Monthly Archives: May 2015

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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Act of Approach – Leaning

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O God Above,

Occupy the throne of my heart,

Take full possession and reign supreme

Put down every rebel lust of my heart

Let no wicked passion deny your Spirit’s presence

Show your power in me through this day, and every day

And remind me that I am yours forever and ever.

You are worthy to be

praised with my every breath

loved with all my ability

served with every act of my life

You have loved me, rescued me, welcomed me

Purchased, washed clean, shown favor, and clothed me in your grace

I was still dirty with sin and spoiled by fleshly corruption

I was dead in my transgressions against you

Without eyes to see you

Nor ears to hear you

Nor understanding to know you

Yet by your Holy Spirit you made me new,

You brought me into a new world as a new creature

With spiritual understanding

And you have opened me to your Word

My Light

My Guide

My Refuge

My Joy

Your presence is to me a treasure of unending peace;

Nothing in this world can separate me from your compassionate grace

For you have drawn me close to you with unconditional love

And you keep me in that love hour by hour, every single day.

Help me O God to walk in a manner worthy of your love

Whether in my hopes, dreams, and daily occupation

Keep me close to you, because I cannot remain close by my own power

Protect me from evil and the Evil One

Let me set aside the sins that others praise as good

Help me to walk with you, leaning on your arm for strength

In the fellowship of spirit and truth

May you make me the salt of the earth and the light of Christ in the darkness

That I may honor you by being a blessing to others.

 

Adapted from  The Valley of Vision, p.84-85