Marshmallows and Temptations

At Stanford University in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, a psychology professor named Walter Mischel designed a test to explore the nature of temptation in the human mind. Many of you may have heard of or seen this before, but Mischel’s series of experiments have become known simply as “The Marshmallow experiment.” It’s a very simple concept: a plate with a marshmallow on it is placed in front of a child, and an adult tells them, “you can eat this now, or you can wait until I come back, and I’ll give you a second marshmallow.”

Of course, children don’t realize that they’re being filmed, so their actions are quite telling. You can find plenty of videos of this test being done, but the following is particularly funny:

It’s definitely adorable to see how kids react in this situation (especially the little brother and sister’s conversation), but I think there’s also some things we can take from this to understand our own interaction with temptations. In particular, there are two distinct thoughts about temptation I want to share.

  1. Temptation begins with the smallest step. We lie to ourselves and think, “Maybe if I just got a taste, then I’d be satisfied.” Notice how many of the children in the video stare at their marshmallow intently, pick it up, and either take just the smallest nibble or even just lick it. They just want the smallest indulgence, thinking that it will satisfy. Of course, as we all know, taking just a taste doesn’t really satisfy, it only increases the craving.

It reminds me of the old Lay’s potato chip commercials taunted us with the phrase “bet you can’t eat just one!” Of course you can’t. That first taste only makes you want another, and another, and before you know it the whole bag is gone. We do the same thing with sins. We think to ourselves, “Only one time can’t hurt, right?” But then that one time opens the floodgates, and things go downhill quickly.

  1. Temptation is tougher when we think no one is watching. I think this might be my favorite part of this video. I love how often these kids are clearly dealing with the temptation to eat their marshmallow, and they crane their necks to look at the door. You can see the thoughts in their minds: “Hmm…I wonder if she’s about to come back, or will I not be found out if I go ahead and eat this thing?”

I know we do the same thing in our own temptations. Something that would not be an issue at all if we were in public suddenly becomes this looming temptation when we’re alone. Sin likes to work in the darkness, and the best way to expose it is to put it to light. When our struggles become public, when we have accountability, when we know someone else will know, it becomes a little bit easier to avoid that temptation.

We all struggle with the temptation to sin. But there’s hope. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Cor 10:13). You’re not the only one going through it. And there will always be a way out. And when we do fall, when we do mess up, there is forgiveness and grace. Our Savior lived the human life. He was tempted in every way we are. He is sympathetic to our situation, and his mercy and grace are boundless.

Sin is sin because it’s bad for us. It goes against God’s perfect design for our lives. Giving in to sin is like eating the first marshmallow because it’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s convenient. But if we stay strong, if we endure through the temptation, something much greater awaits. Jesus said that he came so that we may have life and have it abundantly. Abundant, full life is life without sin. Let us patiently endure and wait for that instead. I can promise you this: it’s better than a couple of marshmallows.

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Awareness Test

I have a quick video to test your awareness today. See how well you do!

 

So how did you do?

This ad was to help remind motorists that they should be on the lookout for cyclists when driving. Turning to us spiritually, how often do you keep an eye out for what God’s doing in your life? Are you taking time to stop and thank God for all that he’s done, or are you so concentrated on little things that you miss the moonwalking bear?

I was doing some reading on coincidence last week. According to one author I was reading, the word coincidence appears once in the Bible. The word is translated from the Greek word synkyrian, a combination of sun meaning “together with,” and kurious meaning “supreme in authority.”

The author goes on to say a Biblical definition of coincidence could be, “what occurs together by God’s providential arrangement of circumstances.”

Today, take a moment to think about what has happened this week. Where have you seen God at work in your life?

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Note that God isn’t promising a life of ease, rather, a life where everything is working for the glory of God and our good. God may use a bad situation in our lives to bring us closer to him.

In all things, give praise to God. Look for his goodness in the highs and lows, and share them with your family!

If you want to read more about looking for God in your life, check this post out.

