convention coffers were nearly totally depleted. In that twelve month period alone, our Convention’s deficit totaled $167,803.07.  Only two months in 2014 saw us finish in the black with overages of $13,287.27 (March) and $3,721.57 (August).  We were literally on the verge of bankruptcy. 

In January Matt gave the State Convention Executive Board a clear and transparent report of there the WVCSB was financially and it was a scary picture.  He told them where we were, how we got there, and what was needed if we hoped to survive as a state convention.  He encouraged those board members to ask questions and to be informed.  Most importantly he encouraged them to join him in seeking God’s face for our needs in this state.  He encouraged the Exec Board to be catalysts in casting the vision for the future of the WVCSB.  He also apologized for the times when board members felt anxiety or stress in feeling that they could not ask questions of state convention leadership.  He stressed transparency, and the need for all of us to work together in order to rebuild trust and unity. 

Thus far in 2015 we see the financial trend reversing.  Over the past four months we are $49,265.10 to the good, with only a $712.35 deficit taken in the month of March.  Furthermore, during Matt’s tenure, our Finance Committee has hammered out a new proposed budget that hopefully will keep our positions funded and actually increase the percentage of CP dollars that West Virginia will pass along to International and North American Missions and the other SBC entities. 

Matt has been instrumental in re-building bridges and relationships, beginning with the State Office staff, and with our associations and churches.  One would have to have had their head in the sand to not be aware of the deep division that has existed in our State Convention for the past five years or so.  An “us against them” mentality has been an ugly undertone that has fractured fellowship among many, caused some churches to reallocate giving, and hampered the Kingdom work here.  Matt has gone above and beyond the call of duty in trying to bring transparency and trust to a higher level between the state office and our associations and churches.  His efforts have been well received.  He has offered to go and speak to each association and any church who wanted to know more about the financial update and the condition of the WVSBC.  My understanding is that he has been welcomed in all of our associations except one. 

I first became acquainted with Matt several years ago, in a situation when he and I had opposing viewpoints on a particular issue.  Nothing doctrinal, please understand, but involving methodology.  Each of us felt strongly about our particular viewpoint.  He made a trip to my office and we spent a couple of hours in deep conversation and closed with prayer.  We agreed to respectfully disagree on the particular issue, but out of that meeting a friendship was born, as well as a mutual respect for one another and our respective desire to work together as we could for the cause of Christ.  I value his friendship deeply, and I do hate to see him leave our convention, but I also thrill to know that God has opened another door of ministry for Matt and his family.  I pray that he will realize much success for the sake of the Name!

I believe that the West Virginia Convention owes a strong debt of gratitude to Matt Shamblin for his faithful service to the Lord and the churches of our state.  It hasn’t been easy for him, and he has actually faced some opposition along the way, but he has been faithful to the task, and I believe he has left our convention in much better shape than he found it when he was placed in that position of trust.

Thank you, Matt, for your service to the Lord in our state, and Godspeed in your new field of service.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Sky Is NOT Falling

Those of us who follow Christ are in the minority in this world. We always have been.

While, what we call the "Judeo/Christian Ethic" goes back nearly 5,000 years, our particular faith was born, roughly 2 millennia ago in the midst of a dark and sinful culture. Augustus ruled the world's largest empire from his throne in Rome.  Puppet regimes were set up under him in conquered territories, for the sole purposes of keeping order, and rendering taxes and tribute to the throne.  The Roman Emperor was deemed to be divine.  He presided over a culture that was morally rotting from the inside out.  Human life was cheap. Women were chattel.  There were basically three classes of people, rich, poor, and slaves.  Political corruptness was rampant.  Sexuality was uninhibited and perverseness of all kinds were rampant and accepted behavior. Conquered peoples were often allowed to practice their own religions, as long as it did not interfere with the "state religion" and the concept that there was no god but Caesar.

In the midst of this setting, Almighty God, kept His promise which dated as far back as Genesis 3:15.  He sent the "Christ", the "Messiah", the promised redeemer into the world to deliver mankind from the darkness, guilt, and shackles of sin, and to provide abundant life, eternal life, and the blessing of having a personal  relationship with Him.  A man called Jesus, born in a stable in Judea, raised in the home of a peasant woman and her carpenter husband in Galilee strode into history.  In His hometown of Nazareth, he announced the purpose of His coming by reading, in the synagogue from the Prophet Isaiah. Luke chapter 4 records it as follows:
He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.

