Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Yesterday's Blog Stats

I never cease to be amazed how connected our world is today.  I have had the privilege to travel as far as 13 time zones away, and I know how long that can take (even by jumbo jet) and how expensive that proposition can be. Yet the world wide web has connected us with people all around the world, instantly!

Social Media of all types allow us to post updates and status, tweet, post photos, skype, facetime, instagram, and numerous other vehicles of communication.  I use it to visit daily with scores of friends, young and old, whom I have come to know well after a dozen mission trips to the Philippines.  I hear from many of them regularly - in spite of the time difference.  Our sharing of information and photos, help us stay close even though we are separated a half a world apart.

Then there is this blog site.  I have been blogging for several years now.  Not every day, and it's really a small time operation.  It's bush league compared to bloggers who reach millions, but when I look at the stats on my little blog, it still boggles my mind how many visits my site gets on a regular basis.

Over the time I have been sharing thoughts in this media, I see that I have had over 128,000 visits to this site.  Yesterday alone there were 373 separate visitors to "For What It's Worth" from ten different nations around the globe.

The breakdown looks like this:

United States
United Kingdom
South Korea

Just think of what is involved here.

An insignificant pastor in the WV-OH-KY Tri State Area of the United States, who only has time to blog intermittently, can pick up nearly 400 viewers around the world, on a day when I have actually not published anything new for several days. Information is moving at a blinding pace, even into nations where I know no one personally!

It's a small world and it's shrinking faster and faster every day.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Enough! Enough! Enough Already!

There is a scourge in our culture today, and it has become an epidemic in the Huntington & Charleston, WV; Ashland, KY; and Ironton & Portsmouth, OH areas.  It has touched nearly every family in our Tri-State area in some way.  If it hasn't touched yours yet - it will!   It is the scourge of Alcohol and Drug Addiction, and it is spreading like wildfire in a parched forest.

If there was a killer virus going around, we would all be taking extreme precautions.  Awareness would be at a peak. Every preventive effort available would be employed to stamp out this virus.  We would stop at nothing to protect our families, our children, our loved ones and our neighbors from the scourge. Folks, it is far past time that we focus time, energy, awareness and resources to stop, at all cost, this plague that has already gone beyond what many of us would have ever dreamed.  

People actually joke about it.  Some are oblivious to the danger, and many are clueless.  Others think, "It can't happen to me or my family", but it does!  The entertainment industry glorifies it.  The Advertising industry glamorizes it.  It has long been fashionable for the thrill seekers to dabble with addictive substances.  It draws in the curious, the lost and hurting, and the most vulnerable among us, the children and young people in our community.

