Three Questions to Ask about our Giving

Sunday, our church will carry out the annual exercise of approving our operating budget for 2018. This is a necessary part of the life of our church. I am always concerned that we will lose sight of the ministry reflected in the dollars. When we think of giving to the Lord and not the church, our perspective changes.

In 1 Chronicles 29, there is a wonderful passage that prompts important questions about our giving to God.

1. Who does it belong to anyway?

The first nine verses of this text are a description of the giving of David followed by a description of the giving of the people. Beginning in verse 10 is a prayer of thanksgiving for being able to make the offering. The heart of this prayer communicates “the right perspective about possessions.” Everything belongs to God. Greatness, power, glory, victory, majesty—these all belong to God.
This list of praise leads David to ask a defining question, as recorded in verse 14, “But who am I, and who are my people that we should be able to offer so willingly as this?” And then the conclusive statement at the end of verse 14, “For all things come from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your own hand.”
The only reason we have anything to give is because we have received from God.

2. What is my attitude about my giving?

The obvious truth of this passage is that we should be willing and joyful when we give. Indeed, as Paul said, “God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

3. What am I seeking to benefit from my gift?

David and his people recognized that they were giving to the construction of the Temple of which they would never personally benefit. I love this description of giving. This is true giving. Let us be mindful that we give, not to get, but instead just to give and be a blessing to God and others.

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What Does Zephaniah have to do with Me?

What do you know about the Old Testament prophet Zephaniah? Zephaniah 1:1 tells us that Zephaniah prophesied in the days of Josiah. That means something. It means that Zephaniah was born into one of the worst times in history, but he also lived to see a revival. In fact, I think we can assume that it is Zephaniah’s preaching in part that God used to bring about this revival.

Josiah was the king of Judah that had one of the most unusual resumes ever for a king. He was 8 years old when he began to reign. His father was Amon. Amon was only 22 years old when he began to reign. He lasted only two years before he was assassinated. Amon’s father was a king named Manasseh. He was only 12 years old when he began to reign, but he reigned for 55 years. Here is the first word we get about him in 2 Kings. “He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, imitating the abominations of the nations that the Lord had disposed before the Israelites.” (2 Kings 21) Later in verse 16 of 2 Kings 21 we read, “Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem with it from one end to another. This was in addition to his sin he caused Judah to commit so that they did what was evil in the Lord’s sight.”

This is the world in which Zephaniah was born. Fifty-five years of Manasseh’s reign and the two years of Amon’s reign had left Judah far away from God. Zephaniah was born to desperate times. It wasn’t as Charles Dickens wrote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” It was just the worst of times. And these times made Zephaniah desperate for God to move. This begs several questions.

• How desperate are we?
• What is the evidence in our lives that we are desperate? In our praying? In our personal holiness?
• How difficult do things have to get before we get desperate?

What’s Happening at FBC This Week?

Our focus for worship this Sunday morning is on the family. We will take some time in our morning worship to have a special time of parent-child dedication. Be praying for and with these thankful families as they dedicate themselves to the LORD. We are also continuing our series on prayer with a special look at “How to Pray for Our Children.”

Then, Sunday night is our Annual Church Conference. We will seek to approve the Ministry Action Plan (Budget) for 2018 and approve committees for 2018.

Be praying for YEC at the Cajun Dome! YEC stands for Youth Evangelism Conference. This is the largest event of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Organizers expect 7,000 students from across the state to gather Monday and Tuesday. We are blessed to have this event in our city. Be praying for an extraordinary move of God.

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A Simple Plan to Build Discipline in our Praying

The discipline to pray is like any other discipline. We do better with goals and a plan. Daniel of the Old Testament is a great example.

Why Do We Need Discipline in our Prayer Life?

1. Because we need to be consistent in our praying no matter how good things get. Consider Daniel 5:29. Things were great for Daniel. Sometimes the most tempting time to stop praying is when everything is going fine. We get to feeling that we don’t need God.

2. Because we need to be consistent in our praying no matter how bad things get. Consider Daniel 6:1-9. Things began to go wrong for Daniel. There are other times when we stop praying in the bad. Maybe we struggle with our faith in God. Somebody might say, “I don’t feel like praying.” Those are the days when we need the pray the most and the hardest.

3. Because prayer should never be our last resort with God. A consistent, disciplined prayer life is the best way to keep prayer from being a last resort with God.

