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Super Sunday

Hello blogosphere!  It’s been a while.  Well by now, most of you know what this coming Sunday is.  If you guessed Super Bowl Sunday, you’d be right.  Typically, I am always pretty hyped up about the Super Bowl, but not this year.  For the first time in a long time, I have no significant interest in the big game.  For me, there is no favorite team, no favorite player, no hometown hero this year that really excites me, that inspires me to passionately paint my face, don an expensive jersey, and cheer til I’m horse.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’ll still watch the game.  I mean, come on, it’s still football.  But this year, I’ll be less of a die-hard fan and more of a casual observer.  However, even without the emotional investment, Super Sunday will still be super for me, but for an entirely different reason.  On that day, I will have the privilege of worshipping my Lord and Savior with people who, in a very real way, are my family.  That is a real blessing.

 

Look around you.  We live in a society that seems to be more divided than ever before.  Sure, there have been divisions since the dawn of time.  But it seems to me that the polarization that we see now has been intensified to a whole new level.  If you don’t believe me, just go right now to your Facebook page (if you have one) and scroll through the various posts.  I’m willing to bet that it won’t be long until you see an inflammatory or offensive post, or an angry response to an article that is posted.  Whatever the issue might be, whether it is political, racial, sports related, or another issue, you’ll see the divide up close and personal, and you’ll see it very quickly.  Quite frankly, people are angry, and often times that anger is misplaced and leads to vitriolic, mean-spirited, hate-filled and ungodly rhetoric.  Look no further than our government leaders in Washington to get a great example of this.    

 

So what happens when those divisions and anger spill over into the church?  Yes, that can and does happen in our churches (shocking, I know J).  The truth of the matter is that because our churches are filled with imperfect people, those people will often respond to situations within the body in imperfect ways.  When people don’t get their way, or they simply disagree with you, sometimes you see true natures revealed.  It is certainly disappointing and disheartening, and I can even understand why some people view the church with skepticism and animosity, but we must push through.  Forsaking the body and failing to be a part of a Bible-teaching church is not an option, as the writer of Hebrews clearly states when he wrote:

 

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…” (Hebrews 10:25, NIV)

 

So, the question simply becomes “then what do we do?”  Well, I think the apostle Paul addresses it pretty clearly in Romans 12.

 

“Live in harmony with one another.  Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:16-18, NIV)

 

Pretty straight forward, isn’t it?  Paul was never one to really pull any punches.  One word that sticks out to me in this passage is harmony. Harmony, as you probably know, is a musical concept.  Essentially, it is the combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce chords having a pleasing effect.  Simply put, harmony happens when someone sings or plays different notes that are different than the main portion (melody).  The result is music that is beautiful to the ears.  Now you are probably wondering how this applies spiritually.  Well, I will tell you.  Often times, we think of harmony in a spiritual context as everyone thinking and acting in the same way.  That’s a little off.  Understand that harmony is not the same thing as uniformity.  Harmony, in a church application, is working together and producing something beautiful, even though there might be differences of opinions.  In this passage, Paul is encouraging the church in Rome to live in harmony by working through our differences in order to produce God-centered worship.  In order to do that, we have to humble ourselves, put down our pride, and work on being people of peace.  That is much easier said than done, because generally speaking, we all have pride issues.  But if we want to honor God, then there is never a substitute for doing the right thing.  It might be difficult, but it is always worth it. 

 

I will confess something to you right now.  Pastors get disappointed in people too.  I think sometimes people think that pastors just keep on going, unfazed by the discord, dissension, and disrespect around them.  While that might be true for some, I can tell you that is certainly not the case for me.  I get disappointed when people I shepherd and guide behave in ungodly ways, but as my assistant (who is much wiser than she gives herself credit for) just reminded me, we have got to seek to understand where people are and where they’re coming from.  We have got to stop drawing our lines in the sand and saying “it’s my way or no way”.  Let’s stop taking our toys and running home when things don’t go the way that we think they should.  Let’s stop hurting one another.  Instead, let us seek to live in harmony, both in our churches and outside them.  Let’s be people who always do what is right.  Let’s be people of peace, recognizing our differences and working together anyway for the good of the gospel.  Let’s turn down the vitriol and turn up the love.

 

So, when you attend church this Sunday, will it be super Sunday for you, or will it be business as usual?  The choice is yours.  I’m praying you choose harmony and peace.  And by the way, enjoy the game!

