Monthly Archives: October 2014

Biblical Literacy

I found a really good article about biblical literacy. I have been preaching through the entire gospel of John for a year now and will be completing the book in 6 weeks.

This is an excerpt for the article, the full article can be found here

Teach the Bible.

Teaching through books of the Bible at church models for the hearers how to read the Bible on its own terms, especially the unfolding of the one storyline of the Bible that culminates in Christ. Fighting biblical literacy means preaching from the pulpit the way people read the Bible—moving through the text.

It’s essential for all believers to get the full picture of God’s revelation.

When people see and hear their pastors preaching the text as a whole and allowing the text to determine the message (not vice versa), they go home and read their Bibles the same way. When they see us jumping around the text in sermons, they jump around in life. Let’s teach them that the Bible is worth engaging, one book at a time.

Stay IN The Light, 1 John 1:7

Pastor larry

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Marriage Covenant Certificate

Pastors want covenant certificates to replace marriage licenses

Some Texas Baptist pastors want fellow ministers to consider whether they should stop signing marriage licenses as agents of the state and start asking couples to sign covenant marriage certificates.

To protect the free exercise of religion in the state—particularly in light of changing definitions of marriage at the national level—they also want to encourage churches to adopt clear statements defining their positions on sexual ethics and marriage. In addition, they hope to amend the Texas Constitution to include language modeled after the national Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Kyle HendersonThree ministers—Kyle Henderson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Athens; Brent Gentzel, pastor of First Baptist Church in Kaufman; and Kris Segrest, pastor of First Baptist Church in Wylie—have organized a meeting to discuss the issues with other pastors Nov. 16, the eve of the Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting in Waco, at 8 p.m. in Bennett Auditorium on the Baylor University campus.

At the meeting, the pastors will provide sample statements of faith, church policies, covenant marriage certificates and the proposed constitutional amendment.

Henderson quit signing marriage licenses about a year and a half ago.

‘Increasingly uncomfortable’

“I had grown increasingly uncomfortable acting as an agent of the state,” he said.

Instead, he wanted couples to sign their vows to certify the covenant they made with each other before God, and then go on their own to register their marriage with the state.

On Oct. 22, First Baptist in Athens approved changes to its statement of faith, adding an article on “covenant marriage,” pointing to Ephesians 5:21-33 as its normative expression.

At the same time, the church amended its personnel handbook to say staff members employed by the church and its related ministries are exclusively allowed to officiate covenant marriage ceremonies and exclusively authorized to sign covenant marriage certificates.

Churches need articles of belief about marriage

While all Christian organizations should make sure they have approved statements of their beliefs about marriage and family, Texas Baptist churches particularly need to consider revising their articles of belief, Henderson asserted.

Many BGCT-related congregations—especially churches that distanced themselves from the Southern Baptist Convention in recent years—have governing documents that identify the 1963 Baptist Faith & Message as their statement of faith.

Unlike the version of the Baptist Faith & Message the SBC adopted in 2000—which includes a statement added in 1998 defining marriage as “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime”—the 1963 faith statement does not directly address marriage and family.

Brent Gentzel“That could place churches and religious institutions in a precarious place” if they tried to limit the use of their facilities or were challenged regarding hiring practices, Henderson said.

“Churches and religious institutions need to articulate their sincerely held beliefs on this matter. We want to give them model documents to consider.”

First Baptist in Kaufman has not adopted a statement on marriage or taken action regarding signing marriage licenses, but Gentzel agrees in principle with Henderson’s position.

“As Baptists, we have a unique voice when it comes to religious liberty issues and separation of church and state,” he said. However, “we have ignored our roots for too long” with respect to pastors acting as agents for the state by signing marriage licenses.

“I’ve never felt too comfortable standing up and saying, ‘By the power vested in me by the state,’” he confessed. “It never seemed healthy and didn’t feel right.”

First Baptist in Wylie is “at the front end of the process” in terms of adopting a statement on marriage and adopting a policy regarding ministers signing marriage licenses, Segrest said, but the church is deeply interested in the issues.

‘Cultural conflict’

“We are very engaged in the freedom conversation that is going on,” he said. “I believe the biggest reason these issues have become issues really finds its genesis in cultural conflict when it comes to gender confusion and the redefinition of family.

