Category Archives: In the News
I’m not interested in just hearing what famous people tweeted overnight or what celebrities have had for breakfast recently. I like to hear my news through two lenses: Global perspective and Christian values. Two places I’ve found that deliver on these.
- The World and Everything In It Podcast – 20 minute update on news and special interest stories from a Christian perspective.
- The BBC World News Podcast – 20 minute update from around the world. Not necessarily a Christian perspective, but Western and Global.
I listen to World everyday and BBC if I have time during the day, or if something big has happened around the world. I feel I’ve gotten a better handle on the big picture with these two daily doses. I liked Denzel Washington’s recent quote about news sources,
“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you do read it, you’re misinformed.”
What are you favorite news sources to help you stay informed?
1. Pray, Pray, Pray to the one who governs the nations. (Psalm 22:28, 47:7-8, Jeremiah 10:7, Acts 17:26).
2. Write notes to any local election winners pledging your churches prayer support.
3. Go share the gospel. Our battle is not political, but spiritual. Our kingdom is not of this world, but eternal. (Ephesians 6:12, 1 Corinthians 9:25).
4. And maybe go to the gym. Healthcare expenses are still going to be killer on the church planting budget. Lol!
What else are you doing this DAY AFTER?
This week marks the beginning of a major religious celebration around the world called Lent. In our area it means FRIDAY’S ARE FOR SEAFOOD! What is Lent exactly? In Brief:
For Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and other liturgical protestant denominations (those with a continuous history before AD 1500) Lent is the forty day period from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday. It is to be a season of soul-searching and repentance. It can be loosely traced to the early days of the church, but was certainly less formal (most scholars believe the time of fasting was two to three days and not forty) and of course much more spiritual. Lent, as we know it today, originated in the fourth century and has changed in practice throughout the years. In AD 325, the Council of Nicea discussed a forty day season of fasting and preparation for new converts to be baptized. In the seventh century, Gregory the Great moved the beginning of Lent from Sunday to Wednesday, now called Ash Wednesday. He is also credited with beginning the ceremony of marking foreheads with ashes, as a symbol of repentance taken from the Old Testament. The practice of fasting during Lent has become more relaxed over the centuries and in 1966, the Roman Catholic Church restricted fast days to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Having moved to South Louisiana just 10 years ago, I have observed that Lent is practiced but not understood by many. Even many irreligious people will give up something of value (if you count chocolate, certain adult drinks, coffee, or some other modern convenience that doesn’t really affect a person’s way of life as valuable) and will abstain from meat on Friday. When asked the purpose behind this, the person will say, “I’m not sure,” or take a great guess that would fool everyone if they were playing the board game Balderdash. Herein lies the problem with modern spirituality – it’s long on activity and short on meaning and understanding.
Too often we use religious expression, such as Lent, as a means to fit in, to feel better about ourselves, but not to understand and conform to God’s desire for our lives. In many ways Lent illustrates our lack of understanding about God and His will for humanity. Many people give up for forty days what they know they shouldn’t be doing anyway. In the 2002 movie 40 Days and 40 Nights, a single man vows to stay celibate during Lent, but meets the girl of his dreams and regrets being unable to rebel against God’s commands concerning sexual purity (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8) and to “let the marriage bed be undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4) until Lent is over. As this movie illustrates, some people may see Lent as a window of time to be serious about their faith. I tend to believe God deserves and expects 365 days of devotion and obedience, not just forty.
A somber season of soul-searching and repentance, which includes fasting, is necessary for our generation. I don’t search my soul when I give up my favorite commodity but when I understand and get a glimpse of what God has done for me through Jesus Christ. His suffering, His sacrifice, and His love should make us forget modernity for awhile and focus ourselves on repentance and new life that Christ’s death and resurrection make possible.
So how should we view Lent? One 19th Century preacher called it “The Season of the Cross.” I like that. It’s the cross that is the centerpiece of our faith (1 Corinthians 15:3) and it’s the cross that we are called to carry (Luke 9:23). So, join me during the season of the cross and do more than just mark your calendar and do without some material luxury. Let’s increase our awareness of Christ’s love and His desire for our lives. We may find ourselves gaining more, spiritually, than we could ever give up in 40 days.
“You will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped, and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely….The free men of the world are marching together to victory. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory. Good luck, and let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.” ~General Dwight D. Eisenhower giving the D-Day order on June 6, 1944.