My friend, Esther Edmondson, had posted a link on social media, attributed to an Ashleigh Marie Cross.  I do not know Ms. Cross, but she hits the nail on the head with the following description of the power of addictive substances:
I destroy homes, tear families apart,take your children, and that's just the start.I'm more costly than diamonds, more costly than gold,the sorrow I bring is asight to behold,and if you need me, remember I'm easily found.I live all around you, in schools and in town.I live with the rich, I live with the poor,I live down the street, and maybe next door.My power is awesome; try me you'll see,but if you do, you may never break free.Just try me once and I might let you go,but try me twice, and I'll own your soul.When I possess you, you'll steal and you'll lie.You do what you have to just to get high.The crimes you'll commit, for my narcotic charmswill be worth the pleasure you'll feel in your arms.You'll lie to your mother; you'll steal from your dadWhen you see their tears, you should feel sad.But you'll forget your morals and how you were raised,I'll be your conscience, I'll teach you my ways.I take kids from parents, and parents from kids,I turn people from God, and separate from friends.I'll take everything from you, your looks and your pride,I'll be with you always, right by your side.You'll give up everything your family, your home,your friends, your money, then you'll be alone.I'll take and take, till you have nothing more to give.When I'm finished with you you'll be lucky to live.If you try me be warned this is no game.If given the chance, I'll drive you insane.I'll ravish your body; I'll control your mind.I'll own you completely; your soul will be mine.The nightmares I'll give you while lying in bed,the voices you'll hear from inside your head,the sweats, the shakes, the visions you'll see;I want you to know, these are all gifts from me,But then it's too late, and you'll know in your heart,that you are mine, and we shall not part.You'll regret that you tried me, they always do,but you came to me, not I to you.You knew this would happen. Many times you were told,but you challenged my power, and chose to be bold.You could have said no, and just walked away,If you could live that day over, now what would you say?I'll be your master; you will be my slave,I'll even go with you, when you go to your grave.Now that you have met me, what will you do?Will you try me or not? Its all up to you.I can bring you more misery than words can tell.Come take my hand, let me lead you to hell.
As a pastor, I am seeing the blight of substance abuse touch far too many families. Not just in parts of town that "good people don't frequent", or among those who are often described as "those people", but in your neighborhood and in my neighborhood, and yes, even in the church.  As a pastor, father and grandfather, over the past four decades I have seen far too many "good kids" and "Family men" and "Soccer Moms" fall under the control of an outside substance.  I have visited far too many jails, hospital psychiatric units, recovery centers,  and funeral homes as a result of this scourge.  I have sat with too many broken, weeping families in time of loss.  I have sat in too many courtrooms seeing kids I have watched grow up and play with my own children, stand before judges, convicted of dealing, or convicted of crimes committed in order to help finance their addictions.  I have stood by too many grave sites, opened prematurely by the scourge of substance abuse and alcohol and drug addiction.  I have seen the scourge in my own family.

It's time that we wake up and collectively cry out, "ENOUGH!"

"Just Say No" programs have a nice ring to the sound, but the epidemic is far more widespread and dangerous than slogans can solve. Passing more laws will not fix the problem.  Hiring more law enforcement personnel won't do it.  Policing alone will not solve the problem.  Building more jails will not solve the problem.  Needle exchange programs will not solve the problem, nor will laws decriminalizing certain substances help stop the epidemic. Social programs alone cannot cure the illness.

The answer is going to have to come from a power higher than ourselves, our government, our courts, and law enforcement agencies.  Critics will say that the answer I espouse is trite, outdated, and delusional, but I can tell you that the only true cure to this epidemic is through the life changing power of one who said, "Come unto me and I will give you rest...".  The one who identified Himself to the aged Apostle John as the one "who was, and is, and is to come".  The one in whom is found, "joy unspeakable and full of glory" and "peace that surpasses earthly understanding".  The answer is in the Christ who bore our sins to the Cross of Calvary, rose from the dead, and sits today at the right hand of the Sovereign God of the universe.

Scoffers today will laugh and marginalize the Christ of the Bible, but friends, I can testify from my own personal experience, to His life changing power. I have family members and friends whose lives have been transformed through the power of a risen Savior, whose chains of addiction have been broken. I submit to you today that He is the ONLY hope of cure for this epidemic, which is our own depraved nature.

Casual church "membership", nominal Christianity, good bloodlines, and giving lip service to "religion" is not efficacious in itself. Deliverance comes only through a relationship with Christ. His Lordship in our lives. A disciplined life of following Jesus and allowing His Spirit to empower us.  It involves self denial, cross bearing, and trusting completely in Him.  We've got to get the word out on this!

Sadly, the Church, His Bride, has been backward and ineffective in getting the positive message of Grace, Mercy, Forgiveness and Relationship out in an effective manner.  I pray that each of us who profess to be Christ Followers, and the congregations we make up, will go on our knees before our God in repentance, and brokenness, and rise with determination and commitment to be Ambassadors for Him - offering His help, and a human helping hand as well, for those who are suffering from addictions and substance abuse.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Go Rest High On That Mountain

 Sometime in the overnight hours (our time) a half a world away, a blood family, and a church family will gather to bid farewell to Pastor Dominador Valdez. "Doming" as he was called by family and friends was the founding pastor of the New Life Christian Church (SBC) in Upper Batinguel barangay of Dumaguete City, capital city of the province of Oriental Negros in the Republic of the Philippines.