George Mueller said, “It is a common temptation of Satan to make us give up the reading of the Word and prayer when our enjoyment is gone; as if it were of no use to read the scriptures when we do not enjoy them, and as if it were no use to pray when we have no spirit of prayer. The truth is that, in order to enjoy the Word, we ought to continue to read it, and the way to obtain a spirit of prayer is to continue praying. The less we read the Word of God, the less we desire to read it, and the less we pray, the less we desire to pray.”

The Way to Pray with Discipline

Just like other disciplines, we might need a . . .

1. Specific Time

2. Specific Place

3. Specific Plan

Ultimately, we must pray.

Bill Hybels said in his book, Too Busy Not to Pray, “For the miracle of prayer to begin operating in our lives, we must finally do only one thing: we must pray. I can write about prayer, and you can read about it, and you can even lend my book to a friend. But sooner or later, we have to pray. Then, and only then, will we begin to live moment by moment in God’s presence.”

(This post is based on the message “How to Keep on Praying” which you can watch at fbclaf.org/video)

The Discipline of Praying

We have a wonderful model in Daniel. Daniel’s setting is in the time of the Exile. The first six chapters are a mix of prophecy and real life stories of the faithfulness of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The faith of these four young men is an example for every generation of perseverance in the face of any kind of difficulty. Daniel is also a great example of someone disciplined in prayer.

Knowledge is not the key to a deeper, more disciplined prayer life. A new plan is not the key. The key is solely in our own discipline.

The evidence of Daniel’s passion and commitment to prayer is found throughout his story.

• Prayer was the habit of his life. “As was his custom” is one translation of Daniel 6:10.
• He was known for praying with discipline three times a day. (Daniel 6:13)
• He invited others to pray in times of crisis. (Daniel 2:17-18) This was his first response upon hearing of the king’s decision to execute all of the wise men of the kingdom, including Daniel and his 3 friends. He began his prayer by blessing the name of God.

What do we learn from the discipline in Daniel’s life? First, we learn something about what keeps us from the discipline of prayer.

Two Warnings about the Discipline of Prayer

1. Avoid either Extreme in establishing a disciplined prayer life.

• No Discipline—Obviously, we have to have some parameters of discipline.

• Legalism—To the point that prayer lacks the relationship. Prayer is not something we check off our list for the day.

2. Satan will go to the extreme in keeping you undisciplined in your prayer life.

You want some interruptions in life? Commit to praying. You want some unexpected busyness? Commit to praying.

Samuel Chadwick said, “The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.

Ask God to help you to have the discipline of Daniel.

(This post is based on the message “How to Keep on Praying” which you can watch at fbclaf.org/video)

Praying for Our Veterans

When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”  (Judges 6:12 NIV)

On this Veteran’s Day Weekend, think of all the heroes of the Bible who were veterans of military battles. Joshua and David are first to come to mind. The great Judges of the book by that name are all known for their military leadership.

How can we honor our veterans this weekend and every day? Recently, I have been thinking about prayer as I have led others to think about a revival of prayer. My simple conclusion is that we should pray about all things, all the time, and for all people. Our praying, especially this weekend, should include our veterans. After all, think of the sacrifices they have made for us. Surely, we can sacrifice a few moments of prayer for our veterans.

How can we pray for veterans?

1. Pray for their healing. Many of our veterans carry physical scars. Pray that they will come to a place of healing. Pray for them to be free of pain. Often worse than the physical pain, our veterans carry mental, emotional, and spiritual pain. Pray that they will find their healing in the One who heals all hurts—Jesus Christ.

2. Pray for their families. Many times the families of our veterans suffer with them. Obviously, this stress takes an emotional toll on relationships.

3. Pray for their salvation. As with everyone, pray that the lost will be saved. Pray that every veteran will accept the One who has made the greatest sacrifice ever. Indeed, as recorded in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

4. Pray with thanksgiving. Thank God for calling men and women to military service and instilling in them the courage to protect our country at their own peril. The thanksgiving prayers of the Bible come to mind. For example, as recorded in Philippians 1:3, Paul prayed, “I thank my God every time I remember you.”

5. Pray for our country to be worthy of the sacrifice of the brave men and women who have served.

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We Certainly Owe our Veterans Respect and Honor

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (Romans 13:7)

Romans 13:7 is likely the clearest word in the Bible on the relationship between the Christian and government. While Paul likely had the governing authorities in mind when he instructed to honor those we owe honor, certainly our Veterans are extensions of the implications of this text.

