I Am Going to a Kindergarten Graduation Today

My little six-year old, Dru, graduates from kindergarten today. He is pretty pumped. His graduation reminded me of a great little book.

Twenty or so years ago, Robert Fulghum wrote this little priceless book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Here are a few lines from that book.

ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.

Flush.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic,
hold hands, and stick together.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even
the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die.
So do we.

© Robert Fulghum, 1990.
Found in Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten, Villard Books: New York, 1990, page 6-7.

Pretty solid advice! But, as my little Dru will soon find out, we all find out that there is the expectation to learn more and go to school more—a lot more. But, even in all of our learning, the writer of Ecclesiastes gave us a couple of things we must all learn. I summarize those thoughts with two sentences.

The world will lie to you about the meaning of life.

Most of the book of Ecclesiastes is devoted to illustrating the preacher’s thesis. He gives example after example of how life is meaningless.

(1) The emptiness of human wisdom
(2) The emptiness of work
(3) The emptiness of pleasure
(4) The emptiness of fame
(5) The emptiness of wealth
(6) The emptiness of relationships
(7) The emptiness of life itself —We all will die

This list of vanities is loaded with application. Don’t spend your time focused on these things, or else life will be meaningless. To the youth, don’t spend so much focus on trying to be popular. Don’t get involved in the pleasures of this world like alcohol (2:3). Many have tried these routes, but in the end find them to be meaningless. To the young adult, don’t spend needless energy trying to amass your fortune. Many try, but in the end discover that wealth is meaningless. To the senior adult, don’t spend needless time or money on endless measures to keep yourself from dying. In the end, God designed us all so that we would die.

The Wisdom of God will lead you into more life.

God reveals these truths not to bring us pessimism, but to bring us perspective.

Obviously, the preacher’s view of life is pretty pessimistic. However, as pessimistic as it sounds, without God, the preacher has analyzed correctly the nature of life upon the earth. Yet, in a relationship with God, we can enjoy life and are even instructed to enjoy life.

Where do you find this wisdom?

First, you find it in relationship to God. Second, you find it in the Word of God.

Pray for all of those who are graduating—the kindergarteners, the high school graduates, the college graduates, and those with higher degrees. May all know to seek God and all other things will be added unto them. (Matthew 6:33)

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Can We Change the Culture around Us?

I admit that this is a question about which I spend a fair amount of time thinking. This was the subject of my sermon yesterday. Yesterday’s sermon was one I needed to hear because most days I feel like we are losing. I hear people say things like “We have lost the cultural war.”

I got soundly defeated last week at the City-Parish Council meeting over an alcohol ordinance. If the cause would have been a little league baseball game, I would have been dismissed early from the meeting by “the mercy rule.”

Licking my pride a bit that I could not muster up more than a single vote, God brought me back to the greatest sermon ever preached—the Sermon on the Mount. You remember that Jesus gave us the analogy there that we are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Go read the text in Matthew 5:13-16.

I was reminded there that we change the culture by recognizing four clear principles.

1. We must recognize our Divine Calling. Nothing was more important in the first century than salt and light. Peter said that, as believers, {we} are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that {we} may proclaim the praises of Him who called {us} out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)

2. We must maintain a Distinct Character. I believe the huge mistake that the American Church has made across the 25 years of my ministry is that we have attempted to influence the culture by fitting into the culture instead of maintaining our Christian distinctiveness. You may disagree, but my opinion is that this has proven to be an absolute failure.

3. We must keep Direct Contact. Here is the balance to the earlier criticism of the Church. Certainly we must be in contact with the world around us to make a difference. Salt and light only make a difference when in contact with whatever needs the salt or light. So, the same is true with the church and culture. Let us pray to have wisdom to keep this balance.

4. We must seek to Deflect the Credit. Who gets the credit? We must point people to Jesus not the Church. Perhaps one of the real reasons that the Church is sometimes not more effective is that people see our intentions as promoting ourselves rather than pointing others to God. What matters is not what people think of us, it will be “What do they think of Jesus?”