Doming was a former boxer and security guard, who many years ago, gave his live to Jesus Christ, and surrendered to the call of God to a ministry of evangelism, church planting and pastoral duties in his beautiful native land.  He was a dedicated husband, father, grandfather, uncle and friend. I know he will be deeply missed by his friends and neighbors and the precious faith family of NLCC.

I became acquainted with Doming in February, 2000 on my first overseas short term mission trip to the Philippines with a group of pastors from Eastern Kentucky.  It was a trip that changed my life and my ministry forever.  My assignment while in Dumaguete was to partner with Pastor Doming and his brand new church planting work in Dumaguete and its outreach ministries in the surrounding areas which included rugged rural mountain regions and coastal areas of southern Negros Island.

This assignment led to a ten year partnership with Pastor Doming and a lifelong friendship with this quiet, soft spoken man who had a desire to reach lost people in his country, with the life changing gospel of Christ.

I remember the night we first met at the passenger terminal at the Port of Dumaguete.  Rev. Charles Davis introduced me to this diminutive dark haired smiling fellow, whose English language skills were not the greatest. Bro. Davis said, "C.J. you'll be working with Bro. Domingo here."

"Your name is Domingo?" I asked.  "Like Spanish for Sunday?"
He broke into a large grin and said in his broken English, "Yes! Sunday! Like Billy Sunday!" (making reference to the fiery American Evangelist of the early 20th Century).

I liked him immediately.

I could go on and on here with stories about the blessing of the 10 years of working together with this kind pastor.  Through the people of Ashland Baptist Church, Westmoreland Baptist Church and the many friends of Beacon Ministries, we were blessed to help them in their ministry in numerous ways.

  • Financed and help construct two permanent concrete church buildings (in Dumaguete and Mayapusi)
  • Purchased numerous musical instruments, keyboard, guitars, and electronic equipment
  • Provided hymnals, and an overhead projector, and volumes of discipleship materials
  • Purchase about two hundred plastic stacking chairs for the churches
  • Traveled hundreds of miles together over highways and rough, rocky, (sometimes nearly impassible) mountain roads and trails
  • Held numerous home Bible Studies in numerous preaching points around the area
  • Held scores of crusades in villages throughout southern Negros Island
  • Walked miles together in house to house evangelism
  • Assisted in baptism services on the beaches of Negros and in beautiful pools of water in the mountains
  • Celebrated anniversary services of NLCC together over that decade.
  • Purchased a motor bike for Doming, and another motorbike for one of the young pastors of their satellite churches
  • Purchased hundreds of pounds of rice for their feeding ministries.
  • Purchased several thousand Bibles in the Cebuano dialect and help distribute them along with hundreds of Gospel tracts.
  • Held a two night mass youth rally at the Nino Aquino Freedom Park Amphitheater on the grounds of the Provincial Capitol Building
  • Worked together to host a two day Pastor and Church Leader Seminar in the Bethel Guest House in Dumaguete City, which was attended by 74 pastors and leaders from varying Evangelical denominations.
  • Provided those pastors with nearly a thousand dollars worth of Bibles and resource materials,
  • Doming and I even did a Wedding ceremony together!
One project that Doming always talked about was his vision of building a prayer retreat  that he called the "Nagabe Prayer Mountain".  He would often ride his motorbike (and also walk) to a remote area in the mountains overshadowing his home in Upper Batinguel. His family spoke of him spending days at a time "Praying in the Mountain".  He loved that area and hoped to obtain the property and build a retreat there that could be enjoyed by many.  A stroke several years ago not only brought about a curtailment of his physical ability to do many of the things he enjoyed, but also ended his efforts to develop the Prayer Mountain.

Even though circumstances brought our official partnership to an end in 2010, I still counted Bro. Doming as a dear friend, brother, and co-laborer in Christ.  Last week, on September 11, Doming's weakened body finally succumbed to the mounting illnesses and complications thereof, and his spirit flew away back to the Father he sought to serve so faithfully in his life.  My deepest condolences go out tonight to his wife Evilla, his son Dave (and wife Michelle), his daughter, Noemi Joy and his grandson, Genesis David.  My thoughts are with the Valdez and Dales families and to my many friends at New Life Church, as you grieve your loss. The Good news is that Doming is more alive today than in all of his years on this planet. He is with the Lord he loved and served, and he waits for us to join him in his heavenly home.

