Category Archives: Culture

A Proven Word


As most people in our church family at FBCBR already know, as do many of my friends and immediate family, I am a big fan of Charles H. Spurgeon. The 19th century world-renown preacher and Baptist pastor of the London Metropolitan Tabernacle stands as a giant in my eyes. His ability to simultaneously preach accurately and expositionally God’s Holy Word and illustrate its power and truth for everyday life amazes me every time I read his works. Recently I picked up a small volume of Spurgeon’s works entitled The Greatest Fight in the World, which happens to be the final book he completed before his death. In it Spurgeon writes to the young men of his pastors college, encouraging them in the proven truth and power of God’s Word, the spiritual armor of the Lord for every believer, and the strength for the Christian in Christ Jesus. Below is a glimpse into Spurgeons heart and mind, as he upheld the life-changing nature and reliability of the gospel while openly challenging the emptiness of worldly philosophy and modern religion:

The weapons of our armory are the very best; for we have made trial of them, and have found them so. Some of you, younger brethren, have only tested the Scripture a little as yet; but others of us, who are now getting grey, can assure you that we have tried the Word, as silver is tried in a furnace; and it has stood every test, even unto seventy times seven. The sacred Word has endured more criticism than the best accepted form of philosophy or science, and it has survived every ordeal. As a living divine has said, “After its present assailants are all dead, their funeral sermons will be preached from this Book – not one verse omitted- from the first page of Genesis to the last page of Revelation.” Some of us have lived for many years, in daily conflict, perpetually putting to the proof the Word of God; now we can honestly give you this assurance, that it is equal to every emergency. After using this sword of two edges upon coats of mail, and buckles of brass, we find no notch in its edge. It is neither broken nor blunted in the fray. It would cleave the devil himself, from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot; and yet it would show no sign of failure whatsoever. To-day it is still the self-same mighty Word of God that it was in the hands of our Lord Jesus. How it strengthens us when we remember that many conquests of souls which we have achieved through the sword of the Spirit!

Have any of you known or heard of such a thing as conversion wrought by any other doctrine than that which is in the Word? I should like to have a catalogue of conversions wrought by modern theology. I would subscribe for a copy of such a work. I will not say what I might do with it after I had read it; but I would, at least, increase its sale by one copy, just to see what progressive divinity pretends to have done. Conversions through the doctrines of universal restitution! Conversions through the doctrines of doubtful inspiration! Conversions to the love of God, and to faith in his Christ, by hearing that the death of the Savior was only the consummation of a grand example, but not a substitutionary sacrifice! Conversions by a gospel out of which all the gospel has been drained! They say ‘Wonders will never cease’: but such wonders never begin. Let them report changes of heart so wrought, and give us an opportunity of testing them; and then, perchance, we may consider whether it is worth our while to leave that Word which we have tried in hundreds, and, for some of us here, in many thousands of cases, and have always found effectual for salvation. We know why they sneer at conversions. These are grapes which such foxes cannot reach, and therefore they are sour. As we believe in the new birth, and expect to see it in thousands of cases, we shall adhere to that Word of truth by which the Holy Spirit works regeneration. In a word, in our warfare we shall keep to the old weapons of the sword of the Spirit, until we can find a better. ‘There is none like that; give it me’, is at present our verdict. (The Greatest Fight in the World, by Charles H. Spurgeon)

Praise God for his glorious gospel! What Christ has done on the cross is mankind’s only hope of salvation. May we continue to lean on God’s revealed, proven Word and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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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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Power in the Manger

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For whom did Jesus come? German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer gives us a glimpse of the hope and promise we have in the manger, where the Christ child slept and where his earthly journey began to redeem his Father’s creation. Jesus came for the poor, lowly, and humble. Let us not think so much of ourselves that we are unable to kneel in humility and submission  at the manger.

“For the great and powerful of this world, there are only two places in which their courage
fails them, of which they are afraid deep down in their souls, form which they shy away.
These are the manger and the cross of Jesus Christ. No powerful person dares to approach
the manger, and this even includes King Herod. For this is where  thrones shake, the mighty
fall, the prominent perish, because God is with the lowly. Here the rich come to nothing,
because God is with the poor and hungry, but the rich and satisfied he sends away empty.
Before Mary, the maid, before the manger of Christ, before God in lowliness, the powerful
come to naught; they have no right, no hope, they are judged. . .”