(This post is based on the message “Can We Change the Culture?” which you can watch at fbclaf.org/video)

What Hope Looks Like

Hopelessness is the enemy of faith. We all need hope.

When I think about hope I always think about a story about the little boy playing Little League baseball. He is out in the field when his father arrives late for the game. Through the fence his father asks, “What’s the score?” “18-0!” says the little boy, “We’re losing.” Trying to offer comfort his dad says, “I’m sorry, son.” With the hope only a Little Leaguer could have, he answers back, “Don’t worry, Dad, we haven’t even got up to bat yet!” Now that’s hope.

Billy Graham once said, “The greatest need in our world today is the need for hope. We thrive on hope, we rejoice in hope, we witness in hope, knowing that experience works hope. ‘Happy is he . . . whose hope is in the Lord his God (Psalm 146:5).’ There is hope for the future. It is centered in the Person of Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose from the grave and is alive now. I have staked all that I am or ever hope to be on Him.” At yet another occasion, Graham said, “Faith points us beyond our problems to the hope we have in Christ.”

When Jesus is our “hope,” we have more than hope as the world defines hope. We have a rock solid guarantee.

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What’s Happening this Week at FBC?

Don and Mary Langford

Don and Mary Langford

Saturday afternoon, the Evangeline Baptist Association is honoring Dr. Don and Mrs. Mary Langford with a reception from 2-4 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall at 2-4 p.m. They served Southern Baptists for many years as missionaries to Hong Kong. You are invited to attend.

I look forward to gathering with you Sunday as we consider a portion of the Sermon on the Mount.

As a new member or new guest I urge your attendance at our seminar called First Look. We designed this seminar specifically for new members and those interested in membership. This fast-paced seminar helps new members and prospective members to understand our church’s history, distinctive beliefs, and ministry opportunities. We will meet Sunday from 5:30-7:30 in Room D101.

We have an opportunity this month to make a special offering to the Bower-Conrad Offering for Association Missions. The Evangeline Baptist Association is our most local partnership with Southern Baptist Churches. St. Clair Bower and Carl Conrad were two pioneers of Baptist church starts in Acadiana. The offering is named for their dedication in establishing churches in our region. In making a gift to this offering, use the special envelope marked “Bower-Conrad Offering” or use your regular envelope and write “Bower-Conrad” on the “other” line.

We are now only two weeks away from the beginning of Vacation Bible School. We owe a big “thank you” to everyone who has already volunteered. We need everyone to now be fully engaged not only in praying, but also involved in inviting children. All church members can do us a big favor by registering your children in advance.

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Fueling Faith

“So that you won’t grow weary and lose heart.” That was the encouragement from the writer of Hebrews as recorded in Hebrews 12:3. Some days are like that, aren’t they? In this world so filled with pain, misery, and difficulty, you might just want to say “Forget it.” I’m done with the church. I’m done with Jesus. Too many problems. Too many heartaches. Too much bad news. Too many people complaining about stuff that really isn’t important. The boss is not happy. The wife is not happy. And, I’m not happy. You are weary and are on the verge of losing heart.

What do you do? You have faith! But where do you find faith? Where do you find the fuel to ignite that faith? I think we discover several simple principles in Hebrews 12.

Keep Looking Back—

You will find saints who encourage your faith.

Keep Looking Within—

You will find sin which entangles your faith.

Keep Looking Forward—

You will find the setting which calls for endurance in your faith.

Keep Looking Up—

You will find the Savior who exemplifies and empowers your faith.

Keep Looking Beyond—

You will find that suffering expands your faith.

What If Your Mother’s Day Was Not a Hallmark Movie?

What if your Mother’s Day was not a Hallmark movie?

Naomi, the mother-in-law of Ruth, had every right to ask that question. Ruth could too for that matter. After a couple of names and places in the opening verses 1-3, verses 4 and 5 kind of have a staccato-like feel filled with a series of events that could simply be labeled, “Bad News.”

