Connecting for a Blessing

by Rev Robert A Wendel

A blessing is a divine gift, the bestowal of protection or approval, something that brightens life. The idea of a blessing crosses cultures and unites humanity. For many, a blessing is a spiritual flow from a supreme power. Blessings encourage the seeker and, in our case, connects us with our Maker and Heavenly Father.

The reasons for seeking above-earth support are as varied as prayer: to lift up, to set free, to shield from harm or pain, to inspire a project or point us in a certain direction. Or prayer time can just open our eyes to the basket of blessings which have already come our way.

We want to be happy. We want to enjoy life. We want things to go well for our families and our close friends. In other words, you and I want our life experience to be as positive as heaven and earth will allow.

Even during this Season of National Thanksgiving, we should be careful to remind ourselves that the Lord’s blessings are not automatic. The Almighty is willing to “pour out a blessing” only when our lives match his purpose, counting on his grace.

Eternal grace comes only to those who make their requests known in a “true spirit of humility.” And as we are reminded during almost every Sunday morning worship, as we hope and pray for ourselves, we should certainly, request that others be in the Lord’s favor too.

In my more that forty-year ministry, like any Christian minister, I have heard folks say, “I don’t need the Church!” Most of these naysayers have, likely been hurt or disappointed by some regular worshiper or perhaps they’ve felt that God is not listening to their prayers.

The Lord does hear us because he loves us and wants the best for us   There are periods in our earthly life when our forward progress seems at a standstill. Remember!  The Lord operates according to  his own eternal time piece. Connect often! Wait! A blessing will come!

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This month’s ABC Men Saturday Morning Breakfast will include a brief update on WV Flood Relief by Rev Frank Miller at 8:00 AM on November 12th. Please make time to join us.

HELPING HANDS offers our church the chance to think of those in need with donations of food, clothing, coats and blankets this month. Show you’re blessed by sharing!

The Beckley Clergy has planned a special worship service on Election Night, November 8, at 7:00 PM at Methodist Temple.

Let’s join our neighbors. And pray for the USA.

Mercy After Spilt Milk

by Rev Robert A Wendel

On September 6, 2016, the Pittsburgh Pirates played the St. Louis Cardinals in a late season match of the regular professional baseball season.  The lead paragraph in the United Press International wire service release the next morning read, “For the Pirates, the contest went from a blow-out early to a stirring mid-game comeback to a devastating ninth inning defeat.”

After the Pirates fought back from a 5-0 deficit to take a 7-6 lead in the ninth, ace relief pitcher Tony Watson was one out away from wrapping up his 11th game save when a three run homer barrage lifted the Cardinals to a 9-7 victory.  It was a stunning implosion for National League All Star Watson.

Interviewed later Watson said, “This sudden a loss is hard to swallow especially when the game-tying solo home run came only one strike away from a Pittsburgh victory over a long time rival.”

Pittsburgh played St. Louis the next day.  Watson “saved” the game.  The TV interviewer asked the Iowa favorite son “How did your teammates treat you after last night’s loss?”   Tony quipped “They were great.  To a man, the guys told me to keep my chin up!”

I told this story during my devotion at our Men’s Breakfast just a week later using the theme “Getting Up After a Fall.”  Often a mistake that affects others can do us real emotional harm.  Instead of blaming young Watson, his team remembered the many times he had helped gain them important wins during the already long, hot grueling summer.

For us there’s a triple lesson.  First ‘There’s no point in ‘crying over spilt milk.’  When the milk is spilt, that’s the end of it.  Forget it.  The mistake is in the past.  Second, no matter what happened, tomorrow is another day.  And third, mercy shown in low moments will always make a real difference!                                                                                                        

Letting Our Faith Show

by Rev Robert A Wendel

Faith is defined as,” Putting trust in God as the basis for a system of unshakable religious convictions and beliefs.” For Christians, faith is an ‘action word.’ The best way to explain faith is to do it.

James the Apostle, brother of Jesus, wrote, “ I will show you my faith by my deeds”(2:18,CNT).  Compassion, service to humanity and seeking justice for others are hallmarks of a Christian life. As the Sunday school song says, “They’ll know we’re Christians by our love, by our love.”

Here are two examples from professional baseball:

Since 1939, our national game has recognized its stars and behind the scenes heroes by giving each a plaque in its Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York.  The citation on the wall for former Dodger general manager Branch Rickey, finishes with, “ brought Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers in 1947.”

Until April of that year, pro baseball had two groupings, the all-White National and American Leagues and several Negro Leagues.  From 1869 until 1947 no Black players were in the dugouts of National or American Major League clubs. It took courage to change the country’s game.