“Who among us will celebrate Christmas correctly? Whoever finally lays down all power, all honor, all reputation, all vanity, all arrogance, all individualism beside the manger; whoever remains lowly and lets God alone be high; whoever looks at the child in the manger and sees the glory of God precisely in his lowliness.”

From God Is In The Manger by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (p.26)

Biblical Discipleship

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And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” – Luke 9:23-24

In his vastly popular and widely read work The Cost of Discipleship, German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonheoffer writes “Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” These words have resonated with me a great deal recently and I have thought about my own church family and our individual and corporate pursuit of growing in Christ as his disciples as well as being disciple makers. I am always evaluating what we do as God’s people to dive deeper into God’s word for the sake of our own holiness as committed followers of Christ Jesus.  Of course, we are never complete and our work is never done as we seek to follow Jesus in order to be more like him each day, nor is our work ever finished in seeking to make disciples of Jesus. Discipleship is a lifestyle, not a task or programmed objective, and the words of Jesus in Luke 9:23-24 give us the clues to why we (Christians) must be continually seeking biblical discipleship, despite what it will cost us.

When Jesus lays out the requirements for discipleship, at first glance they sound a bit vague. Deny yourself? Take up your cross? Follow? What do those commands really mean? For those of us in the 21st century, we don’t quite have the cultural understanding that his 1st century listeners would have had. When Jesus gives his listeners the foundation of discipleship, his words have ultimate, life changing meaning. Essentially, Jesus tells those listening to him, “if you want to follow me, you must die to yourself every day, and seek me.” Those words immediately take on must greater weight don’t they? To deny yourself is to renounce your wants and desires and in their place seek God’s desires for you (Matthew 6:33). To take up your cross daily is to die to your old flesh and live in the new Spirit-filled life of Christ in you (Galatians 5:16-25, 2 Corinthians 5:17). To follow Jesus is to surrender your life to his will and to actively obey his commands and live by his example, every day, for the glory of his name (John 12:26). Discipleship is not easy because it was never intended to be.
(Matthew 5:10-12)

But in our modern day culture, which prefers the “path of least resistance”, doing something hard is intentionally avoided as often as possible for matters which are of a more convenient nature; personal preference and comfort seem to rule the day. The idea of willfully surrendering your life to Jesus and dying to ‘self’ is counter-intuitive to all the other ideas we are led to embrace. Yet the command and expectation for Christ’s disciples has always been the same and it remains the same to this very day. You may be wondering, “ok, so why such an emphasis on discipleship?” The answer comes in v.24, where Jesus explains why following him is paramount; “for whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” So, Christ-centered discipleship has a result: following Jesus to eternal life. The alternative to Christ-centered discipleship is to seek our own good and have temporary happiness while here on earth, but lose  the life that Jesus died to give us. But if we seek Christ, dying to ourselves daily and seeking to love, serve, and glorify God as Jesus did, we will be given eternal life that Jesus’ promises us and secures for us by his death and resurrection. Discipleship is the daily experience of becoming more like Jesus now, and wanting for ourselves and others what he gave his life to provide for those who trust him.

In light of these enormous, life-changing truths, this kind of discipleship requires action by God’s people, for the good of others. Notice Jesus’ words indicate actions deny. . . take up. . . follow. . . which we are to be doing, and not only discussing. But how do we do this? First of all, being a disciple of Jesus is a personal decision that you make, in your own heart and mind, because you are certain it is the right path. The Holy Spirit has confirmed that truth in you (1 Thess.1:5) and now your life is surrendered to God. But how does discipleship happen practically, in the life of a believer? This is where others come into the picture: disciple involves others because we need each other. Discipleship is not just a theoretical concept, or something for only pastor’s and ordained ministers to do. It is a conscious and joyful effort by Christian people to seek out relationships that are built on spiritual growth and maturity. These relationships are personal investments in other’s lives for the sake of the kingdom of God.