Thou My Best Thought

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On Sunday, June 7, we (FBC Baton Rouge) began another summer of teaching through the book of Psalms.  We’ve been working through the Psalms for 12 weeks each summer, and this year we will be studying Psalms 49-60. This is both an enjoyable and challenging task, as the Psalms expose for us the raw nature of human emotion in the context of trials, sin, repentance, worship, confession, friendship, and obedience to God. Each Psalm reflects in its own way just how so many Christian believers feel and think when we consider our relationship with God and the world in which we live. The book of Psalms can help us understand how to worship God properly, even in the midst of difficulty and trouble, as the poetic words guide us to a deeper understanding of God’s grace and sovereignty.

Each week, I will use this space to recap a little of the message that was given the previous Sunday, and then a short prayer guide to help us pray through the Psalms together. I pray that this will not only be helpful for you personally, but that it will also contribute to the fellowship and unity of our church family as we are praying for the same things, for ourselves and for each other.

Psalm 49 – Thou My Best Thought

No amount of worldly gain can prevent the certainty of death. (v.5-9)

While there are a number of ways we can gain and leverage our wealth and accomplishments for our own benefit and comfort, or we can use them to support and advance the spread of the gospel message, there is nothing that our earthly gains will do for us when we face the certainty of death. The Psalmist reminds us in v. 5-9 that death comes to all (wise, foolish, stupid), and there is nothing that any man can pay to ransom his own life or the life of another. What would you pay to God to save yourself from death? Would you even have enough to give to him? The Psalmist tells us that our lives are costly and we don’t have the sufficient funds to pay the ransom ourselves. The warning here is to be cautious that our worldly goods do not lead us to believe that we’ve attained a pardon from the grave.

Our only hope of rescue from eternal death is the mercy of God. (v.10-15)

Because the reality of death is something we can ALL be certain of, we must then deal with the weight of that reality in a reasonable way; and I would say in the only way that gives us any kind of hope. Since we do not have the resources to ransom ourselves from death, we must look outside of ourselves to someone else. The man who does not understand the desperation of his own need for redemption, will die just as certainly as the beasts of the field, yet with the sins of arrogance and ignorance in his heart. This kind of death is not just a physical one, but one that leads to shame and suffering after we die. If we spend our lives accumulating wealth for ourselves and for our own security, the full terror of Sheol awaits. But, there is good news in the face of certain death. This good news is that God ransoms people from Sheol and the certainty of eternal death (v.15). By his mercy and grace, God saves sinners (Ephesians 2:4-6), as we trust in Jesus Christ, because that is exactly what Jesus came to do (Mark 10:45). The result of the ransom payment that Jesus makes on our behalf to make us children of God is rejoicing, praise, and honor of God’s mercy. The result is the glorification of a merciful and gracious God.

While mankind was made for glory, there is glory in only 1 house – the house of the living God.  (v.16-20) The man who pursues wealth and prosperity in this world is seeking his own glory, and he will come to find that the glory he had in this life will NOT follow him to the grave. His glory does not “go down with him” (v.17), and he leaves his wealth and his possession to others. Therefore, he has no glory nor does he have any leverage with God. All he has is himself and whatever he trusted in while he lived. Apart from faith in God, there is only shame. But for those who trust in God, and who believe in Jesus Christ as their all-sufficient ransom from eternal death (1 Peter 1:18-19), they will receive glory. They will experience the glory of God in all its fullness, and they will be satisfied (Psalm 17:15, 73:24). This is our great hope in Jesus Christ.

There is so much temptation and often doubt associated with such high and lofty truths. We can easily be distracted by the things of this world, or we can grow fearful that others are acquiring much material gain and using their wealth to influence those around them. While this has always happened and will continue to happen in this world until Jesus returns, the people of God do not lose heart nor do we fret and worry over the worldly accomplishments of others. We set our hearts and minds on Christ, who is our hope. He is the highest, greatest , and most gloriously beautiful thought that any of us could entertain or conceive.  He is our BEST thought.

So how do we pray through the wisdom and promises of Psalm 49?

