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Grateful for Whitesburg Christian Academy

23 May

Yesterday was a bittersweet day for the Corbin family.  It was the last day of school at Whitesburg Christian Academy – literally for the Corbin family. Because I began serving at Lakeside already three months into the school year, we made the decision to let Becky and the boys finish the school year out in Huntsville.  To have moved the boys at the Christmas break would have also meant removing David from the varsity basketball team in the middle of their season. So, since the end of October, Becky and the boys have been in Huntsville Monday-Friday each week finishing school and I have been getting my feet on the ground in Birmingham as Pastor at Lakeside. It has not always been easy, but we are grateful we made the decision to let them finish out the school year.  So, yesterday was bittersweet in that we are excited to finally be in a position where all of us will be together full-time in Birmingham where God has called us to serve, but we are saddened to see a wonderful chapter in our lives end and leave many wonderful friends.

For the last seven years, Whitesburg Christian Academy has been an integral part of our lives.  Seven years ago, David went to his first day of 4th grade as a new kid not knowing anyone. At that time, there were around 150 students and the entire school shared facilities with Whitesburg Baptist Church. Today, the Academy is blessed to have this wonderful facility with more on the way…

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So, David has spent the last seven school years at the Academy.  Daniel came into the Academy as a 1st grader and he just completed his fifth year.  My wife, Becky spent the last six school years as a 6th grade teacher.  During these last seven years of growth and change for the Academy, it has been part of the Corbin’s lives and the Corbins have been part of the Academy’s life.  It has a been a wonderful blessing to our family.  I am so very grateful for Whitesburg Christian Academy.  Please allow me to share why.

First of all, I am grateful for the blessing that the Academy has been to our sons.  Every single day that I have sent David and Daniel to school there, I have been confident that they were receiving a great education from a Christian worldview.  Every single day that I have sent David and Daniel to school there, I have been confident that they were loved and cared for by teachers and administration that had their best interests at heart.  The influences on the lives of my children have been overwhelmingly Christ honoring and positive, all while receiving a great education.

I am also grateful for Whitesburg Christiian Academy because of what it stands for.  The stated purpose of the school is “Developing students who are passionate followers of Christ and well-trained servant leaders…”   The Academy is serious about that purpose and it permeates the school.  In a culture filled with rapidly changing moral views and a Christian landscape too often filled with compromise, the Academy seeks to stand on the authority of Scripture and promote the historic, Biblical Christian faith.  That is no easy task in today’s world, but Whitesburg Christian Academy strives to do it out of conviction.

I am grateful for the people who are the Whitesburg Christian Academy family.  Certainly, our sons have friends for life from the Academy.  However, Becky and I both have friends for life there too.  As important as moving into the new building was for the school, the Academy’s two most important assets are its Lord and its people. Some of the greatest people in the world work, attend, and volunteer at Whitesburg Christian Academy.  It’s truly a family.  Like every family, there are occasionally some tough times when there is conflict, misunderstanding, and sin.  When these times come, the Academy seeks to handle them in a Christ honoring, redemptive way.  It’s a family.

Finally, I am grateful for Whitesburg Christian Academy because of its future. I truly believe that the best days are ahead.  I have utmost confidence in Headmaster Jerry Reeder and the leadership team he has assembled. They will continue to lead well.  However, the reasons I am bullish about the future of Whitesburg Christian Academy is because God is at work there; He has his hand on the Academy.  Trust me, in the last seven years, I have seen God do the miraculous at this school on more than one occasion – most of which I am not free to write about publicly.  The only reason that the Academy is still going and prospering is because of the blessing of God. Therefore, it has a bright future!

The Lord has called the Corbin family to leave Huntsville and Whitesburg Christian Academy and plant our lives in the metro Birmingham area. We look forward to staying in touch and seeing what God does in the future.  It’s been a great honor to be a small part of God’s work there.

