Articles from the Bethel Baptist Association page of the Alabama Baptist
April 26 - May 2017
May 25, 2017
The Parable of the Wayside
The other day I traveled to Gadsden to Suzy Trader’s dad’s funeral. Suzy is the wife of Dr. Steve Trader, our Alabama Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries counselor.Along the way, I noticed things on the side of the road.It is amazing what is on the side of the road.With each mile, I thought of something funny that The First Lady of FBC Demopolis, Ashleigh Williams, told me the other day.
Ashleigh posed the question, “Why is their always only one tennis shoe on the side of the rode?Shoes come by the pair.”I took a moment to reflect since that was one of those UMPH moments.
Ashleigh gave me a profound question to ponder, especially when I began to pay attention to the things on the side of Interstate 20/59 on the way to Gadsden.It was obvious that those who did not do a very good job of securing their cargo placed some things there.These include the aluminum ladder, the air-conditioner insulated duct, the ice chest lid, the Styrofoam cooler, the weed eater, a bag of clothes, the love seat, and the book shelve.Among these were the rubber straps with one hook missing, the half of the nylon strap, the frayed rope, and the bright yellow bungee.
It makes you wonder sometimes if people toss things on purpose.There is the Auburn baseball cap, the Alabama T-shirt, the BF Goodrich tire, the broken bud lite beer bottle, the empty Marlboro light cigarette package, the plastic six-pack strap, the plastic safety hat, the pair of sunglasses, and the empty Pepsi 12-ounce aluminum can.
I giggle when I see the one sock, the one boot, and the one glove.I think about the poor soul that arrived at his destination to find he had one sock, one boot, no T-shirt, one glove, and no hardhat.Frustrated, he reaches for his bag of clothes to retrieve his dirty work clothes and there is no bag.He takes a moment to settle his nerves and finds no Styrofoam cooler to retrieve a Pepsi.There is no cooler, no six-pack of Pepsi.He looks his beer ice chest and finds it overturned, no bottles of Bud Light hidden under the ice.He wonders how did they fall off his pickup. Reaching for a Marlboro light, our poor traveler has no nicotine fix.
Knowing he cannot work, our half-dressed worker gets in his pickup and heads to the nearest Walmart. As his luck is horrible, he gets a flat tire.He pulls to the wayside. He jacks his pickup up and finds that he has lost his spare BF Goodrich.
He abandons his pickup and begins his journey on foot wearing one boot, one tennis shoe, shirtless, and no cap.He thinks I should have worn shirt and shoes while driving.Now his only companions on the Interstate are the dead armadillos, possums, cats, dogs, and deer that are being devoured by buzzards and crows.He thinks it odd, but he notices a possum and three crows dining together on a squished possum.He realizes that vehicles on the Interstate are passing very fast.
Each time he sticks out his thumb to hitchhike, follow travelers pass by switching lanes as they near him thinking him to be a decrepit drug addict making a living picking up aluminum cans and going through things on the wayside.
It is obvious that I had too much time to think on my drive to Gadsden, but I did think about Jesus’ parable to the disciples about seeds falling on the wayside.
And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up (Matthew 13:4 KJV).
When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side (Matthew KJV).
There are all kinds of things on the wayside.Some are there because of accident, neglect, or deliberately.The State of Alabama will send laborers to clean up the wayside just as Jesus sends laborers into the harvest. The church has the responsibility to sow the Word of God and help people understand it as the journey through life.Many are by the wayside due to accident, neglect, or deliberately.
Pray as you travel life’s highway that you share the truth of God’s Word.You may meet a one tennis shoe, one boot, cap less, half naked traveler who needs a ride.
May 11, 2017
There is excitement and anticipation around the Bethel Office.The faithful few Bethel Baptist Builders have slowly and methodically transformed the pavilion into a nice place to have meetings and conferences.The bathrooms are nice and the kitchen is almost complete.Our biggest wait is the sewer system.
Pam and I are hoping that we can use the new facility before we retire.One of our hopes is to host the 200th Anniversary in what we call the Bethel Annex.It will be a great time in the history of the Bethel Baptist Association.
There remains a misunderstanding about the Annex.I have had people ask, “Why are we spending time, energy, and money on a building to house the Bethel Builders, Disaster Relief, and Bethel Trailers and tools and equipment?” It does do that, but it will be the future meeting place for the Executive Committee, Bethel Baptist Builders, and Disaster Relief Meetings.It will be available for our churches to have meetings, family reunions, and various meetings.
Once the Annex is complete, we will return to the Bethel Baptist Associational Annual fish fry.It will not be in May, but whenever the sewer is complete.I hope that during the Associational Missions week next May, we will renew the fish fry.
Helping do construction in the Annex reminds me how much I like to build and renews my calling in the ministry through building facilities for ministering, fellowship, and worship.Next month the Builders will be traveling to Florida to help a church in construction.Where there have been the faithful few in Linden and Brenda, from Oklahoma’s Bethel Baptist Builders team, who spent a couple of days here and worked in the Annex, a great number will head to Florida.It makes the old saying true that people will travel miles to do missions, but will not do missions at home.
The Annex has required patience.Construction can be a hurry up and wait process.Some folks cannot deal with the hurry up and wait.I had a foreman when I built bridges that hurry up and wait drove him bananas.Sonny, my foreman, would rush us to build and set forms to pour concrete.We would have the forms ready, but timing the concrete arrival was tricky.
