Archive for the ‘Pastor’ Category

9781e9e0-c634-698e-112d-5c720e4c6430_TWDS4_Gallery_Rick-Fen.jpgA recent article in the Wall Street Journal says, “By all observable metrics, zombies are totally hot right now.” Another article claims that zombies have become “outrageously, staggeringly, mindblowingly popular … Not only do they top best-seller lists and video games and the iPad, the undead dominate television, too.” With nearly 16 million viewers, The Walking Dead, AMC’s hit TV show about a world dominated by flesh-eating zombies, nearly outperformed the 2014 Winter Olympics. World War Z, a movie about a zombie apocalypse starring Brad Pitt, has so far grossed over $540 million.

So what’s the big deal with this zombie craze? One expert on zombie lore, Dr. John Ulrich, Professor of English at Mansfield University, says, “At its most elemental level, of course, the zombie represents our fear of death.” Stephen Marche, a cultural critic who writes for Esquire magazine agrees, but as an atheist Marche offers some honest thoughts about zombies and our death-fears. In his article titled “Why Zombies Are Everywhere Now,” Marche writes:

“After seeing dozens of zombie movies, I’m convinced that the reason zombies are so powerful is that they capture an atheistic fear of the dead. I don’t just mean the fear of dead bodies, though that fear is there, too … materialistic atheism … does not provide a very comforting way to deal with the dead. Christians and others have prayer and visions of an afterlife … Atheists like myself have rotting corpses and oblivion. And zombie movies” [Esquire, 6/19/13].

While I do not wish to draw attention to the subject of zombies or the variety of unusual subject matter in recent movie releases, I believe that believers should capitalize on our culture’s focus on these matters. These are clear indications that many people in our culture want answers to the questions that are on their hearts. However, they cannot know the truth unless God draws them to Himself, and they cannot respond to God’s truth unless someone tells them.

Therefore, we must pray for those we know who do not know God through Jesus Christ. We must be ready to share how Jesus changed our lives (a less than 2-minute testimony) and how they can know God through Christ themselves. I believe that God wants all people to come to know Him; however, He has chosen to use people to carry this out.

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.

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.

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.

marriage

Last Wednesday (June 26, 2013) the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision made rulings that evangelicals hoped would not occur but came as no real surprise based on the past forty years of the court’s actions. I want to offer some analysis for us to consider how we should respond. First, we must recognize that marriage is not merely a public good or a “culture war” political issue. Marriage is a gospel mystery as the Bible tells us (cf. Eph. 5:32). When marriage falters, the gospel is eclipsed. On the other hand, the conversation about marriage gives the church the opportunity to point to a different word, the mystery of Christ (cf. Eph. 3:4).

Second, consider this important aspect of the court’s ruling that may offer some hope. For example, the Court left intact Section 2 of the Defense of Marriage Acts, which gives states the right to refuse to recognize same-sex marriage performed in other states. Currently, Louisiana is one of 36 states with such laws. In other words, the right to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman is preserved. The Court did not find a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

Third, the critical role of man-woman marriage is not diminished by the Court’s rulings. The essential need for children to have both a married mother and father is not diminished by the opinions.

What should we do?
Do not despair or become angry. Jesus taught that marriage has existed as a male/female one flesh union “from the beginning” (Matt. 19:18). Regardless of what any culture does to redefine it or minimize it, marriage will stand. Keep this mind: no government bureaucracy invented marriage and no government bureaucracy can reinvent it either.
Love your neighbors – all of them. No matter what their lifestyle may be, they are not your enemies. They are your neighbors. Remember that Jonah was sent to speak God’s message to his enemies. Your neighbors are seeking a way that seems best to them. Be kind and respect all people because they bear the image of God.
Teach biblically on the integrity of marriage. 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.
Take steps that our policies and procedures line up with the Scriptures. Earlier this year, I addressed this with our deacons. A team has been working on some changes to our bylaws that will specifically address these issues. No one at the time the church constitution and bylaws were adopted ever expected to need to address such matters. These changes will be discussed with our deacons at their next meeting. Hopefully, we will have something for the congregation to begin considering at the next quarterly ministry meeting.

