Trip to the Star City

The Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) is meeting this week in Roanoke, and several of us from First Baptist are in attendance. Audrey and I made the 4 hour trip down on Sunday afternoon, taking Sunday's guest, Dr. Alia Abboud with us. She is one of the speakers for the meeting, and I was scheduled to speak a couple of times, too. First, for the Pastor's Conference yesterday afternoon, and then again for the entire convention on Wednesday.

It was a very pleasant drive through the heart of Virginia--sometimes talking, and hearing more of Alia's fascinating story, and then with long stretches of quiet--as the sun melted into the mountains and darkness came.

The topic for yesterday's message was assigned to me: "The Pastor's Pastoral Prayer Ministry.” I spoke of the pastor's high calling, and the responsibility to preach and also to pray for his people. My text was James 5: 13-20. I stressed the importance of character, and the necessity to stay fervent and focused when we go before the Father.

I quoted the old Bible teacher, Lehman Strauss:
"It must be a frustrating experience for God to listen to millions of prayers that say nothing, ask for nothing, and expect nothing.”
And, St. Teresa of Avila:
"You pay God a compliment when you ask great things of Him."
(Ephesians 3:20, Jeremiah 33:3)

I told stories from my life and experience, too (you have no doubt heard them all).The pastors seemed to be encouraged and challenged by them. I hope so, anyway. The older I get, and the longer I have been at this work, the more I want to try to bless other pastors.

We are seeing lots of old friends at this gathering at Bonsack Baptist, the host church for this year's convention. The woman who sang at our wedding forty-two years ago. The guy who rode with me in my little yellow Volkswagen from Farmville every week to classes at Southeastern Seminary my first semester there, in 1978. Pastor friends from the years in Danville, and so many folks that I met and worked with when I was president of the BGAV in 2004. Newer friends since coming to Northern Virginia. Hugs and hearty handshakes and lots of catching up. Extra, quality time spent with some of our staff who are here with me, too.

I'm hearing lots of FBCA stories from people who our church has touched along the way. Many from well before my time. It's hard to think of a church that has impacted more people, more profoundly, than has ours. This blesses my heart so much.

Pastor Kim is leading one of the break-out sessions today on God's design for the faith development of children.

I will be preaching briefly tomorrow morning in the final session of the convention at 9AM. Another attempt to encourage our fellow Virginia Baptists to renew and strengthen our faith in facing the challenges of the 21st century. To be, all of us, what is prophesied in Daniel 12:3—
"Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness like the stars for ever and ever.”

Ask God to give me clarity of thought and expression as I stand to deliver.
Then it's back in the car and the long journey home, to get back to Alexandria just in time for supper and the activities of our church. Exactly where I always prefer to be when the sun goes down at end of day.
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