Jesus came, not bearing a sword or a king's scepter, but a cross. You know the story.  He lived a sinless life. He died a vicarious death to pay the penalty of sin for mankind.  He rose from the grave on the third day, and He is alive forever more.  His message has not changed.  He left His followers with the responsibility to take the Good News of Salvation to every people group on the planet.

Today, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling, basically redefining the age old institution of marriage, and legalizing same sex marriages in all 50 states of the USA.

The Twitterverse has exploded with comments from all over the spectrum. Emotions run deep. This ruling is arguably the most onerous one handed down by the high court since their decision on Roe v. Wade in 1973, which has resulted in the American Holocaust of the slaughter of millions of innocent unborn children.

How does this decision effect us who follow Christ, who know what the biblical definition of marriage is, who grieve for the downward moral free fall of our culture?  We can lament the decision.  We can curse the darkness.  We can bloviate about how America is going to Hell in a handbasket, and how if God doesn't judge America, he owes Sodom and Gomorrah and apology. We can set dates as when it all started with Madelyn Murray O'Hair, etc. All that may be true, but cursing the darkness will not change one single fact of history.  So, other than cursing the darkness what do we do?

First, let us remember WHO we are.  We are flawed humans. Sinful by our very nature.  We have been redeemed.  Regenerated by the Grace of God alone, through faith in Christ alone.  We are called to be witnesses to His saving grace and to be Ambassadors of Christ in a fallen world.  We are in the minority.  Always have been.  Always will be.  Just like the early church in the first century, we face opposition from the culture in which we live. We are the few who are called to stand firmly on biblical truth, while proclaiming the Gospel in love and compassion for those who are spiritually dead..

On days like today, it seems that the task is just overpowering, doesn't it?

But also remember WHOSE we are!  We belong to Christ.  The church is his Bride (no pun intended).  We are not our own, we are bought with His precious blood.  He inhabits and empowers us through His Holy Spirit.  He has promised to never leave us or forsake us, and He knows those who are His.  We can and must take comfort in that fact, and react to today's news in light of that truth.

We American Christians have become "spoiled" due to the blessings of religious liberties we have enjoyed for the past two centuries.  But in the light of history, this is an aberration.  Our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world have enjoyed no such freedom. With the freedoms we have had, much has been done for the cause of Christ, but much has gone undone, and we have seemed to slip into a false sense of entitlement. The harsh reality is that we are sojourners here.  Religious liberties are eroding and an ever increasing pace. We can expect opposition to our faith to grow more openly, and this pastor truly believes that full scale persecution is coming for believers in America.

Again, what do we do?  Curse the darkness?  Vilify the SCOTUS five justices who voted in the majority?  Put our trust in certain elected officials and political candidates?  Wage a holy culture war or take a bunker mentality?  No.

Now is the time that the church of Christ must BE the church of Christ.

Will we fold up and bow to popular culture?

No. I can tell you that our church will stand on biblical truth, but we will realize what the stakes are, and redouble our efforts to get the Gospel out more effectively than ever.  Speaking the truth in love, and loving lost souls enough to tell them the truth.,

Jesus did not call us to be the Culture Warriors.  He did not call us to be the Moral Police Officers of the USA.  Here is the radical calling that He gives us as found in the Sermon on the Mount (in Matthew 5)

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[b] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

It's time to stand firm for truth my friends. But it is also time to do it in the way Christ Called us and in the ability in which He empowers us.

We must "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's" but when the time comes that the two are in conflict, as Peter told the Sanhedrin Council in Acts 5 "We will obey God rather than men".

The world pretty well knows what we're "against". We've done a good job of communicating that.  Now is the time for us to let them know what we are FOR.... such as Grace, Mercy, Forgiveness, and Relationship.