Mr.  Rickey, a cigar smoking, bow tie wearing, devote Methodist layman, “made a vow before God that if he had the opportunity to correct this injustice, he would do it, knowing that, his choice would endure awful indignities. ”Jackie Robinson had guts enough to ‘turn the other check’, while facing numerous insults from fans and other players. But the color line was finally broken. The path to racial justice in the sport was made smooth by love and passive resistance.

Then there was the time in 1957 when the Pittsburgh Pirates were playing a regular season game and home plate umpire Stan Landes ejected Pirate pitcher Vern Law, from the game though he was not pitching that afternoon saying, “There was a lot of abusive language coming from both benches and I didn’t think that Law, an elder  the Mormon Church, should have to hear it.” Can your neighbors see your faith?

On Saturday September 10th at 8:00AM, our deacons will hold another Men’s Breakfast.  Rev Mark Stover, a retired prison chaplain from Crab Orchard Baptist will bring the morning message.   This Fall, plan to support or be involved in one or two ministry opportunities encouraged by our Church.

The Love of the Running Father

by Rev Robert A Wendel

“While the son was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.  Whoever does not love does not know God for God is Love.”  (Luke 15:11-32; I John 4:8 NRSV).

In Sunday School and again during seven semesters of seminary, I was taught that a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning, teaching a principle to be put into practice.  In the Jewish culture of olden days, things were explained in word pictures.  Jesus was speaking a language that his neighbors could easily understand.  Despite changes in culture, time and technology, parables remain timeless reflections of the human condition.

The first century Jewish culture was a honor/shame drive society.  Nearly everything that was done sought honor and avoided shame.  A central message of all three parables; the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son is that God has a tender personal concern and a joyous love for individuals who are lost in sin and repent.  The last of this trio of progressive value parables deals with the relationship between a father and his younger and older sons, one a rule-breaker and the other a rule-keeper. (Luke 15:11-32).

In those days a Middle Eastern man never ran.  If he wanted to run, he would have to lift his robes so he would not fall.   It was humiliating and shameful for him to show his bare legs.  So why did he run?  If a Jewish son lost his inheritance among Gentiles, he would be totally cut off from his community as if he were dead.  The father ran to protect his son from this total rejection – a kezazah.  So instead, took the shame rightly due his younger son.

We long for a love that can’t be forgotten.  Our Heavenly Father put our shame upon his Son Jesus so that we can be forgiven, restored, accepted and gifted with a clean slate.  God calls us and waits for us or our lost acquaintances, to begin the journey back toward Him.  Willingly, God is watching, ready to welcome us back (I John 4:8).

Our next ABC Men’s Breakfast will be at 8:00 am on Sat. Sept. 10th.  Join us and invite a friend. During the summer months food supplies at Helping Hands are low.  Help those in need.

Hearing Hope-Filled Testimonies

by Rev Robert A Wendel

In this unbalanced world for us religious people holding out hope is like walking a tightrope.  So often we tell ourselves that we hope it will be better tomorrow than it is today.  By our very nature, we Christians try and be an optimist lot.  We are positive because what is the alternative?  Despair.

In 2003, ninety-one year old author and Chicago newspaper commentator Studs Terkel wrote the book Hope Dies Last:  Keeping Faith in Troubled Times.  In it he said “Throughout history there have always been certain kinds of people who had a hope.  It’s practical for us human species to have hope.  I hope that memory is valued.  Of course, I want peace, grace and beauty.”

This May, Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Office of Facebook, told graduates of UC Berkley, “One year and thirteen days ago my husband died.  Dave’s death changed me in many ways.

I learned that when life sucks you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface and breathe again.  In the face of the void – in the face of any challenge – you can choose joy and meaning.  Lessons about hope, strength and light will not be extinguished.  You will be defined not by what you achieve but how you survive.  I hope that you will live your life with joy and meaning, without pain, grateful for each step.”

Rick Warren, Pastor and author  of The Purpose Driven Life,  whose son took his own life wrote “I am thankful that God sees all I go through.  He cares.  He grieves with me.  Even though I don’t have all the answers, God does.  When I give him the pieces he can turn crucifixions into resurrections.  God never wastes a hurt if we give it to him.”

As Saint Paul wrote newly converted Roman Christians, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace believing so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  (Romans 15:13 NRSV)

Finding Lasting Happiness

by Rev Robert A Wendel

As an endorsed ABC chaplain and pastoral counselor, those wanting my help often tell me “I just want to be happy.”  Happiness is a fast moving target, usually beginning with “When or if only….I could find romance, the right job, a better car, a bigger house or have more cash in the bank.”  And there will always be those lingering wishes around body shape, health or family concerns.

