Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

For the past several months, someone from our pastoral staff opened the Sunday services with what we call “the service introduction.” We’ve used this opening to set the stage for the service. Sometimes we use a short story or anecdote, and sometimes we simply call attention to the subject matter or theme of the service. Last Sunday (June 26, 2015) I opened the services with how we should respond to the U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement of its 5-4 decision that makes same-sex marriage legal. To ensure that I am clear, I am repeating that response in writing.

1. God is still sovereign. We do not need to panic. Jesus Christ remains completely and totally in charge. God is eternally sovereign and nothing can change that. This means that we should not make wild declarations about how everything is lost. In reality, not many of us were surprised that the court ruled the way it did. Our response should be that of complete trust in the Lord and that He will one day bring all things together in perfect order.

2. Marriage and sexuality has not changed. The Word is very clear. What I mean by this is that God created marriage; therefore, God alone defines marriage. No legislative body, no president, and no court can change this fact. We must continue to stand for marriage and what the Bible says about marriage. As we do so, we must be careful not to jump to conclusions as to what will happen next. Some have already concluded that pastors and priests will be forced to conduct ceremonies for same-sex couples under the threat of fines or jail time and that churches will lost their federal tax exempt status if they refuse same-sex couples to use their facilities for ceremonies. Jumping into such discussions accomplishes little and should not be the main focus of our conversations. Such conversations actually keep us offtrack and away from our main responsibility—to bring people who are far from God near to Him through the gospel so that all people might love Him.

3. We must lovingly demonstrate the love of Christ to all people — no matter how they have responded to the court’s decision. It would be very easy for us to get into a war mode. To do so actually does much disservice to the Lord and to the cause of the gospel. Make sure that the people who disagree with us do not think that we hate them. Remember, Paul of Tarsus live and served in a world completely hostile to Christ and the gospel. Obviously the government in his time offered no accommodations for Christianity. To be sure, the Roman government permitted pagan religions and, to some extent, allowed the synagogues to exists. However, when it targeted Christians for persecution, they had no place to hide. Even in such circumstances, the gospel prospered. Therefore, we must continue to communicate the gospel and not do or say anything that suggests that we are going to retreat from the world and from sharing the Good News.

4. I am calling for a service during which time we will spend time praying as we plead with God to send revival. Both services on July 5 will dedicated to this purpose. This experience will be unlike any we have had on a Sunday morning. We will have times for hearing from God’s Word, times for personal intercession, times for corporate prayers, and times for singing hymns and praises to the Lord. We know that God alone is sovereign and He alone can bring about revival and a spiritual awakening. What we can do is to position ourselves according to scripture so that He might bring about such a revival. “[I]f my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV).

I’ll be going “over the edge” with Pastors Waylon Bailey and David Crosby if Crossroads NOLA raises $30,000 on GIVE NOLA DAY — May 5.

God has used Anna Palmer, the executive director of Crossroads NOLA, along with Tyler Sandifer, the director of program management, to touch my heart concerning one of the greatest needs in our state. I had no idea that on any given day in Louisiana about 4,500 children are in need of foster care. That’s tragic enough; however, the need for foster parents falls well short of the need. My heart has been broken over the tragedy of children in such dire circumstances of abuse, abandonment, and neglect. The shortage of foster homes means that siblings can end up being separated or having to be moved a multiple of times. crossroadsnolalogoNew1

I’m grateful to the Lord that He has called out several in our church family to take the foster-parenting journey or to make this a matter of prayer to determine how we can all come to the aid of the children in need in our area. One way we can all help is to give to Crossroads NOLA on May 5.

Some of you have asked Gayla about why she’s letting me do such a thing. I will confess that I submitted to some peer pressure! However, I believe in this cause. I want you to give. I also want you to consider prayerfully how you might go further and determine how you will join in meeting the needs of some children in our area. That might come by providing support and encouragement to those in our church who will provide foster care, or might come by preparing to become a foster parent.

Give NOLA Day is Tuesday, May 5, and is hosted by the Greater New Orleans Foundation. Give NOLA Day is the community’s largest one-day, online giving event. On that day, go to givenola.org and choose Crossroads NOLA from the list of nonprofits. All money raised will be used by Crossroads NOLA to connect children to families.

I hope that the goal is reached! When it occurs, I’ll have plenty of time to get ready for “the leap” over the edge a high rise building in Baton Rouge on Friday, June 19.

 

World Vision logoThis past week has had its share of big news, not the least of which came from World Vision. On Monday, Christianity Today broke the story that World Vision’s American branch will no longer require its more than 1,100 employees to restrict their sexual activity to marriage between one man and one woman. The new policy would allow same-sex couples (I refuse to call them “married” because the Bible defines marriage as “one man and one woman”) to be employed at one of America’s largest Christian charities. World Vision U.S. president Richard Stearns asserted that the “very narrow policy change” should be viewed by others as “symbolic not of compromise but of [Christian] unity.” He hoped it would inspire unity elsewhere among Christians.

