Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Letter From An Ancestor

One of my ancestors was the Reverend Ebenezer Dickey Junkin. In 1880, he accepted a call from the First Presbyterian Church of Houston, Texas, to become their pastor. He and his wife left their home in Virginia and traveled to Houston to meet the people and see if the call suited them. Shortly thereafter, Rev. Junkin and his wife moved to Houston and served as their pastor.

[The following letter is from Rev. Junkin to the faithful in Houston just after he returned home to Virginia to pack up for his new job at First Presbyterian Church in Houston.]

Brownsburg, Virginia

August 31, 1880

To the Members of the First Presbyterian Church, Houston, Texas

My Dear Brethren:

Through the loving care of our Heavenly Father, I have had a safe and very pleasant journey to my old home, and a very happy meeting with my love ones here. I found all of my family in excellent health, and all gathered under the roof where, for nearly twenty years, we have lived so happily together. Truly the Lord has been very good to me and mine; and I do, from my heart, thank Him for it all.

On the first Sabbath after my return, I worshipped with the people to whom I so long ministered, and was most cordially welcomed back by them. I heard Dr. Vaughn, their pastor elect, preach. But the joy of meeting these loved ones and of worshipping again in the old Church was saddened by the constant thought of the necessary breaking up and the long and far separation. Very dear ties are to be broken, and I do dread the final parting. Still my heart continually goes out toward you who constitute my new charge, and I feel that already most tender ties have been formed, which I trust will ever grow stronger and stronger the more we get to know each other and the longer my pastorate among you lasts. During my short sojourn among you, I not only began to love you and to feel a very great interest in your spiritual welfare, but to appreciate, in some degree, the greatness and the vast importance of the work to which the Lord has called me in your midst. It is truly a great work, and involving vast responsibilities. Indeed I am appalled by the greatness and the difficulty of the work, and could not undertake it, but for the good promise of the Master = "I will be with you always." The firm persuasion I have that He has called me to this field, gives me very great comfort; for having that I am assured that all needed grace and strength will be given [to] me. But I want to say to you, that in order to the success of my ministry among you - you must work with me. And just to the degree that every member of the Church does work and work earnestly and heartily with me will the Church and the cause of Christ be prospered. The Church can prosper only when the mutual duties of Pastor and People are faithfully performed, and when Pastor and People are actuated by love to Christ and to the souls of men, for Christ's sake, realize their responsibilities and endeavor in the fear of God to discharge them.

There is a very great work to be done in Houston by the Presbyterian Church. Upon me, as your pastor, will rest, of course, the main responsibility to that work; but I know and you know that I cannot do all of it. You must help me. The ways in which you can help me are many. I need not attempt to enumerate them to you, for if you each truly wish thus to help, and ask the Lord what He would have you do, I doubt not that He would indicate to each his or her work. I may, however, throw out one or two hints in reference to this matter. It is a very great help to a pastor to see the people prompt and punctual in attendance upon the public services of the Church, whether on Sabbath or week day. Let nothing interfere with you in this matter. But not only by your own presence can you help and encourage your Pastor; you can, by you[r] personal influence persuade others to attend those services and thus bring them under the influence of the truth. Do not let others keep you from the services of God's house, but do you take them to those services. There is very much of this kind of work to be done in Houston, and which you can do more efficiently and easier than I can do it. There are many families and individuals upon whom you can exert an influence which will draw them to attend our Church. Let there be no divisions among you; put all mere personal preferences and interests in subordination to the interest of Christ's Church. Consult ever the peace and unity and prosperity of the Church, and let no mere personal matters interfere to warp your judgment or influence your conduct. Remember it is Christ's own blood-bought Church whose interests you are called upon to keep ever in view. My prayers daily ascend for you, that the richest blessings from above may rest upon you and that God may revive His cause among you. Sabbath after Sabbath especially, and Tuesday evening after Tuesday evening will I meet with you in spirit, and my prayers will mingle with yours as they ascend to the Heavenly Throne. May the God of all grace keep you and bless you and cause His face to shine upon you. May He cure any that are sick and may He comfort any who mourn. Pray for me that I may be kept in safety and blessing and be brought back to you fitted for the great work.

I am truly your Servant in Christ Jesus,


Is It Dead Yet?

Outside the administration building is a large pot containing the dead remnants of a plant. The plant has been gone for some time now, and it looks depressing as one enters the main office of our church. So I decided to dig it up and plant something new.

Imagine my surprise when I dug the old plant up and discovered caladium bulbs hiding just beneath the surface. They were not the same as the obviously dead plant, but they weren't doing anything either. I carefully replanted them, added some Miracle-Gro plant fertilizer, and watered them. They quickly burst through the soil, and now the pot is beginning to look pretty good...a VERY different "first impression" for anyone entering the office.

It makes me think of this church. To follow the metaphor: is it dead yet? We have had many hardships here at Heritage, and now the property is for sale (you can't miss the LARGE sign out by the road). If all you notice is the obvious, you would miss the hidden "bulbs" beneath the surface just waiting for someone to give them a little attention, a little tender loving care.

And as soon as we do, what will bloom? I guess we will have to keep our eyes open and that plant but watch this church too!

Dying To Self

I worked for a boss in Austin years ago who gave me a copy of this. I haven't seen it or thought about it in a long time, but it still resonates with me. Hope it does with you too!

- Pastor Mark


When you are forgotten, or neglected, or purposely set at naught, and you don't sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ - THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take in all in patient, loving silence - THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any impunctuality, or any annoyance; when you stand face-to- face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility-and endure it as Jesus endured - THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When you are content with any food, any offering, any climate, any society, any raiment, any interruption by the will of God - THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good works, or itch after commendations, when you can truly love to be unknown - THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy, nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances - THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself and can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart - THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

Are you dead yet? In these last days, the Spirit would bring us to the cross.

"That I may know Him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death." Philippians 3:10

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