Sometimes we think that having just one wish granted will make us happy,   So, the Scarecrow wanted a brain, the Tin Man wished for a heart, the Cowardly Lion longed for an extra dose of courage  Charlie Brown just wanted to kick the football.  In real life, what we want may not be right for us.

The more feel-good stuff we do, or have, the more we need to achieve.  Many times we make choices that we think will insure our happiness in the future like making decisions for our retirement.  When we feel good, we’re more likely to do good.  That’s why a honeymoon is so memorable or the Yuletide Season can seem to put a bounce in our step and a smile on our face.

True happiness is a spiritual quality.  It is a part of our God-given character.  God intends for you and me to share our individual gift of happiness.  No one showed a better example of sharing happiness than when Jesus knelt down and washed the feet of his disciples at a final religious supper.

The Master told those followers, “I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you.  Happy are you when you serve one another” (John 13:15-17).  When we make others happy, we find happiness for ourselves.

This season’s series of Lenten Community Luncheons sponsored by the Beckley Clergy collected $1,091.00 which was donated to Hospice House.  Our clergy encourage each Beckley congregation to again volunteer and financially support our Beckley Day of Hope on August 13th.   During January through March of this year, Helping Hands served 2,032 families and 4,087 individuals.

Frank Miller will lead our morning devotional at our final ABC Men’s breakfast until September at 8:00 AM on Saturday, May 14th.  Gentlemen, let’s show the WV Men’s Director that we enjoy being together.

Job’s Bend in the Road

by Rev Robert A Wendel

“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives.  And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.”  (Job 19:25-27 NRSV)

Job says, “After my flesh has been destroyed, yet, in my flesh I will see God” (v. 26 NIV). Job does not know Christ.  He recognizes God as his Redeemer.  Despite his earthly suffering, Job believes that his only hope is to cling to his faith in the Almighty, trusting that in the next life he will stand rightly before God.

Like Job, if life seems to have turned against you, there is an eternal future that is brighter and beyond our wildest hopes or dreams.  Justice will one day win out.  God will replace pain and evil.  And right will eclipse wrong.  In the end, God wins.  And so will we.

There is a  famous story about the day physicist Albert Einstein took a train trip.  When the conductor made his first round asking for tickets, the old world-class thinker could not find the item.  The kindly conductor replied “That’s ok sir. I know who you are. I trust you.”  When the conductor made a second round, Einstein was on his knees still searching and telling the conductor “It’s not a matter of trust.  I don’t know where I’m going!”

There is nothing like hope to keep us going through this life.

There is nothing like a lack of assurance to make us afraid.

If you are without Christ in your life, your steps are marked by uncertainty.

No evil fate will overtake the soul who trusts in God and with Almighty help will do what is right.  Even when death comes, it need not be the end of the road, but a bend in the road leading to life that shall richer, fuller be.

Once again, at 8:00 on April 9th, our Deacons will prepare a fine breakfast for our men.  Plan to be in attendance.  

During the summer months, please donate to Helping Hands with food for those in need.

Rolling Away the Stone

by Rev Robert A Wendel

“The Jews said, “Jesus opened the eyes of the blind man.  Could he not have presented Lazarus’ death?” When Jesus reached the tomb he said “Take away the stone !”  He told Martha “Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:36, 39-40, TNJB).

Death is usually the last thing we want to talk about.  It makes us feel uncomfortable. In spite of all of our medical advances, we haven’t been able to conquer it.  We may be able to postpone it. We may tame its violence but death is still there waiting for us.  Death spares no one.  Our human perspective focuses on our immediate welfare instead of God’s glory.

Martha needed to know that Jesus was in control.  He is in control-and he cares.  Jesus instructs the onlookers: “Remove the stone.” (v.39a).  Just before ‘calling for Lazarus’, Jesus replies, “Martha, did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the wonder of what God can do?”(Phillips).

Our faith should be the marker for everything in our lives.  Not just for salvation but every prayer and action.  Like Martha, we know all the right words to say and all the proper Christian moves to make.  But, is our faith alive?  The last great test is death.  Faith dreams that God will stand by us.

In his book Moments with Majesty, Jay Hayford wrote .”I live in the hope of the resurrection without fear of death and without bondage to the endless grieving of those who have no such hope.”

If you follow Jesus long enough, you are going to experience the miraculous.  You are going to do what he did.  You are going to wash some feet and welcome the stranger.  You are going to care for the poor.  As a catalyst along the way you are going to offend some stiff-necked Pharisees.  Whose stone will you roll away?