Back in August I shared with our church family at FBC BR the necessity and tremendous blessing to a church when its members take seriously the call to be disciple makers. The answer for biblical, multigenerational discipleship (Titus 2) is not another program.  We can’t program discipleship because programs all have an expiration date. Instead of designing a “new ministry program” for Christian growth, we have to live it out, in relationship with other Christians, both old and young. My challenge for those of you seeking to become a disciple and a disciple maker isn’t all that complicated, but it does require a deep commitment, and it has enormous implications for the health of our church:

1) Men, find a young man, and women, find a young woman and couples find young couples and invite them to lunch, dinner, coffee, and get to know them. Ask them about their lives, what they do for a living or what they are studying in school. Ask them about hobbies, interests, and their families.

2) Commit your time and attention to them for the good of their souls. Getting to know someone takes time, today and tomorrow. It is a process of spending time together.

3) Offer to pray for them and the concerns of their hearts in specific ways. Lift up your brothers and sisters in Christ in prayer.

4) Read scripture together and pray the scriptures together. Ask God to do what he promises in his Word, and commit yourselves to doing as he commands.

5) Stay in contact and make your meetings regular, at your convenience. Do not neglect your time together, as it will strengthen both disciple and disciple maker.

6) Always, always, always make your time about growing closer to Christ. At the center of every relationship is the gospel. Remember that discipleship is still focused on being a disciple of Jesus, in which every person is called to deny themselves, take up their crosses daily, and obediently follow Jesus. So any attempt at being a disciple maker is built on teaching, training, and encouraging others to be a disciple as Jesus commands. Keep Christ Jesus and his message front and center.

We hope to be a faithful, healthy, multi-generational church, for God’s glory and for the good of one another. The truth is that discipleship accomplishes this goal. And if we seek to do it well, generations will be blessed and God will be glorified.  When this becomes our priority, Christ will be exalted and significant friendships will be rooted in the truth of God’s Word and our congregation will be a healthy, vibrate body of believers.

 

 

 

Our Only Comfort

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I don’t know what to do with what happened in Newtown, CT last Friday. I’m still processing it all. I believe the Lord God will be faithful to give to me what is sufficient to continue to trust him. And for that I am grateful and hopeful. I do have a couple of comments, though. The first is on the news media’s coverage of this tragedy and the second is on our response to the tragedy.

The news coverage (some refer to it as “reporting”) has grotesquely morphed into a circus, with politics and policies headlining the news feeds.  This senseless tragedy has thrust us all into a place of deep reflection, and for many of us, that reflection is not something we truly desire to see. So we go back to doing what we know; it’s much easier than facing the darkness of depravity. And for those in the media, they’ve gone back to doing what they know best: commentary. I have to think that it’s a nightmare for those families to have to deal with such excruciating pain in losing a child, spouse, or friend in that horrific way. But to have your grieving process broadcast for millions to consume, it really bothers me. It feels wrong, dirty. We care for those people, but there is a part of me that says “leave them alone and let them grieve.” Put the cameras away. Please.

With that said, once the news coverage relents and the sleepy community of Newtown, CT gets back to whatever semblance of “normal” they can muster, the reality in which we live still bears tremendous weight, and we must face it. We all have to face the darkness of what happened on December 14, 2012 and challenges us to find answers. It brings to mind many, many questions, of which there are few appropriate answers, and even fewer of lasting comfort. In these moments of tragedy, comfort is hard to come by because the idea of comfort  is the absence of discomfort, or at the very least, having that discomfort alleviated for a significant time. We like warm blankets and soft beds, warm coats and relaxing beach chairs. Those things are comfortable, as they should be, for a time.

But this kind of deep pain of loss we’ve witnessed isn’t just uncomfortable; it is tormenting. It isn’t like a sore muscle, or a bad headache, or even like a bad doctors visit. It is the complete absence of something you cannot replace, ever. It is a life, made in God’s image, and created for his glory. The absence of that life is like not having oxygen, it is suffocating and relentless. Those precious children and teachers of Sandy Creek Elementary School were a gift from God and their lives were inextricably connected to those who were given the task to care for them, cherish them, love them, and protect them. And now they are gone, taken away, and the pain is overwhelming.  God have mercy on those families, and on us all.