 

I love you,

 

J.P.



A Crisis of Conviction

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.” 

 

“I know you’re into big diversion …anything to avoid talking about your campaign and the way it’s exploding…. But let’s at least focus.”

 

 

The preceding quotes have been brought to you from two of our presidential candidates (I’ll let you guess who said what).  These quotes represent just a brief snippet of what has been the most negative, vitriolic, downright mean presidential election in recent memory.  From claims of sexual assault, racism, to tax evasion, the candidates have attacked each other in a personal manner rarely seen is modern political history.  As a pastor, I rarely make political statements publicly, and I never endorse a political candidate, but as a believer, I, probably like many of you, have found myself incredibly discouraged at the options in this election cycle.  I am embarrassed at the current state of things and find myself incredibly concerned about the direction of our country.  I have also found myself continually disappointed and embarrassed at the comments and behavior of self-professing Christians on social media and other mediums as they defend their candidates of choice and attack others with much of the same vitriol the candidates are displaying.  As I have prayed and thought about these things over the past few months, I have repeatedly asked myself the questions, “What is a Christian to do in this situation?  How are we to respond?”

You, like me, have probably read many articles written by esteemed and respected Christian thinkers that tout the importance of voting in this particular election.  Most of these writers cling to the “lesser of two evils” argument and claim that it is our duty and responsibility as not only Americans but as Christians to fulfill our duty and vote.  While I certainly agree that it is important to vote according to one’s beliefs and convictions, I must take issue with some of these arguments.  Let me just pause for a moment here and encourage you to please understand that I am not trying to convince anyone of anything as it relates to voting.  That is not my responsibility.  I am simply giving you my thoughts on a very delicate topic, something that I have been previously hesitant to do.  However, the critical nature of what is at stake compels me to respond. 

First of all, let me say that while I recognize the importance of voting, I find no Scriptural basis that says that voting is mandatory.  I have heard the argument made that our brave military personnel have fought and died for my right to vote.  I respect that.  But I also recognize that those same brave souls fought for my right to withhold my vote when I feel that it is violating my conscience and my principles.  Secondly, while I am a proud American citizen, make no mistake that I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God first.  Because of that, I am held to higher standards, and my value system that governs the choices I make in my life (including voting) is based on that fact and that alone.  Thirdly, let me address the “lesser of two evils” argument.  It is simple, really.  Evil is still evil.  It doesn’t matter how much or how little, and it doesn’t even matter if you think an evil option is “not as bad” than the alternative evil option. It doesn’t change the fact that evil is still evil.  Dr. Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, probably said it best when he said,

“When Christians face two clearly immoral options, we cannot rationalize a vote for immorality or injustice just because we deem the alternative to be worse. The Bible tells us we will be held accountable not only for the evil deeds we do but also when we “give approval to those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32).This side of the New Jerusalem, we will never have a perfect candidate. But we cannot vote for evil, even if it’s our only option.”

This is an election where we have heard, read, and seen the most ungodly things come out of the mouths of our presidential candidates.  These things run contrary to the teachings and actions of Jesus Christ.  We must not be willing to sacrifice those beliefs simply to fulfill our roles as patriotic Americans.  No matter what happens on November 8th, I know that God will still be in control on November 9th.  We might not know what the future holds, but we certainly know who holds the future. 

Let me just conclude with this.  Pray.  Pray like never before.  Pray for our nation, the presidential candidates, and most importantly, for God’s will to be done in our country and among His Kingdom people.  Secondly, vote according to how the Lord leads you to vote.  But know that it is also ok not to vote if you feel that doing so violates your beliefs as a follower of Christ.  Remember that as Christians, we are not Americans first. Our citizenship is in another Kingdom and we need to behave accordingly.  Voting for the lesser of two evils is still evil. But know this.  No matter who our president is, I will pray for them and will respect them as the leader of our country (Romans 13:1-7).  And you should too.  May God be glorified in this election and our responses to it.

 



The Problem with Shredded Wheat

Can you believe that we are already in October?  That doesn’t seem possible, yet here we are.  And with the arrival of October comes the arrival of all things fall, right?  Cool weather, football, the beautiful color changes in foliage, and of course, pumpkin spice lattes.  All combine to usher in a season that is equal parts comforting and familiar yet exciting and new. 

