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FACING OUR FEAR

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The shooting death of Alton Sterling has impacted our local Baton Rouge community like few other things have "rocked our world" in years. Questions of safety, suspicion, driving down the road at night, and even who is walking up behind me at the parking lot enter our minds.

The week Alton Sterling was killed, The Chapel had already planned a community partner prayer meeting with New Beginning Baptist Church, a church pastored by Reverend Donald Hunter in the Glen Oaks area of North Baton Rouge. Although the two churches alternate hosting, it was our month to have them join us at our Oaks location. Then the unthinkable happened!

Suddenly, as The Chapel pastor coordinating the upcoming prayer event, I found myself asking, “How should I respond? What should I do?” I wondered, “Do I do anything differently than I had planned?” I knew that as a pastor, I needed to listen to God's voice and obey. I also needed to call God’s people to the same response that God calls them to.

As a staff, we decided to contact Pastor Donald Hunter and ask him to share a video message of hope and courage with our congregation during these troubling times. While talking to him, we learned he had been asked to participate in a community wide prayer gathering at a church right down the road from him in North Baton Rouge. We decided to join him.

Unrest was abounding. Questions for safety were on my mind, and people were calling me to ask whether they should go there in light of the climate of fear. I could not counsel people to avoid going where they felt they would not be safe. Rather I knew I had to encourage them to listen to God's voice and let him direct their steps in spite of their fear. I knew that as the very people of God who have read often that "perfect love casts out fear" (I John 4), we could not succumb to the systemic fear of certain neighborhoods that permeated our city, particularly in light of this tragedy.

Then, almost two weeks later, the unspeakable happened. While we are heading into worship services Sunday at 9 am, six law enforcement officers were ambushed. Three died and three more were forever marred by the hatred and fear incited from this societal travesty. Baton Rouge’s name has become synonymous with societal slurs and incidents that weeks before we thought unimaginable.

How would the church, our church, respond?

I was reminded that God never calls us to anything he has not equipped us to face. I Corinthians 12 states that "the body" has many parts and that all the parts are necessary. The passage goes on to state that we all have "gifts" that are given so that the Body of Christ may be built up. That is fine and good for me in my church, but what about those people up in North Baton Rouge? Am I supposed to do anything?

Our community is on fire with fear, and it is easy to become paralyzed about it. Yet anger and fear are secondary emotions, as some clinicians would call it. The root cause is almost always found at the core of a person not receiving what it is that they need or want, which is mainly an absence of intimacy. It ultimately is how God made us, to be in relationship with one another, but especially in relationship with Him.

When I look through this lens, I no longer see those people in North Baton Rouge. I am looking at my friends Pastor Donald and Genieta Hunter. I see new friends, ten black pastors I met in the police chief's office. I see Pastor Joe, Bishop Warren, Pastor McKinley, Pastor Freddie Phillips, Pastor Shonte Witherspoon, all men of God concerned about the people of God whom they lead and guide and who are living in fear similar to ours. As brothers in Christ, we agreed we would pray 2 Timothy 1: 7 "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."

Micah 6:8 asks the question, "What does the Lord require of me, but to do Justice, Love Mercy, and Live Humbly before Your God." Doing justice is a loaded term to our society today, and the Police Chief stated that the Federal Government is handling the administration of that justice. Relationally, the people of God cannot "do justice" without knowing each other's names and living in such a way that we don't engage with one another as those people but rather as fellow children of God.

Although these pastors and I met to come up with a plan for community revival and reconciliation, we agreed that unless The Lord builds our house, we will labor in vain to repair anything. The answer is not found in the administration of justice, rather in the proclamation of Jesus as Savior and Lord, with the commitment to build a disciple who follows Christ with his whole heart. It is only in the pursuit of justice where you call the focus to be about relationship that will bring God glory.

The pastors who met also agreed together that we must figure out how we can do life together and face that fear head on. Not knowing people's names, not engaging in their lives, not praying together--those are things we can stop.

Many plans are being formulated, and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has sent a crisis response team to assist our local faith community to come up with a plan of how we can petition our Lord for the salvation of the people in our city, and follow through with a plan to work together. It has worked in Ferguson, Charlotte, Baltimore, and it can work here if God's people will pray and work together.