A common sight around SE Louisiana in my 11 years here has been the uprooted tree. Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, & Gustav were the worst culprits. A few thoughts that have informed my faith as I’ve experienced trees in a Hurricane Zone:
- Trees that fall often have shallow root systems. Like the tree in the picture, root systems can be wide, but depth can be noted as shallow on many of the trees that fall. This may be no fault of the tree itself, because its planted in an area where water is near the surface so it doesn’t have to dig much for nutrition. And then the ground it’s rooted in may be muddy and soft instead of solid giving it even less stability.
- Trees that don’t fall are less likely to fall next time. As a matter of fact, an arborist told me after Katrina that if you could see underground during a storm, that scientists say you could visually see roots going down and trees digging in for all of their lives. So many trees that are leaning are unlikely to fall, because the catastrophic wind pushed them to develop stronger roots.
- Trees that fall are often standing alone. If you walk into a wooded area after a storm, unless there were tornadoes ripping trees apart, you’re not likely to see many trees blown over. They help each other shield the wind and their roots are intertwined in such a way that they help hold each other up. The most common site is the lone tree in the yard blown over. It simply had no help and had to try to stand on its own.
- Dead trees seldom fall. One thing a lot of folks were shaking their heads about after Hurricane Katrina, was why the dead trees seemed to be still standing. An arborists gave me a simple answer: there’s no fruit or produce on them to catch resistance. The wind has little to utilize in pushing them over, so they tend to survive catastrophic wind events, but fail because of their own death and decay.
Trees and Faith:
- When it comes to spiritual growth and surviving the storms of life roots are most important. Deep roots. And what kind of substance that root system is built in. Colossians 2::6-7 says, “as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, ROOTED and built up in Him…” Is your faith shallow, surface level, easy? Are you’re roots in something that’s not substantive? For the real Christian, storms serve a valuable purpose in helping our roots strengthen in Christ.
- When it comes to spiritual growth and surviving the storms of life having other strong folks with deep roots around you matters as well. How many strong people are you intertwining your roots with? How many people do you have that you can rely upon to help hold you up when things get windy?
- And what about the person that’s not trying, or is doing things dishonestly, or isn’t walking with the Lord at all? Why do they seem to make out ok against life’s storms? There’s no resistance. If you’re walking with God, bearing spiritual fruit, expect storms and wind and opposition. But also expect the God in whom you are rooted to hold you up in the midst of the storm.
Not much time for blogging lately. Getting ready for a furious few weeks On Mission 4 Others in our region. Here’s our church’s & my personal lineup for Crossover/SBC 2012 in Greater New Orleans:
- Mon, June 11 – Wheelchair ramp going up in Madisonville for an elderly widow & 2K homes get bags on their door inviting them to participate in our annual summer can food drive. Info meeting for a Bridge Church Fall Mission Trip to Haiti to work with respirehaiti.org.
- Tues, June 12 – Serving a local Mobile Home Park in various ways, concluding with a Big Ole Block Party, 5-7pm.
- Wed, June 13 – More ramp, porch, hand rail building. And another Block Party at a local Multi-housing complex, 5-7pm.
- Thurs, June 14 – Final Meeting for our Spring Recovery & Re-entry Class at our local jail. 88 registered, 38 men will be Graduating. Honored to have done life with these friends for the last 26 weeks. Pumped to send many of them out as new men.
- Sat, June 16 – Block Party at Ames Blvd Baptist Church on the Westbank, 10-2pm. Painting @ the Covington Boys & Girls Club to get their new building completed, 9am-4pm. Backyard Bible Club in a Madisonville subdivision, 5-7pm. Family Movie Night at Lakeside Baptist Church in Metairie, 7-9pm.
- Sun, June 17 – Father’s Day Pancake Breakfast at Bridge Church, 10:30am @ the West St. Tammany YMCA. Father’s Day Block Party for Inmate families at our local jail, 1-4pm. Entertainment provided by Jim Chester. Graduating 38 men from our Recovery & Re-entry programs, Baptizing 20+ men who have found Christ through our church & ministry at the jail.
- Mon, June 18 – More porch, ramp, handrail building. Block Party & VBS Kickoff at a Ponchatoula Apartment complex.