In the face of such terrible evil, we are at a loss as to what to say to make sense of it all. The truth is, there is no sensible explanation because this type of wickedness, as with any sin, is absolutely senseless. So without an explanation we’re left with the hopes of finding something to help us through it all. Those families of Newtown, and that entire community, need something to hold on to when they just can’t go any further. We all need that don’t we? If you know how to swim, drowning may not come quickly. But regardless of your ability to swim, there is only so long you can keep your head above water before your body says “enough!” You need something, or someone, to preserve your life for you. God knows this about all of us, so he gave us Jesus.

As a parent of 3 young children, I can’t even imagine how those moms and dads have been able to sleep at night. Their hearts ache, their heads are spinning, their bodies are tired and their will is spent. They are, in every sense of the word, “weary.” And Jesus knows this. He knows this so well about you and me and the people of Newtown that he told us what to do when the water is deep and we can’t paddle any longer. He says “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

I can’t answer why that troubled young man walked into that school and murdered those loving adults and precious children. I don’t know why God would permit it to happen either. But he did. Maybe we aren’t supposed to know. Perhaps if we knew, we couldn’t handle it. I just don’t know what to do with that. In the meantime, my answer for attempting to “get through” something so tragic is to run to Jesus when you are weary, tired, burdened and filled with sorrows. He is rest for your weary soul and peace for your troubled heart. Find hope in the one who has borne our sorrows and experienced our grief (Isaiah 53:3). He understands pain. There is no Savior like Jesus because there is no one who has done what he has done (Hebrews 4:15). No one has ever left perfect peace to enter a world at war with itself. But Jesus did. And whatever wars you are fighting inside and out, Jesus understands your pain and his offer to you is to just rest in his presence (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

There is much more that has been said (see the helpful links below) and there will be much more to be said in the coming weeks and months. The pundits and knuckleheads will all give us their opinions about what is needed to make sure tragedies like this don’t happen. I am hopeful that maybe we can find a way to do more to protect the precious lives of God’s image bearers in the future. My hope and my desire is to point people to Jesus, so when you face inexplicable pain and suffering, you will know there is someone to turn to. His comfort is the only comfort that lasts.

If you would like further wisdom of how to deal with the tragedy of Friday, December 14, 2012, please read the articles below. These words have been a great help to me.

A Lesson For All From Newtown

How Does Jesus Come to Newtown

Where Shall We Put This Grief

And Slew the Little Childer

Prayers for Newtwon, CT, and for all of us

A Prayer in Response to the Newtown CT Tragedy

A Prayer for Grieving and Hoping During Advent

Light IN Darkness

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“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
                                                                                                                                                    – John 1:5

There is an enormous difference between someone shining a light into a dark place from a distance and then calling you to get out of the darkness on your own by walking toward the light versus someone who goes into the darkness himself and shines his light in order to illuminate the darkness and then carries you out by his power. This is what Jesus has done. He didn’t just shine the light of his holiness and righteousness “into” the mess of humanity and then call out to you to walk toward the light by your own power. No! He came to the darkness of this human existence by becoming human flesh, which has been corrupted with greed, pride, murder, selfishness, idolatry, war, ignorance, and deceit. Jesus got in the darkness with you, and rescued you.

We may have thought that darkness is just the way life is and we have to make the most of it. We may have thought that walking in doubt, fear, pain, and sorrow is the way its supposed to be and we just have to find our own way to deal with it. But that is not what God intends for us. Jesus came to show you just how bad it really is AND how incapable you and I are of getting out of the darkness on our own. That may sound like bad news until you hear what happened next.  Jesus takes it a huge step further by doing for you what you cannot do for yourself. What does Jesus do? He picks you up and carries you out of the darkness into the kingdom of his marvelous light. He forgives you for all your failures, weaknesses, insecurities, and sins. He finds you where you are, broken, lost, angry, confused, and hopeless, and he rescues you by his death on the cross. This is what Jesus has done for so many believers from generations past and it exactly what he can do for those of you who are still wandering aimlessly in the dark today.

We celebrate the birth of Jesus because we know that his life, death, and resurrection means something eternally significant. Jesus is light, and he shines in the darkness.

Arise! Shine!

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Isaiah 60:1-3

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.