But hold on! Late Wednesday afternoon and after having weathered intense criticism from evangelical leaders, World Vision reversed its ground-breaking decision. In announcing the reversal, Stearns stated, “The last couple of days have been painful. We feel pain and a broken heart for the confusion we caused for many friends who saw this policy change as a strong reversal of World Vision’s commitment to biblical authority, which it was not intended to be. Rather than creating more unity, we created more division, and that was not the intent. Our board acknowledged that the policy change we made was a mistake…. We’re asking you to forgive us for that mistake.”

When I saw the first report of World Vision’s change of policy, I posted something like, “That was quick.” However, I have to ask, “Why did they think that they needed to take this step?” and “What were they thinking?” Clearly, I am grateful that World Vision board heeded the biblical correction they received from many.

I cannot remember the first time I heard this proverb, “A wise man learns from his mistakes, but a wiser man learns from the mistakes of others.” So what can we learn from World Vision’s mistake?

First, we must take our cues from the Word of God – not from the pressures of a culture that at its core hates God. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2). We cannot “pick and choose” which portions of the Bible that we will observe and which portions we will reject. If we are going to follow Christ, then we must follow Him completely.

Second, prior to making significant decisions that will affect others, we would do well to consult the counsel of strong, well-seasoned, faithful followers of Christ. Although World Vision made its decision through board deliberations, I have to question whether they sought the wise counsel of others. No doubt, they listened after the fact. However, World Vision’s actions will likely have a negative affect primarily on the less fortunate people they intend to help due to the potential loss of charitable giving. Though we may deceive ourselves by thinking that our decisions only affect us, rarely is that the case.

For most of my pastoral ministry, I have used Prepare/Enrich in my premarital counseling and for helping married couples to enrich their marriages. A few years ago, I became a workshop facilitator so that I could help pastors have access to this good tool. Like any tool, it’s imperfect. However, Prepare/Enrich has helped me immensely as I prepare couples for marriage. I offer a couple of these workshops each year. Here’s the information about the next one: 

Prepare/Enrich Training Workshop for pastors and counselors
Tuesday, September 17, from 9:00am until 4:00pm

Mandeville’s First Baptist Church
Follow this link for more information and to register: http://bit.ly/1dawEFB
Registration deadline is September 9, 2013.

Prepare/Enrich provides you with the leading relationship assessment tool so that you can prepare a couple for success in marriage.  Helping couples with their relationships is no easy task. How do you encourage productive conversations? How do you address issues couples have if they are not yet aware of their problems? How do you identify their relationship strengths? What relationship skills can you teach to help couples resolve current issues and prevent future problems? How can you quickly understand a couple’s needs and maximize your impact?

For over thirty years, PREPARE/ENRICH has been the #1 guide for helping couples explore and strengthen their relationships. Built on a solid research foundation, PREPARE/ENRICH has been improved and refined over the years to become one of the best, most effective, easy-to-use relationship assessment tools available. PREPARE/ENRICH is a scientifically proven program that will help you make a significant impact in the life of a premarital or married couple. Whether you are a counselor, clergy, mental health professional, mentor or relationship educator, PREPARE/ENRICH is the ideal tool to help you do your job better. As with any sophisticated assessment, you need to get trained on how to administer and interpret the results for your couples.

Get Away Trip with Gayla

Posted: August 12, 2013 in Family, Marriage, Stories, Writing

In the past four July-s, Gayla and I have seen three of our children marry wonderful spouses — our daughter, Kendal, married Colin in 2010; our son, Travis, married Rebekah last year; and last month, our daughter, Melissa, married Cameron. No matter how you tally the score, that’s three weddings in four years. Frankly, we feel come consolation in knowing that we have launched all our of our children into adulthood and into married life successfully.

Busch

With Melissa and Cameron’s wedding on July 27 and an impending international mission trip in late August, I wanted to take Gayla on a trip of our own. We had previously planned to visit Gayla’s stepbrother and his wife this summer, but with wedding preparations becoming the main priority for the summer, those plans had to wait. Since Wes and Marion live in St. Louis, I eyed a weekend in June when the Texas Rangers would play at Busch Stadium against the Cardinals. My bucket list includes visiting all the major league ballparks, so having my favorite team play in St. Louis would have been icing on the cake. However, my cake icing this year would be on a wedding cake!

However, last week Gayla and I did get to make a trip to St. Louis. We had a great time visiting the city. We took the obligatory ride to the top of the Arch and viewed the city from 630 feet. Getting into that little egg-shaped contraption just about brought me to my claustrophobic knees, buy I managed to make the descending trip as well (as if I had any choice). We visited the Missouri Botanical Garden and Forest Park. We shopped in an eclectic place filled with all kinds of furnishings and stuff that must have come from a variety of estate sales in the city. We tried interesting foods, including a Persian cafe and a Vietnamese restaurant. On our return trip, we stayed a night in Memphis and dined at one of Elvis’s favorite diners.

All in all, we had a great time visiting with family and enjoying a lot of “couple time.” By the way, we made back to our home town in time to attend the wedding of some church family members. It seemed appropriate, since the family also had ties to St. Louis. By the way, the game we watched involved the Dodgers defeating the Cardinals. But I didn’t really care who won!

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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!

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.