 

Well, for the people of University Baptist Church, I am anticipating the arrival of a different type of season, but one that will bring similar emotions.  For us, the fall season is ushering in a season of revival.  We have been praying for months now for authentic Biblical revival to take place not only in UBC but in the city of Thibodaux, and at last, we have approached the time of our corporate revival meetings.  On Sunday through Wednesday of next week, at seven o’clock each evening, we will gather together to experience what I believe will result in the Lord pouring out His Spirit on His people in a way He never has before.

 

This naturally begs the question, “What is revival?”  In church life, we all too often consider revival to be something that we place on the church calendar nearly a year in advance.  We get a guest speaker, maybe even a guest praise band.  We hold special services for three or four days in a row, and voila, we have revival!!!  Does that sound familiar?  The problem there is that more often than not, we leave the same way we came in, with no discernible change whatsoever.  Why?  Well, I would submit to you that we experience no real change because we haven’t done what is necessary ahead of time to experience real life transformation.  We don’t really know what revival is.

 

The dictionary defines revival as “an improvement in the condition or strength of something.”  So if we apply that definition to our spiritual lives, I would say that revival in strengthening our spiritual lives.  It is drawing closer to God.  It is a dramatic improvement in our relationship with Christ, reviving what is perhaps near death.  It is not an event.  It is not a service.  The services merely prompt us to a real encounter with Christ.  It is about a relationship, and if we truly want authentic Biblical revival to take place, then we need to prepare our hearts now for what God wants to do in and through us.  One of the ways that we can do that is reconciliation.  Let us not forget that God is a God of reconciliation, and He desires for us to have reconciliation with others and with Him.  I love how the apostle Paul phrases it in Romans 12:17-18.  He says this:

 

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (NIV)

 

Let’s be honest.  We are pretty prideful people, and because we are pretty prideful people, reconciliation is something that doesn’t come naturally to us.  We usually think that the person who offended us should seek to make things right with us instead of the other way around.  After all, we didn’t do anything wrong.  Did we?  Here’s the thing.  There comes a point where who did what to whom is no longer relevant.  We have been called to live in peace with others.  I learned a long time ago that I can’t control what others do.  I can only control what I do.  I also learned that without seeking reconciliation, there will always be a barrier in my relationship with God, because He can never fully do what He wants to do in my life while I am harboring pain, bitterness, or resentment.

 

Have you ever eaten shredded wheat?  It is a decent enough cereal, I suppose.  But the problem with shredded wheat is that it always seems to get caught in my teeth.  As in every time I eat it.  Now when that happens, I generally have two choices.  Choice #1 is that I can let it sit there and fester, where it will eventually make my gums swollen and sore.  Choice #2 is that I can poke and prod at it until I get it out.  It might be uncomfortable for a while, but I know my gums will eventually heal.  The same is true of our relationships with other people.  We can let situations and circumstances fester, leading to great pain and bitterness that only grows over time, or we can deal with it and seek to make peace.  It might be difficult in the short term, but in the long term, God will reward our faithfulness.  The choice is ours and ours alone.

 

So, do you want revival?  I don’t mean just an exciting worship service.  I mean real, Biblical revival with the Spirit of the Living God.  If so, then do you need to seek reconciliation first?  If we want to experience the fullness of God, then we need to prepare ourselves now.  Let me encourage you to be a peacemaker.  Seek reconciliation.  Seek the Spirit.  If you are in the Thibodaux area, let me also encourage you to come out and be a part of our revival services.  Sunday, October 9 at 10:45 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. and Monday, October 10-Wednesday, October 12 at 7:00 p.m. at the corner of Percy Brown Road and Ardoyne Road in Thibodaux.  Look for the big tent.  Come experience the fullness of Almighty God and a revival of your spirit!  I can’t wait to see what God does!

 

I Love You,

 

JP



Comforting in the Chaos

Hello blogosphere!  It’s hard to believe that it’s been a month since I last posted.  Time sure flies!  I’ve just come back from a week of vacation with my family on the sunny beaches of Florida, and I must confess that I feel quite refreshed and reinvigorated.  However, I must also confess to you that part of me felt guilty for being on vacation, particularly at a time when so many of my fellow Louisianans were hurting and trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives as a result of the catastrophic flooding that hit south Louisiana just a few weeks ago.  As I watched the waves from the Gulf of Mexico slowly roll in, I could not help but think of the thousands of people that helplessly watched the water slowly roll into their homes, forever altering the course of their lives.  I, like you, know many people that have been impacted by this tragedy.  As I thought about this event and all the people affected, I also thought of the opportunities for service and ultimately, for the spread of the gospel, that would come out of this. 