Kris Segrest “It’s not our intention to be adversarial. We want people of faith to be able to live out their convictions.”

Even apart from the issue of same-sex marriage, Gentzel and Henderson agreed, the church and the state don’t mean the same thing when they use the term “marriage.”

“Covenant marriage is the ideal of Scripture. Civil marriage is defined by the state,” Henderson said.

And the state’s definition is sorely lacking, Gentzel added.

“The state definition of marriage is really void of substance when it comes to spousal responsibility,” he said.

Ferrell Foster, director ethics and justice with the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, pointed to the approach the pastors suggested as “a viable alternative” for churches concerned about changing definitions for marriage, but he noted the CLC had not taken any position on ministers refusing to sign marriage licenses.

Definition of marriage ‘in flux’ in broader culture

“The definition of marriage is definitely in a state of flux in our broader culture. It seems likely that same-sex marriage will eventually become legal in all states, but that outcome is not yet certain,” Foster said.

Many, if not most, Baptists see this as contrary to biblical teaching about marriage and is thus a serious problem. Our pastors and churches are surely free to refrain from signing civil marriage licenses and to move toward using different language regarding the relationships they bless. It seems to be a viable alternative for those pastors and churches that disagree with state acceptance of same-sex marriage.”

Proposed amendment to state constitution

The three pastors hope to see a constitutional amendment included on the ballot next year. The amendment would take language currently in Texas statutory law—based on the national Religious Freedom Restoration Act—and add it to Article 1, Section 6 of the Texas Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

RFRA—passed by Congress in 1993 at the urging of a broad-based coalition spearheaded by the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty—was aimed to prevent laws that substantially burden any individual’s free exercise of religion.

Lawyers cited RFRA in arguing Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, in which the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a closely held private company’s right to an exemption from some portions of the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. That decision prompted some opponents to argue for RFRA’s repeal.

The proposed amendment would ensure no government entity could burden a person’s free exercise of religion unless it is “necessary to further a compelling state interest,” and provided that it is “the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.”

A higher threshold

Adding the RFRA-based protections to the state’s constitution would “create a higher threshold, so that any state legislative session could not overturn it,” Henderson said.

covenant certificate425Some Texas pastors are proposing Certificates of Covenant Marriage like the one above replace traditional marriage licenses issued by the state. Couples would sign their vows to certify the covenant they made with each other before God, and then go on their own to register their marriage with the state.The CLC played a significant role in developing RFRA and securing passage of the law at both national and state levels, CLC Public Policy Director Kathryn Freeman noted.

“We are not aware of any unresolved situations under the current RFRA statute, but we agree that a constitutional amendment would make it difficult to change Texas’ longstanding commitment to religious liberty should the political winds change,” Freeman said. “The CLC will consider every proposal in detail as the process moves forward. We continue to seek to protect the free exercise of religion in Texas and the nation.”

Pastor Larry

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Worship

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Yesterday God blessed me, my family, and my church by granting a weekend and worship time with a good friend of mine, Miss Jenna Ray. Jenna is like a daughter to me. I had the privilege of being her youth pastor for several years, but more than that, I was drawn to her desire to please God. She is the real deal when it comes to following Christ.

When a person decides to make Jesus their King, the change should be evident. Sometimes it takes a while, but in the living out of your faith, Jesus rises to the top in one’s life. If Jesus doesn’t rise to the forefront of your life, then something or someone will. We learned that in church yesterday. The Jewish leaders that had studied all about God and His coming Messiah decided it was more important to make Caesar their King (John 19:15). I couldn’t imagine how that must have sounded to Jesus.

What or who does God see in your life as King? Is it Jesus? I pray that you will ponder that this week and decide in your heart, mind, and soul that there is only one King and His name is Jesus!

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7

Pastor Larry

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One Year In Del Rio, Texas

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This week marks 1 year that God called me as the pastor of First Baptist Church in Del Rio, Texas. The year has flown by because of what the Lord has done. He has been so good to us and blessed us in the heavenly realms. First Baptist Church has gone through so many awesome changes! The prior year before I arrived, there was 1 baptism. 30 people have passed through the baptism waters in 12 months. Many have confessed “Jesus as their personal Lord.” Church worship attendance has risen by 35%, Sunday school attendance has risen 100%, giving has risen 25%, 6 deacons have been ordained, 15 children have been dedicated, and more than that, Jesus has been given His place of honor, as the leader of this church!