The little church that could

7 Jul

This past week our family spent the week along with 24 other members of our church on a mission trip in the Williamsburg, Kentucky area.  As usual on a mission trip, I found myself immeasurably blessed by the folks that we went there to help. Each evening, our team helped Wolf Creek Baptist Church conduct Vacation Bible School. This church’s story is truly “a God thing” that blessed me and I wanted to share it with my readers.

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Wolf Creek Baptist Church is a 202 year old church (not a typo) in an extremely poor, rural community about seven miles outside of Williamsburg.  This part of the country sees the effects of generations of poverty, the breakdown of the family, abuse, drugs, and a host of other ills.  A number of years ago, Wolf Creek Baptist Church had only a handful of faithful attenders and was making little impact in its community.  Then Pastor John Justice had a vision. The Lord began to stir his heart to lead the church to minister to the children of the area. According to Pastor Justice, he saw children growing up in generational cycles of spiritual lostness, poverty, neglect, and pain.  According to members of Wolf Creek, Pastor Justice told the church, “If we don’t do something about it with the kids, nothing will ever change.”  That simple vision from the Lord was the beginning of great things. With few people, little to no money, and an old church van, Wolf Creek stepped out on faith and began its journey to make a difference.

Today, Wolf Creek has between 75-100 children and teenagers in attendance EACH SERVICE – Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening. Very few of those kids are brought by their parents. Wolf Creek members use four vans to go get them and then take them home.  These kids, many of whom are growing up in situations that are heartbreaking, are loved unconditionally, taught the Word of God, and told of the difference the Lord Jesus can make in their lives.  Oh yes, because many of the kids do not get adequate food at home, the church FEEDS THEM EACH SERVICE.  That’s right.  Wolf Creek feeds 75-100 children and teenagers every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening. The members of Wolf Creek say that they have to do that because meeting their physical needs must happen in order to meet their spiritual needs.  Wolf Creek consistently sees as many as forty of these kids come to faith in Christ each year. In fact, a couple of years ago, they were #10 in the entire Kentucky Baptist Convention in baptisms.

All of this ministry is carried out by a core of group of less than 30 adults who attend the church regularly. The bulk of the work is done by six or seven families – week in and week out. This is one reason why Whitesburg goes up there for Vacation Bible School each year. It gives these faithful families a welcome break from having to carry the whole load.  In addition to this small group of faithful members, Wolf Creek’s budget is small as well:  $600 per week ($31,200 per year).  The church rarely has a month when it meets its budget, but somehow its few bills get paid and the ministry is funded for another month. “When the money runs out and we don’t know what we are going to do, God provides,” is how one church leader described it to me.

The truth is that I went to be a blessing to Wolf Creek, but I was far more blessed to get to know them.  In fact, I was downright convicted and challenged by spending time with that little church. Wolf Creek has an old building that is totally inadequate for them in every way. They have few leaders and little money. They minister to children and families who live in circumstances that in many cases are almost unbelievable. Nothing they do is easy. Every single thing requires work.

Yet, I found the people of Wolf Creek Baptist Church to be extremely positive. All week long I kept hearing phrases such as, “God is at work” and “It’s His ministry not ours.” They were certainly grateful for the help, but they were eager to share what God was doing among them!  They steadfastly believe that one day God will provide a new building for them, and they aren’t discouraged at all that after two years the building fund only has $16,000.  God provides. They are generous – even though they have very little. They insisted on presenting our mission team with a gift.  One more amazing thing: Wolf Creek Baptist actually does mission trips. You read that right. This little church recently sent a mission team to help a church in another part of the country.

As we headed back to Alabama on Friday, I left there amazed and humbled.  In all of my years of ministry, I have never seen a church that did more with less that I saw at Wolf Creek. They do it week in and week out with no pay, no recognition, and no sign that their work will get any easier. They do it by faith that God will provide, sometimes not knowing how the ministry will be funded for another month. Few people have ever heard of Wolf Creek Baptist, and far fewer have ever seen first hand what they do. However, I believe that Heaven knows exactly what is going on at Wolf Creek, and I believe that the Lord is smiling on it.  Why do I say that?  Because the Lord knows that Wolf Creek Baptist Church is rich in the things that really matter.