  1. Start with who God is. He is the all-wise, always present Lord and King, apart from whom we have no wisdom or understanding of truth. Praise God for who he is.
  2. Pray for your own heart, that you will be able to recognize when you are tempted to pursue worldly wealth and pleasures for the sake of your own satisfaction and comfort.
  3. Ask God to give you strength and faith to trust in him rather than in the things of this world. Recall the hope you have in the gospel and confess to God your need for his redemption.
  4. Surrender to God any self-sufficiency that has taken root in hour heart, which has given you a false assurance of your standing before God. Remember that your worldly gains have not actually gained you anything with God. Death is certain and you cannot prevent it.
  5. Thank God for Jesus Christ, your ransom payment and redeemer of your soul. Praise God that Jesus Christ has ransomed you from Sheol and given you hope beyond the grave. Think about Jesus, and all the ways that he is (right now!) working in your life to make you holy.
  6. Pray for wisdom as you seek to live for God’s glory and not your own. Ask God to help you to develop contentment in your heart concerning the pursuits of this world, so that you do not chase after “things” to justify your life, but rather be content in having Christ and the life that gives to those who trust him.

Restoration Church VBS 2015

What an amazing week! For the second year, we’ve teamed up with Restoration Church in Donaldsonville to help put on an amazing Vacation Bible School. A big thank you goes out to all the volunteers who came and gave their time and talent and prayers! Seeds were planted and I’m excited to see what God has in store for those young people.

Here’s just a brief look at Restoration Church, their mission field, and the work God did this week:

And here are some more pictures of all the action!

Over a year ago, the church was told that the building they currently occupy would be sold. Pastor Jamie asks that you pray for clarity and direction when and if the time comes to have to make some decisions. But, like the kids discovered this week, they know God has the power to provide any resources they might need!

Thank you, Restoration Church, for allowing us to work with you to spread the gospel in our area!

Act of Approach – Need of Jesus

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LORD Jesus,

I am blind, be my light and vision,

ignorant, be my wisdom and understanding

self-willed, be my mind and desire

Open my ear to grasp quickly your Spirit’ voice,

and delightfully run to take hold of His hand.

Dissolve my conscience that no hardness against you remains,

make it aware to the slightest touch of evil.

When Satan comes near, help me flee to your cross

and there calm my fears and trembling.

Be my Good Shepherd

lead me into the green pastures of your Word,

and cause me to lie down near the river of comfort in your presence,

Fill me with peace, that no noisy, worldly shouts can disturb the quiet you give my soul,

Your cross was raised to be my refuge,

Your blood flowed down to wash me clean,

Your death occurred to give me assurance,

Your name is my greatest hope to be saved;

By your grace all of heaven is poured into my heart;

but my heart is too narrow to comprehend your love.

I was a stranger, an outcast, a slave, a rebel,

but your cross has brought me near, and

has softened my heart,

has made me a child of God my Father,

has adopted me into your family,

has made me a joint-heir with You

O that I would love you as you love me,

that I would walk worthy of you, my Lord and Savior,

that I might reflect the image of you, heaven’s first-born Son.

May I always see your beauty with the clear eyes of faith,

and feel the power of your Spirit in my heart,

for unless you move with might in me,

no inward fire of faith will be kindled.

 

Adapted from Valley of Vision, p.186-817

Hawaii Mission Trip

I have had the amazing opportunity to find a home-away-from-home at FBC for the past few years. This church has encouraged me in my faith, provided me my best friends, and given me the chance to go spread the love of Christ. Our annual Hawaii mission trip has been one of the highlights of my time here because this trip truly touches our lives. Our partnership with the Church in Hawaii not only blesses their ministries, it also encourages our own walks with Christ. I hope everyone has time to hear some of our stories from our trip, but I have also put together a short video of our trip this year. Thank you so much for your support through financial aid, donations, and prayer; this trip wouldn’t have been possible without you!

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Go To Church?