Absentee voting is going on this week with a November 18 election date. In our area, we have a state-wide Treasurer’s Race along with several local tax proposals. We ought never to cast a vote without thinking about and thanking veterans. I heard about a week ago that the expected turnout in Lafayette Parish is predicted to be about 6%. This is unconscionable to me. May I make a heartfelt plea to get informed and go vote!

So, what are you going to be doing this Veteran’s Day? Let me offer 4 ideas of how to spend this Veteran’s Day Weekend.

1. Thank God for calling men and women to military service and instilling in them the courage to protect our country at their own peril. The thanksgiving prayers of the Bible come to mind. For example, as recorded in Philippians 1:3, Paul prayed, “I thank my God every time I remember you.”

2. Thank a veteran. Buy a meal, make a phone call, or reach out in some personal way to a veteran in your community.

3. Teach the Children—Make an intentional effort to talk to a child or teenager about the sacrifices of veterans.

4. Talk to God about our country. Pray today that we might be the kind of nation worthy of the sacrifices of our veterans.

Our Christian School, First Baptist Christian School, is hosting a Veteran’s Day Chapel Service Friday, November 10, at 8:15 a.m. in our Sanctuary. We would love to have you. This chapel service is open to the public.

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What’s Happening this Week at FBC?

We continue to ask you to pray for the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Perhaps you have heard that the Southern Baptist Convention, which we are a part, has offered to pay the funeral expenses of all 26 people murdered in that small church.

First Baptist Christian School is hosting a special chapel for Veteran’s Day this Friday, November 10, at 8:15 a.m. in the main Sanctuary. I want to invite you to this chapel service for two reasons. First, we want to gather in worship to thank God for the veterans who have served our country. We want to teach our students to honor our veterans. We would love for all to be a part of this service, especially our veterans. Second, this is a good way to get to know our school. The classes will be presenting different elements of the worship service through songs and readings.

On Sunday afternoon, our church is hosting a special “Surviving the Holidays” Seminar. “Surviving the Holidays” is especially for people who are grieving a loved one’s death, or who recently experienced a separation or divorce. The seminar is from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. During this free seminar you will learn how to deal with the many emotions you’ll face during the holidays, what to do about traditions and other coming changes, helpful tips for surviving social events, and how to discover hope for your future. Perhaps you or someone you know will benefit from this opportunity.

I look forward to seeing you Sunday for Sunday School and Worship. We will continue our series on prayer with a Biblical challenge regarding the discipline of continuing in prayer.

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Raising our Voices to God

Sunday, I preached from Acts 4:23-31. Peter and John had been arrested for preaching about Jesus. They were released only after being warned to stop preaching. The text reveals what happened next.

After they were released, they went to their own people and reported everything the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they all raised their voices to God and said, “Master, You are the One who made the heaven, the earth, and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You said through the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David Your servant:

Why did the Gentiles rage
and the peoples plot futile things?
26 The kings of the earth took their stand
and the rulers assembled together
against the Lord and against His Messiah.

27 “For, in fact, in this city both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that Your slaves may speak Your message with complete boldness, 30 while You stretch out Your hand for healing, signs, and wonders to be performed through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” 31 When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God’s message with boldness.

Little did I know as I preached from this text in our second service, a church in Texas was facing unfathomable chaos. We, like those spoken about in Acts, have heard the report. What next? We pray. Notice in the text…

The Immediate Response of Persons in Need

After they were released they went to their own people and reported what had happened and what had been said to them. We all need “our people.” We need to have the freedom to report to “our people” what is happening in our lives.

The Immediate Response of the Persons Who Hear of the Need

They raised their voices to God. Prayer was not the last resort. Prayer was their first response. This happens all throughout Acts. Christians, everywhere, have heard the report about Sutherland Springs, Texas. We now join together in raising our voices to God.

The Requests that are Made (Verses 24-29): How did the early church pray? How should we pray?

We must pray….

1. According to the Sovereign Control of God. “Master.” This is the same way Jeremiah prayed when God told him to purchase a field when at the same time he saw the Babylonian army gathering in the distance. Jeremiah went on to pray, “There is nothing too hard for you.” (Jeremiah 32:17) This is the way Daniel prayed when God began to show him that the land of Israel was going to be restored.

Someone said, “Sovereignty is understanding that God is God all by Himself.”

2. According to the Creative Activity of God. “who made Heaven and earth…” When we pray according to the creative activity of God, we are acknowledging that He is in charge of that which He created.