 

35 years at one church: A salute to my pastor

2 Jun

Today is a special day at Whitesburg.  We are celebrating with our pastor, Dr. Jimmy Jackson, on the occasion of his 35th anniversary as Senior Pastor of Whitesburg Baptist Church. In today’s world, such a tenure is extremely rare.  In fact, just this week, I read that the average tenure of a Southern Baptist Convention pastor is 3.5 years.  Think about that. This fact means that the average Southern Baptist church has had 10 pastors during the time Jimmy Jackson has served at Whitesburg.

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“Bro. Jimmy” as Whitesburg folks (and many from the community) refer to him is certainly deserving of every accolade given him. When I decided to write a blog post about him, one Bible verse kept coming to mind…

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;” (Ephesians 4:11–12, NASB95)

Bible scholars point out that “pastors and teachers” refers to one office. In fact, it is not wrong to write it as “pastor/teacher” in order to emphasis two aspects of the same office. There are many reasons that he has been able serve through the ups and downs of 35 years at the same church, but I believe one of the many reasons is that he is a consummate pastor/teacher.  A pastor is a shepherd who leads, cares for, and protects his flock. A teacher is one who faithfully teaches his people the Word of God. Jimmy Jackson does both of those things extremely well.  He shepherds his people and he teaches them the Word of God. He has done that for me and my family as well as thousands of others.

I first met Jimmy Jackson in March 1993. I was new in ministry and going through a discouraging time. A friend talked me into attending revival services at Whitesburg on Monday night. The music and the message from Bill Stafford were uplifting, but the most uplifting time for me occurred at the end of the service.  Bro. Jimmy saw two young preachers sitting down near the front and made a bee line for us after the service. He spent a few minutes encouraging us and asking about our ministries. It really meant a lot to me that he took the time to speak to us. I left Whitesburg that night uplifted and encouraged.  What I did not know then was that was just Jimmy Jackson. He tends to just minister to folks as he meets them.

Since 2007, I have served as Associate Pastor with him at Whitesburg.  Now that I have worked closely with him for six years, I can honestly say that I have more respect for Jimmy Jackson today than I had when I arrived six years ago.  He prays for every member of our church by name on a regular basis. He prays for me as a staff member multiple times each week. He still visits people in the hospital, counsels the confused, sits in multiple meetings each week, and officiates at dozens of weddings and funeral each year. In fact, I am amazed at how available he is to the people, even though he is a “mega church pastor.” He does all of this when faithfully preparing to preach the Word verse by verse each week. I have never heard him preach, but that I did not get a fresh insight or nugget of truth from the Word.

In spite of being the pastor of a large church, and a Southern Baptist Convention leader on many levels, Bro. Jimmy remains down to earth and humble. He is a very successful pastor of one of the largest churches in one of the most highly educated areas of the United States.  Yet, at heart, Jimmy Jackson remains a country boy from Mississippi. His background and experience enable him to connect with people from all backgrounds.  He can meet with a powerful Huntsville business leader in the afternoon and then drive to preach in a small country church that night, and be effective in both places – wearing the same suit! Not many pastors can pull that off!  That’s Bro. Jimmy.

He is still my friend. He is my pastor. He is my boss, although it really doesn’t feel that way.  His genuine love for Christ and for people comes through every single day.  I don’t believe that he has ever called me into his office and said, “Now, I am going to teach you something you need to know….”  That’s just not his way. However, I have learned very much that I needed to know just by working with him and watching him over these years. His impact on my life has been immeasurable.  I am a better Christian, a better husband, a better father, and a better pastor from having him as part of my life.

This is why I join the rest of the Whitesburg family in saluting my pastor, our pastor on his 35th anniversary at Whitesburg.  Our prayers are daily with him, his loving wife, Bobbi, and the rest of the Jackson family. I look forward to continuing to serve alongside him as we enter his 36th year of ministry at Whitesburg.