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24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

“Time to get up! It’s time to get ready for church!” That is usually the first message I preach on Sunday mornings, before I ever enter the pulpit to declare God’s truths to the family of FBC Baton Rouge. My very first pleading is with my own children to wake up, eat breakfast, and get dressed because “we are going to church.” This is a message I heard growing up in my own home. My parents were sure to have the entire family in Bible study and worship every Sunday. Barring some unforeseen sickness or circumstance, we had a pretty high attendance rate at church throughout my childhood. And I am eternally grateful to my parents for their faithfulness to do so. Once I was in college, I continued to attend church regularly, depending on which family members that Ginger and I were visiting that weekend. Since I became a youth pastor and entered the ministry many years ago, it’s been a given that we are going to church. In fact, much of our life as a family today revolves around the life of the church, which is the nature of being a pastor.  We love it and wouldn’t trade it for anything. But I’ve noticed something in my own children recently that has caused me to think more deeply on what it means to go to church: they don’t ask me why we go to church. They just go. They get up and they get ready and we go together. Our weekly trek to FBC in downtown Baton Rouge is a given every single week, and there isn’t any question or discussion about it. That concerns me somewhat because I don’t want my children to think that we attend worship and Bible study simply because I am the pastor of the church; I want them to know why we believe it is important and necessary for EVERY BELIEVER to make “going to church” a high priority. Of course, I cannot just pull some made up reasons out of thin air and make them truth; we have to go to the Bible and see why God says the church is His plan and his desire for us (notice the scripture references along the way!). Yes, I know “going to church” is a bit of a misnomer, because we “are” the church. But for the sake of this article, let us understand that going to church means regularly attending worship and bible study with other Christian believers. I want to give you 3 reasons why we go to church.

Surrendering to Jesus

Your regular, uncompromising commitment to a local church is one glaring piece of evidence that you are surrendered to Jesus.  I know there are likely many people who do not trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord yet they regularly attend worship at a local church. They may even give evidence that they know Christ, but in the end they will be found out to be frauds (Matthew 13:24-30). BUT, there are also some who are genuine believers and faithful ones of God who truly trust in Christ for salvation; they are the saints of God who have given their lives to Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:2). Therefore they have committed to a local church as a testimony of their faith in Jesus. As messy as it may be at times, the church is God’s design and Jesus died to create a people for himself (1 Peter 2:9-10), which the world will not overcome (Matthew 16:18). So we tell the world of our love for Jesus by joining his church and by attending Bible study and worship and service opportunities and fellowships as mission trips as often as possible.  You go to church because you are surrendered to Jesus.

Grace and truth

The church exists to glorify God. But we cannot exalt the name of God until our hearts are right with him by faith in Jesus Christ. So, we need to hear what God has to say in order to know how he expects us to live. This happens in the church when the Word of God is proclaimed unapologetic-ally, declaring the truths of God with grace for all those who hear. We attend Bible study and worship to have our souls challenged and uplifted; to be corrected and encouraged (2 Timothy 3:16-17). No one who goes to church is ever “just fine”, and to believe that is a delusion (Romans 3:23). Every time we step into that Sunday School classroom or sanctuary, we are admitting that we need something. We need truth to correct our sinful inclinations, to sustain us in trouble, to comfort us in grief, and to move us out of our seats and into the world that needs the gospel. But we do not only declare cold truths to people then leave them on their own to figure it out. We declare the grace of God’s salvation extended to sinners like us, and his continued, daily work of sanctifying his people for his glory (John 17:17). We confess that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9-10) and that he is with us every single day. We admit that we are NOT all put together and completely healthy, but we are striving toward the goal of Christ-likeness (Philippians 3:12-13), by God’s grace and rooted in our belief in the eternal Word of God. We go to church to hear from God, to see Jesus, and to fellowship in the Spirit with other Christian believers. We believe the truth as we walk in grace by faith in Jesus our Lord (John 1:14).