Knowing this man, remembering his life, and his dreams, I could not help but think of the words of a song written by Vince Gill. It's called "Go Rest High On That Mountain". I think it is appropriate. It goes like this:

I know your life on earth was troubled
And only you could know the pain
You weren't afraid to face the Devil
You were no stranger to the rain

Go rest high on that mountain
Son your work on earth is done
Go to Heaven a shoutin'
Love for the Father and the Son

Oh, how we cried the day you left us
We gathered round your grave to grieve
Wish I could see the angels' faces
When they hear your sweet voice sing

So go rest high on that mountain
Son, your work on earth is done
Go to Heaven a shoutin'
Love for the Father and the Son

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

How Do We As Christ Followers React To The Case Of Kim Davis?

Last week, just about 30 blocks from where I live in Ashland, KY, the County Clerk of nearby Rowan Co. Kentucky was sentenced to jail by Federal Judge David Bunning for being in contempt of Court. Anyone who doesn't know the background on this case has probably been on the International Space Station, or deep in the Amazon jungle for the past two months, so I will spare the background information.
The scene that played out that day on Greenup Avenue was driven by heavy emotion as protesters gathered from many different states. Both sides carried signs, chanted slogans, and there was an ugly undercurrent of incivility characterized by name calling from folks on both sides of the issue.

Ms. Davis has been characterized as a fanatic, looney tune, fundamentalist, and even a hypocrite due to the fact that she, herself, has been married four times. Hardly a poster child for the sanctity of marriage.  Others who know her well,  state that she committed her life to Christ only four years ago, and (even as a "baby Christian") has diligently sought to follow her Apostolic Church's teachings of the Bible.  Allow me to say here that I do not know the woman, and I cannot speak to her motives, spiritual depth, or personal faith.

What I do know is that this is a very complex issue. It involves far more than a "hillbilly eastern Kentucky political hack and religious zealot" who refuses to grant marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.  She has, in fact, ceased to issue marriage licenses to ANY couples, gay or straight.  I know that there is also at least one other (and possibly a third) County Clerk in Kentucky who have also ceased to issue marriage licenses.

As a Christ Follower, and a Pastor I have wrestled with this issue every day that she has languished in the Carter County Detention Center, about 30 miles down the road in the small town of Grayson, KY.

Like many others, I am appalled and outraged that a Christian has been jailed in America for standing firm on their religious beliefs.  Yet it is also understandable that an elected public office holder, who has sworn to fulfill all the duties of her office, and resisted a court order to do so, has been found in contempt of court. The question arises as to whether there is a difference between personal religious beliefs, and those that are held by a public office holder in the line of their duties.  Personally I believe that ethically, Ms. Davis' resignation would have been appropriate, stating publicly that she could no longer perform all of her duties of the job due to her religious beliefs. This would have made a powerful statement, however she chose to go in another direction which resulted in the media circus that took place in front of the Federal Courthouse in Ashland last week.  The sad thing in that spectacle, was that there was no visible difference in the behavior of the "Christian" supporters of Ms. Davis, and those who were there to protest against her actions.  In the midst of the name calling and vitriol, sadly lacking was the spirit of Grace and Love that truly identifies us as followers of Christ.

Some have asked me what I would do, if taken to court over refusing to perform a ceremony for a same sex wedding.  The simple answer is I would refuse to do so, based on my biblical beliefs, and our church wedding policy.  "Would you be willing to go to jail over that?"  I have been asked, and I do not have to hesitate on giving an answer to that question.  Of course I would.  But my situation as a minister of the Gospel and Ms. Davis refusal as a publicly elected official to perform her government mandated duties are two distinctively different situations.