Bro. Jimmy, you are truly the best, and I thank the Lord for you and pray for you each day!

Memorial Day

27 May

Memorial Day is a day that America has set aside to remember those who died while serving our country in the armed forces. From what I have read, Memorial Day originated after the Civil War as an effort to remember those who had fallen in that way, and by the turn of the 20th century had become a time for our nation to remember all of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.  On this Memorial Day 2013, I am spending a relaxing day off with my family.  However, on Memorial Day 2012, my family had an awesome privilege that we will never forget.  On this day one year ago, we were here…

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Yes, we had the privilege of visiting Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day. If you have never been there, pictures and words cannot describe it. If you have been there, you know what I am talking about!  All of the ceremonies had taken place earlier in the day, and we arrived in the late afternoon and enjoyed a couple of wonderful hours there with light crowds.

Later on in our trip to Washington D.C. we visited the Vietnam Memorial.  I had always wanted to see it particularly because I have a family member whose name is one of 50,000+ inscribed on that wall.  My mom’s brother, Royce Hall, was drafted during the Vietnam War and died there.  My mom was pregnant with me when that happened, so I never had the privilege of meeting my uncle Royce. It was a great privilege to take my boys there, find his name, and spend a few minutes remembering him.  Below is a photo of Daniel tracing his name on the wall.

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On this day, Americans often say that “our freedom isn’t free” but one year ago today my family was reminded of that in a very tangible way. On this (and every) Memorial Day, we remember and we say, “Thank you” and “May God bless America.”

25 years ago – Always an Ider Hornet

22 May

During this week of graduations for our local high schools, it hit me that it was 25 years ago this week that I graduated from Ider High School…

Iderhighschool

Yes, I was part of class of 1988 at Ider High School. There were 72 of us in our graduating class. As I look at this picture of my alma mater, I am filled with great memories and joy. I don’t remember the buildings; I remember the people.  I remember my friends and classmates. I won’t even attempt to name them because I will leave someone out.  There is a special sense of belonging among those you went to high school with. Occasionally, I run into one of my classmates and it’s always a joy. We are old enough now that it doesn’t matter who was in what group or who was popular. We are just glad to see one another – no matter who it is. Unfortunately some members of our class have passed away – some due to illness and some due to tragedy.  The class of ’88 has been reminded to be thankful for every day of life.

As I look at this picture, I am reminded of just how much Ider High School has meant to my life. It was there that learned to do math and acquired critical thinking skills. It was there that I was taught to love writing.  It was there that I played sports and learned the value of hard work and being on a team. It was there that I learned to respect authority – even if I didn’t understand or agree with it.  It was there that I was taught to do my best and never settle for average. It was there that I learned to get along with people and function with others. It was there that I learned to type (yes they actually taught that!)  It was there that I learned to be self-disciplined and study.  In short, it was there that I grew up and came of age.

I will never forget Mr. Adams’ biology class or Mr. Fuller’s science class.  History with Mr. Williams, drivers ed with Coach Allday and science with Coach Daniel will be forever etched in my mind.  I can still see Mr. Hardman coming down the hall.  I can still smell the locker room of the Gordon Scott Gymnasium, hear the cheers of the pep rallies, and feel the Fall breeze as I walked up to Hardman Stadium for Friday night football. I remember yearbook staff and AP English. I remember homecoming parades, scholars bowl, and 2nd in the state drama team!  I remember the Hamricks and the Brooks families who opened their home (and their kitchen) to our entire class because they knew that teenagers needed a safe place to gather and hang out – but with adult supervision!

Were there negative things about high school. I am sure there were, but I choose to remember the best and forget the rest.  I have often said that I am thankful I grew up on Sand Mountain.  However, I want specifically and publicly to say that I am thankful I grew up in Ider, Alabama and went to Ider High School. I will always be an Ider Hornet. To any members of the class of ’88 who read this blog, I love each and every one of you, and I would love to hear from any and all of you!