Loving the Bride of Christ

Finally, we go to church because we love God’s people. I’ve grown so very weary of hearing all the reasons why the church is so bad. You know what, I agree. The church is so bad, that Jesus had to give his live to save her and to make her what she will be One Day. What’s more is that he loves his church as much today as he will then. The church is HIS; fully, completely, and forever! As a result of Jesus’ great love for his people, we are compelled to love his people as well. So, we are saved and called to love the church. Despite all of her shortcomings, she is the Bride of Christ. In fact, you can’t tell me that you love Jesus but despise his bride. To love Christ is to love what he gave his life to save.  One of the first evidences of a redeemed life is one that loves the church. Jesus said that the world would know that we love Him because we love each other (John 13:34-35, 15:12-17) and the New Testament church was commanded to love one another as evidence of their salvation (Galatians 5:13, Ephesians 4:2, Hebrews 10:24, 1 Peter 1:22, 1 John 4:7). Do you love the people of God? If so, then get up and go to church.

This is why we gather every Sunday morning – to tell our brothers and sisters in Christ that we love them, that Jesus loves them, and that there is plenty of room at the cross of Christ for all the hurting, broken, suffering, confused, and weary sinners of our city.

So, get up and go to church! It is a grace of God for his glory and for the good our souls. Let us never take for granted what we have in our church family.

 

Confronting the Me Monster

I’m currently doing a Bible study with some other members of our church based around Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges. Here’s the description:

“As Christians, we believe that all sins are considered equal in God’s eyes. Yet while evangelicals continue to decry the Big Ones–such as abortion, adultery, and violence–we often overlook more deceptive sins. It seems we have created a sliding scale where gossip, jealousy, and selfishness comfortably exist within the church. In short, some sins have simply become acceptable.”

Sins like anger, envy, jealousy. It’s been an interesting read, and I find myself discovering more about putting sin to death in my life.

The last chapters we covered dealt with pride and selfishness. Bridges says, “We are born with a selfish nature…Even after we become Christians, we still have the flesh that wars against the Sprit, and one of its expressions is selfishness.”

It’s easy to say to yourself that you’re not selfish and prideful, or at least not as selfish or prideful as others…and then as soon as you think that, you realized you are guilty of being selfish and prideful.

We’re called to love others, but it’s hard to do that when we’re focused on yourself. You want to be the center of attention. Even if we’re not fully expressing it, our hearts can be just like this guy…

Romans 12:3 says, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

I forgot where I heard it, but I heard an analogy that stuck with me to this day and I wanted to share it with you. Pretend your life is a movie. People go wrong when they assume they are the star of the movie, that they are the main character, turning to God only when they need help… sort of like if you were Cinderella and God was the Fairy Godmother.

Here’s the right way to think about this. If life is a movie, Jesus is the star. Everything in the movie relates to God’s glory. We just get the amazing opportunity to be extras in this spectacular production.

How many times have you heard the story of David and Goliath? Question: In this Bible passage, who represents you? Are you David, overcoming giants with God’s help? Are you Goliath, causing trouble?

Check out this short cartoon by Adam4d for what I think is a great view on this classic Bible passage.

Pride and selfishness is something we have to deal with every day. Thankfully, God helps us fight that battle. And remember, the war has already been won!

Want to talk to your preteens about pride and selfishness? Luke 14:7-14 is a great place to start. Discuss Jesus’ advice and if they have seen something like this in their life. You can have your kids try to draw out comics, write a poem, or come up with a short play that represent Proverbs 29:22-23 or 1 Peter 5:5. Make sure you join in as well!

Holy and Glory

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

During our Bible and Music (BAM!) Wednesday night services for the kids, we’ve been covering the book of Genesis with a focus what it means to be holy. Your kids are discovering that holy means being distinct or set apart. God is holy because only he is perfect.

Our memory verse for the series is Leviticus 19:2, “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”

Last Sunday, Pastor Oren started a series on assurance and salvation. Pastor reminds us of this truth: God is for the glory of his name…the glory of God is the goal in salvation. If you missed the sermon, I encourage you to watch it here.

So on one end we have the holiness of God and on the other end we have the glory of God. Where do the two meet?