 

But I also wondered what to say to those who were and still hurting.  “I’m sorry” seems to be so insufficient, so miniscule in the grand scheme of what they are facing.  As I began to really ponder on this subject, I was reminded that we sometimes worry so much about trying to say just the right thing to those that are hurting that we end up putting undue pressure on ourselves and ultimately say exactly what we were trying so hard to avoid saying in the first place.  Perhaps you have been in this type of situation.  If so, then maybe these words can be of some help. 

 

This is a list that a friend of mine shared with me.  It is not my list, but was written by Katie in a blog called “Red Stick Moms Blog”, and I found it to be an extremely helpful reminder to speak with sensitivity and compassion, as well as be prepared to back up my speech with a call to action.  Remember that our ultimate goal is to show the love of Jesus Christ, so let’s make sure that both our words and actions draw people closer to Him as opposed to pushing them away.

 

 

Here are 10 common sayings that flood victims don’t want to hear…

 

  • “Just be thankful that you are all safe and alive.”

I’m fairly certain everyone who survived the flooding is thankful they are alive and well; they do not need us reminding them.

  • “It’s just things that can be replaced.”

While “things” can often be replaced, many times they cannot. Pictures and family heirlooms, amongst other things, cannot be replaced. The longing for these lost materials will stay with them long after the flood waters have receded.

  • “At least you only got a few feet of water, my house flooded to the roof.”

Some houses got impacted more so than others, however it is NEVER appropriate to try and one up a fellow victim.

  • “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

Just no. Can we stop with that saying?  (UBC family, remember that I have told you about the flawed logic in this saying on more than one occasion.)

  • “Let me know if you need anything!”

This well-meaning comment has such great intent. Truly it does, but flood victims need lots of things and their minds are already overwhelmed. Can I recommend saying something more productive such as, “Can I come over to help you clean up in the morning?” or “Would it be alright if I buy your family some necessities like clothing, toiletries, and supplies?”

  • “It could always be worse.”

Yep, it sure could, but in this very moment, things are pretty grim for the victims. They need to feel all the emotions they have without judgment.

  • “I’m praying for you.” (and then nothing…)

Obviously you can totally say this comment (and I encourage you to do so), but please don’t stop there if you are in the area of need and can physically help. When one just endured such a tragedy, they often need help now and they need it fast. I’m sure no one gets offended by a prayer offering, but what they would really love in addition to your prayers is your man power in helping them begin to rebuild their life. (Please keep the prayers coming if you are unable to do anything else!)

  • “I sure hope you had flood insurance.”

Well, what if they don’t? Do they need a reminder that this devastation will cost thousands of dollars? Instead, maybe ask if you can help them with making claims or paperwork.

  • “At least you have each other.”

Our families are number one, obviously. It should go without saying that being together is the ultimate blessing, but even having each other doesn’t erase the pain or trauma of enduring a natural disaster.

  • “At least…”

Let’s just say anything that starts with “at least” should ALWAYS be off limits in times of crisis and trauma.  Silver lining, comparing, or judging in your words is never productive and only disconnects you from the victim when we should be connecting. These people are hurting and they have every right to be. Louisiana’s flood victims are vulnerable right now, and their emotions are running high. They need to feel our love and support in their time of need.

 

This is just food for thought, and I hope this list helps you to remember to be sensitive to the feelings as well as the immediate needs of others.  I thank Katie for writing it.  To all those who might be wondering, UBC is currently in the process of adopting a church that has been directly impacted by the flooding, so stay tuned for how we can be the hands and feet of Christ in a very real way.  In the meantime, keep praying, keep donating your time, your money, your items, and keep being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  I am confident Louisiana’s best days remain in front of her and not behind her. 

 

Louisiana Strong.

 

 

I Love You,

 

J.P.

 

 

 



Sifting the Saints

I am going to confess something to you right now.  The past two months have been, without question, the most difficult in my ministry to date.  I’m not complaining but rather simply stating fact.  There has been loss, conflict, and drama seemingly everywhere I’ve turned.  I admit that there were times when I wondered what God was up to and why He had me here.  Surely there was someone more fit to handle all of this than me!  There were times where I was ready to throw in the towel.  Just when I was at my lowest point, that is when God finally spoke to me with such clarity as to what He was up to.  He revealed to me that He was ready to sift UBC.  Before you get all weirded out and think that I’m talking just a bunch of nonsense, let me give you some perspective to what I’m talking about. 