As we enter into another Christmas season it is virtually impossible to ignore the holiday simply due to the sheer number of decorations around our city. Downtown Baton Rouge is lit up every night with Christmas lights twinkling and glowing in the darkness. In the windows of homes throughout he neighborhoods of BR, tree lights glow through the glass and yards and rooftops are illuminated by hundreds, and even thousands of lights. Entire yards are decorated with all sorts of Christmas themed decorations. It is unmistakable that people love the Christmas holiday. Every night, the city lights up with Christmas joy and anticipation of the big day.

There is something comforting about light isn’t there? For some reason, those tiny lights on the Christmas tree, although hardly a heat source, quietly and calmly warm our hearts. Perhaps its fond Christmas memories, or the backdrop of the evergreen tree against the soft lights, or maybe the anticipation of opening all those neatly wrapped gifts under the well-lit tree. The joys of Christmas are not too hard to come by. It sure beats sitting in the dark. Other than when we are sleeping, we don’t typically like the darkness. So when light is introduced into dark places where we are uncertain or unsure, we are instantly comforted. I’m sure there are multiple reasons why this phenomenon is so easily observed, but the primary reason, I believe, is that it’s just the way God made us. We prefer the light over darkness.

When darkness covers the hearts of man, and we are lost and confused in this life, our only hope is light. We so desperately want to have our way illuminated that we seek after it in a variety of creative yet unfulfilling ways. Whether it be through money, sex, power, indulgence, promotion, reputation, or simple personal pursuits, we are always left empty and in darkness. In the deepest parts of our hearts, we still long to be illuminated by truth that never fades or grows dark. God knows this about us, so he gave us Jesus.

This is ultimately what Christmas is all about; the coming of light into the darkness. The light is Jesus (John 1:1-4), who is the incarnation of God Almighty, in all of his perfect glory and holiness. Jesus is the perfect representation of God to man in human flesh (Col. 1:15-20). Jesus is the light in the darkness of  this world, which is corrupted by sin and selfishness that has left each of us broken, lost, and confused. We need help out of the darkness of sin, and Jesus came to be our light. He has risen upon us like the morning sun, piercing the darkness of confusion and doubt. Jesus Christ was born among men as a man so that we could be forgiven for our transgressions against God and then embrace our purpose in this life to know God and love God through faith in Jesus Christ.  Apart from Jesus, darkness remains. But by faith in the only Son of God, there is light now and forever more.

Don’t miss this life-changing truth this Christmas season. When you see lights, remember The Light. When you experience sorrow, doubt, or confusion, consider Jesus. He has come to illuminate your heart and deliver you into the kingdom of his light.

Praying People For God’s Glory

Election Season

Believe it or not it’s already November. I’m glad November is finally here so we can put the political season to rest and move forward toward 2013. BUT, we must not move forward without seriously considering the importance of what will be decided this year in our country and how that will have a tremendous effect on our lives. As a pastor I have a weighty responsibility to lead my people faithfully according to the teachings of scripture, yet I am often conflicted as to how to address matters of the political nature. Because there are so many strong and divisive opinions regarding the condition of our nation in a hostile political climate, it can be overwhelming. In addition to that, I am constantly reminded of just how much compromise is rooted in the process of political action. Everything from political campaigns to legislation is infused with compromise after compromise, and that can lead to cynicism and crippling doubt in the average voter. But Christians still have a direct biblical mandate to live for Christ in this fallen world, which includes how we are involved as Christians with the political process. I will not be endorsing candidates or parties in this article; rather I want to give pastoral counsel as to how we can pray faithfully and biblically for our churches, our city, and our nation. The following is a list of 4 significant and necessary biblical “prayer requests” for our nation. At the heart of these prayer requests is the Word of God, which is our authority in all matters of faith and action and apart from which we could not know what God expects of his people; and because we know what God expects of his people we can know how to pray for ourselves and for one another. (Personal request: please take time to read the following scriptures)

We are expected to pray. In fact we are commanded to pray for all people (1 Timothy 2:2), so it is wise to bring before God our concerns about this current election; but we are to also seek God’s will for whatever he gives us in this life. First of all we must pray that all Christians seek God’s will in all things, including who is elected to positions of leadership in our nation. From local school board to our nation’s president, God places in authority those whom He chooses and we are subject to those authorities (Romans 13:1). As you pray, ask for God’s blessing of increasing faith in your life as your seek to live in subjection to his will for you and for his church in this country and under the authorities he appoints for us.