In his sermon, What is God’s Glory, John Piper tries to do the impossible task of defining the glory of God in some way that we may comprehend using God’s holiness. First, take a look at Isaiah 6:3, “And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

“…the glory of God is the manifest beauty of his holiness. It is the going public of his holiness. It is the way he puts his holiness on display for people to apprehend. So the glory of God is the holiness of God made manifest,” says Piper. “Listen to this word from Leviticus 10:3. God says: I will be shown to be holy among those who are near me and before all the people I will be glorified. I will be shown to be holy. And among all the people, say it another way, I will be glorified. So to see, to apprehend and to reckon with his holiness and in some sense perceive it is to see glory and, thus, to glorify him.”

How does this all tie in together? I think Clint Nauta (our BAM time leader, among many other things) summed it up beautifully in three sentences:

God requires holiness (Leviticus 19:2)…this is glorious.

We are not holy (Romans 3:23)…this is terrifying.

Jesus is our holiness (1 Corinthians 1:28-31)…this is liberating.

Our kids’ memory verse, Leviticus 19:2,  is referenced later in the Bible, in 1 Peter 1:13-16, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Peter is talking to believers, those who follow Jesus. This was a call for God’s people to be set apart from sin to serve God. Jesus is our holiness, and as such, we are set apart from sin to serve God for his glory (Matthew 5:16).

A question for you today. Read 1 Peter 4:10-11 and 1 Corinthians 10:31. What spiritual gifts or God-given talents do you have that you can honor God by using?

In the end, God gets all the glory. In our salvation and what we do afterwards…or even if we choose not to follow Jesus. No matter what, our holy God will get the glory.

Our Future Hope

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5

This morning Oren, Jason, and I were able to attend the Baton Rouge Downtown Development District meeting, which is focused on sharing the news of upcoming developments in downtown life. There were reports of new construction, of old buildings being renovated, of upcoming events and concerts, etc. But one of the most exciting things discussed at the meeting was the development of a “greenway,” a designated walking and bike path with green space and plant life around it. Along with the greenway—which was just completed through Expressway Park and is in the works for East and North Boulevards—other playground and basketball court improvements were officially opened at a ribbon cutting ceremony in Expressway Park this morning. All in all, the DDD and BREC members who were presenting this morning were excited to talk about the future of Baton Rouge’s space in and around downtown.

In the air there was genuine excitement over the future of city developments and parks and business and restaurants and restored buildings and—ultimately—life around downtown. There was a sense of hopefulness, an air of “things haven’t always been great, but we’re going to make them better, one step at a time.” And as a resident of Baton Rouge and an employed member of the downtown workforce, I think it’s absolutely wonderful. I found myself caught up in the excitement and the hope of it all.

While walking to the Ribbon cutting, Bro. Oren saw a sign for something called “Genesis 360,” and made a comment about Genesis 3 and the Garden of Eden. It was half joke and half commentary, but his comment was basically, “Ever since the angel came and guarded the entrance to the Garden in Genesis 3, we’ve been trying to rebuild and recreate that perfect place.” It was a nice quip in light of the morning’s events, but it resonated with me. Isn’t that what we do as humans? Aren’t we so quick to latch on to hope, to imagine how great things could possibly be, to dream of a future as perfect as our collective past in the Garden?

I think it stuck out to me so much because in the end, we do have a hope. We have a hope greater than any new business or new park or new green space could ever bring. As Peter says here in 1 Peter 1, we have a “new birth into a living hope.” Our inheritance, our future place with Christ, can never perish. It’s not in danger, it can’t spoil or fade. One of the reasons there’s so much excitement about new development in Baton Rouge is because the future of our city is not permanent. We can work to make it better, yes, but if we don’t it could just as easily fall apart. Just as easily as we can rejoice in development and life our dreams can turn to disrepair and death.  But as Christians, our hope is 100% secure. How much more should we celebrate then! How much more should we revel in this hope, in this security! Like Peter says, praise be to God for this hope!

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