3. According to the Victory of the Cross. Many conspired against Jesus, but God’s plan overcame.

4. According to the Crisis. “Now, LORD, look on their threats.”

5. Asking for God’s continued hand upon their lives.—Notice what they did not pray? They did not pray for the Lord to keep them safe. They did not ask for the threats to cease. Instead they prayed for boldness in the face of the threats.

6. Asking God to cause miracles to happen. (Verse 30) We all come to these points when we need a miracle. Our nation needs a miracle.

Make Acts 4:23-31 your prayer for Sutherland Springs today!

(This post is based on the message “How to Pray Together” which you can watch at fbclaf.org/video)

A Prayerful Reflection about the Shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas

One month ago, on the Monday morning after the massacre in Las Vegas and the shooting of a police officer in my city, I wrote these words with the title, “No Words.”

I try to write a short piece of devotion, message, and reflection daily. As I often remark, “It’s only hard if I don’t have anything to say.” Words are hard to find this morning. The latest information on the Las Vegas massacre is over 50 dead and over 400 injured. Those numbers are staggering. No words. In my own beloved city of Lafayette, we woke to the news that a Lafayette Policeman was killed last night responding to a robbery. There was another murder last night. Friday night a couple was killed in the parking lot of IHOP. No words. Senseless. Evil. Those words, though true, fall short.

And, here we are one month later with a horrific mass murder in a church. A First Baptist Church—just like the name of our church. No Words!

I just heard a news anchor say, “Thank you for joining us tonight. We are here to tell you everything you need to know regarding the church shooting in Texas.”

Really? Everything I need to know? Not hardly. The news anchor might be able to tell me all he knows. He might be telling me the statistics of how many, where it happened, then names of the victims, and the names of the perpetrator, but he will hardly give me everything I need to know.

I need to know more. Why? Why these people? Why this town? Why this church? The news anchor wanted to supply me with information, not answers.

For these questions, there are few answers, and we make a grave mistake when we try to answer. Ask Job and his friends.

Read Job 38-42. I will give you the first seven verses of chapter 38.

Then the LORD answered Job from the whirlwind. He said:
2 Who is this who obscures My counsel
with ignorant words?
3 Get ready to answer Me like a man;
when I question you, you will inform Me.
4 Where were you when I established the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
5 Who fixed its dimensions? Certainly you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 What supports its foundations?
Or who laid its cornerstone
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Job got the message. We see his brief response at the beginning of chapter 40.

3 Then Job answered the LORD:
4 I am so insignificant. How can I answer You?
I place my hand over my mouth.
5 I have spoken once, and I will not reply;
twice, but now I can add nothing.

And so, we learn from Job. Sometimes it is best to say nothing at all. We let God speak. We let God speak when we let His Word speak.

In times of crisis, one of my “go to” places of Scripture is Hebrews. Hebrews was written to a people in crisis. The book gives us a constant theme of encouragement to endure. The closing chapters give us an exhortation of how to respond.

Keep Looking to Jesus!

Hebrews 12:2 calls him the author and finisher of our faith. I don’t know what people do in these times without Jesus. We will look to Him! We will look to Him in prayer. We will look to Him for hope.

Keep Praising Jesus!

Hebrews 12:28 says that we must serve God with reverence and awe. I need to worship today more than ever. I find that when I worship, I worry less. It’s impossible to worry and worship at the same time.

But worship is more than what is obvious. In addition to praising God in formal and informal times of worship, chapter 13 reveals that worship is revealed in our public actions like loving fellow Christians, strangers, and sufferers. Worship doesn’t stop there. We also reveal our worship in our personal actions as in our marriages and with our money (Hebrews 13:4-5)

Keep Pouring over the Scriptures!

Hebrews 13:7-9 indicates a third response. We need to let the word of God come in to our lives. We can do this by paying attention to our spiritual leaders (13:7), to the changeless words of Jesus (13:8), and to the basic doctrines. (13:9)

Many will appear with deceptive words in these last days, so we must know well the Word of God.

Keep preaching about Jesus!

Finally, we respond to crisis by letting our witness go out.

Jesus was led out of Jerusalem. He was rejected by the establishment. Jesus now calls us to go outside the camp. The unshaken kingdom has its future not inside, but outside the camp.

A world in crisis can ill afford a church that remains in camp. Instead, we must go outside the camp.

We, like Jesus, must be willing to bear the burden and bear the reproach. Our world desperately needs Jesus.

The answers to Sutherland Springs are not so much in what we say in the next days, but in what we do.