Back in June, the Supreme Court of the United States, in a 5-4 vote, basically redefined the millennia old definition of "Marriage".  Public officials across the nation whose duty it was to issue marriage licenses were then faced with a decision as to whether they would comply with the SCOTUS ruling, or not.  (I understand the concept of the "Doctrine of Lesser Magistrates", and I also understand, and despise the judicial tyranny that we are seeing here, so please spare me any lectures right now about that).  Ms. Davis' decision to remain in office and defy the court order based on her "deeply held religious convictions" obviously put her on a collision course with the judiciary.  Much can also be made about other elected officials who have chosen which laws they would enforce and which they would ignore.  This is a major problem in our government at several levels.  Ms. Davis just happens to be one who crossed the politically correct line of demarcation.

I would urge each of my readers to take a moment to read what I think are two excellent blog posts that pretty much sum up my stand on this issue.  These articles are written by Dr. Ken Keathley, Dr.Russell Moore, and Andrew Walker - godly men, all, who stand for the inerrancy and truth of scripture. First a very simple article by Dr. Keathly , which can be found by clicking here.  Then the Moore/Walker article which can be found by clicking here.  I hope my believing and my unbelieving friends will give thought to the content these posts.

Here are the points I would like to make in this writing today.

  • We live in a secular nation, and reluctantly I must agree with President Obama, when he said "This is not a Christian nation."  We were founded on bliblical principals, but we have fallen far from those standards as a nation.
  • The Supreme Court of the United States, has overstepped it's authority in redefining marriage. They most certainly could have ruled to allow "Civil Unions" if they so desired, but to call same sex unions, "marriage" is an affront, not only to Bible believing Christians, but to the institution that has existed for centuries, defined as a lifelong commitment of one man and one woman.
  • Under the laws of our nation, unless a future SCOTUS reverses this decision, it is considered "settled law" (just like Roe v. Wade, and the Dred Scott Decision - which was later repealed)
  • Persecution of Christians in America is coming.  In fact it is already here, and true Christ followers in our generation, and certainly in generations to come will most certainly be called upon to decide if we will "obey God, rather than man".
  • This should not really be a surprise to us, as our Christian brethren have been persecuted for centuries all over the world for their faith.  We Christians in America have been "spoiled" and softened by taking advantages of the religious liberties we have enjoyed for more than two centuries.  Those liberties are eroding quickly, and this writer believes, will soon be gone.
  • Judge Bunning, while fulfilling his duty to find Ms. Davis in contempt of court (which she was) had great latitude in the possible sentencing guidelines at his disposal.
  • He chose jailing her, because in his own words, a lesser punishment "Wouldn't change her mind".
  • This is one of the most chilling parts of of this entire saga.  Ladies and gentlemen, the "thought police" are here.  This is just the beginning, but make no mistake, the hole has developed in the dam.  Be prepared for the deluge.
  • How will we deal with this as people who truly seek to follow Jesus?
  • Please hear me in what follows.
In the early chapters of the Book of Acts in the New Testament, the Apostles John and Peter were taken into custody by the ruling Jewish Sanhedrin Court, after a miraculous healing of a lame man had taken place in the Temple complex in Jerusalem.  When asked by what power and in what name they had done this, they unapologetically said "In the name of Jesus of Nazareth".  Their crime was preaching and teaching the Good News of Jesus Christ.  When commanded to never preach again in the name of Jesus, their reply was, "We would obey God rather than man."  

Having been jailed, beaten, and commanded never to preach again in the name of Jesus, they were released from custody.  I think it is incumbent upon us first to note what they DID NOT do under threat from governmental authority:
  • they did not publicly call for God to send fire down from Heaven to devour their persecutors
  • they did not go out and retain the "Judean Center for Law and Justice" to take their case.
  • they did not organize a picket line at the Sanhedrin, bemoaning that their rights had been violated.
  • they did not go on social media to plead their case to the "court of public opinion"
  • they did not have a petition drive to enlist others to stand with them
  • they did not rally the Christians in Jerusalem to come to the Sanhedrin shouting slogans and hateful epithets against their persecutors.
  • they did not run for the hills, or go undergrround
What they DID DO, however, was noteworthy. They went back to their fellow believers and reported all that was done and said.  The church then joined together in PRAYER.  Not a prayer of vengance, nor a prayer of protest, but a prayer for BOLDNESS that they would be empowered to stand for Christ against all odds.  The Bible says, "When they had prayed, the place where they assembled was shaken".