- June 19-20 – Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting 2012 in New Orleans. I’ll be working the Unlimited Partnerships booth, voting for Fred Luter to be the next Pres of the SBC, & making connections & re-connections w/kingdom partners from around the United States in the SBC tribe.
Our partners for the next few weeks:
- FBC Chesnee, SC – First trip to NOLA for these guys. Bruce Jennings on point.
- Ford Park Baptist Church, Shreveport, LA. Fellow Northwestern St. Alums, Tate Miller & Heather Tolbert annually bring a group to work with us through Mission Lab.
- FBC Winnsboro, TX – Pastor David Rose is a fellow Northwestern St. & Southwestern Seminary Alum.
Here’s a bit of a photo dump of flyers for next week or so. Prayers appreciated.
The Times-Pic / Nola.com article series on Louisiana’s Prison system has been very interesting. The report says that we incarcerate more people per capita than any other place in the world. And often local economies are built around the local prison. Today’s article was about how few have access to re-entry classes and programs. It’s true in St. Tammany as well. Two big reasons: little space & few volunteers. Our church has made St. Tammany’s Jail a place of engagement since 2008. We’ve taught Celebrate Recovery, Fathering Classes, Relationship Skills, & helped inmates connect with their families on the outside. The problem is we are few in number & the work takes a big toll on volunteers over time. More volunteers are needed who are willing to spend weekly or monthly times teaching, encouraging, etc. A few reasons why I believe the church MUST take the lead:
- Jesus’ call on those who are part of his kingdom in Matthew 25:36 – “I was in prison and you visited me” (NLT).
- A majority of our local inmates will be neighbors again. We have an opportunity to give them some tools to help them be productive upon release. But also to restore their dignity & let them know someone cares. As a relative of an inmate told me after one of our Family events at the Jail, “Thank you for helping my brother feel like a person again.”
- Each inmate represents a network of relationships that are many times at risk & isolated. A mom that’s heart broken, kids that are ashamed & without role models, wives forced to care for a household without an income. And many of these struggling with addiction & bitterness & loneliness themselves. When I think of Christ’s words, “sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36), my mind turns pretty quickly to this population segment. And the numbers hit us hard in this area: 41% of current inmates had a relative in prison. 25% of current inmates had a dad in prison. Could we stop this cycle through kindness, concern, & intentional Christian love?
- The gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). They need re-entry classes & life-skill training. They need to know people care & want them to succeed. But ultimately, they need to hear the Gospel & have the opportunity to be transformed by the power of God. We I saw the words in this morning’s paper – “few have access to the classes.” It hit me hard, b/c in my experience few have access to the Gospel as well.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:38 (ESV)
How can you help?
- Volunteer to teach a class. Some of the biggest needs are Bible Study, Celebrate Recovery, Financial Planning, Relationships Skills, GED Tutoring, Literacy.
- Attend one of our family day events at our local jail. Next ones will be June 17 & July 29.
- Serve as a sponsor or mentor for an inmate in recovery.
- Serve as a mentor for an inmates child in our area. Our church will be doing a Mentor training on June 2 at the Groves Apartment Complex in Covington.
Email me about these or other opportunities.
It’s easy to talk bad about “the system.” Harder to sacrifice yourself to do something about it.
It’s easy to talk bad about “the system.” Harder to teach a class at the jail, mentor a child, sponsor an addict in recovery.
A few of my personal pictures from around the memorials in DC from our trip there. a couple of years ago.
One of the Bible’s most quoted phrases is actually not in the Bible. And interestingly enough yesterday it was quoted at the highest level of our government. See Todd Rhoades post here.
At yesterday’s White House Press briefing, spokesman Jay Carney said it:
Well, I believe the phrase from the Bible is, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” And I think the point the President is making is that we should — we have it within our capacity to do the things to help the American people.
This phrase is NOT in the Bible. Not making a political statement here. I hear this 2-5 times per months from Evangelicals. What is in the Bible is the principle of God blessing the diligent (Proverbs 10:4; 22:29). But I personally believe this phrase to be the opposite of the Bible’s message of how to begin a relationship with God. A truer statement is: “God helps those who realize they CANNOT help themselves.” Check out 1 Peter 5:5-6. The good news starts with our inability and God’s loving desire to transform us and make us what we can’t make ourselves.
And the White House, probably hounded by Bible thumpers, did come clean this AM.
“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
— Steve Jobs, from the Stanford Commencement Address