You have no doubt had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. Telling someone – anyone who will listen – how busy you are has become the default response when someone asks, “How are you doing?” Answers to that question might be: “Busy!” or “So busy” or even “Crazy busy.” Actually these are boasts disguised as complaints, which invariably lead to stock responses of congratulations: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite!”

With the end of summer, I suppose we shift the summer busyness of going places, going to work, planning trips, and getting ready for the return of school. Now we find ourselves busy with returning to school, returning to a more regular schedule, planning other things around football games, and looking forward to the Labor Day weekend (first break from drag of the school schedule).

Busyness serves as a kind of hedge against emptiness. Obviously, your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. The obvious conclusion we make is that if we are busy because of our own ambition or drive or anxiety, because we are addicted to busyness and dread what we might have to face in its absence.

I’m worried about us. We have become so busy as a people that we have squeezed God out. For many, all that has been reserved for Him is a weekly or even less time to meet with Him in church – unless, of course, something else comes up! I have found that the most important thing in life is daily time with God. When we do not make time for Him, we miss so much. Furthermore, we don’t accomplish nearly as much as we think we do.

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

When you consider what is happening in our nation, you know that we are in trouble. The continued assaults on the truth have steadily worn many down. Many now have turned away and give support to beliefs and practices that run counter to teaching of God’s Word. They even cite scriptural references to defend their twisted ideas. Nothing short of the miraculous move of God’s Spirit can change the downward spiral of our country.

Would you join me in praying for such an awakening? Would you join me in a spending time with God, listening to Him speak to you through His Word by His Holy Spirit? I heard Rod Masteller, then the president of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, say back in November, “We must do all we can, so that God will do only what He can do.” We need a supernatural movement of God.

Extending an invitation for response to a biblical message gives listeners the opportunity to respond to the activity of the Holy Spirit. While some preachers have used a variety of methods to get a public response, we should recognize that the Holy Spirit does not need man’s help to do so. The man who stands in the pulpit and tries to get people to jump through hoops to walk the aisle stands as a manipulator, not a preacher. Obviously, we want to see the unsaved converted by God, not emotional responses as a result of the manipulation of man.

Both the Old and New Testaments agree that God alone enables salvation by giving the ability to repent and turn from sin. In fact, every spiritual act requires divine enabling.

Because the Holy Spirit does not need our help, we simply need to preach the Word with integrity, extend the invitation with integrity, and trust the Holy Spirit for the results. Jesus offered a simple call to follow Him. When Jesus called His disciples, He said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). On another occasion, Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Jesus extended an urgent appeal for the lost to come to salvation in this public proclamation, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). When Peter preached at Pentecost, he extended a public invitation for the people to come and “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). So we do not need to resort to manipulative tactics to get people to respond. Rather, we should preach the Word with integrity, extend the invitation with integrity, and trust the Holy Spirit for the results.

In my preaching ministry, I will continue to extend an invitation at the conclusion of the message for these biblical reasons. First, this practice permeates the Scriptures. In addition to those noted previously, consider this sampling from the Old and New Testaments – Isaiah 1:18; Hosea 6:1; John 6:37; Acts 3:19; Revelation 22:17. Second, it promotes the sovereignty of God. God works through the preached Word to regenerate the dead. An invitation demonstrates expectancy for God to move in His sovereignty among the hearers.

Third, it emphasizes the moral responsibility of man. According to Scripture, man has the responsibility to repent and believe (Acts 2:38), and confess Christ as Lord. Note, also, the public nature of this response in Jesus’ words: “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32-33). Finally, it demonstrates an urgent desire for people to come to salvation. Jesus stood up on the last day of the feast, and, with urgency, extended a public invitation for the lost to come and be saved (John 7:37). In these last days, we should have urgency in our hearts to see the lost saved. We ought to be publicly calling all who are thirsty to come and follow Jesus. Therefore, let us preach with integrity, extend the invitation with integrity and trust the Holy Spirit for the results.