Praying for One Another

I am not sure there is anything better we can do for another person than to pray. In Colossians 1:9-14, we have a record of Paul’s specific prayer that he prayed for the believers of Colossae.

Here is a specific prayer for Christians. You can pray it for yourself, for others, or for your children. I see at least these four specific requests. We should pray that each person…

• Be Filled with the knowledge of His will.

Is anything more important than knowing the will of God? But, the goal of knowledge is not to be puffed up with knowledge. The knowledge has a goal so we continue to request.

• Fulfill the Calling of a Disciple.

Follow the logic. The knowledge leads to a “so that” clause. The “so that” is each person would walk worthy of Him. When a person does that he will be fully pleasing to God, bear fruit, and be increasing in the knowledge of Him. Do you see the cycle?

• Be Strengthened with His power.

Colossians and Ephesians have similar content. Paul wrote to both churches while in prison. In a similar prayer section that he wrote to the Ephesians, about God’s power, Paul wrote: “He demonstrated this power in the Messiah by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the heavens.” (Ephesians 1:20) Notice the kind of power available to the believer—the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead.

• Be Aware of God’s love.

Again to the church at Ephesus, Paul wrote: “I pray that you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of god’s love.” (Ephesians 3:18)

Let me encourage us to take Paul’s prayer and make it our own as we pray for people.

What if…

Instead of talking about people, you talked to the Father about them?
Instead of judging people, you committed your life to pray more fervently for them?
Instead of giving up on someone, you decided to give yourself up in prayer for their repentance and return?

You see, it is impossible to be at odds with someone, to be their enemy, and at the same time be praying for them.

So, what if….

Instead of being turned off by someone’s behavior, you turned up your prayer focus for them?
Instead of pouring on criticism of someone, you poured your heart out to God for them?
Instead of struggling with someone over an issue, you decided to struggle in prayer for the resolution of that issue?

(This post is based on the message “Held Together: By Specific Praying” which you can watch at fbclaf.org/video)

How is Your Church’s Faith?

Paul begins both the book of Colossians and 1 Thessalonians by giving evidence of his prayer of thanksgiving for the churches. The basis of his thanksgiving is not what he has seen, but what he has heard about the church. He had heard about the impact that the Gospel was having on these churches. He had heard about the response to the Gospel by these churches. He lists the same triad about both churches—faith, love and hope.

Let’s focus on just this trait of faith. This word speaks to the fact that they had believed in the Gospel. In the case of the Colossians, for example, Epaphras had preached, and they had believed. As I have read Paul’s letters, I have often been challenged by the emphasis that Paul placed on faith. This is what Paul is concerned about. This is what stood out to him. This is what he heard about. This still ought to be the gauge of the church. Not the size. Not the programs. Not the style. And certainly not the problems. Has anyone ever asked you, “Tell me about your church’s faith?”

We might hear people remark or ask about our preaching, our music, our ministries, or a hundred other very worthy factors, but rare is the occasion when someone asks about our faith. Why is that?

Could it be that they have not heard about our faith?

Bob Russell, the now retired pastor of Southeast Bible Church, in Louisville,KY, wrote a book that I absolutely love. The title is When God Builds a Church. Russell simply recounts ten principles that they could trace of how God grew their church. One of the principles is faith. In the book, he recounts how the church bought a building next door to the largest abortion clinic in Louisville. They opened a crisis pregnancy center in the building right next door to the abortion clinic. In addition to providing counseling resources and ultrasounds, folks gathered daily to pray for the closure of the abortion clinic. In one year, the clinic had closed!

What have people heard about your faith?

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What’s Happening this Week at FBC?

I am praying for our Refresh 2016 Ladies Event on Saturday. Ladies, we are praying that you will be indeed be refreshed.

On Sunday, we are continuing a series that we are calling “Held Together.” Each of the messages in this series comes from the book of Colossians. Sunday, we are considering three different passages that are tied together by the theme of prayer. Together, these passages remind us that God holds us together as we pray and reach out to Him.

We have a couple of mission opportunities this month. In your giving this month, please consider a special offering to the Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering. This offering stays in Louisiana to aid the start of churches in Louisiana as well as various ministries of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. We are participating in the annual collection of food for the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home. Food boxes are scattered throughout the lobby.

Have you heard about 3151? These numbers refer to a strategy to be intentional in evangelism. The plan is rooted in our Adult Sunday School small groups. If you have gotten out of the habit of Sunday School, renew your commitment now. Join a class and help that class engage others in our community in conversations about the Gospel.

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What’s Happening this Week at FBC?

Do you ever feel like “it’s all about to fall apart.” You have tried to keep it all together. It’s the nation one day. Another day you feel like your family is just going to come apart. Before long, you think you can’t hold it together any longer.

I have good news. You are not supposed to hold it all together. Jesus is. In this little letter called Colossians, specifically in 1:17, we read, “He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together.”