If you are distressed over today's court ruling remember this:

  • The Supreme Court is not the SUPREME JUDGE
  • Governments cannot change unchanging truth
  • The Bible is still God's Word
  • Jesus is still risen
  • God is still in control
  • We belong to Him
  • Sharing the Great Commission is still our primary calling

In  the time we have remaining, let's commit to:

  • pray for lost people
  • model personal holiness
  • be men and women of Grace
  • pray that God will make us effective witnesses and Ambassadors of Christ
  • keep telling the Good News of Jesus and Redemption
  • know that Jesus is still alive
  • and focus on that "Salt and Light" thingy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

We Need Each Other!

I don’t know about you, but I am rejoicing in this wonderful (HOT) Summertime weather.  Yes, I know it’s rather uncomfortable at times, and it can aggravate health issues with a number of people, but on a personal level, I really appreciate the warmth, and the longer daylight hours of Summer.

This is especially true in light of the last two brutal winters we have experienced here in our area.

The very memory of the subzero temps, freezing water pipes, dead car batteries, deep snowfalls and icy conditions brings a chill to my bones!  The older I get, the worse the winter conditions seem to me.

In thinking of winter, it reminds me of an experience I had a few years ago, which taught me an important spiritual lesson about our relationship to others.

We had received a 12 inch snowfall which closed down I-75 and most of I-64 in Kentucky.  After the highways had reopened, I had need to travel from Ashland to Louisville for a meeting.  The scenery was breathtaking.  The wet, heavy snow caused many of the evergreen trees to bow under the load of white stuff.  Several thick groves of trees that I passed looked like a picture out of a story book.

But, in addition to the groves of trees which looked so beautiful, I saw many trees that stood ALONE alongside I-64.  Without the protection and support of having other trees to lean against, many of the beautiful trees broke off and fell to the ground.  This was in contrast to the trees that were in groves.  Even though they were also bent under the blanket of the heavy white stuff, they leaned one against the other.  In those thick groves none of the evergreens were broken down.

It caused me to think of the importance of standing together in time of trouble.  There is strength in leaning one one another.  As a pastor, I know the importance of fellowship among believers.  In time of difficulty, it’s important to run TO your church, not FROM it!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Faith Can Move Mountains

I remember reading a story(sorry but I can't identify the author) about a small congregation in a town in the foothills of the mountains of eastern North Carolina.  Having received a large gift from the estate of a deceased member, the church built a new sanctuary on the piece of land willed to them.

Ten days before the new building was to open, the local building inspector informed them that the zoning laws  would not allow them to use the building.  It seemed that the original parking lot was inadequate for the size of the building.  Until the church doubled the size of the parking lot, they would be unable to have services in the new sanctuary.

This was a real problem.  The church had used every inch of their land except for the large hill against which it had been built.  In order to build more parking spaces they would have to move the hill out of the back yard.  This was a virtually impossible task due to the time, effort and huge expense it would involve.

Undaunted, the pastor announced the next Sunday morning that he would meet that evening with all members who had "Mountain Moving Faith".  They would hold a prayer session to ask God to remove the large hill from the back yard, and somehow provide enough money to have it paved and painted before the scheduled opening dedication service, which was scheduled for the next week.  24 of the congregation's 300 members showed up for the prayer meeting.

At 10:00 pm the pastor said the final Amen and announced that they would open next Sunday as scheduled.  He said, "God has never let us down before and I don't believe He will do so now."

The next morning while working in his study there came a loud knock at the door.  When he called to come in, a rough looking construction foreman came in carrying his hard hat.  "Excuse me Reverend.  I'm from the Tar Heel Construction Company and we are building a new shopping mall near Gatlinburg and we need some fill dirt.  Lots of fill dirt.

I was wondering if the church would be willing to sell us a chunk of that hill behind the church building.  We will pay you for the dirt we remove and pave all the exposed area free of charge, but we need the dirt right away - the situation is urgent.  We can't do any more work on the mall project until the fill is in and settled".

Well, the new sanctuary was dedicated the next Sunday, as scheduled.

There were far more members present than the 25 with "mountain moving faith" who had showed up the previous Sunday night,.

Would you have shown up at that prayer meeting?

Some people say faith comes from miracles, but others know that miracles come through faith!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Thoughts On The Passing Scene

I have returned home from the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, held this week in Columbus, OH.  About 5,400 Messengers (delegates) were registered.  This is a far cry from the huge meetings back in the late 80's and early 90's, but alas, there was no huge controversy to bring them out in droves. Even though the crowd would be considered "small", it was larger than last year's assembly in Baltimore, and I can say, with no reservations, it was the most refreshing and spiritual SBC Annual Meeting that I have ever attended.