Secondly, pray for the boldness to do good according to what is pleasing to God. Romans 13:3 reminds us that rules are given to us for our good, as we should be seeking the good of others.  As a Christian, you are to seek the good of your fellow man (Jer. 29:7) which includes the actions you take in the voting booth. You and I are expected to select leaders according to what we believe God’s word declares is best for the greatest good. Pray to God your heavenly Father for the wisdom and conviction to vote without regret, trusting that his will would be done. And once those rulers are in place, regardless of the outcome you desired, live for what is good according to God’s word. God honors faithful servants.

Third, pray that whoever is elected (in every office) will seek to do what is best for all people and what is most honoring to God. Since all authorities are “God’s servants for our good” (Romans 13:4), God’s expectation for government leaders is to uphold justice, protect the innocent, and punish wrongdoers. When leaders fail at this, then God’s judgment will be upon them. We are nonetheless called to respect their authority and pray for them that God would use elected officials to carry out his will on earth. We can disagree, and even seek just actions against unqualified leaders, but are to do so peacefully and in Christian love. So let us pray faithfully that God would work in those whom we elect to do his will.

Finally, let us pray for God’s Spirit to lead us daily into a deeper relationship so that our lives reflect Christ to the world.  Just as Paul encouraged Timothy, let us pray for God’s strength to live peaceful and dignified lives for the glory of God (1 Timothy 2:2-3). Our responses to the conditions of this world say much about how greatly (or how little) we trust God. Be involved in the voting process because you care deeply about who your leaders are; that is your God given privilege and duty. But always bear in mind who your Sovereign King is (Colossians 1:15-20) and how completely he rules this universe. You are “heirs with Christ”, and that can never be taken away.  Vote according to your Christian world-view and spiritual convictions in obedience to God. Pray earnestly for your family, neighbors, and fellow citizens. Lift up the lost to Christ for the salvation of their souls and lift up the hurting and broken that God would restore them to life in Christ. Trust God fully and live with the knowledge that God’s purposes will be accomplished in this life; not through politicians, but through the actions of his people who are called by his name. To God be the glory!

The City and The Vision

The most beautiful works of art in the world began as only ideas in the minds of great artists. Many of those artists had yet to achieve “greatness” as the world defines it, but in their minds each artist had a vision for what could be; so they pursued it. Michelangelo had an idea of what he was going to paint on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, but it wasn’t until he began painting that the masterpiece began to take shape. He could have spent hours, days, and weeks describing in great detail what he desired for the final product to look like, and all those who listened with vivid imagination would have thought “wow, that ‘sounds’ beautiful.” But only when paint was finally applied and the project completed could they say with certainty “Amazing! Breathtaking! A masterpiece!” And along the way, the great visionary artist made adjustments to his work, while keeping the original vision in mind and leaving room for more inspiration.

When an architect develops a beautiful plan on paper for a functional but aesthetically pleasing office building, her vision can be seen, but it will not be fully realized until the construction is complete. The two dimensional drawings only give a glimpse of what the three dimensional structure will look like. It may be a beautiful glimpse, but it is only a glimpse. Only when the construction is completed can the full work be appreciated. And as the process of construction is underway, that very same architect might be inspired (or forced!) to make changes to the plan to address needs or problems with the design. But the overall vision remains the same, and she is driven to see it through to completion.

As we begin to identify the call God has placed upon our church family as a church “for the city” of Baton Rouge, I feel that our work, while only beginning, is one of great vision. It is God’s vision, and it is no doubt a big vision for what we are commissioned to do according to his word and will to bless our city and to seek the good of our city. But the bigness of that vision is not what concerns me; it’s the incremental adjustments we must make along the way to be effective in fulfilling the vision while remaining faithful to God and good stewards of His resources.

