Archive for July, 2013

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On Saturday, our youngest daughter, Melissa, will marry Cameron at our church in Mandeville. When the Lord called us from our native state of Texas in the spring of 1994, little did Gayla and I know that we would be investing our lives in this community and in Mandeville’s First Baptist Church.

With Cameron and Melissa’s wedding, we have been blessed to have all four of children marry spouses who come from families with a godly heritage. Gayla and I instilled in our children biblical principles ever since childhood, and we continued to teach them God’s truth in every area of their living. Today, we serve as mentors to KeriBeth and Phillip, Kendal and Colin, Travis and Rebekah, and now to Melissa and Cameron. God has blessed us even more with KeriBeth and Phillip’s two sons, Barrett and Brennan. (Wow! Can they light up our lives!) I’m not sure how I will fair as the “father of the bride” and “preacher” for the last time, but I know that I will be a pile of emotions.

Gayla and I have not fully come to understand exactly how the “empty nest” life will be. Part of me believes it will great, and another part of me longs for the days when we had all four of the kids home with the hectic schedules of school, sports, and family life. One thing I know that won’t go away — the wonderful gatherings of with the family — all of us. I know that we’ll have some great holiday times together, vacation trips, Sunday dinners after church, backyard water fights, trips to the baseball field, and on and on. What a minute! This sounds like a lot more of the same that Gayla and I have enjoyed for a long time! Only with more people! Praise the Lord!

finding-a-good-churchFinding the church where God wants you to serve and worship takes patience and persistence, especially if your search coincides with a move to a new community. Sometimes people spend a lot of time trying to find the “right” church. The writer of Hebrews urged believers not to neglect meeting together with other believers so that they might encourage one another (see Heb. 10:24-25).

With so many churches and denominations, how can you determine which church you should join? How do you know which church gives you the best opportunity not only to grow spiritually but to serve God and other people? Let me offer the following to assist you by letting you know about Mandeville’s First Baptist, where I have been privileged to serve for the past nineteen years.

We believe the Bible is the inspired and infallible Word of God that speaks with final authority concerning truth, morality, and the proper conduct of mankind, is the sole and final source of all that we believe. We believe that Jesus Christ is God and that He is the only way to have a forever relationship with God.

We are an autonomous church. In other words, we belong to a denomination that is not hierarchical; therefore, this body of believers determines how it functions and operates. We are led by a staff of pastors, but the congregation makes decisions by casting votes. Sometimes we vote on matters on Sunday mornings, such as deacon elections or adopting a church budget. However, we meet on four specific times during the year on a Sunday evening to conduct what we call a “ministry meeting.” At these meetings, I recast the vision for the church. We also hear reports from the various ministry leaders. It is during these meetings,that the congregation considers and votes on recommendations from our pastors, ministries, and committees.

We belong to the Northshore Baptist Association, an association of churches in St. Tammany and Tangipahoa Parishes; the Louisiana Baptist Convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention. We participate actively in missionary endeavors locally, nationally, and internationally.

We believe that believers should participate in ministry and missions. That is why we have Life Groups for every age group in the church. Because we believe that ministry more effectively occurs in small groups, we urge everyone who comes to First Baptist to participate in a Life Group. Those who do so can study the Bible with others, experience of the encouragement through prayer and fellowship with others, and participate in ministry and missions. We challenge each of our adult Life Groups to have two ongoing mission projects – near (within St. Tammany Parish) and far (outside St. Tammany Parish).

If you are looking for a church home, let me urge you to take this challenge. Participate in a Life Group and for at least two months. You will get to others in the class and get acquainted with the teaching and the ministry of the group. Attend the Sunday service consistently during that time. You might consider attending a service at a different time, just to experience that service and to interact with others in the church. Participate in the Midweek activities. While in the summer months we do not have AWANA for the children, we do offer activities for every age group. AWANA returns with the beginning of the school.

We urge those interested in learning more about our church to come to what we call “New Member Experience.” We offer this event four or five times a year where we can enjoy a meal together, and our entire staff along with some of our members will be on hand to give you a complete overview of our ministries. We also offer to those who wish to do an opportunity to join our church at New Member Experience.

rescue

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, every day about ten people die from unintentional drowning. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the U.S. But I want to expose at least one huge misconception about drowning. Many people assume that a drowning person will splash, yell, and wave for help. After all, if you feared that you were drowning, wouldn’t you do whatever you could get let someone know?