There is a lesson for us here today, as the dark clouds of persecution gather in our society.
Let us be men and women of Prayer.
Our nation is likely under the judgment of God for our lack of faithfulness and prayer.  
So now, let us pray -
Let us pray for boldness.
Let us pray that Ms. Davis will be released from jail, no matter what other civil penalties she may face.
Let us pray that the Gospel of Christ will be the center of our motivation, not just taking sides in the so called "Culture War".
Let us pray that we will be people of Grace and Ambassadors for Christ in a postmodern culture
Let us pray for unbelievers, that they might come to know the joy and true liberty that comes through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
We serve a God who is sovereign over the universe, much less the three branches of the United States government.
Let us pray for "kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence, for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth"  (1 Timothy 2:2-4).
And finally let us remember that God is in control.  When the government becomes spiritually oppressive, never forget that  "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water,; He turns it wherever He wishes"  (Proverbs 21:1)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Louisville, KY Bus Station, 1970

I spent five hours in Louisville one January night;
     Observing with confusion, amazement and delight -
A human drama/comedy staged with quite a fuss
     In the ancient Greyhound Depot, while I awaited my next bus.
"What a people zoo" I thought as through the crowd I pressed,
     And immediately came face to face with a derelict, distressed -
Because, he said, he'd just been robbed by "a couple of no 'count boys",
    ( If I heard his tale correctly mid all the background noise).
He told me just a quarter would help relieve his stress,
     And he promised he would pay me back, if I'd give him my address.
Then one of Louisville's finest came strolling through the door,
      And with a look of abject terror, the wino hit the floor.
He scurried like a waterbug frightened by the light;
     Among the weary travelers and quickly out of sight.
The officer, however, didn't really seem to care about the old panhandler
     Or his hurried exit there -
Nor the sailor at the news stand reading girlie magazines,
     Nor the leather jacket wearing punks playing three pinball machines.
T'was the gal behind the counter of the cafe', sling hash,
     To the jukebox sound of "Woodstock" (played by Crosby, Stills and Nash) -
Who drew him like a magnet - this waitress young and fair,
     Which held that cop's attention with her flowing auburn hair.
As he sat down at the counter, seemed that she could read his mind.
     She smiled, and purred, "Hi Freddie!", and wiggled her behind.
I could tell they were not strangers, oh, that look was in their eyes.
     He grinned and said, "The usual".  She yelled, "BURGER, COKE and FRIES!"
I really couldn't tell you much more of what they said,
     for the more I thought about it, I wouldn't be caught dead;
Eavesdropping on this waitress, so intently chewing gum,
     And the cop who had so recently nearly mortified that bum.
I scanned the crowded terminal and wondered half aloud,
     'Bout all the lives and times of all the faces in the crowd -
Where they all were coming from and where they hoped to be,
     At this same time tomorrow, or in an hour or two or three.
There were soldiers toting dufflebags, going to and from Fort Knox,
     And a lady near my Granny's age, who held a battered box
Gingerly upon her lap, taped up and tied up with string.
     And one could only wonder what she carried in that thing.
A young girl sat down upon the bench directly facing me,
     Dressed in the counterculture garb of 1970.
The tension of those war torn years was etched upon her face,
     And her jacket emblems called for Peace to save the human race.
Then over in the corner, unless I saw amiss;
     A fellow with an earring winked at me and blew a kiss!
I'll have to say I was relieved when the clock upon the wall
     Finally signaled Two A.M. and I heard the PA call -
"Bus 1550 boarding now", Oh! what a joyful sound to know that in just moments
     I'd be West Virginia bound.
An when at last at Dad's house, home at last, I knew that we'd discuss,
     The night I'd spent in Louisville, as I waited on my bus.