Starting Sunday, for the next 10 weeks, we are going to consider much of this letter. We want to understand as much as we can about this idea that “He holds all things together.”

Ladies, have you purchased your ticket for the Refresh Event scheduled for next Saturday, September 24th? Please help us by purchasing your tickets in advance so that we can be prepared for this Saturday. Our Women’s Ministry Team has worked hard to put on a great event. Please join them next Saturday for a great inspirational day.

We have a couple of mission opportunities this month. In your giving this month, please consider a special offering to the Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering. This offering stays in Louisiana to aid the start of churches in Louisiana as well as various ministries of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. We will also be participating in the annual collection of food for the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home. Boxes are available to drop your food items.

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A 9-11 Remembrance

I find it somewhat hard to believe that 15 years has passed since the horrible terrorist act of 9-11. I read recently this startling fact. This year’s students entering high school were not yet born on 9-11-2001. However, may we never forget.

Near the end of the Old Testament, we read the prophecies of Amos, Obadiah, and Jonah. Read together, these three Old Testament Prophets challenge us to think about our national enemies as we once again commemorate the tragedy of 2001 that will forever be called “9-11.”

Amos, like all other prophets, prophesied of the coming judgment against Israel and Judah. Amos’ message of judgment starts against the enemies of Israel and gets increasingly tighter until the message “zeroes” in on Israel. The significance of this progression is that judgment is certain. The opportunity for repentance has passed. However, there is the hint that Israel could have avoided judgment if they would have heeded God’s seriousness toward sin. Likewise, the message for America today is “We must learn from the mistakes of our enemies?”

Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament. We know very little about Obadiah or the exact perspective from which he wrote. We do understand that his prophecy targeted Edom—an enemy of Israel.

Obadiah’s preaching was likely a message to encourage Israel during the days of exile or immediately following exile. His preaching would have pointed to God’s judgment against Israel’s enemies. As we commemorate the anniversary of September 11, we should continue to find hope in God to deal justly and rightly with our enemies. So, here is the lesson: “We must trust God with our enemies?”

The book of Jonah contains the account of Jonah’s call to preach to Ninevah, his refusal to go, his preaching to Ninevah, and the result. The whole reason that Jonah seems to run from God is that he knows that God will relent if the people repent. Jonah seems to be enamored with the thought of these people facing the judgment of God. Out of this story, we see God’s great love for mankind. There is no one God does not love and will not offer salvation. Let us pray that we catch God’s vision in this regard. Again, in light of the events of September 11, are we praying that God might save the Muslim world? Or, would we be glad to see them face the wrath of God? If we cannot pray for their salvation, we have not begun to understand the great love of God. What’s the lesson? As we think about the horrible events of 9/11, “We must pray for the salvation of our enemies?”

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What’s Happening this Week at FBC?

As we gather for worship Sunday, we are completing our series called “Ascend.” For 15 weeks now we have observed the depth of worship experiences contained in these Psalms. Sunday, as we consider Psalm 134, we see “Worship that Comes Full Circle.”

refresh-2016-bulletin-tickets-480Ladies, we need you to buy tickets for the Refresh Event scheduled for September 24th. Please help us by purchasing your tickets in advance so that we can be prepared for this event. Our Women’s Ministry Team has worked hard to put on a great event. Please join them on that Saturday, September 24th.

Have you heard about 3151? This is our action plan for this Fall. We are challenging each member to pray for 3 lost persons, learn 1 Gospel presentation, invite 5 new persons to Sunday School, and seek to share the Gospel with 1 person. Please join your Sunday School class in 3151!

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What’s Happening this Week at FBC?

You want some really good news? Even with all that is happening in our region of the world, last Sunday we had the highest Sunday School attendance than any other Sunday in 2016! Even though this is Labor Day Weekend, I am expecting a big crowd this Sunday as well. If you are in town, please give attention to worship and Sunday School. We have a regular and full schedule this Sunday.

As we gather for worship Sunday, we are continuing our series called “Ascend.” We will be considering Psalm 133. Psalm 133 emphasizes a principle that should be loved by every Christian and church member—unity! Indeed, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity!

Church, continue to pray and seek ways to encourage those in our membership who have been affected by the flood. Your giving to “flood relief” has allowed us to minister to these families and others throughout South Louisiana. We will have a few work crews out this weekend helping extended family members of our congregation. If you would like to volunteer through the church as other needs arise, please fill out the form at www.fbclaf.org/canhelp. This is helpful to us in organizing specific days, times, and projects.

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The Priority of Worship

This summer I have been preaching through the Psalms identified as the Songs of Ascents (Psalm 120-134). We do not know the exact background to these Psalms, but we can take some educated guesses which I think are helpful to the overall understanding of the emotion of these Psalms. Sunday, I preached on Psalm 132.

The background to this Psalm recounts David’s vow to find a place for the ark of God to rest. The importance of this goes all the way back to Exodus 25:21-22.