On one occasion, we had this huge footing pour framed and ready.The trucks were late so Sonny decided we were too idle and he used a bull dozier to push some dirt into the footing.He ordered us to shovel out the dirt and wire brush the rebar steel where the concrete would adhere to it.
We were ticked, so I asked Sonny, my co-workers were afraid, why did he do such a STUPID thing.He said we were standing around and he wanted us to be busy.I am not the sharpest shovel in the tool shed, but I thought working hard to ready for a concrete pour was staying busy.
I told Stupid Sonny that if he wanted me to stay busy, all he had to do was say, “Stay busy.”He said, “Stay busy.”
A few days later, Michael, a co-worker, stopped me and commented, “You haven’t done anything all morning.”We were spending time getting ready to wreck forms and start another pour.I looked my young friend eye to eye and said, “No ain’t done nothing, but I have looked busy ain’t I?”He said, “Yeah, you have.”I said, “I just doing what Sonny wants.”
When I think of hurry up and wait, I think about what Isaiah says, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Isaiah 40:3 KJV).”
The word for wait is the Hebrew word, qavah. The root word means: to bind together by twisting, to expect, gather together.That was exactly what I was doing while waiting to start forming again.I was rolling up acetylene and air hoses, extension cords, and cables.
In the New Testament, the Thessalonians were good at hurry up and wait.Thinking that Jesus’ return was imminent, the Thessalonians quit working.Paul had some “lighting a fire on behinds words when he says, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should eat.For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies (II Thessalonians 3:10-11 KJV).”
April 26, 2017
It was a Sunday night with six people in attendance at BrierfieldBaptistChurch.The six people there were my family of five and Sis Fletcher.Sunday mornings were a little better but not much.Instilled in me was the principle:teach or preach even it there is only one in attendance.I still hold to that principle, I encourage preachers, and teachers of God’s Word that when there is only one student, then God wants you to have one-on-one time with them.It is a divine appointment.It may that God places us there to do some personal ministry.
With that thought, we had a regular service.During the eight years at Brierfield, there were perhaps six years with no music.Most people thought we were Church of Christ or a Mennonite congregation, not Southern Baptists because we did a whole lot of acappella.
Sharon led the music that night, our two older children, Andy, who was twelve, and Angela, who was ten, took up the offering.I called on Andy to open in prayer and Angela to pray the offertory prayer.Aaron was a baby that cried AMEN a whole bunch.
People would ask me why bother to have church, why not just go home.I would reply, we came to worship and I was teaching the principles of worship to our children.One particular Sunday, only my five showed for worship.It was a cold, overcast, rainy morning.The 1888 building used gas space heaters and I waited to see who would attend that morning before lighting them.As Baptists do, sometimes there was a mad rush to make it right at .This particular day it was, as a black friend of mine would say, “It’s just usin’s.” So usins worshiped in the warm car.
We had been at Brierfield for a couple of years, and this was the first of many times that it would be just my five.Sharon looked at me that morning and said, “For the first time, I am discouraged.”
I told her that were less than ten miles from home and in less than thirty minutes we could back in a nice and comfortable home cooking chicken fingers and French fries.I reminded her that we had thought about becoming missionaries and if we were ten thousand miles away in Timbuktu and no one showed, that would be discouraging.
No one came, we went home, cooked chicken fingers and French fires, she went to bed for beauty rest and I watched kung fu movies and the kids played.
Let me regress back to the Sunday night with Sis Fletcher and my five.I was finishing a sermon and about to offer an invitation when a lady entered the church and sat on the back pew.The Baptist Tradition is for everyone to look behind them when some enters the church.All of us noticed that the lady was crying.The Holy Spirit impressed me to preach a short sermon.I preached a five-minute sermon; a concept that is totally unknown by a whole bunch of preachers, and gave the invitation.I prayed the closing prayer, hoping the lady would come where I could pray for her.When I finished, the whole church that night, that sounds better than Sis and us, welcomed her.
What she would tell me remains with me until today. She said, “I was on my way to kill myself and I prayed that if God was listening that He give me a sign.I prayed to God that the church would be open. I saw the lights of the church, pulled into the parking lot; I sat in the car for a few moments, and then decided to come in.”
Her name was Kris.We learned that she was from another denomination and she could play the piano really well and had played for a quartet.There was only one problem she could not read music.The way she played for us was we would start singing; she would peck on the piano keys until suddenly she would have the melody.The walls of Brierfield Baptist became Bapcostal for a few months.The term Bapcostal comes from the Chiltonian Text and means when a Baptist raises his/her hands and says amen and hallelujah like a Pentecostal the Church is a Southern Bapcostal Church.
She did more than play.One Sunday morning she had twenty-eight people come to church with her.Another Sunday there were fifty-four there.The most I remember was seventy-two.She would say come to my church were the pastor and the people love you regardless of who you are and what you have done.She shared Jesus like the woman at the well when Jesus confronted her.
For Christmas that year, we did a cantata.Now remember, Kris could not read music, but she utilized every key and petal on the piano.We did the cantata for a neighboring church.We got an ovation for it.I will never forget what a deacon in that church said.“I think that girl was double plunkin’ that piano like they do in a bar.”Yeah, it weren’t no bar and she was shined, and it was wonderful.Because the BrierfieldBaptistChurch was faithful and had it lights burning, Kris was letting her light shine by “double plunkin’” and sharing Jesus with her family, neighbors, and strangers.
Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did (John 4:29a KJV)
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew KJV).