Actually, drowning is far from obvious. A report from The Journal of U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue has identified the “Instinctive Drowning Response.” When someone is drowning, the person will instinctively display the following five characteristics:

1. Except in rare cases, drowning people are physically unable to call for help. God has designed us to breathe first and speak later.
2. Drowning people cannot stay above the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call for help.
3. Drowning people cannot wave for help. They are forced to extend their arms laterally and press down on the waters’ surface.
4. Drowning people cannot voluntarily move toward a rescuer or reach out for a piece of rescue equipment.
5. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water for 20 to 60 seconds before sinking.

The Coast Guard emphasizes that the Instinctive Drowning Response is triggered by a host of autonomic nervous system responses. In other words, it is completely involuntary, unlearned, and unavoidable.

My reason for bringing this to you has very little to do with swimming safety. Don’t get me wrong! Please make wise choices with regards to going to the beach or to the pool this summer! But I want to help us make a spiritual connection. People who are “drowning” emotionally, relationally, financially, or spiritually have a similar Instinctive Drowning Response. In other words, they often do not know how to cry for help, and unless rescued by another, they will continue to sink.

Every person has the same need. We all need salvation, and we are helpless to save ourselves. Everyone needs a Savior, and only Jesus Christ can provide the salvation each of us needs.

God loves you, and He wants you to come to know Him personally through Jesus. However, sin separates you from God, and while you may attempt to get to God through your efforts and good works, they all fall short. Jesus is the only way – “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6). You receive Jesus through faith by admitting your sin, turning from your way of thinking and living, believing that Jesus died for you on the cross, and giving Christ the control of your life.

Married Couple

After further reflection on the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic 5-4 decision that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), I have concluded that we should not have been surprised by it. By and large our secularized culture has long since adopted an Aristotelian approach to determining what is right and wrong. In other words, our society has decided that morality is individually achieved and that people get to choose for themselves what is right in their hearts. While Christians believe that God defines marriage and government recognizes it, our secularized culture believes that government defines marriage and everyone must recognize the new definition. The first approach roots in Scripture; the second roots in a prideful heart.

At the risk of offending those of the secularized mindset, and because we believe that we must root what we do in Scripture, let me offer this from the book of Proverbs, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughty spirit before a fall” (16:18) and “Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor” (18:12). It’s the haughty spirit that precedes destruction and this lies behind the Court’s decision to bury DOMA.

The preamble of the U.S. Constitution states that its purpose is to secure the “blessings of liberty.” A blessing is a statement of divine favor. How can we secure godly favor in a nation for which the godly is unconstitutional? A prideful nation by definition must be a nation that rejects the idea of a blessing.

As I see it, we still have only two options. We can turn back to where we belong and embrace the whole counsel of the Word, or we watch the continuing collapse of our nation. While I’m not optimistic about our culture, I am confident that Jesus still reigns and will call people to Himself. No culture can outstrip His ultimate authority because every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord of all (see Phil. 2:10-11). I absolutely believe that gospel can turn people and nations around. Remember that the gospel exploded in the first century in places like Ephesus, Philippi, Corinth, Athens, and Rome. No one would dare characterize these cities as nice places to raise families!

This only serves to underscore that we cannot retreat into our sequestered and Christianized communes. Rather, we must live out the gospel and willingly speak up boldly and lovingly what the gospel says. We must love our neighbors – all of them, not just the ones we think deserve our love and ministry. Our love must radical – just like that of Christ, who unconditionally loved “sinners and tax collectors.” We must remember that marriage is not incidental to the gospel preaching. The Bible makes it clear that something supernatural is involved in marriage and describes it as profound mystery (see Eph. 5:32). We must not assume that people understand the gospel foundations of marriage. Many people have become confused due to a lack of attention to what the Bible says about marriage. This has led to many people giving tacit approval to cohabitation, to a culture of divorce “if things don’t work out,” and even to the idea of homosexual marriage.