What a year! I am excited about the upcoming year and I look forward to see what God will be up in the next 12 months.

Today as I write this entry, a man was saved right here in the church office! He was ready and waiting for His day to accept Jesus as His Lord. I pray this encourages you and allows you to see that our God still reigns!

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Marriage Funny

Another Marriage Funny

Bank Robber

A bank robber wanted to keep his identity a secret, but  he forgot to bring his mask. He told everyone in the bank not to look at him or he would shoot them.

One foolhardy customer sneaked a look, and the bank robber did what he said he would… he shot him. The robber asked the crowd if anyone else had seen his face…

One customer, gazing intently at the ground, said “I think my wife got a glimpse.”

Pastor Larry

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Marriage is Funny

I am posting a few funny jokes about marriage I have read recently. Enjoy!

30 years of Marriage

After 30 years of marriage, a husband and wife came for counseling.

When asked what the problem was, the wife went into a tirade listing every problem they had ever had in the years they had been married. On and on and on: neglect, lack of intimacy, emptiness, loneliness, feeling unloved and unlovable – an entire laundry list of unmet needs she had endured.

Finally, after allowing this for a sufficient length of time, the therapist got up, walked around the desk and after asking the wife to stand, he embraced and kissed her long and passionately as her husband watched – with a raised eyebrow.

The woman shut up and quietly sat down in a daze. The therapist turned to the husband and said, “This is what your wife needs at least 3 times a week. Can you do this?”

“Well, I can drop her off here on Mondays and Wednesdays, but on Fridays I fish.”

Pastor Larry

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Is Your Church Reflecting Its Community?

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By Thom S Rainer

My research for Autopsy of a Deceased Church indicates one of the factors that leads to the decline of a healthy church is its refusal to look like the community. If you compare the faces of a dying church with the faces of the people who live in the community where the church is located, you’ll often notice a significant difference.

In many of my consultations with dying churches I heard the same thing: In the “good old days,” the church was booming as residents in the community flocked to the church. The church reflected the community.

Then the community began to change. In some cases the change was ethnic or racial. In other cases it was age-related or socioeconomic. The change was real and the members of the church felt it. One by one, families in the church began to move to other areas of town. And the church failed to transition with the neighborhood.

Occasionally the church made faint attempts to reach out and ask the community to come to them. There was almost never any effort to go into the community. And often people in the community did not feel welcome in the church. Those in the church were more concerned about protecting the way they did church than reaching the residents of the community.

When a church ceases to have a heart and ministry for its community, it is on the path toward death. But it doesn’t have to end that way. Here are five steps your church can take to make sure it reflects your community.

  1. Pray God will open the eyes of the leadership and members for opportunities to reach into the community where the church is located.
  2. Make specific plans to minister to and to evangelize those who live in your community. Your church must have a presence in the community beyond the facility itself.
  3. Immerse yourself in the community. Join the PTO or other civic organizations. Attend local sports events or community concerts. Participate in the lives of the people in your community in whatever way you can. Not only will you begin to establish relationships with those outside your church, but you will learn your community’s specific needs.
  4. Demonstrate respect for all people. Learn the culture and customs of those moving into your community. The pastor should lead in taking an interest in those who attend the church and those you are trying to reach.
  5. Make sure your church is welcoming to all people. Choose your words and sermon illustrations carefully. Don’t assume everyone who attends your church will understand references to American culture. It’s important to understand the cultural context of the people who live near the church, especially if the cultural context has shifted. Consider incorporating different styles of music on Sunday morning. Seek diversity in leadership roles—from volunteers to paid staff. We are beginning to see more churches adopt a multiethnic approach to ministry. Part of the good news in this story is the Millennial factor. Because this generation was raised in multiethnic and multiracial environments, these are no longer barriers for them. Their integration into the multiethnic church seems to be more natural than previous generations. I see them leading the way.

Vibrant and growing churches look after the interests of others. They are concerned for their communities. They open the door for others (Philippians 2:1-4).

Is your church reflecting its community?

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7

Pastor Larry

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