Further we met for prayer together. Now we are calling you to begin praying for your city, to engage in a prayer walk where you begin to walk your neighborhood or a part of the city where God has called you to pray. An excellent resource for prayer walking is found here. Print out this document, then

  • Engage in the prayerful process of intercessory prayer for your neighbors, 
  • Get to know their names and their stories, and
  • Pray for God to draw people by name to Himself. 

The people in North Baton Rouge aren’t just those people. They are our brothers and sisters, known by name to Jesus who died for them and rose again to save us all from sin.

Posted by Bruce Lininger with 0 Comments

HINDSIGHT AND REGRET

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We were ecstatic when we brought our first child home. The joy of a newborn in the house couldn’t compare with anything we had ever experienced. Although we didn’t really feel equipped to take on this monumental and amazing adventure, as believers in Christ, we did our best to be Christian parents.

We loved Jesus. We wanted our children to love him as well! I remember reading a few general parenting books, and periodically seeking help from resources and friends who were a bit further down the road than we were. Mostly we sought help when we faced difficult parenting conundrums but not during the average parenting opportunities of daily life.

We made some good choices in those early years, but I also remember some really poor ones! Mostly I remember the blur somewhere in the middle with a concerted effort just to get through the day. As we had more children, the blur increased and a plan for spiritual nourishment for our children was not usually “the first filter” through which we made decisions. It was on the radar but not the first filter.

Parenting choices usually  get focused when there was a problem--the bigger the problem, the greater the focus. We knew to rely on our heavenly Father and often prayed, “Father, PLEASE HELP!” But we did not have an intentional plan, just a strong desire to lead them to Jesus. We didn’t even know that we needed a plan, and we certainly didn’t know how to implement such a thing. Our days usually existed in the defensive mode of reaction as our children grew.

My husband and I both came from Christian homes. Our parents did a good job of pointing us to Jesus, and we both accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior at early ages. Our parents relied heavily on the church for much of our spiritual training and support, and we did the same with our children. We always made it a priority to be involved in church worship and activities and depended on the support it provided for our family.

Through the years, we grew, we learned, we tried new things. Our children grew, and our Lord was faithful-in spite of our many shortcomings as parents. There were highlights, especially when each of our three children accepted Christ as Savior and became our brother or sister in Christ. There were fun and easy seasons and some very difficult ones too. Although we never had a specific plan, we did learn to implement more spiritual nourishment and tried several new things in our daily routine like morning prayer before school.

Over thirty years later, I can give God the glory for what He has done in the lives of our children! It was not what we did as parents, but what God did in spite of us as parents. Our three (now adult) children are amazing! They teach us things regularly about the truths of God! They love Jesus, are married to believers and two are now raising children of their own.

But here’s what I, as a mom, could have done better for them. Here is what I’d say was my greatest oversight. Here’s where I believe I failed to live up to the potential of God’s gifting in me for my children.

I believe it would have been even stronger, perhaps easier for our children, and definitely more glorifying to God if I, as a mother, had embraced more fully the principle that it was my responsibility (along with my husband) to nurture our children spiritually in the home. Yes, I knew that to be truth, but our home would have been better, especially in the little things, if I had been more intentional. How I wish we could turn back time and do some of those things differently!

First, my husband and I would be intentional to create a simple plan, not a complicated one, but something really easy like “we’ll read one verse every night at dinner and talk about it as a family.” Perhaps we could be intentional to tell each child something every night about the goodness of God. Maybe, as a family, we’d look for another family to bless each year. Secondly, I’d embrace the summer months as a blessing of precious time, rather than an additional weight of activity. I’d make more time for simple fun together! And then, I’d definitely let my children see more of my relationship with God through the good and the bad.

I’d be more intentional in the daily little things rather than just the overall. I’d try to illustrate God’s character by pointing it out through the situations we encountered. I’d use each day as a building block for tomorrow. Mainly, I’d just try to take each day as a gift and opportunity to “love the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my soul and with all my strength…and teach them diligently to my children, when we sit in the house, when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise up.” Deuteronomy 6:5-7

Hindsight and regrets; we all have them. We know we can’t undo what’s already happened, but in spite of our mistakes, there’s good news! God is good. Despite our parenting regrets, He is faithful to redeem, and despite our shortcomings in the home, He can bear fruit in the lives of our children. He loves each of them more than we ever could. His intentions are perfect, and He’s always available to lead the way!

If you are interested in creating an intentional plan and a biblical parenting strategy for your family, check out our FaithMap resources.

FAITHMAP

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