Thanks to everyone who prepared and donation to our Lenten Lunch to support Southern WV Hospice.  Our ABC Men’s Saturday breakfast returns to First Baptist at 8:00 am on Saturday, March 12th.  Frank Miller, Director of the Parchment Valley Training Center, will offer the day’s devotions.  Gentlemen, please join us.

“At Your Mercy, Lord!”

by Rev Robert A Wendel

I have always enjoyed stories, books and movies about the exploits of the Knights of the Round Table.  Those gentlemen lived by a strict code of honor.  The phrase “At your mercy!” conjures up medieval images.  Picture a swordsman, his weapon slapped from his hand, lying on the ground, with his rival’s swordpoint against his throat…breathlessly crying, “At your mercy, kind Sir!”

With God, mercy isn’t an uncertain option but a divine certainty.  It is guaranteed compassion.  At specific points of our greatest need *(Hebrews 4:16), be they any sort of physical or emotional trauma, confusion, uncertainty, disappointment or death itself.  Remember the humble Bethlehem innkeeping husband and wife who allowed a young couple use of their stable as an emergency birthplace (Luke 2:7).

The shepherd boy David had learned this all too well.  In His wisdom, the Almighty chooses to meet our needs by showing his love toward us through the hands and hearts of others be they friend or stranger.  So many times in my own life’s journey I have been the recipient of an overflow of thoughtfulness and kindness.  My ride to church each and every Sunday by the van drivers is just one consistent example.

Any church, including ours, likes to think of itself as a ‘family’, ever-ready to extend itself to members and attendees through prayer, kindly written notes, cards, telephone calls, visits, assistance with household upkeep or home cooked meals during illness or when death touches their lives.  All of these are welcome “acts of mercy,” often passed on when we ‘pay it forward.’

God’s mercy has been great and He has shown it to each of us.  It is wonderful to receive such mercy at the hand of one of His loving children.  It is more wonderful still to be the hand that touches, at the end of His arm, reaching so very many crying out for mercy just when life wants to cut so deep.

During the 2016 Lenten season our ladies have kindly agreed to host a mid-day soup and sandwich luncheon  on Wednesday, February 24th, beginning with a time of devotion at noon sponsored by the Beckley Clergy Group.

Our ABC Men will be the guest of the Crab Orchard Men for the National Day of Prayer Breakfast on Saturday, February 27th at 8:00 a.m.

Plotting the Next Course

by Rev Robert A Wendel

Do you see yourself taking life’s challenges and difficulties in stride or are you beaten the moment you flip a page in your day planner or with each new dawn?  You can’t pick up a road map to Utopia at the local AAA office or in the Go-Mart around the corner.  So often we’re simply afraid to risk a move or take a chance because the shift in a new direction may “take us off course.”

If Saint Paul had such timid thoughts, what would have ever become of the many fledgling Christian fellowships he touched and inspired in his three missionary journeys or through the 13 letters he composed for them or younger disciples?  Paul, surely, learned the art of prudent changes in direction all during the second half of his life.

And remember, Saul’s faith walk began with him being the most loyal of properly educated Jews.  Jesus stopped him in his tracks, changed his name and lit in him a new flame to burn and light the way for new believers, even into our 21st century.  Along the way it was not all ‘smooth sailing’.  There were put-downs, theological arguments, personal physical pain, imprisonments and ship wrecks.   Still Paul faithfully  “walked through every open door.”?  (I Corinthians 16:9).

As Paul did so very well, are you willing to spend the time and energy to help build the spiritual foundations of others?  Willing to become what Charles Swindoll calls “the brick and mortar of their lives?”  The relationship between an experienced Christian and a young person or a new believer is always marked by encouragement.  If you’re a new disciple, will you listen and learn?

Long time pew-sitters encourage most effectively by showing others, close up, that Jesus has been in their life, ever-ready to help them ‘stay the course!’  In the New Year “Make your light shine so that others will see the good you do and will praise your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:16 CEV).

Our January ABC Men’s monthly prayer breakfast will happen on Saturday, January 9th at 8:00 am.  Church moderator Earl Whitener will offer the morning devotion.   Please plan to join us.

At a community worship service in December conducted by area clergy, $281.00 was collected  as an offering and given to Helping Hands Ministry.   Thank you to everyone who helped meet holiday needs.

A DATE TO REMEMBER – Sat. Feb. 27th at 8:00 AM – National American Baptist Men’s Breakfast at Crab Orchard Baptist Church