Part of the deal may be that I have recently been experiencing a season of personal spiritual renewal and redirection. But I also heard similar comments from other pastors, seminary professors, and from others who serve in various denominational positions on the state and local levels.

There was a focus on Revival and Spiritual Awakening.

Great Awakenings, cannot be scripted, nor scheduled by men.  God sends Revival and Awakenings in His time and according to His plan, but I do believe we should pray for and seek such Divine refreshing.  Not to simply "Bring America Back To God" as is often said, but to advance the Kingdom of God on the planet.  While the SBC is far from perfect, I am thankful that there is such a commitment to take the Gospel to the nations and reach the thousands of unreached people groups out there - in the Americas and to the ends of the Earth. It is also a blessing to see the concerted effort to bring more diverse ethnicity to the Convention here in the USA.

Even though there are differences among SBC pastors and churches when it comes to soteriology, ecclesiology, and even eschatology, I see (at least for now) a desire to focus on the cause of Christ that unites us in fulfilling the Great Commission and the Great Commandments, and not focusing on the secondary and tertiary issues that the Enemy would use to divide us.

Who among us have not been shocked and saddened by the senseless act of violence that took place at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC this week?  A young man, apparently acting alone, took the lives of a pastor and eight other members of his congregation as they gathered for a Wednesday evening Prayer Meeting and Bible Study.  It is obvious, from the assassin's comments, that this was a crime born out of hate and racial prejudice.  There has been a lot of that going around for a long time - both here and abroad.

The pundits and politicians have wasted no time in mounting their personal soap boxes.  Our President immediately seized upon his desire to ban firearms.  However, this crime was not done with a high powered automatic assault weapon (as many wish to ban) but with a simple handgun.  The race baiters have jumped with both feet into the mix with their vitriol.  Some pundits have talked about the "mental health": issues that have often led to disturbed individuals striking out in acts of terror and violence against individuals and groups.

I know it seems over simplistic, but I truly believe that we (and certainly we who are Christ Followers) come to understand that racism, political zealotry, hate groups, terrorists, etc are all simply symptoms of the true problem that causes incidents like this.  It is the sin problem that is the root.  It is the fallen nature of man and the depravity into which we were born, that manifests itself in so many ugly ways,  The ancient Hebrew prophet, Jeremiah nails it when he wrote in his prophecy, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? "

Political actions, philosophical beliefs, and legislation, nor education will never solve this problem.

The only hope is through Jesus Christ.  He died to take care of our sin problem.

More reason for fervent prayer for a true God sent revival in the hearts of His people, and their understanding of the urgency to share the Good News of Christ with EVERYONE.


As we pray for such an awakening, let us remember the families of those whose lives have been touched by this senseless act of violence.  Let us remember the Emmanuel Church, which has lost a pastor and several members.  Our hearts must break for these our brothers and sisters in Christ, and do not forget the many believers around the world who are facing persecution, imprisonment, and even death simply because of their faith in our Risen Lord.


Isn't it a blessing to see people in Charleston, in the face of obvious racially motivated killings, coming together for prayer, rather than rioting and looting in the streets.  This is certainly more Christlike behavior.  May God comfort those who have sustained personal loss, the entire community, the church, and let's not forget the young man who perpetrated this horrendous act.  May he, somehow, by God's Grace find peace for his soul.


Today marks the 44th Anniversary of the day that Linda and I made our Marriage Vows before God and a crowded church building full of witnesses.  He has been our rock and shield for all these years, faithful and merciful in every way.  I want to thank Him for preparing and sending to me, one of the three best people I have ever known, one whom He ordained that I should walk hand in hand with through life. I also want to thank Linda for her kindess, faithfulness and love.  She has rejoiced with me in times of blessing, and nursed me through times of sickness, even times when it looked like we were approaching the valley of the shadow of death.  She has fulfilled her vows "in sickness and in health", "for richer and for poorer", 'for better and for worse", and "to love, honor and cherish".  I could not be more blessed.  Happy Anniversary sweetheart.