The Bible tells us that at some point in this time of the judges, there was a famine in the land of Promise. (Ruth 1:1). Living in Bethlehem (a town that means by the way, the house of bread), there was a man by the name of Elimelech (God is my King) and his wife, Naomi (Pleasant or Sweet One). They had two sons—Mahlon and Chilion. By the way, Mahlon means “sickly” and Chilion means “frail.” Can’t you see it? It’s a rather sad tale. “Hello, my name is ‘God is my King’ and this is my wife, ‘Sweet One.’ We are from the ‘House of Bread,’ but we left there, because there was a famine in the land, and we were about to starve to death. Meet our two kids, ‘Sickly’ and ‘Frail.’” The old line, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all” comes to mind. We might laugh, but believe me, they weren’t laughing. It could be that their move to the land of Moab was specifically tied to Elimelech’s doubts about God. Moab was a place known for great sin against God. This family went to the land of Moab, outside of the land of Promise, back across the Jordan River and on the other side of the Dead Sea. Not long after being there, Elimelech died. The sons married women from the land of Moab—one named Orpah and one named Ruth. Not long after that and before any children were born, Mahlon and Chilion died.

No Hallmark movie, I assure you.

So, what do you do if your Mother’s Day was no Hallmark movie? I think we can learn several important principles from Ruth’s story.

· Expect Life to be filled with Challenges.

There is a lot happening in Ruth 1:1, and this one verse gives us some pieces of the puzzle of the challenges of life. This was the time of the judges. There was a famine. They decided to go to Moab. So, let’s see, some challenges are from the culture (“time of judges”), some are natural (famine), and others are our own doing (move to Moab).

· Engage in Christ-Honoring Relationships.

After all the men died, Naomi decided to return to Israel. Ruth could have stayed in Moab, but in a touching scene, she commits to her mother-in-law, no matter what. See, when life gets challenging for us, I am afraid that one of our reactions is to shut down and shut people out of our lives. In reality, we should be doing just the opposite.

· Eliminate the Conclusion that there is no hope.

The beautiful love story of Ruth and Boaz almost got derailed by Naomi’s hopelessness. We see that hopelessness in 1:11-14 and then again in 1:20-21. Naomi had lost everything, but the greatest thing she had lost was her hope.

Hopelessness is the enemy of faith.

· Exercise faith in all Circumstances.

Everything Ruth does, she does by faith. We exercise faith by faith. We exercise faith when we don’t necessarily have a lot of faith.

· Be Eager for God to have the Climactic Word.

The story of Ruth ends with the announcement of the marriage of Ruth and Boaz and the announcement of the birth of their son—Obed. A few generations later, we get the birth of King David, the greatest King Israel would ever know. Later, of course, we get from David’s line the birth of King Jesus. The story of Ruth not only becomes a love story for a few people living in Bethlehem, but points to a love story for all the world also stemming from a little place called Bethlehem.

What’s Happening This Week at FBC?

Sunday is going to be an exciting day of worship. In the morning services, we will dedicate parents of children to the LORD. That’s right—a Parent/Child Dedication Service is much more about dedication of parents than children. Pray for each of these families as they commit themselves before the Lord.

I am always sensitive to the fact that Mother’s Day brings as many unpleasant feelings as pleasant feelings. So, if Mother’s Day is a difficult day for you for whatever reason, know that we are praying for you. In fact, the title of my message Sunday is “What If Your Mother’s Day Isn’t a Hallmark Movie?” I trust that the Lord Himself will speak to each of us through the Biblical story of Ruth. I encourage you to read the short story of Ruth before you come Sunday.

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Graduating to Godliness

A pastor asked a farmer, “How are you doing in your relationship to Christ?” His answer was, “Well, I’m not making as much progress as I would like or need to, but I am established.”

Soon after that the pastor came upon the farmer stuck in the mud. The pastor said, “Well, I see that you are not making as much progress as you would like or need to, but at least you are well established.”

No, he was more than well established; he was stuck. When we fail to make progress in our walk with Christ, let’s be honest, we are stuck!

So, how to we get un-stuck?

In the first chapter of 2 Peter, we realize a couple of key ingredients that keep our growing in godliness in balance.