21 Set the mercy seat on top of the ark and put the testimony that I will give you into the ark. 22 I will meet with you there above the mercy seat, between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the testimony; I will speak with you from there about all that I command you regarding the Israelites.

This is no mere piece of furniture. The ark represented, in this pre-Word of God era (both written Word of God and Word of God made flesh), the presence of God.

The background is further established in 1 Samuel 4-7. In chapter 4, we read that the Israelites were at war with the Philistines. The Israelites made a decision to bring the Ark of the Covenant into the battle thinking that would secure victory. The Philistines routed the Israelites and captured the Ark of the Covenant. When Eli, the judge of Israel for over 40 years, heard that the Ark had been captured, he died. When his pregnant daughter in law heard that her father in law had died and her husband had been killed in battle, and about the Ark, she went into labor. She named the child “Ichabod” meaning “Where is the glory” because she said, “The glory has left Israel.” That’s the significance of this Ark.

In chapters 5-6, we read about the plagues that set in on Philistine towns because of the Ark of the Covenant. The plagues were so bad that they returned the Ark to Israelite territory.

In 2 Samuel 6, we read that one of David’s first acts as king was to return the Ark to the city of David and into the special tent David had prepared. David longed to build a Temple to house the Ark of the Covenant. This Psalm captures that emotion of his longing to do that. So, here’s the basic idea captured by this song.

Worship soars when there is priority and purity.

Some would argue that worship soars when it is polished. No, worship soars when worship is a priority in our lives. Worship soars when there is purity in our lives. The purest worship comes from pure hearts. Worship soars when there is a commitment to the priority of worship before worship begins and a commitment to the purity of continued worship when worship ends.

What would you say about the priority that you place on worship? Better yet, what would those close to you say about the priority of worship in your life? In my life, I can always tell what is a priority in my life by how I spend my time and how I spend my money.

Think about it!

A Lesson on Thanksgiving When the Happy Ending Has Not Come Yet!

Habakkuk ended his prophecy like this:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there is no fruit on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will triumph in Yahweh;
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!
19 Yahweh my Lord is my strength;
He makes my feet like those of a deer
and enables me to walk on mountain heights! (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Now, Habakkuk was not always in this praise place. In fact, if you read the whole book of Habakkuk, he was very far away from this place.

Habakkuk most likely prophesied just before the beginning of the exile when the sin of Judah is at the peak. Habakkuk questioned God as to how long He would allow sin to reign in Judah (1:1-4). God answered back that He was preparing the Babylonians to deal with Judah’s sin (1:5-11). Habakkuk’s second question concerns how could God use the Babylonians, who were more wicked, to be the instrument of judgment against Judah (1:12-2:1).

When God answers Habakkuk’s questions we learn several important truths.

1. God is always at work even if we do not see how He is at work.
2. God will speak at the right time.

And so, we must learn to walk by faith.

Habakkuk’s name in Hebrew means something like “one who embraces” or “one who clings.” That’s what we must do sometimes—cling to or embrace our faith in God. Sometimes all we have is to cling to our faith.

Maybe today your prayer sounds a lot like Habakkuk’s opening words of his praise. Maybe your prayer goes like this:

Though the sugar cane crops yield no sugar
And the oil wells all dry up
Even though there may be no money in the bank
Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord!

Though I share Christ with all my neighbors and family
But there are no decisions
And, even though, the Doctor called last week
And the news is not good
(And now you add a new verse)
And my home is gutted
Because it has been flooded
And I have no insurance
And FEMA is not enough

Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord!
He is my salvation and hope!

You only get to those last words by faith!

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What’s Happening this Week at FBC?

Church, we asked, and you answered. You gave over $32,000 last Sunday alone to Flood Relief. What a blessing! We have begun to give that money away to people who have been affected. If you would like to give specifically to flood relief, carefully mark your envelope and/or memo your check. We also have an online giving option at www.fbclaf.org/give.

We continue to take calls in our office and receive emails about people to help. If you have volunteer hours that you can give, please go www.fbclaf.org/canhelp and fill out the “Can Help” form. This is very helpful in organizing our work and making sure that people are getting helped.

What else is happening? Well, Thursday at 11:30, our JOY Club is meeting for lunch and a special presentation from our missionary friend, Pat Melancon. Also, our church is hosting on Saturday the Pre-Teen Invasion for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. This is a gathering of pre-teens from across South Louisiana. Please be praying for this evangelistic event.

As we gather for worship on Sunday, we are continuing our series called “Ascend.” Sunday, we are considering Psalm 132. Psalm 131, last week, was the shortest of these so-called, “Songs of Ascents.” In considering Psalm 132, we look at the longest of these psalms. I encourage you to read Psalm 132 several times before you come Sunday morning.

In addition to other parts of our worship Sunday morning, we will be taking a moment to pray together for our administration, staff, faculty, and students of First Baptist Christian School. We started school a week late, but this first week has gone really well. Thanks for praying for us. We have 279 students enrolled in our school today. This is 29 more than our ending enrollment last school year.

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