Monday, August 20, 2018

Louisiana is NOT My Home

As most of you are aware, this past May I accepted the call to serve as pastor at First Baptist Church in Albany, Louisiana. Not only was it an opportunity to serve a caring and loving body of believers, it was a chance to return to the area where I grew up – southeast Louisiana. Ronda and I have been blessed to serve in churches across the south and have the privilege of getting to know and serve beside countless saints. While being given the chance to serve His kingdom anywhere is a blessing, for me, there is just nowhere like Louisiana. The culture, the food, the people and yes, the oppressive humidity all make this a special place. That being said, Louisiana is NOT my home.

The Bible reminds us that, as Christians, we are no longer citizens of this world, our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20). We are strangers and exiles in this world (1Pet 2:11). We are stationed here for a brief period and then we move on to where we will spend eternity. In Paul’s second letter to Timothy he tells the young pastor to, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” And reminds him, “No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in the concerns of civilian life; he seeks to please the commanding officer.” (2Tim 2:3-4). In other words, stay focused on your mission and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by things that, in the end, won’t matter.

Those who have been stationed overseas, particularly in combat situations understand this well. While they are quartered in a foreign land, it is not their home. While, they try to make themselves as comfortable as possible, their primary focus is on completing their mission and they count the days until they can return home.

It seems to me that many of us in the church are focused primarily on a temporal citizenship. We are definitely spending too much time getting entangled in things that won’t matter. This world is filled with things that distract us from our mission. Many of the things we are most passionate about – sports, politics, entertainment, recreation and countless others will, in the end, simply not matter. It is not that any of these activities are inherently evil, but when they supplant Christ and His mission in our hearts they become idols.

I love being back in Louisiana and while it is my prayer that God will allow us many years here – it is not my home. We are privileged to be serving in this special place, but our citizenship is elsewhere. However, while we’re here we’ll be focused on His mission – and maybe I’ll get a little étouffée.

In His Service,

Monday, April 23, 2018

Don't Let Them Despise Your Youth

I’m not sure when it happened. I graduated high school, Ronda and I got married, we had children and before I knew it…I was old. I really can’t pinpoint the moment when it happened, but I do know the moment when I realized that I had gotten old. It was revealed in a simple, yet revealing statement, “That’s not music…they’re not even singing!” In an instant I had become my father. One minute I was an idealistic young adult ready to stick it to “the man” and change the world; the next I was “the man” and all I wanted to do was find my recliner and be left alone.

I guess can take some comfort in the fact that I am not alone. I often hear my contemporaries complaining about the youth of today. They are lazy, their music is offensive, they are overly dependent on technology and choices in fashion are comical (as if polyester shirts, platform shoes and feathered hair is any better). Of course, this a narrative that has been playing out for centuries. The Greek poet Hesiod wrote, “I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today. For certainly all youth are reckless beyond words...when I was young we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise (disrespectful) and inpatient of restraint.” That was almost 3000 years ago.

Lest we forget, throughout history God has chosen to work through young people. Samuel was just a boy when God called him. Josiah was eight years old when he became king and is considered to be one of great reformers in Israel’s history. Mary, through whom the Messiah would enter the world, was only a teenager when an angel of the Lord appeared to her. It would appear that young people have played rather significant roles in God’s plan.

One of the reasons I enjoy working with students and young adults is that their faith can be truly inspirational. Many of them embrace their commitment to Christ with a wide-eyed enthusiasm that has not yet been beaten down by the world. Unskilled in the subtle art of compromise, they are truly willing to follow “wherever He leads.” No task it too big, no journey is too far, they just believe that they can do “all things through Christ who strengthens [them].”

While it may be easy to criticize young people for their inexperience and impetuousness, we should also remember that we also were once young. We were once passionate, idealistic and really believed that we could make a difference. Rather than telling them what they can’t, maybe we should allow them to show us what we still can.

In His Service,

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Still We Remain Silent

     Last week 17 students and school staff were killed in yet another school shooting. This one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida. This latest massacre brings the death toll to 214 who have been killed on American school campuses since 2000.

   It didn’t take long for politicians and activist groups to put their particular spin on this tragedy. Democratic leaders immediately saw this event as proof that the Unites States needs more stringent gun control. As expected, Republican leaders took the position that these shootings cannot be controlled by more gun legislation. Each is singing the same song that they always sing when these mass murders occur.

     The Christian community has also responded as expected. We condemn the act, point out that it is the result of the sinful condition of mankind and offer prayers and condolences for the victims and their families. While none of those responses are wrong or unnecessary, I wonder if we are doing all we can, or all that we are commanded to do.

     Five years ago, after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting (26 killed) I wrote that “the problem is that we are sinners and we desire sin. There is no law that can correct it; there is no law that can contain it. There is only one cure for this condition – the Gospel.” Only Jesus can change our sinful nature. This is the only way to effectively address the rampant evil in our world.

     The problem is that the majority of Christians still choose to remain silent, we refuse to share the Gospel with a world that desperately needs to know. If we won’t tell them about Jesus, how will they ever know? If Jesus is the only way, then how will they ever find the way if we are unwilling to show them. It seems that we are content to sit in our sanctuaries and watch the world spin out of control. The only words we are willing to speak are words of condemnation (or in support of our 2nd amendment rights). It seems that somewhere along the way we have lost our passion for telling others about Jesus.

     The simple truth is that this unabated violence will continue as long as Christians choose silence. Jesus said, “No one lights a lamp and puts it in the cellar or under a basket…”(Lk 11:33), yet that is exactly what we have are doing. We are hiding the gospel away while our country experiences the effects of our negligence. What would we say about a corporation that callously withheld life-saving medicine while all around them were dying? Can we claim to be any different?

     Jesus told His disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt 28:19) and that they should “preach the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mk 15:16). These are commands, not suggestions. If we continue to remain silent then we not only condemn the world, we disobey our Lord.

     It has often been said, “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain about who’s in office.” As it applies to Christians, “If we don’t share the Gospel, we can’t complain about the moral condition of our country.” In Jesus, we have the only prescription, we must share it. It’s the only way.

     As always, we should continue to pray, but we are commanded to do more. We are commanded to be His witnesses.

In His Service,