 

For months now, I’ve had this unrelenting feeling that the Lord was about to do something truly special with UBC, that He was about to blow the lid off this place, so to speak.  But there was always something holding us back.  Every time I’d think we would get to a place as a corporate body where we were truly ready, something would happen, and the movement would seem to be stifled.  After months of praying and going through trial after trial and heartache after heartache, the Lord revealed to me that He was finally ready to move like He wanted to move in our midst and that He was preparing and stirring the hearts of His people, essentially sifting us to get us to the place where He can best use us.  Through a variety of prayer warriors, the Lord led me to the Biblical account of the sifting of Peter and the apostles in order to show me what He is currently doing.  In Luke 22:31-22, Jesus says this:

 

Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.  And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers (NIV).

 

Understand that this sifting process that Jesus is referring to in this passage describes the process of testing by which the genuine is separated from the false, the good from the bad.  The word “you” in verse 31 is plural in the original Greek, referring to all of the apostles, for the loyalty of all of them will be put to the test by the events that were to come that very night, a night which would see Jesus arrested, tried, beaten, and eventually murdered.  In other words, Jesus was testing His apostles, the twelve that were closer to Him than anyone else, to see if they were genuine believers or if they were counterfeits.  As I prayed through this passage, I realized that the Lord is testing UBC, separating the genuine from the counterfeit.   

 

As I read more on this sifting process that Jesus was referring to, I discovered that the process of loosening the chaff from the grain so as to remove it is called threshing-traditionally done by milling or pounding. Separating remaining loose chaff from the grain is called 

winnowing – traditionally done by repeatedly tossing the grain up into a light wind which gradually blows the lighter chaff away. This method typically utilizes a broad, plate-shaped basket or similar receptacle to hold and collect the winnowed grain as it falls back down.  This is often a difficult, labor-intensive process, but the end result is that you get the very best grain.  As I thought about this, everything began to make sense.  The trials, the loss, the heartache, the seemingly endless supply of tears, the exhaustion, even the frustration.  God was and still is allowing us to go through this difficult and intensive process so that He ends up with the very best UBC possible.  Then and only then will He use us to accomplish His kingdom purposes.  What a revelation!  What initially dismayed and discouraged me suddenly strengthened and buoyed me for what was to come.  What God initially told me was about to come to fruition.  He is about to use UBC to accomplish something amazing.  What that is, I don’t exactly know, but I am convinced that He is prepping us for it!

 

Look what Jesus goes on to say.  He says that Satan asked for Jesus’ permission to sift Peter.  That tells me that the Lord is still in complete and total control.  Whenever we look at what is going on in the world around us, it is difficult not to get discouraged, but don’t lose heart, because this passage reminds us that any authority that Satan has is authority that has been given to Him and in the very same way that it has been given to him, it will one day be taken away.  The Lord is still sovereign and in complete control.  Even though He might permit Satan to send us trials in order to discourage us, God can use those same trials to strengthen us.  How?  It says how in the same passage!  Because He prays for us, just in the very same way that He prayed for Simon.  He prays for us now that we, in faith, would rise above the trials and come through them with a faith that has been refined like gold.  And look how He concludes the passage.  He tells Peter, “when you have turned back”.  In other words, when you come back, not if you come back.  That is how we know the genuine from the counterfeits.  The genuine will return.  And when they return from their sifting, we are to use our experiences to strengthen our brothers and sisters in the faith.  That is the process.  Our suffering is not in vain!  It has a purpose, and that purpose is to create exactly the church that the Lord can use to accomplish His kingdom purposes in Thibodaux and wherever else He might take us!

 

So, people of University Baptist Church, read my words closely.  We have all been suffering in various ways over the last few months.  Know that it has not been in vain.  Be encouraged and challenged that the Lord is sifting us in order to be able to use us exactly the way He sees fit.  That is painful, and we might well lose some folks along the way, but the reality of the situation is that God is going to be glorified through the people that He chooses.  Go through the process.  Cling to your faith.  Be strengthened in the fact that the Lord is actively praying for you.  We will soon see the wheat separated from the chaff, and when the Lord has completed the process, and I have no idea when that will be, He will have the UBC that He wants, not that we want.  Remember, it is always about Him, not about us.  The real question is this.  Are we wheat or are we chaff?  Time will tell.

 

I Love You,

 

JP