When I read Jeremiah 29:4-7, I can’t help but think about all of the Jewish captives of Babylon who were likely dealing with bitterness, sorrow, and anger issues as they were marched from the safety and comfort of their homes into a foreign, pagan land with no hope for rescue or reprieve. Yet in his divine and sovereign wisdom and grace, God sends his people a letter of hope through the prophet Jeremiah; one that would give them exactly what they needed to “endure” for the sake of God’s name. The hope was not only that God would deliver them after 70 years of slavery (v.11), but that they would prosper in the place where he sent them (v.5-6). By seeking the welfare, or “shalom” of their new Babylonian home (v.7), God would bless them with joy and gladness (v.10). Along the way, particularly on the bad days when their captors were especially harsh, there would be necessary adjustments to be made in both heart and mind, refocusing the people on what God had already promised: blessing today and deliverance soon to come. And as those incremental adjustments were made, that vision began to take shape and the final product was realized more and more as each year passed. This is my great hope: That our church family will take hold of the vision God has given us to seek the Shalom, or “just peace” of our city, and that we would have the faith to trust that God will lead us to make whatever adjustments necessary to see that vision come to fruition. I pray that we have the faith to trust him and follow him where he leads.

We are going to settle our hearts and minds on downtown Baton Rouge, and we will not ignore the culture around us nor will we neglect the needs of those persons right outside our doors. We will seek the welfare of our city by reaching out to the broken lives of the community while offering our support and prayers for the artists, entrepreneurs, residents, businessmen and businesswomen, and community leaders of downtown Baton Rouge. This earth is not our permanent home, but this is where we are now and this is where God has us planted. So we will seek his will to grow right where he has planted us, praying that God would bless us with the fruit of our labors all for his glory. “We Are Downtown”: This is where we are, and this is who we will be.

We have only seen a glimpse of what is come, yet we will continue to work and make adjustments along the way, knowing that one day, the Lord God will reveal to us the completed work, which he has done for the glory of his name. For more on the vision of FBC for the city of Baton Rouge, join us Sunday, August 26 at 6:00 PM as we revisit our vision. We will affirm what God has done and evaluate where we need to work harder to fulfill what He has place before us.

Check out the mission and vision of FBC Baton Rouge in detail at www.fbcbr.com

WE ARE DOWNTOWN


This phrase has 2 intended meanings. First, and most obviously, FBC Baton Rouge is located in downtown Baton Rouge (on the corner of 5th and Convention). You might say that’s probably unnecessary to mention, and you may be right, (although we like that you know where we are). But that is not the full meaning of this blog’s title. Our church family is not only located downtown, but we desire to identify ourselves with the downtown community. While our congregation is made up of people of all ages and backgrounds who live in many different parts of our city, we all desire to see FBC have the greatest impact on our neighbors and local community. As a corporate body, our neighbors and local community are those residents and businesses in the downtown area. So, to use a play on words, WE ARE DOWNTOWN.

For the Good of Our City

Part of the vision of FBC Baton Rouge is to be a church that seeks the renewal of our city through service, outreach, and cultural influence. We do not desire to take a stance that is always opposed to the culture as much as we want to stand for the truth of the gospel in the midst of the culture. We are a church for the city of Baton Rouge because we love her and desire to see her flourish. We believe the city is the place that not only creates culture, but also proclaims cultural ideas and philosophies that influence all people and communities. So if we are located downtown, and if we are committed to the downtown community, then we will seek to identify with downtown Baton Rouge and speak the gospel into the culture. From the residents, to businesses, to restaurants, to the arts and entertainment culture, we want to have a gospel-fueled impact on all aspects of Downtown Baton Rouge.

Rooted in Scripture

The Biblical foundation for this is found in the book of Jeremiah 29, where the prophet of God is commanded to write a letter to the people of God concerning their recent captivity in Babylon. In his grace, God called his people to remain faithful to Him, even while in a foreign land and in a foreign culture. God’s plan for his people was to make wherever they lived a better place. And so, in Jeremiah 29:7 we read what God commanded his people to do: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

We have the God given mandate and privilege to “seek the welfare of our city”. And our prayer is that in that grace-filled effort built on love and mercy, we will find much peace and renewal in our city for the glory of God who has graciously called us to this task. C.S. Lewis once said “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” As Christians, we admit that this world is not our permanent home. But while we are here, we want to seek the good of our city for the glory of our God.