First, in verses 3 and 4, we learn that God provides everything we need for life and godliness. If you are struggling to grow in godliness, this is not God’s fault. He has provided all you need to grow in godliness.

Second, in verses 5-12, we learn that we must be willing participants to grow in godliness. We cannot become godly without His power and grace, but we must be willing participants in getting to godliness. This is the balance. We tend to grow in godliness as we give ourselves to God through prayer and His Word.

What a great promise! His Divine Power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. Does today find you in growing in godliness?

Join Us Thursday at Lunch to Pray for our Nation

NDP-LOGO-STICKER-Investing-in-Hope...-Transforming-our-Nation-Through-PrayerThursday, May 4th, is the annual National Day of Prayer. As we approach this day, I am grateful for all of the prayer gatherings that will happen across the United States of America.

In the Book of Acts, people are said to be praying 31 times. Of these 31 times …

• 14 times an individual is said to be praying.
• 2 times two or more people in a small group are said to be praying.
• 15 times the church is gathered in prayer.

Half of the references to praying in the book of Acts are references to corporate praying! We see in Acts that there were appointed times and places for prayer. We see that the church prayed for power, wisdom, boldness to share Christ, in times of crisis, for missionaries, for pastors, and for each other. When the Early Church encountered a crisis, they didn’t pout, panic, protest, sign a petition, or organize a boycott. Instead, they prayed.

Bob Russell, retired pastor of Southeast Bible Church in Louisville, KY, recounts the story of how his church once bought the building next door to the leading abortion clinic in Kentucky. They did some crisis pregnancy counseling out of this building, but mainly they prayed. As a result, in 18 months, the abortion clinic closed!

It is not easy to pray. Sometimes, we feel like there is more we should do. Let’s remember that possibly there is more that God would call us to do. However, we cannot do more unless we are willing to work hard in prayer. And, let us always remember that there is nothing better that we can do than pray.

We are hosting a prayer service this Thursday at lunch beginning at 11:30 in Fellowship Hall. We will follow the basic model planned by the National Day of Prayer Organization. We have invited Dr. David Carlton, our local Baptist Association’s Director of Missions and First Baptist member, to be our guest speaker and prayer leader.
I hope that you will join us to pray this Thursday.

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Finishing Strong

Yesterday, our church celebrated the historic occasion of a staff member’s 50th anniversary at First Baptist Church. Bro. Luther Burney came to Lafayette, by way of Texas, by way of Swartz, LA in 1967. For 39 years, he was the Minister of Music. On the last day of 2005, he retired as Minister of Music. On the first day of 2006, he assumed a part-time role as Assistant to the Pastor. He continues in that role today.

I asked Bro. Luther “Why do you think you made it so long?” He quipped that he has lived long enough to stay at one place for 50 years. He also indicated that he had worked for just one pastor the 39 years of being Music Minister and one (me) for the others. I suspect that from a practical standpoint that is true, but there are other spiritual principles that allow any of us to last a long time doing anything.

I take my clues from Hebrews 13—a sermon in letter form dedicated to inspiring people to finish strong.

The person who endures must . . .

1. Be Exemplary in his or her personal life. (13:1-6)

Those who endure are going to leave a legacy of purity in their public and private lives.

2. Be Established in the precepts of the faith. (13:7-10)

Those who endure know what they believe, believe what they believe, and live what they believe.
3. Keep eyes on the prize of eternal life. (13:14)

To endure, we must keep heavenly focused even as we live out our days on earth.
4. Be engaged in praise in both word and deed. (13:15-16)

The Old Testament saints had an elaborate sacrificial system of offerings. Our offerings, because of the once-and-for-all offering of Jesus, are made first with our lips and then with our hands and feet.

5. Be equipped with the power of God. (20-21)

Finally, there is the reminder that ultimately Jesus is working in us, empowering us and equipping us to do His will.

What are you doing today to make sure that you finish strong?

(This post is based on the message “May All Who Come Behind Us Find Us Faithful” which you can watch at fbclaf.org/video)